Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When less can be more!

Wednesday 14th June

Ben is now on his way to Lusaka
. There was a slight misunderstanding with the taxi driver and he started at the destination – Tooters Roadhouse ( as our bus station in Monze is known!) - rather than the starting point, losing valuable minutes. Whether if the taxi had been on time a seat would have been available on the 8.40 bus I doubt. I didn't see anyone getting off in Monze.

Monze is on the Livingstone – Lusaka route. To book a ticket on the bus the operator needs to know there will be a seat available. Since most buses leave Livingstone full, the only chance is if someone disembarks at Monze. This also means you have to wait until the bus has set off from Livingstone or at least has the full complement of passengers before knowing the situation.

In the event, the Shalom bus was full. On Ben's trip to Livingstone he was enticed to use an F & M bus – not one with which I was familiar. They seem to run a semi-official service from Roadhouse – using minibuses. (Roadhouse is usually reserved for coaches). Anyway Ben seemed happy with their service and, having being assured that they could cope with his luggage, he booked the 9.30 bus. As it happened I was also impressed – particularly as the bus arrived and departed before 9.30am, something I don't think I have experienced before in Zambia. Ben was given a seat and safely wedged in with his second case as he left Monze!!


My mind was pre-occupied over the weekend by Helen's “Race to the Tower”. Unfortunately things didn't go well! Shortly after the start she developed a migraine. However, Helen is not one to give up easily, so she took a couple of tablets and continued. Unfortunately things got worse as she became dehydrated and subsequently became over-hydrated trying to compensate. This set of circumstances started a reaction which messed up the bodies balance, leading to some potentially very serious consequences. Helen eventually had to give up, being more or less at the state of collapse. Somehow she reached the final marshalling point 46 miles (73 Km) from the start. At this point they recognised something was seriously wrong and called an ambulance to take her to hospital. She stayed in Gloucester Royal Hospital over Saturday night, was transferred to Cheltenham General on Sunday and discharged on Monday. The doctors were amazed that she had managed to get so far in her condition. Apparently she was suffering from a known problem that affects elite athletes and particularly those undertaking extreme challenges such as Helen was attempting. It was identified during a study at the Boston Marathon a few years back and is apparently sometimes referred to as the Boston Marathon Syndrome!

We live in a world of competition and targets. Too often success or failure is measured by a very limited set of criteria. However, sometimes less can mean more. Jean Vanier tells of the time that they opened a bottle of champagne because one of their community manage to wee in the toilet. Something not often recognised as a major achievement. So often we just look at raw statistics. We compare schools or hospitals in a “league table” but we don't know whether the students came to the school with severe disadvantages, or the patients arrived with little chance of survival. Our measurements are crude and can take no account of many factors where figures cannot apply.

Last Friday we watched the children play football and netball. Yes, the teams who scored the most goals showed some ability, but for me the sheer exuberance of the children when goals were scored told me much more about the value of PIZZ School! How can you measure that!!

Helen might have only – I said only!- covered 46 miles (in fact she did a slight detour and her phone recorded 47.8 miles) out of an intended 53 miles. However, being as ill as she was for much of the way, I would claim that the effort required far exceeded 53 miles under normal circumstances. Sometimes less really can be more!!

My Sunday was spent largely at church and St. Veronica's – though I did spare a couple of hours to battle with Fr. Clement and Fr. John on the pool table. Having made my comments about competition, I need to confess my determination to win – appropriately therefore after an excellent start, I was put firmly in my place by Fr. Clement!!

Ben arrived back at lunchtime yesterday. I had just made an excursion to the market and bought a lot of chitenge material – there were a lot of happy marketeers!!

I helped Ben with his packing. We only had half a dozen – well maybe 10 - baskets to pack – some fairly small. I had ordered more but it appears they have yet to be made. It would be a shame for Ben to return with an empty case - hence the chitenges. I have a motto when packing, learnt when I had a minibus, which was sometimes used as a removal van. This was “yes it will”! Ben was dubous that the Zambian baskets would fit, and if they did the English ones certainly would not! By the time the 20 bead bags and 20 – 30 2 metre lengths of cotton cloth were also eased into place, I was satisfied that the case was close enough to the 23 Kg limit to be worth taking. There was still a little room in Ben's other case for any excess!

Jennipher and Obert visited yesterday afternoon and Ben went to say a final farewell to the Siangas and Killan. I followed a few minutes later.

When Ben set out four weeks ago he expected to spend a significant time installing solar lighting in the school classrooms. In the event the equipment is still at Lusake Airport, while we try to negotiate reasonable costs. If Ben's only reason for coming to Zambia was to install lighting this trip would have been a disaster! However, the real importance of such visits is for people to meet and to touch each other's lives. Unless, when you meet another, you are changed, that encounter was at best superficial. We never know the impact we have on another, a smile, a cross word – each matters, and has an effect. Ben embraced the whole experience and met many during this short period – I am sure he will be changed, as will those he met.

With my love and prayers,


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