Today marks the end of a long weekend. Traditionally the Gonde ceremony would be celebrated now just outside Monze, but with the leader of the most popular politcal party in this area in jail on treason charges, people are not in the mood to celebrate and the ceremony has been postponed. I have been here on numerous times when Gonde has been celebrate, but for some reason though invited I have never quite made it – so another year passes!
As I walked along the railway tracks today, stepping from sleeper to sleeper I had a chance to reflect on the past few weeks here in Zambia. A Black Headed Heron flew over, heading for my home and a Brown Breasted Snake Eagle hung in the breeze. I will remember the wildlife that has lived with and around me while I have been her at my house behind the Curia. The herons are beautiful birds – especially in flight, with their huge wings edged in black contrasting against the light grey. Yesterday and today cattle Egrets lined up on the garden wall – I counted 19 a few minutes ago. Palm Swifts, Bulbils and Canaries are also constant playmates in and around the garden. The delicate trees outside are loved by some large bees which constantly feed on the nectar. Inside I have a few lodgers – some more welcome than others!! Ants appear in their hundreds if the slightest morsel of food is left, beetles trundle through the house one by one, but in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. A rat or two couldn't resist the smell of peanuts and even broke into a plastic container where pounded groundnuts were stored. Some platic bags sealing the entrance under the door at night seemed to have deterred him(them) in recent days! A couple of house frogs have stayed for a day or two at a time, booking the toilet or bathroom for the night – it ismeant to be a guest house after all! A family of lizards have found some pleasant accommodation under the freezer – they race across the floor and create quite a freezer furore during family arguments. Yesterday however they were evicted for a time by another visitor who had obviously heard of the luxury accommodation with overnight heating! A snake made its way into the house and headed for the freezer. I was about to leave, but noticed it gliding slowly across the living room floor. I decided to fetch the security guard, who, after deciding it had moved on, spotted it at the back of the freezer. Eventually it was located and killed. I now feel guilty because I susspect the snake wished me no harm. I understand that there are snakes which choose to live in houses without causing trouble – in the same way there are varieties of frogs and lizards that have adapted to live in houses. (My lizards however are the outdoor variety that come in to get warmed up!)
On Sunday I went to the Citonga mass. It was a bit shorter and with less theatre than usual. Afterwards I asked Fr. Clement about the oil press. He told me that it was used a little in October, but a fortnight ago it was brought into full production. A few days a week they press the sunflower seeds. In a day they can process 30 x 50Kg bags (although in practice the sunflower seed is lighter than the maize meal for which the bags are made – so a 50 Kg bag actually weighs about 30 Kg!) They get about 10 litres of oil per bag.
It was my last opportunity to meet with St. Veronia's Small Christian Community. Next Sunday there will be no meeting as there is a parish retreat on the Saturday at Chikuni. The Jesuits first arrived in Chikuni to bring Christianity to this area of Zambia over 100 years ago. In truth being my last day in Monze next Sunday, it suits me that there is no 'Section' meeting next Sunday. At our meeting we reflected on next week's gospel which contains the phrase “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” I see yokes almost daily in Monze as the oxen pull their loads, but the phrase troubles me! So often I feel that the Lord is just asking too much. Earlier in the scripture he talks about revealing things to children and hiding them from the wise. Maybe it is ourselves that create the burdens. So often we see problems that are not there, we live our lives in constant fear of what might happen – yet so often when the time comes, we wonder why we were so anxious. Perhaps we need to learn from children who so often enjoy the moment and let tomorrow take care of itself.
I handed out some photos I took last year. One of the ladies I visited when she was sick has since died. Another has breast cancer and after the meeting we went to her house to see her and say a few prayers. She has a cancer which is forming a mass at the surface of the breast. She went to Lusaka for treatment and they said they hadn't any medicine, but gave her some painkillers. She is waiting in case they call her again for treatment. It isn't clear what if any treatment they propose. I am not sure what painkillers she was given – panadol (I believe it is just paracetamol) seems to be the norm. I gave her some stronger tablets that I bring with me, which Jennipher says are effective.
I eventually got to see Charles, after a slight delay due to the incident with the snake. We attempted to put the world right – though in truth I think with the world's current state it will take more than a couple of hours between Charles and myself.
Power has been remarkably reliable this year. A short planned outage last week and a couple of minor breaks have been the only losses. Yesterday, while talking to Dilys via Skype, the power went down for a while. On the way to the staff room where I access the internet I was aware that the moon was now half and almost directly above me. Returning during the brief power cut that moon came into its own! It is a real joy to me to see by the light of the moon. With no electricity in Monze the moon became my torchlight. It was more than adequate and quite strange to switch off my torch as soon as I came out of the room, because it was now superfluous. My shadow was now clear and lead me back slowly home as I wondered at the beauty displayed by that very special light. I wasn't home long before power was restored and I could return to continue my conversation with Dilys.
This morning I met with Obert's parents. They live a little way beyond Southern Comfort Motel – about three kilometres up the Livingstone road. I arranged to meet at Southern Comfort since there was no chance that I would find their house on my own.
Southern Comfort gives a small glimpse of what Zamba could be. It is a reasonably comfortable Motel with green gardens and even model animals out front. With water, electricity and a little money Zambia looks very nice, and with the climate it is a wonderful place to live.
We talked about the pre-school which struggles to survive. Growing some chickens helps pay the teacher, but it is a struggle. The children are given a little food two or three days a week – the other days there is nothing to give. Another batch of chickens would allow them to raise enough to cover costs, but this would need about £200 to set up.
While I was there Nancy arrived. She had been told that I was visiting. Today is her eighth birthday and she had produced a letter for me.
I am very impressed by the way that Obert's parents work with people who have children with disabilities. They encourage them to take their children to school, Sometimes the parents won't even let the children be seen outside the house. Obert's dad told me how he was told not to take Obert to school, but he was insistent that he learnt. Now Obert can read and write, speak better English than his dad, drives a car and plays in goal at football – discarding his false leg, but using a single crutch instead – which is thrown aside as he dives to save a goal!
TREE FILLED WITH BEES
So I returned along the railway line thinking of what I would miss. Life happens at such a pace and in full view here! Ladies with large containers full of buns balanced on their heads, cycles that are loaded with charcoal, maize and many other products. They often have a passenger on the back or on the crossbar. Women will cycle with childen strapped to their backs with a piece of chitenge cloth. Goats and cows wander down the main roads. People have conversations as they continue their journeys, shouting louder as they move apart. Goods are carried on heads, shoulders or more often by wheelbarrow or ox-carts. Minibuses rush around hooting to attract passengers and display messages such “God Knows, In God We Trust” or given references to bible passages. Children use all sorts of objects as toys, kicking bottles or balls made of rags, rolling tyres and pushing cars which they have made from discarded bottles - and I notice when the sun goes behind a cloud, not when it comes out! Life will seem dull when I return to the UK next week.
With love and prayers,