Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Zambian Paella

Tuesday 7th July

Today was the last day of the long holiday. People were travelling back to their workplaces from where some had come to visit friends and family. Edward was heading to Lusaka where he works as headmaster, leaving his wife in Monze, Simon was on his way to his farm close to Kafue and Fr. Kenan was returning to Chilimantando.

Yesterday, after doing a little on the computer and making some phone calls, I decided to have an hour relaxing at the small dam (lake). I watched a Great White Egret stalking its prey and catching something quite large in its beak (either a fish or some type of amphibian). The African Openbilled Storks flew low over the lake before settling. They make me think of Pterodactyls with there large gaping beaks and the way they hold their heads – a very unusual sight.

Teddy popped along in the afternoon and we caught up on a wide range of topics. He has been off work because he scalded his leg with boiling water which he was going to use to warm his bath. Precious came around, but couldn't be persuaded to try my scrambled eggs with “House of Commons” (at least that was what my mother called a mixture of fried onions, tomatoes and rice!).

I had arranged to meet Edward in the evening. Some years back, while he was the headteacher at Monze Basic School, he realised that the school was in dire need of renovating and could also do with some improvements. He had the idea of contacting some “old boys” to see if they might provide support and had some success. Before independence the school was for Europeans only and, needless to say, some of the ex-pupils were in a better position to help than some of the more recent intake. (It is now a standard government school) When one of these “ old boys”, now living in England, found that I visited Monze regularly he asked if I could act as a sort of liaison. For a couple of years I met with Edward, discussed his plans and observed the progress. We became friends and I like to get together with him when I can. We chat over a beer or two. He is now living in Lusaka and is headmaster at a secondary school there - returning every fortnight or so to his family who still live in Monze. He dropped me home a little before 22 hrs.

Today I set off for Pemba to say hallo to Jennipher's family.

It was good to meet up once more. Soloman is getting stronger after being very ill during the past year. He was at UTH – University Teaching Hospital, which is the main hospital in Lusaka and he was not expected to survive. As a last resort he was treated with some “Chinese medicine” and eventually pulled through. Selina is now a young lady and apparently doesn't appreciate being shown the pictures I took when she was a very small child. Maggie and Obadia have grown, but still want to sit on my knees. Little Jennipher was busy rehearsing for an event at the Catholic Church so wasn't around and Emmanuel is still staying in Livingstone. Since Maambo's death a few months ago her sister has been staying with Jennipher. Among other things, Maambo took on the major role of looking after the children while Jennipher was in England. She is missed terribly by Jennipher. There is also a young boy staying at the house - his mother died last year,. An elderly gentleman arrived while we were talking – he spends most of the day at the house and Jennipher gives him food.

The house is quite crowded and mattresses and blankets are a bit sparse – some of the family have to sleep on the concrete floor. Jennipher wants a double mattress and Selina needs school shoes and a jumper.

On the way to her home we passed by the house of one of her clients. The lady has made a nice garden and is growing onions, rape (a local vegetable a bit like spinach), tomatoes and other vegetables. She has mains water but the pressure is very low during the day. It is very important to be able to grow some of your own food. With a decent water supply everything grows rapidly – but without it it is difficult to grow anything during the long dry season (April to November – and recently even longer). This lady was managing very well under the circumstances.

Some people in Pemba are buying storage tanks and filling them overnight in order to have water for their gardens. Jennipher is hoping to be able to get one some day. She says they can make a stand but cannot afford a tank. I will try to find out the prices. I think a tank would make a big difference to the crops they could grow.

Jennipher told me she has 18 goats. Any male goats she sells, but she keeps the females to increase the herd. She also has a number of guinea fowl, a few chickens and two ducks which produce some eggs. She showed me her orange tree where she had left two oranges for me – Selina picked them and gave them to me before I left. It is only a small tree but it produced over 100 oranges which she was able to sell. It is from these animals and by growing some vegetables that Jennipher is able to feed the family. A solar panel designed to charge mobile phones was bringing in a good income – as much as £4 - £5 on a very good day - but unfortunately it was struck by lightning and, not surprisingly, does not work any longer. I would like to replace the charger if I can sort out the logistics of acquiring it and arranging for it to be brought from the UK.

I brought a football with me because I remembered that Soloman is involved with a small football club. A friend back in Cheltenham lives close to a football ground and field where they practice. Balls regularly land in his garden and no one comes to collect them! Little did the guy who kicked this ball one day out of the ground into a Cheltenham garden realise that it would end up in Zambia!!

When I arrived in Monze a few weeks back Jennipher told me that her daughter Sandra needed an operation in a neighbouring country. She had the operation but a problem with the stitches has caused her to remain in the hospital. Jennipher is intending to travel and arrange for her to be moved to a hospital in Livingstone or Monze where Jennipher will be able to care for her more easily.

On the way back I caught what I class as a 20 seater bus. This one actually managed 21 passengers if you count a child of 9 or 10 years old – here children don't get a separate seat, so perhaps there were only 20 passengers after all. At least this travelled at a respectable speed – this morning we were in a race with another minibus and had to concede when we were eventually overtaken while we were travelling at about 80 mph (130 kph).

This evening I started preparing a Zambian Paella when Raymond appeared. Dilys then rang with an issue about a document saved in a format no-one can read. Undaunted I held the phone to my ear with my shoulder, giving instructions on how to reformat the document, guiding her around the Ubuntu menus, whilst chopping onions and trying to entertain my guest! - who said men can't multi-task?! Eventually I was able to concentrate on my culinary activities whilst chatting to Raymond.

Deana didn't seem too convinced as food was piled high and eventually dry rice was added. However all took shape with some boiling water and a bit of simmering. I must admit that I was very pleased with the resulting dish – and it tasted good too!! This could be the first paella which included impwa as one of the ingredients!!

Enjoy!!

Chris



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Back in the Bush

Sunday 5th July

Yesterday was the start of the 4 day holiday – though some people decided that Sunday doesn't count and started it on Friday!!

After pottering on the computer in the morning for a bit, I decided it was high time I headed for the African bush. Being on the western edge of town the obvious thing to do was to carry on along the road outside and just keep going west. This road is being prepared for tarmac and it gives the impression of a major road. 50 metres from our house I reached a dead end!! I came across a wire fence – presumably the boundary of a farm. It seems that the government has decided to tarmac side roads in the urban areas in the belief that it will boost the economy. I returned a few paces and took a right turn. This small road led me to the dirt road – which stretched to the west as far as I could see. I therefore headed westward on this road. I was surprised to see the amount of building. A number of small estates, with decent houses, have sprung up along the road. After about ½ mile the housing thinned and eventually I was in the countryside ,with the occasional traditional homes to the South and mainly farms to the north.

It was refreshing to see the bush stretch out in front of me. Around Monze I haven't found dense bush or woodland. It is a mixture of a few scattered shrubs, small trees and a lot of sand! Here and there you find small copses and it is here that I often head. The trees give some shade and also attract a few birds. After a kilometre or so I found a path and headed for some trees for my first stop. The air was a pleasant temperature and most of the clouds had evaporated so it was good to sit down and rest a while. There were a few pigeons around but little else, the odd vehicle came along the road but otherwise it was silent! I had some water and a few biscuits then wandered back to the road. I decided to put another kilometre or two between me and the town before my next foray into the bush. This time I decided to go south from the road until I no longer heard the traffic, then gently head eastward back towards town. I stopped once or twice on the way and greeted a few people who were wondering how this white man had found himself in such a place. They made me feel very welcome and wished me well as I made my way. I stopped once or twice on the way but had difficulty in clearly identifying most of birds I saw. I did think I spotted a hornbill ahead of me, a couple of bulbils sat in a tree and a small flock of blue waxwings gathered in a hedge. The blue waxwing is a strange looking bird in my view. It reminds me of a Walt Disney cartoon because the male has a pale blue breast as if it had had an accident with a pot of paint. Somehow it doesn't seem quite real!

I was well on my way home when my phone rang. Diven had been about to buy some goods for his shop from the wholesaler, when he found that the money in his pocket had been stolen. He has been trying very hard to build up his stock - putting aside the days profits and being very careful with what he spends on food. In this incident he had lost the profits for 7-10 days. I know what is is like to have my pocket picked and apart from the loss it leaves you very upset and confused. Maybe I should have been more careful? Why did I have everything together? Shouldn't I have noticed what was happening etc. Diven was going through all these questions and naturally was very upset. He had intended going to the Gonde ceremony using some of the money. Now he decided that he wasn't going to entertain that idea, but would concentrate on building up his stock and preparing for the birth of his first child.

In the evening Raymond came around with Fr. Clement. I was interested to hear about how the lay parishioners had readily taken charge of much of the parish management and administration leaving him with more time to devote to the spiritual aspects. It seemed to me to be a very enlightened approach, and one we could learn from back home. There must be 60 – 100 people holding positions of authority at different levels within the parish of Our Lady of the Wayside. Fr. Clement has recently celebrated his tenth anniversary as a priest and wants to spend some time relaxing with the two others who were ordained at the same time. He is therefore going to Itezhi-Tezhi for a couple of days. Itezhi-Tezhi is meant to have some beautiful scenery and be good for game viewing it is some 250 km from Monze – though still within Monze Diocese! He left promising to arrange a game of pool when he returns.

I was a bit better with my timing this morning and arrived at Our Lady of the Wayside with 5 minutes to spare. Obert greeted me as did his mother. She is keen for me to visit her pre-school group while I am around. I agreed to make a date soon. She also told me that one of the children had recently died. Any death is difficult, young deaths here are too common, but the death of a child is a particular tragedy.

I tried to find a shorter route back home. On the way I met Robert. We first met some years back on the road to Hachanga dam. He was wheeling his bike and told me the difficulties he had bringing up 7 children on the little money he had from his work in the hospital. He has since retired, but has apparently not yet received his gratuity or pension and therefore still struggles to pay school fees etc. No doubt we will continue to meet in future years!!

I called on Diven to see if he was any happier. He invited me to sit down and said that Deliah was preparing some rice. He then surprised me by getting a packet of soya pieces from his shop to add to the meal. Deana has been using soya here and it is the first time that I have been aware of its existence in Monze. I was not expecting Diven to stock it!!

We chatted as usual and enjoyed a meal together.

On the way back home I met Edward who stopped his car to say hallo. Edward used to be the headmaster at Monze Basic School when I first met him. He retired a few years back and now he works in Lusaka, although his wife stays in Monze. We agreed to meet up tomorrow for a beer or two and to catch up.

It was already well into the afternoon when I made it back to the house.

Both power and water had returned, so I was able to catch up on the cups of tea I missed in the morning and enjoy a shower – though by this time water had stopped again! However we have a couple of drums and a few bottles of water to cope with such eventualities.

We have a good bath here, but I find that an improvised shower works best. There is no hot water and during this “the cold season” the water is cool. However, using a jug over the head it provides a refreshing shower – after the initial shock its fine!!

The sunsets here have a special magic. A deep golden glow, which unfortunately seems impossible to capture on my camera, leaves ne in no doubt that this is Africa.

Chris










Friday, July 3, 2015

So much potential

Friday 3rd July

On Wednesday I spent the morning talking to some of the older children. Most had in fact left PIZZ School and were studying at local Secondary schools thanks to Hands Around the World funding.

I was struck by the difference from the children I saw a few days back. These were young men and women with confidence and ambition which had grown over the years out of the love and care they received from the school. A few told me how there lives had been changed by attending PIZZ School. Peter described himself as a street kid before he was encouraged by Mrs. Sianga to go back to school. He said that if he hadn't come to PIZZ School he might have been in jail – like others just like him. Last year he went to parliament in Lusaka on a school trip and this made him realise that if he worked hard he too could make something of himself. Emelda said that she would probably also have been a street kid if she didn't go to school – she said she might even have been dead, because the streets are very dangerous.

These children are all aspiring to a better life. Henry wants to be a journalist and he has agreed to write an article about his life. It is clear that there is a lot of potential and I will fight to get the funds needed for them to achieve their dreams - it is to change the lives of children like these that our charity exists. One of the children I met was Janes (pronounced Janice) who I took a photo of a few years back. The photo has been seen on the Hands Around the World website, Facebook pages and literature. Janes is now quite a young lady, still with the beaming smile and brimming full of confidence. When I told her that we were celebrating Hands Around the World's 21st birthday in August she said she wanted to send greetings. We made a short video in which she said a few words.

I returned home for lunch, to reflect on the morning and prepare for the computer session at 16 hrs.

The teachers seemed to have forgotten our appointment, but rallied around and we had a session from 16.30 with three of them. I had promised to talk about the Internet and show them some of its uses. I noticed that Jane was logged on when I opened Facebook, so we exchanged a few messages. Tom, Jane's son, helped run the Holiday Club at PIZZ School last year so it was very appropriate that the teachers were able to send their greetings.

Diven called around in the evening. He was having difficulty contacting me because I had moved to my new phone number and he hadn't picked up my text. I had made too much food as usual and I wasn't sure what time Deana would return after accompanying Martin to the airport. I was therefore glad of someone to share my meal.

Yesterday, after doing a bit of washing, I headed for the new school plot where I was meant to lay the first block for the foundations. There was no one about except for the guy who was delivering a truck load of sand. We chatted while I waited for Mrs. Sianga and the builder – mainly about the state of the economy and multinational companies who pay no taxes here! When they arrived it was decided to postpone the event until the slab was laid – I could then lay the first brick!

I pass Diven's shop on the way from PIZZ School, so I called around. The plot of land on which he has his buildings is shared by a shop. The way it has been split is likely to lead to problems in the long term which it would seem, will only be resolved by acquiring the shop and small strip of land adjoining it! I left Diven heading towards Charles house with more issues to contemplate.

I spent the next few hours with Charles – as usual we tried to sort out the world's problems. It was good to get a chance to catch up. Charles has been away a lot in recent years and I have missed our chats. Unfortunately his projects have all but collapsed and it will be a while before they are generating any significant income. I am not sure how his clients will manage in the meantime.

I called at a couple of banks – the first (Finance Bank) which gave me money last week for the first time since I started coming to Zambia, couldn't complete my transaction. Zanaco ATM outside the bank tried to give me money without asking for my pin number, but decided I asked for too much!! I was concerned that it was trying to charge the previous customer and moved on. Finally I tried another Zanaco ATM outside Food Royal. This time it seemed to want to give me money – started talking to me, but I didn't catch what it said, and eventually gave me my card back but no money. I am always a little concerned when no money emerges and there is no evidence to say that the transaction did not go through. (checking later on the internet it appeared that no money had left my account) I had let my cash drop to 30 – 40 kwacha (£3-£4) – not much to live on for the next few weeks even here! But I still wasn't going to give Barclays any commission – so I returned home hoping that Friday would bring me better luck!! The ATMs here are not terribly reliable. We had power off most of yesterday and I wonder whether that upset the systems.

Today, after sorting out which sponsored children I had seen, and updating my database. I accompanied Deana into town, taking her 'short cut' and emerging close to Food Royal. (I now know why she ends up using the ATM which doesn't give receipts!!)

We called in on Ireen who has made a great job of my shirt and just has the buttons to sew on. Finance Bank was in good form with two ATMs in working order and today it was happy to dispense my cash. This made me feel a lot better!

Finding no one at the priest's house I wandered back to the house – picking up a “moppa” on the way. Precious complained earlier that the house was dusty and needed washing. It is interesting what we see as needing cleaning. Here, a dusty floor or porch is unacceptable – many people will brush the dirt ground outside their house on a daily basis. Windows, ledges,sinks and baths however don't seem to be a priority. The result is that from both cultures we tend to look at each other's cleanliness and find it wanting!!

In the afternoon I went with Deana to Lushomo School. A broken down building last year has been replaced with a new smart three classroom block. We had particularly come to look at the toilets. Two compost toilets have been installed and I will be interested to see if they work as intended. I suspect the concept is not one familiar to many here. Not that many in the UK would have any experience either!

Unicef have dug some pit latrines though the area is low lying and the pits already have some water in the bottom.

I am still no wiser in being able to decide what is most appropriate at PIZZ School. I hope that Mrs. Sianga has a clearer idea.

This evening I offered to make my version of a spanish omelette. Charles, who is working with Deana on her projects, was just in time to sample a bit. It seemed to go down well.

Today has been cloudy, but tonight it was clear enough to see Mars and Venus beginning to move apart once more (thanks Lyn for confirming that indeed these are the early evening 'stars' we have been seeing recently). We could also enjoy the comforting presence of the Southern Cross that seems to me to be a sign of Gods presence and protection in this blessed land.

Chris


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Joy of Interacting with People in Monze

Tuesday 30th June

It is still a great delight to wake to bright sunshine and clear blue skies.

The temperature is very pleasant – I would imagine just above 20°C for most of the day. The sun of course is still very hot. Back in Cheltenham the minimum temperature tonight is expected to be 21°C and tomorrow 28°C or 29°C is predicted!

I rang my man at Zamtel and was surprised to hear that the SIM cards had indeed arrived! So, after sorting a few things on the computer, I set off for town. I decided to take my time and enjoy the stroll. I walked with my shadow ever present reminding me of my God in whose image I am told I am made. It is great to interact with people and share some friendly banter. I have taken to walking down a road which has shops along it, and the people are beginning to get used to my frequent journeys to and from the crossroads. The children too are becoming used to me and call out their greetings, amid lovely smiles and much laughter.

My new SIM was obtained and installed in my phone – there was even 9 kwacha credit from last year. It is good to back on my familiar number – I expect a few friends will now get in touch.

I wanted to buy a few more mugs and to find some oil to stop the door squeaking. It has been impossible not to disturb the peace as you open and close the door to the corridor and since I tend to turn in later than others, I suspect sleep is being disturbed.

I called at a shop and asked for oil and was directed to another – however a tin of engine oil wasn't quite what I had in mind. I suggested that machine oil for sewing machines might be more appropriate and was told to go “behind”. I noticed that there were narrow alleys between some shops, but wasn't sure if I should use them, so I took a longer way around. I found an area I haven't come across before with a variety of shops and little businesses. I saw a tailor and asked were I could get oil, such as she might use for her sewing machine. She directed me to 'My Prayer Shop' – a shop I am very familiar with. I was told that it was “behind”. Again I took the longer route and was soon accompanied by a guy who had heard me ask and thought I was getting lost. He made sure that I found My Prayer Shop and obtained the oil. It is very typical of the people here to help as much as possible. They are happy to direct me to someone who has a product they don't sell, or will often go and buy it for me. I have even had people close their shop to accompany me to buy something.

After buying the oil the guy walked back a little way with me, then said he made pulpits and would I like to see. I walked to his little business were he was working with another guy, using metal and glass to make church lecterns, shop display cabinets, windows, door frames etc.

On the way home I called in at Homecraft which was my home in Monze for several years. Unfortunately my small flat is being turned into an office. I chatted for a while with Sr. Barbara about a variety of topics relating to the work done by Monze Projects and the world in general. A guy I had not met before came into the office. Patrice has taken over from Vincent and apparently has resurrected a database I produced a few years back for collecting and analysing the assets of the poor communities in Monze Diocese and he is using it. I will call around sometime to find out how it is working and see if there are any improvements I can make.

The rest of the day has been filled with a variety of visitors.

Warren and his wife came around to say goodbye to Martin, who leaves for the UK tomorrow. They brought a shirt made for Martin as a farewell present.

During the afternoon Jennipher called around with a friend. She has returned from Namibia were Sandra went for an operation. It seems that She is staying there for a few days to recover before returning to Livingstone, where she works as a nurse. We chatted for a while and Jennipher and her friend enjoyed some egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Jennipher mentioned that some baby shawls that a friend of mine provided, while Jennipher was in the UK, were very well received and are now keeping the babies nice and warm. A double pushchair again provided through a gift from another friend Jennipher met in the UK is making a big difference to a mother with two children, both of whom have disabilities. She is able to get out and even do a bit of business thanks to the pushchair.

Raymond popped around early evening with a note from Charles. The moon was getting brighter, the bright orange glow of sunset dimming and two bright stars appeared close in the sky – I suspect they are Mars and Venus. I took Raymond to observe the sky and he said he had intended to ask me about the stars which he noticed have been getting closer each night. (He knows that in the past I have taken an interest in the sky – I particularly enjoy seeing the Southern Cross.)

Later Charles, his wife, Precious and eventually her two brothers Andrew and Mike came to say goodbye.

So ends another day blessed by the people I meet here in Zambia.

With my love and prayers,

Ch


Monday, June 29, 2015

A Unique Hat

Monday 29th June

It the UK we take for granted reliable supplies of water and electricity. Here we are a long way from the town centre and at the end of a long road – this is apparently why the water can be a bit erratic. There seems to be no pattern, but if often fails to reach our taps. There is an outside tap in the grounds and often a tin bath sits underneath it – usually with the tap open. This ensures that as soon as water arrives the family living in the small house within the wall get their supply. Unfortunately pressure is rarely sufficient to reach our taps inside and service the outside tap at the same time. If we are lucky when the bath is full water comes out of some or all of our taps - depending on the pressure. Maximum pressure starts to fill the cistern in the toilet!

Of course when our turn comes we will refill the drums and containers in the house to cope with the next gap in supply. So far we have had water everyday that I have been here, equally we have been without water for at least one period every day!!

Electricity has been more reliable! Today it has been off for a few hours – fortunately my laptop is doing well – providing 2-3 hours of battery power. Yesterday power was off from morning till about 17 hrs. However on the whole it has been pretty good. Only once have we had to create a cold meal in the evening and read by candlelight! As if listening to my comments, power has just been restored and the kettle has burst into life – I could just do with a cup of tea!

Yesterday I decided to take the opportunity, while Deana and Martin were away to clean the floors. After sweeping I got down on my hands and knees and got floor washing. I had managed to get a bowlful of water before the supply stopped which was just sufficient to clean the house! I was quite proud of my achievement as I marched swiftly to church. (Though as you will hear later pride always proceeds a fall!!)

Fr. Clement made up for the short service last week. He gave a rousing sermon – receiving, no doubt well deserved, applause at the end. (My chitonga still doesn't enable me to make out anything). At about 12.20 the new church committee members and the related Small Christian Community committees were brought to the front of the church. It was heartening to see so many actively involved in the organisation – probably between 60 and 100 people in total. After notices I left for home at about 12.45.

I am realising how far I am from everywhere! A very brisk walk gets be from the church to home in 35 minutes. However on the way back I met Ian. Ian used to work in the stores and we spent many hours together while I was developing the stock control database. There have been many changes since and he is now working in the Male Ward, looking after their information. He told me that he was looking forward to meeting me again because he wanted to develop a better way of analysing and presenting the statistics – particularly in relation to cause of death. I remember in 2005/6 when I was working with Bentoe we were trying to lay cable to create a local network. We hoped to have links to the wards so the hospital could benefit from an integrated patient records system that I was also developing. Unfortunately Bentoe died in a tragic road accident in 2006 along with Rose – another hospital manager. The computer systems never developed properly after Bentoe's death.

I was now running very late. I had a couple of sandwiches before rushing to St. Veronica's section meeting. The numbers started very small – the committee from St. Veronica's were meeting at Our Lady of the Wayside so they were unable to join us. Numbers grew towards the end of the meeting.

Martin and Deana returned at about 18 hrs. Later in the evening I found a distressed Deana who found that water had somehow found it's way into her room. She imagined some sort of hidden spring – or perhaps a less savoury source and was a little relieved when I assured her that I must be the culprit!! It seems that the corridor has a slope which in all directions leads to Deana's room. By gaily sloshing water around I had inadvertently sent a river under her door where it headed for her mattress!!

This morning, after putting together a few notes, I headed back to Zamtel to pick up my replacement SIM card - which of course would be there!! At the main road I met Mr. Phiri – the barber and proprietor of Sweet Sixteen. In 2004 I remember he cut my hair whilst flirting with Emily a physiotherapist, who was volunteering here at the time. He was standing by his car-washing business and is well on the way to constructing a block of three shops which he intends to rent out. He has a plan to build a lodge where the car-wash currently sits and told me he also needs to have a college and sports facility!! Quite an empire for a barber who speaks with a kind of American/Jamaican drawl.

The SIM card is on its way!! There are at least a thousand cards with the courier heading for Monze – they will be there in the afternoon!! The guy at the office told me he wants to study accountancy in the UK and asked about getting a visa. I told him that it was not easy!! I also pointed out that it wasn't cheap to study in the UK - as well as the fees accommodation is very expensive. He hopes to fund himself. I agreed to return to the Zamtel office when it fitted with my programme.

I headed for the hospital - a visit was well overdue. I greeted a few familiar faces and was greeted my people who obviously remembered me better than I did them! I called on Sr Juunza but she had a visitor and it was clear that I should wait. I recognised a very familiar voice from the office – it was Jennipher, if my ears didn't deceive me. I popped over to the Director's secretary and said hallo. The Director was in the operating theatre. I was pleased to know that he was still doing some work for which he was trained. It has always seemed sad that much needed professional doctors are given jobs as managers and administrators, for which they have had no training and often are not suited. Not that it is only in Zambia that this is an issue. Increasingly in the UK, doctors and nurses are expected to deal with more financial, purchasing and administrative tasks, as if these were areas of their expertise.

When I returned to Sr. Juunza she was free and we talked a bit about possible re-introduction of the stock control system. Although I am sure it could help the hospital, I am not keen to spend a lot of time unless I am sure that it would be properly used and maintained and processes are put in place to protect the data. I will talk to Sr Juunza again.

On my return back home I was joined by a lady saying something about a Zambian hat!! Yes she had been true to her word and had made a cap with the flag of Zambia and the words “Republic of Zambia” embroidered on it. She said she had seen me earlier in the week but didn't catch me. I am know the proud owner of a unique Zambian cap.

I picked up a large avocado and made a lot of guacamole. Raymond came later in the afternoon and we put the world to right – or at least. recognised so much that was wrong!




Saturday, June 27, 2015

More Friends

Saturday 27th June

I tried to contact the man from Zamtel yesterday morning, but as I received no reply I didn't bother to walk the couple of kilometres to check whether blank SIMs had arrived.

Mrs Sianga rang to say she had made an appointment to see some toilets. We took a taxi and picked up Mr Mweemba on the way to what turned out to be the Modern College of Education and Technology – a private teacher training college.

The first thing that hit me was a building with Ablutions written large on the side. We found the manager and he first described the system and then showed us around the toilet block which had flushing toilets and, on the girls side, also a shower.

I am not sure whether this is the most appropriate solution for PIZZ School, though the government seem to be pressing for such toilets. The manager then showed us a room of arts and crafts were some of the students work was displayed – including charts illustrating the alphabet, board dusters and a range of musical instruments. I was offered a drum – a bit too large to contemplate bringing back on the plane – but gratefully accepted a smaller drum.

I returned to PIZZ school where I met Boniface. Boniface was a student at PIZZ School. He didn't go on to do great things academically, but the school gave him the confidence to set out as a musician and he is now sort after to perform at various shows in the area. He appears every bit the musician! He has a great outgoing personality and is obviously a very confident man. He showed me, on his phone, a video that a friend of his had made of him singing one of his songs and I thought it was very good. (The friend seems to specialise in this sort of work). I suggested that maybe we could put a copy on YouTube and he liked the idea. I will try to sort it so that you can view it. Boniface has said that he will get this friend to make a video of the schoolchildren. I understand he has written, or is writing, a song about the school and how it helps people like him. I am hoping that this will help us promote the school. I also hope we can get some publicity for Boniface, who obviously has a talent.

I had offered some computer training – I had thought that it was for teachers doing training within the school. It appears that it has been offered to teachers, some of whom have no previous computing experience. I continued, but had to adapt my approach somewhat!

Deana and Martin were heading for Livingstone today. I had decided that it was time to wander down to the dam to relax a little. On the way I made a short detour to find a cap. I didn't go as far as the lady who promised the Zambia cap, but bought a plain green one. The guy claimed he could get someone to embroider Zambia on it! Maybe that is what the lady had in mind. If I see her and she has my cap I will of course buy that one too! For the time being I will make do with my plain green cap.

On the way to the dam I met a couple of old friends. Mr Lungu I had already seen in Tooters, but the other young man I couldn't place. It is always embarrassing when someone clearly knows me and I cannot recall who they are. Brian is Queen's son! It was probably 2005 or 2006. I was trying to find where St. Veronica's Small Christian Community were meeting and Brian acted as my guide. At that time he had stopped going to school because he couldn't afford the school fees. Some children from Our Lady of the Wayside were being supported, but not Brian. I met him a couple of times that year but I was sorry not to be able to help. He told me today that he is struggling. He has gone to Lusaka looking for work but they want to see certificates that he doesn't have. In Monze there is very little industry and even getting little bits of piecework is difficult. He does what most do – a little buying and selling. He wants to meet to talk more - so we exchanged phone numbers. I will listen to his story, but told him that I didn't want him to raise his hopes, as it was unlikely that I could help. He would like to return to school to finish his education.

On the way to the dam I met Diven briefly. He was going to listen to a preacher who was holding a 'crusade'. He told me there is a bit of a battle between the Seventh Day Adventists and the other Christians who have their services on a Sunday. It is a shame that which day we celebrate the Eucharist can be so divisive. I think we should all respect each other and the religion they practice. What really matters is how we live our lives, not our interpretation of a few words in the bible. I worry about 'crusades' especially when the preachers claim healing powers and very vulnerable people are encouraged to donate very generously!

At the dam I soon began to recognise some of the birds commonly seen there. Cattle Egrets are almost always present. I saw a couple of smaller birds out of the corner of my eye - the behaviour was so characteristic that I knew they were pied kingfishers. I later had a good view of one of these birds perched nearby. They hover above the lake before diving to catch their prey. African Jacana's were plentiful. The distinctive head pattern and trailing legs give them away as they pop out of the reeds briefly before submerging again beneath them. A gun shot rang out and the birds took to the skies, including a flock of African Openbilled Storks. I don't know the purpose of the gunshot there was no obvious target. A Great White Egret eventually returned to the lakeside.

After a few sandwiches Diven and Deliah arrived. My brother in law Roger had taken an interest in some of the tales about Diven, so I suggested that I introduce them to each other, using Skype. It was a successful session where they were able to see and talk to each other and connect in a way not possible at such a distance by other means. Diven suggested that Roger comes to Monze to paint his house. (I must confess encouraging him with this!) I am sure that Roger would enjoy such an experience – maybe one day it will come to pass.

I showed my guests some pictures taken last year when Jennipher was in England.

After tea I spoke to Dilys via Skype and she reminded me of a concert at the church in support of the Parish Projects – including the link with Our Lady of the Wayside, here in Monze. During their interval, I have just talked to some of my friends organising and attending the concertl – though only using the phone.

I never get a chance to get bored here in Zambia,

Best wises,

Chris





Friday, June 26, 2015

Students, Challenges and Potential

Thursday 25th June

Yesterday I went with Mrs. Sianga to High Destiny School which is a private fee paying school in Monze. We were visiting to see their computer lab. The computers were provided and installed by Camara an Irish organisation who provide them at subsidised prices. I was impressed by the set-up – the room has about 20 computers, each with a socket for the monitor and CPU.

The machines come loaded with Ubuntu software. I was delighted to see someone using Ubuntu! However, I was told that the Minister of Education insisted on Windows software being loaded! So the plan was to add it. However, not surprisingly, the computers now also needed a hardware upgrade – and will also need Micro$oft Office. This will increase the cost significantly and in the years to come further expensive upgrades will be necessary.

Ubuntu can cope well with the syllabus and can be upgraded without any cost. It is less extravagant on computer resources and the current computers would perform well. It is also far less susceptible to viruses. It is a pity that the government don't recognise its value. Though they are far from alone in thinking that if you have a PC it must be Micro$oft. (I am not using a Micro$oft product to write this blog!)

Since PIZZ will have to try to prepare the students for computing exams in December, I have offered to do a few sessions with the teachers, while I am around. Many of the teachers here have had little exposure to computers. I am no expert but I have been using computers for more than 40 years!

Today Best rang me early and picked me up. His family have owned land on the edge of Monze – just off the road to St. Mary's - for several generations. We called on his aunt briefly, just to greet her. In 2011 when Dilys and Amy came to Zambia, Best's family provided us with a meal at this house. We left his aunt and cousins and he took me just a little way to another part of the land, which Best is developing as a small farm. He has a two roomed house, but has started digging the foundations for a 4 bedroomed house next to it. He is planning to marry and settle here with his wife and child.

The custom in Zambia is that if a man wants to marry he is expected to provide a “bride price” to the brides parents. This is quite considerable and as a result marriages seem often to be delayed.

At the moment the area in which Best lives is surrounded by fields, however Monze is growing rapidly. PIZZ School which used to be in the countryside is now almost totally surrounded by houses. I enjoyed the current peace of the area and watched as the eagles patrolled the skies effortlessly using the thermals.

I left Best in town and went to pick up my replacement SIM card. Unfortunately the cards had not arrived, but they will definitely be there by 10 hrs tomorrow, Friday! (I seem to remember that they would be here by the end of last week!)

I have been a bit irritated by being charged 25 kwacha (about £2.50) for every transaction this year at the Barclays ATM. In recent years I have been charged by my UK bank for withdrawals abroad. This has amounted to over £100 some years. So this year I changed my account to provide free access. To find that, for the first time, I was incurring charges at this end was particularly galling. When I first came to Monze there were no ATMs in the town. The nearest was in Mazabuka, about 50 km distant. Obtaining money involved lengthy visits to the bank to change currency or travellers cheques. I remember one memorable occasion when I needed to provide money for a project and spent several hours in the bank signing travellers cheques and waiting for a large number of small denomination notes to be counted. I left with a backpack half filled with notes!! Zanaco was the first to introduce an ATM in Monze and my life was transformed (I gained several days that year – otherwise used in bank visits!) Barclays soon followed with an ATM and I had choice – except after a year or two Zanaco refused to give me money. Finance Bank ATM arrived and the ATM would say welcome Mr Barrell and allow me to go through the usual processes before telling me they couldn't give me cash. So for the past 5 or 6 years I have been restricted to Barclays ATM for cash in Monze. However, today the Zambia Finance Bank was pleased to dish out some kwacha and didn't impose charges. I am happy!! I would much rather use a local bank anyway.

I popped along to Ireen who has started by cutting out a shirt from one of the chitenges and I returned picking up a few bits and pieces from the shops en-route.

On the way home I received a call from an “unknown” number. At the moment MTN seem to be pestering me with unwanted calls and I wondered if this was another. In fact it was Fr. Tino – our Burmese friend – who is visiting the UK tomorrow, after his three year course in Rome. He will be in the UK until the beginning of September, so I will have an opportunity to meet him before he returns to his homeland.

Our lives have been greatly enriched by our association with Tino over the years. He was about two years old when we started communicating with his mother. As he grew he started writing back himself and sending us work that he had done. We had been corresponding for about 25 years before at last we met him in the Philippines. By this time Tino was studying in preparation to becoming a Catholic priest. We were privileged to take the place of his parents at the graduation ceremony, where we dressed him in his gown. We were also embraced by a community of Burmese people – many of them priests, nuns and seminarians- some of whom we have come to know better over the years. We were able to join the wonderful celebration of Tino's ordination in Lashio, Myanmar (Burma) and recently attended the consecration ceremony of Cardinal Charles Bo – the first Burmese cardinal – in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Cardinal Charles was formerly Fr. Tino's parish priest and looked after us very well on our visit to Myanmar.

It was good to link my life in Africa with the Burmese, through that telephone call today from Rome!!

I spent the afternoon talking to another thirteen sponsored children individually. These were mainly children I met last year. Many have tragic stories to tell. It was good to meet some who last year responded very little and had very little energy, but now were much brighter and exhibited the familiar Zambian smiles. Some had clearly benefited from receiving a reasonable meal once a day. It is a scandal to think that there are still many children going hungry throughout the world. For a few their difficult lives had become even tougher. Another parent had died and they had joined the family of an aunt or grandparent, who already had children of their own. The grief and upheaval is very difficult for the children to cope with. The school does its best to understand the family situation and help wherever possible. Building friendships with other students going through similar difficulties also helps the healing process and allows the children to develop. You can find out more about the school by following this link : PIZZ School providing a caring environment for disadvantaged children

We finished a little before 17 hrs so I called on Diven and we headed for Tooters. Diven has had problems with one leg ever since I met him. At that time someone had used a rock to smash his ankle and it was in plaster. A week or two back he twisted his foot and has since had a lot of pain – he was therefore liming as we made our way to Tooters.

We enjoyed a meal together and I had a couple of bottles of Mosi. Diven doesn't drink alcohol so he had some cola. I have been told that Zambians either drink no alcohol or can't stop until they are drunk. Unfortunately my observation seems to back this statement.

Being after dark (and aware of Diven's bad leg) we took a taxi back home. I expected Diven to drop off near his house but he continued to mine and chose to walk back! (About the same distance as the walk from Tooters would have been!) I was at least able to give him some painkillers and lotion for his leg.

Chris