Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Final Days of Holy Week

Saturday 19th April – Holy Saturday

A few things are important for me here in Zambia. At the moment I am missing my endless cups of tea. Since arriving I have only had tea in the morning. I usually manage at least a couple of cups at breakfast from a single tea bag. On Wednesday evening after my meal I was going to ask for a Mosi but after further consideration I asked if it would be too much trouble for Citride to make me a pot of tea! Sometimes there is nothing more wonderful than a pot of tea – and this was one of those occasions!! The local Zambians were a little amused and commented on the Englishman's love of tea. One of them commented on the Indian's similar passion. He had studied in Mumbai and also travelled quite extensively throughout Europe!

I made a brief visit to Kaliyangile on Thursday morning before setting of to Lusaka. Unusually there were a couple of minibuses on the main road and I thought they might move earlier than the taxis – but it appeared they were heading in a different direction. From Chisamba there appears to be only one tarred road, which meets the Great North Road after about 23 km. I think the others all become dirt roads at the edge of the small town. I assume the minibuses were using one of these.

I was directed to an empty taxi and prepared for a long wait. However a lady with a child appeared and we moved off, picking up others just up the road. I will never understand the mechanisms here in Zambia. I am constantly being surprised, but at least there is never an opportunity for boredom!!

I arrived in Lusaka soon after 12 hrs. Jennipher's appointment was scheduled for 10.30 so I gave her a ring to arrange to meet. She was waiting in a queue to have her fingerprints taken and the equipment had broken down. I am not happy with the recent moves to collect and store fingerprints. I always associate this activity with criminal behaviour. I am sure that in the past, innocent parties who gave fingerprints would have the data destroyed one it was no longer required for the case. It seems that more and more our personal information is being captured so that everyy aspect of our lives can be be tracked.

I eventually met with Jennipher at about 15 hrs She had with her a relative who, with his wife, had brought a sick baby to UTH – the large government hospital in Lusaka. Unfortunately the baby died and the parents were struggling to return with the baby for burial. Jennipher was going to stay in Lusaka overnight and come back with them on Friday.

Jennipher escorted me to a bus which was about to leave. At 16 hrs we set off!! Slowly!! There seemed to be something on the driver's mind and we stopped several times. I am sure that the conductor was left on more than one occasion and caught up with us somehow, fiurther down the road. We made very slow progress and when eventually we reached Kafue the driver found his scerwdriver and ran off. After about 30 mins we had a new light bulb installed and were therefore less likely to pick up fines at the many police checkpoints.

We arrived in Monze at about 20.20 – about 9 hrs after I left Chisamba.

The mass for Holy Thursday was well underaway and the house was completely locked up. Eventually Fr. Clement arrived from another service and let me in. The service had only reached the offertory so I decided to sneak into the back of the church and stay for the remainder of the mass.

We had entered the most sacred days of the church's year. Over the next three days we would recall the last days of Jesus on earth. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus celebrated the passover with his disciples and institued the main Christian celebration – the Eucharist. I was glad to be present, if only for the final part.

Good Friday is a good day to reflect. I went to Our Lady of the Wayside church in the morning. The young people acted the betrayal and trial of Jesus outside the front of the church and then we all followed them as Jesus carried his cross we walked around the outside perimeter of the church grounds along the minor roads stopping on the way to recall incidents on the route when Jesus carried his cross to Calvary. (Our church has formalised thes events as “The Stations of the Cross”) One thing they do well here is to organise PA systems. All parishes seem to have no difficulty setting up microphones, amplifiers and speakers to run from car batteries while parading through the streets. Similarly PA systems for outside events are no problem. I remember that in Burma it was the same.

The procession returned to the church grounds for the final stages of the story where Jesus was crucified. Throughout the young people told the story in actions and words in a very dignified way. They had obviously spent a lot of time preparing for the day and it made for a very moving and thought provoking service.

I threw a few books in my cases before I left home in England. One is a book given to me written by Joan Bakewell called “Belief” which is a selection of interviews she did for the radio in the UK. She clearly has her own position and many of her guests are people who have discarded their Christian upbringing. It makes interesting reading but I feel a sadness because it seems that most of her guests have never met God in an intimate way through the person of Jesus. Unfortunately our Christian churches are often guilty of concentrating on ritual and rules rather than experiencing and living the Gospel. The Catholic church – of which I am a part – has been more guilty than most of this approach.

Nevertheless I find the interviews interesting. Some are given by people that have developed a deep and mature spirituality and we can always learn from those who ponder the mysterys of the universe and the possibilities of something beyond.

I also have a book which records a lecture given by Jean Vanier an inspirational man who has devoted much of his life to living with people who have mental disabilities and started the L'Arche communities. He is a man I would love to meet. He believes that the poor and neglected are the best to teach us about God. My experience confirms that.

Another book I looked at during my reflection yeasterday is a book called “Wayfaring” by Margaret Silf. It is based on the spirituality of Saint Ignatius – Pope Francis, as a Jesuit, will have followed this spirtual journey. I would like to share a few words from the introduction which make a lot of sense to me.:

The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating
The paths to it are not found but made
and the making of those pathways
changes both the maker and the destination.

I think that I would add “and also those we meet upon the way”.

Certainly something worth reflecting upon.

In the afternoon I attended the Good Friday service again at Our Lady of the Wayside. On the way I met Obert's mother she was heading to the hospital but this time it is new life she is preparing for. Her daughter is about to give birth. Let us pray that all goes well for mother and child. It is a privilege to worship with the congregation at Our Lady of the Wayside church and feel a part of their community.

Today is one of anticipation. I like to take life easy, to reflect further and to spend time with my God of nature, I will probably go for a short walk this afternoon and maybe find a place to sit quietly. Zambia is very beautiful at the moment. Some new grass shoots srung up after the recent rain and most of the countryside is green. There is a wonderful array of wild flowers being enjoyed by the beautiful butterflies and other insects.

With love and prayers

Chris





Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From Monze to Chisamba

Wednesday 16th April

Jennipher arrived just before lunch on Monday. I told her to meet me after lunch and we would go through the visa application together. We amended one or two items slightly and when eventually we were both satisfied I hit the button to confirm the details. I had done my best to explain some of the fields where I was unable to put a sensible answer through lack of space. After this there is no turning back! The next stage was to book an appointment. We decided to choose Thursday morning to give Jennipher time to get the last letter sorted. There was a choice of where to take the papers – but only one centre in Zambia! This is now a FEDEX location in Longacres, Lusaka – no longer the British High Commission. I was informed that if I chose this location there would be an additional fee, but I wasn't told how much. Suspecting that it would still be cheaper than a trip to South Africa I continued! The next step was to pay. Since I had chosen to use Lusaka for the appointment it was no longer possible to pay in person. I had to pay on line by credit or debit card, which isn't something everyone in Zambia has - fortunately I can manage! The cost was a bit over 1,000 RAN which I discovered was South African Rand and in fact about what I expected to pay anyway. Having no printer the final stage would need to wait.

I am used to completing forms and working with computers but I must admit the whole process was very stressful. Later when I found confirmation letters sent by e-mail and followed the links I was told unless I registered on another site the interview couldn't take place. I could easily have overlooked the link and can't see why this is necessary – there was no suggestion anywhere else that this was a required step. Even having registered on this site, which I assumed was connected with FeDex, I was concerned that it was Jennipher's application but my registration. It is almost as if there is a deliberate attempt to intimidate.

Jennipher told me she had an appointmen to see the Coordinator of the District Aids Task Force who was going to write a letter, but wanted to see me first. On the way I was greeted by my friend who travels Monze with his set of weighing scales balanced on his knees as he wheels his chair along. I asked him to remind me of his name – Muluti – and wrote it down. Somtimes this is the only way I can learn some of the African names. I weighed myself and gave him an appropriate contribution (I am afraid I am never prepared to give him his normal asking price! To be honest I don't even know what it is!!). It was good to see him again, I was beginning to worry when I hadn't come across him depite being in Monze for some days.

By the time we arrived at the District Offices Sichali was deep in a meeting with Teddy and others. It was probably a little after 3 pm. I first met the Coordinator ,Sichali, soon after she arrived in her post about three years ago. I seem to recall a rather heated exchange – mainly from Jennipher - because it was claimed that Jennipher lived just outside the Monze District boundary. Of course Jennipher knew the history and boundary demarcation. Soon after this meeting, Sichali visited Jennipher's home and some of her support groups and I joined one of the gatherings. She has been very supportive of Jennipher and her work since that time and is a good advocate for her.

While we waited Jennipher took me to meet the new District Commissioner to get his approval. I agreed that the DATF coorodinator was the best person to vouch for Jennipher, since she knew her well. We received the blessing of the DC.

At a little after 17hrs Sichali was free and after some discussion she produced a positive letter.

My plans for an early start for Chisamba on Tuesday had to be abandoned since I had yet to get papers printed and I rely on the internet cafe - which by 18 hrs would be shut.

Somewhat worn out I returned to the priest's house and chilled a little before supper. It was after 23 hrs when I had sorted all I needed to do for the visa and the trip to Chisamba. I was glad that I wasn't getting up at 5!

Jennipher had agreed to get to Monze at 8 am to pick up the letter from Sichali. It would be printed and ready by then. I headed to the internet cafe and before 9 am had everything else printed. I rang Jennipher to meet up and she told me that she was on her way!! I knew that Sichali had to leave for a meeting at 8.30 and rushed around to find the offices locked. Fortunately she was just leaving and told me where to find the letter.

  • When Jennipher arrived she had the final letter with her and she was coming with me to Lusaka! The bus was waiting!!
  • Unfortunately I wasn't ready.
  • We missed her bus and I took the opportunity to get one more letter printed.
  • I returned to the bus stop where another bus driver claimed to be about to leave.
  • Where was Jennipher? For some reason she had wandered up the high street.
  • OK I bought tickets for both of us and asked the driver to pick her up.
  • On entering the bus I saw plenty of empty seats.
  • Another call to Jennipher told her to come to the bus stop.
  • The bus then sets off!!
  • They spot Jennipher and she jumps aboard – all is well.

Life here often resembles a Broadway Farce!

Our Journey to Lusaka was without incident apart from our driver deciding that a section of the road being repaired was fine and provided an opportunity to overtake all the vehicles following the diversion on the rough side road. Not unexpected ly eventually the other end of the diversion was reached with a road block and workmen directing the traffic. Our driver became very apologetic as he made his way past the barriers!

We ate at Lumumba bus station after which Jennipher and I went our separate ways. With little delay at Lusaka or getting a taxi at Chisamba crossroads I arrived at the Chisamba Guest House by about 5.20 pm. (6hrs or so after setting off from Monze.)

Approaching the Guest House a guy greeted me and assured me that I knew him. Maybe I met him one year but I am not sure – he claimed I was with some young ladies, which I sttrenuously deny!! There was a group of volunteers (including young ladies) who came some years back and I suspect that he thought I was with them – I think I also met him (I was alone I hasten to add!) a few years back. Cetride gave me a warm welcome and showed me to my room.

Persis joined me for supper and we talked about the project - Kaliyangile.

Today I spent meeting the Kaliyangile committee, all of whom I know from my previous visits. We are experiencing some issues with keeping staff on the project. The reasons are complex but the large rise in government wages is one issue. We cannot afford to compete with the new government rates and unless we can provide other motivation, it will continue to cause problems.

There are plenty of livestock around the site and a good maize harvest is predicted.

This year the Zamtel network doesn't appear to exist. I am therefore cut off! However I have the internet and if necessary can use Skype to make calls. Receiving them isn't so easy.

I was offered what is evidently a delicacy for supper – cow's feet! I said that I would try them expecting some recognisable meat to be present. They turned out to be skin, fat and marrow. I expect they are an acquired taste! I managed to eat most of what wasn't bone, but will probably opt forchicken next time!

There are of course other delicacies here. The unique vegetables and unusual fruit I usually find very pleasant – other foods exercise the mind a little because of texture or tradition. I don't expect any inswa this visit since these flying ants appear at the onset of the rains. However at the priest's house last week there were some interesting bite sized objects that had a familiar look to them. I didn't remember the Zambian name but a rough translation is caterpillar! Apparently they are very nutritious. I ate a few (they are quite large!) and they were OK – in fact easier to swallow than cow's feet!! (unfortunately I had to delete the picture – maybe the opportuniyty will re-occur!)

Please note that if any of those reading this are planning to come out for their first visit, such delicacies are not compulsory!!

Take care,

Chris









Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Beginning of Holy Week

 Freshly cut palms
Monday 14th April

It is already a week since I set off from home in Cheltenham.

This morning I realised the value of my trips to Africa. I spent a couple of hours passing the time of day with two friends. The first Obert I met some years ago when walking down the main road. He tells me that he is now fulfilling his dream which was to drive a car. He passed his test at the second attempt on Thursday and is now on his way to get his provisional licence. This is a guy from a poor background who was told he would never be able to ride a bike because he only has one leg.

We talked about the weather in England, the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian plane and the actions of Oscar Pistorious, among other things. I enjoy our discussions and we get to know each other better each time we meet. It is through such encounters that trust develops and a mutual friendship which gives life to both of us. I stressed how important I felt that seat belts were when driving – it is sadly the case that very many lives are lost here in Zambia because the wearing of seat belts is not the norm.

My second discussion was with Fr. Clement who happened to be in the sitting room. The children from Our Lady of the Wayside church sent an Easter card to the children at St. Gregory's Church in Cheltenham signed by all the children who attend mass and call themselves the Holy Childhood. Dilys was running the children's liturgy on Sunday in Cheltenham and the children there signed a card to be sent to Our Lady of the Wayside church. I thanked Fr. Clement and asked him to pass on thanks and greetings to the children. Over recent years the children at each parish have been encouraged to learn about each other, to write letters and send photos. We think that talking to each other over Skype might also be good. I am very keen to foster a close relationship between the people of the two communities.

St. Gregory's church with St. Thomas More in Cheltenham has now adopted four projects instead of officially just having one – Our Lady of the Wayside. I see this as a positive mood because the more we engage with different parts of the world and the more we learn about issues worldwide the richer our community becomes. I am not concerned about reduced income. Money is not my focus. In fact I suspect that both interest and funding for Our Lady of the Wayside will grow because of formally adopting additional projects. We discussed various ideas that are being considered at the new parish in Monze, building a parish house, constructing a piggery and proving a water supply for a bit of land they have for growing crops. My gut feeling is that the agricultural projects are more likely to fire the imagination in Cheltenham than the building!

I have a vague idea of organising an African concert when I return to the UK. We have a number of people in our parish who originate from Africa and I am sure they and their contacts would be able to find the necessary talent. I would be very keen to ensure that entrance is free and would push for free refreshments too! It is important to me that we do not exclude anyone, but particularly the financially poorest. If we do, we are failing in the objective of making our world a fairer place! I also believe it is important to ask the question “what are you willing provide” and hope for generosity in whatever form it takes. When challenged and shown the needs very many respond with wonderful generosity – even on a financial level!!

So what happened over the weekend? I actually spent more time than I wanted trying to resolve an issue with the Hands Around the World database. Sometimes I wish I never started playing with this software!! Anyway I think I know what I am doing now.

I also tried to put together the documents for Jennipher's visa. Yesterday I started to complete the application online. Apparently there is a new website (in beta testing – which is always worrying!!) which makes things simpler! Well I am not so sure. I would appreciate some sort of guidelines for completing the form – I can find none. There are many obligatory fields and some are free text, but have a very limited sized field – even twitter gives more scope to describe an event. Despite this I have produced a reasonable draft and Jennipher is coming soon to review it with me.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Congregations from the two Catholic parishes in Monze and the Salvation Army met at a point about equidistant between the two Catholic churches, which are perhaps 3 km apart. Unfortunately other Christian churches, who have been present in the past, didn't join us. It would have been much better had all Christian churches joined together to proclaim their shared faith which recalls the final days in the life of Jesus.

It is a shame that the history of Jesus is unknown to many in the UK. Many consider it as myth and storytelling without any basis, yet there is plenty of evidence that the man Jesus existed, that he was known as a teacher and healer and that he claimed to be God. These are as much historical facts as the existence and exploits of Julius Caesar.

We gathered from 8hrs and the service began at about 8.50! After the palms (freshly cut) were blessed we processed together into the neighbourhood. First those people from the Salvation Army peeled off waving a farewell goodbye with their palms. Later the two Catholic congregations said goodbye and headed for their own churches. I was with the Our Lady of the Wayside branch. We moved into the church packed beyond capacity with some standing outside as well as inside. Here we celebrated the mass – our Eucharistic service. By 12.30 the morning's service was over.

Of course it was an opportunity to renew my acquaintance with many friends. Sr. Juunze, Mr Meheritona, Kennedy, Obert, Sr. Gabriela, Vincent and Bridget to mention just a few. It is lovely to receive such warm welcomes – including big hugs from the men as well as women!

I was having a frustrating time with the visa application and so headed for the little lake beyond PIZZ school. I checked on the fencing around the additional land that was acquired for the school some years back. Some people have build right up to the boundary and in places beyond it. It was therefore important to demarcate the land with a fence.

Walking around Monze is important. It allows me to interact with the local people. Young men shout out “muli butu” and are surprised when I respond “kabotu, muli buti” the children shout out “how are you” and are delighted when I respond “I'm fine, how are you” and give them a wave. The adults around smile and enjoy the comedy! I feel very much accepted here in Monze. Many have come to recognise me over the years and I feel truly welcome.

Walking gives me time to think and mull over the events unfolding. I think of discussions I have had and often feel the gentle presence of my God. At the start of the procession it seemed that numerous swallows and swifts were joining in the procession flying up and down the line – a bird of prey circled above – possibly a snake eagle. The marvels of nature usually lead me to God. We need to build machines to fly and how long did it take humankind to work out the mechanics? Yet some of these birds might be in the UK next month just using the power of their wings and favourable winds.

At the dam all seemed to be quiet – few people, except for a small group of young boys who, pied piper like, had followed me to the dam. They sat and watched me while hiding behind some bushes - they eventually decided to move on. They are not usually so timid. I then spotted a heron and a bird behaved like a cormorant drying its wings – it probably was a cormorant, the first I have noticed at this lake since coming to Zambia. A pied kingfisher flew by, a couple of African Jacanas jumped out of the tall grass and a bird of prey – probably a snake eagle - soared overhead. There are a lot of butterflies about at the moment and they mingled with the dragonflies near the water's edge. It was good to relax for a while and take in the wildlife around me.

Blessings to all this Holy Week.

Chris




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Old Friends

Friday 11th April

Time passes so quickly here in Zambia. It seems that I have just arrived yet already this is the start of my 3rd full day in Monze. There are so many things that we take for granted in the UK. My phone came back to life after another visit to Zamtel (my third on Wednesday). I bought a USB modem and was assured that the MTN SIM would be working within 10 mins – this was on Wednesday afternoon. I returned to the shop on Thursday morning before I was able to use it!

There used to be a grocer's shop Pick-a-lot where the MTN shop now stands. I have known the shopkeeper over many years. Outside this shop was where Ireen used to sit and sew her garments. The new shopkeeper didn't seem to know where either of my friends were now based. I will need to track down Ireen or I won't get a new shirt this year!

I have bumped into a few friends over the past couple of days. Captain seems to be doing OK he is still moulding bricks as he did in 2003 when he was involved with the building of the hospital ICU. Obert's parents told me that Obert can now drive, no doubt he will demonstrate his skills before long – I hope his artificial leg is not too much of a handicap. Jennipher has been around a couple of times and we are working on the next visa application. Diven has been bringing me up to date with his current position and Raymond is still chasing houses for me to rent!

Yesterday it rained most of the day – unusually gentle rain from my experience . I hoped that this might be useful since there has been little rain of late. However I am told that it is too late and has the danger of destroying what crops there are. Dry weather is required to prepare the maize for harvesting and milling. I was told yesterday that, although there was a lot of hunger last year, this year will be worse.

Yesterday I slept until after 7 am. There was a lot of activity around the church and there were a number of guests – local priests – staying overnight. I had heard on Wednesday that practice for the “Chrism Mass” was taking place, but in my experience this service is conducted on Maundy Thursday. I was therefore surprised when I returned from town to find a procession of priests and a bishop entering the cathedral. It appeared that I was just in time, so I sneaked into the back of church. This is an annual service when priests from all over each diocese of the Catholic Church come to their cathedral. They renew their priestly vows and receive the oils blessed for use in the sacraments – for example oil for anointing those sick and dying. I don't think I have attended such a service before, but living here at the cathedral church it seemed inappropriate to miss the celebration. It was good to hear the singing and drumming and watch the dancing once again. Apart from the renewal of vows and blessing of oils, the service followed the same format as the usual Eucharistic service of the mass.

I said hallo to Father Maambo - a priest who used to be in charge of Our Lady of the Wayside church here in Monze and excused myself from lunch with the priests, because I had promised to talk to Jennipher. She found a table in the NAPSA building where we had chicken and chips! (I am not sure what NAPSA stands for either!!)

I visited Mrs Sianga at PIZZ school yesterday afternoon. Mr Sianga spotted me on the road and gave me a lift for the final part of the journey.

The children – now 203 at the school – are provided with a meal each day. This comprises some fortified rice-soy meal designed to be particularly nutritious that Mrs. Sianga obtains from Lusaka. A meal can be provided for a little over £1 a month per child, though additional costs – charcoal and transportation add a bit to the total cost. Hands Around the World has a fund to provide this food and will be having a short text campaign soon to boost it. Mrs. Sianga told me that the children are putting on weight as a result of this small meal each day.

We spoke about various topics including the proposed Holiday Club during August and discussed possible activities.

In the evening I was able to access the internet. The service is good and it should allow me to keep in regular contact.

Best wishes

Chris





Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Welcome Home"

Wednesday 9th April 2014

I am safely back in Zambia! “Welcome home" has been my greeting!

I had a few things to sort out on Monday, but on the whole I was well organised for the trip.

Dilys joined me for mass at St. Gregory's and we took up the bread and wine – the Eucharistic offering. I am always aware that I need God's help - particularly when I venture out into Africa. It would be so easy to do more harm than good, as many have done in the past.

I popped into town and had my glasses straightened to avoid them constantly falling off! I bought another webcam having stood of mine the previous night.

Barby, Amy and Cheyenne came around to say goodbye. I tried to be a little sociable but I hope they forgive me, because my mind kept being distracted. Little things that I needed to do, or still pack – or unpack! kept coming to mind.

I wanted to cut my hair before leaving and Barby helped tidy up the bits I had failed to clip myself. I re-weighed my bags and decided the cases were both on the high side of 23kg and the backpack was just on the low side of 7kg. I decided that it was silly to risk paying excess charges and the added concern of not being sure. I therefore removed a bible – which I hope to send later and a reading book which was not quite what I had intended anyway. So now being a few ounces under for each bag I could relax a little.

We had a light lunch, the family left and ,after a quick check, I thought I had all I needed for the trip and we set off for the airport.

The weather was cloudy but OK and we made good progress, arriving at terminal 3 at about 4.30 pm. 3 ¾ hrs before the expected departure.

I wanted to be at the airport in good time (since none of my contingency was used up we were very early). I had failed to log in online and therefore would need to go through all the formalities at the airport.

I was surprised to find out that the check in desks were open. As I queued, I was asked to sign a form agreeing to something! It appeared to be an agreement to pay extra if my hand luggage was over 7 kg. There also was mention of electrical goods and various other things!! I just hoped that the laptop – which shouldn't have had any accessories with it – didn't count in the 7kg!

Other than a slight delay when they checked why I appeared to be “staff” the check-in went smoothly. I decided not to fight for different seats and took the seats given.

I rejoined Dilys for a cup of coffee. She would probably go into a second hour for parking anyway, so we took our time.

We said our goodbyes and I was soon through security. For once no alarms were set off – despite me leaving my watch on.

It is always good to arrive in the departure lounge. I don't know why checking in bags and passing security should cause such tension, but I certainly don't find it a relaxing process.

I was surprised just how different the terminal was on the other side of security. I was greeted by caviar and sushi bars, designer shops, duty free stores selling goods at apparently reduced rates though way above what I would consider paying, and a Harrod's store. It made me realise that there is a different world that a few inhabit and another different world – at the other extreme – is where I would soon be living. I wonder how long some of my friends would make the cost of a caviar snack last!!

The flight was due to leave at 8.15pm but my boarding pass said 9pm (boarding from 7.30pm). This was of interest because there had been the changes last week diverting the plane via Rome. The information board confirmed that the flight was due to leave at 8.15 and would be going via Rome. A delay of ¾ hr would give us a scheduled stop of 35 mins in Addis!! Possibly a little tight!!

Sure enough the information soon changed. We would be leaving at 9 and boarding at 8. As we approached the boarding gate we were met by a guy with some scales! Most passengers were asked to place there bags on the scales and some seemed to be diverted to another desk - where I suspected they were paying the excess. I noticed that those with backpacks on their backs didn't seem to be questioned, so with backpack in position and laptop in hand I walked through unhindered.

We were all on board by 9pm. I was sitting amidst a young family who were returning to Zambia to live. The father had been in England for 20 years and had three small children – the eldest perhaps 7 – 8 years old. The family had been visiting Zambia each year. He thought that we would be in Addis for about 3 hrs. When I said that I doubted it, he told me that his information was that the plane was flying direct. I had to admit that there were no obvious spare seats, so I couldn't see a purpose in stopping in Rome unless we had some short haul passengers on board.

We were airborne more or less according to the revised schedule. We passed Rome while still flying over the Mediterranean and headed for Africa. We were at the front of the economy class and as such didn't appear to have video screens. I was trying to work out why we were given earpieces, when a neighbour showed me how to extract the hidden screen. I was not really interested in a movie but found a pool game to play for a few minutes.

One of the cabin crew produced a carry cot and proceeded to attach it to the front wall. Travelling with young children cannot be too much fun! Another carrycot soon arrived in front of the mother. It was therefore possible to settle the two younger children to sleep during the trip – a great, and unexpected, joy for the parents. Ethiopian Airlines had suddenly become the family favourite.

We talked a little about what we were going to be doing in Zambia – he was going to set up his own business, though at the moment it wasn't defined. He had sold medical products in the UK. He felt that Zambia after suffering from British colonialism now was suffering from industrial colonialism – I tend to agree. It was sad, and I was a little surprised, that he believed that the Chinese gave the Zambians a better deal than the Europeans. He particularly cited the lists of conditions attached to any aid provided by the European nations.
I dozed a little and closed my eyes when when breakfast arrived at 2.30 BST!

We landed at what was probably about 4 BST , 6 Ethiopian Time, 7 Zambian Time. My new Zambian friend was right - we had a three hour wait in Addis Ababa.

I decided to rest a little on the loungers thoughtfully provided in the departure lounges, rather than join the queue for getting to gates 4-8. (My flight was due to leave from gate8) This proved to be a mistake, although even a few minutes with my feet up was a delight. When I went to join the queue it was a lot longer and I noticed that movement was extremely slow. Fortunately before I reached the security check passengers for Lusaka were fast tracked.

It must be inherent guilt but I tend to get a bit flustered at a security scanner. Laptop out of bag, belt off, mobile and coins in the basket (how many baskets do I need, what needs to be put with what and the belt is running and my items are about to disappear!) This time I would not be allowed to proceed without taking off my watch – oh and yes, my shoes. I couldn't undo my laces – they had become knotted!! There is nothing like a security scanner to humiliate you!! This did its job!

Unusually from the boarding gate there was a view outside the airport into the town. I watched as a small flock of birds of prey hunted nearby – I couldn't identify them, but wanted to think they might be Steppe Eagles. I took a couple of photos for the blog.

I was surprised that at the boarding gate our cards were not scanned and we were not asked to board in any particular order. One of the staff said something like we had a different plane and it was free seating. I confirmed that we could sit anywhere and managed to find a window seat. The guy next to me thought that we would arrive in Lusaka at about 2pm. He understood that this flight went via Harare!

As usual on such occasions I could no longer keep my eyes open to enjoy the views as we crossed Africa. The pilot announced as we passed Mount Kilimanjaro – unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the plane. I must remember to get a seat on the right hand side of the plane for the return flight.

We arrived in Lusaka, without visiting Harare, on schedule at 12.30pm.

I was at the back of the plane and wanted to reduce my wait at immigration as much as possible by making my way up the plane. Eventually I retrieved my bags and as I headed to the front of the plane they opened the back doors. So unusually I found myself near the front of the queue at immigration, since I had very limited success towards the cockpit..

I was a little concerned that I hadn't had the opportunity to fill in an immigration form – would I be sent to the back of the queue!! In the event it wasn't a problem. On recent trips entry forms have been used to exit - maybe they have run out of forms!! I was asked to plant the fingers of my right hand on the machine – then asked for 50 dollars and my visa was issued with the customary 30 day permit without any further procedures. I was told that I could go to any relevant office where they would extend the permit for a further month - “without charge” ! I couldn't help wondering why he couldn't just give me a two month permit, if it was automatic. Still I cannot complain! If only Jennipher could obtain permission to enter the UK so easily!

Of course what determines your stay at Lusaka airport is not necessarily your time in immigration. I didn't find out who Malcolm was!! People have different ways of making their luggage stand out. Malcolm used a piece of A4 to write his name in bold capitals along with his cellphone number. Malcolm's cases circulated for what seemed like half an hour before mine came into view.

Best told me that the going rate for a taxi from the airport was 50 kwacha. Since his taxi used to do that run, I considered it good information. I didn't expect to achieve that price but thought 100 kwacha might be possible.

I wasn't surprised to be asked for 200 kwacha (£20) by the taxi driver, however I was surprised that he wasn't interested in bargaining. He asked me to check with others, who of course backed him. In the end I admitted defeat!! He showed me a list of prices to back his claim. (I wondered how many lists he had!!)

As usual at the Intercity bus station I had plenty of people wanting to help. I was told that I should get on the bus that was going “now now”! I told them that I was aware of what time now now was!! The Muzandu bus was not going for two hours. The next I knew my cases were being carried to the now now bus. The conductor admitted that now now was at 4pm (the time was just after 2pm.) I still expected the bus to be sitting there at 18hrs! With an effort I picked up my cases and headed back to Mazundu. My helpers reckoned that despite what I had been told I could catch a Shalom bus earlier. So again I watched as my cases shot off up the road. The 14.30 bus hadn't gone – and after some checks, the Shalom staff decided there was a seat available to Monze. At one point I looked down to see my cases had vanished. My helpers were quite amused by my shocked expression, because they had moved the bags just to the other side of me. The cases were once more on the heads of the guys helping me. I followed them around the side of the coach where there appeared to be the complete stock from a shop or warehouse!! I assumed that this was just sitting there waiting to be sold or collected. My cases were manoeuvred as close to the luggage doors of the bus as possible and the conductor eventually assured us that they would be loaded. My helpers seemed surprised (I hope by my generosity) when they each received 5 kwacha (about 50p) for their efforts. I waited until my bags were loaded. Another passenger, despite having still to wait for hers to get in, pressed the conductor to put mine in the locker.

It seemed to me that they were going to have difficulty finding any room for my cases let alone any of the other goods that by now I had decided were destined for the journey to Livingstone, but at least mine were on.

The bus was a little late leaving – no doubt due to amount of 'luggage'. Getting away from Lusaka is very slow. Vicious road humps slow the traffic dramatically around Chilanga and 'road improvements' means the bus is diverted in several places across country.

I was surprised to see a set of robots in Mazabuka, but they weren't working.

We arrived in Monze at about 18.30.Again I failed to get a reasonable price for the taxi and paid 15 kwacha (£1.50) for the short trip down the road. My taxi driver called after someone to remove my luggage from the bus. I was asked where it was and had an idea but was a bit vague. They opened the doors where there were many cases but mine wasn't there. I had a feeling that they were in the next locker, but when this was opened they couldn't be seen. It appeared that there was no option but to unpack the bus! Large boxes and bags were thrown out and eventually five or six foot inside the locker something that could be a case was spotted. After further excavation my bags were finally extracted. I apologised for all the work it entailed – though none of it was my doing!

When I arrived at the priest's house by the cathedral church there was no one about. Something was happening in the church and there were noises like pots and pans being washed but I couldn't rouse anyone. After a little while a guy who knew me welcomed me, sat me down in the lounge and moved my cases into one of the bedrooms. He reminded me that he was a seminarian who I met last year.

The place was lit by candles and it turned out that power had been off for 24 hours and the expected resumption at 18 hrs – now passed – had been revised to sometime tomorrow. The lack of power had affected the water supply both the mains and the church's borehole, from which only a day's supply can be stored. So the town was dark and without water when I arrived last night.

The priests – Fathers Kenan, Jackson and Clement eventually joined me and we had a candlelight supper.

I read a little – had a minimal rinse and settled down for the night.

I awoke at about 6 am to hear people about and light entering from the corridor. Yes it appeared that we again had power.

I turned over to go back to sleep but eventually decided to get up have a quick wash and shave and make my way to the church.

It was good to surround my journey with the prayer of the Catholic mass. I spotted a number of familiar faces amongst the congregation and was greeted afterwards by some of them.

It is always nice to be greeted by wide smiling faces and “you are most welcome”.

I was glad that I was able to have a couple of cups of tea with my breakfast, thanks to the resumption of power – they are part of my essential treats here in Zambia.

I haven't been able to use my Zamtel SIM since arriving in Zambia. I added some talk time and it was accepted, but I cannot make or receive calls. After breakfast I headed to the local Zamtel office to get help. I was told that the problem was that I hadn't registered the phone and SIM. After a return visit to get my passport, I signed a completed document and was told that my phone would be working later today – in the morning! It is now approaching 15hrs and still no luck!! I feel another visit coming on!!
Jennipher arrived at about midday and we talked a while – particularly about the need to sort out her documents. Selina finishes for Easter tomorrow and wanted to come to see me but Jennipher said no, she needs extra tuition as exams are approaching! Soloman wants me to finance his next business venture! There are still people going hungry and Jennipher has no mealie meal herself. Its lucky I am prepared for an expensive visit – at least mentally!!

On my way to Zamtel I spotted a strange sight. Incredible as it seems Monze has its very own set of robots – I will try to include a picture! And they are working!! Last night with no power the robots were not as easy to spot!!! I hope you will recognise them in the picture!

Well there is plenty to do. Communications are my top priority – phone and internet access.

Hopefully I will post this blog very soon.

Take care


Chris






Sunday, April 6, 2014

Almost ready to depart

April 6th

The days fly by as my departure time approaches. Tomorrow I will leave UK soil once again for another adventure in Africa.

In many ways I am ahead of schedule! My bags are packed – I have ¾ lb left for my toilet bag in one case - the other might have a couple of ounces spare! Dilys scales weigh to ¼ pound – I hope they are accurate! I might even have a pound or so in my hand luggage for the bits and pieces I will find in the next few hours!

Teddy and Raymond have been scouring Monze for somewhere for me to stay but so far have had no success. Fr. Kenan has always been most hospitable, so I will spend, at least, the initial night or two at the Priest's House. I have been warned that the priests have been practising at pool so I might have some serious competition this year.

Jennipher hasn't been very well and was referred to UTH (University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka) for treatment. I tried to call her earlier but the line was one way and she couldn't hear me. I have been busy preparing the case for her to visit the UK when I return in June. Our Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood has written a very good supporting letter. My first task in Zambia will be to complete an application for a visa with Jennipher – having obtained further supporting letters.

Easter is a wonderful time of year. It is a time of new life here in the UK. Blossom and flowers are brightening our world. In Zambia the rains are coming to an end and harvest time is fast approaching. It is a time of anticipation.

During the week I was informed that the flight schedules had been changed. Since I could still fly out at the same time and connect at Addis Ababa, I was relaxed about the changes. However new tickets hadn't arrived by Friday! I seem to have one or two problems with my e-mails at the moment – fortunately I have an alternative address and now have new tickets.

I was interested to note that the outward journey to Ethiopia was going to take nearly two hours longer than originally scheduled. It appeared that we were going to make an extra stop. Checking the flight details I was surprised that the plane is now flying to Rome! Fortunately it then progresses to Addis! On the whole I think this detour will prove better than an additional hour or two at Addis airport in the early hours.

About a week ago I lost a set of keys. This evening I realised that the small keys for the locks on my cases where on this ring. - panic over spares have been located!

I am looking forward to being back among my friends in Zambia. It is never easy but it can be so very rewarding. I have known many of the people for a number of years. It is good to see that some are progressing and making their way in life, but for many it is still a daily struggle to provide sufficient food for the family.

So as I prepare to leave please remember me in your prayers – I need a lot of guidance.

With love and prayers


Chris


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flights Arranged

March 19th

Talking to friends during the past month many have asked when I was travelling back to Zambia and at least one suggested that he knew I was about to leave!

The only way to stop the speculation seemed to be to book some flights!!

In just under 3 weeks I will once again head back to my second home. This year in particular I find myself getting excited by the prospect.

I need to start to prepare! The 'travel nurse' had a vacancy about three days before I travel – a little bit tight!! Fortunately further research meant that on Monday I went through the list of necessary vaccines with the nurse and, to my surprise, I find that I am up to date and need no extra jabs this year.

My 'new' camera arrived this morning thanks to e-bay. I have settled for Kodak cameras (6 megapixels+) running on aa batteries with a proper viewfinder. (You cannot see screens in the Zambian sunlight!) These cameras have always been adequate for my needs and are suitable to leave with friends with a stock of rechargeable batteries and, (if I can find one) a solar powered battery charger.

My favourite flat in Monze currently has tenants, so I had a word with Teddy who is on the case to find me somewhere to stay.

In Chisamba I might be lucky enough to stay in the old storeroom next to the chicken house and the cattle drinking trough. It was at Easter a couple of years back that this was fitted out for me with a bed and desk! It is wonderfully peaceful and though basic caters for my needs.

Last week I attended a training session in London designed to help with applying for UK visas. It was geared towards business visitor visas, but there was some information that might help me with another application for Jennipher. I spoke to one of the senior lawyers after the session who said he was willing to look at Jennipher's case and provide some advice. This could prove very useful.

We have at last had some beautiful sunny weather here in England. It was good to get into the garden over the weekend and see the world waking up after the winter sleep. The pond has a large healthy clump of frogspawn and the forsythia is in bloom.

When our son Paul was married 3 years ago, we used some small daffodils as part of the table decoration. These, now planted in the garden, were the first to bloom in the garden. I like to work with God and nature in my garden – so I delight in plants many regard as weeds! The profusion of celandine in the back garden always marks the beginning of Spring for me. The acer's bare branches are beginning to transformation as leaf buds develop day by day.

In Zambia the rain has been falling for the past four months and will have turned the barren landscape into luscious tropical beauty. I will arrive at the end of the rainy season and should be still around as the crops start being harvested.

For the second time I will spend Easter in Zambia. I look forward to sharing this the holiest of Christian celebrations with my Zambian friends.

I will have plenty to keep me busy on this trip.

PIZZ school is doing well, but there are always plenty of challenges. Mawini passed her grade 12 exams with the highest marks of all students at Namwala High School. She is a credit to PIZZ school and hopes to gain a place to study medicine.

There is all sorts of activity at Kaliyangile from bees to pigs, guinea fowl to fish farming! Just getting to grips with the programme will be a challenge.

Best is currently in Solwezi were he is on his final placement at the High Court before his final exams in May.

Diven is still busy selling Boom! He moved to a new shop in the market – I can't wait to see how his business is progressing.

Jennipher rang me today to say she wasn't very well and had been referred to UTH for treatment. She thinks it is a recurrence of a previous problem – which hopefully will respond to the correct medication. A few prayers wouldn't go amiss.

Obert is doing well with his driving lessons and wants to pick me up from the airport! I will be interested to know how he is managing to drive with his artificial leg!

There is a new bishop elect for Monze - Moses Hamungole – he will be installed in May while I will still be in the country. He was born in Kafue - between Monze and Lusaka. The current bishop Emilio Patriarca is from Italy and the diocese has benefitted from the support of the Italian community. I hope this support will continue with the new bishop.

Well, I better look for some anti-malarial tablets and begin to collect the usual goodies I am expected to bring out – such as numerous bars of Wrights coal tar soap and bottles of oil of cloves.

I have received numerous donations for my suitcases – just as well I can take 2 x 23kg bags.

I will try to update as my departure approaches.

Best wishes

Chris