Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Zambia January 19

My first couple of weeks in Zambia have gone well overall. I spent a few days in Lusaka as I had several things to get done there. It was quite tough getting adjusted to the time change and the weather change - such a contrast coming from minus 20C and snow in Canada to plus 28C and rain in Zambia.

I was very glad to leave Lusaka and get to Kakulu on Thursday January 6. Great to be back in the community and to my final destination, after the last few weeks of intensity in preparing for the move here. The farm is very quiet and peaceful so I am lucky to have such a nice place to live.

I have been settling into the new routine and starting the work that I need to get done. Mike is very pleased to have me here and is already keeping me busy with many tasks. The crops are looking great and everything in full swing with the tobacco harvest under way and ongoing maintenance on the maize (corn).

I have been able to spend a bit of time in the community catching up with a few people and starting to asses what the immediate priorities are for SPF. As usual I have spent quite a bit of time with Pastor Justin who has brought me up to date on a number of issues. I will give more details of things as I get to visit places and people to see myself what's going on.

So far I have visited the clinic and Sungula school. Ednah has been transferred to another clinic in the region and a new sister-in-charge has been brought in. She was actually here before, in 2006 standing in for Ednah during her long leave, so is familiar with the community. Things are ticking along okay at the clinic - nothing major to report and I've got a list of a few things to consider for us to work on.

At the school I found that Kirby has been replaced as head teacher. (Kirby and Stella are still living at the school - she is still teaching there and the Ministry of Education is trying to find a placement for him although he is keen to retire he tells me.) The new head teacher seems to be good although we only had a short meeting this first time round. We had a quick tour of the school grounds. They have got to roof-level on another teacher house - similar to the one SPF/Taylor built in 2008 - this new one funded by the government. No other major developments at the school but, again, a few items on the list to consider for future work.

Ann Hendry is the niece of a good friend of ours and recently graduated from university in England with a degree in Environmental Science. She spent a couple of months in Kitwe - a city North of here - at the end of 2010 on a student exchange program. During that time she did a research project on the effects of the copper mining activities on the water quality of the rivers in that area. After going to South Africa for the Christmas holidays she came back to Zambia to spend a couple of weeks with us to learn about SPF work in the community. She is interested in doing what she can to help the Foundation once she goes back to UK.

As predicted in my last posting Internet access is very sporadic so further updates will be done as the opportunity allows. Even e-mail is a struggle so I will respond to messages as quickly as I can. We are working on some other options to improve Internet access at the farm so hopefully something will come about soon.

Cheers, Gordon

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year 2011

My trip from Canada to Zambia went well. Thanks to Milt for driving me down to Calgary on Thursday December 30 and dropping me at the airport. Although I had a few hours to wait until flight time it was good to relax after the past several weeks of hectic activity as I packed up and prepared to leave. Also a chance to make a few last minute phone calls to some people. The flight left on time at 8:30 pm and was full, but it went smoothly and I was able to get 2-3 hours of sleep on and off.

We arrived at London Heathrow at Noon their time on Friday. Fortunately I only had 5 hours to wait for the next flight and didn’t have to change terminals. It would have been nice to get out of the building for some fresh air but it was foggy and rainy so I didn’t bother with all the formalities of having to check out through immigration and then back in. As it was I did a lot of walking in the terminal to stretch the body out, in between making calls to a few people in the UK to catch up with them and wish them a happy new year. Also had pint of English beer for old time sake – and to celebrate new year in Hong Kong at that particular time !

The flight for Lusaka left on time at 6:30 p.m. – this time the flight only at about 70% full. Initially I was in an aisle seat next to another person on one side of the plane – a Boeing 767 so just two seats next to the window. I then moved across to the middle row of three seats as they were all open and thought that I would be able to stretch right out for a sleep. About 30 minutes after take-off the flight director came to me and asked if I would mind moving up to Executive/Club Class – she wanted to give the row of three seats to a woman with a small boy as they only had two seats. What a question – I couldn’t move fast enough ! There were only 7 people in total in that section so I got two seats to myself – what a blessing having the extra space with a foot rest and further tilt of the seat, as well as fancy headphones ! The food was no different to what was served to the “back” but more enjoyable in the comfort. After dinner I slept for a couple of hours. I happened to wake up just before mid-night UK time and was given a (real) glass of champagne to welcome the new year in – along with a few others who were awake in executive class. (Nothing much happened back in economy class as the lights were off and most people were sleeping !) So although nothing spectacular it was still fun to bid 2010 farewell and spend a bit of time wondering what 2011 has in store for me.

I only managed to doze for another couple of hours before we landed in Lusaka right on time at 6:30 a.m. local time – 9 hours time difference to Alberta so I had been on the go for 36 hours ! No problems getting through formalities and Chris Rogers was there to meet me. We went to his place for a great egg and bacon breakfast and a decent cup of tea before he dropped me off at Bob and Mary’s house. (They are away in the USA on furlough until end of January so I have the place to myself. Well except that they left their little dog, Nick, so I have a bit of company.) I took a bit of time to do some unpacking then had a much-needed shower followed by a snooze for a couple of hours. Then ventured out in the vehicle – no problem getting back to driving on the left had side of the road ! – to do some grocery shopping. The traffic was relatively light being a public holiday and the two malls I visited were not too crowded so it went well.

Most of the day has been cloudy with some signs – including thunder – of rain but nothing materialised here. It was 25C when we landed this morning and was up to 31C by the afternoon when I went out. Now, early evening, it has cooled off to 23C – which is actually very pleasant since there is a cool breeze blowing. As I write there are the bangs of fireworks going off around the neighbourhood – people obviously still celebrating new year tonight !

As I commented on Facebook yesterday (and many times before), flying always amazes me. That 200-300 people can get inside a metal cylinder, get off the ground, cruise through the air to half-way round the world, and then land on the ground again is always a miracle to me ! When I am up at 35,000 feet with just the throb of the engines outside, it seems so surreal to me.

Anyway I hope that you had a great new year celebration wherever you happened to be. In case you don’t already have it my Zambian mobile number is (260) 976-198-207 if you need to get hold of me by voice or by text message. (260 is the Zambia country code).

As usual, access to the Internet is going to be sporadic. E-mailing should be no problem on a regular basis with a cellular Internet stick but access to the web to do blog and FB updates will have to wait until I am in a town and can connect to high speed.