Saturday 17 March 2012

Quick Trip to Zimbabwe

Had a good drive from Lusaka to Harare yesterday. Loved being in the Zambezi Valley again with huge mopani trees and baobabs - one huge baobab seen in the photo - then climbing up the escarpment onto the high veldt and the scenic drive to Harare. Great evening with friends not seen in many years but one would hardly ...know that it had been so long as we were able to pick up with each other so comfortably. Interesting to share life's experiences of the intervening years. Zimbabwe is SO different to Zambia - I will make more detailed comments after my trip. Having fun finding my way around places I have not been in for 24 years !

Thursday 3 February 2011

Zambia February 3

Still no solution for high speed Internet connection so it has been another couple of weeks since I was able to do a posting. Things have continued to go well and I have been having a busy and productive time. Apart from daily work for the farm I have been taking our English friend, Ann, to visit different aspects of the SPF project.

One of the highlights was a visit to the Chilunga area - another section of the community. It is across the Mulungushi river which bi-sects the community and the river is running too deep at the moment to cross in a vehicle. So we had to park at the river, cross on a wooden foot bridge made from poles cut from the bush and then walk the 4 km to the school which is the focal point of the community. The school is a community school which caters for children on that side of the river from Grade 1 to 7. There was only one teacher (out of 4) with a small class of about 12 kids in session so we sat in on the lesson. Apparently a lot of kids - and the other teachers - were unable to get to school that morning as there had been a heavy storm during the night and other rivers in the area were flooded. Anyway it was good to see the place again and we enjoyed the walk there and back in the sunshine. On our way back, at a village near the river, we were presented with a live chicken - to be taken home to eat ! Ann was thrilled and got to carry it under her arm back to the car !

We also visited some of the people that have benefitted from the micro loan fund - always good to see how they are doing with their small businesses or farming as a result of being able to borrow money to get started. That evening we had supper with Banda and Tsitsi who had cooked the chicken we had been given - it was very tasty with the sadza/nshima !

Ann flew out of Ndola on Sunday January 30 to head back to UK. She thoroughly enjoyed her stay in Zambia as a whole and particularly at Kakulu. She is sure that she will be back sometime in the near future to do some actual project work with SPF. It will be great to have her as part of our UK "team".

Three young men - Kody, Ryan and BJ - arrived safely from Canada today. It is great to see them here and the community is going to be very excited to see them moving around exploring everything and inter-acting with the people. They are here for most of February so it will be a busy time.

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.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Thursday 23 September 2010

Rainbow in Yellowknife

Photo of Gordon taking a photo of the double rainbow in Yellowknife in late August - by Bronwen

"And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow." Gilbert K. Chesterton

Thursday 16 September 2010

Saying of the Week

The truth is, you're not defeated until your doubts and regrets take the place of your dreams. Anon