Christmas is coming
Posted: 6 December 2011
Greetings from a rather hot and humid Zambia. It’s well into the rainy season now and although we’ve not had too many days when it has poured continuously it has been pretty wet and as a consequence very sticky. However I feel that’s its considerably preferable to snow or at least the prospect of snow which is what I gather is in store for the UK in the coming weeks.
I suspect that by now you must be inundated with Christmassy things wherever you look; trees, cards, tinsel, baubles, carols and festive music in the supermarkets and shopping centres. Here it’s a much quieter affair but we too are under the influence of Christmas marketing with artificial trees and ornaments decorating the upmarket areas of the city. I saw a giant Santa Claus and reindeer at the weekend outside Spar supermarket which was selling Mr Kipling’s mice pies and Thornton’s chocolates would you believe. Most Zambians go to church on Christmas morning then eat a normal meal of chicken and nshima (maize meal porridge) and continue the day as any other.
Zambian Christmas fare nshima and chicken
And this is how its made
I have to be honest and say I prefer it that way too; much less commercial and the true meaning of Christmas is acknowledged. I will miss family and friends but I’ll see them soon enough so it won’t be the end of the world.
Since I last wrote to you I’ve been away in both Livingstone and Mansa. In early February we will start installing our fourth Vision Centre in Livingstone in Southern province. Until a few weeks ago Livingstone was the provincial capital but the new government has decided that Choma will become the provincial capital and Livingstone, because of its proximity to Victoria Falls, will concentrate on tourism. However it’s still the biggest town in the province and where eye services are concentrated so it makes sense to have our Vision Centre there. I had some excellent discussions with Dr Monze, the ophthalmologist and his team and all is set to be on target for the start of our project in February. Peter Howard will be leading the team and we’ll be training nurses in refraction as well as setting up the Vision Centre and training staff in glazing, dispensing and management. I will join the team and I’m looking forward to our time there as we have very enthusiastic people to work with us. Of course there’s the added bonus in being in an attractive town with a world famous attraction on its doorstep!
The facilities we’ll be turning into our Vision Centre are good; there’ll be separate rooms for glazing, dispensing and refracting. All of them are a good size so the patients will be very fortunate to come to Livingstone Vision Centre. We already have 5 people in Southern province that can refract so they are eager to have the Vision Centre in operation so that they can send their prescriptions there to be made up. I took the opportunity to meet all of them on my journey south to Livingstone stopping off at each district along the way to see how they are getting on and drop off some reading glasses for them to give to their patients. They are really enthusiastic about being able to offer an additional refraction service to their patients and most of them are able to do community outreach regularly so they are making quite an impact in eye care.
My visit to Mansa was equally successful. The Vision centre there is doing well despite the fact that they have been short staffed. One of the people we trained as a technician dropped out of the programme so things have been a bit difficult up there lately. However about 5 weeks ago a new technician, Lawrence Kasonde was appointed and he’s doing well.
He spent a little time at Mansa Vision Centre and then had 2 weeks of intensive training with the wonderful technicians at University Teaching Hospital; Mr Brighton Mendai and Mr Tom Daka. Lawrence really enjoyed his time at UTH and Tom and Brighton thoroughly thrived on the opportunity to share their skills with him. Tom is very shy and it was lovely to see him being so enthusiastic and keen to help another person. Lawrence is now back in Mansa and together with Marie-Claire and Josephine now completes the Vision Centre team at Mansa general hospital. It was the first time I’d seen Marie-Claire since she was trained so it was good to see how much she’s enjoying the job and be able to offer her some support. Unfortunately I didn’t catch up with Josephine as she was on leave. It was also good to see Dr Mwale again and to catch up with the refraction team of Amiable, Elizabeth, Florence and Betty. Naomi who was the eye care co-ordinator left her post recently so there’s been some changes and staffing problems in Mansa but I’m delighted to say that Naomi’s replacement starts work very soon. I look forward to meeting him.
You’ll be surprised to hear that I went to a Bonfire night celebration here. Not what I’d expected to see in Zambia but we remembered November 5th in the same traditional way as we do at home except that it was much warmer! Here people bring along a picnic and sit watching the fireworks whilst sipping a sun-downer and nibbling at snacks; no baked potatoes and sausages or toffee apples here although I did indulge in some candy floss. The fireworks were spectacular and I was enthralled I must admit. My friends’ children fell asleep whilst watching and I was torn between shaking them awake and letting the poor souls rest.
Well I think all that’s left is for me to wish you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy 2012.
Warmest regards to you all,