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Bill’s Blackberry Blogs – Zambia April 2008
1) Instructions for Bill
2) Whither Mongu?
3) UBC Okanagan – University of Zambia – Memorandum of Understanding – Signed
4) Chifumbe Chintu – The Professor!
5) Searching for Susu – Part 1.
6) The places you go – the people you meet.
7) Mongu Matters – More than I first thought.
8) Searching for Susu – Part 2

1) Instructions for Bill

I sleep fitfully awakening with the airplane travel map advising that we are11,000 m over Reykjavik, – next stop London and then Lusaka. Whilst most of the passengers sleep, some nighthawks the likes Rachel and Rebeccah watch movies on their seat back screens.A Chinese woman seated besides me eats her now cold vegetarian supper. The stewardess brings me a small bottle of red wine – a French Pinot Noir, no less. Paul will be impressed!

I’m alert now.I focus on my many instructions.
Jessica and Lianne, two recent UBCO nursing grads will spend several months teaching and working at the community nursing school in Mongu:
My instructions: Go to Mongu and find some answers;
Accommodation, where will we stay? The work, what’s it all about?
-What options are available?
-How much this would cost?
-How close is it to the teaching college?
-Are there cooking facilities?
Nursing Curriculum
-How long are the semesters?
-When do the semesters start?
-What teaching equipment do they already have?
-What teaching equipment/supplies can we bring?
-What areas do they want us to teach?
Local Hospital/Clinic
-What medical supplies are needed?
-Opportunities for us to work there?

Viktor Frankl, were he alive, would like Jessica and Lianne! I will tell them that Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a required reading assignment!In Mongu, I’ll meet Mr Mandona – the Principal at the School of Nursing. I will also meet Pelina Chibanje and Silumbu Mumbuwa, Instructors at the nursing office. I likely won’t make it to Senanga. healtha and beauty
Then there’s Rosemary, born in Lusaka now residing in Kelowna – and her instructions:
Find Susu, Rosemary’s old cook. Make sure that he has a bicycle. If he’s dead, find his wife. If she’s dead too, then find Alison, their son.
He’s a responsible sort, and make sure he has a bicycle. He lives at
Erwin’s farm, part of the property that once belonged to Rosemary’s family. The property is on Leopard’s Hill Road, past Woodlands. Should be an easy find!!
John and Jane Jellis, he a partly retired surgeon, live on ‘Border’, the other part of the farm. This property is now a bird sanctuary. For your memories Rosemary, I will enjoy my visits.
Gene’s list of instructions is quite detailed:
Start with Laurie Rogers at the Canadian High Commission to update her on our progress. I always start my visits in Zambia with my friend and former medical school classmate, Chifumbe Chintu, the Paediatrician – the Professor!!
Next, get Margaret’s airline ticket and her signed letter of invitation to her ASAP. She needs to get her Canadian visa pronto. Dr Margaret Maimbolwa is the Vice Dean of Medicine, Director of the University of Zambia (UNZA) Nursing School. Margaret returns to Kelowna with me in April to spend 3 weeks with UBCO Nursing planning 7 or 8 different collaborative projects. health and beauty
The Vice Chancellor at UNZA, Stephen Simukanga, a mining engineer, is to be a signatory on our UBCO – UNZA Memorandum of Understanding with respect to all matters of health collaboration.
He is a must. He always answers his cell phone directly. Like our DVC, so does Doug Owram!!
The other co-signatory on the agreement is Dean of Medicine Yakub Mulla.
We have a telephone meeting with UBCO and UNZA Friday this week to conclude the signing of the document. If you can make the meeting Doug, it will be appreciated, Joan’s office 7 am March 14. I’ll be with the Dean and the VC in Lusaka 5pm Zambian time.
Also at UNZA, I will meet Dr Wilson Mwenya the DVC; Kenneth Chanda, Librarian, and Prof Richard Siaciwena, Distance Education Directorate.
At the University Teaching Hospital, besides Chifumbe and Deans
Maimbolwa and Mulla, I will meet the surgeons, the oncologists at the Cancer Clinic, Donald Kalolo, Chief Pharmacist, Gavin Silwamba,
Community Medicine, Dr Stewart Reid, a Canadian friend, Internist also works at UTS. Chipefwe Sichilima is in charge of E Learning. I’ll brief him on our tele-medicine in Kelowna.
Then I must meet with Emily, Norman and Lumba at ‘Women for Change’.
Henry Lyatumba is my Rotary Lusinta contact, and I will find Christopher Simoonga at the Ministry of Health.

Can you believe it? The Chinese lady beside me on the plane is snoring, and the nighthawks have nodded off!! Maybe I’ll sleep too.

2) Whither Mongu?

Mongu – No, this is not a township in northern China being overrun by the hording descendants of Genghis Khan – it’s the Capital town of Zambia’s Western Province – a population of 40,000 serving a region of 160,000.

The road to Mongu, heading 600 kms due west from Lusaka, is characterized by two unusual features. health and beautyFirst, on the Zambian scale of pot-holed roads of 1 to 10, it scores a low 1, very few potholes. Most unusual, and almost for sure, this road has ‘worn well’ because it lacks the heavy transport truck traffic that has ruined the Great North Road that links Livingston to Lusaka and the Copperbelt. As one drives this remarkable road, another reality emerges from the subconscious mind. If this road is so well preserved, it’s lack of traffic portends that perhaps the destination of Mongu is ‘far from the beaten path’, so to speak. Isolated, one might surmise. No great tourist Mecca this. Don’t expect any 5 star hotels at the end of this road.
The second unusual feature of this road is that it is so ‘Germanic’, so un-British.
Roads built in Africa in the German colonies such as Namibia or
Tanzania, for example, runs in absolute straight lines for hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres. This is unlike those built in British colonies where the roads simply meander haphazardly back and forth, modelled as if they looked like the curvy unplanned back roads of south London. Here you have a road to Mongu in a former British colony that must have been built by German sub contractors!
Along the road I pass clusters of children and I wave. Enthusiastically, they wave back.
A woman squats at the roadside to void, breast-feeding a contented infant. Strapped to her back, a second infant screams uncontrollably, impatient for his or her turn at the breast.
A man wears a rugby jersey with the number 13 on the back. Above the number, incongruously, is embroidered the name ‘Smith’.
Two boys push toy wheel barrows made out of wire coat hangars.
I pass mud houses with crudely thatched roofs. Eight-foot high corn crops grow, planted besides villages. Nourished by this year’s heavy rains they bear healthy cobs of corn that will be needed during the dry season that follows.
A diesel truck spews out clouds of black smoke, completely oblivious of its impact on global warming.
Sticks of sugar cane, bananas, mangos and live chicken are for sale at the roadside.
Some ride bicycles, some ride tandem on the back of bikes, but most of the people walk.
A young man proudly holds the only motorcycle seen today, surrounded by a crowd of admiring and envious bystanders. In turn they respectfully touch the orange painted beauty.
A bus is stopped at the roadside, broken down, no doubt. The passengers stand aimlessly by waiting for something to happen. Who knows how long they will wait.
More ominous is the fully loaded freight truck, also stopped at the roadside. There is air in the tyres, but the crankshaft has been removed. Forlorn and forsaken, it lies on the ground alongside the stranded truck. Now this is a major problem.
The road to Mongu passes through the Kafue National Game Reserve.
Clusters of monkeys and baboons scurry into the long side grass to avoid the car. Vultures scavenge on a road-killed jackal. Impala stand in herds at the roadside, furtive and pensive. Their lives depend, literally, on their instinct to bolt on a nano-seconds’ notice.
A tree pushed over by an elephant covers one of the road’s two lanes.
Like giant pancakes, elephant dung litters the road. With all of this elephant activity, one senses that a large body of water nears, recognising the elephants’ proclivity to bathe in water during the heat of each day.
Sure enough, over the next hillock lies the Kafue River. It is a large river, it’s water moving slowly, tranquil.
At the river’s edge, aware of lurking crocodiles, women cautiously wash clothing.
On leaving the reserve, I’m stopped at a checkpoint. The guard advises that a sister needs a ride to the next village. Now a sister’s need is a request to heed. For the next ten minutes my front seat passenger sits motionless, respectful, silent.
Perhaps I was a bit hasty in suggesting that there may not be good accommodation to be found in Mongu.
Arriving in town, I notice the ‘Cross Roads Lodge – good accommodation’.
Aptly, it’s located near the cross roads between the road to Senanga and the road to Lusaka. Nearby are the Mongu General Butcher and Mini Mart.
What more could anyone want?
Next I see a sign for the ‘Majesty’s Lodge – Best luxury rooms – where guests have the opportunity to relax in peaceful surroundings’. Well, that says it all. Who could argue with that?
I’ll make sure that Joe knows about this one when he sends people to Mongu.
At noon I approach a sign that says ‘Mandanga guesthouse – accommodation – restaurant – bar’. Aah, a good spot for lunch. I pull into the drive to find the front door and the windows boarded.
I settle on the ‘Cheshire Home for Physically Challenged Children’ run by the Presentation Sisters. Rosemary put me onto them. I’m greeted at the door by Sister Cathy, she of Irish accent. I’m given a warm handshake and a key to my room. There’s no need for registration or for any payment. ‘Come and go as you please’, I’m told, but they insist that I join them for meals.
This is where Jessica and Lianne will stay when they teach at the nursing school. It’s spartan, clean and safe. It’s perfect! There is no way that they will be staying at the nurses’ hostel adjacent to the nursing school where none of the above parameters hold.
Gene will be pleased to know that the disabled children at the home all have mosquito nets. The Sisters say that there has been widespread distribution of nets in Mongu. They’ve even had an insecticide re-impregnation programme for older nets. The biggest problem now that all have been given nets is that of compliance failure. The nets do make the hot nights hotter.
I don’t have time to go to Senanga, but I drive south along the Zambezi flood plain for a short distance. The road has a Zambian pothole score of about 7 or 8! health and beauty
For kilometre after kilometre along the road to Mongu, I see telephone posts loyally suspending three flimsy wires, presumably the power source for all of western Zambia. Yes, there is electricity in Mongu, but how effective is their communication network?
Waiting for dinner and holding a glass of wine offered by one of the
Sisters, I startle when my Blackberry phone rings. Unaware that I’m in Zambia, a friend in Kelowna dials my local cell phone number just to chat. Here I am in Mongu and the call comes in loud and clear.
I send myself a test e-mail message on my Blackberry. Within three minutes the message returns!! Now that is impressive. I wasn’t able to do this in Beirut.
I later learn that Mongu is on the satellite telecommunication network grid linking Africa north to south.
Here’s another pointer for Jessica and Lianne. When they go to Mongu, they will take with them a trusty Canadian Blackberry. This way they will be in constant communication by both phone and e-mail without needing access to an Internet source. Even here in Mongu, the Blackberry does it all!
The hospital is basic but remarkably functional. Two operating theatres have been recently refurbished. Despite the presence of 11 doctors and 108 nurses, they are severely manpower depleted. They are constantly short on medications and dressings. Out of oxygen last week, they ‘borrowed’ the last remaining O2 cylinder that they try to keep on hand at Cheshire Home. They don’t expect that it will be returned or replaced. The Health Partners Canada supply kits will be most helpful here – so too would oxygen concentrators.
Always looking for the opportunity and not the problem, I see that this place has significant unused capacity, potential for third world development initiatives – think fistula programmes, community surgery, circumcision, prevention plans, palliative care etc. This site is typical of at least a dozen other regional community hospitals scattered around Zambia, all offering the same opportunities. The need is overwhelming.
I spend two hours at the school of nursing, and I come away with two impressions. First, they are very dedicated to doing the best they can, and second, this place will never be the same after Jessica and Lianne have come and gone. The Principal, one of the teachers, is away today and so I will have to return before I leave to set up the details for Jessica and Lianne (JL). Alfred Mandona’s absence allows me to spend time with the other two teachers, Pelena Phiri (she wants to do a Master’s- I suggested UBCO) and Mumbuwa Silumba, a fine young man. They will welcome with open arms two Canadian sisters (!) to their teaching ranks. They are short of teachers. They also have 4 clinical instructors. They have a two-year diploma course, graduating about 45 per year. School year starts first semester July – December, 2nd term January – June.
‘What are your needs?’ I ask.
Curriculum development – Action Jessica and Lianne
Library completely outdated – Action Jessica and Lianne (JL)
Teaching aids almost non-existent – Action JL

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