13 October 2011

History "Gregory Mweemba" (2003)

Greg peers around the corner of my closet. The closet, the pantry of our house, is claimed to be my full fledged office. It contains a desk, a plank of 1.2 x 1 meter, hammered between the walls, with equipment stacked up to the ceiling. When I wiggle around and hold in my stomach, I can even close the door to have privacy in my office. Today the door is open, and there is Gregory. He is in the house getting a glass of water while doing piecework in our garden, slashing grass.

“Can I use such a computer?”. Tough question, as computers are scarce in Macha. Maybe five in the whole village, of which two in our house. One, a fourth-hand Pentium I is Janneke's personal computers, set up on the desk in our living room. The second one, a two years young desktop, operates in my closet.

“Why do you want to use a computer, Greg?” “I have seen and touched one at school, a laptop owned by an international missionary teacher. I would love to learn how to use a computer so I can train others”. “OK, and when you have trained others, what then?” I probe further. “I want to start an internet cafe, we need an internet cafe in this rural community!”. “There is no internet in our community, Greg, not even telephone line. I am trying shortwave radio to send messages, and mostly that does not even work!”. “No problem, it will come to pass one day. Can you assist me to use a computer, please?”.

Greg sits in our house, every day, for he next five weeks. Quietly and diligently he pushes himself, working on Janneke's computer in our living room. He works within his own user account. At the end of the day he erases his trails. He resets the computer so Janneke can use it for her work in the evenings.

Within five weeks Gregory has conquered all the computer can manage. Self taught, as I am much to busy getting onto my feet in this resource challenged environment.

“Greg, sorry, we have to leave for a few month. We travel abroad to be with relatives, awaiting the arrival of a new family member”. “No problem, I will see you when you come back”. “What do you want to do now you are being able to handle a computer very well, Greg? Do you want to make money for you and your family, or what?” “No, I want to serve the community, and open the internet cafe.”.

“Let's make you a deal Greg. You know Choma town's internet cafe. They are growing well, and have an urgent vacancy for computer literate staff. I met them and did recommended you. It provides for a well paying job. Or, when you really want to continue in Macha, I suggest you spend your time on further studies. For instance, enroll for official training in Lusaka. I promise to pay for your expenses when I return. Yes, it is expensive. However, you must find funding yourself. Just bring results and receipts when I am back.” Greg responds: “Good deal, see you when you are back in Macha.”

Upon returning to Macha, my heart is heavy when Greg does not show up the during the first week. I do not dare to investigate if he accepted the lucrative job in the internet cafe in Choma. Two weeks later, Greg at the door... “I heard you did return. I was delayed as to finish much computer training. Here are the receipts”.

Together we refurbish a large, run down building and turn it around for the proposed internet cafe. A container arrives with donated goods. In it we find a pile of twenty written off Pentium I computers. Without delay they are deployed in “Vision Internet Cafe”. Right upon arrival of internet in Macha, Vision Internet is wireless connected. Gregory is in charge of it all.