Archive for June, 2011

So long, and thanks for all the chicken

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

It was a strange journey in the sense that it clearly is an experience unmatched by any other. Like China, Tanzania is a country of big contrasts - very rich and very poor, unbelievable natural beauty and hard to believe tristesse. The best about this trip are the people I met. I will miss the women from the Rudisha Women’s Group, but mostly I will miss Johnson and his wonderful group of friends: Bumper2Bumper, Margaret, Rashid, Deb, to name a few.
The conference in Dar hopefully is the start of a good cooperation with Margaret Mushi from OU TZ and Brenda Mallinson from SADIE.
The most prominent feature, what I will probably never forget, is how welcoming people are, as well as how often you are the Muzungu. I guess you know you really have settled in here, when you are not referred to as the Muzungu any longer.
Elimu ni mali - Education is wealth. Yesterday I had the women write another test and, as expected, Aisha and Sara had by far the best results. But all of them did well. I hope Caroline will be able to continue the teaching; I left her most of my books and some ideas on how to continue. I hope the book I ordered for her will be helpful. These women really want to learn and they, do if they are given the chance.
I’m also glad Johnson took me on a trip to a small mountain village two days ago. The local secondary school will have students from an American school visiting next week. The best students were selected to host the American kids and we went with the teacher to visit the homes and to see what might be needed. I know, this is a worn out expression, but it did almost break my heart how some of them live and I’m full of respect that they are still the top students. One boy shares his home with his 90 year old grandfather, which means after school he takes care of everything. They live in a mud house without water and electricity. Another student, who is also an orphan, lives with her aunt, who has several children of her own, was left by her husband and on top of everything else has had breast cancer for the last 3 years. It seems she is in the terminal stage. I really hope that some of the American kids will keep in touch and that a few scholarships for those in worst circumstances come out of this. Having said all that, we also visited families, living in a nice house (however, without electricity), with parents who will do anything to help their children to make it through school. It was wonderful to see how neighbours or relatives take on the challenge and become guardians, despite their own difficult living conditions.
I will have to write about Margaret and children of destiny in a later posting. An extraordinary woman, taking care of very special children, orphans between 4 and 18 years of age.
On a more trivial note: I won’t eat chicken for a while and although I like it, I have also had enough avocados for a while… Not being able to eat tomatoes, sugar and beef turned out to be a real challenge. But obviously this is moaning on a very high level - considering that a lot of the people I met and worked with have to survive on 1-3$ per day.

What!!! It’s 31 May ALREADY???

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

So this will be another long posting; sorry folks;)
Saturday, 21 May we went on a day trip to Marangu. Marangu is famous for it’s waterfalls and the Chagga culture you can experience during the walks. I had arranged the taxi and Deb, Maren, Sarafina and I left early on Saturday morning. I thought Salmin, the driver, could show us some of the sites. Well, it turned out he couldn’t and Msafiri saved the day: we called him, he called a guide he knew in Marangu and we were sorted;) We spent the day leisurely walking, listening to explanations about plants, buildings and history - from 9am until 5pm. It was quite the day! We saw stone potatoes, coffee trees, of course some avocado trees and the traditional grass hut of the Chagga - it used to house the whole family, a cow, food for the animal and humans and a place to cook. The Kilimanjaro Resort in Marangu was the stop after our lunch - a place I can definitely recommend.
Rose and Santa Maria - 23/24 May
Monday was a very normal day - teaching, going into town to find out about the bus to Dar on Wednesday - had to come back on Tuesday, because tickets are only sold one day in advance. I briefly talked to Caroline who had visited Sally on Sunday - I had assumed that Sally would go home for the weekend just like the strudents at St Jude. It seems she has settled in alright and has made a friend already who shared a few things she was missing - she just needed washing powder, flip flops and the snacks are a bit more expensive as we thought. So I got those things on Monday and gave it to Caroline, who will visit Sally either this week or at the weekend.
Tuesday I started teaching, the women started showing up, I explained something and while the women were copying it down I walked around the building. And who would I run into but Rose? She has a slightly tense relationship with Foot2Africa - to put it mildly. But that day she was all sweet - she asked about the class, she even sat in for a while and then she invited Olga and me for tea and a samosa. Well, I will not write more about this. It was a nice gesture, although a bit bizarre. I left the women with a big homework as I wouldn’t be back before Monday.
There was one thing to do: I had promised Aisha, one of the Rudisha women, we would walk to a nearby school together to investigate about the conditions and requirements to get into the school. Aisha has four children, two of which are currently not attending school, because she cannot afford to pay for secondary school, which is considersbly more expensive than primary school. The younger daughter just finished primary school last December, while her oldest daughter finished primary school in 2008 and has stayed home since, helping around the house. Santa Maria is a school run by catholic nuns and a 10 minute walk from Rudisha’s workshop. It is a school similar to Mount Kilimanjaro School, slightly less expensive, also with a high standard, but it requires students to pass an entrance exam. They will not accept students who have been out of school for longer than 1 year - which means Aisha’s older daughter cannot get in, while the younger daughter will now sit the entrance exam in October. Aisha has signed her up for tutoring to prepare for the tough exam. If she passes successfully she will need a sponsor/mentor. If you are interested - please get in touch with me. I am looking for someone interested in supporting a child through the six years of secondary school, which costs approximately 700€ per year, and who is also interested in taking some interest in the progress and provide some mentoring: give positive feedback, provide encouragement when things are getting more difficult and, depending on how things develop, help in a few years with finding information about university or vocational training.