Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Singida, Ilongero
09.10.2011 - 18.10.2011
I can’t believe I am finally here. I think this is how my first email in Africa started off.
It is such a nice feeling to have unpacked, set up my room and know I am settled here for the next 5 months.
In Dar es Salaam I met the other 2 volunteers and the founder of the organisation at the immigration office to sort our work permits which was surprisingly unpainful, and later on met her and another volunteer who lives in Dar, for dinner.
The founder is a teacher as well as running the org. We dropped her off at school and as we drove in the car was surrounded by the students and their smiling faces all peering in the windows. We got out to say hi and as we got back in had hands reaching in all the windows to shake hands. Then driving out had several running alongside the car down the street.
She helped us on to the bus to Dodoma in the morning, thank god as the big bus stations are so hectic we would for sure have been ushered on a bus to Kenya or something. It is funny seeing the smaller city buses all named after European league football players. The trip was 6 hours and the roads good. The coach was comfortable besides the blaring music nearly the entire trip!
We had a night in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania. A ‘city’ of huge contrast. Firstly, it is stuck in the middle of nowhere, sprawling semi arid land. And the streets are a mixture of sealed (but very dusty) main roads and dirt side streets. The buildings are just as mixed also. It was really nice to walk around in the morning though in a place I wasn’t hassled to buy anything and felt completely safe. And our hostel was guarded by a man with a pretty serious looking rifle! Then on the bus to Singida. Everyone at the bus station remembered us from the day before and knew where we were going so as soon as we arrived it was “SINGIDA, HERE HERE SINGIDA MZUNGU”. The Dar volunteer had arranged for us to get on his bus as he came though from Dar. It was great sitting at the bus station watching as buses came in all the people selling things throw their buckets or other goods on their heads and run up to the windows. You could buy anything from walking sticks, grapes, sunglasses, shoes, baskets, watches or cooking utensils. As we took all of our luggage onto this coach with us, I got a little stuck trying to get in the door and had to be shoved in from behind (therefore why I am so happy to be settled). I JUST made it down the aisle!
It only took a few hours to Singida, also on a good road. I expected 6-7 hours as my travel guide states but obviously a lot of work has been done in the last couple of years. He took us on a bit of an orientation of Singida town, the main town of the Singida region, the poorest in the country. It is pretty small but has all we would need by the looks of it. We were introduced to all the right people, from the post office owners, hostel owners, a youth project RWDA volunteers sometimes help out, and of course the internet café owners.
After one marriage proposal from an older man at the shops I have told B I may claim to be his wife from time to time. He has already been given the thumbs up from a group of guys who then hand signalled that they thought J and I were both his wives. B also constantly has guys yelling out soccer stars names they think he looks like, I don’t know if my Swahili lessons are as important as learning about football. We went on a bit of a mission for a bottle of wine but all we could find was fortified church wine. The mission continues….
At the turn off the main road towards Ilongero, the sealed road cuts off and the African bum massage sets in. It only took about 30mins though, so is going to be easier to get to and from town than expected.The trip to Singida today took a little longer as we were in the open tray of a truck so it was going a little slower than thr dallas. The only good thing about gender inequality is that women are more likely to be let on to sit first. Ilongero is a large village/small town. There are little shops scattered about, my favourite is Mama Shayos. She is sweet and has the greatest laugh!
Another thing I have been pleasantly surprised by is the volunteer house. It has 3 bedrooms, an office, a lounge room and dining area and INDOOR bathroom. We have no electricity or running water, but are lucky enough to have a tap in the backyard (with treated water) so it is easy to fill up our washing buckets. The toilet is a squat loo though, so I am thinking about making one of those chairs I saw in An Idiot Abroad and just cut a hole in the seat as first thing in the mornings it’s a bit of an effort on the thighs. We have outside loo’s as well which I’m sure will go unused as they are foul, maybe for guests haha. The roof has recently been boarded up so bats are no longer a problem, though on night 2 we did have a ‘situation’ where I felt like I was in the movie Arachnophobia as I think after the house being unoccupied for so long our bug spray awoke all the spiders and cockroaches and they came to visit us. I was a mess and trapped in the bathroom by a giant cockroach, I forgot how scared of them I am. B and J are just as scared of spiders as I am of roaches so between the 3 of us we were a pretty pathetic sight. We have a plantation of Moringa Tree seedlings in the yard, which is looked after by a local lady. The Moringa Trees are one of the latest projects here, they are considered an African Miracle Tree as they grow in semi arid areas such as Ilongero where most crops cannot and are used in many medicines and other uses. They will soon be moved to a large plot of land (which we have a view of from our yard) and new seeds planted. Also looking forward to giving our banana and lemon trees some TLC to get them going. I am in love with the calf next door, who has a bit of a personality like a dog, and we are getting to know the chickens who wander through the yard regularly. There is Bill (Clinton) who loves the ladies, Burlesconi is further down the road and was an absolute FIEND and most of his ladies have bare backs from his advances, Julia (Gillard) is the ranga hen, Hilary (Clinton) also stops by with the kids, as do the Spice Girls. We have to find one to call Obama as Tanzania is Obama crazy. Today we found Obama Magic lollies.
The house is solid cement so pretty easy to keep clean, any spillages just sink in really and tin roof which sounds nice when it has rained at night. It was pretty overcast the first couple of days, but the past couple very sunny. The sun is strong on my mzungu skin but there is usually a nice breeze, especially in our yard in the afternoon.
Mornings here usually start with a cold bucket shower, then sweeping the dust out of the house and filling up the bathroom and kitchen buckets. Then the scent of kerosene fills the house from our ‘kitchen’ and its time for tea and coffee and brekky. It has been frustrating at times how long everything takes. Every task seems such a big ordeal so we have been trying to get away to do things by ourselves more. For instance, J and I wanted a bottle of water from the shop, by the time we all got going that was half an hour, then walking at village pace (literally makes my legs ache walking so slow), meeting people, stopping to see this or that, etc etc it took about 2 hours for what could have taken 20mins. Not to sound unappreciative though as it is great being shown around.
We have been having Swahili lessons out in the yard which is going really well and being so immersed is really helping. Maria, a lady who lives in Ilongero with her 18 year old son, has looked after us so well. She lives very close by. She doesn’t speak much English but has been with us most of the days and night and is feeding us very well. I know you all expected me to come back from Africa skinny but I am afraid with all the carbs I am eating, and the quantities we are firmly encouraged to eat I may be massive. Benedict calls us ‘Sister Nicole’ and ‘Sister Jessica’ and speaks some English so that helps also. On Saturday Maria asked if we would like to see her ice a cake. Local people pay her a couple of dollars to make cakes for special occasions, this one being a graduation….i thought we might just see how she makes the icing, but over 3 hours later at 10pm she was finished the intricate icing and we could start dinner! My heart broke for her after all the effort when there wasn’t enough room for ‘Congratulations’ so it ended up being ‘CONGRATULAT’. Benedict invited us to attend the Catholic church with him and Maria on Sunday. I can’t think of the last time I went to church that wasn’t for a wedding or on a city tour. The singing and dancing was fantastic and if I could have busted out dancing I would have been less fidgety throughout the rest of the service. Every now and then a lady would bust out a high pitched “AIYAIYAIYAIYAIY” which was great! It was great to see this kid we met at the disabled centre having a great time dancing along. I think it was appreciated that we attended and the older people were very quick to come meet us afterwards. We thought we had the greetings down, but now there is the local dialect thrown in as well and at this stage we can’t tell what is this and what is Swahili. A lot of smiling and nodding and “Sielewi Kiswahili pole”.
At night we can sometimes hear hyenas, and at 5 each morning the dogs go crazy with the call to prayer so that wakes me for about half an hour. I am happy its cool at night though, a very nice change from Zanzibar. The area is very dry but I have been told to take loads of photos now as when the wet season starts shortly, it will be near unrecognisable as everything becomes green.
Sunday night we had a beer and introduced a few people to Marshmallows. It was a mixed response. Yesterday we did the official meet and greet of the town. First was the Ilongero Executive Committee who were lovely. Then the head warden at his office and then on to the police station. They all wanted group photos which was great. We then saw the Sunflower factory where sunflower oil is produced as well as other products made from the seeds (again, excuse lack of agricultural knowledge). We then spent a couple of hours at the secondary school, meeting with one of the teachers and then the headmaster. We are meeting again tomorrow after they have had a meeting with the other teachers about where we can help.
We looked at some form 2 test results. ½ boys passed compared to only 1/5 girls! Anyway I will save the rant for my diary
I have been having fun wearing some kangas I bought in Zanzibar, though yesterday I had a slight issue when I was talking to a lady and it came undone…..managed to grab it just in time before flashing all of Ilongero. Apparently you wear pants or a skirt underneath.
Today we are here to pick up a few bits & pieces in town then resume ‘class’ this afternoon. Tomorrow we will go to the main community centre at the organisations site to see whats going on there.
Hope everyone is going great.
I hear the kiwis beat us!