18.10.2011 - 24.10.2011
I’m back in Singida for the main reason of internet, electricity and a warm shower, though the shower hasn’t worked out as I budgeted on the room and so got a share bathroom where the water and electricity don’t work. And there were a fair few power failures….Kerosene and candles never let you down like this. I spent most of yesterday in my room watching ‘E Entertainment’ TV. I did meet up with J & B for a bit to watch a Manchester game at the pub but it seems its VERY much for the boys so J and I were out of there pretty quickly.
This past week has been great, I feel very comfortable in Ilongero. The three of us did some brainstorming on Saturday (and celebrated with an afternoon wine) and put forward some suggestions on what we can start working on while we are waiting for the long awaited batteries for the incubator at the chicken project and also waiting on the approval to continue work on the hostel. Another reason we are in Singida – for our meeting with the authorities today. One of the ideas was to start a monthly Ilongero newsletter to be distributed at the school, organisations centre, town community centre and shops. From what we have heard there are no newspapers based in the Singida region and big newspapers in Dar es Salaam aren’t going to care what’s happening eg. With a little hostel for girls in central Tanzania so this is a way to at least keep the community up to date with local news and also promote the org's centre more and hopefully utilize it more. I am excited about this as it is something I think achievable. And I like to write, surprised?
Last Tuesday in Singida turned out not to be the quick stop off we had planned. One of the shops caught fire and it seemed like the entire region turned up in town, the streets we PACKED. The fire truck sped down the road and I am not kidding people were running out of the way as it was not slowing down even on these small streets. It had to keep doing runs to the lake about 10min drive away to get water. We were introduced to a Tanzanian ‘Godfather’ type character who owns a wholesale shop in town and after sitting with him for a while he gave us boxes and boxes full of biscuits and lollies and ‘Chemi-Cola’ – the cordial mixture which proudly states on the bottle ‘Contains no Natural Fruit Concentrate’. At least it's honest. We have been using all these as thank you gifts. By the time we managed to get on a bus back to Ilongero it was 7 and due to the dark and lack of headlights got home at 8. Just a quick stop in town. Obama-mania continues – anyone wanting ‘Obama for Men’ aftershave for Christmas, let me know. I don’t know how authorised it is.
I spoke too soon last time also about how easy it was turning out to be to get into town – today we got to the bus stop at 11:30 and didn’t get a bus until almost 2. The only guaranteed bus time is 7am, other than that the buses and mini buses come at any time…or don’t. I was shoved in the back of a van smeared against the back window, good view though.
Wednesday we went to the market with M which was probably the most relaxed market experience in all of Africa – even when the 3 of us went back on the weekend by ourselves. There is no one shouting at you, no ripping off as most people are aware of us by now, and a good chance to practice our Swahili. We still get laughed at a lot, as I don’t think there has been more than one volunteer at a time here before so to have THREE together is just too much to handle, especially for some kids. After the market, Maria popped by with a chicken for dinner. No, not a Coles BBQ chicken. We all had a nurse of it before the knife came out……..
After we disposed of the feathers and dried our tears we went down to the centre/org's site just outside the village. It seems to be hard getting women involved at the moment so we are hoping the incubator will get things going again.
Thursday we went to the school in the morning as principal was meant to have met with the teachers about what they need us doing. We met a couple of girls to take photos of for the sponsorship program, then one of the head teachers took us around to every class to introduce us and we welcomed any questions. One of the questions was whether we were married, when I said no the teacher said as a joke “but she is looking” and a few hands went up so he quickly had to backtrack and follow up with “but she wants to become a nun”. Whoopie Goldberg look out. He told them all we would be teaching at the school but I want to have a meeting about that as #1 – not teachers #2 – I am mortified of public speaking #3 – would take a lot of time and not what we are here for plus when we leave they will be left with the same issue of not enough teachers for the subjects. It would be good to do some sort of class, such as life skills or something to have more contact with the students and that will be a way to have them feel more comfortable around us for some of the other projects we have ideas for such as questionnaires and a mentoring project where we can get women from the Singida region who are now doing all sorts of work or study to come talk to the classes about how they got through school and to where they are now. This is because we noticed a huge drop in numbers of girls in the classes as the years go up. Also there is no High School in Ilongero (Form 5 & 6) for girls so having to travel from home to study is obviously a problem as we have been informed girls tend to have lower grades and higher drop out rates due to home chores. There are also lots of school kids (14 y/o – 23 y/o) around Ilongero in ‘rent a room’ houses living by themselves as they live too far from the school to travel each day. This is one of the reasons the girls hostel was built as it becomes unsafe for the girls.
B & J brought a proper Manchester United soccer ball and gave to the school and eventually this was fetched to go with our introduction. We went to the assembly where again the holy soccer ball was paraded and we had to get up in front of the entire school and luckily B made the speech. We had a late lunch at one of the teachers’ houses with his family. The teachers live on the school grounds as they are assigned here from different regions. Then of course was the highly anticipated teachers and students football game with the new ball. J and I went along expecting to sit on the sideline and read, but on the way to the field saw a few girls on the netball ‘court’ so went to say hi. We asked if they wanted to play a game and told them a couple of very basic rules to start with but as soon as we went to play the girls all got into proper positions and everything. During the day the teacher had said to the classes that we would be happy to teach them some sports……well, when we got a game going we were USELESS in comparison. Soon we had enough for 2 full teams, team Manchester United and team Lion/Simba. When I sub’d off to hoot the vuvuzela at goals, the court was in hysterics. We soon had a line of official vuvuzela hooters and even some of the boys watching. It was good to see some of the girls take leadership roles and when things got silly they demanded the others ‘be serious!’. We got a bit stuck when they stopped the game and started asking us to show them ‘physical exercise’, I was about to show them some aerobics moves then we realised they wanted some sort of netball skills exercises….we did what we could remember from school. I think all they needed was a non student to be there and get things going.
On Friday M took J and I to a town meeting. Was great to see about 10 men to 40 or so women. There was a man and a woman in the middle of the room conducting the meeting. Ladies, if you never want to worry about removing facial hair again, come to Tanzania. After enquiring about the trend, we have been told it is considered attractive in some regions. This lady had a fantastic beard!!!! But other than facial hair observations, the meeting was interesting based on some translating. A speech was made about the hostel and from what I could gather from facial expressions and an older man who stood up and made a big speech I thought we were facing a bit of hostility. Apparently not. He had just told them about the hostel and how the current one was actually meant for girls not boys and no one was aware – no information service! They were quite outraged and this man had made a very supportive speech to a lot of “NDIYO (YES!)” from the rest of the people. We introduced ourselves and he interpreted J’s speech about what we are doing here. All you have to do is throw in a few Swahili words and you have some fans. “Ninajifunza Kiswahili kidogo kidogo, pole pole” always gets a lot of laughs. “We learn Swahili little by little, slowly slowly”. At the end of the meeting, we were made to stand up, and then the women all started singing and clapping and dancing around us and throwing their kanga’s around us. We danced in the middle of the circle a bit and then a path was made through the crowd as we exited outside the hall for hand shaking and lots of cuddles. Therefore the welcome feeling I have in the village.
Also I was offered a plot of land to work by the principal for when he divides some up for the teachers, but given the short lifespan of my herb garden I may have to decline. On the way home from the meeting we were admiring the sound of the church choir practicing outside, so M dragged us over to interrupt, take photos and sit with them through rehearsals. We then saw a pig being walked through town for slaughter (pigs are one animal we haven’t seen around) on Saturday. M only lives a couple of minutes away so is always around cooking amazing meals. Not surprisingly Saturday she turned up with 4kg of pork!