24.10.2011 - 04.11.2011
I won’t bother starting with ‘just a short post’ …. Cos we ALL know it won’t be. I am in Singida as we have been invited to attend some meeting of bishops and religious people at which the Ilongero church choir will be performing on Sunday. They are actually really good, have little actions to the songs as well, and have even recorded an album…we have been invited to the party to celebrate the launch of the album next weekend too – should be some party! I am getting used to African time ie. showing up half an hour late to most things and still being early. The only person we have noticed is always on time is the school headmaster...and we always seem to be late for him.
So our last trip to Singida was a little frustrating as we came to see the lady from the council about the hostel and when we asked about making an appointment it was shrugged off. So after walking nearly an hour through stinking hot Singida – noone seems to understand that our skin will roast in this sun here – to the government area it was realised that she would not be there as some torch which starts at Kilimanjaro was coming through town that day (Tanzania’s version of Olympic Torch run I think). So that was a little annoying….then the trip home even more so after waiting a couple of hours for a bus we finally managed to get in a van which straight away we could feel had a flat tyre but hey, a lift is a lift and for them a full car a full car, so they continued to FLY along the bumpy road (we could feel every bump!) until about half way through they thought “hey the tyre is flat” and so we had to pull over in the dark and as they had no spare tyre had to wait for someone with one to pass by. EXHAUSTED by the time I arrived home. Singida never seems to be a relaxing experience. It’s funny, waiting for the bus everyone is so friendly and chats to each other and we were befriended by some sweet ladies with babies strapped to their backs, then as soon as a bus pulls up they won’t hesitate to elbow you out the way and run to it.
It’s been good going off and doing our own thing now that a bit of a schedule has formed. Mon-Thurs around 2 we usually try to get to the sewing project and stay there for a bit. The ladies there have been hard at work practising to make these yoga mat bags.
We had one night during the week when we had the house to ourselves! It was like being kids and having the parents go away, so out came the wine, though I was still in bed around 10. Last week while out at one of the duka’s we had some interesting conversations on contraception and the birth complications believed to be caused by the pill, as well as some side effects, but I am not sure if these are old wives tales or something else. We also spoke about the sex education offered at the school, which appears to be very basic if anything, and views on school girls getting pregnant and what support is offered. It was great to have a very open conversation where we felt comfortable to express our views and how it is different in our countries and they seemed genuinely interested in providing more education on the issues, if the resources were available.
Had some good news yesterday about the hostel for girls at the school - we are getting sign off today to continue working to repair it and hopefully have it ready for the new school term in January. It is community land so apparently it was unnecessary to get permission from the Singida council. Then the sewing project as I mentioned is going great and the chicken project FINALLY had the extra batteries for the incubator delivered and so far that is working so after a trial period this can get moving again. This week we started after school lessons – Monday is Homework & English Conversation Club for the girls followed by Netball, Tuesday Boys & Girls Life Skills and then girls soccer. Monday went really well and we had over 30 girls turn up. We will put a few more signs up but this number is a good start. Netball was good, nice to run off some of the ugali, potatoes and rice. Tuesday’s life skills started slow – school finishes at 2 and the students go home and come back but not until around 4. We asked them to write down secret questions and as a bribe for being on time next week said we will answer them at 3 on Monday, no later. The girls are quite shy but it’s obvious they have questions for us, personal or not. Some that we got were “why do white people like dogs so much” , “what do you eat in your country”, “what is the agriculture and farming like in your country” and then harder ones such as “why do people in Tanzania with HIV not get medicine”. Life skills was good too, this week was about us finding out their views on Ilongero. Interesting answers coming from 14-17 year olds, and issues that most young people at home do not have to think about. Soccer was fun and ended up with a bit of an audience. The girls are just as rough at this as netball, wearing kanga’s and bare feet doesn’t get in their way at all. During the warm up exercises J and I both noticed when lining up we would have a couple of girls behind stroking our hair. A fair bit of hair patting goes on when the opportunity arises.
The yard has also become a bit of a Mzungu viewing centre. “come see Wazungu in their natural habitat’”. There is a path over the back thorn fence that lots of primary school students take in the afternoon - I was reading outside and a couple walked past, I could hear them saying “mzungu” to each other…then when they walked on and their view was obviously obstructed by bushes they walked back to stare some more. They then called out to their friends about it and walked on. I thought that was that but next thing a whole gang were in the yard demanding a photoshoot. Now in the afternoons some just come and stand around the side and stare. A bit weird, especially when you are sitting inside and look up to see faces peering in the window.
There was a bit of a freak out about an apparent rabied dog down the road earlier in the week, but after seeing it later on, I think it is just sick. Nevertheless, a good reminder for me to maybe not be so friendly with the strays. But good news – the cat we have sort of hijacked from the neighbour and fed it enough for it to call our yard home is pregnant! The chickens are no longer friends as they are destroying our banana trees when they try to shoot out new leaves. Then the GIANT bee’s in the yard, they are getting too comfortable with us and get a bit close. Also have started to hear the ceiling bats at night, so it’s a real animal house.
M taught us to make chapati’s so all is good!
Yesterday we were invited by one of the high school boys to attend the after school debate. All organised and run by the students, one week Swahili, One week English. There were about 80 students there and they elect a chairman, security etc etc. Maybe by the end of my stay I can take part in the Kiswahili debate.
Yesterday I had about 20 kids ‘trying on’ my hair. I would flop it over their head from behind to see what they look like blonde, then it got crazy and there were little hands pulling all strands of my hair. When we walk home from school Monday and Tuesday, we start just the 3 of us, then look behind and there are a few students, then look behind a few minutes later and we have about 20 friends walking us home. When B went to take a photo of J and I and the group, we both had hands patting our hair and in the photo you can see a hand on each head. Same with lining up for the exercises in sport, anyone lining up behind us will just start stroking our pony tails.
Yesterday we were talking about how we haven’t had meat since the 4kg of pork, and M got excited and said she’d go to the market. Dinner was Dagaa…..my LEAST favourite food. Not sure if its called the same at home, but pretty much dried sardines eaten whole. Really foul, really smelly and super fishy.
Just listening to the choir practice now as I am staying at the social centre where Sunday’s ‘Big Event’ is being held. I got a room upgrade yeehah! Luxury.
I think that is all the news from here. When in Singida I realise how much at home I feel in Ilongero as I always end up saying “I can’t wait to get home!”. It is encouraging to see some positive developments with some of the projects and I hope the good news continues.