16.04.2012 - 17.06.2012
I have started my day with a binge of cream cheese, chocolates and nutella thanks to another exciting care parcel. Honestly there is not much of the food left already as I picked it up yesterday on an extreme hangover after a night out in Singida with J and his cousin and there is NOTHNG available in Singida that could have been any better for the day than cream cheese and vegemite cheesybite dippers. And later on some licorice bullets and chocolates over some gossip magazines and checking out celebs bikini bodies. OH YEH. The Americans can’t believe how risqué our Cosmo magazines are, the ‘sealed section’ was great to study over a few beers. What’s this? – Brad and Angelina getting married? Seal and Heidi serparated? John Mayer with LONG hair? Having some difficulties concentrating on writing this email with the teachers here in the computer room playing the same song over and over again. Justin Bieber. The one song for about half an hour now and if past experiences are anything to go by, it will be this way for the rest of the afternoon.
Things in Ilongero have been ok. I’ve decided to leave at the end of July, travel for a few weeks then head to Mafia Island in August, once Ramadhan is over and start with an organisation there. I was going to go there travelling anyway so may as well work there a bit since they will fly me there, better than my cargo ship option. And if I stay until December that’s when you can swim with whale sharks so that’s the plan. A few months trial and if I decide to stay on and they decide to keep me then I will see about staying longer. I feel like I am wasting time a bit here and though it is nice to be somewhere I am comfortable and am known now, I am leaving eventually anyway so not like it’s a permanent thing. Skype’s with A in the UK sounds like this year will be the last for the org so if anything it will only be the Tz org carrying on . So knowing I am leaving have kicked into my ‘to do list’ and been on some walks down roads I’ve never needed to go and therefore never passed. A new volunteer came from America a few weeks ago. I had to laugh, she’s pretty shy and one of the teachers tried to speak to her in English and she didn’t respond, just kept smiling and walked off and he asked me if she speaks English haha. Also I like hearing peoples stories of their bus trip from Dar and I asked what music they played on her trip and no surprise – a Celine Dion concert.
We have started tuition for the girls at the hostel by hiring a couple of ‘teachers’ (Form 6 leavers from last year) which took over a month to organise!!!! It has been the most frustrating thing, because people don’t tell you when there is an issue, they will just change their mind and disappear. So we agreed on a salary, then the tuition was meant to start the following week, but they obviously decided that they wanted more money, so a week after tuition was supposed to start I asked the hostel matron how it was going (I had seen her several times that week) and she said the teachers said they wanted more money, so just didn’t teach and no one thought to say anything. Then S and I spent ages trying to do up a schedule to suit everyone, it was agreed on and we gave everyone a copy, then we came the next week to teach our English period as scheduled, and the tuition teachers were there doing their lesson as they decided to add a few extra periods that week, probably because I had told them they are paid per period so if they do not show up, they will not be paid. So I yelled at them and thanked them for volunteering the extra time for that week.
I’ve just checked my email and have an invitation to attend a community sensitisation workshop meeting this Friday held by a foundation working with disease control of Newcastle Disease that I have been in touch with a fair bit since being here about how we could work together with our org's chicken project and Moringa trees. I accepted the invitation thinking I would go along as audience, but he’s just sent me the schedule and I’m in there as a presentation of the work of our org and he’s listed me as a ‘member of the country coordinating committee (ccc) of the phase 2 – regional newcastle disease control project (malawi, mozambique, tanzania and zambia) alongside directors of central veterinary laboratory, director of the world poultry association, and country agriculture officers. Oh my god. I don’t even know what a community sensitisation workshop is! Going to have to get out of this one! What will I say, “ahhhh, our chickens don’t lay eggs and we don’t know why”.
We have arranged a Life Skills Seminar for the Form 4 girls next week in the school holidays and 40 have put their names down for that which is a much better number than expected as many went home for an extended holiday after their mock examinations a couple of weeks ago, not discouraged at all by the teachers who love the chance not to teach (they were in the computer room on Thursday watching Titanic). So luckily a few girls actually stuck around, just hopefully they turn up. Doesn’t hurt that they all receive an allowance for attending, because learning isn’t enough. G is coming too, she hasn’t been here since February I think but she already knows I’m heading off and her email back was very nice. The women’s projects (sewing, chickens) are all on hold and A only wants to focus on the school and the hostel. I went to see how the Moringa trees are growing and they are mostly smaller than when they were planted as the rainy season wasn’t very good. S and I are starting a Fema Club for any students who want to join. Fema is a magazine which focuses on issues like sex and HIV aimed at Secondary school aged people. The groups receive the magazine for free and are meant to go through it together as an opportunity to discuss things that are usually hush hush with the goal of ‘destroying the silence’. They are encouraged to get involved in helping and educating the local community. A fair few have signed up so we have a meeting beginning of the new term and will then see how many actually want to do it, as it will have to be ‘owned’ by themselves. I went to a village about 2 hours away a few weeks ago as I heard they have a school kitchen to provide meals to all students, which A thought about building here, and wanted to see how it is run. The parents there contribute food rather than money and the parents and teachers do all the work for it. Even on Mafia Island the hostel built there was built by members in the community volunteering their time. Will be interested to see a different area and different people. We are also trying to start promoting this way of pasteurising water using your everyday water bottle as you only have to leave it in the sun to heat to 65 degrees, it actually doesn’t need to boil to get rid of the organisms dangerous to humans.
I’m finally healthy again thanks to some very coincidental timing of a weekend away staying at the house of a doctor and nurse, sisters with the Medical Missionaries of Mary who have an HIV counselling clinic in Singida and live in a lovely house right on Lake Singida in the village of Mangua. I had my own room and ensuite which came in handy, a little private verandah overlooking the lake, there was a block of cheese put out with every meal, pepper, bacon, sausages, COLD MEAT, Heinz baked beans, even jelly. Even toast from the toaster! Luckily when I’m sick I don’t lose my appetite, that was the main fear when I started feeling the familiar old feeling as I knew the food I may have to skip. But no, not me. Is it bad to be told “it’s good to see someone with a healthy appetite” at my lack of fussiness as I didn’t say no to anything! I even thought there was a bottle of ladies perfume in my room but when I picked it up and tried to get the lid off it with some difficulty, I realised the fancy bottle was in the shape of Mary and it was holy water. Other than laze around reading and sleeping on a real mattress, washing my hair EACH day unnecessarily just to use the hot water and enjoying SITTING on the loo, I had a nice walk down the lake to the other side where there is a flock of flamingos, and along the way you pass the fishermen and ladies harvesting salt and more boulders. Having never been to the hospital before, I ended up there 3 times over a few days. First to visit J’s girlfriend with their new baby (poor girl had had a C section and had a tiny room full of family as she tried to sleep and no one was trying to keep voices down) I bought a little Adidas tracksuit for when he’s a bit older, later realising its actually AdiBas. Second time was to drop off my…stuff…(which some people hand in in a matchbox!) and finally get sorted for my ‘issues’ and then I was out with a friend for dinner and he got a call saying his friend had crashed his motorbike down the road and was in hospital so I got dragged along to visit him and no one understood why that would be uncomfortable for me AND the patient, having never met each other before and that he probably doesn’t want some strange mzungu there oogling him while he’s having his face stitched so I pretty much did the runner from there and pretended I got lost.
Heard an interesting bit of info about the issue this area is facing this year. So the price of Sunflower oil was pretty high last year so everyone decided to plant it as a cash crop rather than the usual food crop, maize. But because everyone pretty much did that, this year the price of oil has halved so not only does everyone make very little profit, but they haven’t grown their own food so they have no home grown food and not enough money to buy food from the harvest. Only a few people carried on growing their own food as a back up. But people are in pretty good spirits about it and even able to laugh at themselves about it.
Union Day was last month. I thought after no one really celebrating Independence Day because it was only the independence of Tanganyika, not Tanzania, the day Tanganyika joined Zanzibar would be a celebration. Turns out still no, well not in Singida. When I tried to ask people what the day is called in Swahili, I was just told it was Thursday (several times). All that seemed to happen was several hundred prisoners get released in the celebration. Hooray! I have lasted a while but finally told someone to P**s off in Swahili after he grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go until I punched his arm, then he stroked my hair so in front of everyone I let rip. Then I told a bunch of vijana (youths) to SHUT UP as so many people put on a stupid bimbo voice to mock mzungu voice … so I say things in a really deep man voice sometimes to throw people off. So I think its best I get out of this village before I go crazy at someone. Oh and I didn’t know the word was still politically correct, but on your birth certificate here your parents occupation can be ‘peasant’. That was surprising, though maybe not as I see the bus with the big image of Gadafi pass through Ilongero.
Funny how long I manage to get away without ever having to do some things by myself. Like on the tour last year somehow the entire time I managed to not have to learn how to work the cooktop or fold the table away even though every cook group takes it in turns and the final week my tour guide couldn’t believe it when I had to admit I didn’t know how. I made my first garbage fire here a few weeks ago but obviously forgot to take the lid off some type of bottle and I went inside and later heard a massive explosion and ran out to see the fire had spread to my fence – which is just dried thorn bushes anyway – and then had the neighbour run over as it scared her and she joked that people here aren’t used to hearing gunshots. Bit nervous to try another one now. Still nervous about the kerosene cookers too after having one explode and miss my face by about an inch as I had not put one of the ropes back in after cleaning it so it sucked the air in and BOOM. I shat myself! Learning a lot. The toads haven’t been visiting the house for a while, now it is bees everywhere. M had to stay with us for a few days after being attacked in his house and then the man he was recommended apparently wasn’t a specialist and ended up just trying a bunch of different things, from tearing the ceiling down to destroy the hive, to covering the entire house in kerosene and finally coming back with a broom and trying to kill them one by one. Here, the work you pay for is LITERALLY all that gets done. When you pay someone to get rid of bees, if they tear your house apart doing their job then that is all extra expenses. When you pay someone to cut your tree (which I made sure to say “a little bit, just so my washing can dry’ – but he murdered the whole tree) they don’t clean up the mess, and when you get someone to trim the thorn tree fence as your hair gets tangled in it each time you try to dodge it to leave the front yard, they don’t pick up the thorn trimmings which is why I have been living with a thorn in my heel for a week now. I thought my feet would be rough enough now that nothing could get in!
My favourite bar in Singida sells Smirnoff Ice now! At TSH4,000 (about $2.50) I feel like I need to drink them just to make the most of the bargain, but at TSH4,000 it is also 6 times the price of my drink of choice, ‘Super Alcoholic Banana Beer’ (with a picture of an athlete running on the front so it MUST be good for you). S and I managed to ‘bake’ a banana cake on the weekend but putting the pot inside another pot, with a bigger pot over the top of both of them and a wet towel on top to keep the heat in. It was delicious but only lasted a day and a half. Delicious.
Last week a man asked me for money to buy a book, I said no and walked off and as he passed an older lady she yelled out HE WONT USE IT FOR BOOKS HES A LIAR A TROUBLEMAKER and started hitting him. It was so funny. Another common question I am asked is “why do you have a mans name?” as it is so similar to Nicholas and Nicole is not common here.
A Peace Corp volunteer in town had a birthday party at the school she works at a couple of weeks ago so that was fun, she provided the food and drinks and one of the teachers DJ’d a good mix of Tanzanian/American music so there were a few dance offs where something like “I’m too sexy for my shirt” would come on so we would bust out some moves to that, including a catwalk moment, then some bongo flava song came on and all the Tanzanian teachers would take over. I of course managed to attract the most drunk, most annoying person in the room to sit next to me while we were eating and didn’t notice until the next time I went to wear that shirt that there is food all over the arm that was closest to him as he would try get my attention while he had a handful of food, in between trying to talk with his mouth full and spraying it everywhere. Then when he tried to lean over as I shuffled my chair further and further away, he would lean and his whole plate would lean also and all his food would splatter around my feet. Lucky for him he was about 80 so not much I could do there, I draw the line just after pushing oldies out the way to get on the bus.
Hmm some other things that have happened this month….a lady stopped me while we were in the middle of crossing a very busy road to try to sell some onions as big semi-trailers approached. Have been asked how much I’ll sell my hair for. Been locked inside a room because of the locks here and had to call someone to come unlock it from the outside. Caught myself saying “this morning while I was sweeping the poo in the hallway I was thinking….” And not realising there is something wrong with the normality of it until someone points it out. Had someone try to pass me on a bike and as he had no bell he instead said “Ring ring bicycle bicycle”. Found myself laughing as the teachers run after students with a stick instead of being mortified like 6 months ago. Told Mum and Dad I heard about some severe wind over there and then realised it was from the news of a 2 year old 2day fm podcast. Been reminded how difficult simple situations are made when we had firewood delivered to the hostel which was bad quality and although me, M, the Matron, the cook, 2 teachers and another cook had all agreed yes it was bad quality, still had to stand around and discuss the bad quality, look at it a little longer, then decide who else we should get to come and see it. Realised the environment is no real issue here as I take my material bags to the market and reuse plastic bags but when I tell a shopkeeper I brought my own bag so don’t worry about another, they tell me “no, its ok” and give me another one to be nice. Still feel uncomfortable around ‘house girls’. Still feel uncomfortable when petrol is put in the car while it is still on…and the driver is about 14. Enjoying not feeling rude for letting out a roaring burp mid conversation. Wish people would keep their religion quieter, especially at 5 and 6am. If people really want to pray, surely they can set their alarms and don’t need bells or a megaphone. Stopped returning calls when someone ‘beeps’ you – that way they don’t have to spend money to call you. Seen the convenience of the M-Pesa system - You can transfer money straight to someones phone rather than use a bank, then they just have to go to an M-Pesa stand and collect the money by showing the message on the phone. Waiting for my new clothes to be made by a tailor in town using my kitenge and kangas. Very exciting. Lost a bit more compassion which has been overtaken by annoyance especially on Fridays in Singida as it is the Holy day so the beggars are out in force and I found myself dodging a group of old ladies up ahead by crossing to the opposite side of the road as they did then hiding in a shop. Watched a Tanzanian TV show which is Bold and the Beautiful meets vampires. Picked my nose in public for the first time and didn't feel embarrassed.
On that note I’m off to download some new music and get some more viruses on my broken laptop. Apparently I got ‘the blue screen of death’ the other day. Actually think I’m going to watch the Titanic.