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Back in the Gero

Greetings Warafiki!
I am settling back into Tanzanian life just fine after my visit home and actually found I had missed this place.

The trip back was relatively easy and was proud to get a local price on my taxi from the airport in Dar es Salaam thanks to my residence permit and sort my own bus ticket out at the big stand in Dar which when I first arrived I would have found completely overwhelming. I only (unknowingly) agreed to one marriage proposal on the bus ride to Singida, which I didn’t realise until his friend who spoke some English congratulated me – but he was only in his 50’s so quite a catch for an old bird like me. I am often questioned as to why, at 25, I am not married. The floods in Dar have subsided thankfully so the roads were passable this time and I managed to escape mozi bite free even without a net. Always meet interesting people on long bus journeys and have fun making up excuses why I cannot give my number or fake a fiancé.

My Swahili has been terrible since returning! It is only just now getting to where I was before I left. The first couple of days especially I felt like I was just walking around gap mouthed as no words would come to me. Even last week I told someone I wanted to buy mende (cockroach) instead of embe (mango) and then told someone she had a mbwa (dog) on her, but meaning mbu (mosquito).

M appreciated the card thanking her for being my Tanzanian Mama as I realised when she held my hand everywhere we went for a couple of days. Though we are now starting to see, or should I say ‘hear’ another side of her as she has been complaining about us…we don't wash our sheets enough, among other things. looooong story and I suspect I know some of the real reason behind the issues but I Still love M, ups and downs. While I am fine to make an effort all day adapting to the Tanzanian way, when volunteers get home inside the house, we are going to be as we are if it affects noone else. After being told ‘you don’t want to upset the neighbours’ we very proudly snapped that in fact only on the weekend our lovely neighbour came and told us we were the BEST neighbours and gave us some milk.

Also returned to Ilongero to hear the sad news that the young boy I mentioned in an earlier email as being very sick passed away over the holidays. That was a real low point, feeling so helpless really. Poor kid. Ah.

My first Sunday back I went along with Maria to salimia a family who had a relative pass away. I didn’t realise until we arrived at the house as I didn’t know the word for died, but when we got there and I asked what we were actually doing M said “DEAD” so I got that subtle hint. I am still not sure who it was who had died but we brought some potatoes and spent the day with the family. It was fairly upbeat and I spent much of the day awkwardly laughing as they all told me that I should marry their brother and take him back to Australia. This is D, the very helpful guy at the bus stand….who has become very friendly and insists I tell him every time I am in town and he will get a taxi to drive by so he can say hello and then leave after a minute or so.

I brought out the new ‘Pin the footballer on the football’ game last week when some kids were around and while I am not sure they understood the actual game, they really enjoyed just being blindfolded and spun around….I kind of wanted a turn at trying to pin it on but they really hogged the blindfold – greedy kids. ;P Even with the hazardous rocks lying around it is still much safer than the game I saw an 8 year old playing the other day which involved balancing a machete handle on a piece of rope hanging from a tree and swinging it to see where the machete would land….hopefully not on himself.

I’ve also finally had the ‘honour’ (NOT) of experiencing the ‘wiggly finger’….this is when a man will shake your hand but will wiggle his middle finger in the palm of your hand. I’ll let you guess what he is alluding towards, and this is luckily one of the few incidents in which it seems you are allowed to be completely rude to an elder and apparently even a slap would be allowed. I didn’t get a slap in but I think I managed to embarrass him in front of his friends, though I then bought carrots from him as they were the best looking ones in the market. Lesson learnt? Maybe not.

Form 6 (Yr 12) had their Graduation last week so a government minister attended, bringing along a couple of men with AK47’s…not your average graduation. Head Master was so nervous about the special guests so I felt a bit guilty about having brought along our posse of dogs to run around like crazy when the kids had spent the whole week not in class but in the gardens. Even though me and L tried to sneak in the back just to take photos for some of the students who had asked me, we were of course ushered to the special guest section and had to stand up in front of everyone as usual and introduce ourselves. There were some performance by students and the minster made an almost 2 hour speech even M sitting next to me fell asleep. He only asked us to raise money to buy the school a car (not books or for more teachers of course) in front of hundreds of people but luckily M understood what he was saying quick enough to say “Nimefulia”-I am broke. That had everyone in hysterics and I think embarrassed the minister a bit which some people were not happy about but so he should be. A more exciting part of the day was ITV, a Tanzanian TV station came along and he had the camera pointed at L and I for quite a while as we awkwardly pretended not to notice. It was Australia Day ( I was sad to still be sober by this time in the afternoon on Oz Day!) so I was proudly wear my Oz flag thongs so hopefully they made it onto TV…the first time I have missed having a TV is when I may have been ON it. Also had one of the ministers who was sitting on stage pointing his phone camera at me, obviously bored of the main mans long speech. We find that in Singida a bit if we are sitting down someone will just come over and stand about 1m away with their phone pointed at us, and when it follows you as you move you know it is a video.

Went to Singida to buy things for the hostel and while there popped in to the HIV clinic. We got talking to an English lady who works there. In perfect timing, an English couple had just been there asking them if they could take in their dogs for 6 or so months as they were returning home. Long story short, went to Singida to buy material, came home with 2 dogs. I think the house should be safe now as people are so scared of them and they look especially ferocious if I put their muzzle on as well as being on a leash, but they are harmless to people as they are too scared really. There was one real test of love on the weekend when L, M and I took them and M’s dog and tag-along, pathetically sweet Clifford (Father K’s dog) past the rocks and to the lake for a fun family outing. The sunflower fields were blooming, the neon orange birds chirping and we were all having a jolly old time watching the dogs chasing herds of goats and cows for fun. Besides the giant leach type slug trying to suck my leg off in the water (though nothing compares to the demonic giant very leggy slug we found in the house last week, which I swear got stronger and bigger the more Mortien, 100% Deet, vinegar and kerosene we poured onto it to try kill it), it had been a great day until on the return journey Clifford got a bit too excited and actually pinned down a baby goat with the help of crazy-eyes Sammy. By the time we got to them and threw them off the poor goat it looked like its neck had been broken. It was soooooo cute too and I of course started crying thinking it was going to die. The owners came over and were luckily very sweet but I tried to hold back my whimpering even more when I thought someone was about to hit it in the head with a stick. False alarm, they carried it off and said it should be fine as eventually it managed to control its head again. Strike 1. Strike 2 was not such a happy ending. I didn’t even notice they had run off until Michael said the now infamous words “I think your dogs just killed goat”. Another baby one but this time not so lucky… While we at first suspected Sammy of being the main killer, I am starting to think maybe Max is the silent killer type. We went along with the young boys shepherding the herd to their home to speak to their family, assuming we would be paying them for the loss of a goat and they would be very angry. Turns out they were more sympathetic to us, told us we are like their children and the dogs are children of God so they are their children also and were more interested and amused at laughing at me looking poor and barefoot as I had lost my thongs in sinking mud I had become stuck in while trying to chase the dogs to yell at them for the goat murder. About 30 people ended up gathering to hear the discussion on how it could be settled, which I think ended with the suggestion we could pay for the equivalent of the amount of meat on the goat, luckily a small boney looking one. We are still waiting for the mans call but he was pretty drunk from a long day on the pombe so it is possible he has forgotten or maybe thinks he had the midnight munchies and got ravenous! Oh and one of the young boys returned my thongs which I had also broken trying to rescue them and he had repaired and cleaned them. How sweet. The family even wanted us to take the goat for the dogs to finish eating or for us to cook but then they would really have a taste for goat meat, and I just had the image of me walking through the village barefoot, muddy and dragging a dead goat behind me with 2 murderous dogs in tow.

Australia day was held a day late because of the graduation and I needed most of a day to prepare the food. I now know that when you invite someone to dinner here, a plus 1 (or even 2) is automatically implied so lucky I cooked extra as it ended up being for 12. It was my first ‘dry’ Oz Day in a while. My chipsi didn’t work out so I served it and instead called it Australian Roast Potatoes (more of a moosh of oil, salt and potatoes really) but the rice and spaghetti was fine with the coconut curry sauce and gingery tomato sauce. There was an awkward lull after dinner until V from Form 6 cranked up his phone music player and we all ended up dancing. M, L and I busted out an impromptu ‘500 Miles’ where everyone joined in with the “BADADA…” part and were laughing at us lunatics hysterically. Lots of innocent fun but I would’ve looooved a cold champagne.

Also very proud to have finally been giving my Kinyaturu name, Bula – meaning rain…even if it was given to me by a man wearing a Santa hat. Everyone gets such a kick when I introduce myself to them as Bula, and it is guaranteed to get you a proposal or 2, or an older lady offering you her son.

With work, I have been talking to an organisation about the possibility of linking the chicken and Moringa Tree projects together which is exciting. The watchman is still at the site! The link between the primary school here and the school one of the org’s trustees in the UK works at is almost complete – we have the letters and photos on this side so just have to send them off and get some replies. The primary school teachers are looooovely there and the main one who has been helping us is Mama Willie, Headmaster’s wife. It is kind of a pen pal program and to open students minds to other cultures. The students here are apparently currently learning about letter writing so that is perfect. With sewing, the bags were a little imperfect (we are going with ‘endearing’) when we checked over the final product. Many have had to be fixed but I have learnt a lot from the experience. E has now arrived to work with the group and expand the project to include more crafts and I have a good feeling about it. But the big news….THE HOSTEL FINALLY OPENED ON 1ST FEBRUARY after being completed for more than 5 years. So exciting and really happy to have been here for the occasion. 32 girls have moved in with Matron Sarah, who is lovely. Another 32 will be able to move into the other half in the near future. All of the sponsored girls have moved in and it has been really nice to see such support and congratulations from the community, surprisingly especially from older men. From all the pre-opening meetings, it seemed like there was a LOT of support coming from the girls fathers and grandfathers which was nice. The girls had done a lot of work cleaning the hostel before moving in, and so when they finally moved in their bags we started off some “LILILI’ing” which was hilarious and continued all the way to the kitchen. Everyone thinks L and I are a little nuts. We went along for the first evening meal, cooked in the newly built outdoor kitchen, and while the girls were eating I snuck back to the hostel and put a pink ribbon on every door so that they could all officially cut the ribbon to their new room. This was a huge hit. I was so excited for the cutting of the first ribbon to the main gate to be done by school matron Miss Muda I thought she was asking where to cut and didn’t realise she was asking for the scissors I had forgotten to give her. That night I was imagining the gossiping that would be going on the first night away from their homes.

What else…speaking to the agriculture officer about him holding another round of chicken training for women, arranging a couple of days a week to hold English exercise classes with the secondary school girls – particularly the girls staying at the hostel as well as starting a Fema Group (a ‘girl power’ type magazine here partly in English/part Swahili and a lot on girls issues), and starting to write some proposals for grants. All exciting and hopefully enough to keep me busy when L leaves in a couple of weeks.

The hyena’s are back from the sounds of things and I’m sure coming closer and closer, us 4 wazungu had a fantastic Mexican feast on the weekend cooked by M and for some reason L, E and I thought we would treat his eyes and dress up as men and making the closest thing we could to a sombrero (from a konyagi box) and using eyeliner to draw on mo’s and monobrows. Our neighbour popped by and couldn’t stop laughing, this is when she told us we were the best neighbours so I suppose that explains it. I had been thinking about who I could ask to help me by teaching me a bit of Swahili, in person is always better than by book, and in perfect timing today Martha asked me to help her with English and she would help me with Swahili so I think this will be a weekend thing I am looking forward to. Her whole family is just lovely, they will shoo kids away if they are peering through the windows, her teenage son works so hard and even climbed a tree for us to get down passionfruits when he noticed our tactic of swinging around a mop and trying to hit them down pinyata style was not going so well. Her father, Petrice, is the cutest old man I have ever seen. He must be 200 and has big glasses and huge teeth, so big we have learnt his language….Swahili spoken through teeth. He is always working on the farm still and wears his best blazor in the fields. Yesterday I saw probably the sweetest site possible to human eyes, of him and his equally old friend sitting out the front of the house and his friend shakily trimming Petrice’s hair. A lot of trust went into that haircut.

Today something really funny happened, which sort of explains the pace of life here….a lady was hurriedly walking past L & I (even overtook!) and said something about rushing to the bus stop. I said to L “wow that is the fastest I have seen anyone in Ilongero walk!” and she told me that no, the lady had told us “I am running”, so in fact it was the slowest run I had ever seen haha.

I am very excited we are brewing another couple of batches of wine, one is onion and zembarou-a kind of grapey thing-the other mango and zembarou).

G came for a few days, which was an eventful visit as there were some ongoing issues to discuss - on both sides. If I wrote this yesterday, there would probably have been a lot of swear words and it wouldn’t have passed anyone’s inbox security settings and you would all think I hate the place as it was a pretty crappy couple of days but I am lucky it has been the first negative days since arriving really and feeling much better after another meeting today, skyping A and knowing she understands what is happening, and knowing I will be calling G tomorrow to further discuss the problems.

Posted by neerg_08 06:00 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero

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