A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Slowing down the pace


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!

Posted by neerg_08 07:05 Archived in Tanzania Tagged singida ilongero Comments (0)

Time to UNPACK!

Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Singida, Ilongero

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!

Posted by neerg_08 07:03 Archived in Tanzania Tagged es dar salaam dodoma singida ilongero Comments (0)

Leaving Island Life

Zanzibar, Stone Town, Jambiani, Uroa, Paje, Dar es Salaam

Habari gani?
I am back on the mainland of Tanzania now in Dar es Salaam, enjoying a day in my lovely, CLEAN (when I walk around inside my feet don’t turn black)air conditioned room while it is raining outside. I hear there isn't all that much to experience of Dar besides a mugging so I don’t feel like I’m missing out, to be honest I probably would not have done anything if it was a nice day anyway.

I have just finished my afternoon binge session of vegemite biscuits and other homely snacks. The sour worms didn’t stand a chance once they were open, nor did the mentos (unfortunately didn’t win the instant $25,000 competition, so no extending the holiday), and the licorice bullets’ numbers are dwindling. I’m up to date on all the Hollywood gossip now and can put on some thongs that don’t have an invisible thorn stabbing me in the heel all day. Later I might even put on a hair treatment and paint my nails! Thanks Mum & Dad!! Great care parcel. I thought I was saying ‘wonderful’ in Swahili to the Fedex man on the phone when he said he would drop it at my hotel, but I think I may have said something different, as he cracked into hysterical laughter and it was about 2 minutes of “sorry” and continued laughter before he could compose himself. I couldn’t find it in my Swahili dictionary but I am interested to see what I have said to him haha. I know some words are very similar, such as the words for cucumber and butt, and I once told someone “I would like to go for a shit (kunya )” instead of a drink (kunywa) which he found pretty amusing. But I can laugh back at him when he says ‘virgin’ instead of ‘version’.

It was VERY hard to leave Zanzibar yesterday. I was feeling very at home in Stone Town. It was nice last night not to have a power failure, as every night in Stone Town the power would be cut off for about 20minutes just before 7pm. I was told that a couple of years ago the power was out for 3 months so everyone still has that at the back of their mind when it goes off.

Last Sunday I went to Paje beach for the day. The beach was beautiful, and kite surfing seems to be the thing to do. It is lined with resorts and bungalows, and compared to all of the other beaches I have been to here, pretty busy with tourists. I think of all the other days I have had on the East Coast, I have only seen 4 or 5 other tourists. Monday I wanted a full day at Jambiani beach, as I had to be back in Stone Town at 6pm to meet 2 of the volunteers I will go to Ilongero with. Things don’t happen in a hurry here. We didn’t get to the beach until 2:30! A dalladalla is meant to be the slow way, but even on one of those the trip only takes 1-1 ½ hours. So after the 4 ½ hour mission it was lovely to get into the water. Then it was shocking to them that I had to be somewhere at a certain time….or an hour late anyway as it turned out. Safe to say I said no to any more lifts with friends.
I went back to Jambiani for a night and 2 full days which was so nice and relaxing, although you can’t just lie on the beach in peace as there are kids wanting to sell you coconuts and ladies offering massages and henna tattoo’s….once you say no they will sit down with you for a chat and are shocked I am 23 and not married. Maybe, since I’m getting so old, I should consider taking the advice of my Stone Town hostel laundry lady and agree to marry Rasheed next time he asks “Can I kiss your eyes” haha. I went for a late afternoon bike ride along the beach, and passed about 1000 soccer games! People suddenly emerge as he sun is going down as the fishing boats come in from the day out. Everyone from the villages come down to pick up their fish straight from the boat. The beach gets busy!

On Thursday I went to Uroa Beach for the day. Here I was greeted not with “Hello” or “Jambo” but with “Ciao” as there are so many Italian tourists everyone just assumes all mzungu’s must be Italian. On the dalladalla home, I am sure a new record was set. Inside were 27 adults, 3 toddlers, a chicken and a potato sack of fish, plus hanging off the back were 4 more men. Just when I thought my bottom could not be compacted any more, someone else would get on and shove their butt in. It’s so amusing watching all this. When a larger person waves to get on, everyone sort of shakes their head and smirks and looks around in determination as in “I’m not letting them squeeze in next to me”. But they get on and just stick their butt in someones face and start sitting on them until someone gives in and moves over. I get really nervous every time I see a lot of people on board when I have to get on or off as it is so difficult. Lucky my stop is usually the first on and last off.
The other day a lady left her baby with someone on board while she jumped off to get something at a shop at one bus stop. A few minutes later the driver drove off without her, luckily we managed to get his attention to stop further down the road. The same day, after filling up the vehicle, he drove off, leaving the guys who hang on the back to collect the money, behind. Also just managed to get him to stop for them to catch up and jump on. He driver was obviously in a hurry as the speeds they go sometimes is crazy! And people will still climb onto the roof to start getting their bikes and sacks of cement and flour and piles of sticks ready.

Back in Stone Town, amongst all the backstreets, is Jaw Corner. There is a TV set up for special football games, and men are always gathered here chatting about politics and playing dominoes. One of the homes here sells what I would liken to a Tanzanian version of a Krispy Kreme! They work out to be about 6c each! Only for the fact that I want to save room for the seafood markets for dinner and they don’t keep very well, do I stop at 5 or 6. Sure there are a few bits of dirt specks in them and plenty of cats running about the basket they sit in on the ground sold by a 6 year old girl, but they are DELICIOUS! There are lots of TV corners set up around town where people gather to watch outdoors. It’s really nice and I think the island has a very social and family like culture to it. People are always sitting and lying around together outdoors, obviously to escape the humidity of inside, and especially around the waterfront on a Saturday and Sunday night people are sleeping, families are out, boys are jumping off the wall into the water, girls are in their party outfits – still covered head to toe but maybe with bright tights and a few more sequins.

I like the men of the island also. They are not afraid to carry around palm leaf of weaved bags, wear shell jewellery, hold hands for an entire conversation, sit on the street and listen to Celine Dion “I’m your lady”, and wear colourful floral print sarongs around.

Friday came over pretty wild and windy so I spent some nice time indoors on the net, then met up with my Zanzibari Swahili teacher later and he had spent the afternoon at the Darajani fish market and getting an assortment of seafood – and as a surprise for my last night king prawns! Very sweet so I watched as he whipped up a delicious meal, and made some mental notes on how to cook in an African kitchen. I’d never thought of coconut milk as not having come from a can! We made our own.

Then I had my last night drifting to sleep to the sound of generators, and the rooster who needs a watch – 3am is too early buddy!
A few rocky hours back on the ferry and was back in Dar es Salaam. My hotel is lovely, I haven’t been outside today except to go to get lunch…at the hotel restaurant 10m away. Tomorrow we go to pick up our work permits then to the customs office to get our visas sorted. The organisation I am volunteering for have rented a house for us so it will be so good to have my own space, my own room to decorate (may need my Robbie poster to really make it home) and have a go cooking with whatever food is available at the markets.

Posted by neerg_08 06:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged town zanzibar stone es dar jambiani salaam paje uroa Comments (0)

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