A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011

Rainy Season - the good, the bad and the ratty

Have had a busy few weeks here in Ilongero. The rains have started early and the landscape is already changing and becoming very green…and the roads slowly washing away with it.
So, back in Singida for the big choir performance…..sad to say this did not work out. I don’t understand what happened exactly but NOONE turned up so they instead did some speeches (Tanzanians seem to looooove speeches) and performed a few songs especially for J, B and I as we sat at the VIP table on stage. But it wasn’t all bad, we got a delicious meal out of it! I felt so sorry for them. Well as sorry as I could in my state after a night out in Singida upon my discovery of a bar serving somewhat drinkable wine.

Did NOT feel as sorry for them the following week at the Choir album launch party. It was all going well until the bishop who attended from another area announced he would pay 220,000 Tanzanian Shillings (well over $100) for the cd…..then welcomed us to bid. We all refused, while sitting up on the VIP table on stage in front of a room full of people. Then everyone was ‘encouraged’ to come up and on the microphone and announce what they would buy it for. We had to try to explain that this is not how we feel comfortable doing thing, it was so awkward and I’m sure you could see our smiles disappear pretty quickly. Before the whole choir thing we went to the mission as the kids were all about to go home for the holidays. It’s so quiet and lonely there now. They were having a bit of a dance party which was so great and hard to be dragged away from. We met the man who started the centre, he is based at another centre a couple of hours away and has invited me to visit next year, which I will definitely try to do.

With work, the classes we were running at school have kind of fallen apart. School ends next week and with this, the exams going on, rain and the big market one day all being given as excuses for lack of attendance, there is not much hope for getting anything done right now.

We were in Singida last Friday to shop for vitenge – beeeeeautiful material – for the yoga mat bags they will begin to produce for the UK next week. That’s exciting….shopping for them was AWWWWESOME! It was a bit like “one for Upendo, one for me”. The ladies have tried to teach me to sew on the old pedal machines they use but I was soon downgraded from practise material to scrap paper. Shopping for paint was not so fun, going into each shop selling any paint and being told the same price over and over…..but the paint arrived today so when it stops raining we can start painting the hostel which may actually be open for the new school term woot woot. Now L and I are to start looking into organising some community appraisal meetings to find out from the women what they want to learn about (i.e. health and sanitation, family planning, assertiveness etc) so that we can arrange some free training seminars next year.

Still torn whether to be friendly with kids at the house or not, now that we get them peering through the windows each afternoon. Once they asked for ‘peepee’ which we thought meant the toilet, so opened the door to the outside toilet and received some very disapproving faces….peepee means lolly in Swahili.

A couple of weeks ago J, B, M and I went to the next village, Mtinko. They have a World Vision project site there so wanted to go talk to them and form a connection. The man running it was really nice, but I would like to make a proper appointment next time before showing up so that we can have a look around the projects. Interesting to hear that World Vision originally offered Ilongero the chance but the committee turned it down as Ilongero is mostly Muslim and WV a Christian Organisation.

I went to Singida for the day to meet L at the bus stop and fetch her back to Ilongero. She has had a very interesting first 2 weeks, starting with that very day. By the time we got to the Singida stand, there were no more dalladallas or buses running so we rounded up some other villagers to share a taxi. Right away off the main road were stopped by police looking for money, trying to smooth talk the 2 of us to draw away from the fact that they were being a little intimidating to the poor driver who was made to get out of the car. Usually police stops only take a couple of minutes, take their money and wave you off, but this time it took about 20minutes. (When L asked how long the journey takes, I said generally 45mins). It was getting dark and further up the road we came across ‘Paradiso’, the crazy dalladalla. They had broken down so we pulled over to help. 20minutes later I noticed that our hood was also up on the taxi….we had also broken down. Then it was dark, started raining, but luckily a semi-trailer pulled up so the group of us jumped in the back of the cab. It’s no smooth ride that high up. 2 hours later we were home. Day 2 was the Album launch fiasco….then that first week the bus that we had taken to Mtinko crashed just out of the town square –apparently the driver jumped out and ran into the hills.

The big monthly market was also on during the week, which is a very pretty site from a distance with all the bright colours sprawled across the ground on tarps or hanging from portable timber frames.

One positive thing that is happening at the school is that the Life Skills Program – a programme that a former RWDA volunteer started and now students she taught teach other students to become peer educators – has started again. We all went to one this week, the topic of the day was ‘Love’….after discussing what is love, types of love, the question was about what you expect from a partnership. After all the basic answers, J finally yelled out SEX! To many giggles. Luckily the student running the class is very outgoing and handled the topic so well. It went really well and was nice just to encourage openness instead of the beat around the bush way it may have otherwise been discussed.

J’s birthday was on Thursday night so M1 brought around his home made mango wine. M2 made a nice cake which we decorated with paper, and it is customary to feed chunks of the cake to each other. We went to Mama Shayo’s shop for this occasion expecting to be sat out the back as usual, but were invited into her house and she had cooked us chicken and chipsi and refused to let us pay for the beers…..and she in turn loved the mango wine also.

The birthday celebrations continued the next night in Singida – a stolen camera at the beginning of the night calls for extra konyagi. It was a really fun night and knowing it would be the last night out in Singida with B and J, we had more to celebrate.

Back in Ilongero we found that Penny, the cat we have somewhat bribed into loving us more than her owners, had given birth to 2 kittens, one of which has since sadly died.

L and I met the sponsored girls and tried to get some letters going to their sponsors….big language difficulties and currently in the process of translating.

One not so good thing about the rains are the extra visitors we have at night. Cue RATE-GATE. It had been a crawly night anyway, several cockroaches on the ceiling and walls and corners….now have to do a 360 degree inspection of all rooms before entering. In the past I had blamed the noises at night on the bats. Apologies bats. At 2am I woke to hear furniture being moved around. I came out to find J and B’s door open and a corridor created out of boxes leading from their room to the front door. They had woken to find a rat climbing on their mosquito net!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then when they knocked it off it went missing in the room and they ended up practically emptying the room and then tried to sleep in the lounge room. Later on they decided to try and just go back to bed and hope it was too scared to emerge again……J picked up a pillow to find the rat UNDER THE PILLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have since found its home in the kitchen cupboard which has been chucked, so now it has made a hole in the wall in the kitchen and dragged some kanga material in there for a bed. Bought some rat trap but apparently need tomatoes to set that up (?????) which we didn’t have, so now it is another housemate until M helps us with that. She told us a story of waking in the night to having a rat nibbling her toes!!!!!!!!!!!!! B constructed a make-do fence to keep it IN the kitchen, oddly enough. As well as rats, now getting plenty of centipedes and a few toads have also appeared. Saw my first Ilongero snake last week, when we stopped to look closer suddenly a rock was pummelled onto its head.

We have arranged another debate for Monday at the school and chosen the topic ‘Women are the Future of Tanzania’, knowing mostly the boys will be attending. I am first speaker on the proposing side and J on the opposing. Have some good stats to throw at them. Also have 3 of the Form 5 & 6 boys on my side, and L has the vuvuzela as time keeper to drown out anyone who tries to speak overtime. Kind of looking forward to that, then painting on Sunday and the wedding tomorrow is exciting.

Posted by neerg_08 11:06 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero Comments (0)

Good News Week

Hello Hello!
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.

Posted by neerg_08 02:01 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero Comments (0)

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