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In bed with the new Mr and Mrs Abubakir‏

Feeling lifted with the successful Life Skills Seminar, a wedding and appreciating people

Salaam Aleikum?

I’m coming off a very good several days so thought I should write and make up for the last email which may have seemed a bit of a downer. Plus I am going away for a couple of weeks tomorrow so no doubt that email will be long. Very excited to see more of Tanzania though.

So we had the Life Skills seminar this week, all with 2 days notice as it was originally supposed to be on Monday so I stayed at the school all Monday waiting for students to arrive to tell them we could move it to Thursday – Saturday if they could come, then had to tell them it wasn’t definite as we needed at least 30 to go ahead with it. About 25 came so Monday night I spent phoning any parents of Form 4 girls we had the phone number of….cold calling in a different language – difficult. But managed to get 30 yes’s and although I was so worried no one would show up almost 40 did! And on time! – the students at least, the facilitators were about 3 hours late, as was G and for the same day we had a meeting with all of the parents of the girls staying at the hostel to work out a new budget and go over any issues and G was about 2 hours late for that (luckily the parents were about 1 hour late) so I was shoved into the role of conducting the meeting. That went ok though, all issues sorted and the Life Skills seminar was soooo great! The trainers were really good with the students, even though I thought both of them being men would be difficult for the girls to feel comfortable, I think it was even better than if women had taught as they could at least say “we were once young guys, we know what they want”. From the start to the end of the first day the girls had already become so much more open, as its pretty common here for when a girl stands up in class to speak or ask a question to look down or in the opposite direction so day one they dealt with communication. Day 2 they even spoke about ‘raha’ – orgasms and that they have the right to say what they like and don’t, why pretend? Lots of giggling, even from us as the trainers do some great impressions of girls and boys behaviours, as well as gestures that cross the language barrier with regards to … erections and orgasms haha. It was a good laugh and no one was shy in the end to ask any question. As last minute as always, mid way through the 3rd day the trainer asked if anyone wanted to be tested for HIV so off to the medical centre to arrange that as most of them were keen and so the doctor came and tested them and taught a bit further in detail about HIV also. A few 12+ hour days was a shock to the system after doing nothing for so long but has really lifted my spirits going into my last few weeks here in Ilongero (2 of which I won’t technically be here anyway).

TToday I went to an Islamic wedding, which started on Friday with the ‘Send off' where the gifts are discussed. We could hear the music last night coming from 2 houses at opposite ends of the village, one for the women with the bride to be (Bibi Arusi) and the other house for the men and groom to be (Bwana Arusi). So S and I got dolled up in our shiniest outfits, even some mascara and went to the womens celebration starting early afternoon. We of course were ushered into the room where Bibi Arusi and her 2 sisters were sat on the bed under a sheet, all painted beautifully with henna up their arms. The photo session started there, then we were inside with mostly just family singing and dancing in a circle, trying to pretend we could. Lots more “LILILILILI’ing” which I haven’t done for a while but always boosts the mood. The Wanyaturu do this amazing throaty sound in one of the traditional songs, almost like a growling but at the same time can sing normally. After eating (the first meal), Bwana Arusi and all the men came from their house and a couple of older men went to the room to ask Bibi how many cows etc she requests and if she accepts her husband and then they exit together behind gifts of big bags of flour, matresses etc and all of us danced all the way up the main road in a big group singing and the dance to this song was every few steps to backtrack with your butt and bump the people behind you kind of like a competition (this was done inside the house also and with some of these booties, I didn’t stand a chance) but luckily I was at the very front in the centre so it was only up to me to butt the girls behind me. With this flat thing I think I did as best as I could. By now it was just me as S had left so there are some great photos of this dancing scene as the camera man had taken my camera for the day as he liked it better than his, but good cos it was kind of like having a personal photographer as I spent a lot of the day being pulled around at peoples request for photos with me, when I wasn’t spending my time attempting to dance, much to everyones amusement. I tell you, you really feel like you’re a rubbish dancer when its 60+ year old ladies laughing at you. So where were we, oh yes, dancing up the road, through the town centre and then to the house of the groom's family. After dancing in circles a little more (think conga line style)and being told “CHEZA!!!” (DANCE!) when I really thought I was, I was invited into the ‘inner sanctum’ where even the bui bui’s (the full covering black outfits covering everything but the eyes) can come off. Then photo time with the Bibi and Bwana in their room for the night before they leave for his home in Mbeya tomorrow. So there we were: me, bride and groom getting photos sitting on the ‘special bed’. Then with the mother of the bride. Then the best man. Then all of us. Then in different postions around me. Then one at a time with me. Then another group shot. We ate some more, then I was invited to come back for the Parti – party – later on so had a quick rest at home then returned at night. It was all outdoors excepts for a section done up like a gazebo with draping fabrics all over and inside lounges and coffee tables for the wedding party to sit. Outside this are a few rows of chairs for about 40 ‘special guests’ to sit facing the wedding party. Then behind us – me front row of course – the rest of the guests can just stand or find bricks or whatever to sit on. Then behind them, kids from the village sitting on top of the brick fence and about 30 heads peering over. The entertainment was any guy who wanted to get up in front of us and dance, and these guys can MOVED THEIR HIPS! ‘Unfortunately’ being front row, I didn’t know where to look! They even tend to pull their shirt up and dance like that. When a few 10-12 year olds came up to dance I actually really didn’t know where to look, very uncomfortable but it’s just the normal dancing here, thrusting and booty shaking. A man who must be in his 60’s even came and gave me a special performance which involved a somersault until he got escorted out…a few too many pombes I think. And when we talk wedding songs here, it was literally 3 songs played over and over, sometime not even alternating! I did like them…..After more food and my 6th meal of meat for the week (!!!!!a special week indeed) there was a bit more dancing, a few thank you’s, announcement of who has offered how many cows (as far as I could hear she received 5 cows for her family and a grandma gave the couple a goat)and then inside the special gazebo for more dancing to say goodbye which was where I was thrust into the centre to dance for the wedding party and be laughed at. Luckily I have no shame anymore as I am so used to being laughed at as everything I do seems to be so strange but it’s all in good fun anyway so I don’t care. Lots of fun.

Another sweet thing this week was as I was walking by the house of one of my neighbours, a very sweet old man with LOTS of little kids as a few of his own have passed away so he has his grandkids there. He likes to try to speak English, as a lot of people in his age group seem to – I am trying to work out what time that would have been when there was obviously a big focus on learning English as then the next generation down don’t seem to know it at all – so he called me in to his ‘courtyard’ (the section of the homes that are built in surrounding an open middle area where they put their cows and goats etc) where I had to sit and have some of his pombe – home brew….still don’t like this. He kept telling me how much they love me, then he made me take his phone number and said “don’t forget me. When you go home, you must call and say “are you dead or still alive?” because I am so old!” he laughed…. And I was sent on my way to him calling out “we love you so much”. Moments like this really make up life's top memories.

Off to town tomorrow then to Tabora, Kigoma and Mwanza.

P.S – S is still yet to sweep the house, over 5 weeks into her stay. Lucky I don't have high standards of cleanliness and my stubborness has meant I am letting the dust and dirt build up to see how long she can bare it...I'm wearing thongs around the house let's put it that way.

Posted by neerg_08 03:46 Archived in Tanzania Tagged wedding tanzania singida ilongero Comments (0)

Leaving the Gero (soon)


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.

Posted by neerg_08 03:38 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero mangua Comments (0)

Being the Smelly Neighbours

Happy that this week is almost over after a fever, conjunctivitis and a broken laptop. Work has been better. M has been a lot more approachable for me and in a better mood. E and I get along really well so the home is going well. I do love our little house. Last Sunday we splurged on $1 for half a kilo of steak to make something of a ‘Sunday Roast’ and even managed to make some gravy and it was DELICIOUS! So getting used to what to cook. Plus our yard has sprung up with all of these vegetables, we’ll have pumpkins soon. Could probably set up a market stand.

No longer have the dogs. After being told off for walking them too close to a mosque (which I didn’t realise was a mosque, thought it was a building under construction) and then when taking them for walks and being yelled at when they stop for a #2 (which mind you all of the stray dogs do everywhere, but because they are not on a lead its no problem) and then the cost of feeding them and the time it takes to cook for them as well as us……well it wasn’t working out. The sister at the mission expressed interest so they live there now, hopefully being treated ok. She was very proud yesterday when I went to visit as she was cooking them dagaa for breakfast (she doesn’t usually cook at all) and she’ll actually pat them and had me write down their names so she doesn’t forget, so hopefully she genuinely likes dogs.

The rotten-egg fart burps returned a few weeks ago so that was fun. Think that was an ongoing bout of giardiasis from before I returned to Oz but seems to have finally gone. Being sick was a good chance to look around the medical centre and I ended up sitting in the front office window where people come for their medications and to report their diagnosis. There were some surprised faces when people came to my window. The fever was not a high point of my stay and hope I never have that again. Poor me.

A new policeman arrived in town a few weeks ago to oversee the Form 6 exams and has stayed on to work at the station here. I think everyone in the village is aware of his beauty (and as it later turned out, he is also) because when we talk to any of the girls at the sewing group about him they all know exactly who we’re talking about. He was all very gentlemanly when we shamelessly visited him at the station and he was telling us about the job and ‘human lights’ and how he ‘roves human lights’ but a few days later E and I went for drinks with him and a couple of the teachers and turns out he is not so perfect and tried to convince me to plan to be engaged with him and I told him if he could wait 6 years until I am ready then I’d write a contract saying what he would have to do i.e. washing, cleaning and he kindly offered to teach me how to do those things. When I said I knew how, I just didn’t want to do it he said its fine, he’ll get me a house girl. What a charmer. So anyway he is convinced we will get engaged though after a few more drinks he was confused whether he loves me or E.

My Kinyaturu name is going well, people now ask me when the rain will come and are very excited when my predictions are correct or if someone asks for rain and I ask what time they want it at and say I’ll try and it does rain that always goes down well. New career as a weather girl.

Our lovely neighbour, never stops working, came around last week with a ho and dug a hole for our rubbish and tidied up a bit (we’d started a compost heap which was really just a rotten smelly pile of crap in the end) and turns out we are the smelly neighbours and the smell had forced her to take action haha so embarrassing but we told her we are ‘learning Tanzania’ as with the kerosene stoves when we complained they were rubbish and M opened them to discover practically half a tree growing in there. Now I am going to her house some arvos to teach her and a few other people who may pop in some English. One of the girls is one of the girls sponsored by the org. She is lovely. Though in yesterdays lesson on verbs I wrote on the board ‘eatting’ … 2 t’s but thought I’d let it slide so I didn’t look like a complete tool. Don’t realise how much I rely on spell check.

Speaking of tools, E, M and I ploughed our garden last weekend which looks great now and are growing pumpkins, found loads of extra banana trees that were hiding in the huge weeds, plenty of tomatoes and have planted basil, sweet corn and capsicums. After one days work I was blistered and we had sore thighs for several days. Not the ideal Tanzanian housewife but I’m getting there.

Last week we went to the chipsi mayaii stand where there is a bar but we never usually go there to drink as it is quite the lads bar. But finally the 3 of us braved it and it turned into a really good night. Luckily I’d come prepared with my uno cards and that was a hit. We had quite the motley crew of friends including a guy in a shuka therefore named Maasai, a guy they all called Al Quaida and then father Krismasi. I am certain there is one santa hat that is passed around the village and want to start a collection of photos to put together a ‘where’s wally’ style book.
I had a nice weekend by myself and barely left the house. Explored some of the lollies being sold around and stumbled across a chocolate flavoured lolly pop that almost does the trick to keep a craving at bay. Sundays we also have home delivery of mandazi, a kind of donut only less flavoursome but when it’s a snack type food delivered to your door im not going to say no.

That’s about all here, storming most days which is nice, I’m not looking forward to having everything as dry as when I arrived – though washing will be easier and nice not to have clothes/towels smelling of mildew. Planning some travels for Easter and some public holidays so I don’t get too bored being in the one spot. So that’s exciting.

Posted by neerg_08 06:05 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

Titanic Holl

How crazy that it is nearly Christmas! Doesn’t feel like it here except the odd occasion a bar in Singida or the sisters at the social centre decide to put on a carol in Swahili. 11,500+ photo’s and 197 days in. I can’t believe its 4 months since my tour finished!!!

I've enjoyed the past couple of weeks, it has just been L and I and we have really been trying to get out and about and put our Swahili into practise. Some days I go really well, then others I can barely string an English sentence together, let alone Swahili.

The wedding was a good opportunity for this, though the day mostly consisted of “HALLELUJAH!” and “LILILILILILI”. It was really fun. Especially for a dry wedding. We were ushered to our seats of course down the very front, I was next to mother of the bride. Then the wedding party went outside to enter with the bride and groom, and we were included in the wedding party, dancing down the aisle behind the happy couple. Our gifts were perfect apparently and luckily we had been informed of the tradition of dancing up on stage with your gift to present to the couple. The flower girls looked very cute and had amazing wigs (among many on the day, but still not as good as our old man we see who wears a dyed mop head under his hat) they looked like extra members of The Supremes. Witnessed some interesting traditions including ladies throwing themselves on the ground in front of the couple, more handfeeding each other cake, lots of dancing similar to conga lines – fun – and of course we were made to join in with the Maasai jumping. I’m sure we were only encouraged for everyones amusement but that’s ok, we were probably laughing just as much at other things. Still can’t help getting the giggles with the loud & proud belching during meals, mid-sentence. I am still trying to slip the perfect one in. The wedding went for 8 hours and that was even cut short as the power went off and the generator for the music ran out of petrol so we didn’t even get to the after party, where the Sprite would have been flowing. But there was some form of dancing for most of the day and I was exhausted! It was a great day. I must admit we all looked fabulous in our new Tanzanian outfits.

G has been here a couple more times to visit and both times we have bombarded her with questions and things are now finally falling into place. Also the hostel is moving along for opening in the new year, woohooo. We handed out applications and had a meeting with students and guardians last week about how it will be run (community) etc. We are continuing to paint the hostel this week if it stops raining long enough for the walls to dry. I was pretty keen to do some cleaning there too until today when Maria showed us a room students have been using as it wasn’t locked…..there are a few suspicious looking ‘chokito bars’ on the floor and they have been DRAWING ON THE WALLS WITH POO! I got the giggles so bad when everyone was so disgraced by it but I couldn’t stop laughing, so grose it was ridiculous! Laughing again now. Heheehe.

Our house has been fitted with plugs and points for electricity, so now we are just waiting for the electricity company to wire it up. Thanks to the fundi, we have found the infamous rat! (R.I.P) Though when I emailed the photo of it to B and J, they were sure it is a different colour to their visitor.

The sewing group are going really well and have kind of assigned me as embroiderer for the Upendo label that they sew on. So I am not completely useless. We had a girl my age, E, visit last week who is currently working over near the Burundi border for an organisation focusing on crafts. She is coming to focus on the sewing group to develop further craft skills, which is exciting. We all went into Singida on Friday for Tanzania’a 50th Anniversary of Independence celebration. Not many people seemed to be all that bothered about the occasion. I must be great company as a guy trying some chatting up at the bar fell asleep talking to me then vomited on himself haha. We saw him at the end of the night on the floor as the cleaners had nudged him off the chair and table to pack up. And Celine Dion is so hot right now in Singida. Must be because of that new movie ‘Titanic’. I found a section in a shop in Singida with a bunch of Titanic merchandise. Amazing.

I have now written 2 police statements in Tanzania, something I never expected to have to do in another language. One for the camera, for which I was noted down as being a ‘pagan’ then another for an incident involving a man beating his wife, as she came to the house for advice.

Anna, who stays at the organisation's site just out of the village, took L and I to the rocks (probably featured in many of my photos) just out of the village for a day to walk around and the views are amazing! Especially as the purple clouds and lightning roll in in the afternoon. It looks like the set of The Lion King. She showed us rock art from the Stone Age, to be honest, as with most of my other ‘rock art experiences’ over here I didn’t know what I was looking at but just aimed my camera in the general direction. Why does every tree and bush in Tanzania have to have thorns??!

Yesterday we felt the lowest of low when we actually hid under the kitchen table from kids who were Hodi’ing outside. (to enter someones house or yard you say “Hodi” and the resident will say karibu, unless that resident is me). Some days I don’t mind taking a bunch of pictures for them or showing them some pictures and books or whatever but some days…..no.

Had another fun trip home from Singida Saturday evening. Waiting in the rain for over an hour being told yes a car is coming. Then found out the only one still running was across the road being repaired, so we snuck over there to see if we could get a lift. A little unnerving seeing your lift having the pole the wheels are on (sorry I have no knowledge of cars at all) being welded together, and seeing a lot of flames around petrol, I was torn between backing away from a possible explosion and losing a seat therefore spending another night in Singida, or getting to the front of that line of men trying to push on. I chose SEAT!

L and I are going to a Taarab concert in Singida on Saturday night and on Sunday Lydia - the sewing group teacher - is cooking us an early Xmas dinner. The big market is on again today so might head down and see what’s going.

Posted by neerg_08 11:13 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania singida ilongero Comments (0)

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