Monday, 22 October 2012

progress and corruption

I’ve done that thing again where I forget most of what I’ve done over the past week, so I’m sorry if this is a little brief. I really should start writing things down.
The Sunday a week after I was diagnosed with Malaria, I had started to feel really well again. I decided to go and play some football with another volunteer called Aaron. Aaron is from Seattle, and is here with his wife Emily for six months. He’s a big fan of football, and a decent centre back too. We turned up to Soweto, the pitch about fifteen minutes away from where we live, at around 11am. We introduced ourselves to the guys who were already knocking a ball around, and asked if there was a chance that we could get a game. They were happy to have us and after fifteen minutes or so we’d kicked off. I won’t say much about the game because I played pretty shit, and missed three absolute sitters. Oh well.
The following week was going to be a big one in regards to the progress of Mama Mary’s new house. On Monday, I paid out 972,000tsh, which is about four hundred pounds. This paid for the last lorry load of soil, twelve iron bars, twenty pieces of lenter wood, ten grams of nails, twenty bags of cement, and one 6mm iron bar. This was so that by the end of the week, everything would be ready to start the roof. The plan was to have the walls finished by mid-week, then to install iron rods on top of the walls, which are then covered with cement. This is to secure the walls, and to ensure that the roof will be stable.
Come Thursday, the progress they had made was astonishing! The walls were so high I couldn’t believe it. It looked like a million dollar mansion compared to the house that they live in now! They had fitted the iron rods, and were just adding some extra layers of bricks on top. Mama Mary as usual was extremely happy. She’s always inviting me in the house, but most of the time I have to tell her that I needed at the school too (which I am). I usually go and visit them on the weekends, it’s a lot easier and means that I get to spend a bit more time with them. That afternoon, I was invited around to a friend’s house. Jenifer, a Tanzania girl, works at Empire, which is the bar that I go to most nights. I know her from last year, and we stayed in contact whilst I was away. She’s really nice, very pretty, and also very funny. Her facial expressions are great.  A lot of Tanzania people (especially women) make noises to express how they are feeling, clicks of their tongues or just strange sounds. I haven’t met any who do it as much as Jenifer, and it really makes me laugh. She cooked me Chaga food for lunch. Chaga is a tribe from just outside of Arusha, and Jenifer’s mother is part of this tribe. Jenifer left the tribe to ‘get a real life’. Chaga food is made with green bananas, beef, and vegetables and is served as a stew. It was actually really, really nice. One of the best Tanzania meals I’ve ever had. After lunch, we chatted a bit. I had to explain to her how there were lots of black people in England, but that there weren’t any tribes. She found it hard to get her head around that one! Then one of her elder brothers came around. I’ve forgotten his name, but he seemed like a pretty nice guy. He pulled out a couple of smalls bags from his rucksack and emptied the contents on to the floor. I was amazed when I saw what was inside them. Inside were lots of different minerals found in Tanzania. He had Tanzanite, Emeralds, and a few others which I’ve forgotten the name of. I wanted to buy some of the emerald off of him, but he told me that for a really small piece, it was about 100,000tsh, that’s about forty quid! I wasn’t prepared to pay that much. He must be doing alright for himself though!
On Friday, I had to pay out some more money towards the house. This was to pay for all of the materials needed to complete the roof. I paid out around another four hundred pounds. I was late in getting the money to the builder that day, as I had a nightmare finding an ATM in the city which was working. Eventually I had to call one of my taxi drivers to come and find me, and take me across the other side of the city to the big Barclays bank. Getting the money to Kiara late, meant that no work was done that day, and they would start on the roof on Sunday. I wasn’t too bothered to be honest as I wasn’t sure if I was going away that weekend or not. A couple of people in the house had planned to go to Pangani, a beach resort about eight hours east of Arusha. I decided not to in the end, as I had quite a few things to sort out! That evening, Jennica, Grace and I decided to go and eat out. We went to Maasai café, which is the best place to get a pizza in Arusha. It was nice for us to go out together. Things between me and Grace haven’t been so good over the past two weeks, because of an argument over a chicken. We have a chicken that roams around the garden and even sometimes comes in the house, which does nothing useful, and just shits everywhere. I proposed that we chop it’s head off and give the meat to somebody who needs it, or even take it to the chicken coup at Golgotha. Grace wasn’t happy about it as she’s become attached to the chicken. She was crying about it, which I thought was pathetic, and I said a couple of things which were a bit out of order. Heat of the moment sort of thing. But since then I’ve apologised over the matter, and decided to leave the chicken alone. It still annoys me, but I’d rather be friends with Grace. It took ages for our Pizza’s to come, and as per usual in Tanzania the service was shit. I tried not to get annoyed and waited as patiently as I could for the food. It was worth the wait, the pizza was amazing, but I ate it too quickly. When we went to Empire afterwards, after a couple of beers my indigestion was so bad that I just wanted to go home. They were both cool with it, so we went and chilled back at the house.
On Saturday I had a few things to sort out. I had to look into flying to Uganda for the following weekend, where I was planning on going Gorilla trekking with a couple of house mates. Flights weren’t too bad, but yesterday I found out that the overall cost for the trek was way too much and exceeded my budget, so I backed out. I’m still going to go and do some white water rafting though which will be pretty exciting! I visited Mama Mary on Saturday afternoon, and went down with Jennica and Harriet. Harriet is from the UK, and has just finishing studying an engineering degree at Bristol Uni. She’s absolutely lovely, and we get along well. One of her close friends is a sister of Lucy Cottee. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Lucy before, she has a lot to do with Golgotha and is one of the people who set up the sponsorship program for the UK. It’s nice to have a friend of a friend in the house! The visit was lovely as usual, we sat around for an hour or so, taking pictures, and playing with the kids. The children love taking pictures with the cameras, I have to remind them to be really careful each time though, as some of them are pretty expensive! We got some lovely pictures, and one really great one of me and Mama Mary sitting on her almost complete new doorstep! I decided that I would buy Mama Mary some food for the week so we went along to the shop together. Harriet was getting touched up by some guy clearly high on glue, so I stood up to him and told him to do one. It didn’t do much good, but when Mama Mary stepped in and shouted at him, he cleared off pretty quick. It was pretty funny. I bought them 5kg’s of rice, 5kg’s of flour and a few kilo’s of beans, which should keep them going for a week or so. Jenny chipped in 10,000tsh which was nice of her! Soon after that we headed home, I was pretty tired when we got back, but when Grace invited me and Jen to a nearby bar to meet her new Maasai friend, I felt like I could do with a beer or two. Meeting her friend was nice. His name is Nick, and I think he’s in his late twenties. He’s a miner, and deals with Tanzanite and Emerald stones, just like Jenifer’s brother. We chatted for a while, and then me and Jen decided to go home. We left Grace and Nick together! They were already pretty comfortable together, and it made me happy to see Grace happy around him!
I didn’t get much sleep that night thanks to Jen who couldn’t sleep, and decided not to let me sleep either, so when it came to playing football the morning afterwards, I was completely knackered. I played worse than the week before, and by the time we were 6-1 down, I subbed myself off and decided to go home. A lot of people from the house were away on trips this weekend, Matt is climbing Kilimanjaro, a few others were on Safari, some were doing Kilimanjaro base climb, and Kristin and Lindsay had gone to Pangani. This meant that it was nice and quiet, and really easy to just relax. Aaron and Emily came over, I sat and chatted with them for a bit before I needed to have a nap. When I woke up it had started to get dark, Aaron and Emily were just leaving, and Grace had already left to go and meet Nick again.
Today I couldn’t get up until late, so I texted one of the teachers at school to say I had a lot of things to do and that I would be in later that morning. I got to school at about eleven. One of the first things I noticed was that there weren’t many kids there. I asked Samson, who was teaching the elder class, where all of the kids were. He told me that they had all been sent home because of not being able to pay school fees, which include travel on the school bus, and money towards firewood for the school. I asked him if kids who were sponsored had been sent home to, and he said yes. I was a bit confused, because the children who are sponsored, aren’t supposed to have to pay anything towards the school at all. He was clearly concerned about what was going on, as have the teachers and volunteers for the past few months. The problem has arisen that a lot of the sponsorship money isn’t getting to the children, and isn’t being accounted for. Samson kindly gave me a list of exactly which children are sponsored and were sent home in the morning. I then asked Vicki, the co-director and part of the management team at the school to write me a list of exactly who was sent home in the morning. Conveniently, none of the sponsored children who had been sent home were on the list. I asked her where they were, and was told that they were sick. I then asked that why when I ask my class where Ramla is (who is sponsored), they tell me that she’s gone home because she can’t pay fees. They came up with another excuse. Something along the lines of the children just assuming that they couldn’t pay fees because others had been sent home for that exact reason. I am an honest person, and I hate it when I’m lied to. It really pissed me off. I spoke to Lucy and Cassie about it, and told them that I would follow it up tomorrow. I’m planning on getting all of the twelve or fifteen odd kids who were apparently sick today in the office, and asking them in front of management whether they were sick, or sent home because of school fees. If they say school fees, then I’m pretty sure that all sponsorship money from abroad will come to an end. It’s obviously not what any of us want. But we sure as hell don’t want the money going into our directors and his wives pockets either! 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

saturday, sunday, malaria

So Saturday and Sunday were both pretty interesting, both in very different ways. The rest of this week has been pretty boring as I’ve spent all of it at home!
On Saturday morning I decided that I was going to go to the football ground and see if there were any locals playing. As I was about to leave, I told Kristen (a girl from Konnecticut who’s mad about football) that I was going. She ditched her plans to go have brunch with people at a cafe in town and came along with me. We walked a different way than usual towards the main road. We spoke about each other’s plans, and what we’ve achieved so far. She told me something very interesting about a program set up recently in the states. It’s especially for people who don’t want to or chose not to go to university. This program grants you $100,000 USD, to go and set up your own business, charity, organisation etc. As long as you can prove you are a good candidate, have a clear idea of what you want to do, and can back it up with paperwork then you can get this money for free and you never have to pay it back. I’m going to look into it very closely. With my experiences in the past two years from travelling, working and after I have built this house, I might be able to apply. I think I’d use it to set up a charity which builds houses for poor people in Tanzania, or set up a proper business in South America. Don’t want to get too ahead of myself though, I haven’t even googled this dude yet, infact, I’ve forgotten his name. ANYWAY, after stopping at the supermarket and getting some Samosas, we got there at about 10 45. Last year, at this time on a Saturday, the place would have been full of locals wanting a match. This year it’s changed a bit unfortunately. There was one guy sitting behind the goal with his boots in his lap, and then a crowd of people in the distance. We approached, but as we got closer, it turned out that they were all children. I spoke to the coach and he said that nobody plays on Saturdays anymore, only Sundays. Annoying. Kristen and I decided to walk to Africafe to meet the others where they were getting brunch.
On the way we spoke mainly about Breaking Bad and how amazing the fourth season was. Neither of us have seen the fifth one yet, and we were trying to work out what happens in it. It took us a good half an hour to get to the café, with a guy called Freddie pestering us most of the way, wanting us to buy his paintings. When we arrived, the others from the house had only just arrived too, which was lucky. We were worried that we would miss them. We changed tables about three times which really annoyed me. I was also wearing football socks, Italy shorts, and a Liverpool top so I looked like a right twat. We ordered, ate and chatted. I had a BLT. It was alright, but wasn’t enough so I had to get some chips aswell. I had asked Jennica the day before if she had wanted to go and meet Mama Mary, she said yeah but I double checked at the meal. She was still up for it which was cool, and seemed pretty excited about it too. I asked if anybody else would like to come along, Nadja said she would which was great. We headed down to friends corner and jumped on a Dalla towards Swahilini. When we got there, Jennica and Nadja said they would like to buy something for Mama before they arrived. They bought some rice and a big bar of soap. When we got to the house, some of the daughters were around, including Francisca and Vicki, but there was no sign of Mama or Agripina. I asked where she was, they said that she had gone to church, but it wouldn’t be too long until she got back. We waited around. I showed Jennica the build so far, and where the bedrooms would be etc. It was nice to see the house coming along and to be able to show it to other people!
It was lovely when Mama arrived. She hugged us, thanked us, and invited us inside. There were loads of other kids from around the village hanging about. Mama Mary shouted at a few of them and told them to give us some room, they did for a bit, but all came back eventually. We sat and just chatted among ourselves for a bit. It was nice, as always, not much understanding between us and the family, but we manage. I’ve started taking the piss out of the way Mama Mary she says stuff, it’s hard to explain in writing but ask me and I’ll do the impression. Then I got the kids doing a bit of singing, it was wicked. We did most of the songs that we usually do in school, plus a few others that I’ve been getting them to do. Stuff like, saying ‘Aggy Aggy Aggy’ and they say ‘OI OI OI’. I do it with all of the kid’s names in the class when they get something right on the board. They love it. It’s a bit unconventional and I’m pretty sure some of the teachers don’t agree with it but oh well. It makes them smile, that’s all I give a shit about. We messed around with cameras and video cameras too. I think Jennica filmed quite a lot of it, because she left the memory card for her normal camera at home. What a muppet. The kids love taking pictures, and they find it so funny when they see their own faces on the digital screen. We must have been there for a good hour and a half before the food came out. We had told Mama that we had already eaten lunch and that we could only possibly eat a small portion. They brought in a humungous bowl of rice and beans and put it on the bottom of a bucket in front of us. There were about seven or eight spoons hanging out of the side of it, which made all of us feel a little less concerned! It was so hot that I burnt my mouth on my first mouthful, everybody laughed at me. Mama Mary was going ‘Oooooo pole sana, pole sana, pole sana baba’. I think it means ‘I’m so sorry my Son’ but I’m not sure. I always tell her that she’s my second Mum, she loves it. Cassie told me a while back that she had always wanted a son. It comes in handy in this culture, to have somebody more likely to make more money for the family. It would all be so much easier for her if the Dad had stuck around and wasn’t a drunk, but oh well. We finished off a second portion, just about, and sat there, completely stuffed. It had gotten to about half three in the afternoon so we decided to call it a day. We said our goodbye’s, and then walked towards the Dalla. The children came with us as usual, and Mama Mary walked about half of the way. Jennica and Nadja seemed really happy, and said it had been the best day for them so far.
 On the way home, and on our way to catch the second Dalla, we walked past the football stadium. There was some music playing, and a game on, too. I asked if we could go inside to watch, and I wanted to find out if I could play a bit. They weren’t too sure but told me to go and ask somebody on the sideline. I spoke to the guy and he said that I might be able to and that I just needed to wait until half time. I asked him what the game was for. He told me that it was a fundraiser for a local school. I headed back to Jenny and Nadja who I’d left at the gate. We decided to go in. It costs us 3,000tsh each which really isn’t much, about a quid. We sat up in the stands and watched the game. One team were clearly better than the others, and were just all over them. They scored a couple of good goals, but it was so one sided that it was boring. Half time came around, so I headed towards the side line and asked if I could play for a bit. They were more than happy to have me play. The team was pretty young, there were some kids in there who must have only been about thirteen or something. I swapped shirts with one kid and then headed onto the pitch. The other team kicked off, and scored straight away. Pretty annoying. I got a few touches, made a few decent passes, and got forward a bit, too. But every time we lost the ball, our defence was so unorganised and tired out that they just walked it into our goal. Their keeper was so up his own arse that when we kicked off he was standing half way up the pitch. I told the guys to kick off, and that I would try and lob him from the half way line. The keeper didn’t clock on. The laid it back to me, I took one touch, and gave it a good old hoof. It bounced about a yard wide of the goal, I was gutted. But my effort was recognised and appreciated by both teams. The game finished, don’t want to mention the score. I had a picture taken with the team. I was pretty out of breath, been smoking too much. I headed back into the stands to sit with Jenny and Nadja. We hung around for a bit, watched the kids do a little theatre production, and then headed home. It had been a really nice day. I was really up the night too.
We decided to go to Empire. Pretty much everybody was there from the other volunteer house, too. I ended up getting completely hammered. You could tell just by looking at my eyes that I wasn’t really too sure what was going on, I could hardly speak either. Too much tequila. Beer, tequila and rum, doesn’t go. Matt (who is the guy that I’ve been sharing the room with) and I decided to get Boda’s home. I took Jenny on the back and he took Kristen. It was so much fun. We thought about doing it last night, but when you’re sober, it doesn’t seem like so much of a good idea. They are so dangerous. Fall off of one of those without a helmet and you’re fucked. Or they will drive you into the middle of nowhere and rob you, whichever you prefer really. I passed out on the sofa. When I woke up I was feeling rotten.
That morning we were heading to Tinga Tinga. Which is an area inhabited by the Maasai, about a three hour drive out of Arusha. Zaci, who is our guard, is a Maasai warrior. He was taking us that day to visit his family. We hired a driver to take us there and back for the day. It didn’t cost much which was good. I was feeling so rough when I got in the car, but it was self-inflicted so I tried to stomach it. We pulled into a garage to fill up on fuel. I decided that I needed to throw up so I went around the corner and chucked up everywhere, even on my shoes. It was all just liquid so I figured I’d got all of last night’s booze out of me. I felt so much better afterwards and walked towards the car with a smile on my face. I started feeling rough again about fifteen minutes later. We’d just got out of Arusha and onto the main road, and I needed to vomit again. I got out quickly and did my thing. Similar story, all liquid, horrible though. I questioned then what was going on. I never usually throw up from drinking, especially not the next day. So twice was unusual for me. Fifteen minutes later, it happened again, worse this time. I was bringing up bile and food from the day before too, something wasn’t right. I thought about calling a TVE, or a taxi, and going home right then. But I decided to man it up and carry on, I wanted to see Zaci’s village, and I wanted to see them slaughter a goat! But it just got worse, I threw another two times on the way. We stopped at a shop where I tried to drink a soda water to see if I could stomach it. I ended up having to lie down outside the shop. Almost unable to move, and feeling so sick I couldn’t think about going any further. But we’d come so far, and we were only a few minutes off the road which leads us to Tinga Tinga, so I decided to carry on. Kim and Grace were laughing at me, telling me to ‘man up’ and that it was only a hangover. I knew something else was going on but I tried to ignore it. The bumpy road to Tinga Tinga was nightmarish. I had started to feel dizzy, and I was getting really worried about staying hydrated. Everything I was drinking was coming back up, and we were driving into the middle of nowhere.
 When we arrived, I couldn’t get out of the car, so I tried to stay in there and sleep. It got too hot, and I was struggling to breath. Sweating out, I left the car and found some shade next to a local’s house. I sat there for a few minutes. Grace, Kim and Kristen sounded like they were having a good time, I could hear them laughing in the distance. Jenny however, wasn’t. She was worried about me and came over to make sure I was okay. I threw up again behind a big cement thing which I think was there to hold water. My vision started to go blurry, my legs started aching, I was panting heavily trying to get air, and I began to become seriously concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make it home. I was scared that I was going to die. Where I was, was the last place in the world that I could ever think of being that sick. Jennica stayed with me for most of the time, but I told her to go and enjoy herself and that I would be fine. She headed off. Zaci came to me every five minutes to check on me, and would say ‘pole sana’, over and over. That means, ‘I’m so sorry’. Whenever you’re sick in Tanzania, or even have an injury, locals will come up to you and say this. It’s a lovely part of the culture. I asked the driver when we would be leaving, he said in about half an hour. I was deteriorating quickly, and needed to get out of there. Eventually, after about another hour, and having to organise paying the village for letting us visit (which nobody expected), we were back on the road. I threw up about twenty minutes later, again. Then I managed to fall asleep.
When I woke up we were on the main road and back in Arusha. I told the driver that I needed to go straight to the hospital. Kim and Grace, still mocking me and calling it a bad hangover, asked if I should go home to try and sleep it off first. I wanted to kill both of them, or atleast tell them to fuck off. But I didn’t have enough energy too. The driver made a few calls to the TVE staff to arrange which hospital to go to, and after about twenty minutes we had arrived. I paid my share for the driver, and headed inside to the hospital. I got to see a doctor within about half an hour. I led down in the waiting area most of the time, and when I had to stand up the pain was pretty intense. My back and legs were killing me, especially my knees. I thought to myself that I might just be dehydrated, and that playing football the day before and sleeping in the car could explain for the sore back and legs. When I saw the doctor he sent me for a blood test. He pricked my finger with a sharp blade and took a couple of samples. I led down outside again. Jennica stayed with me the whole time, she even sorted out paying for things for me. I couldn’t do anything. I’d been thinking for the past few hours that I might have Malaria, but I was trying to dismiss it as I know how dangerous it can be. Well, it can be fatal. Before I got to see the doctor again, Nancy, my house manager arrived with our favourite taxi driver, Vallent. She said straight away that I looked like I had malaria and my symptoms were pretty standard. We waited for quite a while, I went to the toilet and dry reached a couple of times, there was nothing left in my stomach. Finally we got to see the doctor. He flicked through the blood test results and said in a typical African accent, ‘O my friend you have Malaria, I’m so sorry’. It was an odd feeling when he told me this, a mix of relief because I knew that I would be treated, but also fear of what was going to happen. I walked outside, hugged Jennica and told her that it was Malaria. I had to lie down again, so Nancy sorted out my medication for me. I had to get two injections there, one anti sickness and one anti-malarial. She put both in one and stuck it in my arse, it fucking hurt. I hobbled out and got in the taxi to go home. Oh yeah I forgot to mention. The Malaria that I had was number six. Which is really high, and the fact that I was able to walk was pretty impressive. Nancy said how she had number four and had to spend four days in hospital. They gave me four more shots, and some needles. We arranged to have Emily, a nurse who is volunteering here, to give me them every evening.
When I got home I told Kim and Grace that I had malaria and their faces sank, it was funny, but I couldn’t laugh. The other housemates were all pretty shocked, and I know that a few of them called their parents to express their concerns about getting it themselves. It scared a lot of them. Especially one girl called Sarah, she decided to leave a week early a few days after I got diagnosed. I went to bed. I was sweating buckets, and still breathing really heavily. I had stopped feeling sick though which was a result. Jennica chilled in bed with me, and just stroked my back for a bit. I got up and walked into the front room, and tried to eat some food. I think I managed a banana but couldn’t eat anything else. I fell asleep soon after. That night was rough, I woke up with sever shakes in the middle of the night and couldn’t stop for about an hour.
The next morning it took me a lot of effort to even sit up in bed, my breathing was as if I’d just ran five k’s. Jennica asked Nancy if she could stay home and look after me for the day. I really appreciated it, she’s such a sweet heart. It made me feel so much better to have somebody around. I was feeling ok, but my fever kept coming in waves. Unfortunately, later that afternoon, Jenny started to feel ill herself. She was throwing up violently upstairs, and was taken into hospital with Nancy an hour later. I wish I could have gone with her but I was still too sick. That night was pretty rough, similar story as the night before, and my stomach had started to feel a little dodgy. When I woke up that morning, I shat myself. Sorry to tell you all but I think it’s best that you know the details! I had to throw my shorts and boxers away, and get in the shower. After that I was exhausted. I was on the toilet for a while longer. Then I took my morning medications, and went back to bed. Stomach still churning, I was worried that the morning’s problems were going to repeat themselves. I slept for a few hours. The rest of the day was a bit of a haze, but after taking some immodium, and getting my malaria shot that evening, I decided that I felt well enough to go and see Jennica in hospital. She was still there, and was going to be staying that night, too. Vallent took me in the taxi, I told him to wait for me and that I’d be about an hour.
 When I saw Jenny I was pretty worried about her straight away. Her skin was a yellowish colour, and she had been throwing up all night. She was really weak, and when I walked her to the reception to speak to her mum on the phone, she could hardly walk. I asked the nurse if they’d checked anything for the yellow skin, and she said that they had run blood tests and everything looked normal. I wasn’t convinced. The hospital wasn’t nice, it was dirty, and all of the equipment was ancient. I lay down with Jenny for a while, just to try and comfort her. She was smiling which was good, I think my visit did her a bit of good. I asked her if she wanted me to stay the night, but she said no. I don’t think she wanted me to see her throwing up in the night, and I needed to rest properly, too. I got my mum to call me on my way home, and I chatted to her about how worried I was about Jennica. She said that she would speak to some of her friends in the medical field and get them to call me to help me try and figure out what was wrong with her. I knew that yellow skin was never a good thing, and that it usually meant kidney or liver failure. Serious stuff.
Jennica came home the next day. After a few hours of her still not feeling good, and when she told me that she’d had a dodgy pee, I knew that it might be best to take her to a better hospital. Nancy took us to the Aga Khan, which I’m not sure I’ve spelt right. Aga Khan is a big hospital in Nairobi, and a university, too. They have a small hospital here in Arusha which is really new. She got treated much better there. Emily, the nurse came along too and made sure that everything was going the way that it should. I was feeling much better by this point too, still not ready to go out and doing anything tiring, but I had no symptoms anymore. After a few hours, we went home. Jennica and Nancy went home, and I went to the other volunteer house because it was social night. I chatted to people there, ate a bit of food, and then went home.
The next day Jen was getting pains in her side so she went back to the hospital. She was back soon after, and had just been told to stay hydrated properly. That evening I went to watch the England game at empire, but I didn’t drink anything. I went out last night, but only had a few beers. Quite a few other people had been sick in the week too, and the ones that were eventually feeling better got pretty smashed. Jen and I left early and came home to watch a couple of movies. The others came back pretty late and were really loud. Matt wanted to smoke a joint, so I rolled him one and left them to it. We had a bit of a scare when they were arriving home, two of the boda’s had split up from the rest of them and hadn’t arrived yet. I tried to call Lindsay’s phone, some dude picked up, which made us all freak out a bit. They turned up eventually. Apparently their drivers didn’t know where they were going and got lost. Panic over. I went to bed around three, I was wide awake and it took me a while to get to sleep.
Today, Sunday, I went and played football at Soweto, which I did a lot of last year. Aaron, an American volunteer from a home stay came along with me. He loves football and is a pretty decent centre back too. I played about eighty minutes, missed three sitters, but got one assist. Next week I’ll score.
I forgot to mention that Jennica got diagnosed properly in the end. She had a Hep A infection, which caused the severe fever and yellowness of the skin, too. She’s much better now, but isn’t allowed to drink any alcohol for another six months. Bummer. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

first week

Last thing I spoke about was seeing Mama Mary for the first time. That was a pretty good day, not many have been that good so far. Things are going good, but it’s been pretty stressful. Imagine the amount of bitching that would go on with 45 girls who don’t really know each other and then three boys, chaos.
On Monday it was orientation. That’s where all of the new volunteers get together, and are formally introduced to the organisation and the staff. It’s basically a load of boring crap that I’ve pretty much done before. I sat around for an hour or so, it was just me and about twenty other girls. After a while, I asked Angella, the TVE director if I could just sign the papers which I needed to and then leave to go to Golgotha. She was cool about it and I got out of there pretty quickly. I got on the Dalla and headed towards the school.
I was really excited when I was on my way. I wondered if the kids would remember me, and hoped that I could remember a bunch of their names too. When I arrived most of the kids were in class. As I walked passed I peeked my head through the windows. I heard some gasps, and kids murmuring ‘teacher Zaci’. I opened the door of the class that I used to teach and the kids went crazy. They all ran up to me and gave me a huge hug, shouting and laughing. It was wicked, I felt so happy again. I told them to all sit down and then went to see Stevie in the manager’s office. There were a few papers that I had to sign. He walked me around the school, introducing me to the classes again. He’s a very nice man, who I have a lot of respect for. He complemented me on the work that I was doing for Mama Mary and said that he and everybody in the village are grateful. I feel like a celeb now when I walk through, it’s pretty cool. Most of the kids remember my name, and I feel really bad when they ask me what theirs is and I’ve forgotten. There are too many! I think they like me because I mess around a lot, I’m a child at heart and it comes out when I’m with kids. I burp, make fart noises with my armpit, put cockroaches in my mouth and so on.
 There have been a few additions to the school since last year. They have a new block of toilets, a chicken coup, a new library thanks to the amazing and admirable Lucy Cottee, and a new climbing frame made from tyres. I don’t see many of the kids climbing on it though which is a shame. There is some new staff too. Teacher Eliza, who I worked alongside last year, is no longer there. She was sacked over a controversial matter, where she apparently stole credit off of a volunteer’s phone. In Tanzania, if you have credit on yours, you can text some over to somebody else’s. Anyway, it turned out that she was framed by another teacher called Joseph. I never liked him when I was there last, he would always ask me for money and to buy him water. He earns enough as a teacher to buy that for himself. There are three new teachers. Samson, who teaches class two (who I taught last year), and who seems like a really nice guy, Asa, who teachers the eldest class, also a nice guy, and then Neepa. Neepa teaches one of the younger classes, mainly class one. I like her but she beat a girl the other day with a stick because she didn’t have her book. The poor girl was crying her eyes out and screaming. I left my class to nurse her for a bit and get her to stop crying, poor thing. It’s hard to discipline children here when they are so used to getting a beating for small things like that. I couldn’t get my class to shut up the other day and Asa said, ‘just beat them with a cane, then they will stop’. That’s not my thing though, I think it’s out of order. It takes me a while but after getting a few kids to stand in the corner and a lot of shouting, they do keep quiet.
There are some problems at the school at the moment. Most of it is to do with sponsorship money not getting to the right places, and the teachers claiming that they are not being paid properly. I don’t know what to believe, but I’m trying to stay out of it as much as possible. That’s not what I am here for. Cassie, a volunteer from the states is trying to get everything sorted. Her hearts in the right place but I think she finds it hard to appreciate the African culture and how things work over here. Not everything/anything goes smoothly here. I think if she’s not careful she is going to cause a big and uncomfortable divide between the manager’s at the school and the teachers/volunteers. Enough said about that. I find it hard to write about as I have no interested in it.
The same day, I met with the builder who will be running the house project. We didn’t speak about anything properly, just that I had the money and that I would speak to him tomorrow about figures. I headed home at around two thirty with Alicia, a volunteer from a different company, Shelley and Cassie. I didn’t do much that evening, I’m pretty sure I just chilled at home.
Tuesday was a little more productive. I met the builder in the morning at the school. I sat with him and Elius and we spoke about figures. I told him that I only had five million shillings, and that I needed it doing with this amount. He wasn’t convinced that he would be able to do it, but he said he would try. We went through ways of cutting costs. I decided that I would get Mama Mary and her neighbours to collect water from the river and bring it to the site instead of buying it in bulk. I also explained that I would help out on site as much as I could, which would save labour costs. After we finished discussing, he told me to come along to the site so he could have another look. When I got there the builders had already started! I was so surprised. They had only started cultivating the soil to prepare for the foundations the next day, but it was still great to see. Mama Mary was ecstatic, too. I agreed to pay the builder one million shillings in the morning, so that he could pay for the materials being delivered the next day. The money paid for a huge pile of sand, concrete and rocks. The concrete and rocks were just for the foundations, and the sand is going to be used throughout the build. I went back to the school and did a few hours of teaching. Then I headed home. I didn’t do much that evening, just chatted with Jennica, Grace and Kim, and smoked too many cigarettes.
On Wednesday morning I met with Elius in town where there was an ATM. I didn’t feel comfortable taking so much money with me through town and then on the Dalla. But I’ve done it since. I split it up between my travel pouch, bag and in my shoes. Just so that if one thing gets stolen, at least I don’t lose all of my money. I took the money out of the ATM and then drove to the school with Elius. We spoke briefly on the way about the situation with Golgotha at the moment. I won’t go into it. But what I will say is that Elius is a business man and I respect that. Business’ need cash flow. So if some money sent over goes into the cash flow, that’s no problem with me. Wherever it goes, it’s making the school a better place in the end. I met the builder and paid the money that I owed him. We walked to the site, they had made a lot of progress. All of the materials had arrived, and they had the dug the foundations out too. They were starting to fill them with cement, I gave them a hand for a couple of hours. It was nice to get involved. All of the builders and mothers kept saying ‘pole’, which means sorry, because I was getting so dirty. It was pretty funny, and kind of them too, but I didn’t give a shit, I was having a great time. Then suddenly my stomach took a turn for the worse. I won’t go into too much detail but I nearly shat myself on the Dalla back to the city. Arse clenched so tight and breathing in and out really heavily, I managed to make it to Friends Corner where I met a taxi driver who I know so he could rush me home. The visit to the toilet was less than pleasant, and I was feeling pretty rough for a while afterwards, too. I took some immodium, ate some food and drank plenty of water. I felt loads better after that. A good thing too, because I was going to Karaoke that night. A few things got said to me that evening which pissed me off a bit and it wasn’t the best night I’d ever had. There’s a rumour going around that I slept with eight girls last year and caused two of them to leave the volunteer house because I messed them around? All a bunch of crap and I have no idea where it’s come from either. Nobody that’s here now was here last year so I’m a bit confused about it. I think I’ve straightened it out though, I just told a few people exactly what happened last year, and I am hoping that will pass through the whole group. When you have people you’ve never met staring at you like you’re a complete wanker, it can get annoying. If they were boys then I would have had a few fights so far. I’m cool about it now though, it’s a silly thing to get wound up about. Very childish, and I think that some of the other volunteers really need to grow up.
I was pretty hung over when I got woken up by Nancy (the house manager) on Thursday. I told her that I didn’t need to go to placement until later today as I’d arranged with them that some days I would teach, and some days I would help build or just help to organise things. She explained that Grace, didn’t know how to get there so I needed to go with her. I was cool with that, and got up pretty quickly. Ten minutes later, Grace decided that her knees hurt or some shit and that she didn’t want to come. She already missed the day before and to miss two days in your first week really doesn’t leave a good impression. Oh well, no my problem to deal with. I went to the orphanage anyway. My hang over was worse by the time that I got there. I went straight to baby class, laid down on the mats and fell asleep for two hours. All the kids just chilled on top or beside me, it was nice. When I woke up the builder was there again and I had to pay him some more money. It was another one million, for more materials, mainly the stones for the walls. I was already pretty stressed that day and wasn’t very happy when I saw the estimation had gone up by another million. I sat with Elius and discussed ways to cut costs again, we managed to get it down a little but it was still more expensive than I had hoped. It doesn’t really matter though, I still have plenty of money to get it done and looking all nice. I also I have enough to climb Kilimanjaro, which I’m going to do in a couple of weeks. Should have plenty left over still for Gorilla trekking in Uganda, and going to Zanzibar again.
The same day the teachers had a meeting. All of them sat in the office, along with Cassie and Shelley to discuss the current issues. I sat out, as I said before, I don’t want to get involved in any politics. Alicia, her friend Rachel who was visiting for the day and I were left with 250 kids running riot. It was chaos, and we couldn’t get any of them to do what we wanted because they knew the teachers were in the meeting. It stressed me out. I realised that I hadn’t had a cigarette since 8am and that probably wasn’t helping either. I left pretty soon after the meeting had finished. I got home and vented a bit to housemates, then ended up going to sleep fairly early.
Friday was a great day. There had been a huge amount of progress on the house, and by the end of the day it was really taking shape. Two of the walls were nearly finished, and you could see exactly where everything was going to be. I’m so happy that it’s coming along the way that it is. I did a few hours of teaching at the school, then on the way home, I visited Zulfa and her mum at their home. Last year I went along with Matt, who was a Canadian volunteer. She fed us two huge portions of rice and beans, both of us could hardly walk afterwards. It was lovely to see Zulfa’s mother again, she’s lovely and such a good host. We sat and chatted whilst she prepared food. Zulfa played around with my camera a lot, she loves taking pictures. Before the food came, I was already offered two bananas. It’s rude to say no and I like banana’s so I ate them. When the meal came, I nearly choked. I huge mound of maze and beans, with some green peppers and garlic in there too. It tasted amazing, but it was just way too much. I finished it regardless. It was traumatic though, I thought I was going to throw up a few times. That would have gone down well! Zulfa’s mother tried to explain the situation of her own mother. She was saying that she lives in the Kilimanjaro region and has lost both of her legs. I tried to explain that I wasn’t sure if there was much that I could do. I knew I might be able to do something but I didn’t want to let on. I told her that I would bring Elius to her house on Monday, where he could translate properly, and work out some way to help Zulfa’s grandmother. If I could just buy her a wheelchair or something then there’s no hassle. It just depends what the ground is like where she lives, because if it’s really bumpy and full of pot holes, I’m not sure that there’s much point. I’ll let you know what happens.
I went out Friday night and got pretty hammered at empire, I spent too much money on rum and cokes and tequilas. It was fun though, and I had a good run on the pool table which always makes the night a better one. When we got home we were pretty drunk and woke a few people up in the house. I don’t know what they expect really, it’s a Friday night and we’re all in early twenties or so. Oh well, same will happen again tonight, let’s hope nobody gets too pissed off!
I’ve written this in a real rush, so please excuse the grammatical errors and probably spelling ones, too! I had another great day today but I will tell you more about that next time. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Meeting Mama Mary

Along with Grace, I’ve become quite close friends with a girl called Jennica, I think that’s how you spell it. She’s from Vancouver, Canada. I feel sorry for her because she hasn’t been feeling very well ever since she arrived here. I’m not sure whether she’s got a bug, or if it’s just her adapting to a new environment, and possibly a bit of jet lag too. Who knows? I just hope she starts feeling better soon. We share quite a lot in common, and have chatted a lot. We watched Requiem for a Dream last night with some other housemates, I really didn’t enjoy it. It was too full on. We spoke later on about how her Grandma had been sick last year, and I told her about how mine is struggling too.  Her dad makes documentaries. I’ve been filming a bit of what I’ve been doing so far. Well, only just meeting Mama Mary to be honest. But hopefully, I can get a script/plan together, and get some good footage, and once I’m home, make a mini documentary and possibly send it off to a few people.

We went out on Saturday night. It took everybody a while to get ready and I don’t think we left until about half past ten. We went to Empire, which was the bar I was in earlier on in the day watching the football. I know most of the staff there from hanging out so much last year, so it’s always a nice environment for me. There’s a pool table, and there was a crap band playing some crap covers too. Oh well, me and Grace drank a few beers, Jennica didn’t feel well enough to drink. I played a couple of games of pool. It is winner stays on, and there are always quite a lot of guys surrounding, watching, and jeering. It’s always nice beating a local, because all of the others take the piss out of them for getting beaten by a white guy. I got cheated out a couple of games later, and wasn’t too happy about it. But couldn’t be bothered saying anything. I chatted to a girl called Catherine from Boston, and then another from Gurnsey called Becki. There was a Swedish girl there too called Nadia, she’s really cool. I like the way she dressed, and her hair is amazing. We had a couple of tequila shots each, and then I was drunk. We danced for an hour or so. After a few more beers, it was time to call it a night. Grace and I couldn’t be bothered to pay for a taxi so we got on a boda-boda. That’s a motorbike taxi. The company who I’m volunteering for get pretty annoyed when the volunteers use these, they are notoriously a bit sketchy, especially at night. But we got home safe, and had a great time. Then I passed out in bed.

The next day I woke up pretty early, and I was hungover. I headed out to try and sweat it out. I walked to the volunteer house which I stayed in last year, hoping to find Prisca there. She is one of the housemaids who I really liked last year. I bought her some heat packs for her back because it’s always bad. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there. I walked back and got ready to go and meet Cassie before I headed to see Mama Mary. I packed my video camera and got to grips with how it worked. I called Cassie and said I would meet her in town. I met her at friend’s corner, where the Dalla (the public) transport leaves from to go down to Swahilini, which is where they live. I had to wait for about ten or fifteen minutes before Cassie turned up. It’s not a particularly safe area around there, so I kept changing places, and made sure I had my bag against a wall most of the time. It was the first time I had ever met Cassie, we had only previously spoken via Facebook and Skype. She’s a really nice girl, who’s really dedicated to getting things straight at Golgotha. She came along with Shelley, another volunteer at Golgotha, and with another lady called Suzanne. Suzanne is volunteering at a different orphanage, and is staying at a homestay. She wanted to come along, to experience her first home visit, and to get a feel for what I was doing.

It was a bumpy Dalla ride. When we arrived I started to get pretty excited. I arranged with Cassie to do a little video introduction with Mt Meru in the background, just to explain where we were and what we were going to do. We walked towards the house. As we got closer, a couple of the kids recognised me and I could hear ‘teacher Zaci’ coming from all around. I was worried that some of them would run to Mama Mary and tell her I was coming, which would ruin the surprise a bit. We turned left off of the small dirt road and walked towards the house. Just as I got by the house, Agripina appeared from one of the alleys. She jumped straight into my arms, and had a huge smile on her face. I was beaming too. She said hello to the camera, and told me that she loved me. I asked her where her mother was, she said ‘at home’. She held my hand and guided me around the corner towards the house. We were just outside when Vicki came running out with a big grin on her face too, she nearly fell over just in front of me because she was running so fast. But I picked her up and gave her a big kiss. I was already pretty overwhelmed. With Vicki in my arms, Mama Mary spotted me. With her hands in the air, thanking god, she ran towards me and gave me a massive hug. We kissed and hugged, and kissed again. In Swahili, she kept saying, ‘asante yesu’ ‘thank you god’, ‘thank you brother’, ‘welcome son’ and so on. Suzanne had started crying already by this point. Mama Mary was jumping on the spot, thanking god again I didn’t really know what to say, I just kept telling her that ‘it was a pleasure’ and she ‘deserves it more than anybody’. She held my hand and took me side, ‘karibu kaka’ ‘welcome brother’ she told me. We sat down inside, I felt high. I’d waited and worked towards this moment for well over a year now, my emotions were all over the place. I felt enormously proud, and shared extreme happiness with Mama, which we’d both been waiting a long time for. We sat, laughed, cried, hugged and kissed again. Vicki sat on my lap, and Agripina came and sat next to me. They told me they loved me, I told them that I loved them too. Mama Mary said a prayer.

I’m a bit funny about my religion these days. I like to think that I am Catholic, and that there is somebody watching over me. I just don’t like to think too much into it. I like the thought that Mama Mary has stayed faithful her whole life, and prayed for somebody to come and help her, and I am that person. I am no Angel, I know that, it’s just nice to be doing something good. I’m finding this hard to write now. We sat inside for a while longer, there were lots of children from the village in the house now crowding around the door - they all knew what was going on. Mama sent her eldest daughter to get us some Fanta from the shop. I shared it with the children, and when I’d finished it off, I felt like I needed to go. I was exhausted. I had done nothing physical the whole day, but the emotion just made me tired. Mama Mary and the children walked with us to the Dalla stop. Mama’s face was a picture, a mix of happiness and shock. All her life she’s been waiting.

I went home and watched the video over, and shared it with some other volunteers. Grace and Jennica loved it. The evening carried on but I can’t be bothered to write about much else. That’s enough for now.