Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A journey cut short.

I think the last time I blogged, I ended with me returning home from my trip to Uganda. If I remember correctly that was on a Wednesday. The following day, I decided to go into placement for a little while. Every day at school, and after the children’s ten o’clock playtime, the teachers and volunteers sit down together to drink tea and eat mandazi. Mandazi is a local food often eaten in the mornings for breakfast or for a mid-morning snack. It’s essentially fried dough. It’s really good, but very sweet, and hardly ever agrees with my indigestion problems. I get over it though, and eat it anyway, it would be rude not to. And I like it. That day, after tea and mandazi, I was asked into the office by Stevie the manager, and Vicky, the director’s wife. I knew exactly why I had been pulled in. It was something to do with the meeting/confrontation that I had arranged the week before. Remember about the sponsored children being sent home from school? Anyway, it was like being back at school for me. I was told off for supposedly gathering wrong information from untrustworthy sources (ironic coming from them don’t you think!), for not realising that the simple solution to what happened was a confusion with language and a difference between cultures, for not taking my teaching seriously enough, and for not spending enough time at the school. The point about teaching was fair enough to be honest, I really hadn’t been doing enough. But I still didn’t like hearing it. I managed to bite my tongue though, and just take it all on the chin. After the meeting I cracked on with some teaching. Amanda and I spent a good hour or so trying to teach the students how to do fractions. We used practical things such as paper, which we made into the shape of pizza’s or ciapati. Ciapati is another African food commonly eaten alongside lentils and vegetables. It’s thinly fried bread, and looks like a pancake but it’s got a different taste and they are much more filling. We tried to use these to help the kids to understand, but we didn’t really get anywhere. A few of the children, the brightest ones in the class I guess, picked it up pretty quickly. I stayed until about 2pm that day and then headed home for some lunch and a needed lie down.
A few other volunteers, including Harriet, a lovely girl from the UK, and Jennica left for Safari on Friday morning. I said goodbye to them and wished them a good trip. Lauren, Matt and I had planned that weekend to visit the Pare Mountains, but due to the weather being so bad, we decided not to go. In November, it’s the light rainy season in Tanzania. It was strange how they started exactly on the 1st, and the rain didn’t stop for a good four days or so. The Pare Mountains would have been lovely. It was a trip that I did last year, but I felt like I hadn’t stayed there long enough, and that I would prefer to do some other activities which are available there. However, with the rains being so heavy during the night, and unpredictable in the day time, it just wasn’t worth it, it would have been miserable, and dangerous, too.
On Friday night I got a text from Harriet telling me that Jennica hadn’t been very well throughout their first day of Safari, and that it had continued through the night. I was worried of course, but Harriet assured be that she would be fine. The next morning, before heading out to do some things in town, I got a call from Nancy (our house manager) saying that Jen was so ill that she had been taken into hospital. I got stuff together, and headed straight there. I won’t go into detail of this weekend. One because it was pretty boring, and two because I’m sure Jen wouldn’t want me to expose some of those details online. I spent most of the weekend in hospital with her, and she was home again on Sunday afternoon. Still not feeling very well, she needed a good week at least to recover.
The next week was fairly unproductive regarding the building of the house. I hadn’t put any money into the project since I got back from Uganda, and had spent most of my time trying to figure out if I had been getting ripped off or not. One afternoon I met a lady called Aubree, who is from the states, and has her own NGO in Arusha, which aims to get local mothers into starting their own businesses, to make them self-sustainable. I told her how much I had spent on the house so far, and she was a little surprised at how much I had been paying. So it got me thinking, which got me looking into things a little more. My best option to try and sus out if they were ripping me off or not, was talking to the ladies who run the volunteer organisation in Tanzania, who are called Nelly and Angella. I trust them both, and they both are well connected in the area. Nelly’s husband’s work is closely linked to the building. It’s on a larger scale than the house I’m doing, but his knowledge was useful when trying to find out if I had been paying more than I should for building materials. Surprisingly, it turns out that the builders estimations were spot on, regarding the prices of materials, but he was adding on quite a bit each time to the labour charge. Nelly asked me if I would like her to call the builder for me, so she could try to bargain with him, and persuade him to knock off some of the labour charge. Thankfully, she was successful and managed to save me about £100! Very happy with myself, I headed down to the school to pay what else I owed to the builder.
That Friday, it was Shelley and Christina’s last day at the school. Last days are always fun, but they can be a bit emotional for people too! Shelley and Christina were well organised. It was very kind of them to buy each child some chocolate, and some of the kids even got special presents too. That same day, Shelley and I had arranged to take two of the kids to a boxing class after school. Edward, who is in class two is a big fan of having little pretend boxing matches, and Pius in class three is just as into it! We thought that it would be a nice idea to take them to go and do something special before Shelley left. They were both pretty excited when we were leaving, not many of them get to leave the village very often and see the city. Before we left, we asked one of the teachers to ask if they had brought any shorts or trainers like they were told to, but neither of them owned a pair. It’s seeing things like that first hand that really make you think about how we take everything for granted. Remember when we used to get in trouble for not bringing PE shorts? These poor kids’ families can’t even provide anything of the sort. It’s unfair. Because of this, Shelley and I took Edward and Pius to the market beforehand, so that we could buy them a pair of trainers each and some shorts. It took a while to get a decent price on the trainers, and I got pretty pissed off when they were still trying to rip us off even though they could clearly see that we were buying these things for their own people. So after getting a good price on the trainers, and then having to pay a little more expected on the shorts, we headed to Sakina, which is where the boxing gym is, and also very close to where I live too. The kids were so excited to be there. It makes you feel good seeing the joy in their faces, especially the fact that it’s down to you! Edwardi was a little hesitant to put his new shorts on when we arrived, which was because he didn’t have any underwear on. He was so embarrassed, but I gave him a hand with it and we got there in the end. The boxing trainer was twenty minutes late or so, which was a little annoying as we had to keep Edward and Pius distracted. It was also hard to stop them from climbing on, and trying to use the weights. They were enjoying themselves though. The trainer turned up eventually, and did an hour or so of practice with them. They were both great, and thrived on every minute of it. Pius was especially good, his left hook was surprisingly strong and consistent, a little concerning for a child of his age. I think I’m going to take them again soon, Pius could actually turn out to be a good boxer, and maybe one day he could have his own gym too! That’s certainly a project that I’d love to get involved in. It definitely wouldn’t be for a few years though.
That evening Shelley was having a meal at the Blue Herrin for her leaving do. After getting the kids Samosa’s from the shop, and then heading back to Swahilini to drop them both off, I got home pretty late. I showered quickly, and then was picked up in a taxi with some volunteers from the other house. The meal was lovely, and not too badly priced either. I ate too much though, and was so full by the end of it. I chatted with Colin for most of the night, and another guy called Chris. But I occasionally spoke to Shelley too. Emily, a girl from Birmingham was on good form that night, and alongside Shelley, neither of them stopped taking the piss out of me. The ripped on the shirt I was wearing, which I admit was a bit obnoxious and weird, (I think it’s wicked), they ripped on my accent and they also made fun of my hair cut. I don’t mind it though really, I can take the piss out of myself so it never bothers me too much. I decided not to go out and headed home early that night.
I booked my ticket for the bus to Dar es Salaam a few couple of days before Shelley’s last night. I booked it for Saturday morning, planned to spend two nights in Dar es Salaam with my good friend Stanley, and then head to Zanzibar on Monday morning. The bus left at 5.45 am, so I was a bit all over the place when I left. I slept for the start of the trip, then something dawned on me. I had forgotten my passport, and driving license. When I left in the morning, I thought about taking them, but didn’t think that I would need them. That’s how tired I must have been. You need your passport to get into Zanzibar so you can show your Visa, and I needed my licence because I wanted to rent a vespa once I got to the island. I panicked a little, and at the stop for lunch, I nearly paid money to jump back on a bus to Arusha. I decided not to though, and carried on towards Dar. We arrived in good time, I think it was about 3pm. I was speaking to people from Arusha on the phone, and trying to work out the best way of getting my details over. Aaron had a smart idea of photocopying everything, and using that to get across. I wasn’t too sure, but it was the best option I had. Turns out it worked fine!
Stanley picked me up from the bus station, and then we drove in his father’s car, but with another driver, back to his home which is about an hour outside of the city. First, we drove straight to where his football team had just finished training. I was welcomed warmly by his team, who referred to me as ‘jembe langu’, which means ‘my friend’ or ‘dude’. Stanley asked me to introduce myself. I was a bit nervous of standing in front of the whole team and talking to them in English whilst Stanley translated. I told them how I’d met Stanley last year playing football, and how we had remained close friends. The team were playing in their first final the following day, and were organising where they would meet beforehand to eat, and relax to get themselves prepared. I decided that I would donate 30,000tsh, which is about fifteen pounds  towards the food, so that they could all eat well before the game. They went a bit crazy, applauded me and then all headed off home to rest.
After that we went Stanley’s home, and I was greeted warmly by his father, who told me that this was my home whenever I needed it. It was an absolute honour to be welcomed in to a Tanzanian’s house like this. Stanley had told him about me, and about the work I was doing too. His father was much appreciative. Stanley did a tour of the house for me, which is pretty big for a Tanzanian family. Stanley’s father owns his own tour company which runs tours abroad in Egypt, Israel and other predominantly Islamic countries. Pretty much what I’m saying is that he does alright for himself! Stanley showed me his room, and then showed me to my room. It’s hard to describe how I was feeling. For the first time really since I’d visited Tanzania, I felt like I was living like a real local. I didn’t really want to leave, I was loving it. I had a cold bucket shower, which added to the experience, and then joined Stanley and his family for dinner. Previously, Stan had introduced me to his elder brother, who was incredibly quiet, and also his cook. I’ve forgotten both of their names which is really bad! We sat in his lounge, and watched the news. When dinner was ready, Stanley’s father got up first and served himself food. Next, I was invited to eat, then Stanley’s elder brother, followed by Stanley, and then the cook and a young boy who I believe was Stanley’s nephew. We are very well. There was rice, stewed beef, beans, cabbage, avocado and tomatoes. Stanley and I had gone to the shop an hour before or something to get some fizzy drinks to go with dinner, so I washed my food down with a Fanta. After dinner I was exhausted, it had been a very long day. I went to bed at around nine, and passed out pretty much straight away. It’s much hotter in Dar than in Arusha, so I was surprised that I slept so easily.
The next morning I told Stanley that I’d like to play some football. We walked to the main road and rented bicycles, then cycled to the same pitch where his team were training the day before. Unfortunately we were a little late and the guys had already finished. Most of them were dripping with sweat and it looked like they’d had a pretty hard work out. I was a little bit relieved that I hadn’t joined in to be honest. Stanley and I took the bicycles back to the rental shop, and then walked back to his house. His father was heading into town, and had agreed to drop us at the main village closest to their house which I think was called Unga Unga. There was an internet cafĂ© there where I could print off my passport and driving license photocopies. After all that was done, we went and got some food. Chips Mayai is my favourite Tanzanian dish, so we went to a place which served that. Chips Mayai is like an omelette with chips in it! It’s so good, and really cheap too. I’m always a bit sketched out about eating from small restaurants like that but my stomach had adjusted a lot more than last year, so I didn’t worry too much. After finishing, we took a Dalla back to Stanley’s house, dropped off my photocopies and then walked to meet his team. Once again I was greeted warmly by his team mates, and thanked by all of them for donating towards the food. I introduced myself to most of them, and then had a little kick around with a few of them too. It was nice to have a relaxed kick, it had been a while since I felt so chilled out. Soon after, the food was ready. I helped serve some of it, and then sat down on the football we were kicking around to eat. My donation had gone towards loads of rice, beef and tomatoes. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gone as far to buy some cutlery so I ate with my hands, like a real African. Very unsanitary I know, and I’m blaming this on my stomach being really bad for a couple of days after that. We waited around for a while. Lots of the guys would come up to me and speak to me in Swahili, and when I wasn’t able to understand so I had to turn to Stanley for help with translating. A lot of them had really good senses of humour, and although we didn’t really understand each other, we still had a laugh.  A couple of hours passed, and it was time for Stanley’s team to get ready and go to the game. Once they were ready, I took some pictures of the team in the tangerine kits. The bus arrived to take them, and there was a lot of fighting over who would get a seat. I didn’t get on in time, but somebody was pushed off a seat and I was told to go and sit down. The bus ride was fun, but quite uncomfortable.
Once we arrived, Stanley and his team took to warming up straight away, and I stayed on the side lines with some guys from his village. I remember one character really clearly, his name was Abdul, and was easily the least committed muslim I’ve ever met. I bought some cigarettes, took some pictures of Stan’s team, and then watched the game. The first half was a bit of a scrappy affair, but Stanley’s team still had the majority of the possession, and had created some good chances. Unfortunately though, they conceded about ten minutes before half time, and due to some poor defending, they left the field 1-0 down after forty five minutes. All of the players looked pretty unhappy during the team talk, and I was surprised not to hear much input of encouragement from other members of the side. Stanley was substituted about ten minutes into the second half, and I have no idea why. He was playing well, and was the one who was creating most of the opportunities. He was understandably unhappy about being subbed off, but who wouldn’t!? The game ended 1-0, and Stanley’s team were pretty devastated when they came off. They were pretty unfortunate, but the opponents number nine was a quality player and caused their defence a lot of trouble.
After the game there were some celebrations, and in this case the trophy was in the form of a goat. The winners received two goats, and the runners up, one goat. Seeing the celebrations was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. A large crowd of people gathered around and began to sing and dance, whilst holding up the goats to the sky in victory. I laughed a lot at the huge difference between cultures. Imagine seeing that in the UK? You’d probably get arrested. Remember I said about Abdul being the least committed muslim ever? As a joke he kept trying to put his penis into the goats mouth.
Stanley’s team, others from the village and I waited about half an hour on the street corner before we found a lift home. There were too many of us to take dalla dalla’s, so we waved down a big dump truck and all climbed in the back. I clung on for my life for most of the trip whilst this truck belted it down the road at what felt like about 140kph. Luckily, we got there safely. We ate dinner, which was the same food, organised what time we would leave in the morning, and then went to bed.
The next couple of days I spent on Zanzibar island, which was nice whilst it lasted. Unfortunately I got a call from my mother on Tuesday telling me that my Grandmother had deteriorated extremely quickly over the past few days and that it would be good for me to come home. I got home on Friday morning, and managed to say goodbye before she passed away on Saturday. The next week is a bit of a blur, and I don’t want to go into it.
Right now, I’m back in Arusha, where I want to be, and where my Grandmother would have wanted me to be. I will be continuing with The House that Zac Built project on Wednesday. I am thoroughly looking forward to the next month or so! 

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