Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Moving in for Christmas

Once again, It’s been a long while since I wrote anything down. I will write briefly about my first week and weekend back, and then try and go into more detail about the progress of the house.
When I arrived back, and I’m fairly sure this was on a Thursday, I was exhausted. Delighted to be back though, and greeted warmly by the staff and volunteers, I hung out with them in the house for a few hours. That evening it was social night. A lot of people were surprised to see me, so I caught up with them, and introduced myself to new volunteers, too. I was happy to be back though!
Remember when I wrote about Jen going on Safari and becoming ill on her first day? If not, go back a few posts and catch up! Anyway, since Jen’s first attempt at Safari hadn’t gone so well, she’d been dying to do another one ever since. It was her last chance to go that weekend, so I decided to go with her. I wasn’t completely sure on whether to go or not, as I wasn’t comfortable spending $500+ on something which I had done the previous year. Oh well, it worked out great, and we had a fantastic time. Aside from our Safari truck being a bit worn down, it worked out great. A mixed group, with characters from the states, Brazil, Russia and the UK made for an enjoyable and extremely interesting weekend. My personal highlight of the Safari was coming face to face with a huge elephant after using the toilet in the Ngorongoro campsite. You can ask me about that when you next see me!
Before leaving for Safari on the weekend, I popped into the school on Friday morning. None of the teachers had a clue that I was coming back. I quickly walked past the baby classrooms, hoping that none of the kids would call my name out. I entered the gate, crouched down and snuck past the office and another classroom, before jumping in the door of my class and shouting ‘BOO!’ Teacher Samson and Assa jumped out of their skin, and so did the children. But once they realised it was me, they all bounced out of their seats and ran towards me, shouting ‘Teacher Zaci!’ It was a lovely feeling, I’d been waiting for it for a couple of weeks at least! It’s also got to be the most amount of children I’ve ever had hugging me at once. I told them to sit down, and then went and did similar things in the other classrooms. I didn’t get as big as a response in the others, but everybody was still happy to see me. I was more than happy to see them, too. I forgot to mention, that before all of this happened I bumped into Mama Mary on the way to school. As I walked through the village, and weaved through the new buildings, I saw three ladies walking with buckets on their heads. I wondered if one of them could be Mama Mary. It turns out that it was. I don’t think she noticed me at first, but one of the ladies that she was with, notified her that I was there. She turned, dropped her bucket and ran towards me, gave me a message hug and said ‘Karibu sana manangu’ which means, ‘you’re welcome my son’. She followed up with, ‘Pole Sana’ ‘I’m so sorry’, in a deep and sorrowful tone. She was referring to the loss of my Grandmother, and I appreciated that she had remembered. Everybody said that to me that day actually, even the children at the school. It still saddens me so much that now I don’t even want to carry on writing. I will though.
A lot has happened since then, so I’m going to have to breeze through most of it. The following Saturday, Jen left Arusha to go back to Canada. It was a rough day, as she really didn’t want to go, and was worrying a lot if she was making a mistake about it. I comforted her for most of it, but saying good bye at the airport was hard. I went out that night to try and chill out a bit, I can’t remember exactly what I did.
The next week was a busy one regarding the house. I paid out a lot of money, probably around one million Tanzanian shillings across the whole week. This allowed the builders to buy the majority of the materials needed to finish off the inside of the house. I visited most days, and checked up on everything. It was amazing how quickly it all came together. After the walls had been plastered and the floor cemented, it really started to look like a home. Seeing the children run around in their new house gave me real joy! When this was all going on, I was trying to avoid going to school and teaching, as I was feeling pretty run down and didn’t have the energy to deal with it. There’s still a lot of politics going on too involving the sponsorship program and I really don’t want to be involved in it, although the past few days it has been pretty hard to get away from.
After the builders finishing plastering the walls, then applied jepsam. I’m not sure about the translation into English but the texture is really similar to filler. They apply it onto the walls because the way they plaster isn’t good enough to paint over afterwards. When it was ready to start painting, I gathered a couple of people who were willing to come and help me do some work on the house. A couple of girls from Switzerland, Melina and Sarah, were happy to help, and we had a good day working on the house. First, we sanded down the jepsam to make sure the walls were all smooth, and then applied a base coat, and then applied the first layer of colour on to the two main rooms. Before we got there, I had to go and buy the paint, which turned out to be much more hassle than I had expected, and also way more expensive. I went for good quality paint, and the colour is described as ice green. It’s a lovely colour, and it makes the house feel very cool when it’s hot. But, when the children are running around, and touching the walls all of the time, it’s really noticeable when it gets dirty. Another small issue is that I think it attracts the flies, there’s so many in there at the moment and they are always on the walls, I’m not sure if it’s the colour, or just the new paint. Hopefully it’s the paint because I don’t want them to stick around. It was a lovely day though, and Mama Mary was happy to have us around, and to cook for us too. We had rice with spices, she’s a very good cook!
The swiss girls weren’t available again, as they went off to Zanzibar for Christmas, so on Saturday, I asked a couple of the TVE volunteers if they would like to help me come and do some work. Melissa, one of the girls who came along, is interested in doing a similar project herself, so she was more than happy to come along and get a feel for how things work, and how much it all costs, too! That day, we finished off the second coat of the two main rooms, sanded down the third room, and applied a base coat, then a first coat of colour. I couldn’t have asked for much more from the girls, they both worked hard, and we finished all the things I had wanted to that day. Once again, Mama Mary cooked for us. This time, it was rice, beans and spices. It was lovely, but I’ve been passing quite a lot of wind since! I tried to explain to Mama Mary today, that when I give her money for food, she isn’t to buy and eat it all at once, but better to cook little bits at a time. So that the food lasts for longer, and the kids don’t get completely full and then are starving the next day without any food. It’s hard getting through sometimes, she’s very passive, and to be honest, not the brightest spark, but still a lovely lady. Something that’s also caught my attention recently is that Mary (Mama Mary’s eldest daughter) really doesn’t help out much around the house, and is hardly ever there to look after her own daughter. Instead, she leaves Brightness with Mama Mary or the other daughters to look after. It’s very unfair, Mama Mary has enough on her plate let alone having to look after another child most of the time. I’m going to meet with Elius soon and talk to Mary about it. I’m not sure how well it will go down but she really needs to accept the fact that she has a child and that she needs to be there all of the time to look after it.
The day before painting the house with Melissa and Antonia, it was the children’s Christmas party. The plan was for them all to have a big meal, and then go to the snake park, where they can look at all of the snakes found in Africa, and ride a camel too! Elius asked me for a donation towards the food budget about a week prior to this, but after finding out that he had already had a $1000 donation from the states, towards the food and the trip, I backed out. I was pissed off that he had tried to scam me, but I didn’t let it get to me too much. What really upset me though, was when I turned up to the school on Friday morning, and he hadn’t even bought enough food for all of the kids to eat well. Instead of 42kg’s of rice, there were only 15, and instead of 20kg’s of meat, there were only seven. No fruit, no soda’s and about half of everything else on the budget meant the children weren’t going to get a decent meal. After meeting with Elius, and trying to rack his brains about where this $1000 had gone, I gave up. I was sick of listening to him go on and on and on about other subjects, so I ended up walking out. I’m not going to go into that stuff too much, it’s not very pleasant. One more thing that annoyed me, was that Elius’ children came to the school that day. When the food was being prepared in the kitchen, they were in there eating meat and potatoes, and then when the food was served to the teachers, they each helped themselves first to a massive portion, and took three seats. No respect for their elders, and despicable manners of tucking in first without offering to the teachers really pissed me off. The food was meant to be for the children! They are the ones who need to eat more than anybody else there. Argh.  Anyway, after that was all over, we headed to the snake park. Poor organisation and dodgy transport made what should have been a relatively short trip turn into a really long one. The kids loved it though, and they were going crazy when the guide brought a snake out for them each to put around their necks. I loved it too, I really like snakes, and I rarely get to hold one. I asked the guy about where to go if I wanted one for a pet here, and he told me. I might go and check it out soon!
Finally, after getting all of the kids on a camel ride for cheap, we managed to head back to the school. Lucy Cottee, the wonderful girl she is, raised enough money for all of the kids to have a backpack each with stationary inside as a Christmas present. Aubree, who runs Walk in love Tanzania had a lot to do with this, and I thank her for it too! The aim was to hand the bags out that same day, and get pictures of the kids with their new school bags, but by the time we got back from the snake park, it was already dark. I handed out as many as I could, whilst Elius freaked out about the children’s parents wondering where they were, before I was stopped and told that I would have to give the rest out on Monday morning. It was a shame really, because it was the teachers and managers fault that this happened. I asked earlier on in the day if I should give them out before lunch but they all refused and said it would be a good idea. Nothing makes sense in Tanzania, everything is backwards. Honestly, having common sense here is a rarity. On the way home, the Dalla broke down in the middle of the slum in the pitch black. We waited for a while, whilst the driver poured water into the radiator which had overheated. I was worried about the children walking home from the road on their own whilst it was dark, but they all know the score, and got themselves home safe! Adam (a friend who I’ll talk more about in a moment) and I, waited with Neepa (one of the teachers) in town for her Dalla, as she was afraid to wait alone in the dark. It was the first time that I’ve ever walked anywhere in the city centre when it’s been dark. It’s notoriously dangerous at times, but it doesn’t half give you an adrenaline kick walking through there. The chaos, noise and energy of the city adds to the experience! I didn’t do anything that night, I was so tired, and I knew I had a busy day on Saturday so I just went straight to bed.
About a week and a half ago, I left TVE and the volunteer house and moved into my own place. I spoke to Aubree, and asked her if she might know anywhere which is vacant. She told me about the compound she lives in, and that there’s an apartment which was becoming vacant soon. I grabbed a number from her for a guy called Michael, who owns the apartment and the compound! I met Michael in a bar a few days later, and we got along very well. We agreed on $200 for a month, which for here is quite expensive, but compared to home it’s an absolute bargain. I’m living in a place called Moshono now, which is a little way out of town, but I love it. My apartment is great too, small and cosy with a double bed, seating area, kitchen and bathroom. With a HOT shower might I add, quite the thing to have around these parts. The people who I’m living with are great too. Aubree and Jason her husband live just across from my place, so I go over quite often and chat to them about how things are going on, have dinner and beers etc. Michael, the owner of the compound, also has his own safari company called Access2Tanzania, and runs an NGO called Project Zawadi. Project Zawadi started quite some years ago now in a village which I don’t remember the name of, all the way over near the Mwanza region. It started with just a few street kids, but has now grown and sponsors over five hundred children to go to school. It’s an amazing organisation. Adam, who I mentioned earlier is the first child from Project Zawadi to have gone to university and graduated. He’s extremely bright, and his story is amazing. Being around those sort of people is a real honour. If you think your lives have been hard so far, you should listen to theirs! They all play football too, but unfortunately at 6am every morning. I find it really hard to get up that early at the moment, especially with not being so well for the past week or so. I’m not really sure what’s up, just had a dodgy stomach and generally feeling very tired. Maybe it’s a worm, I should probably go and get a tablet. The football isn’t the highest level I’ve ever played, but it’s still football and I enjoy it!
Today, I played football in the morning, and then went down to Mama Mary’s to meet the builders. I needed to pay some money out, and explain to them what I needed doing before tomorrow. I wanted the third room to have its final coat, and for them to start painting the black paint around the bottom of the walls. Kiara agreed, and cracked on. I was meant to be going to Mwanza region for Christmas with Stanley, but due to Mama Mary being my main priority, I decided to stay in Arusha so that I could make sure she and the children are in their new house before Christmas on Tuesday. I’m going down tomorrow morning, to help hand out backpacks, and then will be doing some work on the house, and hopefully moving Mama Mary and the kids across. It’s going to be a big day, but I’m up for it. When I went to the house today, I saw a familiar face peeking through the sheet metal used to cover the area which they cook in. It looked to me as if it were the father, who you all know that I’m not very fond of. I asked Agripina, and she told me that it was her grandfather and that he lived nearby. I wasn’t convinced, and when I heard her talking about it to her Mum, I knew something was up. I played ignorant though, as I don’t want to cause any trouble. If he is there tomorrow, then something will have to be done about it. A drunk father who abandons his wife and children doesn’t deserve the home that they have.
On Monday morning, and just in time for Christmas, I moved Mama Mary and her family into their new home. I had a very stressful morning, but in the end it turned out great. Trying to get cash to pay the builders that morning was a nightmare. A jam packed Arusha city centre and about a queue of five people minimum and each and every ATM turned my morning into a bit of a nightmare. I managed though, and eventually I was on my way down to Swahilini with the cash I needed to pay the builder for the last time. The day before, I’d popped down to the house and to meet Kiara, so I could explain what I wanted and what needed doing before the next day so I could move them in. I arranged to give him the cash that I owed him for the finishing’s on Monday. When I arrived on Monday, Kiara and Elius were already there at the house. Kiara was finishing little things off, and Elius was just having a look around.
Moving all of the furniture over from the old house was quite interesting. After taking the beds and couches out, I really got to see how bad the old house was. Light poured through big holes of the walls in the bedroom, and the floor was covered in garbage. Cockroaches ran around everywhere, it all just became pretty gross. The foam used as mattresses was covered in mould, and I couldn’t quite believe what the children had been sleeping on. Underneath the second bed, where the four elder children sleep, were breeze blocks and little scraps of foam. I knew that they were poor, but I didn’t realise that the children were sleeping in such poor conditions, it made me very sad. It won’t be a problem for too much longer though, as I’m going to buy them a new bunk bed, so that they will be much more comfortable! By the time we’d sorted all of that out, and moved Mama Mary and the children into the new house, everybody was ecstatic. Mama Mary and Kiara, who is also a preacher, sang and danced for a good fifteen minutes. First they sang and made their own music, and then Mama Mary put the radio on and the children, Mama and I danced around the house for a while. I haven’t been particularly happy since my Grandma passed away, but this was a moment which really made me feel good. To see right in front of me what I’d achieved was unbelievable. Until now, I’ve never set my mind to something and finished it. There are still things to do at the house, but the main thing is that they are moved in, and they are happy. I’m so proud. I think it's the best Christmas present which any family could ever wish for. 
I’ve since had a relatively eventual Christmas break, which has involved drinking a lot of alcohol, and I’m only just about recovering. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be travelling to Mombassa to meet some close friends and celebrate the New Year. Then, my mother and her husband Terry will be arriving in Arusha on the 4th of January for a couple of weeks, to have their honeymoon. It’s going to be a great two weeks or so, and I will be quite busy. But I will try to post once I’m back from Mombassa! 

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