Saturday, 27 July 2013

Progress, Problems and Max's visit

Since the title of this post starts with Progress, I think that's what I'll start with. We've come along way since I last posted. As per usual, it's been ages since I've found the time to sit down and write, so I'm pretty far behind. My last blog post took us to the top of the walls, and we were about to ready to do the lenter foundations. We finished that a good week or so ago now, and have since finished the roof, plastering the inside and outside of the house, fitting the windows and doors, along with the glass, the ventilation vents and started applying gypsum to the walls. It won't be long until we have finished now. I must admit, the whole process has slowed right down, it's hard to see as much of a change day to day as you could when we started the project. It's still nice to go there though, the finishing aspects of the projects I find are the most satisfying. It's very relaxed there, and you know that really soon the family will be moving in. As expected, we have gone over budget a little bit. There have been so many hidden costs, and alongside with the car it's started to stress me out a little bit. Before Max came, I was working very long days. I think I took on too much. I was sorting out things for volunteers with getting kids into school, managing things at the project, and having problems with the car. I managed to get myself a bit overtired, and ended up losing all motivation and energy for a few days. It wasn't until yesterday that I came out of it and stopped constantly sleeping. I feel better today. I woke up earlier than the past few days, met George in town, who I'll tell you about later, and gave him money to get to the project, then headed home to get on with this blog!

One of the problems I have already mentioned. Which is about going so far over budget. Unfortunately, the original quote which Bonge gave me was way off on quite a few things. The amount of extra materials we needed is shocking, and Adam and I have spoken to him in depth about making sure that the next quotes are more reliable. The main one is the cement. On the original quote it said we would only need 35 bags, but we are coming up to using seventy now. There are plenty of other things but I won't go into them too much, it's a bit boring. It's hard to keep an eye on every bag of cement being used, as I'm not at the project 24/7. However, I have come up with a rule that after every bag of cement is used, Bonge keeps the bag and stacks it to one side, so that I can count at the end of the day how many have been used. I'm still learning, and a lot of things which I have learnt on this project will benefit me so much on the ones to come. That problem isn't quite as interesting as this one. Max arrived last Wednesday, and during the short time he was here, we had quite a lot to do. We needed to be at the project each day, at least every morning,  to make sure things were running okay and if there was anything we needed to pay for. The following Saturday, the day didn't go as smoothly as hoped. Max and I left early, around six thirty, and arrived in Duka Bovu just after seven. When I got there, I went inside and there was some obvious tension between the builders. Bonge called me into the room and apologised for what he was about to say. He explained that the builders were very angry that they hadn't been paid for the last few days of work, and that they had decided to leave. I tried to level with them, but they wouldn't listen. They packed up there things and left the site and village within twenty minutes of us arriving there. George, who I had picked up that morning from where he sleeps on the street, had to wait in the back of the car until we sorted it out. Adam was away that weekend, so I called him to explain what was happening, and asked if he could call Bonge to see what he said. When Adam called me back, I was quite shocked to hear what had happened. Two of the builders, had gotten extremely drunk the previous night, and had caused a lot of trouble in the guest house. They had vocally abused one of the local Mama's. Swearing in Tanzania is extremely frowned upon, and especially towards an elder, it's almost a crime. The Mama who they had been rude to, called the police the previous night and the police had planned to come the following morning. This was why the builders had left in such a hurry, it was merely to escape the police. I wasn't best pleased. However, I was happy that they had left. I don't want people like that working for me. We managed to get it sorted, and found another builder for the day to help with the plastering.

I'll tell you a little more about George. Most nights when I go out in Arusha, on the way home, I often get some chips mayai to eat. Close by where you by the food, there are a lot of street children sleeping on the side of the roads. A week or so before Max came, I picked three children up from the street, all aged about fifteen, who had run away from home because of problems with their family. It really upsets me when I see children on the street, in my head it's completely wrong, they don't deserve it. So, I always try and help out a little bit and buy a few of them some food for the night. One night when I went there, I actually went over to where they sleep and had a chat with some of them. It's a surprisingly nice environment, social wise. Quite a few of the kids are sniffing glue which is difficult to see, but others seemed more switched on. They all range in age. Some are as young as ten, and some are a lot older, between eighteen and twenty. I always think when I see them what I was doing when I was fifteen, I had everything I needed, free school, a nice bed, warm and safe home to sleep in, and always food to eat. I feel guilty when I see them, so I decided I would do something to help. One kid who I spoke to, and had relatively good English was called George. George is eighteen, and is originally from Kenya. He has been living on the street for six years. He left home after his father died and there was nobody to support him. He's a smart kid, and I decided to give him a chance at something. After meeting him, I went back a few days later with my friend Lukas, so he could translate. I offered George the chance to work on the site as a labourer, and had Lukas explain what Max and I were doing here. He was keen, and we agreed to meet him the next morning at seven thirty. He was there on time, so we drove out to Duka Bovu together with Max. Max and I had a job to do that day around mid-day so we left site around eleven. I asked Bonge to keep an eye on George for me, and let me know how he did that day, and to be honest with me later whether or not he worked hard enough.

Our job that day was to meet a girl called Alice, from the UK, and look  at a project which she wanted to do. Alice volunteered here a while back, and similar to how I did with Mama Mary, she met a family living in appalling conditions and wanted to build them a new home. The house is in a place called Ungelelo, not too far from where I live actually. First we went and picked up Anna, the director from the school where Alice volunteered, and her co-worker Ernest. Then we drove to Ernest brother's house to park the car, and walked towards where the house is. It wasn't too far a walk from where we parked the car to the house, and I could already see how this project would be difficult to do. There was no access to a road near by, the terrain was very green and it the rainy season it would be almost impossible to transport materials. However, despite this, it would definitely be a cool project to do. The house they live in is appalling. Very similar to Mama Mary's, it's made from mud and wood, and is slowly collapsing. It's on a slope, but there is some flat land next to the house which after a bit of ground work, would be good to build on. The Mama, who's name I've forgotten was very happy to see us and extremely welcoming. I explained to Alice that it would be difficult to do but Max and I were very keen to jump on board. We talked about ways to transport materials and where to store them, too. Max and I headed back to the project in Duka Bovu, after arranging to meet Alice the following morning with Bonge so he could have a look and work out a quote for her. We got back to the site that afternoon. Bonge was pleased with George's work, so I gave him 10,000tsh for the day. I explained that we wouldn't be working on Sunday but that he would be able to work again on Monday.

Max and I went out for a bit that evening, and popped over to the street kids to see George again. George told Lukas, who translated to me, that he had already deposited 10,000 for a room in Arusha, and that he just needed another five thousand to pay for the month. I explained that he could pay the extra the following Monday when he gets his next wage. I knew George was smart from the first time I met him, and I was extremely happy that he had gone straight to get a room instead of spending the money on alcohol or something else which he didn't really need.

The following day on Sunday, Adam, Max and I planned to drive to Babati to look for another housing project. By the time we got to Duka Bovu, I was already having numerous problems with the car, so I called off going to Babati, and decided that I would go home to talk to Danny about the car. I left it with Adam and Max, as there were going to go to Monduli to look for the next project. This is around the time that I got really tired and just slept for ages. I went home that afternoon, spoke briefly to Danny about the car and then passed out until around 8pm, I woke up, ate some food and went around to Heriets, and then just fell asleep there too.

I'm not sure exactly what we did on Monday, I think we just made sure everything was going okay at the project and then had a bit of a chilled one. I've just arrived home from the project, it's looking great! All of the floor is finished, and the outdoor toilet will be finished by the end of the day. All that is left to do is paint the walls! Hurray!

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