Little did I realise when I wrote this post in Tanzania back in 2005, just how apt my reference to people working in the public sector as being an ‘endangered species’ was to become. At the time I was merely looking for an outlet for my frustration … read more
The Serengeti Watch have launched a new online petition.
It asks the government of Tanzania to accept support for an alternate southern route, and also to accept the offer by the German government to develop roads for local communities.
Lend your support to help conserve this incredibly valuable part if our planet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s the greatest threat in the Serengeti’s history — the government of Tanzania has approved a major commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park, in the direct path of ancient wildlife migration routes. Such a highway would be devastating.
They come from a planet of their own; whatever their colour, whatever their nationality – they are all the same – delighting in the little responsibility entrusted them. Is ignorance bliss? Do they realise that through their overzealous wielding of power, they define the limits of their careers, not to mention their social circles?
Sambasha Primary School is a 45 minute hike uphill from Emaoi, where we live, so we leave at 6.45am to arrive by 7.30am. The kids are already there, doing their various jobs. Some sweep the yards and paths with branches of soft leaves, others water the garden and others clean the classrooms. These get really dusty as there is no glass in the windows. At about 07.50 they’re called to inspection. Any who are dirtier than the rest, whose hair isn’t shaved shortly enough or who arrive late stand to one side and get caned after everyone’s sung the national anthem, then they head for class. Sometimes they don’t get caned but have to squat down and kind of goose step to class … ideas of discipline seem quite brutal here, but then life in general is incredibly tough and only those who work really hard have a chance of getting anywhere. ‘Survival of the fittest’ often has very real meaning here.
I joined Anthony and Aurelien on a visit to Haruma Orphanage where Mak and Sam, two Mondo volunteers, are based. Not far from Arusha, Haruma has about 20 orphans ranging in age from around 3 to 20. The kids are a far cry from the heartrending images sent around the Western world in a bid for donations. The y look well-fed and have a lot of love and affection for everyone. Although there’s undoubtedly sadness and tragedy behind those smiles, it’s yet another example of how the people I’ve met in Tanzania get on with the business of each day.
02 April 2004: I awoke to the sounds of Arusha, the noisy shops and people below, and to the music blaring from reception. The rain had almost stopped and, despite still no water, I felt just fine. I had a meeting with Oliver, a retired teacher who gave me a lot of information on the behaviour of the children, teachers and general workings of schools here in Tanzania. After this talk I no longer felt so nervous and actually started looking forward to this huge challenge:)
Aurelien and John then escorted me up to Emaoi, the village where I’ll be living for the next 3 months. It really is incredibly lush and green. I can’t begin to name the plants and trees, apart from banana, flame trees and hibiscus, however I will make an effort to become better informed. The mists were hanging over the foothills and Mt Meru was invisible. Everything was dripping from the rains, cool and muggy. The village is like something out of a naive painting – dirt roads (not too muddy), high hedges hiding all but the rooftops, some modern but many masai rondavels, cows, children and proud-walking women carrying everything on their heads … This is what I expected but I couldn’t quite imagine it being for real! No streetlights, no vehicles, no satellite dishes (although Mr Thomas has an aerial, having one of the only TVs in the village).
We met Tom, a volunteer who’s been running a very popular and successful afternoon English course for adults, which Rosie and I are supposed to take over, and Mr Elias, the headmaster of the Emaoi primary school. Rosie is the second volunteer living at Mr Thomas’ and teaching at Sambasha, where I’ll be teaching. It’s nice to have someone here who already knows the ropes a bit and can explain. I then came to Mr Thomas’ house, not far away, a modern brick building with electricity and a television. The house consists of a little entrance room, a living/dining room and bedrooms. The cooking is done in an outhouse in the yard, which is one of a small complex, the others containing chickens and cows. There’s a tap in the yard, the only source of water. The shower and loo are in a separate outhouse around the side of the main building. Water for the shower is heated on the stove and then you carry it into the shower room. You “shower” by scooping the water with a tin can which has dozens of holes in the bottom – simple but effective and it was just wonderful to have a hot shower again! The loo is a, hopefully, very deep pithole – thank goodness for headtorches, as balancing half-asleep in the dark is not easy;)
The Thomas’ are very very welcoming and their two little nieces, Gwinny and Manka, make for lots of play and cheer. Food’s great, vegetables, chips, rice, a tasty lentil dish and spinach with garlic, also homegrown bananas. The tea, chai, is absolutely delicious, served very hot with lots of milk and sometimes ginger. I think things are going to be just fine:)
31 March 2004: 6am start from Kate’s, city lights competing with the dawn which was setting the mountains aglow in a very soft, warm rose. Pushed through on to an earlier flight, ignoring my gut instinct which was literally screaming at me, I allowed my backpack and sleeping bag to be booked right through to Nairobi. I guessed that’d be the last I’d seen of my sleeping bag. With a 4 hour wait for the connection in Jo’burg, I had time for an i-fix in a very civilised smokers’ lounge, latte served free of charge to warm my fingers and ease them back into motion – cigar smokers should be isolated, Robben Island has some free capacity, I believe.
After clearing passport control in Nairobi, I rushed down to the baggage reclaim area and was delighted to see my sleeping bag being trundled around on the conveyor belt, until I realised that it was the only thing left on the belt! I wailed at the BA girls that my life was in that backpack and I wasn’t leaving without it. I stuck my Taurean horns in fast – yes I’d fill out their form, but no I wasn’t going back to the hotel or on to Tanzania with the promise that my bag would find me at some indetermined time in the future.
Two hours later I was still sitting in the BA office awaiting a return call from Jo’burg when suddenly one of the BA girl s whizzed in with a scrap of paper and asked me “is that your name”? YES!!!! I could’ve cried but hugged her instead. I didn’t like to think that it was only my perseverance which ensured the return of my bag – having promised that they had checked all trollies and transit baggage to no avail, how come it suddenly turned up? Anyway, I shut up, took it gratefully and headed downtown to the Terminal Hotel.
I’m thinking this little baggage incident was a short sharp reminder to listen to that little inner voice in future – will do! Now I’m sitting in a bar next to the hotel with a well-deserved Tusker, trying not to worry about my daypack with laptop, etc. all left in the safe custody of Jacob at reception.
01 April 2004: Thanks to heavy rains which battered the roof and dripped down the inside wall of my room, together with the couple in the next room apparently candidating for some Guinness Book of Records title, I was up and out at the break of dawn.
I jumped on the Impala Shuttle bus, looking forward to a few hours’ sleep, only to find my backside soaked through in minutes – although the windows were impossible to open for air, the rain obviously had a secret route and seats and walls were more than wet. Never mind, things could be a lot worse – I could actually be out in the rain like the thousands of poor Nairobians we passed on our way out. Some were rummaging through heaps of steaming rubbish in the gutters, others, smartly dressed for work, were trying in vain to avoid the huge sprays of dirty water jettisoned by every passing car. It was a black, grotty (to put it in good ol’ English terms) and miserable out there. There’s nothing like incessant, heavy rain to magnify filth and poverty, particularly in built-up areas. Oh yes, and to test brakes … we bumped into a car as the driver fought with the bus n the heavy traffic. After 5 minutes of discussion and swapping of information, we continued. We, the passengers, no longer completely trusted the vehicle or its driver, which made sleep even more difficult.
Fortunately that was the only incident and within an hour we had left the depressing streets of Nairobi behind. The road to Arusha passes through the bush, with its beautiful acacias, and the occasional small village. Spots of bright red and orange drew attention to the many Masai boys and men tending cattle, the latter often being the cause for violent braking.
Finally we arrived at the Impala Hotel in Arusha! I probably made a great FIRST impression on my Mondo Challenge colleagues by rushing straight past them to hug Gaby and Doug, Gaby being the main nagging reason for my now being in Africa:) Aurelien and John were understanding enough, letting me disappear off with my friends for a wonderful Indian lunch at the “Big Bite”. At 4pm I met up with John again, who took me through Arusha, showing me the various facilities and explaining something of the culture I was about to be confronted with. This serious business was wrapped up with a cold Kilimanjaro at the AICC Club, where I met Angie, Richard and Henrik, 3 other volunteers. Apparently I had unwittingly met two other volunteers at my hotel in Nairobi before leaving this morning. Paul and ?? were on their way to hospital, Paul in crutches, after their vehicle had been run off the road by a drunken driver. I am finding Africa already a small place.
Despite the heavy rains all day and night, the Kilimanjaro Villa Guesthouse was unable to offer even one drop of water from any of its taps, so I was lucky to be able to shower at Gaby and Doug’s. The toilets everywhere are pitholes … somehow I can’t help thinking of Sylvia.