Monday, 22 June 2009

Day 15: The last day

Well we are actually back in the UK now, it is Monday and I am back at work almost recovered from the journey home. It is not the holiday that makes you tired it is the trip back as you get very little sleep.

Our last day consisted of formally opening the library and some tourist shopping for pressies.

It was great to see the classroom finished (almost), the mural was basically done although they still needed to finish off the monkeys. Even so it looked great. the girls did a great job and the school is looking forward to completely filling the bookshelves.

The ceremony wasn't as elaborate as at Nkwasangara. Peter indicated that this is because they have already had lots of work done at the school and as it is a boarding school people come from miles aroud rather than it being a community based school. Notwithstanding, there was a very nice ceremony and gifts for all. Even me and Ruth which I found amazing as we had only visited the school a couple of times.

We left the school and started preparations for our long trip home.

Whilst it is always nice to go home, we were sad about leaving. We have made what I hope are good friends and hope to keep in contact with them and return in future years.

It is a bit of a shock now being back, I keep expecting a mountain to peek through the clouds lol

I hope those who have read the blog have enjoyed out ramblings and maybe this has inspired a few folks to do something similar.

Love to all

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Day 14: The Kitchen Opening Ceremony

And now we are fully up to date. Ruth is off with Peter sorting some things out at the bank and with the plumber for the dormitories, whilst I (Naomi) am at the lodge finally catching up with the Blog, I do apologise if I have waffled on too much. I am not a great writer so have not been able to add all the wonderful anecdotes that someone like Keilah might of managed, but I hope it does at least give you a reasonable over view. Keilah is sorry she has been unable to add bits but they have been so busy that fitting it in amongst all the power cuts etc has just not been easy.

Anyhow, shortly we will be leaving to formally open the kitchen. We are hoping to have quite a group of people there. Apparently the children have prepared a little thank you song, which sounded great with the little I caught while they were rehearsing. The kitchen won't be 100% finished, but Mr Hamis has assured me that by the time we get there the inside and the front of the building will be ready to go. The aim is to finish the plastering and painting of the back of the building over the weekend. Shame we won't see it but hopefully we will get pictures.

We finally left feeling like we had been welcomed into a new family and truly hope to return in future years (Maybe even next year if we can raise the funds to go with the other members of the rotary club). Thankfully the roads had dried out and the journey out was less hairy.

After an emotional day we headed back to the lodge to get ready for our final night with Mama Lucy. Unfortunately, the other girls were exceptional late back, in part due to a lorry being stuck in the road out from their school as a result of the heavy rains the previous days.

Both myself and Ruth are really looking forward to today, although it will be sad as this will be the last day we seem them. Tomorrow we will be at Masandarka for the opening of the library, and then getting ready to leave. I see an emotional afternoon ahead of us, infact just thinking about it is making me very sad. I see through the window that the guys are back, so I best get myself ready to go. Hopefully there will be power later to let you know how we got on.

Naomi (11:54am)

We arrived at Nkwasangare Primary School this afternoon after a hairy journey up the hill due to heavy rains the night before, to find them setting up for the opening ceremony of the kitchen. Little did we know at the time just what was in store for us. We had a look at the kitchen and although not as complete as we had hoped it was almost finished with a promise that it will be completed over the next few days. We were also pleased to note that they had painted onto the side of the water tank and the Kitchen "Oxford Spires Rotary woz 'ere June 2009" as requested. Had to get a bit of true Brit graffiti in there somehow.

Anyhow back to the events of the day. They had laid out a square of desks for the students and teachers, chairs for the village elders, school governors and other guests and some tables with chairs for us (Peter, Naomi, Ruth, Mr Meena, the headmistress and Mr Hamis). They had even put table cloths on the tables. At the start of the ceremony we were given garlands of borganvillia flowers by the top pupils. We were treated to speeches from the chief governor, Mr Hamis and the headteacher Ms Lemu. Peter and Ruth (as always cos Ruth had said it all Naomi didn't stand to speak) responded with greetings and thanks to all present. Some of the girls, lead by the headgirl Annie, performed a thank you medley of songs and dance. We were then dressed by the headmistress and Mama Kwaylu in traditional Chagga dress, which is worn a bit like a sari, and also given beautiful necklaces and freshly roasted coffee beans picked and prepared by the chief governor. Peter was given a fabulous traditional shirt. In reciprocation Ruth presented extra money to the headteacher to use as they wished and at that moment Kili decided to poke her head through the clouds, something we had been waiting to see at the school since we arrived due to tech close proximity to the peak (about 10km). Mr Meena had earlier commented as a joke that we had to pay to see Kili, so even Kili is a capitalist at heart. Whatever it was, it was stunning to see her so close up.

We were then led over to one of the classrooms that we had painted only to find that it had been laid out as a dining room. We had to sit at the top table as the honored guests. Our hands were washed by one of the teachers and Mama Kwaylu said grace. Ruth then led the charge for food, no not really but she was asked to start. After eating what we thought was the meal we were then told that it was traditional to present honored guests (us if you hadn't quite gathered) with a roasted banana plant which seemed a bit odd. It turned out that it was infact a whole roasted goat, with the head intact and its mouth stuffed with banana leaves ( I swear it was staring at me with its glazed eyes, quite eariey....Naomi..)
It is a chagga tradition to present such a gift and is saved for very special occasions such as weddings and other big events. Mr Meena said this is the sort of thing they would do if the president came for a visit. We were truly blessed. As part of the tradition, the first pieces cut are fed to the honoured guests, in this case us and Peter, and they must then state whether they are willing to share with everyone else present. Of course we pondered this for some considerable time before deciding that of course everyone should share in the feast lol). The meat was delicious, and by far the best way to eat goat.(I must admit by the end of the two weeks I was slightly tired of goat stew, particularily as the cut of meat normally used was very grissely...Naomi..) In this form it tasted like lamb .... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

After completion of the festivities we gave the teachers a small token before we left, I must admit it did seem somewhat pitiful after what they had just laid on for us, but they seemed very pleased. I guess they feel the gift of the kitchen and painted glassrooms was more than sufficient.
We said our goodbyes to the children, many with a version of a handshake followed by a hug. We had noticed throughout the week that the boys were far more shy about recieving the hug than the girls, even if they were the ones to instigate it. We made a special effort to say good bye to the head girl as she really has formed a special place in our hearts.

We finally headed off (thankfully the roads had dried out since the morning), to get ready for our final night at Mama Lucys. Unfortunately, the other girls were exceptionally late back, due in part to a lorry being stuck on the road out from their school so they had to take quite a detour. This meant we were very late even for Tanzania time. Not to worry we had a very pleasent evening and at least were able to say goodbye properly as they had been so kind an generous to us. Unfortunatley Mama Lucy was feeling unwell again and did not venture out to see us. We wish her the best and hope to see her in future years.

Ruth and Naomi xx

Day 13: More painting

Well I am now almost up to date woo hoo.

Yesterday was another busy day, after the rain on Tuesday we were very nervous so the girls decided to leave early to get to Masandarka so the road was clear and Godwin could make his own tracks. Apparently it worked, although it was still a hard drive as the roads were really bad.

We took a taxi to our school, I rang ahead and apparently they hadn't had as much rain although the road was still wet. The taxi driver said he would be ok to get up the hill, which was good as there was no way we could carry the 4 pots, spoons and paint (For some perspective, the large pots are 2ft across). The taxi was front wheel drive so he thought he should be OK. There was only one patch which he was worried about as he though the car might be bottomed out, and he managed it with no difficulties (what a star), infact the journey up in the taxi was much more comfortable than Godwins four wheel drive (I was so impressed I had to give him a tip).

We got there and checked on the work on the kitchen as we hadn't been there for 2 day. The roof, floor, some of the windows and doors were finished, they had fitted the piped for the water harvesting and were fitting a proper sink. They had also prepared the stand for the water harvesting tank from the bricks from the old kitchen. (Now we can say we really are refurbishing as we are recycling materials lol)

We then set ourselves to work painting the blackboards. With only one brush we took in turns I did one board and Ruth the other. The kids were pleased to see us and we became quite a spectacle, as they surrounded us whilst we were painting. We are not expert painter so really do hope that it is OK, mind you it can't be any worse that than what they already had.

After finishing painting as usual I was covered, Ruth did much better and only had a few spots of paint on her nice white T shirt (not that it would of mattered as it was a freebie from the airline).

The cook was so grateful for her new kitchen that she had made us these rather wonderful samosas (made on an open fire I might add) and they kept us full until dinner. It was hard to try and explain this and the fact that we were going out for dinner to the teachers as they were insistent we ate again at 3 o'clock. Whilst the food is great, I must admit there is only so much goat stew you can eat in two weeks :-).

After the Samosas I managed to get caught in a game of catch with the children, at first they always returned it straight to me (I guess it is just the excitement that I am willing to play a game with them), but then the boys decided they wanted to try and hog the ball. It is nice that we really are starting to develop relationships with the kids.

We wanted to head home early as we were meeting Peters old friend Joyce at the Chinese restaurant round the corner. Originally the plan was to get a taxi, but Peter said that he would pick us up between3 & 3:30, working on African time we figured 4 was more likely. By the time we were picked up at 4:45 (having walked down the hill) both myself and Ruth were a little miffed. There is Africa time and then there is taking the mick. It would of been fine if he had just sent us the taxi, rather than keep saying oh we are on our way. Well we didn't hold a grudge as he did have to pick up Mr Meena who had trekked all the way to Dar es Salam for books for the library.

Anyhoo, I really am waffling, we got back and yet again the power was out so we decided to have a couple of drinks. It came on briefly around 6, and then went off again. Someone had apparently got out with the keys for the generator doh. Consequently both Ruth and I showered by mini LED torch light (thank god Ruth brought them lol). The girls got back late as the road from the school was blocked by a lorry stuck in the mud.

We eventually got to the restaurant and had a lovely Chinese by candle light until the power came on at 10pm (which does suggest that they really are switching off the power for specified periods). It's lucky they cook on gas here.

Naomi (and the team)

Day 12: The groundbreaking

Today we all headed to Masandarka for a ground breaking ceremony with the Local Lions Club and Rotary Club for the new Dormitories that are to be built there. (I can't remember how much we have explained about this school (I would look back over everything, but as this is so temperamental I will just keep typing), but it is a boarding school for the deaf, from which children come for miles around). It was a bit of an historical thing as the Lions and Rotary notoriously do not work well together over here. So it nice for Peter to be part of the breaking the boundaries down.

It was nice for Ruth and I to get a tour of the school, we saw how well Amys' mural was coming on, and the work that Keilah was doing with the children on the library. They both seem to have a great relationship with the kids there which was fantastic to see. Keliah asked Ruth and I to look at the computers (supplied by the Lions Club) as the teachers reported that only 3 or 4 of the 20 they have actually work. We tested them and all but 7 worked fine, 1 didn't have a hard drive and the remaining six were not connected up to a secondary power supply. The units were there but we later found they were spoiled and due to be replaced. Anyhow, from our observations the computers were more than adequate and had excellent software on, so it was very likely that the pupils and teachers simply did not know how to use them.

Afterwards Ruth and I headed into town to buy the pots and blackboard paint for the school and got to experience a local African market. Much like an English one, if a little tighter on space and you can't understand most of what people say. Godwin always tends to head in first to check prices as particularly in the markets they are likely to try and over charge a white person as they think we have lots of money (well compared to them I suppose we do).

We then fitted in a bit of tourist shopping (well its nice to be tourist occasionally :-)) and then headed back to the lodge. I think the lack of sleep had finally caught up with Ruth and she was feeling a bit unwell, so we decided it would be best for her to rest and we stayed at the lodge for the rest of the afternoon.

As I previously mentioned I tried updating the blog, but the Internet crashed and then the Germans got on the computer so I couldn't get on again before we went out.

It got to the evening and we started getting ready for an evening with the Lions club and a Curry. We lost power some time after six, so it was another of those nights getting ready in semi darkness. I thankfully had got into the shower before it was pitch black and Ruth was before me. It was much darker by the time the girls got back, but the staff at the lodge managed to get the generator going so thankfully they were able to have light. Just before we left it started to rain, and continued for most of the night, whilst we sitting in the dark (with candles) and the restaurant where we met the Lions we could hear is getting heavier and heavier outside. This did not bode well for the morning.

We had an interesting meeting with the Lions, the issue of the computers was brought up and they said it was the teachers fault as they did not take them up on the free tutoring that had been offered to them. I found this a bit harsh, computers are completely new to these people and they find them very daunting. Surely it would be better to send someone into the school to do the lessons and give them confidence, rather than send them on classes in the city. I think the Lions forget that whilst these teachers are educated, they make not be at the same level as them and need encouragement rather than this is what we are offering and if you don't do it, tough. That way you end up with 20 computers sitting in a school not being used and what is the point of that. I think we got somewhere with them and hopefully they are sending some people over on Thursday to start some training.

After a very enjoyable evening and a very nice curry we headed back in the pouring rain to the lodge. This would normally be very simple except for the fact Godwin had let the tank run to empty and we nearly ran out of fuel. You could here the poor engine struggling, he tried to get to the petrol station down hill (so use the very last bit of fuel) but it was closed so he had to go elsewhere which was uphill and boy did the engine strain. I don't know how he did it, but we made it (just). Out here it is likely for vehicles to be siphoned for fuel so they tend to run on empty most of the time.

We got back and went to bed.

Naomi (and the team)

Day 11: Back to Work

Over the weekend while we were away there had been heavy rainfall in Moshi. Many of the roads are just unmade mud tracks, and when it rains as you can imagine are very difficult to travel along. Because of this Keilah and Amy took Godwin to their school as no taxi driver would attempt their road and our vehicle is four wheel drive (a necessity on many of the roads out here, some of the people in the UK should really visit here and see what their big land cruisers should be used for) Ruth and I took a taxi to the bottom of the hill up to our school and walked up.
The road to Masandarka was so bad Keliah and Amy had to get out and walk with their boxes of books. Peter has some great pictures of them walking along the road with the boxes on their heads. While in Africa do as the Africans do!!!!!!!!. Godwin and Peter got some assistance from the locals to get the vehicle out of the mud and managed to get to the schools via some back roads (yes there are roads even more back roadish than the mud tracks) were it is very rare to find a vehicle so it less likely to be stirred up.

Meantime me and Ruth took a gentle stroll up to our school, I have discovered the trick to walking up hills is to take it very slowly like they do over here and you don't get tired. I have decided Africa time is great, slow steady meandering, not rushing to get anywhere, very relaxed. (Although I still can't get my head around it is OK to be late when you make an appointment (well for most things anyway), I always ring to apologise if I am going to be more than 10 minutes late. Over here they always say ahhhh no worries get here when you get here hee hee).

Anyway Keilah and Amy continued with their mural and library whilst Ruth and I got stuck into painting two classrooms with the kids from the school. Whilst they are all technically on holiday now, unlike in England they are all prepared to come back into school to help out with the painting, the cooking etc. When they are not doing anything they simply play. All the teachers were there keeping an eye on them and assisting with the painting as well.

It was really nice to have some real interaction with the children and they loved it. We quickly discovered that you needed to direct them which walls to paint, because if you didn't they always wanted to paint the same wall as you. I was moving around tiding up some bits of wall and the next thing I knew I was surrounding by about 5 kids all wanting to help.

For some reason they heavily thin their paint before using it out here, I guess they are trying to make it go further as they have little money. Trouble is they thin it so much the cover isn't as good and you have to keep doing extra coats just to try and cover the walls (as we got to the school after they started it was too late to stop them). Due to the condition of the walls this has meant there are some patches that aren't as well covered as we would like, but even so it is still 100x better. We have now explained that as we have got the paint they don't need to worry about this and that the coverage on the wall will be much better, so for anyone coming out next year if you are doing any painting you must remind them of this.

As a reminder of our assistance they have stencilled a sign on the wall of one of the classrooms painted by Naomi and Ruth which is so sweet. They keep insisting that we must come back, and of course we really want to. They understand that more are coming next year, but it seems we have a special place in their hearts as the first. Hmmmmmm sigh, it is so nice to make such a difference in such a simple way. To all the guys back at the club, you are going to love when you visit and be prepared to tear up on a regular basis :-).

Once the painting was finished the kids had now got much more confidence and decided to teach us Swahili. At one point I think we were surrounded by 20 to 30 children, all applauding whenever we got a word right. Some of them are exceptional at English and also very good a saying each word very slowly to try and help us say it correctly. One little girl seemed to have a fixation on teaching me words like thump and kick mmmmm slightly worrying. We then learnt various greeting, hand shakes etc. I think it was an excuse to get a hug, as once one started they all wanted to do the one that had a hug at the end. At one point Ruth and I split up and we each had a circle of children around each of us. If you are claustrophobic beware, although they will give you space if you ask.

The kitchen is going great guns, when we left the roof was half finished, half the plastering inside was done and the floor almost complete. Unlike the first day the rain didn't stop them today, we think saying the English builders would be out in the rain (although that may not necessarily be true) egged them on hee hee.

We left in the afternoon to get ready to visit Mama Lucy in the evening again. We arrived at her home (camp site which thy run adjacent to their home) and apparently Mama Lucy wasn't going to be joining us although her husband did. Very strange that someone invites you then doesn't come out to see you. Peter went round the back to see her and apparently she was siting there drinking Gin and Tonic surrounded by young men hee hee. She is what you would think of a true African Mama, she is a big lady with alot of charisma and is very well respected. She doe alot for the community and works as a type of Judge in the local what is similar to our civil courts.
Anyway I digress, that evening we had yet another fabulous traditional African meal, and African dancing. Which both Amy and Keilah got up and had a go at. Poor Amy is incredibly thin and doesn't have much of a booty and was getting very frustrated that she couldn't shake it like the African women. Me I have a big booty and have alot to shake hee hee.

We got home quite late so we didn't really feel up to attempting to do the blog, but at least I seem to be catching up a bit now. OK it is the day before we go home, but better late than never.

Naomi (and the Team)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Day 10: Ngorongora Crater

We had a nice and early start after breakfast and headed for the Crater. It was a damp day with heavy low lying clouds. On the road up to the entrance to the Crater we were greeted by a family of Baboons, we shut all the windows just in case but none of them jumped on the car.

After driving through dense fog (as we were in the clouds) we reached the first viewing point into the crater and obviously could see nothing. We took it in good humour and our driver assured us that it would be fine once we got into the crater as we would be beneath the cloud cover. Our trusty Godwin was right, although it was very cold. The drive itself down the crater walls was interesting as for quite alot of it you could only see a couple of feet in front of the car. But knowing the roads very well, Godwin got us there safe and sound.

All I can say is what an amazing site, the greater spans for miles and is a mixture of open grass and sandy land, forests and lakes. Normally the sun beats down into the crater and it is very hot, but with dense low lying clouds it was as i previously said very cold. It was very striking seeing the clouds rolling off the Crater walls. Peter has been many time and said he had not been in the Crater in these conditions, so was some thing new for him too.

We set off on our drive around the Crater to see all the animals. Amy had wanted a full guide as she wants to learn all about them, but if I am honest I quite liked quietly contemplating all that was going on around me. I (Naomi) was particularly excited to see lions. We saw too sets, one mother with her cub hiding in the trees and then a family of two lionesses and two cubs lying in the grass surrounding a buffalo. We think they had just eaten as they didn't seem particularly interested in it. I was beginning to think we wouldn't see a male lion when he popped up (completing the family) had a yawn, a stretch a bit of a stretch, a scratch and then just flopped back down into the grass. (Much like my cat Flump back home).

Godwin was a star at spotting animals, he picked up a solitary hyena sleeping amongst a heard of buffalo. As I understand it, it is unusual for them to be alone. They buffalo got a bit curious when he stood up and started heading in towards him, but when he lay back down again they figured he was no threat and left him alone. I guess he wouldn't of stood a chance against 5 buffalo, so lying down and being nonthreatening was probably his best bet.

We saw hundreds of Zebras and various Buffalo's, several times we were driving right through herds of then. Amazing to be so close to these animals. (Maybe if I get to do this again I can be closer to a Lion as Peter said can sometimes happen).

To make sure we saw as much as possible, we couldn't spend ages watching each individual set of animals, but we saw so much we had no complaints (well most of us anyway). I could go through each experience but suffice to say I could go on for ever. So I will just list them, Elephants, Ostriches, Hippos lazing in various lakes, rhinos (just, he was hiding so we didn't see all of him), Jackals, Dingos (we think, a different kind of dog creature anyway), various Antelopes, two different types of buffalo, various bird, storks, flamingos etc, a deer, and lots of land cruisers and Americans.

Basically the safari was fantastic and really impossible to describe, there are many others areas to visit which we intend to do on future trips. I recommend to anyone visiting Africa that a Safari is a must, and the Crater should be high on the list as you are guaranteed to see animals.

We finished the day and thankfully the clouds had cleared so we got to see the full view of the crater from the top. No words can describe and I am sure our pictures will not do it justice.

Nearly forgot to mention, we met another family of baboons in the forest on the way out. They had decided the road was a perfect place to congregate and have a mass cleaning session and get their willies out (reminds me of a long weekend in Spain where we accidentally found ourselves on a nudest beach).

On the way home we stopped to see Lake Manyara from a view point by the side of the road (with proper toilets, none of this squat and drop malarkey, worth noting for anyone travelling to the area, although make sure you have toilet paper). The lake is huuuugeeeeeee, and beautiful. There were a number of pink areas on it, thankfully not us hallucination or chemicals in the lake, just masses of flamingos (although only a few compared to what you can find during some periods of the year).

We were lucky enough to have a second safari experience on the way home, with a large family of elephant, over 20 giraffes and many many zebras all just wondering along next to the road. Extraordinary.

The rest of the journey was very uneventful, and very tiring. I don't know how poor Godwin did it as he was driving from 7am to 9pm, with only short breaks for food etc. He has been a star this whole trip I must say.

Naomi (and the team)

Day 9: Off to Safari

Today we finally get to feel like tourists and set off on the long drive to Ngorongoro Crater. We set off around 12 o'clock stopping in Arusha to go to a book shop to pick up some books for Keilah and Amys library. It was a very successful stop as we spent over 1 million Tanzanian shillings (10000 shillings is about 5 pounds). We had a late lunch at the snake park had a look around there and then a Masai Village which was interesting and then continued on the 5 hour journey to the crater.

The journey was pretty uneventful apart from seeing about 4 giraffes at the side of the road. Poor Keilah got very emotional as she had been really hoping to see a Giraffe and we knew there weren't going to be any in the Crater.

We arrived around 8pm at the Lutherin Hostel which we were staying at so we could get into the Crater nice and early, unfotunately being Lutherin there was no alcohol, but hey we are big enough to manage a day without :-)