One of these days I am going to be in an internet cafe long enough to respnod to mails as well as to just send them out – but it’s not today.
I am in Kikatiti now (well, the internet cafe is in Usa but I am staying in Kikatiti) at the Happy Watoto Home. It’s a great place – the kids are wonderful and the surrondings are really beautiful. The are five other volunteers there; Cory, an American from the Bay Area who has been there three weeks already, and four Irish girls who only just arrived this afternoon (and who have only been in Tanzania a few days, so they are very disoriented).
It was a 10 hr bus ride from Dar es Salaam. It was long and I didn’t want to take out my cd player because it was so far above the level of technology of everyone else on the bus. I sat next to a girl returning to boarding school near Kilimanjaro who had fluent English and hopes to go to college in the US or UK to study medicine. She was very nice and helped me quite a bit – including giving me part of her lunch, which I hated to take. I gave her my sweater and traded seats so I could crack the window open – everyone in Dar es Salaam says Arusha area is so cold and complains, she was even shivering, but I’m finding it only refreshingly crisp.
Yesterday, when I arrived, I had my first bath/shower/cleaning for three days (in addition to Kawe having unofficial off-electricity days it also had unofficial dry days and I had some “confusion” as to just what time my bus left so I was running late and had no time), the first hot water since I left home (they heated it for me and brought it in buckets and I think I groveled in gratitude), and the first toilet since the first night in Dar. The children didn’t shout ‘mzungu’ and look at me like a freak, either (though I had gotten used to that). They did play with my hair for an hour or so, but that I don’t mind at all. It was a happy day.
There are about 50 kids; I’m still working on names. They taught me some of their games and I’ve taught them a few. There’s a six year old who is HIV positive and one missing an eye but for the most part they are quite happy and healthy. They sing – gorgeously. Last night, after dinner, they had “church” – they sang hymns (in Kiswahili) and it was probably the most amazing thing I have ever heard. They clapped a beat and counterbeat, had a call and response, melody, harmony, counter-harmony, and it was a round. Even the littlest were all in key and everything. Samuel, the man who is in charge of the orphanage is a former pastor and is very nice. There’s a little solar electricity but no water (running or worth drinking) so I have to break out my purification kit.
Today I was planning on just following Cory to the school and watching his classes. It’s a primary school (Che Che Primary) and he’s teaching standard (grade) 5 and 6, which are the two highest levels, two periods a day. He took me to the teacher’s room and went to class and rather than following him once I had met the teachers they gave me four periods to teach – standard 3, which is harder because it’s younger and they have very, very little English. A couple of the kids from the home are in my class, I think. There are over 80 in each class. I struggled through my lessons but at least there is a textbook and a lesson plan, of sorts. (The organization and teachers at Che Che school seems so much better than Kawe that it’s not even comparable.) It was difficult work and I’m going to have to go back and look up a half dozen words. The have a chant they say when I enter the room, stand for me, and call me Madam. They also wait on all the teachers and laugh at the fact that I clean my own chalkboard and carry my own things – I know it’s cultural, but I have a little difficulty with having them serve me.
Vicky, who normally teaches the classes they gave me, was very nice and didn’t seem upset at me supplanting her (I got the feeling in the staff room that a few others were a little disgruntled) and took me to her house (she practically lives on campu) during the break, fed me porridge, half an orange, and half a cob of corn. I was very touched by her kindness, and the meal she shared. I’m missing Bibi’s cooking though.
There are 15 teachers, only two of them men, who have the best English. Another, named Janet, spoke with me a while and I think her English is good but she refused to use it with me and wanted to speak only in Kiswahili and got nicer the longer we kept going.
The cake we made for Bibi turned out surprisingly well – although a grasshopper fell into the batter and we “doctored” the recipe quite a bit. We decided to call it Mango Turnover and Bibi says that she is going to make it for her birthday. All of the household – the two little girls, Bibi, her daughter, and two neighbor women all sat around and helped – did most of the work, really, while I “directed” and Laura photographed.
Saturday we went to the beach. Juan, Laura, and I decided to teach Cyril (the Swahili teacher) how to swim – Africans, apparently, don’t swim and teaching a 19 year old who had never been in the ocean before how to swim was an interesting experience. Several other people came over to help – all mzungu. I saw more in that stretch of the ocean than the rest of the trip put together – and the beach full of locals stood up to watch and cheer and we were decently successful.
I have to go because there is a man waiting to drive me to the supermarket and back home. (I’m out of toilet paper and a few other equally essential things.) He already had to wait while Merry, a woman who was at the school when I was leaving and needed a ride back, took me into her house to show it to me – the car ran out of gas on the road and we made friends while he went for “diesel.”