Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Good Bye Kibaya

Peter, Debra and Henry
Our primary teachers gave us gifts of Massai clothing 

It’s time to say good-bye to Kibaya and our unforgettable year there.  There is an old Cuso saying that goes, ‘you will learn at least as much as you teach’ and this has certainly been more than true for us.  It will take a while for it all to sink in but already I have started to look back. 

I can still vividly remember that first bus trip to Kibaya.  We’ve had better rides in our night mares.  What should have been a five hour ride turned into ten hours, involving two dala dalas and a broken down bus. We stood up the whole way, except for when we were sitting on a rock at the side of the road.  One of our bags was perched on the lap of a fellow passenger and our computer was stashed between the feet of a passenger twenty feet away.  The bus was so packed that one couldn’t bend over to reach the water bottle on the floor.  It was one of those adventures that are better in the telling.

After banging and shaking down a rutted, dusty dirt track for the last three hours of the trip, we arrived in Kibaya.  We knew it was our destination because there was a mzungu standing by the bus stand.  That mzungu turned out to be our colleague, Tessa Most.  She took us in to her home fed us, gave us the scoop on the local conditions and made us welcome.

Our Primary Teachers

 We have grown to appreciate this dusty little town on the Masai Steppe.  On trips to Dar es Salaam, for meetings or for shopping, we have often commented on how much better we have it than the City Vols. Sure they have access to anchovy pizza with olives, chicken tikka masala with puffy nan bread and everything else under the sun that is western but, after all is said and done, The Real Africa has been our home. We are very proud to be able to say that.

It hasn’t all been a walk in the park.  Like every other volunteer we’ve had our ups and downs.  What we can say though is that the ups have overwhelmingly outweighed the downs.

We have done good work here in Kibaya and we are thankful for that.  We haven’t done it alone and so thanks must go out in so many directions. 

We must first thank Andrea Bacsfalusi, Tara Henderson and Gesa Harmston at Cuso International.  Without their support we wouldn’t have gotten past the Halifax airport.

Kudos go out to Jean van Wetter, the VSO Country Director.  Jean is the-go-to-guy at VSO.  There is no better way to put it.  His support for our work has been unfailing.  Volunteers know that they can always depend on Jean.  His humour, his dedication to development and his solid dependability have seen us through.  His is the toughest of jobs; coordinating volunteers and supervising the VSO staff in Dar must be akin to trying to get cats to walk in a parade.

We would also like to thank Tessa Most.  She has been the best of neighbours and colleagues.  Tessa’s heart is huge.

Lastly, but not least, a big vote of thanks goes out to Mr. Ndee, the director of the CERC, Henry Kimola, our primary champion teacher, Mr. Kitundu, Richard, Happiness and Neema, our secondary champion teachers.  To all of the teachers, our colleagues in Kibaya, we love you all.

  Sixty Primary Teachers who completed our programme enjoyed a graduation lunch 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Turkey Works

It's been a very productive year here in Dusty Kibaya.   We’ve been as busy as a couple of long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs teaching English and educational methodology while reading our Kindles and working our way through all seven seasons of The West Wing .  In development speak we have been building sustainable capacity, protecting the planet, activating self-esteem and promoting community fair trade.

After so much hard work Debra deserved to be put on a pedestal

So after all of this toil we had the chance to vacation in Turkey or what Nicholas I, the Tzar of Russia, called The Sick Man of Europe.  Well, this is one recovered Sick Man.  Turkey modernized its economy in the early eighties and again in the nineties and is now open for business.  Like the Chinese and the Indians they have discovered that this capitalism stuff really works.  Tanzania could certainly take a leaf out of the Turkish book.

Peter smoking the nargileh

Turkey of the 2000s is a far cry from the old Hippy-Trail-Turkey of the 1970s when the Magic Bus plied its way from Fat City Hostel in Amsterdam to Istanbul filled with a wild assortment of tie dyed Freaks madly searching for the meaning of life or the next Summer of Love, whichever came first.

Not only is the modern Turkey prosperous but it’s a history buff's version of heaven.

The Aya Sofya

In Istanbul we were arm pit's deep in Byzantine and Ottoman history.  We hit all the highlights.  We shopped in the Grand Bazaar and drank countless glasses of tea while playing backgammon and smoking the nargileh in the cafes of Sultanahmet.  The Aya Sofya is most impressive.  It started life as a church, became a mosque and is now a museum.  How could something built 1,500 years ago be in such good shape?

The Blue Mosque

A ferry boat took us across the Sea of Marmara to Gallipoli, site of the World War I battle.  There, in 1915, the Newfoundland Regiment got it's baptism of fire alongside the Australians and New Zealanders.  It was a horribly flawed attempt to capture the Dardanelles, support Russia via the Black Sea and knock Turkey out of the war.  My great-uncle Frank was part of the Gallipoli campaign.

Intercity buses in Turkey are air-conditioned, safe, clean and efficient.  We rode one of them from Gallipoli to Ephesus.  This site is one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean, if not all of Europe.  One day was spent walking around these ruins getting a feel for what life was like in Roman times.

The library at Ephesus

There are thermal baths at the ancient spa town of Pammukale.  We soaked in the waters while sitting on submerged ancient marble columns.  We walked up and down the bleached-white calcite terraces, bathing in the 36 degree waters as we went.  This place is magical.

Taking the Waters

If I keep this up readers will think I am a Turkey tout.  But I have to mention Cappadocia.  Caves, Byzantine churches, underground caverns and the spectacular fairy chimneys abound.  This place looks like the perfect home for Hobbits.

Fairy Chimney at Cappadocia

My advice to young teachers of English is simple. Grab a handful of chalk, get over there, pick up a job and start teaching.  Turkey most certainly works.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.". . . Blanche Dubois

It's been a exciting week with visitors to Dusty Kibaya. Djoke and Marc, VSO colleagues from Ndolage, made the three day bus journey, arriving on Monday. Fredrik from Dodoma and Juanito from Pemba joined them. So we've had a big crowd at B.9 all week.

Things got off to a rocky start. Within hours of our guests arriving we heard that an SUV carrying nine young Americans blew a tire and cartwheeled thirty miles outside of town. They were anthropology students from California here to study Masai culture. One of them died in the local hospital during surgery and four others were seriously injured.

 Djoke transferring a patient to a waiting vehicle

Cars are badly maintained here and the roads are little more than rutted dirt tracks. Road accidents are all too common. In this case a blown tire, excessive speed and an oncoming motorcycle were responsible. I will never again complain about vehicle inspections in Nova Scotia.

The Medivac airplane

One of our primary teachers came by and told us about the tragedy. Djoke, a medical doctor, volunteered to go to the hospital and offer her help. She examined the patients and went with them in the medivac airplane to Arusha. The hospital staff told Djoke that a neurosurgeon was on duty in Arusha and that they had a CT scanner. This was not totally true. There was no neurosurgeon and the CT scanner was broken. Tanzanians often tell people what they want to hear out of fear of disappointing them.
Djoke boarded the plane with no money. She was able to borrow some but it took her two days to return to Kibaya.

Meanwhile, Marc, her husband, an artist, painted in the market while the rest of us socialized, cooked on the charcoal jiko and watched movies on the computer.

Marc painting in the market

It is always wonderful to have visitors here. It is such a shame that the young Americans' field trip to the Masai steppe ended so tragically and so needlessly.

Debra and Djoke

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Telephone Talk

The Dilemma

In a recent workshop our primary teachers spent some time role playing telephone conversations.  We set up scenarios and let them go to it.  It was all great fun with much English conversation and laughter .

Everybody's Talking

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Under the Same Sky

The day before yesterday, our secondary school teachers were discussing the challenges that they face in their schools and I was struck by how similar their problems are to the challenges facing Canadian teachers. They talked about truancy, troublesome student behaviour, the lack of learning materials, not enough books and that many of their students simply don't like to study. They even brought up the problem of parents not supporting teachers.

Teachers discussing school problems

The challenges that they face are of course different in scale. Compared to Canadian students Tanzanian kids are very well behaved and Canadian teachers have a whole lot more resources than Tanzanian ones.

Still, I was reminded of the days when I taught George Orwell's, Nineteen Eighty Four. There is a passage in that book that talks about the sky being the same for everyone and that all over the world, whether it be Eastasia or Eurasia or here, people are ignorant of one another's existence and are held apart by lies and hatred but that they are almost the same people.

Michael and Mindy painting a world map on the wall of Kiteto Secondary School
Trying to make the whole world their students' oyster

The discussion brought Orwell's passage home to me. Our similarities far out weight our differences.

The sky over the Main Street in Kibaya

Monday, 9 July 2012

Zanzibar Break

We just returned from a two week trip to Zanzibar taken during the end-of -term school holidays. All of the volunteers involved in improving English in the secondary schools of Tanzania met for a couple of days in Zanzibar Town and then Debra and I headed to the beach for some sun and sand.

Tessa (and friend), Debra, Juanito and Peter
Trying to Improve English

We rented a really cool beach hut, made from palm fronds, on Kendwa Beach on the northern tip of Zanzibar Island. It had a bathroom and hot shower and was right on the sand. Such luxury for a couple of scruffy volunteers.

This cool beach hut is made completely from palm leaves

The seven days were spent reading, lounging around, walking on the beach and swimming in the beautiful turquoise water. The sand, formed from coral, was snow white with the consistency of sugar and the water was warm.

Fishing boats on Kwenda Beach

As Frank Sinatra would say, 'it's nice to go travellin' but it's so, so nice to come home.'

Monday, 18 June 2012

Libraries In Boxes Go To Schools

Boys unloading the library at Msente Primary School

Today we finished delivering our Libraries in Boxes to the schools that we work with.  They were well received by the teachers and students.

Girls at Partimbo Primary School taking the books to class

These small libraries each contain in between 50 and 60 books.  Some are fiction and some are non-fiction.  We are certain that they will be well used and will increase the level of English among the students of Kibaya.

Girls at Kiteto Secondary School Hostel

Many kind thanks to all of the people who donated these books.  Your efforts are well appreciated.
English Teacher, Norbert, checking out the books

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Good Samaritan Protects Fran from our Unwelcome Visitor

When we were kids our generation went to Sunday school and learned the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Good Samaritan was a traveller who helped a man who was robbed, beaten and left by the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jerico.  Many people of high rank walked by the man and didn't help.  The Good Samaritan did.  He stopped and helped a stranger in need.

A painting of the Good Samaritan by a Dutch Artist

Yesterday, our guest and fellow volunteer, Fran was on her way to the market when she was accosted by the mentally deranged man who has been harassing us.  He screamed at her, invaded her personal space and waved his stick close to her.

 Fran helping our primary teachers inventory their libraries in boxes

Luckily for Fran a Good Samaritan came by.  Her name was Asha and she took Fran aside and protected her until the fellow went away.  Fran was able to return to our house safely.

Later in the day we had Asha over to our house for tea and thanked her for her help.

Asha, a modern day Good Samaritan

Today, Mr. Ndee took us to the police station twice.  The police have the man in custody but they and Mr. Ndee assure us that we will not have to go to court. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

An Unwelcome Visitor

The stereotype of Africa is that it is a risky place to live.  The western media focus on African violence and mayhem.  The single story of Africa is that it is a highly dangerous place.

Until very recently our personal experience with Tanzania has been just the opposite.  Without exception the people have been polite, welcoming and friendly.

On Friday we began to have our first security problem.  Near the market a man asked us for some money for chakula (food).  This sort of thing happens occasionally even in Kibaya where there are no tourists and where, as a result, begging is rare.  When beggars do approach us we always say, 'sorry, no money.'   We are always polite to them. On Friday, we responded to the beggar as usual and thought no more about it.

On Saturday morning at 7:00, just after Pascale Antony our guard left, the same beggar showed up outside our home.  He was carrying a stick and had a machete strapped to his belt.  He woke us up and asked for money.  To find out where we live he must have followed us home on Friday.  We told him through the window, in our limited Swahili, that we were sorry but that we could not give him money.  He stood outside our window for about 15 minutes glaring at us and then left.   On the road in front of our house he began to scream and yell but then moved on.

On Saturday afternoon the man came to our house again.  Once more he asked for money and once more we told him that we were sorry but that we had no money to give.  After standing outside our house for about 15 minutes he left.  At this point I started to become a little concerned and so I phoned our manager, Mr. Ndee who suggested we go to our nearest neighbour, Mr. Joseph, a Big Potato in the district and ask for his help.  Unfortunately, Mr. Joseph was not at home.

This morning at about 8:30 the same man showed up again and got us out of bed.  He started pounding on our door with his stick while screaming at us.  When he left our door to come to our bedroom window to do more yelling, I quietly opened the door and took his picture.

This is the picture I took of the man who has been harrassing us

There are five Mzungus living in Kibaya and of all our house is the most exposed.  We have no gate and no wall surrounding our property.  We don’t keep dogs and the locks on our doors would not stand a serious asault.  All five of us stand out and are assumed to be rich.

This morning after the beggar left, I phoned Mr. Swai, a secondary school headmaster and friend and he came over right away.  When I showed him the picture he recognized the person as a local mentally disturbed man but recommended to us that we contact the police.

Mr. Joseph, our neighbour, took us to the police station late this morning and we filed a police report.  The report was written in Swahili and I signed it without being able to read it.  I hope I didn’t confess to the Kennedy assassination!

The police were sympathetic and friendly.  They know the culprit as mentally disturbed person and told us that they would pick him up, bring him to the station and warn him to stay away from our house. 

I hope this works.  Another day in the lives of two mzungues in Kibaya.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Libraries in Boxes Workshops

This week's workshops with our primary teachers  introduced the 'Libraries in Boxes' and the books that were so generously donated by Canadians in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Washington DC.  The teachers loved the books and they really enjoyed exploring the contents of the boxes.

There is no strong tradition here of reading aloud to children.  So the first order of business was to emphasize the importance of this activity.  Then we demonstrated to them one way in which this could be done in order for it to have the greatest educational impact.

For Canadian teachers it is inconceivable that elementary students would be left alone in a classroom for long periods of time, however, this is the norm here and we must work around it.  The teachers were asked to think of ways that the pupils could use the books even if their teacher was not present in the classroom.  One thing that we have learned so far, is that the project will move forward if it makes the   teachers' jobs easier and more enjoyable.