Settling in (2008)

have a little more time today. I’ve decided to spend a couple of days in Dodoma so I can get a few things done and not feel rushed. First port of call is, of course, the internet.

I’m settled into village life now. There is nothing like a supermarket here, so working out who can supply eggs or milk or bread or buckets etc is quite a mission, but I’m pretty much there now. I am employing one semi-blind woman to do my washing and to sweep my house once a week. I pay her £1.50 for around two hours work which is something like 6 times the going rate, but this way she gets some help without it necessarily feeling like charity, and I get to be a lazy bugger! Win win.

I’ve had some strange experiences, like three nights ago I had dinner with the headmaster of the blind school and around 9pm he suggested we drive to the neighbouring village to go to a wedding party. I ended up being shpherded in and deposited on the very front row with maybe 150 locals all looking at me wondering who the hell I was as the headmaster pissed off to another bar. A guy got on the microphone and introduced me as I went redder and redder. Fortunately we didn’t stay for too long.

I bought out a portable DVD player with me on a whim and I’m really glad I did. Although I’m sleeping for around 9 hours a night, I still have quite a bit of spare time and I’ve found a place in Dodoma which sells 20 films for £3.50. I have so far shown Superman and Commando to a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds. I had to lunge forward and cover the screen during one nude scene in Commando. I think I should maybe vet the films a little better.

David is my main contact here in Buigiri. He really is a God – he thinks with a western mindset rather than an African one and if it wasn’t for him I’d really struggle out here. As I am a Msungu (white man), everyone assumes I am the answer to their problems as I naturally have inifinite resources. As such it is difficult connecting with adults as their motivations are money orientated – often for all the right reasons such as paying for their children’s education, but even so – whereas David’s motivation is helping me to help the people who really need it. As such I know who will just spend my assistance on alcohol or who has alternative sources of funds.

Corruption here is rife. It isn’t even seen as corruption, rather it’s just how things are. The headmaster of the school is amongst the worst and so I have to be very diplomatic when spending money on the children by saying things like ‘I know you are an important and busy man so I’d like to spend the money myself directly rather than give it to you’. It is quite an art. I do my best to ensure I give people items rather than the money to pay for items. I think I’ve only been caught out once so far when I gave someone from the rehab centre £10 to pay for his bus fares and accom/food for a 70km trip to see his doctor. He was meant to have gone on Saturday but yesterday he told me he can’t go until he gets money to cover his food, which is bollocks as he had more than enough.

Being a white man is a big deal here. I’ve so far had 2 offers of ‘love’ from a matron and a teacher. I’ve carefully declined. Everywhere I go I hear whispers of ‘Msungu!’ and I get to feel what it must be like to be famous. People driving along in buses will hang out the windows staring at me as they pass, some kids run up and smile at me and others burst into tears. I have acquired two shadows: Marde and Illombo who are two 5 year old girls. They hang around my house and smile at me and make fun of my Swahili. I’m generally not child-friendly, but they are cute beyond words.

Here are some pics taken in the past few days:

This is Nasson


Saeed and Thomas. I have labelled him Thomas#1 and he laughs everytime I say it.


Cinema De Tom


I’m getting 15 sets of uniforms for the kids and this is the tailor measuring them.


Moi


I got a truck load of manure for the rehab centre to help their crops in the rainy season which starts around November, but the crops usually fail so manure is very important.


I also got some sunflower seed. Sunflowers grow faster than the usual crop of maize and so can help offset poverty if the rains finish early.


This is Akiri playing a blind version of football. He seems to be very bright and is always well groomed, but his future probably isnt all that rosey cos he is extremely partially blind.


Nico and Thomas#1. Nico tends to just stand around. I want to say he stares into space, but that would be kinda dumb.


My neighbours: monkeys


Earlier today I bought (with money given to me by a poker friend) 96 sodas for the children. They had been really excited about having them all weekend. They’re only 20p each but are a big treat for them, akin to a child in England getting to go to see his football team or getting a pair of fashionable trainers.

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About Imo & Tom Feilding

I'm in my 30s and work for the University of Bristol, I regularly visit Buigiri Village slapbang in the centre of Tanzania in East Africa. It is a very poor semi-desert area. I spend much of my time and money helping individuals improve their situation and I write about it on here.
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