Monday 15 March
I went into town and got a few things for the village. I also met up with Christoph who used to live in Buigiri but now drives a bus in town. Even with a job, things are still a struggle so I sorted him out with a bit of food, drugs and clothes – on the way back to Buigiri I had my first nasty experience in Tanzania. I went to the bus to get on board and a man came up to me and opened the back of the bus for me to put my bags in. I boarded the bus and he demanded 1000tshs from me, about 50p. I refused and asked why and he said he had helped me, so I pointed out the fact that I was already at the bus and all he did was open the door which I was perfectly capable of doing. I knew I was in the right but he started squaring up to me – I probably should have just paid it to avoid the hassle cos you hear about people who get knifed over sod all money and wonder why they bother, but I was kind of hoping others might step in if it got nasty. As it happened he eventually backed away.
Christoph in the market
At home in the evening I hit upon an idea that I cant believe it took me so long to think of – rather than use mozzie spray I pay the kids in sweets to kill them – one sweet per three cadavers. It is cheaper than using spray and better for the environment, although maybe not so for their teeth.
Tuesday 16 March
My house felt as bit like a conveyor belt – someone would come and talk to me and then they would leave and someone else would come in. It started at 8am as Mamma Happy and her daughter paid a visit. They used to live in the rehab centre but had to leave a few years ago for some unknown reason. She is probably amongst the poorest people here and thats is quite a feat. Her husband is a right pain in the arse but I try and help her when I can. I kitted them out in clothes – people joke that my house is like many shops rolled in to one – it certainly feels like a clothes shop as I must have 300-400 items piled up everywhere.
I headed up to the rehab centre for a meeting and to say hello to two goats I’d bought and on the way back I went to meet nine families at a maize shop. Amongst them were some blind who live in the village but outside the rehab centre plus others with disabilities or who are in particular hardship. They all got 20kg of maize which will last a few weeks, so its a bit like putting an elastoplast on a gunshot wound, but my budget doesn’t allow anything more.
Getting maize for the other people in particular hardship in the village. Mamma Happy is near the middle with her daughter in front of her.
I then went with Mamma Happy and sorted her out with shoes and a couple of other things and then went to collect some uniforms I’d had made for some children. On my way home I chatted to one of the teachers from the non-blind primary school here in Buigiri as he has broken his glasses, has low vision and finds it very difficult teaching and so on. I think the cost is too high for me to deal with at £45 so I gave a small contribution as money is running low. Hopefully he can find the rest – he gets a salary as a teacher so it should only take him two or three months.
In the evening a couple of teachers came to see me but they came in the guise of working for the Tanzanian League for the Blind. I’m a little opposed to helping the organisation cos although I know they do good work, if I pass resources along to them then everything has to be decided by committee and in my experience committees don’t work in Africa – you need someone who can take charge and get a job done without creaming anything off the top for themselves. I’d rather just keep working alongside them as I currently do as that seems to work for now.
Wednesday 17 March
I think I’ve mentioned before about Gabriel Msaka and his chicken/goat business. He now has two goats which is all well and good but the income they generate gets swallowed in his living expenses and so he will find it tough to expand much more. I agreed to give him a boost by adding a third goat to the enterprise – he had proved he can run a small business so its pleasing to be able to give him a little more help. He cant stand his wife so everything has to be kept secret from her. They’ve probably been married for about 50 years and so the whole situation is somewhat comical.
I then had a visit from a guy called Emmanuel who is a blind man and runs a small shop in a nearby village. He needed a little help with capital to buy sugar and such like. I very rarely hand over money but decided to in this case – he will report back to a teacher who will then let me know how it is going. It is only as small amount of money – £15 but like with Msaka it could give him an all important kick start and help his business grow a lot more.
I then had more visitors – some to just chat, others to collect things like white sticks and others to discuss their problems. I rarely have even 10 minutes from sunrise to sunset when people aren’t in my house or wanting to meet me some place.
Peter with his very shiny new stick
The next group to come were 6 school children. I’ve found sponsors for 8 children this year and these 6 are amongst them. There are 4 girls who are all orphans and live a pretty hard life. Seven of the eight are doing well in their class – one is top from 80 and the other is 8th in his class.
With 6 of the children being sponsored
A short chat with Amin, one of the 8 students friends in England are sponsoring
The next port of call was to meet Msaka and Omary for some meat – they love meat here but most cant afford it – when they do get it it is like an orgy – we had half a cow’s liver and a kilo of meat barbecued for us which we tucked into inside the butchers – its all pretty disgusting to be honest, but it tastes so good that it is worth it.
Once you get over how utterly disgusting the conditions are, you can appreciate just how good simple BBQed meat is
I then met up with a girl called Flora who attended the blind school but had to leave when she got pregnant. She is just 15 and her baby is a year old and also blind. I sorted them out with clothes and food, but like with the other cases, it is hardly a long lasting solution. Her life is pretty much screwed already – not a bad achievement for someone barely in their teens.
Flora with her baby and Emmanuel
In the afternoon I oversaw a phone call between a boy in the village and a class of school kids in London. One of the things I did last trip was set links up so that the children could learn about each others lives – consequently I found myself standing in a primary school class in England before I left answering lots of questions about life in Tanzania and the children got to show off that they had been learning a little Swahili. A few letters have gone back and forth and it’s generated a little fund-raising which has been put to good use out here and hopefully that venture will continue.
In the evening I went to the bar and drank far too much seeing as I was tired already and had an early start the next day. I don’t drink much out here cos I tend to be pretty knackered in the evenings and beer sends me to sleep. I did note though how stupid I can be – even now, after spending a lot of time around blind people, in the evenings I will still shine my torch at their feet so they can see where they are going in the dark. I do other dumb things also like use my hands to point.
Alfa’s father did a runner and his mum died last year. All the local non-boarding kids at the school get extra tuition in the evenings at a cost of £1.50 a month and he is the only one who can’t go.
Thursday 18th March
I headed into town first thing as I had a busy day ahead. I went with Omary who is the regional co-ordinator of the Tanzanian League for the Blind. We got a taxi and filled it up with rice, fruit, school books and other items. It was a bit of a struggle cos I like to do things quickly and efficiently but that is not the Tanzanian way – they like to amble along, stop and chat to people, have tea and then continue.
Pascal with some schoolbooks
Our destination was a place called Milembeli which literally means ‘two miles’ as it is two miles from the centre of town. There are around 35 blind families living there, many of whom are beggers but some might have simple jobs such as making brooms or baskets. I’ve got to know some of them quite well as I’ve visited their homes maybe four or five times now. Some of the money raised by the school in London was spent in Milembeli on things like food, uniforms and building/repairing a couple of houses. After distributing the items we’d brought, as well as some white canes, talking watches, mobile phones and cameras from England, we visited a couple of homes. Our final destination was Idi’s house – he and his wife had kindly invited us for lunch. We had rice with meat, coke and bottled water. It is really touching when people make this kind of sacrifice for me.
With the blind in Milembeli
Eating with Idi and his family. They live in this one small room.
A quick tour around Daniel’s house in Milembeli
A letter read out by one of the blind
Friday 19th March
The day started badly – in town I told someone where to go but I knew she couldnt speak English so wouldnt understand. As fantastic as it is being out here, Africa can be hugely frustrating at times. Things go better in the afternoon as I was off on the lash. First though I had arranged for 110 sodas to be delivered to the school for the children. Some of the young ones have never drunk from a bottle before and it was moving watching their friends teach them.
Soda time. Giving blind kids a sugar rush en masse is possibly a bit dangerous
Once that was over it was beer time. One of the teachers has a car and 6 of us piled in and went to a village about 20 miles away. Chalinze is a centre for cow trading and is renowned for its meat. We spent 5 hours gourging ourselves on beer and cow. The quantities Tanzanians can eat when given the chance is utterly phenomenal. Their stomachs must be made from elastic. We started with 1 kilo of roasted meat between us. Then we had two kilos and finally three kilos. That’s a kilo of pure meat per person.
We all had a plate each – plus two further smaller plates of meat.