I won’t repeat the back story of when I started coming out here and so on cos in all likelihood this diary will be pretty much a replica of last year’s as it is anyhow. If you are interested then just look on my blog exactly one year ago.
Thur & Fri 3rd & 4th March
The journey out to Tanzania went fine – it is a 9 hour flight then a 7-8 hour bus journey from the airport to the village. I’d arranged for my bus ticket to be bought in advance cos getting the right seat is important – too near the front and you get munched in an accident, too near the back you go flying all over the shop and if you sit on the right hand side then you’ll not see the mile markers telling you how far you have to go. Anyhow, you don’t really need to know those mundane details so I’ll move on. I got to the bus-stand and it is always a hive of activity but this time there was no one there, just five smashed up buses sitting outside. It seems within the two days of buying a ticket and me actually travelling the largest bus company in East Africa had collapsed. Good timing. I found another bus and the journey was comfortable enough – it even had a TV. They played The Hangover on repeat and at a volume which is too low to fully understand but high enough to irritate. This served to replicate the feeling of having a hangover.
I was met off the bus by one of the teachers and a gaggle of school children. Like last time it was a bit manic giving greetings whilst trying to get my bags without holding the bus up too much. My bags were very heavy and probably weighed as much as some of the children but they managed to lift them up and carry them up to my house as I sauntered behind.
I had various visitors to my house welcoming me back to the village. It is quite a big event when a westerner comes here and cos I’ve spent so much time here in recent years I’ve got to know many people and they all want a slice of my time.
David invited me to his for dinner. Every year I kit the house out with stuff like utensils and every year when I return they have disappeared so it was a relief to not have to worry about cooking when I had neither fire nor food. After dinner we hit the bar – things have changed since last time as the place we drank before no longer sells beer which is something of a fail for a bar. The new place has neon lights, shelter and a TV so is massively more advanced than just a plastic chair on the side of the road. Whilst sitting around getting pissed is always fun, it is also an opportunity to talk to some of the local blind leaders and make plans. My trouble is remembering the following day what we agreed but somehow I bodge it together with just the occasional double-booking. It is fair to say I was shattered when I got home and I passed out straight away. The good thing about coming here at this time of year is the days are hot but the nights are chilly so sleep is easy.
It is hard enough walking with blind people as it is but it becomes much tougher still when they are drunk in charge of a white cane.
Sat 5th March
I was up first thing to unpack. In England I sleep til about 10am most days but here I struggle to make it past 7am as either there is someone at my door or a cockerel has aspirations of being an alarm clock outside my window.
What I managed to squeeze in to my bags.
I went in to town to kit the house out with everything it needed. Usually I go by local bus which is hell on earth. However since my last trip David has bought a rather beaten up car. It costs about £8 in petrol and £2 for a driver but it is well worth it when buying lots of stuff. I stopped to chat with various people I knew in town. One described me as the ‘lost wanderer’. I got everything I needed like a charcoal cooker, plates and fruit and veg and cos I had use of a car I also bought a shed load of other things. Like last year, one of the things I want to do is equip all 100 kids in the school with clothes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, sweets, skin cream, shoes and other items. So the boot was soon filled with sacks and boxes of items.
I also managed to get a dongle for my laptop – every time I come here I long to have access to the internet in the village and now it is possible. In the past I’d go to town, try and get stuff done and be plagued by network issues or power cuts. Being able to log in and upload pics and so on from my house makes my life so much easier. The service is far from perfect and cuts out every ten minutes or so but I’m not complaining.
On the way back we stopped off at the Adult Blind Centre which about 2-3km away from my house. The children all came running out shouting my name which is always a pretty cool experience. I was only there briefly and went to arrange a meeting with the members for a couple of days time as it can be a little tricky doing it over the phone. I also got to see Emejohn, the baby named after my sister Imogen – though they have trouble with her name, hence the variation. She is now two and old enough to be frightened of new things so she bawled for Tanzania when I tried to pick her up.
Some of the children from the adult blind centre go crazy (in a good way) about having their photo taken.
Meeting my sister’s namesake. Although in this photo it looks like she is crying cos I’ve punched her.
I spent some of the evening playing with the blind children – they are very excitable yet very easily pleased. We talk about all kinds of rubbish but it usually centres around me being silly. The night once again involved a visit to the bar where more beer was consumed. I got most of them in – a round of half a dozen drinks costs about the same as one beer at home.
The photos I am in tend to be pretty poor but thats cos often the person taking it is visually impaired and very few people can comprehend how to frame a good photo.
There are 4 albino kids in the school. Partly cos they tend to suffer from poor vision but also to protect them as many albinos have been murdered in Tanzania so their body parts can be used in witchdoctor medicine.
I slept in til 9am as was up way too late the night before. I was woken by children trying to peer through my window. A quick bark from me sent them scurrying away. I met various people through the day including Mneno who I am employing as a cook/cleaner. She gets £1.75 a day with a 50p bonus if she turns up on time and does a good job. I don’t know her though so I’m praying there won’t be an issue with stuff going missing from my house. I’ll be as careful as I can but I’m not here much of the day.
I spent more time with the blind children and I also met up with the last few people I was yet to see. I also showed some kids here their village on Googlemaps. After that we webcammed with my sister in England. She has been here before so they know her but it’s fair to say they were astounded with videocalling.
These are some of the brighter kids at the school – the one with the stick speaks excellent English which is something of a novelty amongst the primary school kids here.
Monday 7th March
I went back in to town but for the first time ever a random 4×4 stopped and gave me a ride so I didn’t need to endure the bus. I went to the clothes auctions and got a friendly wave from a couple of the auctioneers. I only stayed for 30 mins or so as it was boiling – the sales take place in a shed with a tin roof and it is absolutely jammed with people so gets very very hot, plus I had to carry what I purchased around town. I got maybe 40 different items. My plan is to get around 400, so I’m going to have to figure out how to speed the process up. I’ll likely just get someone to come in to town with me and they can ferry the sacks back to the village.
I also met up with an elderly Indian woman who has done me takeaways in the past which last several days. Although now I don’t have a fridge so that isn’t going to work. Instead she had made me some naan bread and a litre of not-quite-traditional tsatsiki. I also got to Western Union – I had sent myself out some money cos it is a right pain getting access to cash normally here. Often the ATMs don’t work and they will only give a limited amount of cash each day. The guy in the bank thought I was loony for sending myself money but it is one less headache to deal with. The biggest note is worth around £4 and it is rather fun having bricks of cash.
I met up with one of the blind teachers and accompanied him back to town. The journey was a little crazy cramped up in a bus designed for 15 but carrying twice that number. Imagine the Black hole of Calcutta on wheels. Fortunately it only takes about 40 minutes. In the evening I went to Mr Omary’s house. He appears a lot in my photos as not only is he a teacher at the school but he is also the regional co-ordinator of the Tanzanian League for the Blind and someone I do a lot of work with. His wife had cooked up a fine spread – the only downside was a massive scorpion scurrying across the floor but it was soon killed. The cockroaches were left to wander around at their own free will though. I also got to do a little business as his wife trades in maize. Usually when I buy maize I have to meet the recipients at whatever shop has some stock but this time I am keeping a supply at my house so I snapped up the 180kg she had left. Stuff like this gets funded by money raised through the raffle, through fundraising at a school in London where my sister teaches and from various friends who give me money. I’ll probably distribute 1500kg over the three weeks I’m here. Each kg costs around 18p and will feed 5 people. It is crazy how ridiculously cheap it is to survive here yet it is still a struggle for pretty much everybody.
Mr Omary and his wife. The men eat first and then the women and children sit on the floor and have whatever is left.
The pots from LtoR are: Rice and peas, goat, chicken & potatoes.
This is Mamma Aziza who was going house to house trying to find the £8 needed as a contribution towards her school fees. I have several pots of money to spend on this kind of thing so she had a stroke of luck bumping in to me.
This little fellah only wanted to join our party but instead ended up in pieces. Poor guy.
The rest of the evening was once again spent in the bar – Mr Mwangela is a teacher at the school but he also writes text books for Oxford University Press and so is pretty wealthy. He likes to demonstrate this by buying me several drinks – an offer which would be rude to ignore. As such the plan to have one or two quiet drinks didn’t bear fruit and I got to bed far too late once again.