Monday, 9th April
The plan had been to go to town early in the morning as we had a lot to do, but when you have five people in your house rattling off their problems and another five waiting outside… well, it isn’t always easy to escape. To be honest, the numbers of people were now becoming a problem. In the past I have, as much as possible, limited my assistance to the blind as there are a finite and manageable number of them. When it comes to the wider community, there are so many people in need that it can become a flood. We dished out what we had so everyone walked off with at least either clothes or exercise books and pens for the children. When we eventually got to town, we had missed the start of the clothes auctions when the kids clothes go on sale. This was annoying and morale was dipping. I ended up shouting at a guy to stop bothering me, he kept grabbing my arm wanting the equivalent of 4p and just kept at it. That’s the only time I’ve become very annoyed with someone this trip – usually it happens several times per visit to Tanzania, so I guess that is an improvement at least.
Some of the morning visitors
To cheer us all up we took 3 of the guys from the village to the smart hotel for lunch. Annoyingly the wifi was down so my wordswithfriends moves went unplayed and my dragons were left hungry. We had a good lunch though – the guys were then let loose with my camera and spent an enjoyable 30 minutes posing at every landmark in the hotel. It was fun to see the faces of the bemused staff.
Not posing at all, right?
We arrived back home to find a queue of people outside our door. Amongst them was one girl I remember well from a previous trip. She had come with an aunt who was pretending the girl was someone else so as to get a double dose of assistance. She was sent packing. After we had cleared the people out we decided that from now on any random villagers who come to us for help will be refused. We will only help those we have associated with in the past. It seems the best way of managing the resources and our time.
Dishing out more shirts at the school
I stumbled upon a chameleon and ransported him home and kept him as a pet for a few days, feeding him insects. He was released in a scene that could have come straight from Born Free.
Tuesday, 10th April
For the past few years I have visited a nearby town called Hombolo. There is a school there which houses a unit for the blind kids who cannot get in to Buigiri Blind School. They are often overlooked and life for them is particularly tough. The 11 of them are the only borders in a school of 800 children. I wish I had done a little more for them this trip but they all got some sweets, biscuits, juice, games and sanitary stuff. In the past they have received uniforms, shoes and clothing but we just did not have time to make those plans this time. I’ll try and figure something out for them between now and my next trip.
Hombolo also contains a wine factory. It was due to this that so many of the Buigiri teachers wanted to join us. As a thank you for all the help they give my sister and I in doing our work here, we hired a minibus and took them all out for the day. We tried different wines and then visited a bar in another local town on the way home. I think it did us both a lot of good getting away from the village for a day.
Some of the children from Hombolo school.
Myself and Imogen at the factory
Meat. Glorious meat.
Wednesday 11th April
This was Imogen’s final complete day in the village. She is a primary school teacher in the UK and so we arranged for her to sit in on a class and observe. We then headed to the rehab centre for her to say her goodbyes. She has a child there named after her and Imogen has taken quite a shine to her – I thought she was measuring her up at one stage to see if she would fit in her suitcase. Back at the school we were able to distribute some of the completed school uniforms and we got to meet many of the young orphans from the village who are being sponsored by friends in the UK. For £50 a year each child gets a school uniform, clothes, shoes, sweets, foot, pens and exercise books. I’d like to support more but now 12 are being covered and it is a real stretch for the teacher here who administers the money. Not least because some of the grandparents or guardians don’t comprehend things like we might do and so they will bang on his door telling him that he is stealing their money when in fact he is just rationing it to ensure it lasts the whole year and is used correctly. Some people really don’t help themselves. I laid down the law to them and told them exactly what they would be receiving in the year as some think that I’m sending out tens of thousands of pounds to buy them big houses and cars. They all seemed to understand me, but time will tell this year if the system is working.
A couple of people who sponsor kids here gave me presens to bring out. Martha received a wind up radio and a necklace. Her face lit up when she opened them and she had the biggest grin when my sister showed her how the wind-up radio worked.
Imogen chatting with Imogen’s mother
Samson and Nasson with their uniforms in the bags
Some of the school girls with their uniforms as well as with letters written by children from a London Primary School
In the evening we had a bunch of the blind teachers over for dinner as a send off for Imogen. The duck from the witchdoctor was slaughtered in front of my eyes, which whilst not being particularly fun to watch was strangely captivating.
It is amazing how intuitive an iPad is to someone who has never used such technology before.
Touching glasses to say cheers with blind people is not easy. I’m amazed my glass survived the clash.
Some of the guys very kindly gave Imogen some presents including a traditional finger piano, some local shoes, a Tanzanian flag and a necklace. She was tearing up. It is always very touching when people with very little find give you gifts.
Thursday, 12th April – Saturday, 14th April
Tanzania is famous for its safaris. Even the word ‘safari’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘journey’. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are the very best parks in the world but are in the north of the country. It is too far to go for a couple of days and Imogen was keen to squeeze some animals in before departing so we headed to Mikumi National Park for a couple of days. It is only about 5 hours away from Buigiri and a bus goes from outside the school to the gate of the park – perfect. As much as I love being in Buigiri, it really is essential to get away regularly and recharge the batteries. Although it did come as a bit of a shock to find that the morning game drives start at 6.30am. Still, it is far nicer waking up knowing you are going off to see lions and giraffes than having to deal with someone banging on the door with aswollen leg or other problems. Not that they use the leg to bang on the door.
It was very kind of them to pose for me
The place we stayed was very friendly. It was a little tatty in some places but not having to use a hole in the floor as a loo meant we were delighted to overlook a few of the drawbacks. We went out on 4 game drives and saw lions, a leopard, giraffe, zebra, elephant, hippo, a croc, impala and a whole host of smaller animals. At the camp we had to be wary of wild animals walking around the place, which was rather exhilarating. We saw a wild cat square off with a bushbaby and two giant porcupines. We shared two of the game drives with a group of Evangelical preachers from the states, one of whom was a missionary based near my village. Whilst I’m not saying I believe in what they believe in, the first two drives had been pretty poor from an animal perspective but then when we went out with them and they led a prayer circle asking God to reveal the animals to them… well, where ever we turned we saw things – the highlight being a leopard, whose sighting we used to trump some kids back at the camp who were proudly telling us about the lion cub they had come very close to. Backatcha. The preachers were all very nice indeed and I took the details of the local guy. Well, one of them was loud and abrasive and it was clear the others were just tolerating him. When another guy put on a stocking-thing on his head to keep him warm, the loud guy started calling him a Jihadi and then he told a Latino preacher that lions like dark meat so the rest of us would be OK. It was crazy to hear that stuff, let alone from a man of God. It added another strata to the whole safari experience.
Nom nom nom.
The bushbabies were so tame
When it came time to leave, Imogen really landed on her feet. The big boss owners who run about 10 parks nation-wide happened to be staying with their family and they offered her a lift to Dar – which would have been a 5 hour journey involving her having to handle bus stations with luggage on her own. They not only transported her, but took her to dinner, made sure she got to the hotel OK and arranged her transport to the airport. People can be so kind out here.