We had a leisurely morning with just a few visitors with various problems that needed remedying. I think the highlight of the morning was Shane asking me a question about the previous day’s trip to the witchdoctor. When we were visiting him I explained to Shane that the witchdoctor has 3 wives but until recently he also had a fourth. At that moment a duck and her ducklings sauntered past and I couldn’t resist telling Shane that he had turned the fourth wife in to a duck. I thought nothing more of it until Thursday when curiosity clearly had gotten the better of Shane and he asked me if it was really true about the duck.
I spot these two children wearing shirts from the school my sister teaches at, which she distributed last year.
We provided some assistance to these three women who each had different problems. The woman on the right is holding a photo of her severely disformed grandson who she needs a large sum to help remedy. I suspect he is beyond help though.
The journey to Mpwapwa was surprisingly good. The town is three hours away and the road is untarmaced. We arrived and found our guesthouse. By western standards it would be shocking, but it had a hot shower which felt like heaven. On the bus I decided it might be nice to visit a couple of blind kids who go to the secondary school there. One had been at Buigiri and the other in Hombolo, both of whom I’d gotten to know over the years. Each year I come here I find various children have progressed from the blind primary school to mainstream secondary school and I rarely get to see them again. Thus it was decided to have a go at Mpwapwa Secondary. The flip side was the bureaucracy. We really should have had formal letters of introduction and gone through a small ceremony with the headmaster but this was all a little last minute. To start with we were told that the children were in prayers and so we couldn’t see them but eventually the teacher on duty relented and we got to see them. Jose, who was at Buigiri, had the biggest grin on his face as we greeted each other. The school is 4 hours from his home and he might only return once a year, so to have a visitor who could pass greetings on from his brother and from other friends was fantastically well received. When the teacher had his back turned I palmed both kids 10,000tshs so they can have some pocket money and then we headed off into the night in search of a good meal.
And a good meal was discovered. Including a nearby pool table. The waitress was miserable though. I was challenged to make her smile and I’m proud to say I managed it.
Paolo and Jose at Mpwapwa Secondary.
I came to Mpwapwa once before in 2010 and this trip was to be much the same. The local leaders had selected 20 families and after the introductions we handed out maize, soap, beans, bananas and onions to each family. A few individuals also received white canes or a phone. Although the food is largely a token amount, it might feed their family for only a week, it is extremely well appreciated. I go as a representative of the Tanzanian League for the Blind and it reflects well on them too that they are concerned with the blind people who live away from the main city and roads.
In lieu of an easter present, my Mum gave me £20 to give to some mothers. These are the lucky recipients who each received 10,000tshs
We had a pretty good system set up to distribute the food. I was in charge of maize and soap.
Shane had the beans and onions covered
Here are most of the recipients together. The bags in front will go to those who live far and couldn’t make it.
I buy these canes from the RNIB in Bristol. They also collect odds and sods throughout the year for me to take for free. Ive given many canes out over the years and these guys had admired someone’s RNIB cane when they were at the same meeting earlier in the year. They had broad grins when they discovered they would also have the same type of sturdy folding cane.
We also handed out two mobiles. The woman on the left spent the rest of my time there repeating the words ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’.
We just caught our bus back and somehow we found the energy to have a rather late night in the bar. Anna often locks up at 11pm but through the liberal distribution of alcohol we did not leave until 3.30am. I suspect it will hit me in the coming days, but it was good fun.
Our neighbour came to see us. She has stomach ulcers and needed help getting to a doctor.
We attempted to educate some local friends about the game of poker. The glazed expressions from some and the snoring from the others led us to believe it may not catch on in the village.
We had made plans the night before to meet with some teachers and share some meat over a leisurely 10am breakfast. Not surprisingly, the teachers had overslept so instead I spent the time overseeing the children being fitted for uniforms. The plan was to do about 50 uniforms. That sounded a lot at the outset, but that group comprises people from four different areas, so I suspect the number will creep up a little. When the teachers appeared we sat around and munched on liver. It is delicious when barbecued and dipped in salt.
The beginning of the bespoke uniform process
Next up was the annual school dance competition. I have refined this perfectly now. We had four heats of dances and then a final, with radios given out to the best blind and the two best sighted dancers. The blind children then took part in a quiz with rounds including ‘name premiership teams’ and ‘name countries in Africa’.
The dancing mid flow
The boy in the red top is wearing a Bayern Munich shirt which my flatmate gave me last year
In the evening we headed to a new huge bar in the village. Back when I was a lad, the biggest bar here consisted of a shack with a fridge outside it. Now there is the Angel Bar which has a fully stocked bar including cider and Smirnoff Ice, plus a large nightclub style dance floor.
Myself and Kieran, who came here in 2011, set a guy up with some capital for a business. It now consists of two pigs, one of whom is about to give birth. So I paid them a visit to grunt hello at them.
I might be tempted to join the dancing competition next year or at least be a judge on the panel. Great idea on the pocket money for those kids who live far away from their family I know what it feels like to be in that situation. Hope the pigs get bigger next year.
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