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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rosie and the local children.

Rosie and the local children.

Training session on culture and diversity.

Training session on culture and diversity.

 

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This journey to Africa has been difficult and challenging. I was naive to think I would just adjust quickly and the different language is adding to the confusion. I’m having no luck at remembering Swahili. Still, everyone is very generous, and the Tanzanians love to teach you their language, from the Noah (Taxi drivers) to the people in the street, they will repeat words until they think you have it.

I have just come back to base camp from a five-day journey to Bwawani with a team of 2 leaders assigned to check out the area and the project before the volunteers arrive. Nothing is left to chance. Raleigh is exact in its requirements for safety and obviously so much can go wrong that it is essential.

The two team leaders I’m with are excellent. Emiliana is Tanzanian and has a way of adjusting to village life as effortlessly as she does to city life. She is elegant and regal. Maddie and I brought several bags and never come out looking anything but rumpled and slept in. Emiliana brought one small bag shaped like an old doctor’s bag but in pink. She dresses every day in a colorful dress that is a balance between traditional and contemporary and her hair at first, left natural has mutated into evenly spaced crown rows.

Maddie, a smallish 29-year-old, from Sheffield in Yorkshire, is as efficient and matter-of-fact as anyone I’ve ever met. I would trust her to lead me through this beautiful and unusual journey anytime.

I’ve picked up the same rash that was going around at field b. The medics prescribed drugs that knocked me out yesterday. I slept all day and all night. I feel better today but still shaky. I also didn’t eat much. The food here is all starch. The were greens added to last night’s dinner, but most of the meal consisted of potatoes and rice. These are food staples, although I hear rice is a luxury. Families that have rice are considered wealthy.

The family we are living with is incredibly generous. They have given us three separate rooms to sleep in, the Daughter of the house, called Dada cooks, cleans and is willing to do anything for our comfort. She is a lovely woman, and at this moment I don’t know her name. I’m waiting for Emiliana to appear this morning and I will get the families name and information. It seems that there are only two people living here. Maddie says sometimes people show up that you haven’t seen before. African village life is a mingling that expands beyond any formal or informal boundary. I realize that I’m still very much a visitor and without a better command of the language I know very little. Perceptions here can be misleading.

It’s 8:12 AM, Maddie, and Emiliana have both appeared in the living room. The television is on; has been since 6:00. Music videos are the programs of choice, and it will run most of the day. The music is beautiful and melodic. I have been exposed to two types of videos, one playing at this house, is a praise of God. The other, seen on the bus ride here is about lost or found love and sex. There were a lot of butt shots of women, and bare-chested men. The directors, many known by their first names, are the celebrities here. The cinematography of this second group of videos is often superbly done and exciting. I can’t understand the words at all.

I’m still feeling exhausted even with all the sleep I have had. It’s difficult to keep writing, but I’m waiting for breakfast, hoping that will give me the energy I need to continue working.

The village is loud, and not at all simple. Piki Piki (motorcycles)(not sure of the spelling) are everywhere, and people ride fast and recklessly, especially younger riders. I think most of the riders are men. Most women walk or have bicycles.

Maddy was a Police officer for five years before taking a career break. She wanted to volunteer and travel and decided this was the best way to get the opportunity. She searched Google for volunteering opportunities and applied to ICS (International Citizen Service) under the British Government that works with non-profits for International change. Maddie had her interview in October and arrived in Tanzania in March of 2017.

Maddie said she had experienced a whole range of emotions she arrived here. “It can go from being stressful to the point where you want just to go home, to [feeling as if] I want to stay here forever and I’m proud of what we have done. She has chosen to continue her service for another three months, and it’s clear she loves what she is doing.

Her last project in Malanje in the Doma Region was mixed with small joys and setbacks. “Kids won’t show up for the Swash (school wash) lessons, things go wrong on the project site, and volunteers will be moaning about something.” All in all, things got done, the project was a success, and it encouraged Maddie to continue.

This village is very different from Maddie’s previous experience. The last village was dry and windy. You could walk the entire village in 10 min. No shops, cafes, markets to tempt the young volunteers and it also meant they had to travel for supplies. Her last cycle was slightly over three months and longer than this one.

Here in Bwawani, it’s very green, it often rains during the day and then stops suddenly. It’s full of markets, bars, shops, a prison, winding roads the lead to more shops and restaurants, and unmarked railroad tracks. Maddie hopes the volunteers will be mature and will grasp the need for rules and regulations. Code of conduct is taken very seriously. Volunteers won’t be able to go off on their own, and no drinking or drugs are allowed under any circumstances. Volunteers will be sent home for breaking the rules, sometimes, the trip home will concur extra costs to them. They will lose any recommendations they might have gained and will miss out on a growth experience you couldn’t possibly pay for.

Fun fact, Noah is the general name for the taxis in Tanzania.

It’s 3:35 PM Tanzanian time. I’ve stayed back at home for a second day now, still drowsy.

More to come. With the lack of internet connection, I’m running behind.

Saturday, June 10 – Sunday, June 11, 2017

A group of Team Leaders arrive at Base Camp for training before they go out in the Country side.

A group of Team Leaders arriving at Base Camp for training before they go out in the Countryside.

A snail making its way across the path.

A snail making its way across the path.

A house next door to Field base

A house next door to Field base

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New Team Leaders arriving at Fieldbase.

 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Today is a day off for the Advance group. I think a new group of volunteers is coming in tomorrow. I’ve hurt my leg slipping down a tile wall along the path home. It caused me to twist body adversely, inflaming the already weakened ligaments on my right leg and now my knee is swollen, and I can’t walk without a limp. Making it along the path from the house to the office is a challenge. There is a ravine with two pieces of wood laid across it that has already become precarious. I find myself stepping down into the somewhat shallow rushing water locating a rock to step on and then up the other side. That slope up is steep, and so far I have needed help. The path itself is narrow, rugged, ravaged by water, twisting and full of ditches. And so enchanting. I would not want to give up this chance to experience Africa this way.

I’m fascinated by Tanzania and repelled by what I will call my overbearing Americanism. I have noticed myself assuming things about other people, what they have and don’t have, assuming I have it better. Then I want to step in and offer things, but it feels so out of place here, I ask myself why and the only answer I get is that I am an American. I don’t like Trump or anything he stands for, but he has made me reflect on my preconceived ideas about the rest of the world. He is one side of the picture, but the left’s righteousness and “do-good,” “I know what you need,” perspective is not right either. What is left? My British partners have a laid back attitude that I am enjoying. They don’t get involved and take things as it is. And they are not insensitive. Most of the people here are giving their time because they care about the world.

Jenny is a medic from Scotland, the only one on call until the weekend. She has a way about her that makes me feel as if I can put my life in her hands. One young Tanzanian man has contracted Typhoid. He is in the local hospital, but it’s Jenny’s responsibility to oversee his care.

I had no idea how big a logistic operation Raleigh is or has. I don’t yet have the numbers of staff and volunteers, but it is big and impressive and run like a military operation yet with a relaxed ease that I’m sure the military can’t afford. I have heard that ex-military started Raleigh. I will work to get more of that story.

Days can be extremely busy here depending on your job and position. Everyone takes their duties very seriously. As one of the photographers I’m responsible for telling the story through photographs, processing the photos (correcting, adjusting, tagging, posting) and blogging. There is a lot more to it, and it’s up to me how much I want to take on.

When I first arrived, I was jet-lagged and sleep deprived. I also am having a hard time understanding all of the English accents – from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Midlands, Highlands, etc. I find myself saying “what” all the time. Raleigh has a slew of abbreviations and learning that is quite daunting.

My day off and my sore leg is giving me a chance to catch up on everything I’m missing. I’ll reread the manuals, process some of my photos and maybe spend a little time on learning Swahili. The local men often talk to you in their native tongue. It’s sweet and a challenge. I want to know what they’re saying.

From left to right Lisa and Rosie.

From left to right Lisa and Rosie.

Team leaders that have come back to Base Camp.

Team leaders that have come back to Base Camp.

A little girl who lives up the road from the guest house is fascinated by me. Here brothers and sisters hide.

A little girl who lives up the road from the guest house is fascinated by me. Here brothers and sisters hide.