February 2024
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Looking Back over the Last Week

The final week was hectic with Louise and Alice trying to do everything on their list before returning  to Dar es Salaam. Valerie is staying for a further week so has a while longer to achieve her goals with the hat making and to continue her excellent work with the children and the workers at school. Baby Haika’s baptism was due to take place on the Saturday and so we spent some time looking for white baby sized shoes in Songea while also buying second hand tracksuits at the market for the children who don’t have any. IT gets cold at night and the children sleep in trachsuits. Many of the children need school shoes and we may organise a special fundraiser for that pupose when we get back. Baraka is doing a great job with the sponsor money but shoes are relatively expensive here in Songea.

We also bought some more Tanzanian batik material for selling back home and a few Masai warrior blankets called Shukas. The material for trousers has been shared between two fundi in Songea and we hope to be able to collect them soon to check they are okay as Malaika hasn’t  used either of them before. If we find a really good tailor we will use them to make the school uniforms in the future. Alice and Louise have decided to fly back rather than take the 16 hour bus journey to Dar es Salaam. There is a private aircraft, a 13 seater ( the thirteenth as we found out on the day gets to sit beside the pilot at the front)  and the trip takes around two hours. You don’t get a ticket as such just a message sent to your phone with the ticket details.The price is £150 but it will mean that when Louise and Alice reach Dar they will not feel totally exhausted and will be able to do some more shopping the next day and hopefully meet up with Rosemary Nyrere who is still keen to be on the school board.

The baptism took place in the church in Songea and everyone travelled there in a hired mini bus. Louise videoed the service and Alice took part as she is Haika’s godmother. There must have been around 30 babies and children all getting baptised the same day and they were all remarkably well behaved and patient through the long service. They were all dressed in their best clothes and Haika was dressed from head to toe in white satin. It was a bit like a production line as the pastor walked along the line of children at each stage of the ceremony. Haika was quite vocal throughout and at times Alice had difficulty holding on to her. After the service we headed back to the hostel, picking up passengers on the way who were friends of the family invited to celebrate Haika’s big day.

Back at the hostel there was a delicious meal, a feast of goat, chicken, rice, ugali, roast potato, avocado salad, greens and some traditional dancing which ended in a song where the invited guests are encouraged to give a present of money to Haika.

The next day we visited the school to meet the new building team who are going to complete the new classroom block. There are ten workers from Peramiho and they have asked for a reasonable price to complete the plaster work inside and out. complete the floors and have the rooms ready including the painting of the walls. We have the pipes ready so the wiring for electricity will be done at the same time. The roofing will be on the building by the end of the week and the bricks for the next phase are drying out ready for firing soon. 

Ntimba has bought a new pump and the well is to be dug down for another 8 metres to increase the amount of water available during the dry season. There are also plans to lay pipes underground so the water can be pumped into a large storage tank built on piles near the playing fields and then piped to various locatiions around the site. This will be a great help to everyone not only the builders but the gardeners and the sister who wash the children’s clothes and have to move large amount of water around the site. We hope these pipes will be in place soon.

Alice and Louise had a meeting with all the workers and we listened to their concerns and answered their questions. They were delighted to hear about the new pump as it will make all their jobs easier. Louise took the opportunity to explain a little about the RUDA charity and how the project was being funded. The workers are working well and are all working hard to learn English. They are clearly proud of their school and want it to be a success.

Michael, a contact of Alice’s and a friend of Rosemary Nyrere met up with us at the school and he is keen to be a member of the school board. We spent the afternoon on Sunday with Michael at his house on the outskirts of Songea and met his two delightful children and his wife who prepared a wonderful meal for us.  Michael is planning to begin study soon for a PHD in  and is working at the University in Songea, he is an ideal person to help steer the school in the right direction.

Monday was spent collecting the trousers from the fundi in Songea, visiting the Children of Songea and visiting Magima to see how they are finding the new clay mix . Alice visited Magima with Ntimba while Louise, Valerie and Malaika headed to Songea. The trip to Songea was the usual crush in a dala dala, followed by a cross country piki piki ride by Malaika and Louise to the Children of Songea while Valerie caught up with her emails at the Amani internet cafe. Louise was amazed to note that while she was holding on back and front to the bike and sitting across the bike, Malaika was sitting side saddle and the only thing she ws holding onto was her mobile and she was texting as we drove along the bumpy track.

We spent a couple of hours at the site talking to Shabani and the staff of the school, taking pictures and a short video of the children singing and then back to Songea to the fundi who were making the trousers. One of the fundi has proved to be excellent and we shall use him in future. The other was not as good and we had to pay the good fundi to complete the finish on his work.

Tuesday, the day of departure for Louise and Alice we all visited the local primary school which is badly in need of support. Alice hopes to find a school here in Scotland who will take on the job of raising funds helping with the most basic of equipment and books etc. The classrooms are severly overcrowded with not enough seats or desks to go around and the teacher’s are doing their best in an impossible situation. Five children are sitting at desks designed for two. The nursery children have no seats or desks and the floor of the classroom is made of dirt. We hope to be able to share our future library with this school and also offer  the use of our computers. The headteacher gave us a list of things the school needs and they are all items that we would consider absolutely essential and wonder how a school could function at all without such basic equipment. It was a good reminder of why there is a need for a school like ours with affordable fees and proper classrooms and equipment.

After lunch the mini bus arrived to take Alice and Louise to the airport. We packed our cases and bags into the bus and then looked around to see who we were going to say goodbye to before setting off for the small airport at Songea. The answer was no-one because in typical African fashion everyone and their aunty wanted to come and see us off. The minibus was designed to hold a driver and six passengers, Alice and Louise set off with Conrada, the Matron (both of tradition build), Ntimba and his very pregnant wife Elize, Valerie, Baraka, Malaika, Paulina , and the children Nasibu, Henri, Sarafina and baby Haika. Fortunately the airport was only ten minutes away because the van started to overheat and there was a strange burning smell as we were half way up the hill.

We stopped the van for a few minutes and waited for it to cool before continuing to the airport, now with Ntimba’s workers in the red truck in convoy. At the airport we all got out and then had to wait for over an hour drinking soda and waiting for the plane to arrive. After saying our goodbyes we finally went through the security check which was the most thorough ever and involved the security person looking through every item in our cases and Alice’s over-sized ugali spoon raised a few smiles.  As we eventually made our way over the tarmac to the plane our send off  waved and shouted goodbye.

The plane journey was very smooth and is definitely much much better than the bus. We arrived relatively fresh in Dar es Salaam and made our way by taxi to the Msimbuzi Centre where we wrer to meet up with Ngoza. We wre trying this new place becaiues the Safari Inn was full. First impressions were that it was very nice, quiet and with beautiful gardens. The room was spotlessly clean and the only down side was that there was only cold water in the shower. However it was so hot and clammy in Dar that didn’t seem too much of a problem.

Ngosa and baby Emmanuella met us and showed us where to get something to eat. By then it was getting late so after a chat to catch up we went to sleep I used the mosquito net and next morning was bite free. Alice decided not to use her net and so picked up a few bites. The next morning after breakfast we set off to do a little shopping in Dar and met up with a relation of Ngoza’s called Ali who agreed to drive us around for the rest of the day. Alice managed to get in touch with Rosemary and we were invited to meet up with her in the family home. We drove to the Slipway area of Dar and found ourselves at quite an imposing large gate arpund a walled compound. Inside there was a lovely villa with beautifully kept gardens right at the sea. Rosemary came to greet us and is living there just now with her mother. The house has recently been renovated and as Rosemary showed us around she told us stories of what it had been like to live here when her father was the president. As always we had really interesting discussions and laughed a lot and reluctantly we had to make our way back to the Msimbuzi Centre knowing we had to be ready to leave there at 3.00am to get to the airport for out 5.10am flight to Nairobi.

For some reason the drums were going all night so we didn’t get much sleep. The manager of the Centre drove us to the airport and we got through security and to the check-in. Alice’s huge ugali spoon managed to distract the security from the fact that her luggage was overweight and so we began the long journey home…


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