December, 2013, A Running Dialogue of our first week.
We have arrived!! Well part way anyhow. 36 hours from Mary’s house to our hotel in Country should have brought us close.
Our departure was a bit intense. After a lovely family gathering for Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, we returned to MD for a Friday departure of 6PM. We received a call at 8:30AM advising us that our flight had been cancelled and asking if we could we make it to the airport by 10 AM for another. With Mary to the rescue and a half an hour of an activity reminiscent of supermarket sweep, we made it.
Our trip was long but had some perks. The service on the flights was gracious and relatively speaking , tasty ;we were able to use the Delta lounges as Stan’s mileage had just reached the limit to permit it; I may never have to consider a facelift as having your knees pressing upwards on your jaws that long may have the same beneficiary effect.
Cannot complain about our accommodations here. We spent first two nights at a beach resort on Indian Ocean. While not the Caribbean, it is rustic and picturesque. We are now at a hotel more downtown; it is a charming place with a great pool made affordable by Stan’s connection with Rotary.
Tomorrow we charge on (well, take our newly purchased car to the road and hope for no break downs) to Iringa and our new life.
From the moment of deplaning and being with the Tanzanian people, it becomes clear that the effort is worth it.
Miss you Hope you are in full swing with the holidays.
Thursday, Dec 5, 2013
Our trip to Iringa was lengthy, sorely lacking the amenities of the air travel mentioned above, but quite scenic and from several aspects, quite educational.
Our driver, Mohammed, is an old friend whom we met in the late nineties when we were visiting Mary. He is an expert driver, critical since we encountered a number of accidents along the way including an overturned oil rig which would have presented a very long delay without his expertise at traffic negotiation. Even with it, our three hundred and sixty mile trek took 11 hours.
The number of cars and trucks coming and going from Dar es Salaam is astronomical. Our driver explained that the trucks are mainly importing products and moving them through the Country. He did not have an explanation for the plethora of automobiles which would seem to speak to a booming economy which is surely not the case.
Once out of the city area, our drive was through brush peppered with small villages consisting of scattered huts and sometimes marked by roadside displays of baskets for sale. The realization that the majority of these villagers will live their entire lives in the remoteness of the area is rather startling.
I asked Mohammed about schools. He said that they are strategically located throughout the countryside with students commonly walking seven or eight miles each way to attend. I guess one might observe that, obesity and computer addiction that we hear so much about in our Country are not problems for the children of The Bush.
Youngsters living in these environs often find occupation approaching slowing cars to sell farm produce, our driver informed us, as we stopped to see their offerings. We bought mangos pineapples and cashews, a few items of their standard fare which included many other fruits, vegetables and nuts. .
The scenery took our mind off the length of the trip providing sights of various interesting looking trees against a magnificent backdrop of rock formation and mountain range. We were even treated to a sample of the animals for which this Country is so well known. Romping impalas and a sauntering giraffe appeared long enough to delight us and whet our taste for more.
One of the most lasting impressions occurred close to sunset when we saw the classic figures of African women,
returning home from their day’s occupation, wearing colorful Katangas with matching head wraps, balancing baskets on their heads or baubling babies in carriers on their backs, silhouetted in the changing sky.
We arrived at our flat about 7:30PM and found it quite spacious and suitable.
And so our new life begins.
Friday, Dec 6,
After unpacking, we meet Marian, the woman who will be our housekeeper and laundress for three days a week. Of course, it is love at first sight only enhanced by her typically charming personality. She will also boil the water that we must use for everything. This empathic warning reminds me of how easy for one like myself who is often thinking of other things to inadvertently seek self destruction by carelessly taking a drink, washing a vegetable or imbibing a drip from an ill dampened toothbrush.
The highlight of the day is spending time with Grayson and Winnie, who are Crispin’s siblings, and our other “adopted” grandchildren. After Grayson graduated from university, he did an internship with Global Outreach at Stan’s bequest. At its completion, the GO staff decided to offer him a permanent position. No surprise there. Grayson is a bright, articulately bilingual, personable and competent young man.
It was quite a treat to get to spend time with him and hear his observations about his Country, his work and his life.
Winnie came over later. She fits all the personal adjectives which I above ascribe to Grayson. She is a mother of two year old twins, a healthy boy and girl who was born with cerebral Palsy. She is also a university educated secondary school teacher. She is encountering special challenges from each of these roles arising from aspects of Tanzanian culture and practices.
Upon graduation last year, Winnie’s first assignment, like the majority of new teachers, was in a remote area like the ones I described above. She is lucky because her locale meets the status of town which means, unlike many of her fellow teachers, she is in a place with electricity and running water.
Her classes have ninety- six students. She is supposed to be teaching in English because the in Country Education policy is that all subjects in Secondary school are to be taught in that language. The students’ native tongues are Kiswahili and their tribal language. Making the transition to English is the academic death for most, especially in the more remote area like the one where she is posted.
Win and Gray were given a significant advantage by our daughter, Mary, who sponsored them in The Iringa International School for three years of middle school. They entered secondary fluent in English and were therefore able to focus on class content while most of their peer s were in a struggle trying to learn the new language of the classroom.
Winnie is frustrated in her teaching location on two scores. She does not feel she is reaching her students both because of their lack of language and worldly awareness. More significantly, she is also six hours RT from the physical therapy which her child with CP critically needs. Being Winnie, she is not willing to go with the flow. She very early started the application process to be transferred here to Iringa where she can have Rahma back in therapy, receive family support, and reap the benefit of working in the more sophisticated environment of the city schools.
Even though she has submitted all paper work and related documents, Winnie is not content to let the process play out. She has a fear of Tanzanian Bureaucracy developed over the years of watching and experiencing the actions of that august body. Knowing that the Unit that makes the decisions on transfers only meets once a year and that if for some administrative oversight her dossier is not in place for the review, she will be without recourse for another year, she decided last week to take advantage of the present holiday school break and arranged passage on the four hour bus trip to the Dodoma , the seat of the Government . Her mission was to determine if her documents had made the agenda. She was prepared to confront all and any to discover who could give her this information.
En route she met with a not atypical TZ road experience. Her bus’s steering wheel locked causing the vehicle to turn over and spill the passengers out. Happily, and rather miraculously considering this picture, she made it out alive. Now back home after this disconcerting experience, she must decide whether to take her life in her hands to make the 8 hr RT trek or just wait to hear from the authorities. The stakes seem high when you are in the presence of this bright young lady who is feeling very stressed about letting her daughter veg in a village and who can hardly bear the thought of another year of seemingly not making a difference in her profession.
Winnie gets an A for effort in trying to buck the system (or lack of said). We are just glad she survived the road trip, as I must note, we were glad we survived ours as well. TZ Government should put out the TZ Surgeon General’s warning: Driving or riding in a vehicle especially on highways is a major danger to your health.
Saturday, Dec 7,
Daily living here will have its challenges, but one could never claim a lack of color. Today I followed this man and ensemble to market. (Can you see from the picture the goats he is herding along?) The market is a collection of stalls selling vegetables, fruits, rice and spice, not unlike US Farmers’ Markets but eternally more bustling and more space compacted in order that the entire facility can be covered by a large tarp. A major section is devoted to fish which your nose would tell you better than your eyes as these critters from the sea do not meet the Western image of that category. Tanzanians procure much of their protein from beans which might seem a wise choice to the Western shopper as he considers the animal alternatives for sale. Chicken comes the closest to our eating habits, and even it is a stretch. The fruits and vegetables are, however, fresh and favorable and the other, well, we are learning and experimenting and eating out a lot. Happily we both like Indian curries and cuisine. which are a prominent item of fare at the local restaurants.
Once we figure out how to work the facsimile of an oven and find a way of dissecting the chicken without using herculean extremes, I am sure we will survive.
That is if we remember how to install our mosquito nets at night. If one doesn’t do that, the results are malaria threatening bites. I will not post a picture of some of those but unfortunately, could. The way Malaria is passed is that if the mosquito bites someone with Malaria and then bites you, you get Malaria. Travelling with the right mosquitoes is therefore important because relying on the inexact science of the net installation and maintenance is tenuous at best. I am planning soon to go to one of the town sewing booths to have a body suits made for us for sleeping; am also considering cloth helmets with netted faces. Upon completion, I will be sure to attach a photo of us retiring probably looking like UFOs. Who knows, maybe we will scare the mosquitoes away!
Sunday, Dec 8
Sunday Is a day at Church, but one could observe, not the only day of attendance at religious services, planned or not. Opening a window at 6 AM or after is to hear the singing or oration of a service taking place somewhere within earshot. Most of these events are taking place at various abundant Evangelistic congregations and at the mosques during morning and evening prayer time. Once you experience an early morning here, you could not say people of different faiths are not regularly praying together, inadvertent as it might be.
In terms of formal religions, Iringa is a very Ecumenical community. There are sizeable Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Orthodox and Muslim followings with services at churches and mosques. We have not found a Synagogue yet but am sure that we will.
We attended the Catholic Cathedral this Sunday. The mass differs from the ones in the States in terms of length and ceremony. Here the priest is assisted by six altar servers, all in colorful, formal vestments. During the Consecration and other strategic parts of the Service, both priest and servers freely dispense incense while simultaneously ringing altar bells. The TZ choir renders hymns throughout. The quality of the music added to the visual spectacle of the ritual make the hour and forty five minutes seem shorter than its reality. The discipline comes in sitting still through a half an hour homily in Swahili.
This week additionally we will attend a gathering with people from other Churches. It will be our first opportunity to meet other Wazungu (white foreigners). It is a small group, and it will be nice to meet other Westerners especially given the impending holiday.
This Sunday, we did attend a Craft Fair at The Danish School. Yes, I did say “we”; Africa has its magic) and saw some European/Americans there, but they were mainly working the booths affording no opportunity to meet. We did enjoy the event. The crafts were creative and lovely, and the sausages that they were serving were delicious. That was a treat because their providers sell some meat, and we can order through them. While not extensive in selection, for sure a step in the right direction.
Monday, Dec 9
Today was a day that brought with it the warmth of friendship that is often missing in a move. It was a holiday so many of our Tanzania friends took the opportunity to stop by to wish us Karibu , aka welcome. Two of them, Miraji and Lucas, lived with us for a number of weeks in The States. It was wonderful to catch up with them.
This evening, we went to dinner with another Tanzanian friend, Angelina, who spent a few days with us in Florida in May. Stan has always referred to her as his African wife because he has boarded with her on a number of his stays, and she has always been most supportive of his endeavors. This picture of her in FL makes me happy because we are seeing Angelina, at the same time, sad because we miss our dear Doris and all of you, our dear friends.
Tuesday, Dec 10
Isn’t wonderful when serendipity meets opportunity to produce a means of meeting a high priority? Today brought about one of those special, happy occasions. Here is a little background:
Before we left The States, I read in an email from the Iringa network which we had signed into that one of the doctors at a nearby hospital was looking for help perfecting English language skills. I responded that I would consider doing that if he was still looking when we arrived.
When we did arrive, Grayson and I were discussing the TZ health care system. He told me that there were no accessible MDs here but rather Medical Assistants with more limited training. While they handle most situations well, Winnie has really wanted to see a certified Pediatrician to evaluate Rahma.
To make a long story short, when the referring doctor called to set up a meeting time, he mentioned that his colleague, my potential student, was the only Pediatrician in the Iringa Area. While not completely without ulterior motive, I invited Winnie (and Rahma) to join us at our first meeting so that she could help with translation if needed. My intention was to tell the doctor when the subject of remuneration came up that I would settle for an evaluation of Rahma and a promise that he would keep her on his radar for finding resources for her.
As it turns out, both doctors (MDS) came, and both are from Milan, Italy. They are with an NGO (non profit) Doctors With Africa. They agreed to my proposition and gave her an immediate evaluation of Rahma. Since that time they have called Winnie with suggestions and have given her referral to a therapy group their Organization runs. Dr Carrado, my student, has also written a letter to the government urging them to place Winnie in Iringa for Rahma’s access to treatment.
If all of that was not good enough, Dr. C has also offered to cook for us! How fun is that. Now let’s hope that I can figure out how to teach English as a second language. (ESL). Anyone with materials to email would be most thanked. I do know I will have no problem teaching him phrases like veal parmesan, lasagna, Bolognaise and any suggestions you might have.
It was a big day on the home front as well. I found the manual for the stove/oven and actually roasted a chicken.
Later in the afternoon, I managed to survive a torrential downpour at the market ; it lasted about an hour and reminds us that we had better make hay while the sun shines as the rainy season is about to commence.
Wednesday, Dec 11
This is a day of catch up and reflection because it marks the end of our first week. Even with two toilets overflowing at the moment, I am aware that we are quite lucky because our house maid (a gem) and a plumber are taking care of the problem, (and the problem is mitigated by the industrial strength tile that provides the flooring throughout our spacious flat.)
I think we may be adjusting.
Iringa is a small place with few structured activities and less shopping, but as we all know, big things can happen in small places, a thought which seems timely as it is after all at the heart of the Christmas message.
The news from Global Outreach continues to inspire.
We will not be home for Christmas and will miss our kids:
And all of you. We wish you the happiest of holidays and a most prosperous New Year!!!