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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 12 Apr 2009

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

MapJambo to you all,

Yesterday was our travel day and now we’re all settled safely in Kahama Rest House. We laughed at the look on Wellar’s face when he saw the amount of luggage that we were transporting to Kahama in his van. Then, just as we were about to load up, a torrential rainstorm began so a lot of our baggage as well as us got soaked while trying to find places for everything. The pictures we took don’t do it justice; you should’ve seen what the van looked like when it was full!

Our border crossing was long but uneventful. We did ask about bandits along the road to Kahama and the guard replied, “Yes, there are many this time of year, but not to worry, there will be a police escort to take you through.” We did come to the area where the baboons were, which, on the last trip we were told was the dangerous area. We didn’t see a police escort, we didn’t see bandits, but we did see some baboons!

Some time after this, we noticed that our gas tank was down to ¼ tank. We hadn’t seen a petrol station since leaving Rwanda, so were a little concerned. Just as we were wondering, really, what ARE we going to do, Cellars pulled over on the main road of a village where there were a lot of big transport and gas trucks. Groups of teenage boys came running over with gas cans and the bidding war began. I guess this is how you get gas here…why pump the gas into the ground only to pump it back out again? Here, they just fill the cans from the trucks and sell it at a high price to the desperate travellers. At one point, we were happy with the price that one kid was suggesting, only to find out that that price wasn’t for ‘real’ gas, but instead some concoction of who knows what. The whole process took quite some time, with a lot of shouting and hand gesturing during which time, it started to pour again. The boys wanted to keep dry so were all crouched along the side of our van. I looked down and one of them had thought he would grab a quick smoke in the shelter of our vehicle. I was thinking aren’t there multiple gas cans sitting around and aren’t you smoking? We frantically gestured him to put it out and he moved away.

We eventually arrived in Kahama before 6pm and after asking a few people, found our way to the Rest House. The girls are very happy with our accommodations, it’s out of town a bit, walled, has a guard at the front gate, and there are flush toilets! There is one side with a suite of three rooms, each with their own bathroom and then a common area with a table and some chairs and a couch. I’m not saying that all of the toilets actually work, even the sinks, but between the three bathrooms, there is everything you need. There was no water for a while this a.m. but they eventually fixed it and I got to have a HOT shower. (Pola’s was cold.) Wanda, Heather, Pola and Val are staying in the one suite. Off the courtyard, beside their room is a single room that Liz is using. I’m staying on the other side in another suite with three rooms and a common area.

I was still pretty under-the-weather so decided to stay home, close to the bathroom and go to bed early. The girls went out with our driver, who was spending the night before heading back to Rwanda, and our cook, Sophia. Sophia showed them a brand new restaurant that has just opened. With more money in the area and the new, local mine, I guess someone thought it made sense to open a restaurant that caters more to the ‘Mzungu’ palate. That was pretty exciting news for all of us!

There’s another person staying at the Resthouse on my side. Denise, you won’t believe this but I’m staying with the new “ Paul Kigazi!” His name is Major Matala and he is the new District Commissioner. He’s SO new that he remarked that I know more about Kahama than he does. He hasn’t even started work yet. Major Matala is appointed by the president and is head of the Central Government. Within an hour of meeting him he ‘summoned’ (his words) Nesphory, who is now Department Head of the Water Commission, Dr Subi, who is head of the Health Commission, Andrew Masanje, who is the District Ruling Party Chairman, and Furaha Kagoro, who is the ward Councillor for Kahama. They all showed up in our suite of the Resthouse in minutes. He encouraged them all to work with us, as we are his honoured guests. Major Matala is also insisting that we can’t possibly ride around town on the bike/taxis…they’re far too dangerous, so he’s arranging for us to have a vehicle and a driver. Dr Subi is arranging everything at the hospital and Nesphory even asked the guys at the restaurant this afternoon to look after us. John, the head of the WV ADP here is talking to the bank manager about opening the bank for us tomorrow so we can change money. Major Matala said we will have a good relationship between TOPP and Kahama from now on and he will do whatever he can to make things work. I will be staying with him and will have so much opportunity to talk with him and learn from him. This is SUCH a big breakthrough for TOPP. Before now, I was just hoping for a couple of meetings with Theresia while I was here, to try and sort out the logistics of our projects and now we have everyone involved!!

Tomorrow we will meet to come up with a schedule that accommodates everyone and everything and hopefully, by the time we leave, we will have accomplished all we came here to do!

I am going to email this from an Internet somewhere tomorrow but hopefully we’ll have something worked out so we’ll have our own by Tuesday. Take care everyone.