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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 29 Sep 2011

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

MapThursday. September 29th, 2011

We met Jackie down at the crate to sort and load our items for today’s visits. Our first stop was Busende Primary School where in addition to the other kids there are about 8 mentally handicapped students. Jackline had requested that we send her some supplies to help with these children in our next container and the need is all too apparent. The room that’s being used for them is about 8`x 20``, and is empty except for one bench and a narrow counter. It has a dirty cement floor and smells strongly of urine. The entire four room school is falling apart. There is one classroom at the end that has totally collapsed, one that’s still intact and another, that the kindergarteners use, is piled at one end with boards and rubble.

The kids came pouring out of the rooms as we arrived. I didn’t have a lot to give them because I’d only brought a few items. I did see a boy with a homemade soccer ball and traded it for a Frisbee. All of the kids wanted to play and we had a lot of fun showing them how to use it. I also gave them a soccer ball and pump, pencils and some blankets and toys for the handicapped kid’s room. The kids and teachers were equally excited; this school was empty of supplies except for the few benches and desks.

We had taken the items into the special needs room where there were a couple of the kids with some of the teachers. The rest of the students were crowded at the little window and at the doorway. One of the kids, who is probably about 12, had one of those Fisher Price activity centers that we hang on the side of a crib. He was just mesmerized by it, smiling as I showed him all of the different activities you could do on it. Another child was playing with one of those things where you slid the beads on the curved wires. It was just so great to see how much joy these few things brought to these kids.

We travelled for another 1 ½ hours on a very bumpy, dirt road to a village called Ilomelo in the north of the district of Ilowa. This is where the woodworking coop is that made the desks and chairs for the Teacher Resource Centres when Heike was here. We had boxed up all of the tools from my friend Bernd’s, plus others to donate to these men. When we arrived, the whole village began to gather.

The “shop” is located under a giant mango tree. They had a few beds that they’ made and had set up benches and chairs. After some introductory speeches, they took us on a walk through the village to show us a few things they’d built. Knowing the limited tools they had, it was amazing to see the quality of work they’ve done. They took us to see the big, beautiful town church that the group had constructed from the foundation up. They also built all of the furniture inside. The old church sat next door and was a mud brick affair with tiny little windows.

We were quite a spectacle in the little village; Jackie had told us that we were the first “wazungus” (pl) that many of these people had ever seen. I made one little child cry when Jackie flipped up my hair. We headed back to the mango tree and the waiting crowd for the ‘handing over’ ceremony. It was so great to watch the guys opening all of the supplies. They had smiles from ear to ear and were showing each other the items. In fact, four more men registered to join their coop that afternoon! I used $200 of the money donated by Pat Wand to place an order for book shelves to be put in some of the teachers resource centers. At present, there is no where to place the books we've donated.
Everyone, including Jackie was very excited by this!

The men surprised me with a gift of an ornament that they’d made for me on the lathe and then brought out a group of testosterone charged tradition dancers to perform. One of them had a very interesting instrument he played and with a very unique voice sung songs that the men danced to. We were told that the guttural way he was singing was how the songs are meant to be sung.

After a Walmart Bubble Show, we were lead to another area where they fired up their lathe, took a piece of a log and turned it into a very elaborate spindle which became another gift to me. Following that we lead to another part of the village where they were preparing food for us. We sat out under a roof and the men began hanging netting around one side. The ladies were cooking in the corner and served us kuku na wali na nyanya. (Chicken, rice and tomato sauce.) We ate with a crowd looking on.

Following our meal, the dancers congregated on the dirt road on front of us and began another performance. The villagers lined the streets, laughing and clapping. I could’ve stayed all night but it was getting late so we had to cut the performance short. Before leaving, I managed to buy three of the traditional njuga from some of the guys. These ankle bracelets are made out of cow hide and have rows of bells sewn on.

We began the long drive back on the very rough dirt road. It was interesting to travel through all of the villages as darkness was approaching. People were starting to gather around little fires or were drinking local beer under makeshift lean-tos. The whole way home we passed people walking along the road, eventually in the dark. I don’t know where everyone was going this time of night but they all seemed to have a purpose.
I watched was the most beautiful sunset but the driver and I were the only ones awake to see it! Another long day, but one I’ll never forget!