Day 4 The Mount of Olives

It had to be done. Well I suppose it did. Can a Christian come to Jerusalem without viewing Christ’s supposed tomb? I think not. But neither it seems can most other religions, agnostics, atheists etc. which is why you have to get up early. 6.30 in our case and arriving at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre at about 7.30. Dani and Mike had gone to a 6.30 mass and it was pure luck that we joined the queue to get to the tomb directly behind them. The queue was not moving. We stood an chatted. Still no movement. At about 7.45 some thing seemed to be going on up ahead and sure enough the queue moved. Slowly we inched forward until at about 8.20 we got to view the marble slab on which he supposedly lay in the tomb. From there it is but a short walk and a short queue to view the supposed limestone mound which was Golgotha. Of course it didn’t have to be that high as being on a cross made you all to visible ‘pour encourage les autres’. There is a gilded hole above the stone which I assumed was to put your arm in to feel the stone. I was somewhat surprised to find it full of litter. Then it dawned on me that these were bank notes. How better to commemorate the death of our Saviour than in dollar bills or shekels?

 

We did not linger and headed back through empty streets to our hotel and breakfast. At the Damascus Gate Christine noticed a woman n a red coat and bobble hat standing absolutely still in front of it. Christine had noticed that she had been there at 7.15 when we had passed through. Very odd.

We met Dani and Mike for breakfast and then set off to the. Mount of Olives. We headed back to the Damascus Gate. I was now 10.00 but the girl was still in the same pplace. I asked her what she was doing and apparently it was some form of independent film project. Her cameraman was on the steps to her left.

We walked down the Via Dolorosa looking for Lion Gate and St Anne’s Church. I mistook one of s number of arches for the fate and then got us completely lost. Eventually we found St Anne ‘s and it was heaving! The church is Romanesque and beautiful in its simplicity. It has a remarkable acoustic and an American Choir was trying it out with Amazing Grace. If sound quite impressive, in spite of their pronounciation. Once they had left we had the church to ourselves so I gave a quick solo of ‘Lord we beseech you.’, and yes the acoustic is quite remarkable:even  my voice sounded passable!

 

It is hard to work out what is what outside the church so many generations gave built over and around the pools. Add to this the vast numbers of awed Americans and clamorous Chinese and the whole experience becomes hard to enjoy. However they do stay with their leaders, few wander from the throng, so we found a walkway around the other side of the site and enjoyed some relative peace. The pools, north and south, I was particularly keen to see having written about them in both of my religious monologues, Febronia and Mary, particularly the latter. I was not disappointed. With the help of a simple guide and some plaques we managed to piece together what would have been there in the time of Christ. I imagined Mary in one of the rather posh rooms situated between the pools, favouring the northern one where the water was cleaner and the common people did not enter.

Outside the Lion Gate we entered a Moslem cemetery which gave us good views across the Kidron Valley towards the massive Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We crossed the Kidron or Valley of Jehoshaphat, dodging the multitude of tourist buses and taxis and eschewing the Basilica of the Agony, we found a quiet road up the edge of the Jewish cemetery to a viewpoint at the top of the Mount. The sun was beating down and it was quite a climb, but well worth it. As we passed the Jewish cemetery I pointed out the stones piled on many of the graves. “Why do they do that?” Christine asked. I reminded her that at our Family Remembrance Service only a couple of weeks ago I had based the service on this Jewish ritual and we had all laid stones around the font. It clearly had made quite an impact!

 

We treated ourselves to a cereal bar as we looked across to the walled city and then after using the impeccable toilets we headed further up to the Mosque of the Ascension. Within its grounds is a beautiful little chapel dating from about 1200. Inside is a piece of stone with a supposed footprint our Lord left behind as a left for heaven. If so, he had surprisingly large feet.

 

We descended via a much busier road and enjoyed an overpriced, but delicious pomegranate juice at a small cafe at the bottom. Back through the Lion Gate we navigated our way across the old city to the Jaffa Gate. The Via Dolorosa was blocked in places by thrombosises of tourists, clustered around their guides, drinking in every word and quite oblivious of everyone else. Eventually we struck off away from the crowds, but met them again as we approached the Jaffa Gate.

 

Our aim was to walk on the walls which run between Jaffa Gate and Dung Gate. It cost 18 shekels each, but I produced my senior railcard and got in for 8 as a senior citizen! The walk was lovely but hard work. Every tower had massive stone steps up and down and by now our legs were feeling like jelly. At Dung Gate we set off in pursuit of refreshment, but decided instead to buy some cakes and head back to the hotel for afternoon tea on our terrace. We bought some delicious cakes from a stall near the Damascus Gate and as we passed through there was the girl, standing in the same spot. Christine asked if she had had a break and was released to hear that she had. She was still being filmed, so I presume we are now part of an art installation to be screened in the future!

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Tomorrow we leave Jerusalem for the Sea of Galilee and hopefully a less frenetic and cheaper few days.

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Saturday

A gentle start to the day, but the market beckoned. Then Absalom arrived just as we were brewing coffee. I swear he can smell it from his house! Anyway it is always good to see him and have a chat. We eventually left for the market at about 10.30, but we had barely started our walk before Thomas pulled up in his car and offered us a lift. We went via an MP’s house as he had some business to conduct and then he took us to an entrance to the market we had not been to before – the butchery entrance! Wandering amongst carcases of pigs, cattle and goats is a great way for vegetarians to start the day! We made a beeline for the kitenge and browsed the various options. Eventually Christine settled on a lovely design, but a rather expensive one at about £9 for a triple piece! We wavered but after mature consideration we thought it was worth the outrageous price!

We walked back from the market, stopping at the petrol station for a bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk – you can see how desperate we were for chocolate! Then we realised that we had a shadow; a rather dirty and bedraggled child was walking a little behind us and had been since the market. He didn’t seem to want anything other than the pleasure of our company – a discerning young man clearly. However as we dropped into the valley he seemed to meet some people he knew and we realised that he was fickle. We stopped at a stall and bought some passion tunda and then cut down to the river and up the other side. We had gone into town via Christine’s dressmaker, but he was closed, so we returned the same way, but he was still closed.

We began a little desultory packing, but at 4.30 we had been invited to the Ruzabila’s for afternoon tea and to collect the bags we are bringing back for Rose. The house was in chaos as they are also packing to leave their house on Monday to go to Nyamiaga. Still they cleared a space and we enjoyed a black tea. Then Rose came in a with a very large bag stuffed with other bags and asked if we could take it. I said we would be happy to take the bags Valerie had ordered and paid for, but doubted if we could manage any more. Something must have got lost in translation, because before we knew it she had materialised with another to enormous bags stuffed full. I then had to explain patiently, but with a hint of steel in my voice, that we would be lucky if we could manage the first bag let alone any others. The message got through, but Rose insisted on accompanying us home with two of her students carrying the bag, to ensure, I think, we were telling the truth!

At 6.00 Thomas arrived and we went to Bishop Aaron and Kaveena’s new house half way up the other side of the valley. It is very pleasant with a beautiful view of the valley. We were made very welcome and drank soda and ate peanuts while we chatted. Their great grand-daughter, Princess was also there and seemed fascinated by us for a while. Thomas went off to do something else and seemed to be gone a long while. The sun set spectacularly behind Bishop Aaron’s tonsured head, but no sign of Thomas. We were meant to be at Fareth’s at 7.00. Eventually he bounced in, but then proceeded to sit and eat peanuts. Finally we left just after 7.00 and sped up the valley side to the dressmaker’s. It looked shut, but Thomas asked a youth standing, doing nothing much, as youths do, and suddenly there was a lot of calling and whistling and a breathless dressmaker arrived. He was on his way to us with the dress! I have to say it is a very good fit and Christine looks wonderful in it.

We arrived at Fareth and Tabitha’s at 7.20, full of apologies, but they were very relaxed about it. Wilbard was there and we had a very pleasant meal and chat. Wilbard kindly gave us a gift of a kitenge and other gifts for us to bring back for people. We left about 9.00 and were by now looking forward to bed. I decided just to download some pictures before adjourning and was midway through when Christine who was standing the other side of the table screamed and fled. She had seen a mouse! We left the building, faster than Elvis with his blue suede shoes on fire! I had always thought Christine was the brave one when it came to rodents, but I fear she has feet of clay! So we were now banished from our house and bed by a small furry thing WITH A TAIL!! I went to Fareth and asked if he could come and clear the area. Seizing only his walking stick he came in and poked and banged in every room except the front large bedroom which we don’t use. He was brilliant, even getting down on his poor knees to check for wildlife. He found none, but where had it gone? We thanked him and let him go, still nervous at the prospect of sleeping with a mouse in the house. We stripped our bed and I searched the room high and low. I then barricaded the bottom of the 2 bedroom doors and the kitchen door with copies of the English – Swahili dictionary and some pencil cases to fill the gap. I must have a word with the publishers and point out that a if they resized the dictionaries by an inch each they would fit perfectly across the bottom of a door-frame. This might increase sales.

We went to bed fearing we would be unable to get to sleep. However the mosquito tent gives one a sense of security and while it would not withstand a machete wielding rodent, it is reasonable safe. In fact we had quite a good night’s sleep as it turned out and when I did wake for the usual reasons I heard nerry a squeak nor a scrabble.

Sunday

We had to get up early as Absalom was picking us up at 8.15 to take us to K9 – an unusual name for a village , unless it is particularly popular with dogs, dentists, or Doctor Who fans. The name may derive from the number given to the refugee camp that was there, or may relate to a road building base as it is on the main road to Rusumo. Either way it is quite small and indistinct. The church itself is wattle and daub with an earth floor and a stunning view over a valley and the surrounding hills.

We were welcomed by the evangelist and then waited for the pastor to arrive as well as most of the congregation. It was obviously a 9.30 service. Beatrice, Absalom’s cousin had come with us. We were shown to the guest seats up on the earth platform next to the altar. It was a lively and joyful service. The Evangelist seemed to have a permanent smile and broke into laughter readily. At one point he asked why his congregation wasn’t smiling more as they had guests. Absalom spoke very well and kept it short (about 25 minutes). Of course we had to speak as well. We felt very welcome. The choir performed three songs although their soloist was about a semi-tone flat for one of them. However their group singing was spot on and their dancing was brilliant. After the service, Christine produced her bubbles and the teenagers(!) thoroughly enjoyed chasing the bubbles. I somehow think this wouldn’t happen in the U.K.!

We had been invited for a soda at the church leader’s house, but of course it wasn’t just a soda. They laid on a full luncheon with rice, matoke and cabbage. It was very good and was washed down with soda and finished off with a perfectly ripe piece of avocado. Delicious. The generosity of those who have little always seems to outweigh that of us who have plenty. We were waved off and headed towards Ngara, with the pastor’s wife with us. We dropped her near her house and she insisted we wait while she ran inside and returned with gifts for us. Two Womencraft items were handed in through the car window – again such generosity.

Back home we set about packing, taking our suitcases outside and emptying them to make sure there were no little visitors. So far so good on that front, but let us not count our mice……..etc. Of course we have had stream of visitors including Wilbard with another gift for someone, then Joctan who gracefully posed on the porch wall while I took his picture, charming but as camp as a girl guide jamboree! Then John R turned up to see what we had managed to pack. We explained that we weren’t ready yet and that we would bring back anything we couldn’t get in by 7.00 p.m.. Then he tried to put the bite on us, by telling us his daughter who is at boarding school had texted to say she was out of money and he hadn’t any to send her. We expressed our sorrow and hoped that something would turn up but he left empty handed. Since we had delivered a £100 for bags in the last month, we wondered where the money had gone!

We have almost finished packing and have got some of Rose’s bags in, but I dare say it won’t be enough! Tonight we go to Thomas and Christela’s for a farewell dinner and to make my beautiful god-daughter cry, as that seems to be my role! The Mother’s Union has a baptism celebration on across the road. We have been invited to drop in by Innocent whose child it is, but frankly we don’t have the time and anyway the speaker system is at such a volume that we feel fully included. This is one aspect of life in Tanzania I will not miss. The steady thump of the base beat is enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Still at least the natives aren’t restless, they are just having a good time. As indeed we have, a very good time. We shall miss this place and the people, but I shall not be sorry to come home and enjoy a few things we take for granted, but are just not available here. My blog ends here. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much I’ve enjoyed writing it. See you soon!

Kagera 13

Friday

A school day today. We rose early as we had been invited by the students to witness their early morning singing and dancing. This was ‘free-form’ and very exciting with students jumping about, crawling on the floor , banging a drum and blowing whistles. I kept hearing the word ‘Jesus’ so I’m sure it was Christian, but it reminded one of rather more pagan rituals. As I murmured to Christine, “How unlike the homelife of our own dear Queen” – well as far as we know. After watching the students do a serious workout we felt hungry so returned for breakfast.

We’d had no internet the night before and so I couldn’t post the blog. This morning it decided to work so I quickly uploaded pictures and posted the blog. Obadiah arrived about 8.40, 20 minutes early, with Imami ready to take us to Ndomba Secondary School where he is a governor. We managed to get ourselves ready buy 9.10 and set off. We passed through Ngara and then turned off to the left, climbing and then plunging down into a small valley filled with rice fields; the first time I’d seen rice growing in Kagera, so naturally I asked if we could stop and take pictures. Then we climbed back up before zig-zagging down into a much larger valley with a large red-brown river flowing through it. Brickworks lined the valley floor. We crossed by a bridge which had tarmac on it and for about 50 yards either side of it – rather strange. We climbed back up again and then past where Obadiah had lived as a boy and where his parents still live. The school was a couple of kilometres further on. Later Obediah showed us where he had gone to primary school – an 11km walk there and 11km walk home. He would set off at 6.00 a.m. each morning! Furthermore when the family needed water they would have to walk between 2 – 3 kms down to the river and then carry back up hill with it on their heads. No wander Obadiah is short!

We were greeted at the school by the headmaster and introduced to the staff. There are 450 pupils aged 14 – 18 and 16 staff although only 11 are full time, the rest being brought in when needed. Some classes had 70 pupils in them, making it an impossible task for a teacher to get round to each pupil because there wasn’t room to move. The upper classes were smaller and smaller groups were needed for science. New laboratories were just being finished as the government is trying to encourage more pupils to do science at school and university. We filed out to the sort of parade ground in the front of the school and a boy drilled them until they were standing properly in rows on three sides of a square. We were introduced and of course invited to speak to them. Then it was group photo time. The staff seemed as excited as the kids and we had to pose for numerous shots with staff members.

Then we taken on a tour of the school. It used to be a UNHCR registration centre for refugees from Rwanda. The buildings were converted to school use in 2007. Some of the buildings have been converted into dormitories as parents prefer their children to board. Others are now teachers’ houses as the school is quite remote and teachers would not be able to travel to the school each day. That explained the toddlers running around the site. The dormitories are fairly spartan, but the dining hall looked as though the 3 minute warning had been given and everyone had left instantly. Benches and tables lay scattered about higgledy-piggledy. The school kitchen consisted of 3 3stone cookers with enormous pots on them, one contained rice, another beans and the third contained ugali (a rather revolting looking porridge. As we approached the classrooms, pupils came flooding out for break. The day starts at 7.00 a.m. and continues to 3.00 with a 20 minute break. Lunch is only served to the boarders. The school hopes that we can find a school in Suffolk to twin with it. Let us hope we can find somewhere that would be interested.

We left about 11.30 and headed back through the beautiful countryside. I kept asking to stop to take pictures and Imami was his usual patient self. We took a short cut back to the main road. It was little more than a track which climbed and then dropped into valley bottoms. This had been Obediah’s route to primary school and is now his way home on Friday evenings when he returns to his family from KCTC on his motorbike. Rather him than me!

On the main road we passed 4 teachers from Murgwanza primary school who had been on a training day of some sort, so they piled in the back. However before we entered Ngara proper, Imami pulled over and Obediah and the teachers got out and we were taken straight to NAPS. I assume they walked the rest of the way as Imami’s son was graduating from the kindergarten and he stayed for the ceremony. Walking long distances, it seems, is not a problem in Kagera!

As we got out of the land cruiser we saw a large tent like construction on the rocky slope that is in the centre of the school. A voice was bellowing over the loud (very) speaker system. We advanced and were met half way by a teacher who welcomed us and ushered us through the assembled parents and students to a place of honour next to Asifiwe and the Bishop. We apologised for being late, but were assured that we weren’t as it had only just begun. This slightly puzzled us as it was due to start at 9.00. However judging by the programme of events that Asifiwe had it seemed to be the case. There were many hours of entertainment and speeches stretching ahead of us!

Of course we were made very welcome and the children were delightful and very well rehearsed. The singing and dancing were excellent and there were sketches and even a science experiment demonstration. Around about 3.00 p.m. the students received their leaving certificates and a range of others for excellence. I would like to say that the whole thing was like a well-oiled machine, but in truth it was more like a well-oiled drunk, lurching from side to side as students had little idea as to whose hand to shake and how to pose for the photographs. This part had clearly not been rehearsed, but it was delightful and the pride and joy of the parents was wonderful to see. They had hung garlands and hearts with messages on around their offsprings’ necks and even some sort of perspex boards, so that the poor children could barely stand up straight!

Then it was time to ‘cut the cakee’, which involved a cake and Bishop Darlington and a student wielding a knife. The initial incision having been made, the cake was then butchered with gusto by one of the parents and its dismembered parts stuck onto cocktail sticks which were thrust into the mouths of unsuspecting guests by the student.

We were rather hoping that as it was approaching 4.00 p.m. this might be the finale, but of course not. So far there had been no speeches and that could not go unremedied. First up were the graduating students. Each speech giver issued a document to the guests so that they could follow the speech and note the progress that was being made. The students’ document ran to five pages which was long enough, but, we then discovered it was to be delivered in Swahili and then in English. The sun moved across the heavens, I am sure, but time in the tent seemed to stand still. Eventually the two students (well actually three as one was acting as a microphone stand) came to an end, having thanked everyone even remotely involved in their education and made a plea to the Bishop for more facilities. Then came the deputy head, who was remarkably brief coming in at about 15 minutes. Then Asifiwe stood up and after a few words of his own introduced us. We managed the sort of potted version of a guest speaker’s speech at Prize Giving, stressing the importance of hard work and determination if the students were to achieve the glittering prizes that undoubtedly awaited them in the sunlit uplands of academia. There was modest applause, but the fact that combined we came in at well under 10 minutes, we were probably a slight disappointment. Then the main act, Bishop Darlington. Asifiwe translated for us and it was a fine speech in deed and almost taciturn as it barely made 25 minutes.

With a sigh of relief and the thought of something more than a crumb or two of cake in the offing we got to our feet. Too soon. The parents’ representative had to have his say and then a woman whose exact position failed to ascertain. Another 25 minutes passed and then the guests of honour arose as one and headed for the food that was on offer in one of the classrooms. Yet again we are a disappointment, for, ravenous as we were, we simply cannot eat the vast amounts of rice and beans that our hosts think we should do. Still we sat with Bishop Darlington and Asifiwe so we had a very pleasant chat. Thomas was waiting for us outside and bundled us in the car to bring us back to Murgwanza before returning to pick up Christela and Joan. Joan had graduated from kindergarten that day and so I should imagine was shattered – six hours in a hot tent with a sound system designed to break the will of the Burundi government and people, must be exhausting for any child of six – surely?

We arrived home worn out, but in need of a leg stretch, so we wandered down to the cathedral and met Philipio and Nyamwenda who wanted to chat. Then we got back and started to prepare dinner but Absalom arrived and wanted a chat, which is always a pleasure, but delayed our meal. Just as we were setting the table Nyamlinda arrived with my flash drive and some incomprehensible reason why he couldn’t give it back to me. I was too tired to argue and told him in no uncertain terms that he would have to give it to Dorothee.

Scrabble as usual and then our much needed bed. Tomorrow should be less exhausting, but who can tell?

Kagera 12

Wednesday

An early rise as Thomas is due at 8.00 for our trip to Karagwe. We are priviledged to have the bishop’s land cruiser with his driver, Edwin, who also happens to be Absalom’s brother. We load up and are away by about 8.20. We pass Absalom’s wood just after the T junction with the T3 road. It is his pension and judging by the size of it he should live well in his retirement!

We stop at Nyakasanza which is a typical road junction town, all lorries, snack bars and rather dubious shacks which sell a variety of things. We stock up with sodas and then turn onto the laterite road which is ours for the next 3 hours, after which well….you will see. We enter the Nurigi and Kimisi game reserves, one either side of the road. The game do indeed seem to be very reserved as apart from a fleeting glimpse of some antelopes on the road in the distance and the disappearing bottoms of some baboons in the bush we see nothing, not even some Scrabble! Traffic is similarly sparse, although bizarrely the first vehicle we meet has the word ‘bakery emblazoned across its front. Do Zebra and Giraffe have a penchant for bloomers and custard tarts I wonder? Perhaps rhinos enjoy a cream horn? Occasionally we encounter a bus packed tight with sweating bodies and emblazoned with religious and other slogans. We are basically on a ridgeway with occasional saddles we drop down in to. The views are stunning, but hard to photograph, partly because it is very cloudy and misty, even raining at times. Nevertheless I ask poor Edwin to stop on a number of occasions, causing Thomas some alarm as he says that lions have been introduced recently. I speculate on how you introduce lions, “Good morning this is Mr Simba and his good lady Mrs Simba” perhaps. Anyway I see nothing more terrifying than black ants, which are quite frightening actually if you get in their way.

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Out the other side we pass some fairly desperate houses belonging to local shambas and cattle herders, but steadily the housing improves as do the shambas and you begin to realise that Karagwe is actually quite prosperous along the road. We plunged down into lush valley bottoms passing large banana shambas and some quite smart houses. At last we reach the town of Omurushaka and a metalled road – hoorah!, our internal organs relax having had the pummelling of their lives. However we travel about 200 yards and then turn off to our left onto a laterite road which struggles to live up to that term. After a while there is a general consensus in the vehicle that we need to contribute to the bounty of the wet season and we all move to different pieces of undergrowth to make our contributions. Shortly after we come across the local rural dean standing by his motorbike, apparently waiting for us. Thomas had arranged a liaison at this apparently not godforsaken spot and duly hands over some letters from the bishop for distribution. We then turn down a track which could vaguely be made out with enough imagination.

We are now mainly on the edge of a valley floor with marshland to our right. There is quite a bit of forestry as well as tree planting has been happening here thanks to CCMP. At last we arrive in the village of Kabalekela which is on the side of the valley with magnificent view across to the hills beyond. We meet with Bosco who has seized CCMP with both hands and run with it. He is a real entrepreneur and is clearly doing well. He is also an evangelist and a CCMP co-ordinator for the parish.

We entered his very smart house and sat in his lounge to talk. He told me that he was born locally and only had a primary education (although he is clearly very bright). He heard about CCMP and became enthused. He set himself some priorities, in other words what he wanted from life and then worked out how to achieve them. He decided that he first wanted a decent house for his family(a wife and 4 children). He has built it himself, making the bricks and buying in floor tiles and metal sheeting for the roof. Secondly he wanted food security which he has now achieved. He produces more than enough to feed his family and to sell. Furthermore he has become a businessman, buying bean from others and the storing them until the price goes up and then selling them at quite a profit. He has 200 sacks of beans in his stores. He uses his mobile to keep track of prices. All the produce is transported to the road by bike or motorbike by 4 people who he now employs to do that. He also employs workers on his shamba. His third priority was to build a house for his mother and this is now well underway. In the future he wants to buy a car and to send his children to secondary school when they are old enough. Recently he has bought 8 acres of land for trees for timber a for fruit and this complements 6 acres of timber woodland that he has already.

Now you may be thinking that this all sounds a bit like exploitative capitalism, but actually his neighbours are proud of him and want to learn from him. Before CCMP came into the village there were only 3 iron sheet roofed houses, now there are very few grass thatched houses at all. CCMP has really changed the mindset of local people and they now know and understand what resources they have and how to exploit them.

Bosco took us down to a neighbour called Nevard who is in the middle of building his house, indeed plasterers were working in the lounge. Nevard has joined a pamoja group in the village. (‘pamoja’ means ‘together’ in Swahili). Pamoja groups are saving and loan groups which have been seed funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s fund. Basically people pay in each week and then take loans agreed by the whole group for specific needs or projects. These loan then have to be paid back with 5% interest. Each group has between 15 and 25 members and they set priorities for community improvements and help each other to achieve them. Nevard has bought himself a motorbike with a loan and then paid it back. He will use the bike to transport his coffee to the road. He grows robusta under his bananas. I noted some signs of the coffee rust fungus, but hopefully his bananas will provide enough shade to prevent its spread. He is also growing avocados and mangoes. Being part of a pamoja group has certainly raised his aspirations as well as his standard of living. He now needs some help to improve his shamba through CCMP.

From there we drove down to the local church which has just been officially opened by Bishop Darlington. The building was begun by the church community collecting stones and bringing them to the site. ‘Tumaini’ (‘Hope’ in Swahili), a Guernesy based charity offered help and now they have a fine new building. Tumaini have also helped to build a new school which was much needed. As with so many schools it has stunning views. However there are 401 pupils and 6 staff, which the mathematically adept amongst you will work out as an average class size of 66.8. Anybody fancy doing the marking for that?! The school is government run and so there is not enough money apparently to pay for more staff.

Finally we drove to Nyihanga village which is in the same parish. We met some of the congregation in the church who are at the start of the mobilisation process. The new church has been built by the community and has about 70 regular attendees, although there are about 200 registered Christians in the village. Bosco introduced us and Thomas gave a motivational speech and then passed the baton to yours truly. I talked about the importance of Christian being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in their communities and that they were very much doing what Jesus commanded in that respect. It seemed to go down well. Christine followed on with some inspirational words. We invited questions and comments. The Pamoja treasurer spoke about the problem of climate change and how it was now so difficult to predict when to plant and how it was affecting farmers’ incomes. Hearing this in a remote village really brings home the reality of climate change and the problems it is causing. How I wish Trump could have been there to hear that farmer! Then Bosco got going and went on at some length giving the CCMP message. He is clearly a very good speaker and people listened attentively. The village co-ordinator, a wonderful woman called Anatolia slipped out to check on something and as I wanted her picture I followed her out. Thomas also went out to answer his phone so poor Christine was left to hear Bosco’s speech in Swahili!

Outside I took pictures of the local wildlife and also of the severe erosion that is taking place in the hillside next to the church. Some serious tree planting is needed there and soon!

As we were about to leave, we discovered that they had prepared food for us, so the altar cloth was stripped away and a new cloth was placed on the table. Rice, beans and mashed banana were offered along with the ubiquitous soda. We were quite hungry so managed a full plate each, only to be shamed when the locals were invited to pitch in and we remembered that a plate is only full in Tanzania when it is built up to a teetering mound of what ever is going. We are lightweights by comparison!

We drove away with their thanks ringing in our ears. Our presence had fulfilled Thomas’ promise that one day he would bring international visitors to them to see what they were doing with CCMP. We felt very honoured and humbled by our reception. We then threaded our way back to the main road and on to Kayanga where we were due to spend the night. Kayanga is a rather attractive town built on the top of the ridge and spilling down the sides. There are some nice houses and open spaces and it feels rather at ease with itself. We drove through it past two coffee processing factories to a modern complex of buildings which is the diocesan guest house and rehabilitation centre. The idea is that the guest house is a source of income for the main work which is with disabled children.

We were shown to our en suite room and decided that before we ventured into town for dinner we should have a shower. What was more a hot shower was on offer in a sort of wet room. It was certainly that since the toilet was pretty much directly under the shower, but hey it was a hot shower – our first in over three weeks! Except it wasn’t. Try as we might we couldn’t get it hot. We tried different variations of knob turning and switch flicking, but the electric water heater was having none of it. I went out to track down another pillow and mentioned our difficulty to the man who seemed to be in charge. Immediately a technician was dispatched and by dint of manipulating the knobs and switches with his magic hands we had hot water! Bliss!

O.K. the shower had the force of a mist, but it was better than nothing and we both managed a shower without turning the apparatus off. Then, feeling a lot better, we headed into town to a Lutheran hotel which offered a buffet dinner. Christine said we would probably be offered a diet of worms, but actually it was a little better. Rice, brown and white, beans, matoke, and some spinach and cabbage mix was what we were offered, while the lads could add beef ribs, chicken bits and what seemed to be fish heads judging by the baleful eyes that greeted us when the lid was lifeted from the dish. It was filling and that was all we could ask.

Back at the guest house we settled down on a surprisingly comfortable mattress and under a mosquito net. The latter was welcome when a particularly large flying beetle tried to gain entry to our bed. We slept.

Thursday

We had to be up and ready by 8.00 a.m., but the shower remained an enigma. The technician’s legerdemain had been so good, we had no idea how he’d performed the trick. Christine sent me out to find help, but it wasn’t easy. I surprised a young lad who was polishing desks in the office, but clearly showers were above his pay grade so he got on his mobile. However he seemed to lose interest so I wandered away disconsolately towards the prospect of a cold shower. One last try got the hot water going and so Christine dived into the shower and I followed. It just about lasted until I had finished!

So we then had a meeting with Pastor Aggrey Mashanda, the Executive Director of the Karagwe Community Based Rehabilitation Programmes. Children are brought here for physiotherapy and other support services. There is even a prosthesis workshop on site. The government supports with experts but not with finance. The centre has only been open since 2015 but we were impressed with what we saw. Breakfast had been prepared for us in a large conference hall and we enjoyed some cocoa, but unfortunately the samosas were meat based so we went hungry!

Thomas then took us to the Tumaini operation in Kayanga and we met the staff and saw the sewing school and the carpentry workshop.

Then we set off homewards. It is a long journey over some seriously interesting roads. The internal massage that such a journey gives one, had an undesirable on myself, that caused me to abandon the vehicle in the middle of the national park and, lions or no lions, contemplate the wonders of nature at close quarters. Following which, St Immodium of Diarrhoea was invoked, the patron saint of all who travel in distant lands.

We arrived in Nyakasanza absolutely ravenous and found a couple of chapatis and a couple of Mandazi were all that was on offer. We took them and wolfed them down. Frankly if I had been confronted by a lion I suspect that it might have had to look to its laurels if it wasn’t to be eaten by me!

Back home and we have had a steady stream of visitors all keen to welcome us back. Amongst them were John and Rose bearing Tim’s jacket and shirts which he had ordered. They look wonderful, let us hope they fit him! They gave us some surprising news, namely that 2 days ago they learnt that on Monday they have to move to Nyamiaga parish the other side of Ngara. About 30 pastors have been told to move on that day and some may only just have been told! The Ruzabilias were in a bit of a state as Rose works for the diocese as Sunday School cop-ordinator here in Murgwanza and the house they are moving to only has two rooms and they are a big family! If you pray please pray for that situation.

Absalom was our last visitor, just making sure we were back safely. He is still not well, with high blood pressure and what he thought might be malaria. Again prayers please if you do.

We are shattered so I think an early night is in order.

Kagera 11

Monday

Last night it rained. Those four words are not adequate to describe the frightening deluge released from the sky – ‘a rain of terror’ perhaps? For those coming out after us I recommend wellington boots, raincoat and over trousers, a small ark and a white dove. It finally stopped about 8.00 a.m. but it is cold and damp.

We spoke to Thomas last night on the phone. The car was apparently repaired within the hour. He seemed surprised that we were concerned! Today he intends to take us to the tree nursery in the valley bottom and then to his shamba.

We managed to get up fairly early and had breakfast before Naomi arrived. She works incredibly hard and we feel guilty as she bustles around us, mopping floors on her hands and knees, ironing, washing etc. Thomas came at ten on the dot just as we were going next door with a thank you card that Christine had fashioned for Fareth and Naomi. We delivered it to Tabitha who was at her back door and then climbed into Thomas’ car and headed down into the valley to the Diocesan tree nursery.

The site has been carefully chosen:

  1. It is close to the river, a much needed source of water in the wet season. At that time the seedlings need to be watered morning and evening.
  2. It is close to people’s houses, which means it is more secure as the workers live near by.

The seedlings are grown in plastic tubes which are the main cost and are imported from near Mwanza. The seeds take up to a year to produce seedlings of a suitable size for planting, although some are suitable within a month. We were a little concerned about the use of plastic and asked about organic pots. An elderly man called Thomson was summoned and he disappeared off into a nearby shamba, returning with some yellow banana leaves and a wooden post.

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He drove the post into the ground having dug a hole with his machete. He then proceeded to create a pot out of the leaves. It was fascinating to watch, but obviously very labour intensive and probably not practical for 120,000 seedlings they are planting here. There are a mixture of eucalyptus, pine and another species which grows very quickly. The eucalyptus is for planting in remote rural areas away from farms as they take a lot of moisture out of the ground. However they grow quickly and provide protection against soil erosion. All the trees offer this protection plus wood for burning, construction and furniture. They also improve the short term water cycle.

Many seeds are planted in each pot, then as they germinate they are thinned out and the thinning are potted on. It takes about 6 days for the seeds to germinate and they can be potted on after about two weeks.

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The workforce are employed for around Tsh 40,000 – 50,000 a month (about £13 – £17), but the main object is not employment but to train them so they can go away at the end of the year and set up their own nurseries. Some have already done this. They are 10 local people, 2 of them living in sight of the nursery so they can keep an eye on it. They work from 7.30 to 12.30 as the nursery is established and from 7.30 – 10.00 at a later stage.

The soil is mixed using 20 parts local soil, which is rich in humus from the valley bottom and 3 parts manure which is brought in.

This could well become a business in the future but currently they are supporting churches, schools and poor families by giving them for free. Funding has come from the money raised on the Kilimanjaro climb and from the AFC. The aim is to make the nursery self-sustaining in the future. It has been running for a year and a half.

It was all very interesting and the workers were clearly delighted to see us posing for a group photo at the end.

We drove home and Thomas came in for a coffee and a chat before lunch. Naomi had excelled herself again with a very tasty rice, egg and vegetable mix with her signature aubergine stew. She divulged the recipe for the juice she makes – avocado, passion fruit, ginger and sugar. We are unlikely to return any thinner!

We sat out on the porch but it was decidedly chilly. About half three we went for a walk out to the ridge. The view was very clear and we could make out the Kagera river very clearly. We walked eastwards along the ridge just below the primary school. It was breath- taking. I don’t think I could ever tire of it.

Thomas arrived at 4.30 and we went off to his shamba which is a model of good practice. His banana trees and widely spaced and produce massive bunches of large bananas. What his family don’t eat he will sell at about Tsh8,000 a bunch. The price is down this year because it is a good year for everyone but it will rise to Tsh15,000 in a dry year. He has planted grafted avocados through the shamba and these will produce plentiful large fruit which will also provide a good income. He also has some trees, already very tall after only five years. He sees all his products in terms of school fees. They are investments for his family. What distinguishes Thomas’ shamba is that it is fenced to keep out animals so that young avocados and other saplings are not eaten by deer. It is all very impressive.

Back home, we settled down for an evening of writing up the day, dinner and scrabble. However I got a bit waylaid and managed to complete the monologue I have been working on on and off over the last three weeks. It still needs some work, including some research which I can’t do here, but I think it will work.

Tuesday

We woke early as we had promised Absalom that we would attend communion. It was a lovely service with Fareth sitting between us and translating for us. The student choir sang beautifully accompanied only by a drum. Wilson preached based on Joel 2. There is a heavy emphasis it seems to us on the Old Testament and the Day of Judgement. We have yet to hear a sermon (apart from Tim’s) based on the New Testament. I keep thinking that while we need to repent, of course, Jesus Christ died for our sins and we should rejoice not wallow in the misery God is predicted to inflict at the Day of Judgement! There was a moment when, just after Wilson had told us about the trumpet calls that would herald Doomsday, Fareth’s phone suddenly went off and I nearly jumped out of my skin! In spite of the apocalyptic forecasts of their preachers the students seem to be very joyous and upbeat in their faith. We were brought to the front to say a few words as this would be the last communion we would share with the students. We both spoke and were roundly applauded. Fareth in his inimitable style was wearing a shirt that it was hard to look at without dark glasses and at 50 paces.DSC_0770

Although it had been cool to start with, by the end of the service it had warmed up and we filed outside to have a group photograph taken. Chairs were hurriedly assembled and we were sat down. The Bishop’s secretary took the photos and Christine noticed that he was using my old ipad, so at least it is being used! Lots of pictures were taken and then as the group broke up for breakfast, individual students wanted pictures of us on their phones. Eventually we managed to get away and headed to the Bishop’s Office. Thomas had said that he would like to see us at 9.00, but we explained we would be at KCTC and could we stick to the original plan of 10.00? As we had had no reply we thought we’d get there as soon as possible. However he was in a meeting so we went with Thomas to his office.

Thomas showed us the kit that Community Health Visitors can use to teach people about reproductive health. It is provided by MMA (Medical Mission for Africa), an Australian charity. It is excellent with all sorts of useful visual aids including a very realistic looking pelvis, two dolls, a magnetic board with pictures showing the uterus and male penetration, a magnetic menstrual cycle, and a couple of knitted uteri of different sizes! We were fascinated and were still trying to get over what we had seen when we were summoned to Bishop Darlington’s office.

Darlington greeted us warmly. It was lovely to see him again and we had a very useful and constructive meeting with him. The good news is that he will becoming to the U.K. in February for a conference in Canterbury and plans to spend some time in Suffolk afterwards.

We left and Thomas suggested that we set off to Nyamiaga at 12.00. We just had time to pop home, collect the presents we had for Darlington, which we had forgotten, walk down to the dress maker who had let it be known that he needed another measurement from Christine and have a quick cup of coffee. It was positively hot by now and very welcome it was too!

Nyamiaga isn’t far and we remembered that we had been there before five years ago as we drove into the church forecourt. We walked across the grassy area in front of the church towards a line of eucalyptus trees which had been planted about the time we last visited and were now very tall. They provided some welcome shade from the hot sun, but as we came through to the other side, there was the most magnificent view across the valley. At our feet and stretching away down the rocky hillside were eucalyptus saplings, 2,500 in all.

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They have been planted by the church community for a number of reasons:

1. They prevent soil erosion

2. They will provide firewood, as well as timber for building in the future. This will be a source of income for the church as well

3. They act as a windbreak for the church at the top of the hillside

4. They provide a shady area where students from the school and church members can sit quietly

5. They will provide a haven for wildlife.

The trees planted 5 years ago will be ready for cutting in another five years. Coppicing will mean that they will go on producing wood for many years to come. Eucalyptus is the only suitable tree for this location. There is no farming here as the soil is thin and the slopes steep, so there is no rpoblem of the trees taking too much water from the soil.

 

The saplings were planted last Autumn in the wet season. Obviously it is hard to protect them from grazing animals and other problems, but only 200 have been lost which is less than 10% and compares favourably with other tree planting projects. The evangelist, Josias, joined us we stared out over the soon to be forested slope. He is in charge of the project and is clearly doing a good job. Pastor Selestine also arrived wearing a very bright jacket which made him visible from the top of the slope if not from outer space! Crickets averted their eyes as he made his way towards us. There is a long term plan to introduce beehives in the shade of the trees and produce honey which will again provide extra funds for the church.

On our way back to the car Pastor Selestine told us about another project. He had brought back from Bokoba some vanilla plants and these were now growing in pots in Evangelist Josias’ garden. There is a ready market for vanilla pods, particularly in Uganda, so here again was some enterprise that would benefit the church and the local community. As we passed the primary school we noticed a very attractive use for plastic bottles. They were using them as edging for the borders in the school courtyard. One student had fashioned a windmill from a plastic bottle, but was rather reluctant to let me photograph it. Luckily a ‘friend’ grabbed it and held it while I took a picture.

We drove back to Ngara and went in search of honey and sesame seeds, both of which we found. The sesame seeds or ufuta were £1.00 for half a kilo, so if anyone wants some……

Back home we managed a quick lunch (Naomi’s version of pizza – not sure it would be considered as such by an y self-respecting Neapoloitan, but hey!) and a brief sit down, before Thomas arrived to take us to the Murgwanza School of Nursing to meet the Community Health Worker students and see the MMA kit in action. We first met Innocence the Principal of the school, who made us very welcome. He is quite a character and there was a lot of banter between him and Thomas. He explained that there was a real problem amongst young people as regards sexual health in particular and that he wanted his students to go back into their communities and teach others about it. Poverty and ignorance are the basic issues and he was training students to break those cycles and end unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual diseases. The successful students will be employed by the government in their local communities having been trained at this diocesan school. In Tanzania Aids has increased nationally but in Kagera, where it first appeared in the country, it seems to be fairly stable if not declining. However there are 5 NGOs working in the region trying to reduce HIV infection.

Innocent took us into the classroom to meet the students, one of which was Nyamlinda. The room was full of late teenage men and women who all stood up as we entered and bade us welcome. Thomas spoke and then we were invited to speak as always. Then we sat and watched Innocent deliver a lesson using the MMA kit on fistulas. It was both informative and entertaining and clearly he is a natural teacher. He was funny but never failed to deliver the importance and seriousness of the subject. Watching him trying to push an oversized baby into a pelvis held by a young woman is possibly one of the more surreal moments in our trip so far.

We were asked for some final thoughts and I gave a brief case study of the danger of ignorance in these matters from my own teaching experience. Christine mad the point that being entertaining like their tutor would enable them to get the message across in their villages.

We walked home agreeing with Thomas on the way that we would be ready at 8.00 a.m. to leave for Karagwe tomorrow. Once in we took our books out on the porch, but already the wind was getting up, the clouds were gathering and thunder was rolling in the distance. About half an hour later the heavens opened and it poured down. Thunder, lightening, wind and rain. It might not be the apocalypse, but it certainly gave us a taste!

We are planning an early night after dinner, some packing and, of course, a game of scrabble.

Kagera 10

Saturday

Not a good night’s sleep. Woke needing to leave the bed for the usual reason. Got back into bed and was just dozing off when I heard something like scrabbling somewhere nearby – possibly in the roof. Could it be a rodent? Just how big could it be? Could it get into our bedroom?  Of course it might not have been, but what else scrabbles in the middle of the night? (I’m not talking board games here!) Of course, now I am wide awake! However I hear nothing and eventually fall into an uneasy sleep. I come to about 7.00 p.m. to hear the sound of the cistern filling. We have water! I’m out of bed and opening the taps to fill the barrels while the going is good. We have a bit of a lie in as it is Saturday, but Naomi arrives about 8.30. Breakfast, then Thomas arrives to take us to the wedding in Murukurazo about 20 minutes away. Christela wasn’t ready when he left so we go back to the house to pick her up and see the children. Noela sees me and bursts into tears. I am the big, white, scary bogey man! Eventually she calms down and I get a smile. Thomas shows me where the guest room and store room he has built next to the outdoor kitchen. He explains that sewage goes down 40 feet into the ground where it dissipates. Rubbish is put in a hole in the garden and burned. Noela waves us off.

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We set off at break neck speed. Thomas drives like he talks and walks – at full speed. Even so we arrive after the bride, but that seems quite O.K. Many of the bridesmaids did not arrive until half way through the service. The bride looks very beautiful and the groom is immaculately turned out. As we enter the church we are greeted by Bishop Aaron who is taking the service. Asifiwe arrives a little later. There is much singing and dancing,  the music occasionally disturbed by ear-splitting feedback. At about 12.00 Bishop Aaron begins his homily. It is rather different from a wedding talk in the U.K. For a start it is wide ranging, taking in the subjects of divorce, HIV/Aids, infidelity, prostitution, alcoholism, infidelity again, and how to say sorry to your spouse. It seems to go down well, all 50 minutes of it!

Then the couple actually got married, although I was surprised that the groom had not run screaming from the church after the Bishop’s review of sins in marriage. Thomas and Christela were witnesses and had to go up to sign the wedding certificates. Asifiwe stood up to speak and we heard our diocese mentioned and then we were brought forward to say a few words. We should have expected it, but we didn’t. Still, I think we got away with it! The rest of the service was bizarrely punctuated by the sort of bing-bong sound that you get before an announcement of a departure at a major airport. Thomas and I started to get the giggles! About 1.30 we settled down to communion and the whole shebang was done and dusted by about 2.15, a mere 3 and a bit hours.

We left the church and Thomas decided to run us home. The expression ‘bat out of hell’ came to mind as we drove away. I was belted in, thankfully as there were moments when I think we were airborne! Finally Thomas hit a large stone in the centre of the road (a bit like Suffolk, they don’t drive on the left, but in the centre) and there was a nasty thud sound from underneath the vehicle. Christela told him to slow down, we think, because we dropped from terrifying, to only buttock clenching over the next few metres. We passed sedately through Ngara and down into the valley. Coming up the other side the car seemed to lose interest in the journey and finally sputtered to a stop as smoke came from the bonnet. We got out and surveyed the scene. Oil was coming out from the sump. It did not look good. Thomas was phlegmatic and already on the phone to a mechanic. He promised to let us know how things went. So far we have heard nothing.

We walked up the hill, thankful that the car had managed to struggle up the steepest part. We were halooed from the students’ accommodation so went over and explained where we had been. Christine took the opportunity to ask Flora to accompany her to a dressmaker in Murgwanza to explain the sort of dress she wanted. We agreed to meet at 4.30. They were impressed by our matching Tanzanian outfits – I think. At home Naomi had left us a delicious spinach tart for lunch. We were ravenous!

After a much needed resting of the eyes the students arrive in force, Flora, Philpio, Reuben and a young man on the diploma course called Nyawenda who speaks good English and seemed to take control. We walked along past the hospital chatting away and then find a dressmaker in the collection of huts on the lower road. It isn’t the one Christine went to before, but they assure us he would be able to do it. The dressmakers are both men who sit bent over two sewing machines in a room where any cat, having the misfortune, to be swung would be knocked unconscious the moment it left the ground. Nyawenda actually made it into the hut, the rest of us had to stand outside and offer helpful comments through the barred window and open door. It seems to go well. I had a picture on my ipad of the sort of dress Christine wants and the tailor deftly took her measurements. The only tricky moment was when he said the price would be Tsh80,000 which is over £25. Not unreasonable in the U.K., but rather pricey for Tanzania. We hesitated and looked a bit doubtful, however we felt obliged to accept on the basis that it was a good price in our own country. We said to our students that it seemed a bit expensive but Philipio said, “Oh, no TSH8,000 is good, a shirt costs at least Tsh5,000.” Of course, we forgot the Tanzanian tendency to add ‘tee’ to words when it is least expected and to completely ignore ‘ee’ as in ‘coffee’ or ‘lady’. The dress would cost Christine about £2.75 – outrageously cheap!

We strolled back, deep in conversation and Christine suggested that we invite them in for tea. They were delighted and we had a lovely afternoon with them. We were joined by Joctan who can sense biscuits and drink a mile away and later Deus who had come to pick up his homework. They left us about 5.45 already late for choir practice. We set about doing emails etc. and then preparing to go to Fareth’s for dinner. At 6.45 we heard a ‘hodi’ from outside (‘hodi’ means ’knock’ but you say it rather than do it apparently) and Jonathan Ruzabila appeared. He had turned up to say goodbye as he was off to school tomorrow. It was very thoughtful of him, so we wished him all the best and hoped that when we saw him again in two years time he would have achieved the grades he wants.

As we left the house to go next door there was a beautiful full moon hanging in the north-west sky. We were greeted enthusiastically by Fareth and Tabitha and spent a delightful evening talking and eating. The food was delicious, omlettes, matoke, cabbage, carrot and green pepper with peanut source, followed by pineapple and bananas. We ate our full and then sat back down to meet the rest of the family namely two girls who were the children of Fareth’s deceased brother and an older girl from his deceased sister. We sat and talked and eventually excused ourselves as we are hoping to go to the eight o’clock service at the cathedral and Fareth also has an early start preaching in a village some distance away.

All in all it has been a full day. No scrabble tonight and I hope no scrabbling either!

Sunday

A scrabble-free night but we don’t make it to the 8.00 a.m. service as the alarm fails to go off. We instead have a leisurely rise and go to the 10.30ish service. The Dean very thoughtfully provides a young man, ‘Justin’ as a translator, but, as often happens, the volume of the amplification is so high we cannot hear what he is saying. He does manage to point us to the correct Bible readings however. The sermon is interminable and is clearly a rant. It is at such volume, that I start to get a headache and so go outside. I walk across the football pitch, but the preacher, now in a state of near hysteria is clearly audible. Only when I hear the quieter tones of Rose, who is leading the service, do I return. My absence has been missed by Cosmas who is at the top table! Eventually we get to communion and after more business involving a collection for the evangelist preacher to get some priestly training we are allowed out into the fresh air. I would have gladly made a contribution if I had thought that part of the training was how to give shorter sermons without amplification! In fairness, Absalom is not a fan of the overlong harangue either!

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We walk home and have lunch and a quiet read as storm clouds gather and thunder rumbles around. Although it is ‘looking black over Will’s mother’s’ we decide top risk a walk and stroll down to the tarmac road and through to the market and the view over Murgwanza Secondary and the hills of Burundi beyond. It is very grey and clearly raining hard in the distance. We hear the sound of marching below us and as we descend to the edge of the ridge we are aware of some sort of para-military training going on in the trees to our right. We move hesitantly around it, only to be hailed with ‘Karibu’ – they are not a secret terrorist cell planning to overthrow the Kagera Provincial Council, but a group of scouts and guides learning how to drill. One of them even has a scarf and woggle (possibly).

We climb back up to the hospital path to be greeted by Azmir who tried to escort us around the market a week or so back. He speaks quite good English, but is clearly a few seeds short of a passion fruit. His eyes seem to operate independently and have little connection to his brain which is very disconcerting. We engage in a brief conversation in which he insists we can see Zaire from where we are. (I’m sure we can on a clear day, if it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between). We make a bid for the cathedral, but he follows. We decide we don’t want him coming to the house and are relieved to see that Samuel has opened the shop. We go in and try to find something to buy. Azmir follows us. We settle on some knapkins and pay Samuel, but end up paying over the odds as Samuel doesn’t have any change. We leave him with the extra Tsh500 (about 16p) and flee, heading towards Absalom’s house in the hope that he has returned. Fortunately Joctan intercepts us and then we meet Philipio and Nyawenda who have just returned by bike from Murukurazo. We walk back up to the house with them and are relieved to see that Azmir is no where in sight. We walk quickly indoors.

A short while later Cosmas and Timothy arrive, the latter to pick up his work from Christine. They stay for a chat – well Cosmas chats. He is a delightful man and asked us about the service, so I was honest and said that for us a 50 minute sermon was very long. He then told us that he has four children, three boys and a girl. The oldest is six and the most recent addition is only 2 weeks old. He hadn’t expected the latter as he had prayed for no more after the third, but it seems God had other plans. This time he is giving God some help by sending his wife to the family planning clinic, so I suppose if she falls pregnant again it will be her fault!

No word from Thomas, so not sure what is happening tomorrow. Tuesday morning we meet with Bishop Darlington. We are still unsure if we are expected at NAPS for the graduation on Friday. We’ll just have to see what comes our way.

Kagera 9

Thursday

Rain in the night and we awoke to a very cool, some would say cold, dull day. No electricity and no water in the taps. The latter is not so much of a problem as we have large barrels of the stuff in the toilet, the bathroom and the kitchen and luckily we had filled them up. Still, if there isn’t any water in the next couple of days it could be an issue. We are following the ‘if its yellow let it mellow’ policy until the cistern fills. The lack of electricity is more of an issue. Christine without an early morning cup that cheers really does not the face the world with equilibrium. The first lesson was somewhat of a struggle. Breakfast brought no return of power so toast was off the menu and water had to suffice.

At about 11.15 a.m. the hamster must have recovered from his night on the tiles and power was restored. We dashed home and made some coffee to warm us However it has flirted with us throughout the day, raising our hopes only to dash them again. My computer lesson was a fiasco as students logged on to the desk top machines only for the power to fail. The power would then come back on and then fail again. Those on laptops had at least got batteries to keep them going.

Naomi had managed to cook an excellent hot lunch – a pasta bake that was delicious and we wolfed it down. We decided to take our tea out on the porch, but it was so cold we ended up swathed in a blanket each.

DSC_0557No postprandial today. Then it started to rain. Absalom arrived with some much needed supplies of loo roll and drinking water. We came in and got on with marking as our students were moving wood from the wet of Fareth’s garden into the dry of the container next to the College kitchen. I slipped up to the photocopying machine while the power was on and managed to get the sheets done that I will need for tomorrow’s lesson. I walked back in the dry and then Dvotha arrived for a chat. It started raining again and Thomas arrived full of bounce and eager to tell us about his experiences at the Tearfund conference he had just returned from. Devotha left and we settled in the lounge as the heavens opened outside. It also became very foggy and we had to have all the lights on in the house. We talked about the conference and his visit and he managed to put some more mbs on the internet modem for me.

We are still cold, but at least we have power so the dinner should be hot! The rain is much needed, but really, this is meant to be the dry season for goodness sake!

In an unexpected turn of events Christine was the Victrix Ludorum in the Scrabble this evening. Shattered I have taken to my bed as the rain continues to pour down, matched only by my tears.

Friday

Our last day of teaching at KCTC. How quickly it has come around! Weather is not improved. It rained during the night and it is still damp this morning. We have power but still no water – ironic really considering how much of it is falling from the sky. It is still decidedly cool.

We teach as planned. My lot want to know how to set out an email and a letter and when I get into the computer group I find they want to know the same, along with a C.V.. I duly oblige.

Lunch is an interesting combination of spaghetti and hard-boiled egg plus Naomi’s renowned aubergine stew. We sit indoors to read our books as it is too cold to sit outside and anyway it is still raining.

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Thunder rolls around us as well. It seems that the wet season may be underway. We mark and then we move onto other admin tasks. Christine decides to iron any thing and everything in the hope that it will warm her up!

Thomas arrives full of energy, to tell us that Bishop Darlington has almost lost his voice, so he would like to meet us Tuesday morning, to give it time to recover. Let us hope that he has no preaching engagements this week-end. Tomorrow Thomas is taking us to a wedding some 15 – 20 minutes away at which he and Christela are to be witnesses. We hope they have warned the happy couple that a couple of Muzungu are turning up!

Following Thomas comes Nymulinda, so I spend some time going through the life history / begging letter he has written to correct his English. He seems very pleased for he is an eager student. Christine is heating up the second half of a delicious baked pasta dish that Naomi made when the power goes out. This is a mixed blessing as it also puts an end to the thump thump of the speaker system from the school. The lights come back briefly, enough to make dinner a possibility, but the speakers are also reactivated. Just as we are about to eat, the lights go off and this time it is for quite some while. We eat in the gloaming of the solar lights and a torch, while listening to last nights’ episode of the Archers. Incongruous, well, perhaps.

Just as we are about to wash up, Fareth appears carrying a beautifully hand written note inviting us to dinner tomorrow evening. Of course we invite him in for chai and biscuits and we have a good chat. He had been in his home village all day organising the planting of his shamba as it seems the wet season has arrive early. Looks like we are in for some very wet days ahead which would be fine if it wasn’t so blooming cold and there was some more water in the tank. According to Fareth the electricity supply isn’t strong enough (?!) to work the pumps that bring the water up from the river to the hilltop tank opposite our house. No one seems to know when the electricity will be up to snuff. This afternoon I pout a basin under the token three foot of guttering and managed to collect a flush full which has now been consigned to the cistern. We are maintaining the mellow/yellow policy until normal service is resumed.

Scrabble time is rapidly approaching. Christine clearly feels she is in with a chance after last night so I must be on my mettle. Let battle commence!

Kagera 8

Tuesday

Not a lot to report. Communion in the College Chapel (school room) was a good start to the day with some glorious singing and an interesting and powerful sermon by Fareth. He preached from Joel. It was mostly about God punishing Israel with locusts and drought and Fareth making the point that unless we repented the same sort of thing would happen here. He also pointed out that unless we repented we might be caught unawares by the arrival of doomsday. I spoke to Absalom about it afterwards and we had a good discussion on the issue of a God who punishes his creation. I don’t think we resolved anything, but it was good to debate with a theologian whose knowledge is immense. I am still not convinced, but he did scare me by saying that my views were similar to that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That was a low blow, even if not intended as such!

I took my pupils for a stroll around the area to talk about jobs and places of work. I think they are rather puzzled and amused by my methods. I don’t blame them. They join a long line of young people who felt much the same! This afternoon we were visited by Absalom and then Devotha. We wandered down to my tailor to see if my shirt was ready, but she wasn’t there. We’ll try again tomorrow. It is a public holiday because of Eid. A secular state has to acknowledge the holidays of both its major religions. So we are footloose and fancy free. We plan another walk into Ngara as we seem to be getting rather low on provisions.

We were invited to a fellowship meeting this evening by Flora, but something got lost in translation. The room she said it would be in was in darkness, so we went to the main classroom. It was very noisy as we approached. Looking through the windows the students seemed all to be praying at the top of their voices and rocking backwards and forwards, some of them with hands in the air. It looked a bit charismatic to us, if not quite mass hysteria it was certainly close to it. We beat a hasty retreat, after all we are British and don’t like that sort of thing – well except at football matches perhaps.

Scrabble and then to bed.

Wednesday

Scrabble last night proved rather exciting as Christine took the lead and looked like winning for some time and only hard work by yours truly restored the status quo. As a result we were exhausted and had a lie in this morning, rising only to make tea at 7.10 and flopping back into bed to read until Naomi surprised us by turning up early at about 8.30. Luckily she didn’t stop, but picked up her shopping bag and headed for the Murgwanza market.

We arose, breakfasted and, having welcomed Naomi back laden with fruit and veg. , we then set off for Ngara. On the way down the hill we called in at my tailor who was even then finishing off a sleeve. We said we would call back later. The walk down into the valley really is lovely and we stopped at the bottom to look at the diocesan tree nursery and were assailed by a man in a woolly hat. At first I thought he didn’t like us taking photos but it turned out he wanted us to come over and inspect the work. Several people were potting up seedlings and watering and we were made very welcome. Then we began the climb up to Ngara.

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It is a hard slog, but seems to get easier each time. The motorbike taxis look at us askance, puzzled by the crazy wazungu who want to walk rather than ride on the back of their gleaming chrome machines. We took a left before the main road and chanced a dirt road into the back of the town, an area we had not visited before. The hunt was on!

Some misguided, foolish people come to Africa in pursuit of game. Those of us who are more sensible are hunting for those things that enable a degree of comfort and decorum to be maintained in the home. This time we were in pursuit of the elusive ‘washing up liquid’. Tim had bagged a particularly fine specimen when he was here, but as I had discovered it is excellent whiteboard cleaner we had all but run out. We had tried on Saturday to no avail. Today we intended to return with said liquid or die in the attempt – a distinct possibility if you don’t keep your wits about you walking along Ngara’s streets. Christine was also keen to track down some ufuta (sesame seeds) but was offered mafuta (cooking oil) instead. Considering Tanzania is one of the leading producers of sesame seeds you’d think there would be more of them about. Alas there seems to be a national shortage. However we cornered a bottle of washing up liquid, albeit a rather tawdry specimen which looked as though some of its content was missing. Still beggars can’t be choosers and we exited the shop with a distinct sense of triumph. To celebrate we headed for the petrol station cum supermarket for a cold drink and some vaguely English chocolate. ‘Vaguely’ because somehow my Kit-kat tasted almost but not quite unlike the version sold in the UK. Christine had more luck with a Mars bar.

Fortified we set off for home. As we climbed up the Murgwanza ridge we met Obadiah on his motorbike hurrying home as his wife is not well. We wished her well and then plodded on to my tailor’s. She waved at us and we entered her delightfully quaint establishment.

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My shirt was complete and looked very nice. A casual placing against my body suggested a fit so we parted with Tsh20,000 (about £7). It actually cost a little less, but frankly……..well. Of course when I tried it on at home it is more of a seizure than a fit, being rather short and narrow in the sleeves and a little tight around the stomach. Clearly she was trying to flatter me! Still there is plenty of material in the seams and I think I’d prefer the shirt to be short sleeved as it is hardly likely to complement any of my suits. Adjustments can and will be made, no doubt at considerably more cost than the whole article.

A delicious lunch awaited us – samosas stuffed with cabbage and spinach with Naomi’s trademark aubergine stew. We took our postprandial on the porch, resting our eyes after the exertions of the morning. Christine then decided she needed some eggs, so off we went to market. We passed Fareth who was interestingly attired in T shirt, shorts and wellies and wielding a machete. He explained that he was repairing his kitchen and when I looked rather confused he added that it was his outdoor kitchen of course. All was clear. Murgwanza was deserted and unnervingly quiet. Was there no choir needing a rehearsal for goodness sake? We got the market meeting Beatrice on the way in. Like Fareth she doubted we would find any eggs at this late in the day. However we found a mat holder (stalls are outnumbered by mats in Murgwanza market) who had three in a bag. There was some confusion over price but we sorted it out and felt pleased that we had something for supper. We walked around a bit more and then a loud ‘Mr Richard’ brought us to a halt. We turned to be greeted by one of the second year students Yassem (I think!). He was delighted to see us and wanted to help. He spotted that the mat holder had actually got more eggs for sale behind her and so once again we patronised her mat and came away with four more eggs. We left the market via the path at the back of the hospital, trying to work out what each egg had cost us in pence. Our final decision was about 12p.

Home now and the sky has darkened, the air is oppressive and rain has fallen. Nothing much but a little. We have the lights on and it is still dark. Christine is happily sorting out the larder and so all is well with the world!

Absalom dropped by and stayed for tea and biscuits and a chat. He is a very interesting man to talk to, particularly about the church, KCTC and life in Kagera. We learnt a lot! Now it is time for dinner and the Scrabble tournament!