Kagera – Tuesday

Our last day, so Thomas takes us on a round of farewells, but also slides in a couple of new visits as well! First off we went to communion at the College at 8.00. It was in Swahili but I sat next to Fareth who translated very clearly. Absalom preached very well, but for 30 minutes – numb bum again. I might hate pews but they are better than benches any day! Back for breakfast and then off to say farewell to Bishop Aaron. Darlington and Vithalis were also there. Then a trip out to Murgwanza Secondary School, perched on the lip of the ridge with the most spectacular views. We met the Head and Christine floated the idea of a link with an English school. He summoned his Academic Head and after a bit of misunderstanding seemed very keen on the idea. I noticed that Theatre Studies were on their curriculum, so naturally asked for more details. When we were introduced to the staff the Drama teacher was particularly introduced to me. It turns out that this is one of only two schools in Tanzania who do Theatre Studies and they have had some impressive results. He was keen to keep in touch and wondered if I could send him any English plays.

From there we went to the Tumaini Fund headquarters which supports orphans in Tanzania. An orphan is any child who has lost a parent. It does some amazing work, including providing technical training and support with schooling.

Back to the house where we finished packing, although various people turned up to give us things to take back to the U.K., as a result two of our cases are slightly overweight, so I hope they will let us through!

We had lunch and Thomas and Imani arrived about 2.30. Absalom and Fareth arrived to see us off with of course June and Dorothee. We had all got on well and had a lot of laughs so it was sad to leave.

The border post on the Rwandan side was as baffling as the border post on the Tanzanian side. Emigration from Tanzania at one window, immigration to Rwanda at another then on to Customs (I don’t know why!) then to the bank to pay our visa fees, then back to immigration to collect the visas. It only took about an hour and everyone was very pleasant. Some lorry drivers looked as though they had settled in for the rest of the afternoon and possibly the night.

Once we had our visas we then had to go to the border post, where they insisted that we took all our luggage out of the land cruiser and into the post. Then they asked what was in it. I replied “mostly dirty washing” and then we were told to put it all back in the land cruiser again – I suspect it wasn’t cause and effect! Then one more barrier and we hit the open road. Imani drives very well, but of course is now driving on the right in a left handed vehicle, so I had to tell him when it was safe to overtake. The trouble was I kept nodding off, so I wasn’t much help!

On the approach to Kigali airport we were stopped again, this time by police, and told to get all our luggage out. We had to place it on a platform while some very large Alsatians sniffed it (dogs, not German citizens, although the latter would have been funnier). Christine is petrified of German shepherds, having had an unfortunate experience in the Alps as a child. The policeman was very reassuring and showed her where she could stand safely. The dogs did not seem very interested in our belongings and we soon packed them back in the car.

At the airport we said farewell to Thomas and Imani and headed for ‘Departures’. This is where the fun began. We pushed our loaded trollies up to the entrance where a young man tried to tell us that we were flying tomorrow. I assured him we were indeed but that didn’t seem to help. A farcical confusion followed, the upshot of which was that we were too early. We had to come back at 9.40. We headed to a very nice café between the departure area and the arrivals area and ordered wraps, muffins and coffee. The coffee was very good so we had second cup, before pushing our trollies back to departures. This was not a simple operation, because while there is a level way from the café to the departure entrance, it is taped off, so we had to push the trollies down a steep slope, along a bumpy path and up another steep slope to the entrance. A new official was on the entrance who told us we were still an hour early. Our fault, we were still on Tanzanian time; Rwanda is an hour behind. So back down the slope, along the bumpy path and up the other slope to the coffee. A very delightful waitress signed me in to the Internet,so I caught up on Emails and this blog. Then an hour later we repeated the operation to storm the departure area. A new official told us we were still a n hour early and we had to go back to the café as the flight gate would not be open until 10.40 (Rwandan time of course). We tried arguing, crying, falling to the floor and waving our legs in the air, but to no avail. Back down the slope, along the bumpy path, back up the slope we went to resume our seats in the café. We are due for a rematch in about 5 minutes, but have agreed a cunning strategy. One of us will go trolley-less to assess the opposition. If all is well they will return and collect the other plus trollies and we will proceed at last to the check-in. I will let you know if we are successful, but I am quietly resigned to spending the night here. Wasn’t there a film with Tom Hanks…………?

We’ve made it! Straight in….well almost. We had to convince the gatekeeper that we were both on the Eticket, then we showed our passports to get a yellow boarding pass, which we then ta be to the man who was standing next to the man who gave it to us and he also checked our passports, even though hie had seen his colleague check our passports a minute before. Then through baggage security and to the check in desk to deliver our bags. Finally passport control and we are now in the departure lounge. You have to admire the Rwandan security. It is practically watertight. We are now sitting in a fairly empty lounge where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are competing with a football match of uncertain provenance. Thankfully they are competing sotto voce! Only two more hours to kill and then we board! Entebbe, Nairobi, London, here we come!

Kagera – Monday

Thomas eventually came with the farmer once the rain had eased and I interviewed him on the verandah. A delightful man and so full of pride in what he had achieved – and rightfully so. We gave him tea and talked a bit before they headed back to where he was staying the night. This man had travelled for 6 hours just to speak to me about CCMP. I think if nothing else that is testament to what a difference it makes to people’s lives.

Up early as Thomas was due to pick us up at 8.00 which he duly did. Fried eggs for breakfast which were a bit of a treat. We set off on the Isaka road, with our visiting farmer from yesterday hitching a ride part of the way. We were headed for the new diocese of Biharamolu a long way away.

All was fine until we turned into the main road south to Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. We were heading north of course. I wouldn’t call it a bad road, it was appalling! A succession of potholes with a vague hint of Tarmac in between. This is an international highway! Still it is good of the government to give us a full body work out without having to go to the gym. Lorries weave I and out of the potholes and the odd car or land cruiser dodge between them. Lorries bear down on you on the wrong aid of the road to avoid the holes. We do the same. Somehow no one seems to collide. After about two bum-numbing hours we turned off to travel East to Biharamolu. This was a beautiful road in all senses – gently undulating, amazing scenery and above all smooth!image

We arrived in Biharamolu at about 11.00 and were introduced to the local pastor and rural dean as well as a Canon Gerald who was chairman if the appointment committee for new bishop. We toured the house which has been built for the new bishop and the foundations of the new cathedral. It will be a fine building when it is (if it is?) completed. Could there be a clue here as to why a new cathedral is being built in Murgwanza?

imageThe pastor is very keen on CCMP. And is employing some of the ideas in his parish. He is leading an old set of offices as 4 shops which bring in an income of Ts120,00 a month. He is asking parishioners to give their time and labour to help build the cathedral. In other words he is making use of local assets! I interviewed him in the new cathedral and then we went into a café next door for tea and chapat. The tea was chai, but luckily Asifiwe said black tea was available, so we had that. It was delicious with a distinct lemony flavour. Canon Stanley joined us. We had met him on our last visit. He is studying ‘Development Studies’ in Kenya, but is based in Biharamolu. A lively discussion developed about how bishops are chosen an where the power really lies in such situations. Thomas had to be almost dragged away so that we could leave!

While they debated we strolled over to a burning rubbish heap to look at some very impressive stork like birds that were rooting through the waste tip. No idea what they actually are, but they seem to like our waste, burning or not!image

Another 2.5 hours journey home – shorter because we did not have to divert to drop off a farmer – bruised and battered we got back home at about 3.30. On the way Imani brought some sugar cane from a wayside stall and we saw some monkeys in the reservation.

To Thomas’s tonight for dinner and a chance to say goodbye to the family and in particular little Noela. Hard to believe we are leaving tomorrow.

We wandered over to the Shavu residence at about 7.00. We had a game for the girls and set about planning it with them. That certainly helped to break the ice. Vithalis arrived with his daughter Grace and dinner was served. Rice, cabbage with carrot, fried bananas, pizza and some sort of meat stew for those that likes it. It was very good having been cooked by Nora during the afternoon. Fresh pineapple and water melon for dessert. The child,run seemed to gave great fun bouncing on the couch and generally being very excited. Then Christela tied Noela to Christine’s back in three different ways. Noela is quite heavy and Christine was scared she would drop her, but it all went well and photographs were duly taken. Then Thomas suggested that we must be tired and would probably like to go! Actually we were ready to retire, so we took the hint. But of course speeches have to be made before you leave, so we settled in for a good half hour of thanks and observations on our visit. Vithalis finished with a prayer and then we headed into the night.

It rained again in the night and indeed we saw rain in the distance as we headed back from Biharamolu, so it looks as though the rains have finally come; nearly a month late, but they are here. The air is cooler in the mornings and evenings. Many people wear anoraks, some off them quilted and woolly hats are de rigeuer!

Kagera – Sunday

An early start it certainly was as the tank overflowed about 6.00 p.m. And yours truly had to go out and turn it off! Then when we did get up at 7.00 there was no electricity, so a cold shower and no cup of tea or toast for breakfast. Not a good start to the day.

Thomas and Asifiwe picked us up at 8.30 and we headed off to Chivu village. This involved a road we hadn’t taken before, the first part of which made a ride at Alton Towers look lame by comparison. Chivu parish has four villages in it and therefore 4 churches. Pastor Joseph is the local priest and there are 3 evangelists. We were made extremely welcome and taken in to his house ……for breakfast. A mug of hot chai was served along with two pieces of shop bread each. The bread is dunked (or according to Dorothee, ‘dumped’!) into the chai. This is not Christine and I’s favourite drink as it has a distinct taste of cardamom, but I got to like the bread soaked in it.
At 9.30 ish we headed towards the church which was pretty packed. We were given the seats of honour at the front around the altar. Unfortunately I had a wooden chair covered in a kanga, so that 4 hours later my bottom had lost all sense of feeling. The chair was also balanced in front of a hole below the rush matting, so if I forgot and stood up to quickly I ended up lopsided with one foot in the hole.image

Thomas and Asifiwe translated where necessary and I have to say that Pastor Joseph preached very well on the two most important commandments and temptation. He was also admirably brief (about 20 minutes). However there was a baptism and a lot if business after communion and then an auction of produce. Somehow we ended up with two papaya, a jack fruit, three eggs, several avocados, two bunches of onions and a bag of tomatoes! Of course we all had to introduce ourselves and say a few words. Dorothee impressed everyone by speaking in Swahili! It was all great fun and the singing and dancing was excellent, so the four hours actually went very quickly.

We were then taken back to the pastor’s house for lunch. Unfortunately Thomas hadn’t alerted him to our vegetarian ways so a goat had been killed in our honour. Nevertheless it did not go to waste and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone else, while we enjoyed our old favourite, rice and beans!

Then we were taken to meet four Pamoja groups. They were sitting in groups under different trees around the church and we were to be introduced to each group. I suggested to Thomas that it might be better to bring them into the church so we could introduce ourselves only the once. This worked well and I then asked if anyone would like to tell us about how Pamoja had changed their lives. A very articulate man came up first, followed by a shy Muslim woman. Others followed and it was clear that this scheme was making a real difference to people’s lives. I recorded the interviews and Asifiwe’s translations, so I have lots of useful material. We were made to feel very welcome and our prayers for them were asked for as indeed we asked for their prayers in return. Once again I was struck by the depth of their faith.image

We left eventually with blessings and thanks ringing in our ears. We climbed the steep hill out of the village and stopped to look back and take pictures. In the vast African landscape it looked so small, and yet here God is working in people’s lives as he is every where else. Going up the roller coaster is almost as bad as going down, particularly when you can’t see anything over the brow of the hill, but thanks to Imani’s driving skills we made it back at about 3.00.

Thomas suggested he bring another farmer for an interview at about 5.00, but suddenly the heavens have opened and it is raining like there will be no tomorrow. Thunder is rolling around the house and lightening is brightening the darkened room, because, of course the power is out. I hope Thomas will not try to go out until this storm has passed and I hope the power will be back in time for an evening meal……eggs, onions, tomatoes, papaya, avocados and jack fruit are on the menu.

Kagera – Saturday

The power cut thankfully was short lived and the water came on in the early hours of the morning, so at 6.00 p.m. I was outside in my pyjamas turning off the water as it overflowed from the tank.

This morning we had nothing planned so we walked the 5 Kms into Ngara by road. Thus involves dropping down into a valley from the Murgwanza ridge and then up the other side onto the Ngara ridge – quite a climb. We decided to visit the Saturday market on the road leading out. This involves going back down a way then climbing up a steep hillside into the market. The colours were amazing. A backdrop of brightly coloured kangas with tomatoes, onions, bananas and pineapples in the foreground. The whole hillside is a warren of steep paths so we climbed up one side, cut across the back through the shoes, kangas, shirts and trousers and down across the hillside through the fruit, vegetables and sugar cane. Four years ago the market felt a little unsafe, bug this time everyone seemed very friendly and we managed to get some good overview pictures. A young man attached himself to Dorothee and I . His English was excellent. He explained that the hillside was being eroded by people and rain. He accompanied us up the road, clearly hoping for some money, but eventually left us at the petrol station empty handed. We decided to take a different road back and followed a red dirt road down the hillside. Many people waved and greeted us. Most wre happy to be photographe. We past two young men harvesting fruits from a tree which we couldn’t identify. They turned out to be parachichi (avocados) of a round variety. We bought two for Ts1,000 – about 40p, although Nora says they are too large.

Eventually we came to the road then took a path that cut off a bend and found ourselves back ant the river. Some beautiful dragonflies were flitting around the fetid water, so I took some pictures. People come here to wash their clothes and collect water, presumably to use at home. Then we climbed the hill and arrived home just over 3 hours after leaving. It had been a great walk, but it was nice to come into the cool of the building and enjoy the lovely lunch Nora had prepared.

Kagera – Friday

Just to emphasise how fortunate we are, I should mention what happened Thursday afternoon. I went up to the Bible College office to use the Internet, but it wasn’t working. Absalom the Principal was there and he realised they had run out of credit. So he had to set off on foot to the shops outside the hospital and buy Internet credit cards which I think we’re worth Ts1,000 each (about 40p). I gave him Ts10,000 to buy them since I suspect I had used much of the previous credit. When he came back he had to scratch the cards to reveal the numbers, then enter the numbers into his phone, then by some alchemy he sent them to the Internet company who restored the Internet. And we complain about the slowness of our broadband!

I should also mention the chicken. It appeared in our neighbour, Faris’s, garden patrolling the fence. I made chicken noises at it which seemed to puzzle it somewhat. Tiring of the game I came inside. A couple of minutes later the chicken was on our veranda, walking up and down, making chicken noises back. It seemed that I gad made a friend and one that was loathe to go away. Eventually, realising that I was not a chicken and unlikely to join it for a quick root through the dead leaves in the garden it set off around the house in search of a cock, not something I have ever actively pursued. That’ll teach me – thank goodness I can’t imitate goats!

Last night we ran out of water. I had turned off the valve when it was overflowing and rather assumed Nora or Absalom would turn it back on when more water was needed. Not so. To make matters worse the water company does not pump water into the holding tank opposite on Thursdays and Fridays so that the water can go to a village nearby. So no water until the holding tank fills overnight and then our tank will fill. How we take such a thing as water for granted! So it is back to showering from a bucket and flushing with jugfuls from the giant olive barrel in the toilet!

We rose at 7.00, Dorothee and June having gone to an all-singing and dancing service at the College. They returned looking slightly flushed and we had breakfast. Thomas picked us up at 8.30 and we hit the open road to Ngara and beyond. No dirt roads this morning, but a solid Tarmac road for most of the way. Luxury. However within the first mile we passed 3 lorries on the uphill side of the road in some sort of trouble. One had a puncture,, one had jack-knifed and was nearly across both carriageways, but we somehow squeezed past and one, an oil tanker was on fire. I have never seen an oil tanker on fire before but they do burn well. Indeed it was still burning on our return 2 hours later. Thankfully no one was hurt!image

We crossed the River Ruvubo which is a tributary of the Kagera and the same river we crossed by ferry the day we arrived. Along the valley bottom there are a number of brick kilns. We eventually turned off the road and up a dirt road to a shamba. This was a big one – 7.5 acres in all. The farmer practices all the best farming techniques for growing bananas with the result that his plants are healthy and his crop is a big one, about 200 bananas a month. He sends his bananas down to Dodoma and Dar, but has no way of exporting them. So successful is he that people come from all over the region to learn from him, and he was busy teaching a group of about 30 farmers in a tiny classroom.image

We wandered around the farm, Thomas explaining enthusiastically how he was doing all the right things. He hopes to use the farm as an example to other farmers in CCMP programmes. The farmer eventually arrived and made us very welcome. He is a leader in his local church. I noted that he was one of a minority of people who use ( and can afford?) deodorant!

He explained his farming techniques and told us that he has a large number of cows, 30 Friesians and 120 Ankoli cattle that provide his manure. He also has a tree nursery which he took us to. There were hundreds of tree seedlings all watered from a tap in the field which is spring fed. He employs 7 people but 4 are paid monthly and three are employed daily. He supports a large family, a wife, 7 children , 3 widows (from his dead brothers) and 7 of their children. He is able to send all the children to school.image

We followed him down to the classroom where the farmers were sat hugger mugger on benches . As ever introductions were made and we each had to say who we were and why we were here. Luckily the farmers did not feel the need to introduce themselves, otherwise we would have been there for a couple if hours. We said our farewells and headed off towards Ngara, passing the blazing oil tanker still crowned by flames.

We slipped into Ngara for water, tea bags to take home and a tub of peanut butter that should last the 6 weeks Dorothee and June still have here. We also picked up a passing priest and gave him a lift to Murgwanza, which saved him a long walk.

Lunch was delicious consisting of samosas, beans, peanut sauce and bits of left over pizza, with fruit to finish. A little siesta has aided digestion and now it is time to write up notes. The sky is dark and there is a cool breeze……are the rains on their way?

Stop press: we now seem to have no electricity either!

Kagera – Thursday

Yes we are mad. When the alarm went at 6.00 a.m. I knew this was true. However a quick shower in scalding water and a refreshing cuppa and we were prepared to go to church. The service was in English, although at times it was hard to follow, particularly as there is some work to be done on numbers. A hymn would be announced, we scrambled to find the hymn in our hymn books to discover everyone else was singing something else! The sermon was hard to follow, especially as the preacher seemed concerned to quote from as many parts of the Bible as possible. It was though, mercifully, short. Nevertheless we were made very welcome and the prayer I was suddenly asked to ad lib seemed to go down reasonably well.

It was quite cool this morning so Nora’s hot omelette and cup of tea were very welcome. We prepared to leave when Thomas phoned and asked for a half hour postponement. So we assembled at Asifiwe’s office at 10.00. Asifiwe is the Diocesan Development Officer and as energetic and as enthusiastic as Thomas. His English is very good, so the four of us had a very useful meeting with much agreement on what needed to be done.

At about 11.00 Imani, our driver, picked us up and we headed into Ngara to pick up bottles of water and the government extension officer with bags of maize seed. These officers give agricultural advice to farmers to help them adapt to climate change. The problem is that there are few of them and many farms. This one, Christine, was pleasant enough, but struck me as a typical government official!

Imani drove us back to Murgwanza and then dropped us off the edge of the ridge, down a ‘road’ (I use the word loosely) which was basically a slightly inclined rock face. I remember this from last time and clearly nothing has been done to it in the interim! Eventually we joined a better dirt road and Imani was able to pick up some speed, scattering chickens, goats and people to either side as we came through. The road followed a ridge for much of the way and the views were stunning. After about half an hour we reached the Nyakariba Farm. This is quite a large area of diocesan land which is rented out to farmers in blocks for a nominal rent. In return they try new methods and serve as a model to others.

We parked outside of the house of the manager and were created by about 15 people plus children. imageWe then all trooped out into the fields, the women carrying benches and an ingeniously made wooden folding chair. Apparently these were for us to sit on as they thought we would not be able to stand for too long! The bottled water was also brought and placed in the shade of a tree. Then the extension officer began her demonstration. Firstly a line was laid out using string and she fashioned two measuring sticks to mark out how far the rows should be apart and the distance between each plant in each row. Then she took her jembe and dug holes. A handful of manure was put in the hole and then three seeds were mixed in with the manure and soil but spaced apart. I told Thomas that in England we say that one is for God, one for the birds (or animals) and one for the Devil.image

There then followed much discussion about costs and what should happen to the vegetation litter on the surface. Asifiwe, Thomas and Christine answered the questions well and allayed the farmers fears. The yield should increase from only 3 bags of maize an acre to between 8 and 12. The seed is a short stemmed type and fast maturing making it more suitable for the shorter growing season. The farmers were told to plant when the first rains come. I was asked to put in my ha’penny worth and told them that our farmers were also having to adapt to climate change and many of them were using manure to give heart to the soil. This seemed to go down well. As the meeting came to an end Christine broke out the Haribos for the children followed by the bubbles. The bottled water was passed around which was badly needed after 45 minutes in the blazing sun!image

Then it was time to go. As we climbed the path back up to the house, I was too intent looking at birds (your fault Daltrys!) and fell flat on my face. I bounced back but not without a degree of consternation and embarrassment on by behalf. We took a different road home as I suspect the aged land cruiser would not have managed the climb back up the ridge without a rope and pitons. The views continued to be fantastic though. We dropped Christine back at her office and then headed back to Murgwanza and lunch! After which a nap was called for. The sky has clouded over and the light gives everything a sepia tinge. Is rain in the offing? Probably not, but we can but hope!