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!

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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!

Kagera 8

Sunday

A lazy day today, although any hopes of a lie in were dashed as at something like 6.00 a.m., before sunrise, the students assembled with their bikes about 10 feet from our bedroom window in preparation for cycling off to the parishes they had been allocated for the day. The metal door of the shed banged, bells rang, loud voices called out etc., so any further sleep was impossible until they bicycled off. Resigned, I got up to make tea at about 7.20 and we managed some book reading time in bed until we eventually got up for breakfast and a stroll to Sunday service.

We left at 10.10 but the 8.00 a.m. service was still in full swing. Others in their Sunday best were hovering outside. We ascertained that communion had still not been taken so we went back to the house for another 20 minutes and were still a bit too soon. We met Devota outside and she offered to sit with us which was a help with finding the right Bible passages. At first we sat near the front, but the volume from the speakers plus the terrible feedback at the start of the service forced us towards the back. Devota tried to explain what was happening, but the noise was often too loud for us to hear her. The choirs were excellent with one of them, including Devota’s twin brothers, producing a very lively dance routine. The sermon was of course unintelligible for us but clearly delivered with great passion. The speaker indulged in much finger wagging, scowling admonition and the occasional bizarre and slightly unsettling chuckling. Whenever he made a point that his congregation particularly liked they burst into applause, something I think we should be doing when Sharon or William hot the spot. There were also a lot of ‘Amenas’ and some hand raising. During this a young boy wandered in to speak to someone a few rows in front when he turned around I saw that he was wearing a T shirt emblazoned with a muffin and the word STUD printed across the top of it. It was hard to equate the word with the child or the picture. The sermon was only thirty minutes long and then there were announcements and finally communion. Only two hours the whole service, which in Tanzanian terms is not bad going.

Outside we spoke with Rose and a young pastor called Emmanuel. Rose’s mother is till far from well and to add to the problem Rose has back pain. She was most apologetic that she hadn’t invited us over, but we said we understood. She is going to invite us sometime this week or next for a meal and to receive the rest of Tim’s clothes. We followed a herd of goats home, one poor little kid limping and very thin and, I suspect, not long for this world. Various of the students waved as they returned home and then Joctan bounced over, clearly much better. He had been helping out at the hospital service. As we ate lunch a youth appeared and knocked timidly at the door. He introduced himself as a nurse at the hospital, but I couldn’t understand what he wanted, so I said we were still eating lunch and he went his way. No doubt he will be back.

After a brief postprandial, we were preparing for tomorrow when a hello came from outside the door. True to her word she had brought a brief (thankfully) summary of the sermon in reasonably good English. As she sat down, the young man who had appeared earlier arrived and we realised this was her brother Nyamulinda. His English is pretty good but it isn’t always easy to understand either of them because of their pronunciation – not least the ‘r’ ‘l’ confusion. Mind you we had to compete with a sound system from the school that was shaking the house and the trees around it. This is a type of ‘loud’ that would be considered a health hazard at 200 paces. DSC_0501

I wonder if deafness is going to be a problem in the younger generation as they age as a result? We talked about the differences between church in Tanzania and the U.K. and then we got onto more general aspects of society. One of the interesting things they told us was that their twin brothers whom we had seen dancing in church were called Doto and Kurua and were both 17. “But surely they don’t drive taxis”, we exclaimed. There was some confusion until we explained that there are twin taxi drivers by that name who had taken Tim and Esther into Ngara (well one of them had, they didn’t travel in separate taxis obviously!). They then explained that Kurua meant ‘the fast one’ in Swahili and was the name given to the first twin out of the womb while Doto is the name given to the second out (presumably ‘the slow one’ but I don’t think we established that!). Nyamulinda is just finishing nurse training and is writing a dissertation of sorts and wondered if we had a flash drive spare on which he could save his work. Unfortunately we don’t. As they left we took their photos and we gave them some paper to write a little bit about themselves so we can use them in the fund-raising brochure at Lent.

I should just mention insects at this point as a very large one appeared in the porch today. We are told it is harmless, but that’s not the impression it gives. In fact it looks fairly lethal, although it was happy to pose. Thank goodness for a telephoto!

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Later we went for a walk which I had done with Thomas two years ago. It leads out the back of the primary school and through a number of shambas with excellent views over the Kagera river until a sharp turn at a drinking place brings you onto the road past Thomas’s house. It was a lovely walk and eventually we passed the speaker stack that was shaking the very foundations of our house. We went up to Womencraft and watched the sun set which was stunning as it went in and out of cloud before it lit the sky with orange and pink tinges.

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The speakers were still blasting out but eventually fell silent at about 7.30 when presumably the utter darkness meant that their owner was scared he wouldn’t be able too find them! A blessed relief! Dinner, scrabble, bed.

Monday

A very overcast day today, much like the U.K., but warmer. A good teaching day. My group was learning about daily activities and we got into some difficulties over an English breakfast. ‘Cereal’ is incredibly difficult to explain as is marmalade. Toast also proved a difficult concept – why would you want to make bread crisp with the risk of burning it? After break I came back to class with a toaster and some marg. and jam and made toast. Flora did not want to try it, but the boys did and quite liked it. Later we read ‘The Lord’s Supper’ from St Luke’s gospel and talked about communion and different types of services. They tried to teach me how to say ‘Holy Communion’ in Swahili, but I have to say I think I failed that test! I had to leave at 12.50 to teach computing, so Beatrice sat in while they had a test.

Naomi cooked us a delicious lunch of mixed egg rice with vegetables and aubergine and tomato stew. We had just settled down for our postprandial when Absalom arrived for a chat. Our discussion ranged widely and was very interesting about his views on leadership in the church and other institutions and we agreed on most things. He has had very high blood pressure over the last few days, so please pray for him if you can. He also told us about a horrific accident at Rusumo (the Rwanda / Tanzania border post. A petrol tanker’s brakes failed and ploughed into seven other tankers, all of which caught fire. The driver died and I think others were injured. Again prayers please if you do.

Just after four o’clock the headteacher of Ndomba Secondary School arrived with a class teacher and Obediah to look at the possibility of a link with a secondary school in the U.K. We offered tea and it was at this point that we discovered our kettle isn’t working. Back to boiling water on the hob, although there is a small travel kettle we can use as well. We talked about the differences and similarities of schools in our two countries. Class sizes are anywhere between 45 and 60 in their school which is fairly typical. The school day starts at 7.00 a.m. and the first 20 minute break is at 11.00! At 1.00 p.m. extra-curricular activities start including debating, sports etc. These didn’t seem to be an option; everyone had to do something. Children go home at 3.00 p.m. which means they have an eight hour day! The school has boarding facilities which are not government owned but run by the school. However they do not bring in extra revenue, they just pay for themselves. Pupils study 9 subjects at O level which they take at 18. This is the top preforming government school in the region.

As we took pictures of each other outside the very tall and serious teacher asked what subject I taught. He was delighted when I said Geography as he is a Geography teacher as well. He asked me some probing questions about discipline and how easy was it to deal with disruptive pupils. Corporal punishment is still an option in Tanzanian schools, but is used less than it was. It was good to talk to them about the pressures that schools are under in our two countries which were surprisingly the same – inspections, shortage of resources, time to get everything done etc.

After they had left Nymulinda arrived with a short essay on his life! We asked for a few key points to include with his photo, but have got a lot more. Inevitably it ended on a fiscal note. He would like to continue his studies at A level but doesn’t have the money. It seems a universal tale here at some level or another. We went for a short walk and passed one of the choirs practising outside, fortunately the speakers turned away from our house! The sun is going down, bathing everything in gold.

Wilbard made a late visit just as we were about to eat. We invited him in of course, but after some discussion of the week-end and the school day, we had to ask him to leave and let us have our dinner. The problem is people just turn up!

Kagera 7

Wednesday

Last night Tim and Esther went for a meal at the Ruzabila’s and returned with their tailored items. Things had clearly got lost in translation and it may well be that Maths is not Rose’s strongpoint. They showed us a lovely tablecloth, but instead of 8 napkins Rose had made 25 – as Esther pointed out, one for each person in their village practically! Tim had wanted a laptop bag and Rose had made one to exactly the size of Tim’s laptop which meant that the laptop wouldn’t actually fit in the bag! Esther’s dress was so small if she could have got it on she would have been arrested for public indecency – it might just fit her sister! Her dressing gown was O.K. but it had been cut and stitched with no regard to the pattern and the sticky labels on the material were still attached and sewn through. A shoulder bag for Tim’s wife showed two half elephants – mainly their lower halves. Rose still hadn’t completed the rest of Tim’s enormous order so we will bring the rest home when we return.

This morning was much like any other. After a cold and windy night we rose early and stripped washed in the bath before breakfast. However as it was Tim and Esther’s departure day, Tim treated us to an omlette each before we set off to teach at 8.30. At breakfast we said our goodbyes, but as it turned out they were still there for our small break at 11.15. They finally left about 12.00. We will miss them as we have had a lot of laughs and entertaining discussions. I went off to teach computers and had a chance to assess the state of the room. There are two computers which are completely dead according to the students and are so old they would undoubtedly be in a museum in the U.K.. Another laptop doesn’t work because the lead has been broken. I’m sure a lead could be bought for less than a tenner in the U.K. The problem is that there is only 1 socket for the 5 working machines so cables lie all over the floor so they are easily broken. One or two more sockets would solve the problem! 5 or 6 more laptops would improve things a great deal. It would also help if they all had the same version of word, or failing that freeware like Libre Office which I am very impressed with!

We enjoyed a lunch of potato omlette, and cabbage and aubergine stir fry which was very tasty, but we eschewed the plantains. With this amount of egg we good well have problems, but so far so good! After marking we went up to the Murgwanza market and wandered around, but unfortunately were picked up by Azmir who seemed a little the worse for drink and wanted to explain the blinking obvious to us at every step. We tried ignoring him but he was very persistent. Christine spotted another Kitenge she liked and bought it for Tsh10,000 and we topped up on onions and tomatoes. We left the market via the path at the back of the hospital and our over-solicitous friend waved us a cheerful farewell and went back into the market. Perhaps he was just trying to be helpful?

Only one power cut so far this evening. At least they don’t last long and there is limited solar back up. For some reason there is always a black out between 9.50 and 10.05p.m. which lasts about 5 minutes. I assume they are changing the hamster at the power station? I think tonight’s dinner might include tomatoes and onions as we discovered that Naomi had also been to the market today and had topped up on those veg. as well. A game of scrabble rounded off the evening. I’m not allowed to say who won!

Thursday

Another windy night but not quite as cool. Rose at seven as usual, strip wash and a slice of toast and cup of tea before the start of lessons at 8.35. Some interesting problems trying to explain the concept of theatre (like a film but the people acting are actually there in front of you!). Break at 9.15 for breakfast but it coincided with a power cut so no tea or coffee. Second break at 11.15 and the power was back on, so coffee then. At 12.05 I went off to teach computer basics to find that an electrician was hard at it in the computer room putting in 3 more double sockets. I couldn’t believe it. I had only suggested to Fareth and Absalom yesterday that that would be useful as fewer cables would need to trail across the floor and therefore fewer would get damaged. The rapid response was amazing. The next thing is more laptops. If you are reading this and have an old laptop stashed away please consider it for KCTC. It would make a lot of difference to the students. Unable to teach I headed back to my English class.

By 1.00 p.m. we all get a little tired so I got my three out onto the path and practising meeting people in the street, asking where they were going and offering a lift. They loved it and we had a lot of laughs!

Lunch was spinach tart which is very tasty but rich. Later I wandered over to the computer room how the work was progressing and it was all complete and working. I changed the position of the plugs and cables, making use of the new sockets. Clearly there is no expectation of workmen clearing up after they have worked as I crawled through dust, bits of plaster and spare cable trunking. Still, already there has been an improvement. After marking we headed out to the football pitch to watch the students playing a friendly match in their new strip which Tim had brought over. They certainly looked the business. It was glorious wandering along the touchline in the sunshine and looking back at the cathedral and the view across to Ngara from Murgwanza. One choir was practising in the cathedral and another outside of a house opposite the pitch, so quiet it was not!

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We returned to give my students back their homework, then as the sun was setting we went out to the ridge and watched it go down. It was stunning. I shall never get tired of that view. As the sun gets lower the light changes in the valley below and different parts of it seem to glow. The sun slowly turns to a red ball then very quickly disappears from view. You can literally see it sinking below the horizon. We walked back up to the house and Christine made some very good tomato soup which along with the remains of the tart and some tomatoes formed our dinner. Now for another game of scrabble before the 10.00 p.m. power cut and turning in – can we stand the pace I hear you ask!

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Friday

Very much a Friday feeling in the classroom today. We were tired, the students were tired, but their enthusiasm saw us through. Joctan, was ill and so much less bouncy which was somewhat of a relief! Christine tackled ‘time’ with her students and came away feeling battered and bruised! She is busy making a new worksheet with lots of clocks on it as I write. Rice and beans for lunch. Absalom visited this morning, but he was less than ebullient having spent yesterday feeling unwell due to high blood pressure. I did mention the shower again, but I’m not holding out much hope!

This afternoon we visited Asifiwe, the General Secretary and had a very useful chat about matters diocesan. Otherwise we have marked, prepared and read our books.

I doubt if I shall return much slimmer. Naomi makes the most delicious white bread as well as first rate biscuits. Christine has also decided to take on the challenge of the kitchen and its limited resources and is turning out lemon biscuits by the cartload. The first batch were very nice if somewhat charcoaled – let’s be honest, burnt. However the latest batch are excellent and now she is talking about making peanut butter balls – an African recipe which she sometimes makes at home – we call them ‘wee balls’. So there is little hope of weight loss!

We have a new nightwatch man who I certainly wouldn’t like to tangle with! He turned up just after sunset which suggests he’s keen at least! I rustled up a pretty fair dinner of egg-fried rice with onion and tomato and the remains of an aubergine stew that Naomi left us. Our nightly scrabble game brought the evening to a close. And so to bed.

Saturday

Ah, the Saturday morning lie in – there’s nothing like it – well there’s nothing like it here anyway! At 7.30, half an hour after we normally get up, our students were repairing their bicycles just outside our bedroom window. Since nothing is done quietly in Tanzania, the repair process involved a great degree of shouting and banging. I got up to make tea. We did spend a little longer in bed reading our books, but there was no chance of further sleep.

Still, today has been a lazy day. We had a leisurely breakfast and waited for our students to arrive to collect their marked work. None of them did, so we wandered over to the bicycle repair area and bumpedinto Absalom in a yellow T shirt and bright green wellies. He explained that bikes needed to be in tip-top condition as the students would be cycling to far flung parishes for services tomorrow. We wandered down to the shamba where other students were breaking up the earth with hoes between the pine trees that they had planted. The students study CCMP methods, including re-afforestation so that they can spread the word in their parishes. We were encouraged to have a go and I think they were impressed once they had stopped laughing! Flora asked if she could take some pictures using my camera. So here you are! A few minutes was quite enough for us. As Absalom commented, “Imagine doing this for most of a day. That is why we eat so much carbohydrate.” It makes absolute sense.

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We got ourselves ready and then headed into town. On the way down into the valley we passed a tailor shop (one of so many in the area). Our eyes were caught by the kitenge hanging up there and we chose one for a shirt. We speak no relevant Swahili and she spoke no English, but somehow we made her understand that I wanted a shirt and she took my measurements, in much the same way as my tailor in Saville Row does (!) and we agreed on a price Tsh7,000, although I can’t quite believe that includes the material as well. I have to return in three days. I think it may catch the eye back home!

We had barely left her ‘shop’ when we heard a ‘good morning’ and there was Job, Pastor Samson’s son approaching us. He had spent the night in Murgwanza and was now heading into Ngara to catch the bus back to Mabawe. He is a very serious young man, but very pleasant and as I panted up the road to the Ngara ridge he asked if he could share his ambitions with me. I assumed that this might end in a request for sponsorship, but no. He simply wanted to tell me what he thought God was calling him to do. In a couple of words give ‘careers’ advice’ to young people. He said that many parents were just focused on getting their children into University and through their degree. However many graduates, like him, found there were no jobs and had pursued degree courses they were not particularly interested in. He wanted to be able to advise students and parents to take the right degree courses i.e. the ones that really interested them. I suggested that this did not seem to be a way for him to make money unless he could convince a school that this was worth doing, or the government that there should be a careers’ advice programme. He said that he hoped his idea would be taken up by the church and would start there. He seemed very determined, but perhaps a little naive. However he told me that he regularly writes for magazines and broadcasts on religious radio stations, so he clearly has something to offer. As we parted outside the shops I wished him well and promised to pray for him. Christine had been rather left out of these man to man confidences, so we now focused on the shopping.

We found the central market by slipping through an alleyway. It was fairly empty as the big market on the hill competes with it on a Saturday. We wandered around attracting much attention and many ‘karibous’ if we showed the slightest interest in any item. Christine wanted one of the hand held besoms (ufagio) that are everywhere and bought one for a Tsh1,000. We then bought a pineapple and some passion fruit (I can do fruit in Swahili than goodness!). We wandered on, enjoyingthe fact that there was no time pressure. We went into a fabric shop that had a wide range of kitenge and khangas. A large man hovered around us reaching up to pull out any cloth in which we showed interest and thus releasing a pungent aroma of stale sweat that would have stopped a skunk at 60 paces. Eventually he lost interest and when we did find a ketengi we liked a callow youth told us it cost Tsh16,000. Now we may be mzungu, but we are not stupid. Over £5 for 4 metres of cloth! What do they take us for? Double the price anywhere else. We walked out. We found the ‘supermarket’ – a small but relatively modern shop mainly populated by assistants so that there is little room for shoppers, which is probably why they don’t seem to sell very much. Still we managed to weave our way through the assistants for the four paces into the shop, the two paces between the two aisles and the three paces to the till. On the way we picked up packets of fresh local coffee, scrumptious peanut butter, margarine and other essentials. The only stumbling block was washing up liquid which is extremely useful for cleaning the whiteboard in class. Tim had found some somewhere in Ngara, but we couldn’t find it anywhere, ‘not even for ready money’.

I was now laden down with fruit and groceries and we headed back to Murgwanza. Some young boys enjoyed posing for their photograph with a simple toy they had made.

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At some point in the trip we acquired two or three boys who followed us in uncomfortable silence all the way back to Murgwanza. They seemed overawed. When we stopped, they stopped; when we started they started; when we crossed the road so did they. It began to get unnerving. At the T junction in Murgwanza I suggested that we gave them a dilemma by splitting up. I went one way and Christine went the other. They followed Christine. Sensibly she sought refuge with the students, who thought it was very funny. We managed to make it home without the boys following the last few yards.

Lunch was a delicious vegetable tart and fresh pineapple. We read our books and our students collected their work – we still need to work on how to tell the time in English it seems! At about 4.00 p.m. the peace was shattered by one of the choirs who decided to test their sound equipment outside the cathedral. The speakers are facing away from the house but the throb is all persuasive and birds quit their roosts and small animals ran for cover as the amplifier was turned up to 11+. Still it is good to hear the choir singing and no doubt we shall enjoy the performance tomorrow at the 10.00 or possibly 10.30 service (it starts when it starts!), as long as we sit at the back – or possibly in Ngara!

It doesn’t seem possible that we have been here two weeks now and next week is our last week of teaching.

Kagera 6

Monday

Absalom arrived early and stayed for tea and toast before accompanying me to the office to do some photocopying. Fareth is back from his brother’s whose son died last week. He was very concerned as his brother was very depressed. He said that things were a little better.  Slight worry that there was no more water in the tank outside, but luckily it came on  after breakfast so we should be alright!

We had a good morning teaching, including some reinforcement of last week’s work and a test. When we got back Absalom was fitting our new shower which we paid him for. We spent the afternoon marking while Tim and Esther went into town to do a little shopping. I tried to photograph some birds in the garden, but without a great deal of success.

Joctan and Philipo arrived about 5.00 p.m. to collect their work books. As they were meant to collect them at 4.00 p.m. I joked that they were finding telling the time difficult. They replied very seriously that they had had some work to do – possibly on the College’s shamba. Some other visitors had also arrived, Joan, Asante and their friend Jackie were brought to visit us by Devota who teaches at the local kindergarten – Patmos Day Care Centre. She is a qualified English teacher and has also a trained as a nurse if I understood her correctly. She would like to have an opportunity to practise her English as she is worried that she might forget what she has learnt. I suggested that if she would like to come around in the afternoons or at week-ends and we were in and had the time we would practise with her. Christine talked to the girls who already have a good grasp of English vocabulary.

They left, and we headed off to Absalom’s house. It is a very smart house with a large lounge and seats for about 14 people. We met Ethel, his wife, whom we had briefly met before, and sat and chatted. Then peanuts were put out, grown on Absalom’s shamba, and very good they were too! Then Absalom said he wanted us to try something. He went away and came back with a plastic bottle of fairly clear liquid. He poured it into glasses and we sipped our first taste of banana juice. It was delicious! It is made simply by mashing very ripe bananas and straining the liquid out through a sieve and adding water. The result is sweet and refreshing with a hint of banana but it is not overpowering. Ethel then made us tea – black with a strong flavour of fresh ginger – again delicious. We left after about an hour and on the way the way out we visited Absalom’s milk cows – two fine beasts and a calf. One of the cows is pregnant having been put to the bull some weeks ago. If it is a bull calf, Absalom will rear it for a while then kill it for beef.DSC_0339

We wandered home and then Christine and I went to view the sunset over Burundi. It was magnificent!

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On our return, Tim offered to concoct a jackfruit, shallot and garlic curry. It was delicious and we all enjoyed it with some vegetable rice. While Tim was cooking it some of my students arrived to collect their marked work. When we told them Tim was cooking they fell about and thought we were making a joke. Christine told them that I cook at home and they thought that was unbelievable. It is still quite a sexist society!

Tuesday

It was positively cold again last night with a strong wind. Huddled under our blankets and a counterpane we managed to stay warm but only just. I wish I had taken Anji’s advice and brought long pyjamas! A fleece would not go amiss in the evenings and early mornings. We shall no longer laugh when Thomas talks about needing a strong jumper!

We got up at seven and I enjoyed the first warm shower under the new shower fitting. Everyone else refused to try it, Tim citing Thomas Merton an eminent theologian who was electrocuted under a shower. Luckily I have very little theology so I felt quite safe. Towards the end of my brief shower it turned cold and it seems to have packed up all together! £15 down the drain I suspect.

Christine was convinced that communion in the chapel was at 8.00 a.m., but the College timetable said 8.30. At about 8.10 Absalom arrived asking if we wanted to come along as the service had just started. This caught Tim by surprise as he was still in bed, but somehow we managed to get there by 8.15 and we were glad we did as the choir sang and danced beautifully. It was cold in the chapel but they lit the fire within us. There is something very wonderful about hearing such beautiful singing in the clear light of early morning. We took communion and then came outside for the final prayer, before hurrying back to breakfast and some hot coffee.

Today we tackled food, drink and going to the pub. This proved somewhat difficult as drinking is a strict no-no amongst Christians here so our glass or two of wine at the week-end was definitely frowned upon. Going to a pub was right out of order. We agreed that this was a cultural difference we would both have to accept!

This afternoon we marked and prepared after lunch and then Christine and I went for a walk onto the old airstrip and above the Murgwanza Secondary School perched on the ridge with stunning views. Once home we had a visit from Obediah and Job, Rev. Samson’s son, who is off to Dar in a fortnight’s time. They stayed for tea and a chat, Obediah hoping that we might form a school link with a secondary school at which he is a governor. Christine was very interested and Obediah will pass on the Head’s details at some point over the next two weeks. Tim and Esther have gone to Rose and John’s house for a meal – apparently we will be invited at a later date. Tomorrow Tim and Esther leave us and we will miss them. So, tonight it is dinner a deux, the first of many no doubt!

Kagera 5

Kagera 5

Saturday

A leisurely start to the morning was very welcome. We had decided that we would go to the big Saturday market on the hillside on the edge of Ngara, so set off just after 11.00. It is a lovely walk down into the valley bottom and then up the other side. The river is full of beautiful purple water lilies and several children wanted s to take their pictures. We climbed up the hill and followed the new road to the main Ngara road, turning right to go to the bank as Tim and Esther wanted some money. At the bank we met Christela and her sister. We also asked about the lost keys, but none had been handed in. Then we were approached by a young man on a bike – Wilbert (Wilbard – not too sure to be honest!) from NAPS who insisted on accompanying us to the market.

We were glad of his company as he could make sure that we weren’t paying ‘muzungu’ prices. We entered at the top of the market and wandered down to where the kangas and kitenge are sold. We looked around but nothing grabbed Christine’s attention, so we went down into the fruit and veg. Area, Wilbert explaining what various vegetables were. We ended up buying some lemons and some unusual looking avocados.

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Christine eventually settled on a couple of kitenge at a suitable price and after an hour or so, the heat and exertion started to get to us so we beat a retreat to the petrol station for some cold drinks and a Mars bar. A poor woman, who clearly had mental health issues, followed us from the market and turned up in the petrol station shop. She wanted money and proceeded to make a nuisance of herself as we bought our treats. Wilbert tried to deal with her, but as we headed back to the road she decided that she was on a hiding to nothing and went back to the market.

We took the earth road down the hillside and Wilbert eventually left us as we rejoined the tarmac road. Apparently he lives nearby in rented accommodation. I have feeling we haven’t seen the last of him as he was dropping hints about his need for sponsorship for his M.A.! We walked down into the valley bottom and then up the other side, sweating profusely in the heat, but grateful for the extra energy the Mars bar had given us. Half way up we met the headmaster of the ‘Good Shepherd’ coming down on his motorbike. He was keen for a chat and has promised to have another look for the lost keys. Then we bumped into Naomi on her way downhill and several of our students. It seemed that everyone was heading for Ngara! As we reached the bottom road there was a great deal of honking and a cavalcade of cars approached all decked out in ribbons. It was the wedding party from the cathedral with the bride and groom standing up through the sunroof of the third or fourth car waving at all and sundry and the choir packed into a cattle truck bringing up the rear. It was quite a sight. As we approached home we realised that the Mothers’ Union building was where the reception was being held. The noise was deafening as several speakers inside were clearly turned up to 11 or beyond. We had not been invited to the wedding (why should we be?) but the wedding had definitely come to us.

At about 6.00 p.m. Tim joked that they would almost certainly stop celebrating about 8.00 so that the children could go home to bed. Weirdly at 8.00 p.m. everything went quiet save for a few cars heading off and the sound of voices as people headed (with their children presumably) homewards. The rest was silence!

We went to bed early as we have to be up at 5.45 a.m. to get ready for our departure to Mahabwe at 6.55. No lie in tomorrow!

Sunday

The exercise meant that I had a really good night’s sleep and woke refreshed if rather surprised as the alarm went off at 5.45. Bleary eyed we got ourselves together. Absalom arrived at 6.55 and we headed off to Ngara and then westwards to Marabwe. The journey was along a ridge with spectacular views either side. The road was relatively quiet although here and here family groups in their Sunday best were heading for church. We arrived more or less at 7.30 and were greeted by a relieved Pastor Samson who we had last met at KTCT in 2013. Tim robed up and we were taken to our seats behind the altar. The clergy processed in and the service got underway. A female choir sung beautifully with just a drum accompaniment; indeed there was no electronic music in the church which was a blessed relief. Tim preached an excellent sermon on faith and religion based around Matthew6 1-16 which Absalom translated.

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Then, after the announcements, I was invited to say something, which I duly did. Thankfully it seemed to go down well and we were then ushered out to enjoy breakfast at Pastor Samson’s house – tea (or chai) and bread. We went for a short walk around the church and school before witnessing the end of the service as everyone came out into the open area at the west end of the church.

A quick turn around and we were back inside for the second service, billed as a ten o’clock but now running a little late. We found it hard to keep awake, it has to be said, even though Tim once again preached his excellent sermon. This time we stayed on for communion and the auction of gifts at the end of the service. Tim had the idea that we would try to out-bid each other for 3 eggs and hopefully amuse the locals. We checked with Absalom that this would not be seen as us showing off our wealth and with his blessing we did just that with me pantomiming outrage at every new ridiculous bid from Tim until I got three eggs for Tsh10,000 (just over £3). Some people found that amusing, but I have to say that I’ve played to easier audiences. We filed out and shook everyone’s hands before we broke up to head for the pastor’s house again for lunch.

It was quite a spread with a massive bowl of rice, an equally large bowl of mtoke (which was very tasty), beans and some beef for the meat eaters. However we Brits. are a disappointment to the locals when it comes to eating as we can never match their prodigious appetites. We did our best but looked on in admiration at their bowls piled high not once but often twice! As Absalom pointed out you need all those carbs. if you are spending the afternoon on your shamba.

We headed back to Murgwanza, the air blowing into the car redolent with the scent of coffee in flower. This is a major coffee growing area as Ngara coffee is making a name for itself. A large sack of dried coffee cherries sat in the vestry at Mahabwe church. They did not seem of the highest quality, but who knows. This is a fairly new and expanding enterprise and in time ………

As we turned down the road from Ngara to Murgwanza there was a very ominous hissing sound and the rear nearside tyre of Absalom’s car was flat. We pulled over and began the process of changing the wheel. This proved more difficult than anticipated. The jack was very stiff and the suspension very slack, so that every turn of the jack meant the suspension sagged a little more and the tyre remained firmly on the ground. Absalom, Tim and I took it in turns to work the jack which was hard work in the heat. Eventually we worked at the ground under the tyre trying to excavate a hole under it to be able to slip it off and put the new one on. After about 30 minutes we had succeeded and we were on our way.

The afternoon was spent drinking tea, reading and sleeping. A short walk gave us stunning views of the setting sun and then it was time for dinner. Teaching again tomorrow, so not a late night. I wonder how much the students will have forgotten in two days?!

Kagera 4

Thursday

Thursday morning, Thomas arrived early and quickly sorted out the buying of more wi-fi time using m-pesa. I hope we don’t run out again before he returns, although he assured me that any one can do it – well anyone who speaks Swahili and is under 40 I suspect! Thomas invited us around for a meal tonight at 6.00 p.m. to see his new house.

No more new students, and a good morning’s teaching although it is obvious that Joctan, Philipo and Flora are more advanced than the rest. Elias is really struggling. Beatrice supported our request for another room in which to teach the advanced trio and so tomorrow I will go next door with them.

After lunch, Absalom took us to ‘The Good Shepherd’ Secondary School which seems much improved since we last went there 6 years ago. The head, Mr Kibiriti, was very pleasant and clearly on the ball. They have 150 students, 14 teachers and 9 support staff, but could take up to 320 students. They need to rebuild the school’s reputation after the last few years. The last head had to be forceably removed from the school! It costs parents Tsh1.1 million (about £370) a year to send a child to the school, so only the richest can afford it, unless they make real sacrifices. The school is supported by the Diocese of Wellington in New Zealand. There are both Christian and Muslim pupils at the school so Bible Knowledge is offered as an optional subject. We looked in at a Standard 4 class and were impressed by the work in their books, although the cynic in us wondered if it wasn’t largely copied.

We moved on to NAPS where the school day had just ended. We went up to the new dormitory and were impressed to see that it is almost finished. It needs a thorough clean, some paint and the fittings. Outside workmen were busy finishing off the cesspool. The school mini-bus was ferrying pupils home in batches. There are now 234 pupils and it is hoped that the dormitory for 40 pupils will be opened for the next academic year.

On our way home we stopped at the bank and were able to withdraw cash without a problem. Tim had tried before without success. We got home to discover that the house keys had vanished from Tim’s pocket. We searched the car but without success. Tim was mortified, but of course it could have happened to any one of us. Absalom went and got the only spare key from Naomi. Now we have a new mortis lock on the door, as well as the old Yale. Apparently you cannot get a key cut unless you go to Mwanza. I think there is money to be made if someone set up a key cutting business in Ngara!

Thomas duly arrived at 6.00 p.m. and took us around to his very smart new house. It really is very impressive, with a very comfortable lounge and a small, but pleasant, dining room. We were greeted by Joan and Asante, who were playing outside. When we came in Christela appeared with Noela who is even more beautiful if that is possible – doting god-father speaking here of course! However Noela, still got rather upset and wouldn’t look at us, but at least she didn’t cry! We were invited into the dining room and a banquet! The table groaned under Thomas’s home-grown bananas and beans, more beans (also home-grown), peas, a spinach dish, rice, avocados, pineapples, water melon, passion fruit, and oranges. It was a wonderful meal and conversation flowed with the relative merits of socialism and capitalism being amongst the topics. There wasn’t room for the children, nor for Christela, her sister who was soon to be going to University and another young girl.

We managed to make it back into the lounge and collapsed. We gave the girls their presents for which they all said thank you, but they weren’t opened but taken away into another room to be opened later. Thomas took us on a tour of his house which has 3 bedrooms, toilet and bathroom, an indoor kitchen and then an outdoor kitchen with the charcoal stove. Tim was so impressed with the stove he is going to buy one from Thomas and take it home! We returned to the lounge and Esther’s pencil case became the object of interest for Joan and Asante while Christine and I tried to get Noela to smile. She had stopped hiding at least and was looking at us wit those big eyes. Eventually Thomas suggested that perhaps we would like to go home so we piled back into the car and drove along the pitch dark road back to home.

Friday

Absalom opened up the classroom next door for my three advanced students to work in. They moved their desks and chairs in and a desk and chair was found for me along with a whiteboard on a stand. A new light bulb was also needed and there was a brief health and safety moment as Joctan balanced on a desk and tried to remove the old bulb from a very dodgy socket. Eventually Absalom managed to put the new bulb in and there was light. The teaching went well, although it took a while for me to realise that the reason the whiteboard kept falling over was that no-one had put the latch on at the back. We have discovered that jungle formula insect spray is very good at cleaning the board after use. We managed to get up to ‘telling the time’, but I think that will need some reinforcement on Monday. Beatrice took over while I went to teach computing – no power cut this time so only 2 students to each machine. I wish I had had time to prepare for this and fully understood what they need. Still they seem happy!

The afternoon was spent marking. I had asked my pupils to come at 4.00 p.m. to collect their work, but all the other students turned up as well! There was one of those awkward moments as they stood half in and half out of our room, neither of us quite sure what was going on. Once I had explained that my group was getting their work back and Christine had said her group could have their work back at 5.00 p.m. it was all sorted out. Tim and Esther had spent the day with Fareth up on the Burundi border which at time sounded a bit hairy! When they returned Fareth, Tabitha, his wife and a cousin had brought them home and stayed for tea and biscuits.

Later we went for a walk and when we came home we found an English/Swahili teacher from NAPS called Wilbert visiting Tim and Esther. He had been telling them his life history (becoming an orphan at ten, drifting around for a time, fending for himself and then persistently asking a rich family to take him in which they eventually did – they now regard him as a son.) He is now looking for sponsorship for a Master’s degree and based on his track record I would be surprised if he didn’t get it! Absalom was also here having bought us some provisions from Ngara.

Christine baked a cake for Tim’s birthday (belatedly) which turned out rather well. We had a meal and then read and talked until bed time. We slept well and thankfully there was no reason for an early rise on Saturday