Banana Beer or Banana Wine???

Trip Start Nov 03, 2011
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Trip End Dec 10, 2011


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Where I stayed
Saronara Ngiri Campsite - Serengeti National Park
What I did
School of St Jude
Tanzanite Museum
Mto Wa Mbu (Mosquito River) Tour

Flag of Tanzania  , Arusha,
Monday, November 21, 2011



I have to look for my notes on St Jude's School since that was our first stop this morning.  Hmmm, I couldn't find any notes for the School of Saint Jude so I will have to try to remember.  This could be a study in contrasts between EAMO and this institution.  Both were begun by Australian couples; St Jude's is a school and EAMO is an orphanage.  St Jude's appears to be extremely well-funded and run very efficiently whereas EAMO does not have the same level of infrastructure.

A lovely young woman, whose name I can't remember, was our guide to the grounds.  She walked us around the buildings - there were separate ones for the different levels.  The upper levels were expanding as the school children aged - they were accepted when they were around 6 years old.  I think they are just beginning to have kids move on to higher education.  We watched a video at the end and at some point we learned about the very rigorous selection process.  They have enrollment applications every friday and over the course of the year may have 2000 applications for --was it 130 or 140 places...or was it fewer than that??   Only the brightest, most promising students are chosen.  They also need to be poor.  There are surprise home visits to make sure that the family hasn't misrepresented their finances.  The school pays for transportation (notice the brightly painted St Jude's vans parked outside) and food for the students.  Uniforms are made there and are bought for a nominal fee by the family.  When the children reach the upper level, they board during the week so as not to be distracted from their studies.

The school appears to try to develop the whole child:  there is music, art, sports as well as formal teaching in the class room and in the computer lab.  We saw several libraries filled with books.  The environment bristles with learning opportunities - from signs to develop values, speak English, to science topics illustrated on the walls. 

Oddly, for me, one of the most striking features of the school was the institutional food preparation.  We would see carts filled with colorful plastic cups and baskets of rolls, awaiting a snack break.  The staff were preparing lunch in the kitchen in huge cauldrons over charcoal fires.  Rice was sifted and cooked.  Steam rose from the big pots.  When I said the smells made me hungry, one cook was all ready to give me a bowl of rice.  The lady sifting rice was quite amused by our interest in her activity. 

The children are used to visitors and some ignored us while others smiled shyly....or not so shyly.  The uniforms were typical with the girls wearing dresses.  I was a little surprised to see all the girls with shaved heads but I guess that could be a health issue in a large school like this.

At some point we went shopping in Arusha - making stops for stamps,
water, and buying some batik (Diana) and a painting (Juliet) from the very aggressive
street vendors.

We stopped at the Tanzanite Museum, but didn't get as much time as I
would have liked.  There was a very modern art gallery that I really
didn't get to see except for the main lobby.  It had a spiral ramp
similar to the Guggenheim.  We saw all the sparkly tanzanite gems but they were very pricey.  Apparently, tanzanite is very  rare.  There was also a fantastic gift shop attached to this complex.  We only had 15 minutes in total I think so I ran around trying to see what there was to see.  I looked at wooden animals for Theo but didn't have a chance to look at much else.  It was overwhelming since there was so much there....and nothing seemed to be priced so you had to go and get a salesperson and ask...which made it all that much more difficult.

We were going to have lunch outside the
museum but the highway was not conducive to a lunch stop.  We ended up
at the Snake Park with the lovely flowering trees.  The Snake Park is also
going to be one of our campsites later on.

After we got to our
campsite at Mosquito River, Juliet went for a bike ride and I went for
the walk.  I wanted to see the Mozambique basket weaving, but we were
short of time and we didn't get to see them.  We walked through the
village and saw rice paddy and the plant that was used for menstrual
cramps:  velvety with purple/yellow flowers.  I had seen it in the
fields where the wild animals left it while grazing around it.  I guess they are not so troubled by menstrual cramps.  We
walked along the street and took photos of lots of kids and a lady in a great
outfit with an elegant turbaned hairdo.  As we walked by the houses and gardens,
we saw the 2 types of bananas:  one eating and the red ones that were
made into banana beer and wine.  We stopped and went into one house where
there were posters on the wall.  Then we went to a local bar and tried the
banana beer and wine.  The wine came in bottles like beer but the beer
was served in huge plastic cups.  I preferred the wine to the beer.

We
had stopped at a carving group where we were shown all the types of
carvings sold to tourists but there were some men here who were actually
carving some pieces.  I got to try as well.  They laughed at my
efforts.  I probably should have bought something there but somehow
while Mel was buying things, I seemed to run out of time.  Same old story.  It was OK
since I really didn't need anything.  Our final stop was a painting
cooperative where we ran into the biking bunch.  I saw Juliet who needed
some extra cash and we ended up buying 4 paintings.  I was bankrolling
her and talked myself into these great Tinga paintings.  There were
several different kinds:  the strings of Maasai women, the circles of
fish, and the child-like depictions of wild animals.  The last kind was
my favorite.  Juliet got a circle of fish.  I am wondering now if that
was the start of her Tinga purchases.  She now has enough for her own
gallery in West Hartford.

We got back a little later for dinner, then went to the bar and I
listened to music/dancers while Juliet charged her phone.  The dancers
did great acrobatics and I ended up with a CD.  The group is named The Simba Mwene Group.  Everyone else seemed to
disappear before the end and I was one of the very few people left to
contribute to the cause.  I found my way back to the tent for bed
although I did wander a bit before I found our area and the tent - it
was quite dark and my "torch" is getting dimmer..





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