A place called Home
Trip Start Sep 08, 2003
37Trip End Ongoing
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At the airport after carrying our own bags onto the luggage cart, we saw our Coastal Aviation plane land from the window. When other planes had landed on the airstrip we watched in amazement as a guy had stuck his head around the glass door and shouted 'Plane for Pemba... Dar..'etc. and there would be a bustle as people gathered bags and got ready to move. Jo commented on the chaos that would be caused at Heathrow if the flight schedules were organised like that...'Plane to Alicante.. Barcelona .. just landed!!' Utter Mayhem! Our plane hadn't been called, so after five minutes we presumed they had just forgotten to call it, and sauntered across the runway, climbed up the steps to the plane and asked the pilot (as one would if boarding a bus!) if this was the plane to Arusha! Delighted at being the first passengers we chose the best seats, and ten minutes later, we saw the rest of the passengers being lead carefully across the runway by a guide... oops! Well no-one had questioned these mad mzungus wondering about on the runway, or asked for our tickets!
Back at Arusha, getting a taxi wasn't so easy - everyone wanted so much money! K and I were beginning to despair. I really wanted to get to the post office, as I knew from the parcel slips K had collected for me that I had some Christmas presents there - it was now Saturday 3rd of Jan and I was dying to open them. We arrived in town at 12.15 and everything was closed for the day! Gutted, I would have to wait for Monday.
Back at Usa River, it was pouring with rain, as the rainy season had definitely begun. I opened the door gingerly - K knew I was worried, as I had not been home since the end of November and I had no idea if the stuff I had left behind would still be there. I held my breath, .....all was fine, ants, spiders, lizards, even a wasps nest showed that nature had all made it home and everything was covered in a fine spidery web - but it was a reassurance to know no-one had been in there. K had decided to come and live with me at Usa River for a while, as she no-longer felt safe at Enaboishu, which didn't have a security guard like Usa. We discussed with Jo the various possibilities for the remainder of her time with Changing Worlds. Jo had very kindly offered for K to go and live with her, but K also still wanted to be involved with a school. Unfortunately changing worlds didn't like Kirsty swapping schools, so we knew were in for a rough ride - but feeling safe and enjoying our time in Tanzania seemed more important. Kirsty was keen to see how a different school worked, although hoped to return to Enaboishu when new volunteers arrived and she would no longer be alone in an un-secure house.
We started the big clean up, finding an ants nest in the electrics of the kettle, the white ant eggs gleaming amongst the colourful wires. While cleaning out the other pots and pans I heard Kirsty give a shriek, she had been pouring away the ant infested boiling water from the kettle, - only to realise too late that Luke (my loo-lizard) was sunbathing in the drain. The boiling water immobilised his back legs, but he was still trying to lift his head - no longer a sky-walker. K is so interested in insects and nature, frequently calling me outside to look at a Praying Mantis or rare spider she has found on a bush, so I knew she felt bad. The next morning we found that the ants like bread as well as kettle wires and had made a nest in our loaf over night, perhaps they love the sugar that is added to all Tanzanian bread. A breakfast of crackers and processed cheese for us! Welcome home - in Usa River it is a bug's life!
On Monday evening I had a call from Alex and Siena. It had been a good day already, as I had made it to the post office, and picked up 13!!! Parcels. It was Christmas all over again as I unwrapped layer after layer of sparkly paper and got excited over the contents. New underwear, some pencils, chocolate, t-shirts, even cotton wool (impossible to get in Arusha) raised a smile. Now to make it even better, Alex and Siena were on their way to Usa River; they had been unsure if they had time in their itinery to call by, so it was a lovely surprise. We went and stood by the road to await their arrival, excitedly watching every passing car to see if they were inside. The security guard came out to warn us of 'bad men on the road' and to come back inside the compound. We must have looked disappointed, as he then offered to stand with us, holding his panga in his hand at the ready. As it got darker I was actually glad he was there, and he welcomed Alex and Siena when they arrived. It was a pleasant evening, chatting and cooking together, and listening to music. Alex and Siena stayed a few days, looking around Arusha and going for walks on Meru. Kirsty and I slept... a lot! I think K was still half asleep when one afternoon she looked out of the school gate, and said 'wow... there is snow on Meru' The rest of us burst onto giggles, helplessly hiccupping, as we said Kirsty... that would be Kili....Meru, the mountain we look at every morning is over there!!! Kirsty went a lovely beetroot colour, although credit to her observation, without her comment none of us would have noticed Kili - so small in the distance. It was my first view of Kili, as the rains had cleared and made the sky clear and haze free. I went back for my camera... and yes looking through the magnified lens... there was snow on the top!
The kids arrived back at school after the Christmas break and came running across the courtyard to fling themselves onto us; such a precious moment. They were so pleased to see us. I read Pinocchio to them that night, and had never realised what a weird story it was... full of boys turning into donkeys, and a place called Pleasure Island. I don't remember it being like that as a child!! Joeseph loved the story, and later in the week when he lied abut writing a diary, I teased him for being like Pinocchio, and that his nose would grow if he continued to lie. He laughed and drew me a picture of it happening. That was real turning point for me, not only was their English improving, they were able to turn a fairy tale into conversation, and also joke about it!
I started to enjoy settling into teaching again, planning new lessons, working a games lesson into the timetable to give the children a treat once a week. I started teaching art to younger classes, enjoying watching another group of children's amazement at the way paint mixes together. They loved to make a mess - most of their lessons are conducted in silence, they have to stand to answer a teacher's question, and everything is kept neat and tidy. They are rarely able to ask questions of their own, allowing for very little creativity. To be given a paintbrush and be told... see what happens, make a mess... was unbelievable to them. I quickly found out they had difficulty learning to share, and having not had messy lessons before didn't know how to clean up. My class of older children that afternoon had been taught by me before, and were used to my teaching methods, helping to get water and wash brushes. I was heartened thinking the younger ones would learn eventually too.... It would just take time. With the older children I started a project of safari animals, handing out photographs for the children to draw from. I would have loved to have linked the art project into a research topic, sending the children away to learn about the animal they had chosen. In England with libraries, the Internet and TV, it would have been possible, but here we were restricted and there was no avenue for individual research. Besides by looking at some of the children's drawings, I think they had invented new species!!
Two weeks after being back in Arusha, we paid Jo a visit. What a reverse culture shock, as we came straight from Usa River, where as usual there had been a power cut and the boarding house had been doing loads of washing and the water had 'finished' as they liked to yell out. Walking up Jo's hill in the heat I wondered what it was going to be like. Jo was so welcoming; she had other guests staying as well, but managed to make us feel at home. It was bliss. Jo was very honest, she didn't want to baby-sit, or look after us, we could just enjoy her surroundings, have a shower, watch TV. Dinner turned into a party with some of Jo's friends dropping by. Kirsty and I had our first jacket spud with real butter since leaving home. Normally I am not that bothered by food, but after months of cooking with only an electric hob, it was lovely to be able to have something baked in the oven. To accompany it was salad (normally a no-go due to water,) and COLD white wine. Every mouthful was something we would class as luxury, and couldn't believe we were still in Arusha.
As a previous volunteer herself Jo, understood how we felt, letting us use her Internet phone to call family in England and we spent Sunday watching old movies, curled up on her sofa, with her cats on our laps. All too soon it was time to get back on a dala dala and go home. I was looking forward to seeing the kids and reading their bedtime story, but I was revelling in having a full belly, and clean toes!
It was to be a week of meeting new people. On Monday Claire and Elly took me to meet Mama Alinda, who lives in Usa River, and both girls travel out from Arusha to use her as a Fundi (dressmaker) as she is so special. I had been looking forward to meeting her; she sounded lovely and she lived up to the expectation. She was the first Tanzanian to offer to buy me something - as I arrived a chair was found, and she sent her daughter to the shop to buy all of us a soda. She was to become:- friend, neighbour and fundi. All in one! She welcomed me into her spartan house, offering me everything in the same way Jo had.... in this case she had less to offer, but it was still offered, with a smile. The basic room was divided into two, by a curtain, a bed she shared with her daughter Bernadette was on one side, table and chairs for welcoming guests on the other. The sewing machines were set up in the porch way, and she employed other local women to help her work, passing on the skills of the trade. Looking up I could see her walls were decorated with faded pictures of the movie Titanic. Fake flowers tried to brighten up the room, giving it the impression of a cheap Chinese takeaway restaurant.
Life continued very well, and these were some of my happiest days at Usa river. Kirsty and I developed a routine, having breakfast together, teaching, after school the children would come round until 'prep time' and sometimes afterwards for a story to be read before bedtime. The children loved having two of us to choose from, the younger children gravitating towards Kirsty, who would set up ball games outside. The older children liked drawing and painting inside our living room - it could be quite a squash! I taught some of the children how to play 'matching pairs' with a pack of cards. It became a marathon competition with a sweet as the prize for the winner! Later in the evening Kirsty and I would cook together, clean up and settle down to our own game of cards 'Big Two' as taught to us by Ben. Sipping a hot chocolate before bed.
At school we taught each lesson together, but the children had such trouble with her name, going from Miss Kiss-tee to Miss Kar-stee, In their games lessons I learnt so much from Kirsty, as she had been a 'Rainbow' leader in England, as well as working at her mothers pre-school - children's games were her speciality! We started off with educational games, teaching them Chinese whispers. I found it very amusing that every sentence I gave the children to repeat came back as 'how are you!' Jo had shown us some more games, such as 'pass the keys' each child trying to be as quiet as possible so they were not spotted. A favourite was 'Fruit Salad' - a game where they all stood in a circle and were given the name of a fruit. When two fruits were called they had to swap places, when 'Fruit Salad' was called everyone had to change places We tried variations on this game, changing to 'Safari' with everyone having an animal name, and later 'the whole world' - using the children's choice of country from around the world. Several wanted to be England, smiling up at me - unfortunately the biased newspaper reports in Tanzania meant that many children also wanted to be Iraq or Afghanistan. I found this awkward, but had given the children freedom of choice so wanted to see what their views were. America has not been reported in favourable light in many articles, so was not a popular choice and many children had read reports with a sympathetic tone for the Middle Eastern countries. I found it interesting that politics affecting such different countries and cultures from their own could infiltrate into a children's game. Kirsty lightened the situation by switching the game to one called ladders, a particularly energetic game, involving running and jumping faster than your opponent. It was a great game for tiring out the kids and getting them to settle down.
After school Kirsty set up a slow readers group, as we had found that despite FK academy being an English medium school, if they accepted a student from another school into their standard 5 or 6 classes they could only speak Swahili. They hadn't been taught for 5 or 6 years in English like the others, and really struggled to learn all the subjects in this strange language. Kirsty starting inviting them round each evening for 20 minutes, to read and learn new words. As Kirsty was leaving Usa when the new volunteers arrived in few weeks time, she had hoped it was to be a legacy that they would continue.
I went back to see Mama Alinda to collect the halter neck top she had made for me. She had already taken my measurements, but then couldn't believe the measurements were correct so had guessed a bit!! Bless her; she had a slight problem with the 'western women' shape. Laughing, as she helped me put the top over my head - "where is your hips - why you have no" ... she gestured to her chest.... "you eat more ugali ...come big mama like me"!!! She laughed in her broken English. I loved her sense of humour, and knew I would be coming to see her a lot.
Madeline came round to check the accommodation for the new volunteers. I was looking forward to meeting them, but at the same time sad. Kirsty and I had become like sisters, working together, aware of how each would react in different circumstances and what level of support to give. It didn't help when Madeline mentioned that the two girls arriving at the school had informed Roger (at Changing Worlds) that they didn't like each other. Great, I was now even more nervous. I love FK academy, and didn't want anymore aggravation here. I understood why Kirsty was going back to Enaboishu - it was her turn to be the one with the knowledge. To be able to show round new volunteers on 'her patch' would be a real confidence boost - I was going miss her though! Madeline looked into the new rooms the school had provided, and then asked us to get them cleaned before the girls arrived. I could see how the girls would feel, compared to when I arrived at Usa - the place now looked like a palace. I had got so much fixed, wasps nests removed, plumbing cemented away and even a lick of paint and at least the place would be clean - when I arrived it was a building site! The problem was it was still such a change to England, such a culture shock, such a different way to live... they wouldn't even realise they were lucky.
I tried to enjoy my last week of teaching with K, spending art classes with the little ones, drawing around their feet, putting the glitter and sequins mum had sent to good use as we decorated the outline in fancy designs. The children's work had started to cover the walls of our living rooms, although I noticed some of the sequins started to disappear as the children wanted to keep them! One Sunday, Jo called round with one of her friends, another teacher from the international school called Maggie. We had been for a bbq lunch at River Trees, a beautiful lodge just outside Usa River, when Jo had dropped us home and come in for a look round. I couldn't decipher from her facial expression if Jo thought it was better or worse than she had imagined.... but I was proud of what Kirsty and I had made out of nothing. For now it was our home.