Sunday, 5 June
Up promptly this morning as one of the teachers had invited me to her church. I had no idea what I was going to do but she had told me that she preached sometimes and so I was interested to see her in action – she speaks very, very quickly (even quicker than my sisters – sorry Rachel and Maria!). Her church was The Assemblies of God – I actually had heard about them as they had been instrumental in spreading the news about Starkey coming to do a hearing aid fitting last year! It was a smaller church than I had expected and when I first arrived, it wasn't very full. Gordon (as she is known) asked me if I would like to go and meet the Pastor which of course I did – this involved going into a small room with about 6 other people. The Pastor was very welcoming and we then sat through what I can only assume was like a 'confirmation class’ for an hour
. He very kindly spoke some of it in English for me although whilst I thought it was very nice of him, I did feel somewhat embarrassed – this was a class and I was the visitor. It is amazing how often the Tanzanian’s do this – I feel embarrassed that I can’t speak Kiswahili and so they feel that they should speak English (even if I am just a by-stander!) Anyway, it was very interesting and from there we went back into the church which was overflowing – the thing which struck me most was that the ratio of children to aduilts was about the same – it was wonderful to see. Everyone was very keen to greet the only mzungu in the congregation so there was a lot of hand-shaking! And then the singing started – WOW! – it was SO different to what I am used to but amazing at the same time – people really declare their faith through song. They sang constantly for about 2 hours – different groups, it was amazing. I am sure if anyone had taken a photo of me, they would have seen a big grin on my face with a tear in my eye! It wasn’t just the adults, the children sang and danced beautifully. The second half of the service, the children performed various plays describing the Christian message. I had asked Alex to collect me at 1.00pm thinking that would be plenty of time, but when I left after 4 hours, it was still going strong! It had been an amazing experience, the singing was wonderful and very uplifting – gave you goose-pimples and I am really glad I went
. I headed back to Neville and Alison’s to finish off some paperwork, collect washing before going to the convent for Rhea and Leo’s farewell supper from the nuns. We had another power cut but they still managed to put on a good show and the girls really enjoyed their ‘last supper’. The nuns had bought them ‘outfits’ which the girls loved. We then went to the bar and had a drink before heading away from the mosquitoes and back to my room for a skype chat with the boys.Monday, 6 June
The girls went off to Ubongo to buy their bus tickets for their trip to Moshi. Abby and I went in a little late as the exams that were supposed to happen last Friday were moved to today. Abby and I then worked on the class photographs for each class; this task had taken ages but we were nearly there! The school had cooked a special lunch for Rhea and Leonie as it was their last day, which included chips and our favourite peas! Matilda, George and Winifrida joined us where we had an informal discuss about extending vocational training, the use of computers. As they say, the informal discussions are often the best! We then went into the dining room where all the staff were gathered to say good-bye to them. Rhea and Leonie love that African whistle and so there was plenty of that as they were given their kangas followed by lots of speeches
! The girls had made a flag to hang when they had their photos taken at the top of Kili – it had all the children’s handprints and they had painted the school name on it so we had a big photo session showing that! Word had got round that I had photos of some of the children when they were much younger so we did another photo showing session – you have no idea how much these children love photos. They love nothing more than taking a camera and posing for photos – if we let them have our cameras, we can have up to 200 photos taken, often with many of them being the same! Thank goodness for digital cameras! Once the girls had said their goodbyes, we headed back to the convent for a quick shower before going to our favourite Lebanese restaurant. As always we had another excellent meal but headed back in time for the girls to put the final touches to their packing – this involved ‘dumping’ a load of stuff on Abby and me. They also told me that they were going to wake me at 4.30am the next morning to say goodbye – how lucky was I?Tuesday, 7 June
Rhea and Leonie were not joking! I was woken at 4.30am to say good-bye and needless to say I didn’t get back to sleep! It was very sad to say goodbye to the girls – they had been a huge amount of fun, had worked hard and were much loved by everyone
. They were always happy and full of life and noise so it will certainly be much quieter at the school without them! Abby and I headed up to the Peninsula as we were going to a Corona meeting to collect our cheque for the playground. WE were doubly lucky today as there was a Tanzanian author there who wrote childrens’ books which carry a moral message. Sadly his books are not yet printed in Kiswahili but that is in the pipeline. He said he would be interested in coming to school and doing a story telling session which would be lovely for our children. We collected the cheque which has now enabled us to get on with re-building the playground. We then did a bit of shopping as we had decided to work from Alison’s house as I was going to the British High Commission again to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday that evening. We managed to get through quite a lot of work with no interruptions! In the early evening I headed up to the Residence – I had heard it was a smallish event but it didn’t seem that small to me. So it was quite daunting walking into such an event; trying to find a familiar face was not easy but having got a drink I eventually managed to find a face I knew. And from then on, I had a lovely time and met lots of interesting people! I didn’t stay too long as Abby was on her own and Alison was heading home. It had been a good day and so I was able to go to bed feeling satisfied.Wednesday, 8 June
Alison took us into school this morning as we had bought some storage crates and a small filing cabinet from some of Alison’s neighbours who were relocating to the States. When we arrived at school, the children were somewhat confused; as we hadn’t been at school the day before, they too thought we had left so there was lots of excitement all round. The school was definitely in end of term mode – teachers were busy writing reports and marking exam papers and the children were playing games. One of the ayahs asked to talk to me about her salary; Tanzanear helps to fund some of the salaries for the non-teaching staff and with the cost of living having risen so much over recent months, she was asking if there was any possibility of getting a salary increase. I listened and told her that we were aware and would be looking at this area; it is never an easy conversation to have particularly when such people work so hard and are often more hard-working that the Government paid staff who are paid more! As it was my last day with the majority of the children on Friday, I had decided to organise a farewell chai – but the catering Committee decided it was easier to do a lunch so I went with their suggestion. My only request that everyone was included – teachers, all non-teaching staff and pupils, some 300 people
! I am jolly glad that I was only funding it as opposed to doing the cooking! I spent the rest of the day sorting out the office – Rhea and Leonie won’t mind me saying that I won’t miss their mess!! We had hoped to go Scottish dancing but I ended up on a skype call so we missed it this week. Abby and I printed off some more photos of the children – there were almost continuous power cuts at school at the moment which seem to last all day so we rely on their beingelectricity at the convent in the evenings. That is one thing I will not miss when I get home – power cuts! We were both pretty tired so had an early night.Thursday, 9 June
With the end of term being tomorrow, we had a busy 2 days ahead of us. Some of the children were taking their hearing aids home (their choice as to whether they wanted to or not) so we needed parents/guardians to sign a letter taking responsibility for them whilst they were at home. Since the hearing aids had been fitted last November, a small minority of parents had decided they did not want their children to wear them and had sold them! I am pleased to say that is a very small minority and interestingly some of the children told us that their parents did not like them wearing them, so they had chosen to leave them at school as they wanted to have them when they were in class. Over the last few months, I had spoken to a number of parents on this very topic and me being the parent of deaf children really helped – I think they felt I understood and my experience was genuine so they were happy to listen. In many ways, it is so different to how we would think, but the parents have been presented with something they just don’t understand so it is through education that they then are able to deal with their deaf children
. One of the teachers told me another tale about one of the deaf/blind students who is partially sighted because of cataracts; her parents are so nervous about her having an operation, they have said she can’t have it. I am hoping that with some help of a teacher of the deaf who specialises in deaf/blind (Pam R – hope you are reading this?) we might be able to help these parents at least to have a better understanding. Hearing aids lists done, boxes all ready, we finished the class photos and then I helped Matilda with some form filling on the computer. She had just heard that they had been awarded a grant to teach sign language to parents and teachers of deaf children in the Dar area. If this proved to be successful, further grants would be available and ultimately the programme could be rolled out to the whole of Tanzania. It was fantastic news for TSD but with it came a load of bureaucracy and form-filling on the computer – never easy at the best of times and certainly not these forms. Anyway, we managed to get it done. One of our last jobs before the end of term was to make sure that all the sponsored children or those in need had the essentials for the holidays – toothbrushes, toothpaste, cup, plates etc. It is not easy distributing these essentials as it is quite difficult for some of the children to understand why some get them and some don’t. Many of the children have lost one parent and/or are being brought up by their aunt/uncle/family friend and fortunately do not need sponsorship – others are less lucky and have no-one but that is difficult for the children to understand why some need help and others do not. Anyway, job complete, Abby and I headed back to the convent – we had had another day of no power so we were pretty hot and in need of a shower!Friday, 10 June
I could hardly believe this was the end of term and my 5½ month stint was nearly at an end
. Although lunch was organised for everyone I knew that some of the day pupils would go home and so I decided to say my farewells during morning assembly. The children were really lovely and seeing them all reaffirms the reason why I had come – it is such a joy to hear all their voices now they have their hearing aids. We then moved on to the staff meeting and again I said farewell to them; I really did feel part of the team and was sorry to be saying good-bye to them . Abby and I collected the hearing aid lists and prepared the letters for parents/guardians to sign. We hung all the class photos in each individual classroom and finished typing Matilda’s forms for her trip to Dodoma. Alison came along for the farewell lunch, which was due to take place at 12 but actually was only an hour late. Unfortunately the Headteacher had had to go off as a relative had passed away so the Deputy Head, George gathered everyone in the dining room – it was a really nice lunch and of course in typical Tanzania style there were lots of speeches and gifts! Everyone was fed and watered which I was really pleased about, quite often the children are left out of any such event – Betty and Yuster had done a great job. Lots of the parents were around to collect their children to take them home so it was lovely to be able to meet with them. All the children were signed out as they left and whilst quite a few had gone, there were still many left at school. We had some clothes to distribute to these children so Abby and I organised that with the help of Winnie, one of the vocational students who had been a real help to us over the last few weeks – clearly an ayah in the making! It was strange saying goodbye because although I wouldn’t see some of them again as they would be going home over the weekend, Standard VII were all staying over the holiday to prepare for their exams and of course there would be those children who had no homes to go to.
Both Abby and I were going in next week as Abby’s Mum, Lucy was coming in on Sunday and she was going to meet with the parent of the twins she was sponsoring. So it was with less tears than expected, that we both left to head up to Alison and Neville’s for the weekend. Abby was taking us out to dinner at Sweet Easy so we were both really looking forward to a steak! And we were not disappointed! We ended up going to bed quite late but with nothing on the agenda for tomorrow, I knew I could have a lie-in!Saturday, 11 June
And that is exactly what I did. I finally got up at 10.30! Neville had been out to play golf and Alison was going sailing so it wasn’t until 3.30pm when I was going for a manicure that I had anything to do. I actually didn’t feel that great and wasn’t keen to venture far from home I spoke to Nigel and Hamish on skype which was good – both looked in good form although Nige wasn’t looking forward to his day’s shopping and sorting out Hamish’s India visa! When Alison got back from sailing, we went to have our nails done and came home to a lovely cooked dinner of spaghetti bolognaise – Mama Hamish’s favourite! It was an early night for us all but it had been a lovely relaxing day!