Valentines Day

Trip Start Sep 08, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, March 4, 2004

Valentines Day and for the third year running I found a lovely Internet card from my favourite mate in Bristol - thank you! Made my day! It was Louisa's Birthday and we all met at Louisa's shack, high up Mount Meru Mountain. The plan for all 20 of us hadn't been thought through and after a few hours we were all hungry and people started to fall out. I went outside to stay out of it all - big mistake! When I decided to come back inside all the beds - and any remaining pillows, cushions, roll mats had been nabbed - yup, hard cold concrete floor for me! Luckily for me Tom was now quite drunk - until then I had perceived him as very quiet, seeming to prefer 'hanging out' with the guys. However a few glasses of wine had made him friendlier and he let me have his sleeping bag! Sleep was still impossible, the cold from the concrete was seeping through the material, and I started giggling as I could hear the monkeys scurrying across the roof. Suddenly Tom was giggling too - not so amusing for those trying to sleep on the sofa!! - Tried again to sleep, turning my head each way to see which side hurt less against the dirty stone floor - and Tom became a good mate forever as he put his hand under my head for a pillow. Although for Tom, the amount of teasing he got for his chivalry from the sniggering guys the next day might not have been a good exchange for gaining my friendship!! Bless!

The following week at school, Moses approached me and said the school had decided to give the volunteers a gift! It was to be a day safari in Arusha National Park - they would provide a guide and a 4X4 if we could pay the petrol and park fees. It was a sweet idea, and we agreed to go the following Saturday. I was looking forward to seeing a park closer to home. I didn't expect the animals to be as abundant as the Serengeti, but it would be interesting to see the animals living naturally on the slopes of Meru - the Mountain I look out on every morning. The day started badly with an argument with Park Officials at the Park entrance. They were insisting we paid in dollars or they wouldn't let us enter. I tried to explain we lived in their country - and therefore had shillings, only tourist had dollars. I couldn't use dollars at Market or any local shops so I didn't have any. They would take Tanzanian shillings from the driver and the guide - but not from a 'mzungu'. They explained that it wasn't racist; a Tanzanian was allowed to pay in local currency. I asked how the knew they were Tanzanian - a Kenyan would be black, still speak Swahili and would be subject to full park fee and to pay in dollars - they were basing their assumption purely on skin colour and had not asked for any identity papers. Why is the National currency not accepted in National parks! By then we had quite a queue behind us, and another tourist offered to swap some dollars for shillings - without his kindness we would have had to go back to Usa River.

The first view of Giraffes munching from the acacia trees took away any bad feeling's with the dark shadow of Meru above, and the lush green vegetation I relaxed. Dik Dik scurried in the bushes, buffalo and flamingo bathed in the water. The guide, Costa, who I found was a friend of the school's director and was slowing getting drunk in the front of the truck - most of the animals were spotted by us! Costa had another feline he was trying to attract... Kelly! More interested in trying to get us to agree to meet him at Via Via festival later that day!

Sunday was the Spurs game. We had found a venue that was showing it and Jonny (hurray! another spurs fan in Africa!!) and I were looking forward to it. The monsoon downpour that afternoon made getting into town difficult, the road had turned into a knee high river, bits of tree, mud, leaves and litter floating past! We watched the game in the luxury if the Arusha Hotel, I hadn't been there since the Rugby world cup, and again revelled in the luxury of having carpet underfoot, slipped shoes off and wondered around barefoot sipping a very cold beer! Spurs drew 4-4. Hmmmm, we were winning at half time! (At least my brother's team Liverpool lost!!! He-he, can't wait to text him later!)

For Toms birthday we made a trip to the chilli section of the market, bartering for colourful red, yellow and green chilli's, - big fat fleshy ones, and tiny innocent looking scarlet ones. The innocent looking red ones were 'moto' - the Swahili word for burning or hell! I didn't even swallow mine - just touched it to my tongue and was hopping round the room with my tongue feeling as numb and long as Ja Ja Binks!
Tom's birthday also coincided with Pancake Day, the hitch being I only had a wok at Usa - so trying to make flat pancakes in the concave pan was hilarious - and we ended up with scrambled pancakes! I thought it might get better as we met the others at Via Via for dinner - until my cheese sandwich came with 'free' meat! What good service if I wasn't a vegetarian!! It was a lovely relaxed evening, laughing at each other party tricks - Hendy's very strange animal noises, and James - one of the quietest guys in the group had the most extraordinarily bendy arms! The party continued back at Sekei School with very warm white wine - managed to pour most of mine into Sam's glass when no one was looking!

I arrived at class 6 after break to find Mr Odudnu the maths teacher making Godwin bend over the desk, a cane in one hand. The teacher asked me not to teach that day as he was 'busy'. I refused and walked into the centre of the classroom and started handing out books. Half the children were lined up against the wall waiting, they had not reached the target mark in their exams and were watching Godwin preparing for their turn. The relief on Godwin's face as I stood in class and the maths teacher gave up and left the room. The other teacher's are embarrassed to use the cane in front of me, they know I don't use it as a form of punishment. The children worked so hard that lesson; finishing every exercise I set them. I was proud of them.

In town I found the streets closed, all cars pulled into the curb, shops shut up and a huge number of policeman present. Suddenly there was an entourage of police cars and motorbikes, flagged vans and cars with blacked out windows. It marked the arrival of the Tanzanian president in Arusha. I stood and watched as his car - complete with flag on the bonnet swept past and wondered if he too like all other Tanzanians, pointed to the window and said 'ohhh mzungu!'

I had lunch with mama Alinda, I had arranged to collect a birthday present for my mum. Over the last few weeks we had met often, I had taken down copies of 'cosmo' and 'Heat' magazines and together we had fun making the design. I tried to explain that my Mum and Dad go dancing, and I wanted a bag that was pretty, would hold all the essentials but would be small enough not to get in the way! Lots of designs later (with mama disappearing to Kilimanjaro for 2 weeks in the middle to attend to family!) we had a finished powder blue evening bag... a bit late maybe by the time I post it, sorry mum! But mama Alinda came up with a great idea while in Kili - how about a matching purse to go inside, great I thought... mothers day! And if I post it now at least one thing will be there on the right day! Over the time Mama Alinda and I spent together I learnt a lot more about Tanznaian culture. I also found out her name is not Ainda. Alinda is Bernadette's real name! Confused? Yep me too! Mama explained my mum would be called Mama Emma, A mum loses her own name on the birth of a child and becomes 'mama of ....' I found that really interesting, a reflection on the importance of children within their society.

The next day I dropped into Arusha School to see Sam - he made tea and Kirsty joined us. It was lovely laughing and joking as we waited for the water to boil for the right length of time to supposedly kill all the bugs! All the other volunteers were away in the Serengeti on Safari and it produced an alliance between the 3 of us left behind. Kirsty had another bad experience at Enaboishu - she had heard someone banging on the door in the middle of the night. She only has a week or so left in Tanzania - and I think she is now counting the days. She had packed all her stuff and came back to Usa to stay until the others returned home and she had some safety in numbers again and the children were thrilled she was back.

The following day I arrived to teach art to both classes 6 and 7 together. As I walked into the classroom I noticed one child had a lot of spectators around his desk - he was playing a game. As I approached I watched as he pulled an exercise book towards him from his desk and pretended all the children were looking enthralled over his shoulder as he read! Stupid Miss Emma! Boy was he in trouble! Marched outside stood against the wall with his hands on his head. I left him there and went back to teach the class, explaining that I didn't mind them playing until I arrived - they are children so it is perfectly okay. But to lie to me - that I wouldn't tolerate. As the class progressed I noticed a little band of teachers leave their lessons and gather around the child. I realised I had the opportunity to show a way of teaching without using the cane. As I got closer the teachers moved away but were still in earshot. I told the boy that he was being punished for lying, but that I wouldn't use the cane. He looked relieved until I replied I was keeping the game for one week - he looked horrified! "but it isn't ... hic ...mine.. hic... how will I explain to my friend". While I still had the teacher's nearby I explained that in England it was illegal to use the cane in England, and a teacher would be sent to Jail if caught. I heard little gasps behind me - and hoped the sentiment had hit home. The child pleaded with me to reconsider, and then his friends pleaded on his behalf for the game back. The punishment worked, all the children were talking about missing playing the game - but worked hard in class!

K was still at Usa, and Sam joined us for tea. Sam proved a big hit with the boys, as spun them round, lifted then upside down by the ankles and threatened to hold them over the long drop! Hysterical with laughter, the children didn't want to go bed and for days afterwards I heard 'when is Mr Sam coming back?" After the kids went to bed the 3 of us sat playing cards, sipping a disgusting cocktail of vodka, gin and whisky- the dregs of bottles from Sam's house! I realised how disgusting it was when a moth fell in my drink... and died on contact!

It was a lovely week, and the day got better when I got into town, logged onto a computer and discovered my diary had been selected to be 'diary of the week' lots of jumping around the Internet café! Over 3000 people have logged on and read it now, so proud! Hmmmm, just need to get into town more often and find a computer free enough for long enough to get up to date! But thank you for persevering with me - I will get there. xx
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