Fern in Tanzania
Another week finished in Tanzania already. It is already starting to move fairly fast. Unexpectedly this week though I managed to only make two days of school. On Wednesday I had to take the day off to travel into Arusha as another volunteer had a meeting with an independent organisation who are carrying out research as to the impact of education on the community and particularly on women within the community. As I am now the activities and athletics coordinator I will now start to help collect data that will be used in a report looking at all of this. They are particularly interested to see what the impact of extra curricular activities has. While I was in Arusha I was also able to pick up my bank card which had arrived. This is a massive relief as it had been pretty scary not having any access to money and having to borrow from the school funds for the first few weeks. Now however, all is sorted. I did have a moment of panic at the DHL office as they couldn't find my mail despite phoning me to say it had arrived. It turned out that they had managed to file it under the sender name rather than my name! Anyway I didn't have to pay a bribe as I had been warned I might and so it went a lot better than I had expected. Thursday and Friday I ended up missing school with several other volunteers as our passports are with immigration so we can get our residency permits processed. Immigration commonly turn up at the place of work when they have your passport to ask for them and try and catch you working without paperwork. As a result we have had to stay away. Hopefully though we will get our passports on Monday and can return to school. Boredom is slowly setting in! I have however managed to use this time to write a letter to everyone who asked for them (they are on there way!) and explore Monduli and the surrounding villages a little bit better. One of the other volunteers likes walking and so we have gone on several walks near the house and discovered a coffee farm, a hill which has amazing views from the top and quite a few trails. At the start of the week school was going very well. I had a drama class on Tuesday with Pre Form students (they have been learning English for six weeks so their vocabulary is fairly limited). I took them to the school football pitch, handed out monopoly money and they pretended they were at the market. They got really into it and some of them started to draw out market stalls in the dust and collect stones and grass and things to sell pretending they were bananas or avocados. I am still trying to find a play that they can all take part in that they can perform at the end of term, however may resort to a poem that they can all act out at the same time. I just need to find a good one! I was able to join in an English class for the school mama's after school one day. The school Mama's range from being about 40 to about 70 and are five women who cook and clean in the school. They don't speak English but have expressed an interest to learn so one of the teachers is spending an hour every week teaching them. As they were busy we helped them to sort through beans and just chatted. It was really good fun and definitely the highlight of the week, with lots of laughter. They went round saying how old they were (there is no taboo about asking someone's age in Tanzania) and the oldest mama insisted that she was only 20, it was very funny! They then provided us with hot mandazi (a bit like a doughnut without the sugar round the outside) which were delicious! What has been extremely noticeable this past week has been the elections in Tanzania. They are still over two weeks away from taking place but they are the main topic of conversation and they are very apparent! On Monday walking to school we were stopped by a group of people in the road, who formed a sort of picket line, they would not let people cross until they made the sign of the right presidential candidate. On the way home there was a rally with hundreds of people attending in the town. One of the candidates is from the town I am in and it was him who was speaking. I had trouble getting home through the crowds and almost gave up to return to town at one point to see if I could find anyone I knew going up the hill as it was so crowded, people were all shouting along and many were worse for ware! However, I made it trying to keep as low a profile as possible. We are not allowed to speak of politics outside the house (difficult if your a politics graduate!) and on election weekend we have to stay indoors as apparently the UN have issued a warning that they are expecting trouble. The last elections here resulted in the police using water canons, tear gas and many people were killed. I am in many ways looking forward to them being over though I doubt the counting of votes will be as straightforward and trouble free as in the UK! There are posters for parties everywhere and on many trees, people have attached photos of all the possible people to vote for and their parties symbols. There are also trucks which drive round all day, until late in the evening that have people talking on loud speakers in them about the elections. Elections are basically taking over! Next week hopefully, will be fairly normal however, although Wednesday is a national holiday for the first president of Tanzania after the elections and so we get the day off. I still need to go on a mission for finding wellies as the rains are about to start soon and I have been told once they start they can go on all day every day and cause flooding! I'm slightly dreading it but no doubt will feel more at home in the weather and back in my usual footwear!