7:30 woke up for 8am meeting
9:15 - meeting with founder to learn more about JBFC. The times on our schedule are verrrrrrrry loose....TZ Time is relaxed, to say the least! We were all pretty hungry/thirsty for caffeine when breakfast came an hour after we'd expected. (Breakfast today was very simple: chapati--flour and water dough baked on a skillet, sweet, a little bit like crepes or tortillas--and coffee. The irony, of course, is that a major export of TZ is coffee beans, but almost everywhere in TZ you drink instant! Today the JBFC founder, Chris Gates, treated us to a french press pot made with...Starbucks beans. go figure)
Chris is a big guy, tall, dark hair and full dark beard. He has some Native American ancestry, and some white ancestry, and grew up in Tulsa, OK. He came to TZ first on a birthday trip with his grandmother, for whom the JBFC is named. He founded the JBFC after high school, and ran it while in college. He is in his late 20s, and is very charismatic when he talks about his mission: alleviating extreme rural poverty. He first opened the Home for girls, then the school, and is expanding now in many directions. He has also adopted four local boys, who spent most of this evening - we spent 3 hours at the Big House cooking and eating dinner - playing Monopoly of all things, Thomas' favorite game! We are enjoying getting to know Chris, and I have a date to read with Jonas, who's about 11?, tomorrow - I have a book on the Obama family he will like.
Other players at the JBFC right now: Kayci, Chris' assistant manager, has been here for 2 years. She is organized and devoted. George and Connie, from New Orleans, have been living here and helping out for about a year. E.J. and Sophie Oppenheimer are the permaculture experts in town right now, and we will get a tour next week of all the improvements/plantings/prunings they've done. Sophie, it turns out, in addition to having a famous grandfather, is also the National Women's Arm-Wrestling Champion! Yup, really. They brought, all the way from Tulsa (where they also live) an ice-making machine that Chris ordered online so that the Big House can make filtered-water ice-cubes1 Yesterday another ex-pat arrived: a young man named Seth, who grew up in Portland, Maine (and went to USM - we laughed about our UMaine connection) , came to TZ during his college years and taught at a local school, sponsored a little girl he had gotten to know through tutoring, and then moved here about 4 years ago. He has a Tanzanian fiancee and a 15-month-old daughter in Moshi, near Kilimanjaro, and is interviewing here for the assistant manager role, as Kayci is preparing to leave in the next six months. Those are the "wageni" - visitors - around right now, but evidently the Guest House is full of groups all the time...they've actually had to turn away 45 people this year so far!
Of the locals on campus, there are several "Mamas" who serve as dorm parents, or cooks, or house-maids; there are 18 teachers; there are about 55 more-or-less permanent staff members total, and then there are day-laborers who come in to help farm or do construction, etc. It has been very difficult to communicate with most of these staff members, except for an "asante" - thank you - or "habari gani" - hello - because they don't speak English, or are shy about speaking English, or the cultural rift is just too big. Many of the students, too, especially the younger ones, have limited English. I spent 20 minutes in a Kindergarten class this morning, reading and talking about a book based on shapes, and the teacher would talk to the children in Swahili and translate, and then she and I both tried to prompt them to say "circle" or "orange" in English. The kids were awfully cute. I showed them my pics of Thomas/Luca afterwards, and asked what colors were they wearing, etc...I've been very glad to have interactive learning tools (i.e., books1) as a way of connecting with students and adults. I've been leaving books in the classrooms I visit and I hope they get used again.
But I digress. Our day today was mostly spent preparing for tomorrow's seminar, which we have worked hard to make culturally sensitive, professionally helpful, and based on relationships. Here's what the rest of our Friday looked like:
10:30-1 seminar planning (sitting on the Guest House porch with views of chicken coops, napping Masai guards, women walking by with heavy loads balanced on their heads, Lake Victoria, and fishing boats out on the water)
1-2 wait for lunch
2-2:45 lunch at the outside dining hall (Lunch was simple: white rice and boiled cabbage mixed with a little tomato and palm oil?, which I ate with my fingers like a lot of the children because the spoon I was handed was still wet...we are told that if dishes air-dry, they are "safe")
3-5:30 worked on seminar planning (sitting down on the beach at the deserted restaurant/bar - best place EVER to have a meeting! - it kills me that we can't jump in the lake for a swim...we are nervous to even put our toes in the sand, since the parasite that lives on the snail shells is probably in the sand, too. What a shame, what a shame, what a shame.)
5:45 to 9:15 - we helped prepare chicken quesadillas with lots of produce from the garden: tomatoes, cilantro, limes, avocado, peppers, onions, and homemade tortillas. We sat on the concrete deck overlooking the lake watching the sun set and enjoying the chance to be online and outside and then, as it got dark, we retreated inside (away from the mosquitoes) and sweltered - Mama Mary had shut the windows and drawn the shades probably because of tears and rips in the screen - while we enjoyed dinner and margaritas together with Chris and Seth.
I had a really hard time again falling asleep - it took until about 1:30am - and I was glad of the borrowed earplugs I had, given the loud generator and the music I could hear drifting up from the village on the edge of campus. (There have been many benefits to traveling with two scientists on this trip...the day after this I thought to ask Ivory, who had shared with us that he had looked up the molecular structure of the malaria medication, if there was something about the medicine that might keep me awake, and he confirmed that one of the molecules could indeed cause effects that would resemble those of caffeine. I have switched to a lunch-time pill schedule rather than a dinner-time schedule, and we'll see what happens.