A Travellerspoint blog

The Arusha Times

A constant source of amusement.. I mean news.

IMG_0069.jpgThe Arusha Times is unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like a laugh) almost the only newspaper that turns up on our table from time to time. I think it’s written by someone whose second language is English, and doesn’t understand the concept of news articles being neutral or having to contain any facts. The stories are written similarly to gossip magazine articles back home, and are constantly biased with no sources given, like the article about a female mzungu tourist who likes to take off her clothes “and engage in fleeting relationships with the sole aim of conceiving, she confessed, ‘because children born to black and white parents are fantastic!’ she quipped”.

Here’s some of the best bits of another story titled “Maasai cattle cause global warming” (remember this is copied directly from the newspaper):

“Needless to emphasize, climate change that is caused by global warming is life-threatening… Water bodies particularly the ocean will fill up and overflow to drown human settlements that are located on low lands. Then the water will rise to reach higher areas say in Arusha. It sounds like a dream. But it is real.”

“The term “Greenhouse Effect” refers to experiments which scientists carried out at some point in time to determine the characteristics of the medium on which heat travels… therefore, the terms greenhouse effect, global warming as well as climate change have nothing to do with the green houses for flower farms that are located along the Arusha Moshi highway in Arumeru District. It is misleading to say that the greenhouses in Arumeru District or anywhere else cause global warming or climate change.”

The story went on to say that it has been suggested that global warming may be a world wide problem...

Posted by SheIsFree 10:16 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Being a Mzungu in Arusha..

IMG_0086.jpgAggie, Maswai (our gorgeous local cooks) and Eve (another volunteer) were already in the cab of our beaten up ute when I decided to go in to town with them yesterday, so it meant all the seats inside the truck were taken. I’ve ridden on the back a few times so far, usually in a group, but always with at least one other person. This was the first time I had sat back there perched on the tool box by myself.

Being a mzungu (a white person, or just anyone who is not African) in this area I’m living in is definitely a unique experience. Any thoughts I had that I could maybe blend in here eventually were evaporated on that trip through the maze of narrow, dusty, bumpy and winding roads that lead into town. Just about everyone looked at me, some just watched as I went by, the kids yelled out “MZUUUNGUUUU!!”, or they just waved with big smiles on their faces. It wasn’t just because I was by myself, I just think it was more aware because I didn’t have the others in the back with me diverting my attention. I can now fully imagine what it would be like to be famous now, complete strangers calling out to you, even just calling me mzungu, would be kind of like an actor being called by his characters name by random strangers on the street. It’s a very strange feeling to suddenly be a minority, and to know that wherever you go, you obviously stand out as being very different, especially when sitting on the back of a moving truck.

Even on the way to the childrens village I volunteer for here in Sinon, walking through the little pockets of rainforest and small banana plantations, the local kids come running up all excited and happy when we walk past. They call out mzungu, or they practise their English sentences like “how are you” or “my name is..”, but usually they just run up and grab our hands, and walk with us for a little while. It doesn’t matter how often they see us (we walk past sometimes a few times a day), they still get so excited.

Being a mzungu has it’s funny moments too, one of the other volunteers here (also a mzungu) has taken to calling out mzungu to other mzungus whenever he sees one. And on Australia Day, we were all on the back of the ute heading to town for a night out when some random person on the street in a busy part of town yelled out “VOLUNTEEEEERS” at us instead of mzungu… we cracked up laughing all the way to the restaurant. So, yes, I think we do stand out here, and not just a little bit either.

Posted by SheIsFree 09:49 Archived in Tanzania Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Doing the pays in Sinon.. a world away from Sydney

029.jpgThe NGO I a have just started volunteering for is establishing a childrens village which at the moment is still being built. There are a couple of volunteers and a big team of local labourers who have been working hard six days a week to get it done. It’s looking really beautiful already - a modern eco-friendly design by an Australian architect who has donated his time to this project.

As the new bursar, it’s my responsibility to pay the local labourers for all the work they’ve been doing, and today was my first attempt at it. The locals here in the tiny village of Sinon don’t have bank accounts (the bank fees alone would cost them a days pay, and the trip into town to get money would be a huge expense as well) so it’s all done with cash, and the records are all hand written. Considering the highest Tanzanian Shilling note is only 10,000 (about $10 Australian), going to the bank to get enough cash for the workers pays means carrying all the money in a big bag.. not too safe, really). So after working out the right amounts to pay everyone, it was time to hand them out. Mudi the manager normally does this part, but as he was unfortunately involved in an accident yesterday and can’t work for a week or so, I did it with another volunteer instead. On the walk up to site we were met along the way by some of the workers, each of them stopping for a chat, some proudly introduced me to their families and pointed out their homes, and I got to practise a bit of my Swahili with them. The locals live in very basic huts, some made from mud bricks, others just sticks and clay/mud with tin roofs, there are chickens walking around everywhere, goats, and donkeys tied to posts, and the occasional cow, and every day I see children filling buckets from the dirty water that runs down the side of the road, as they don’t have access to clean running water. So after being stopped about five times, we eventually made it to the building site where the rest of the labourers were patiently waiting for their pays, and as we handed them out I was introduced to them all. It’s hard to remember all the names at the moment, but there are some pretty memorable ones like Elvis, Goodluck and Roger Moore (he seen Roger Moore in a movie and decided he looked like him, so changed his name to that.. apparently that’s a very easy thing to do in Tanzania).

The best part for me today though was seeing the men who have worked so hard all week for their pay, put part of their pay back in their envelope to give back to me – we run a simple savings plan for them where we kind of act as a bank, and keep the employees savings safely stashed away for them so they can save for very important things like roof sheeting or cement for their house walls and floors, or school fees for their children. One of the ladies we employ, a seamstress who is teaching our mama’s (disadvantaged local women who’ll be looking after orphans and are being trained to start their own small businesses) how to sew, has started saving some of her pay to fix up her tiny sewing shop – at the moment the walls are made of boxes. It’s so great to be able to see how this small NGO is helping people to make a better life for themselves, and much more so to see the improvements on peoples lives on a personal level like this.

Posted by SheIsFree 21:05 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

First visit to the childrens village

sunny 25 °C

018.jpgOn my second day in Arusha I visited the school room in the children’s village. The room is an almost complete large hall made completely of timber, with large airy windows and huge verandahs on the outside. At the moment it’s used for the chekechea (pre-school) in the mornings and after-school tutoring in the afternoons, but will soon be divided into two, so that one half will be used for adult education.

Anyway, I visited for the first time on my second day here, and was completely unprepared. I walked in to see Helen, another volunteer getting organised as kids kept entering the room. As it has just started operating, she was unsure exactly how many would turn up. After I offered to help her out, she said that the ten or twelve kids in the room would probably be all of them, so she should just start. But they just kept coming, until we had thirty five children aged from about 3 to 12 years old. At the beginning I kept the littlest ones busy showing them how to draw butterflies and simple shapes on small chalkboards, which they loved especially when the shapes formed a picture they recognised. It really hit me how poor the families are here, you can tell by the clothes the children are dressed in. The kids here wear second hand clothes, which for boys means shorts or long pants and shirts, but most of the little girls are always dressed in old fashioned princessy type flower-girl dresses, which I’m sure they feel pretty in, but the ribbons on the dresses are ripped, hems are coming apart, and they are badly stained. Some lucky girls have braided hair, but as most mothers can’t braid and it can be relatively expensive to pay for braiding, most girls have their heads shaved.

After Helen had begun her maths class, she asked me to help her out with the older kids. They were really polite, and loved practising their English with me. They greeted me by shaking my hand, saying good morning and telling me their name. After our greetings, we sat in a circle and played a game rolling dice and adding up the numbers in Swahili and English. I ended up staying for the whole class, and helped Helen tidy up afterwards before the walk back to the volunteer village. It was a really great first experience for me with these children, and I’m planning to hopefully help out there at least one day a week.

Posted by SheIsFree 05:45 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Arriving in Nairobi

View Africa on SheIsFree's travel map.

010.jpgAfter way too many hours flying, I finally arrived in Kenya. I’d been warned in Sydney about extensive delays with the visa process at Nairobi airport, but I just thought they probably say that to everyone. As it was, it took forever to get my transit visa, and I missed my bus to Tanzania. After a couple of phone calls to Kelsey at the Children’s Village where I’d be volunteering, a guy came up to me, and said he was supposed to be taking me to the bus. That seemed ok, until two other guys suddenly appeared as well, and before I could really do or say anything they had chucked my bags in the back a beaten up car, so I thought, ok, I’m not going without my bags (well, those bags held most of my possessions), so I jumped into the front seat (sorry Mum..). Luckily they actually took me to the shuttle, a 25 year old mini bus, where I spent the next six or seven hours bouncing around in the heat and inhaling dust. But I actually really loved it, bumpy dirt roads and all. It was a great intro to Africa - after the craziness of Nairobi traffic, I saw two small herds of zebras (my first wild zebras ever), a group of some gazelle type animal, and lots and lots of donkeys. Weirdly, there was also the occasional well dressed suited man just standing there on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and the best part was the most amazing view of Mt Kilimanjaro.. even through the haze of dust it was truly a spectacular sight, and watching it as I bumped past in the crazy bus, I actually forgot I hadn't slept in two days.

Posted by SheIsFree 09:22 Archived in Kenya Tagged bus Comments (1)

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