Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting for Charlton Heston

We've had some rain. Not torrential, which would be nice, but enough to send the farmers back to their shambas with hoes. Hopefully it'll last and they can get a good crop in. It's gruelling, backbreaking work, sweaty, dirty, and there's not enough money in the world for me to go out there and dig. Asante Mungu I don't have to grow what I eat. Especially as what they grow is maize for ugali, and I think I've been more than clear on that subject.

The river is still bone dry, the water soaked right into the ground. But anyone who has a tank has a full one, and you can see buckets catching maji all over the village.The trees are starting to flower, and I can smell the plumeria as I walk to school. Amazing how so little water can make a tree flower. I guess the trees are like the people and animals of Africa, whatever you get is enough, because that's all there is.

Arobaini tree. Aissa describes the tea as siyo mzuri. 
Africans are the masters of understatement 
so while siyo mzuri means
"not good" I'm thinking ghastly.

There's a tree here called arobaini, and it smells like heaven. Arobaini is Kiswahili for forty, and taken as tea will protect against forty diseases. I don't know all the names, but I imagine there's at least forty african diseases I don't want to get. Mary said Aissa knows how to prepare it, and I plan to find out after my likizo. Until then I just work.

This is what's in my backyard

Martha, the other teacher, got malaria and a bunch of other stuff so has been out for three weeks come Friday, and will be out until school closes for Christmas vacation. So it's just me and the kids. Yikes. And I thought I needed a vacation before this.

and this

They're good kids, but it's not easy, especially because in reality, I'm not a teacher. My friends have been helping me with the school chores. Some of my adult students have kids in my morning session, and they bring water for our hand washing bucket, and help me clean the classroom. If I had to fetch the water, I'd be in Morogoro trolling for hand sanitizer.

and this
and these
and this
and this. My backyard is a grand
place to have a cup of coffee.

Isaac has asked me to extend my stay to three years instead of two, although I haven't finished my first year. His boy Mbuli is one of my students, a star, and Isaac is desperate to start a primary school. The chekechea is phenomenal, by African  standards, and with the exception of the girls, the kids are eatin' up everything I give them. One kid, Dani, is an absolute whiz, a quiet kid, sweet and happy. He sits next to me so I can just explain whatever I need to explain, an then he does it. Just like that. It would be criminal to send him to a government school. Same goes for Mbuli, Bea, Freddy, Susy.....

The girls. I've talked about them before, it's a struggle to get them to speak at an audible level, much less assert themselves. Assertive women are underappreciated in village life, the older men just flat don't listen to them. At meetings, it's like the women aren't even there. Although I've always considered assertiveness one of my best qualities, it's not what men here look for. Girls are expected to marry and be good, meaning obedient. I  worry for the girls, the boys tend to push them around, and occasionally they resist, which I support. I'm on the boys all the time to show them some respect, but it's so slow.

At an african hospital,
patients do their own laundry.

Even at the bus stop, one of the bus guys will just take a woman's arm, or her bag, and basically drag her onto the bus. I hate this and no surprise here, I'm not shy about expressing myself.
After all the time I've spent in Africa I've concluded that the only things worse than the state of health care are the educational system and the treatment of women.The government has decided there needs to be more schools, which is true. So they're building schools. However there's not enough teachers for the schools already here, SO to remedy this, they have shortened the teacher training period. Now we have more teachers, but they're even more poorly trained than the old ones. This goes for medical training as well.

If you're living where it's snowing, pole sans. 
These are plumeria, the most divine smelling 
flower on earth. And  all
over the village.
The govt has also attempted to respond to the lack of health care for kids and the wazee (elders). Traditionally kids under five have received free health care at govt hospitals, but now the govt has extended that to the wazee. They have promised to reimburse the hospitals for the care given, but so far precious little reimbursement has happened. Hospitals may close, not that they didn't close before, but now it's going to be worse. Sometimes I think this place is just going to implode. These facts have been given to me by Isaac, so it's not just me making rash generalizations. The imploding part is from me. Isaac will never implode, I've never even seen him angry.

Berega Hospital is a mission hospital, so while definitely not for profit, they have not had to offer free services. Now the govt wants them to offer free care to kids under five and the wazee. But Berega Hospital does give free care, all the time, because it is a mission hospital and can't turn away sick people, kids or otherwise.

Poor Isaac, he's the Hospital Director, and a good guy. He's actually a pastor, but the previous Director was using hospital funds to live the life of the rich and famous, so the Diocese asked Isaac to step in. He's too wonderful. His office is right next to the room I use as my office/internet room. So I see him often during the day. He's very open about the problems he has running the hospital, and frankly if I had to choose, I'd grab a hoe and farm. Somehow he has to find the money to pay the workers, because the govt has reduced their contributions by a huge percentage. This is the same govt that has extended free health care, but can't seem to reimburse the hospitals. (Update, Isaac has borrowed the money to pay salaries, and is now officially up to his neck in debt).

Part of me wants to stay, I've invested a lot of time and energy here, and the results are good. But I want to travel. But I've made good friends here, but then I'll make friends somewhere else as well. I have a valuable skill set, Third World wise. I can nurse, teach, set up a preschool, even paint a little. This makes me Third World gold. Not blowing my own horn here folks, just about anyone from an organized society is gold here. Plus I like the simple life and don't mind hanging around for a while. So I have no idea what I'll do, but I've got a year to figure it out.
I always like where I am, but I always leave. I guess I'm looking for the perfect place. I'm marginally wanting to settle down (remember I have commitment issues). But then I want to see everything.

You'd have to be brainless not to sense my extreme confusion. What to do? This is not a rhetorical question. Weigh in please, if you like.  I wish Mungu would reach down, point, and in a voice eerily like Charlton Heston tell me to GO THERE! I'm waiting, but so far no direct communication. But when and if He does, I hope the terrain is flat enough to ride a bike. And maybe there could be mangoes.

Since Martha has been sick, I've reorganized my classroom, brainiacs on one side, regular preschool kids on the other, and the kati kati (between), in the middle. Looks kind of like a dumb bell. So far it's ok, gives me access to each group so I can get the wizards started on something and concentrate on my normal kids.

The only problem is, like most really bright kids, they finish fast and start raising hell. Hard to get mad at them, though, when fifty years ago I was that kid. Best I can do is threaten to send them to a regular govt school where the teachers can beat them. Which they think is hilarious. Hopefully these kids will never have to do that, because kids in govt who do too well will get caned for showing off. So when Vincent adds 60 plus 60 in his head and answers 120, I say vzuri sana, but the local teacher grabs a fimbo (stick).

Local businessman selling gas for the 
pikipikis (motorbikes)
And for 200 tsh he can pump up your tires
 or fix a flat. That's
his tire pump lashed to the tree.

I need someone very old and stinking rich to die and leave me a pile of money. Nobody I know, just some old geezer who's lived a full happy life and has no direct descendants.
It's a few days later now, and the rains have stopped. I hope it was enough.
My chekechea kids just counted by ten all the way up to 1000, with a little prompting, but they recognize the pattern. Some of the kids are trying to identify four digit numbers, and doing ok.
I have tumbo, I'm thinking giardia.
I'm assuming tomatoes are heavier 
than water, so this has 
to be 40 lbs of tomatoes on this
 eight year old kids head.
Someone broke down the door to the classroom John is painting, stole four small cans of paint. Have put a 10,000 tsh reward on his head, and when/if they catch him, they will beat him. I'm inclined instead to have him work it off doing prep work, but maybe I'll just bow to the culture and ask them not to actually kill him. Or not. I think I need this vacation more than I thought.
I'm leaving for Dar in a day or two, will return sometime in January, so if I don't write, it's not malaria, or giardia, or typhoid, or any of the other thirty seven african diseases nobody wants.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Year In The Life of Berega River

The water goddess.

Yet again with the water, I know. I arrived here in January, so it's been almost one year, a lot has happened and I've learned many things. But the thing that's been driven home to me from day one is the effect of insufficient, unsafe water on daily life. It's like having a blackout in the US, when you realize that almost everything you do involves electricity.

I always have maji, and in times when the tanks are dry, I can still buy bottled water and endelea kama kawaida (continue like normal). But I see all around me the effects of maji haitoshi na uchafu for the folks who aren't rich wazungu.

January 20.2011. When it's 
not being used as a river, 
it's a parking lot.

1. Women spend an inordinate amount of time fetching water. Sometimes it must be dug from the ground, and dug deeper and deeper with each passing week. This is hard work, and it keeps them from other things.

February 1, 2011. Not too bad, 
the ladies can just about 
reach in.

2. Farming requires water. Farmers (everyone) could grow fruits and veggies if the water was in sufficient supply, and not so chumvi chumvi (salty). Most plants don't thrive on salty water. Fortunately maize tolerates it, or else there would be no ugali, which is most of what folks eat here. And because of the scarcity of water, there's only one growing season.

3. Everyone wants to be clean, and have clean clothes, dishes, floors... This leaves the women two options, go even farther and dig even deeper for water, or don't bathe, wash clothes etc. So they go farther and dig deeper.

April 3, 2011. After the rains. Still not enough.

April 3, 2011. But enough for the goats.
4. To boil water for the ten minutes needed to kill the parasites et al is time consuming, and requires some type of fuel, either bought or collected. And it's the kids and women who collect. So sometimes folks drink unsafe water, tumbo is a way of life here.
April 3, 2011. But enough for this.

5.Tumbo is Kiswahili for stomach, and usually refers to anything in the area between sternum and groin. So if someone says they have tumbo, it could be almost anything; giardia, malaria, an ulcer, a kidney infection, constipation, or most commonly, diarrhea. Diarrhea in the US isn't such a huge deal, but it is here. A baby with diarrhea can be dead in just a few days. Besides, if you rehydrate a child with unsafe water, how does that help?

April 3 2011. Offshoot of Berega River.
Just damp.
Diarrhea is so much more virulent here, at least it seems so to me. It literally flies out of your rectum, so if you've got a bug, stay home. The pre projection rumble is a two second warning, that's all you get. Besides, it's not like there's public restrooms here, or a convenient McDonalds to pop into. I lied, there are a few public restrooms in the big towns, and they defy description. I'd rather stay home.
September 7, 2011. Farther and deeper

6. Folks just don't drink enough water, clean or not, because there's not enough. So people get kidney/bladder infections. Then there's not enough clean maji to help flush the infection. And around and around we go.

November 6, 2011. Where the cattle drink.
7. Prices go up when you can't buy local, and although I can afford the trip into Morogoro and back to stock up on fruits and vegetables, most folks can't. Kids here are lucky to get a banana every now and then. The food pyramid is a joke. I've seen village kids with a reddish tinge to their hair, which signifies malnutrition.

8. We don't always get to wash before and after activities requiring washing. At meals a woman or a child will go to each person with a bowl and a jug of maji. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold. Sometimes there's soap, sometimes not. The person with the jug will pour slowly while the the other person washes, before and after meals. It's quaint and lovely to us, but basically no one has running water so this how they do it. In the village there's no water kid on the corners so sometimes by the time I get to wash my hands they're filthy, it's like I've been playing in the dirt. Seems ay my age I should know how to keep clean, but it just t'aint easy, McGee.

9. There are public faucets in the area around the hospital, which serves the hospital workers. And on Monday and Thursday they get turned on, so all the women and kids show up with every available container to stock up. In about two hours the maji is finished. This is all they have for bathing, cooking, cleaning, everything. The upper and lower village fetch or go to the few spigots centrally located to many areas but close to none.

10. A while back I wrote about my personal maji dilemma, when people come to me asking for water. I have ground as well as rain water, as do a few others. I caved. I buckled. I wimped. I can't be a guest here and refuse water. So far I haven't run out. But I think twice about how I use my water. I save my laundry water for flushing, and share it with my neighbor, who uses it to wash floors and flush. I wear my clothes longer than I did in the US. A lot longer.

So I've posted some of the pictures I've taken this year. The History of Maji 2011. Some of these pictures have been posted on previous blogs, but I wanted you to see them in a timeline. And I promise this will be the last water rant, at least for a while.
November 6, 2011. And when it's not being
 used as a river, or a parking lot, 
it's a shortcut to the cattle watering hole.

A wonderful thing happened today. Some teachers from Berega Primary came to the chekechea to see what we've been up to. Folks have been hearing about the school, so I turned the kids loose to show off what they know. They were fabulous. They said their letters and numbers, in and out of order, days of the week, colors, shapes. spoke very well in English, did some math, and identified three digit numbers. That was our grand finale. I wrote numbers like 645, 357, 812 on the board and about half of the kids were able to just reel them off. I was too proud of them.

Remember where we are, and how these kids live. So what may seem puny to you is huge here. These kids are far ahead of other preschool kids, and could jump right into Standard 1 and do just fine. The primary school teachers want us to paint their walls. We might do it, but there's a few problems. The walls are in pretty bad shape, the floors have holes, and there's only a few desks in the rooms. The lack of desks I can deal with, kids can sit on the floor, and do. But the parents refuse to contribute in any way to school maintenance. Also when we went to talk to the Headmaster the teachers lounge was crowded with teachers while the kids were sitting in the classrooms doing nothing. I'm not sure it matters what we do to the walls if no one teaches. There was one teacher who did appear involved with the kids, he was outside yelling at about twenty of them while they knelt in the dirt. Don't know what they did, maybe it was all of them, maybe just one or two, but punishment en masse seems to be kawaida here.

While I was in Mbeya last week, I checked up on Martha and Chris, the girls I've got at Shukrani Int'l College. They're doing great, as well as Waziri, everyone passing. Ninafurahi sana sana.

It's late, my battery is dying, and I need to bathe. When I get to America I'm gonna sit in a tub FULL OF HOT WATER AND HAVE A CUP OF ICED COFFEE. Good to have goals.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

So What's Normal Anyway?

Kawaida means normal or regular, and kawaida where I am is a far cry from kawaida where you are, wherever that is. Some things have become normal, some things never will never be, and some things, although normal now, bother me because they shouldn't be, ever.

Malaria. How can this be normal? Every week I ask about an absent kid, or a friend, and someone tells me, Oh, he's got malaria and I say Oh, pole, and move on. I'm amazed at how blase I've become about a disease that kills a healthy chunk of the population on a daily basis. There's programs all over Africa to give mosquito nets to every Tom, Dick and Rashid in the village, but the anopheles female, the little girl mosquito who injects parasites into our blood cells, where they replicate, explode, then find other red cells, likes to work from dusk to dawn. 

Little cafe near my house where you can get chai
 and chapati,or maandazi. Note lots of ventilation, 
otherwise called holes
in the wall.
SO if everyone got under their nets at dusk it wouldn't be such a huge problem. But they don't. Kids play till well after dark, outside, because there's nothing to do inside.

Not all nets get to the target groups, instead finding their way to maduka and sold for a tidy profit. Folks here also use them in the gardens, to keep the bugs away. The feeling is that you can recover from malaria, but starvation is a sure thing. Can't say I blame them, priorities are most certainly not universal.

Personally, I hate the things. I've tried to sleep under them but it's like having a spider net three feet from my nose. Plus the bugs land on the nets and leer at me all through the night, taunting me. I get up at night and without fail, get tangled up in the thing. Fortunately, my house is well built, there's screens on the windows, and tape on the holes in the screens. I am well protected. Besides, I'm rarely out at night because in the village there's no place to go and nothing to do when you get there.

The problem with repeated malaria is that folks run around anemic all the time, (see above re exploding red blood cells). My friend Martha has malaria now, and her hemoglobin is 5. Practically bloodless, and when she stands up her eyes roll around in her head. Also, over time, there's a chance of liver enlargement, and over time means kids as well as adults. It all depends on how often you get it, how bad it is, if it's treated... This place is a bacterial war zone.
Sitting in the shade in the afternoon, 
preparing vegetables.
This kid thinks I'm Freddy Krueger. 
About 2 seconds after I 
took this shot, the kid in front started up. 
Note laughing mom.

Less disturbing on the kawaida scale is kids screaming when they see me, which happens more than you'd think. Years ago, I took it more personally, now I join in on the fun.  I'm benign enough, I have only a minimal resemblance to an ax murderer, so it must be that I'm mzungu. In the village it's not hard to be  the first white person a kid sees.

Yesterday I went to visit Teacher Martha and passed by a family sitting outside (at dusk), cooking their dinner. Their little son took one look at me, covered his eyes, and screamed in mortal fear. I've learned to carry small candies, little sugar bribes. The kids always take it, sometimes from my hand, sometimes I have to throw it to them. But they scream the whole time nonetheless. While everyone laughs. I finally got someone to admit that parents tell their kids if they don't behave they're gonna give 'em to the whitefolks. I knew it all along, it just took a while for someone to finally admit it.
Chipsi mayaai. A local food made by frying
 up potatoes (chips) then refrying them with 
3-4 eggs. A little greasy, but filling.

Kids with weapons. I just don't care anymore.On my first trip to Africa I lived in an orphanage in Ghana, 105 kids, mostly little. And they carried razor blades. Not all of them, but many, and frequently. Too aghast to speak, I'd take them,and in the end I had quite a collection of blades, in varying degrees of rustage. They use them to sharpen pencils, shave their heads, cut their nails... Now I walk right by them in the street. They're like pennies, not worth picking up. But at the same time I yell at myself for not worrying about it. There was a great line in an old Dolly Parton movie, something about not knowing whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt. That's a fairly accurate description of how I feel sometimes.

Village kids carry pangas, long machete type things, sometimes longer than the actual kid. They use them to cut grass, and unless I want to cut their grass for them, I just say hi and continue on my way. I remember once in Ghana telling a man that he might want to wear shoes when he cut grass, steel toed if possible. That was a long time ago, and I can only smile at how dopey I must have sounded.

I don't think I'll ever be ok with a kid walking up to me, palm up, saying "Give me my money". Most times it's the only English he/she knows. My Kiswahili has gotten good enough to explain that this is rude in a multitude of ways, and besides that, it's not their money. I imagine this has worked for them at one time, and this is why they keep trying, but it just raises the hairs on the back of my neck.
Local ladies doing laundry. They do a great job
 getting the dirt out, but there's a water 
shortage, so the clothes always
feel a little soapy. But clean.

Equally abhorrent is "Give me my gift". I've researched this, and in Africa it's not considered rude to ask for a gift. However it's like giving a kid a piece of candy, they tell their friends and in two minutes the entire under 8 population is banging at the door. I've even been asked by people I don't know. I'd like to meet the dumb mzungu who started all this.

Extended periods of foodlessness. Kids in America eat all the time, as they should. Grazing is good for a kid, like it's good for cows. But then the cows here are pretty skinny.Three of my preschoolers came to school today and hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon. I know I've talked about folks here having maybe 2 meals/day, but to be unfed for 16 hours when you're only 6 years old is just wrong. I have no idea how to fix it, so I just don't.

Do you see anything here
resembling a cold soda?

I have learned to drink, and halfway appreciate, warm soda. The little dukas here all sell bottled soda, but it's warm. For a long while I just never drank it, but there's not much else to choose from, so I have adapted. Now warm beer is another thing. I don't drink often or much, but when I do it needs to be cold. So I haven't had a beer in almost a year, but it's joto kali sana right now (very hot), and a cold one would go down so nice.

I love this place, but I've got a little burn out virus making its way through my head. Having a hard time getting through my day. I've never stayed in one place so long, and although it has it's good points, village life can be less than exciting. Not that anything else I'd do would be such a kick, but I like to move around. New people, new landscape, all that crap. I think I lack the commitment gene. But I have 6 weeks off in Dec-Jan. I'm going home to visit family and friends, go to the movies, and drink a cold coke with lots of ice. I was with a friend at a restaurant a few years ago and asked for ice. The waitress came back with a plate on which were 2 small ice cubes, rapidly melting in the hot African sun. I want to hear crushed Ice rattling in a 44 ounce plastic cup from 7/11. That's my Christmas wish, aside from world peace.
Oil store. Local kids round up all the old 
plastic bottles lying about,clean them up a little, 
and dump the oil in. Looks pretty in the light.

All is well at chekechea, the kids wanaendelea vzuri (doing well). They're starting to recognize three digit numbers, which is pretty amazing for kids who've grown up without books. I'm laminating like crazy, have a huge collection of useful teacher stuff, and the kids love all of it. I may have laminated a kid or two who happened to pass by at the wrong time, but then encasement is an absolute malaria deterrent.

Look at the man on the left in the brown shirt. 
Is he for, against
or just declaring his status? 

I went to Mbeya to teach three teachers at a chekechea we painted a few months ago. It went well, they like the system, and I have to say our scruffy little underfed village kids know a lot more than the city kids, most of whom have parents that speak English, have cars, and even computers. We rock.

A final word about kawaida, the locals think I'm totally abnormal. I do things at no cost, I don't have a house girl, I have been seen washing my own clothes, I don't own a car, much less drive one (although you'd have to be suicidal to drive here). Then there was that time I held an 18 foot snake. I think that's what cemented it. Must have been, cause my friend Esther told me "You are just not normal." I guess it's all relative. And in reality, who really cares?

Weighing kids at the well baby clinic at the hospital


Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Recalcitrant Eucalyptus

Went to Mikumi Park again,
cute teenaged giraffe.

On a normal day, daladalas are like ticks about to burst, so perhaps I should have thought twice, even thrice, before traveling to Morogoro on the last day of Ramadan (which precedes the first day of Idd). So two huge Islamic holy days, and there I am in town with a big stupid grin on my face, looking for books. Morogoro has a very large Muslim population, so anyone wearing a kofia or a burqa was either in town, or trying to get there.

Why did the elephant cross the road? 
At that size, what does 
it matter? I wanted to back up for a closer shot 
but the driver was a sissy. 
And maybe I was a dope. Take your pick.

Knowing this, albeit a little late, I  crammed myself onto a coaster, which is size-wise halfway between a daladala and a bus. I tried to grab the overhead bar so I wouldn't fall when the coaster lurched, which I could only assume it would, but hamna shida, we were packed too tightly to move, much less fall. A tin of sardines would have been more spacious, and as a sardine has no armpits I would have been spared that particular human experience.

There was a family of nine waiting at a bus stop, minding their own business, enjoying the day. Two kids under three were sitting in the dirt, plus a few mid sized kiddies and assorted adults. They seemed as though they were planning to board another, less crowded car, good luck with that. But they were standing at a bus stop, so the condo (loads people and takes money) hopped off, plucked the watoto from the ground, and handed them through the windows to random Africans in the front seats . Then they shepherded the mid sized kids in, after which the adults had no option but to climb on. This happens all the time, it's happened to me.The babysitters don't seem to mind, and the parents haven't got much choice after the kids have been shanghaied. I tell you, condos have power.

Re power, the upper body on the average condo is spectacular, lean and strong with biceps to die for. But then, biceps are all that stand between them and certain death as they hang out the side of the bus calling to potential passengers. It's the hand of Allah (remember the holy days) no one has lost an arm or been decapitated by a passing truck. Bado kidogo.
Last week we returned to Chagongwe to finish some business regarding the Humanure project and the checkechea. My memory of the road is like labor pains, you forget about it when it's finished, only to remember again, acutely, the next time. It's a migraine of a road, the pictures don't do it justice. We almost made it down before dark, it's bad enough in the daylight, but we turned a corner and came upon a tree crossing the road that wasn't there on the way up.
Everyone standing around looking
 at the tree that crossed the road. 
A chicken would have been easier to move.  

Why did the tree cross the road? Loggers come up to the mountains to cut down eucalyptus trees, which are enormous and provide mbao mengi. If you cut them correctly, they fall where you want them to fall. If you don't, they fall across the road. The only road. I know this because I asked.

Here's the story: they tried to cut it so it would fall in one direction but inakataa (it refused) and fell the other way. Scary that guys with chainsaws can't outsmart a tree. They knew they had made a mistake and were thinking about running away. Again, as there's only so many loggers on the mountain, the tree is still ahead on points. We saw the guy holding the chainsaw, but he said it didn't work. This was starting to take on all the earmarks of a classic TIA moment. TIA being This is Africa. If you've been here, you know what I mean.

 A goddess walks among us, 
possibly a goddess with a sore 
neck, but a goddess nonetheless.

So finally, the guy decided the saw actually did work, and they got busy hacking loose branches and clearing away debris. They measured the height of the car against the clearance under the tree with an old bent stick, so I was more than a little concerned about our passage. We managed to squeeze under the tree, but it was a squeaker. THEN, after we got through, they asked us for money. 

Why, I asked, and they said because they helped us. I reminded them that it was their fault to begin with, but they said it wasn't, the tree refused to fall in the right direction. And, they stayed to help instead of running away, which was bullmavi because but for our untimely arrival they would have disappeared into the woods like a bunch of elves. I refused, much like the tree, but Ruth gave in and slipped them 2,000 /-, about $1.50. In the end, they proved smarter than us, if not the tree.
Water hole in a village called Mnafu, 
where will set up someprojects. 
This is how deep the women need to go to get maji. 
The one in the hole will pass the buckets up.

Folks here have lots of creative ways to make money, recall the ten dollar cat from a few months ago. We were in Dar this past weekend, just an overnighter to get my work permit. I'm legal in Africa, by the way. At last. Up until now I've been painting illegally. Tz considers volunteer work as work, so requires a permit. It's taken eight months, but ninayo work permit. 

Water hole thankfully not being used for humans,
 but for brick making. Not that the other 
water is much better.

The fact is, I could have been in a pile of shida if Immigration had caught me painting. I haven't always walked the straight and narrow road, but imagine going to jail for painting the ABCs on a preschool wall. The other inmates would ridicule me and take my food.I digress.

 We're breaking in a new driver, Abdallah, my student and former daladala driver, so were cruising around Dar learning the town. We came upon an old guy standing in the middle of the road, next to a hastily filled hole. He stopped us and asked for money, because he filled the hole. We never saw him fill the hole, it could have been filled days ago, by another old guy, but that was irrelevant. Also irrelevant was that he was standing on a pristine portion of the road, and had he moved three feet in any direction, we could have driven right through. But he wasn't moving, so Abdallah gave him some change. Geezer probably spends all day standing in front of recently filled holes, taking advantage of anyone too polite to run him over.
This is why I love Africa. 
Dead water hole. 

A friend once told me she wouldn't visit me here because she feared the unknown. l fear the known. Things get too normal I get antsy, so Africa is the perfect place for me. Nothing is too normal, and many things are downright bizarre.

The kids are good, moving along just like they should. Gairo, a village about an hour away, wants us to board their chekechea kids. It's good folks are finding out about us, but not so good to board babies. Even worse that the schools here are generally bad enough that folks actually consider, and do, board their preschoolers. Won't go into the state of the schools here, I've done that time and time again, but I just got three new evening class students and all three are in upper level classes and have almost no English. Our chekechea kids speak better. But then they still pee in their pants sometimes, so it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Chameleon crawling up my leg in Mbeya. 
Locals are afraid of these, won't touch them,
 much lesslet them walk up their jeans. 
This, plus the python, has cemented
 my weirdness with my friends and

The breakfast program is going well, the kids like it, and they come to class on time now. We read stories while they eat their ugi (porridge), then start the day. The library is catching on slowly, the only problem is no one, I repeat no one, returns their books on time, not even close. Wanarudisha chelewa sana. But everyone lives close, so I can hunt them down when someone else wants the book.
If you look hard you can see a cat in this tree. 
That's Mr. Greenwell attempting a rescue. The 
cat was in the tree for 3 days, screaming at us.
This one didn't cost me anything.

I love the smallness of the village. Anyone I need I can find, and they can find me. Everyone says hi, kids play in the street, and people sit out on the stoops so if you want to visit, there they are. If it wasn't for poverty, oppression and repression of women, bad schools, corruption, and limited access to just about anything, this place would be perfect.