Here we go again – our 11th year! Every day Ruth and I venture out it begins with “twende” (twen-day - let’s go)! As you know, after 10 years our focus has changed from Mufindi’s southern highlands to Karatu’s northern highlands. The African Book Box (ABB) is collaborating with Alan Roy, a retired Victoria architect and founding director of Primary Schools for Africa.
After our sundown arrival at Kilimanjaro airport we were driven into Arusha, Tanzania’s second largest city and a hub for tourist safaris. A welcoming delegation from Karatu greeted us at our hotel with two bouquets of red roses. These kind people were overflowing with appreciation for ABB’s involvement in new projects in their Karatu District. We shared stories sprinkled with much laughter but finally by 11:00 pm it was time to say lala salama (sleep peacefully)!
Matthew Sulle from Karatu, working in Arusha as a manager at a lovely hotel, hosted us for lunch. While sitting at our outdoor table overlooking lush topical plants, a slowly moving line of 117 women stunningly dressed and coiffed in traditional and modern clothes passed below us. These two Canadian bibis(grandmothers) looked so drab in comparison! The women were entrepreneurs from all over East Africa attending a conference. As they filled up the dining tables surrounding us, a Masai Kenyan grandmother, wearing layers of beaded necklaces and shoulder length beaded earrings joined us at our table. Her English was quite good and she patiently answered many of our questions. She has 8 living children, 19 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. When we told her we were bibis and both had two children and two grandchildren, she said, “Wazungus (white people) don’t like children much and have very small families!”
The following day we drove 2 ½ hours to Karatu and as we were approaching, dark clouds were enveloping the distant Ngorongoro escarpment. Suddenly heavy rain washed across the road and the rolling landscape. In this long dry season, people said that Ruth and Anne had brought good luck with this burst of rain. Although it was a brief respite from the heat, it was enough to add a tint of green to the parched hills.
Our home away from home is a small but delightful place called Tanzanice Farm. The owners are Icelandic and are currently in Iceland. Their guesthouse is managed by Restitus Surumbu and her team of young Tanzanian women and men.
Alan Roy and his contractor, Restus Sanka, were waiting to take us to the construction site of the new vocational school ABB is sponsoring. Wow! It was a hive of activity. Up to 60 fundi’s (construction workers) have been on this project moving 400 tons of ochre - coloured soil, building, tiling, painting, landscaping. The three coral painted buildings overlook farmland and the distant escarpment. Our Tananzian artist friend, Chasaki, has painted signs and three beautiful murals depicting Tanzanian life. His humour shines through! Restus has worked his organizational magic on this project. ABB’s donor, Peter Pearse and his wife Penny from Vancouver, will be here for the official opening of the Flame Tree Vocational School this Saturday. We attended a meeting with village leaders and elders to discuss the program for the ceremony. Protocol is important here! People are excited, me too, and hopefully the training these students receive will provide employment opportunities. Details and photos of this project will follow later.
Tomorrow we finally have an opportunity to read and tell African stories to children. We’re going to Simba Milima (Mountain Lion) Primary, one of the schools Alan has built. We were impressed with the softly spoken head teacher who is a Masai. Ruth and I love this part of our visits to Tanzania.
In the mornings I lie under my mosquito net watching the farmland bathed in early morning golden hues. Our days begin with crowing roosters followed by the song of many yellowed collared lovebirds kissing in the trees.
Hugs and kisses from Tanzania!