Persistent pecking at sunrise on the dining room window from our resident pied crow has become our daily wake up call. It sometimes requires Ruth or I charging up the stairs in our nighties to shoo him away before he shatters the glass.
It was Sunday morning and the Canadian contingent, Allan, Birgit, Ruth and I, had planned a mini all day safari to the escarpment. We drove through several outlying villages perched on hilltop ridges with top-of-the-world views. Breathtaking vistas! Capturing glimpses of village life is as if an issue of National Geographic had come to life. But it is not appropriate to record these images with a camera, at least not without permission. If the scene is absent of people then it is USUALLY fine to set the camera in motion. Or so we thought!
Ruth and I spotted an elementary school in the village of Ibwanzi situated in an inviting treed setting. It was devoid of children and teachers as most were at church. We rushed out of the car, climbed the small embankment and began taking photos. After a couple of minutes we returned to the car to discover Allan, Birgit and Juma, our Tanzanian guide, talking seriously to a smartly dressed man in a black leather jacket with a decorative bullet belt buckle. It turns out this official looking dignified man was the Veyo or village leader. No one was smiling and there was an immediate sense of urgency. He was definitely not pleased with these camera-clicking Canadians! That was putting it mildly. These retired mwalimus, teachers, were in an awkward situation. We offered to erase the photos taken. But he was having none of it! Instead we were to convene at the village head quarters. As we were driving there, memories surfaced of an unfortunate misunderstanding involving Akida, an NGO employee, resulting in his arrest and a few tense hours in jail. Allan remarked if anyone were going to jail it would be him since he would be viewed as the bwana mkubwa, the big man. Our promise to visit and bring him our remaining stash of chocolate did not yield a smile. Inside the village leader’s office we apologized profusely in English and Swahili. The air was blue with pole sana, very sorry. Finally the Veyo cracked a smile and in English accepted our apologies. With great relief we hurriedly bid him kwheri, goodbye, leaving our cameras firmly packed away until entering the brachystegia forest completely devoid of people and buildings! An intriguing setting sounding like a throw back to the dinosaur era!
Five days later we were invited to give a seminar to 61 teachers in Ihanu Ward. Where was this to take place? Exactly at the scene of our recent misdemeanor! Ibwanzi Primary is an elementary school in a far off village. We anxiously scanned the group looking for the Veyo. Instead we were greeted by the MEC (Mufindi Education Commissioner) with Hollywood looks. Many smiling faces offering helping hands unloaded the mobile book box and our lesson aids. Our goal was to demonstrate the power of stories and how well known stories can be adapted to Tanzanian settings in order to engage children. The teachers willingly participated in the dramatization of these stories frequently filling the crowded room with laughter. They quickly realized that using stories with repetitive refrains, such as Kuku Mdogo (Little Chicken adapted from The Little Red Hen) helped children to increase their English vocabulary and encouraged students to actively participate in their learning. The demanding Tanzanian curriculum has a stranglehold on teachers and their students. Canadian teachers would find their working conditions unimaginable. The head teacher at this school had 95 students in her classroom with only a few curriculum books as resources. Some schools such as Igoda begin at sunrise, 6 a.m., and their Grade 7 students remain until 9 p.m. two hours after sunset in their quest to reach “Big Results Now” mandated by the previous government.
At day’s end we often sit on our balcony with a sundowner reflecting on our experiences. But swarming bees have driven our sundowners to the kopje or big rock at Protea’s cliff edge. Getting rid of these bees has been a herculean effort by NGO staff. Groups of men have come to discuss and observe the situation noting the bees have migrated from their usual place to the centre pole of the balcony. They were followed by a courageous man who appeared with cans of Raid and a large empty sugar sack, which he put over his head. Ruth gave him a pair of rubber gloves. He disappeared in a toxic mist as he emptied three cans of Raid. This resulted in heaps of dead bees but a frightening amount of angry bees surrounding the front of Protea. The next night Nadrik and his accomplice arrived with a crow bar, ax and oil. Prying open two floorboards they found a treasure trove of large honeycombs. By the time they had extracted numerous hunks of varying sizes,, two sufarias or pots were piled high with oozing honeycombs. Too bad the honey had been marinating in Raid! Some of you may be thinking these bees may be African killer bees. Could be, but unlikely. It WOULD make a good story! Tomorrow our sundowners will resume on the balcony.
Magufuli, this country’s new president has captivated Tanzanians with his promise of change encapsulated in the new national slogan, “hapa kazi tu,”, literally meaning “here work only. “ He is saying to Tanzanians that we no longer have time for ineffective government where no work gets done. Now its time to work! From Mufindi’s green hills cutting a rising and falling line across a sun drenched sky echoes of “hapa kazi tu” can be heard.
Tembaya salama – Walk in Peace,