Thursday, 4 August 2011

Tell us what you need.


Those were the first words I remember hearing from Mary, one of the founders of Kidzcare Tanzania, the charity we were in Tanzania to support. Things I 'needed' popped into my mind during the pause that followed- a shower, food, a sleep and so on. Mary, however, continued with 'and we'll show you how to live without it' and to an extent, I would say that quote summed up the trip quite nicely. We were not, by any stretch of the imagination, deprived of basic comforts but it was certainly the case that we had to make sacrifices that perhaps we were not used to. The feeling of my bed on Tuesday evening was something to behold after 2 weeks of the floor and mosquito nets, for example.

Home comforts were certainly missed but I think it is safe to say we had an excellent time and experience, one for the memory banks certainly. Having taken over 1000 pictures, it will take a while for me to actually enjoy some home comforts because my mum will insist on viewing ALL of them. Not to mention that uploading them will take forever. Massive thanks are due to the members of staff that came, to Rob and Mary, to Dennis and Solomon and last but not least to the students who were also on the trip. I'm not going to give the cliché 'it changed me' stuff but I certainly learnt a lot, did make a difference to the lives of some kids and also had a lot of fun.

Some basic details of the trip are below.

Those on the trip were: 

Rev Jan, Mr Simm, Mr Metcalfe (Staff) 

Students: 

Anto Meyer 
Hugh Brannan 
Oliver Warren
Oliver Rutherford 
Myself
Ben and Sam Steinert 
Rufus Bart-Koranteng
Rickin Popat
Jonathan Tho
Jeremy Hasson

Hosts and Founders of Kidzcare:

Rob and Mary

Kidzcare Staff we met/helped us immensely: 

Dennis and Solomon 

A brief summary of the trip:

Day 1 - arrive and visit Poogu (school)
Days 2,3,4 - trip to Zanzibar
Days 5,6 - Travel to Isanga (Village where Kidzcare Schools are located) 
Days 7,8,9 - spent in Isanga
Days 10,11 - travel back to Dar
Days 12,13,14 - Children's home in Kyrege
Day 15 - packing/touristy area of Dar

Below is essentially a journal of our trip. It is rather long, but hopefully an enjoyable (to read) account of what we did and how we/I felt during those moments. I've tried to mention everyone on the trip, and hopefully I have because, as you will find out, all contributed to the trip and my enjoyment of it. I have not split it up into days; the above should help give you a gauge of that. Enjoy!

Travelling often passes in a bit of a blur and the two flights required to get us to Tanzania were no different. The day started with some frantic last minute packing after my mum raided the Waitrose healthcare department the previous night – she bought everything from 4 packs of wet wipes to blemish remover just in case. All too soon it was time to leave and filled with a mixture of excitement and nervous energy, I headed out the door and into the car. My mum had offered the three teachers who would be accompanying us on the trip a lift to the airport and after a tight squeeze with the luggage; we were ready to hit the road.

Again, the journey passed pretty much in a blur, with small talk that I doubt anyone will remember, not because it was boring but that was simply its nature, and pretty soon we were walking through the rain to terminal three. As the rest of the travelling party arrived, we exchanged stories of our week off, or not in some cases, and eventually we headed for check-in. This is always an interesting experience when in a group, but really I can't remember it nor much of the time spent in the terminal. We ate, others took the piss out of my Porsche bag (apparently its handling is poor) and we boarded a flight. I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be living down my DofE failure in Easter with all present, by the end, calling me Waphy and asking if I could make it to the Boonkhouse in honour of Dr Wigley. I do, if I am honest, find it slightly endearing so I wasn’t to fussed. In any event, my name varied from Raphael (only Mr Metcalfe) to Waphy (most boys) to Raph (Rev Jan and Mr Simm) to Rafa on occasion and even Lafa or Laphael – apparently Tanzanians aren’t big on ‘r’s.

The flight to Cairo passed without much incident and while we got a little lost trying to check-in for our connecting flight, we made it on to the flight to Dar without difficulty. This can be explained by the rather limited security checks carried out. By this time we were pretty much wiped with most of us grabbing some sleep on the plane while others had to endure incessant camera flashes as other groups took photos. A pretty sleepy Habs team dragged themselves of the plane and through security and we made our way into an open air terminal. Rickin was greeted by a rather dodgy looking guy who gave him a sim card that did or did not work or was expired or something. The bags were loaded onto a car heading for Rob and Mary’s house while we had a breakfast. Determined to live up to the “Habs Boys Tourist Standards” we all ordered burgers of some description bar Rufus and Anto who indulged in a slightly more Tanzanian chicken dish. I ordered an orange juice, to try and keep it breakfasty, and Ben delighted me with the knowledge that it probably contained ice made from the water that could kill us. Charming.
We barely had time to wash our hands before we thrown into the trip. Making our way to a school called Poogu, we looked forward to what lay ahead. We were shown around and introduced to many of the kids or, as we found out, adults - a lot of those we met were 18+ and surprised to learn we were merely 16/17ish. They all seemed rather happy and enthused to see us and conversation, despite the slight language barrier, seemed to flow. We then met some children who were disabled, called the para-boys. Perhaps rather cheekily, we challenged them to a football game thinking that we would win. Oh how we were mistaken. 

The phrase ‘tekkers’ was quickly used (by us) to describe how these boys were playing football. Dressed up in Barcelona shirts, they easily passed us to death in a way that Messi et al would be proud, despite having unfortunate disabilities. They had clearly adapted tremendously to not having a leg, for example, and although we took the lead couple of times, their superior passing ability shone through and a hard fought victory was theirs. We weren’t helped by some questionable keeping on my part and Rickin slicing an attempted clearance spectacularly into his own goal. Trying to justify the loss was difficult, although we did try - being incredibly tired, not being able to tackle them (a theory disputed when Sam, in a vent of fury, managed to push one of the para-boys over in the final minutes), it being rather hot and also the match lasting at least 4 hours long. Those doing nothing, we made a tunnel and clapped the deserved winners off the pitch before enjoying a refreshing drink. A quick present was given and we made our way to our base for the two weeks with our pride slashed and our footballing ability in question. 

Some down time was enjoyed at the house, perhaps too much by the boys who decided to put some toothpaste on my belly as a slept before waking me to, supposedly, clean it off. I can only remember having wet tissue rubbed on my stomach and for the first time in years, missing dinner (apparently) It wasn't too long before we were awoken (really early) to leave for our trip to Zanzibar, a relaxing 'touristy' excursion before the hard work we had prepared for would begin. It seemed that the beginning of our trip was jammed packed full of stuff, and no sooner had we landed we were off for a tour of a place called Stone Town with a guide who looked suspiciously like Dizzee Rascal. It seemed that news of our loss to the para boys had spread and we were given a slightly painful reminder of it aboard a lovely air conditioned bus.

Braving the smell of the fish market and helping a spice store owner to an early retirement followed before making our way to a spice tour. We quickly realized that Tanzanian spices were only good for making Pilau rice and tea, although it should be noted it makes good rice and the tea isn’t bad either. Apparently nutmeg is useful when wanting to make shy women 'very hot'. A had to be there moment, the guide said very hot in an out of character high voice, something Anto (and the rest of us) impersonated for the rest of the trip. We were treated to a rare sight - someone climbing a rather tall palm tree whilst singing before dropping some coconuts down for us to try.

Our accommodation for the two nights was a typically chilled place; most of us quickly fell in love with it and the owner who had clearly worked incredibly hard to 'make it' (quite literally). Essentially comprising of hammocks, huts and a bar, Ollie quickly asserted that it would be brilliant to bring his girlfriend, as all there was to do was have sex. Unfortunately sex deprived, despite the women that kept passing through, we lounged about until Mr Metcalfe decided it was time for the daily fitness session, something most of us seemed too keen to partake in. Peer pressure at its most evident, even I felt compelled to do it, although I was relieved when wearing flip flops ruled me out of the initial running. I am, however, still awaiting the effects – my belly remains intact.

Showered and clothed for dinner, we sat at the bar enjoying the freedom that comes with school trips - being able to drink (alcohol in case you were wondering). In my slightly tipsy state I ordered a cocktail called 'Papa Bowa', the name, apparently, of a demon that locals believed has sex with you during the night. Needless to say I slept rather poorly that night. This was unlike Rickin and Jeremy who spent what we believed to be a romantic evening in “the love nest”. 

Yet again we were awoken at an unG_Dly hour (it seemed Tanzania did not do lie-ins) but what lay ahead should have been worth it - swimming with dolphins. I'll tell you know, it probably wasn't or at least not for all of us. There was quite a bit of sea-sickness with an image of Ollie leaning over the boat looking particularly ill that Mr Metcalfe found rather humorous and while I did get some dolphins swimming right at me which was exhilarating and Jonny got touched, it wasn't that great. It was, however, (if you will forgive me for the word) good banter with the group and there was food, so it wasn't all bad. The journey back included a visit to a local festival where essentially men beat other men with sticks. Nothing more need be said on that.

The next few hours were suitably chilled, considering our environment. Some of us spent time in the hammocks, others enjoyed the view of the beach which was truly something else and on the whole we relaxed and had some chats. I was talking to Warren about my blog and how it makes me notice little things that happened, I told him to look out for the odd conversations that come about on these sorts of trips. This proved fruitful that very night when talking about aids and prevention etc over dinner that night, and continued to do so over the trip. Not exactly what we would talk about back home. We quickly reverted back to being Habs boys with a comedy night that shall remain on tour. Brilliantly funny though...

Having made it back to Dar safely despite security comprising of a rub of your knees, we prepared for a mammoth journey the next day. And when I say mammoth, it was around 11 hours, not including stops just to make it to our night stop over place. Before then though, we visited a supermarket to stock up in supplies - crisps and the like. Ollie decided (wisely) that he needed some mosquito repellent but instead ended up buying insecticide with a very clear 'don't get on your hands' symbol on the front. Proved useful in the long run though. Food bought, we headed back to the house to discover a lack of power that, apparently, was normal. Originally planning to get up at 4, it was to my amazement that we almost turned down the offer of 2 extra hours sleep but luckily reason prevailed and 6 was to be our wake up. Having been warned of potential ambush we set off. Other than the journey being incredibly long and uncomfortable for the bigger lads (I.e. Me), with a lot of stiffness in the knees when we stopped for a stretch, there isn't much to report. We did get to see a good amount of wildlife on the way and the sun set was truly incredible but really it was just a question of getting the miles done and reaching our destination. 

This was to be a craft centre which employed disabled or deaf people. Giving them a job and a way of (and I quote the lady in charge) "supporting themselves and others instead of requiring to be supported"' was the aim. We arrived just in time for the concert that was being put on - traditional dancing and the like. Rufus even joined in to the delight of the screaming (Habs) masses. Having had a long day we did leave slightly early to make it to our accommodation and get some kip before an even longer journey the next day. I was quite surprised by the accommodation – single rooms and en suites. Others decided it looked like a converted prison, an image that (when I think about it) rings true. Single rooms did not serve me well, waking up 15 minutes late and sheepishly making my way to breakfast.

Somehow I managed to swing the most comfortable and spacious seat possible for the journey ahead. Not only was this, but the driver in this car (called Dennis) turned out to be a complete and utter legend! He was great company throughout the trip and I will miss him! Good sense of humour and often singing, he taught us a traditional song in Swahili the lyrics to which are here:

Jambo – Hi
Jambo Bwana – Hi Sir
Habari Gani – How Are you
Mzuri Sana – Very well

Wageni Wakaribishwa – Foreigners you are welcome
Tanzania Yetu Hakuna Matata – In our Tanzania there are no problems

I've mentioned that travelling usually passes in a blur and the extremely long car journey was no different. But we, eventually, made it and every hour spent cramped in the back of a car was completely and utterly worth it. Why? Because we arrived at the school filled with smiling faces, all happy to see us. The local children were out en masse jumping and laughing and smiling as we exited the cars. We weren't exactly sure what to do but we got stuck in, got a camera, Frisbee and football out and it just went from there. The kids were completely fascinated by all items of kit, loving both taking photos and being in photos, almost fighting over position in any shots I tried to take!
There was a certain rush from the following few hours that I think will stay with me for years to come. The joy on these kids' faces was amazing and I think the entire group had an enjoyable time just playing with them. They seemed to love just holding your hand or being carried - the simplest of things really made their day; like waving at them from the car for example. It was what we expected the trip would involve and, I think, the best part so far. 

With there being no school on Sunday, it gave us opportunity to help out with the painting of the 2 schools in the area that Kidzcare founded. Mr Metcalfe, however, had a little surprise in store namely fitness (which to be fair, he did warn us about) at 7am. A longer than expected walk to the nearby lake followed and I for one was blown away. It was a spectacular sight - a vast lake surrounded by mountains (Mount Livingstone being one) with an endearing sense of calmness. Mr Simm decided he wasn't having any of the pouring water from a bucket showering arrangement back at the school and brought shower gel and shampoo and had a little wash. To be fair to him it wasn't actually a bad idea; something a few of us copied for our next visit. 

Fitness and bathing done, painting time arrived. I find painting incredibly therapeutic and got stuck in straight way, along with everyone else. It wasn't particularly arduous but it made a massive difference to the school building which had changed from a grey concrete to a vibrant orange. The only drawback was the orange seemed to attract all manner of insects, to the great displeasure of a few members of the working party. Having finished it was time for more beach, followed by dinner. Whilst fitness was taking place, I seemed to be eating far too well! 

Although I don't really wish to recollect the events that proceeded dinner, if I have to deal with them then so do you. Mr Metcalfe, usually a cheerful man, decided that a ghost story before bed was certainly a good idea. Most of the group just moved on and didn't think much of it, but I found it rather chilling and made my feelings known. Anyway, here it is:

There are two girls studying at the University of Leicester who are flatmates. That weekend one of them is going away for the weekend and is all packed up and about to drive off when she realizes she has forgotten her rail card. Knowing exactly where it is, she drives back to her flat, opens the door and picks it up off the table without turning on the light. Anyway, Sunday comes around and she returns to Leicester uni to find it covered in police officers. Making her way to her flat she discovers a tent set up outside. A police officer emerges and asks if she is Miss Robertson and she replies yes. He asks her if she minds helping with their investigation as her flatmate has been brutally murdered and there is something written on the wall in the flat. She agrees and makes her way upstairs where she sees the words: "bet you're glad you didn't turn on the lights", written in blood. 

As if that wasn't enough, Anto decided that I hadn't been scared enough and felt as though he needed to tell a similar ghost story which was even worse: 

There was an old man who lived alone but had a dog. Whenever he went to sleep he kept the dog under his bed and if he woke up or something scared him, he'd slip his hand under the bed for his dog to lick. One night he hears this dripping sound which wakes him up, so he puts his hand under the bed and sure enough, it gets licked so he goes back to bed. This repeats for a while - every so often he wakes up because of the dripping, puts his hand under the bed for his dog to lick and goes back to sleep. Eventually the dripping noise gets so bad he gets out of bed and turns on the light to see his dog strung up from the ceiling with blood dripping from his neck. On the wall is written "who is under the bed?" in blood. 

Chilling stories in my view, it did take me a while to get to sleep that night!

Having lost all concept of days and time, trying to remember the order, as well as when we did things is almost impossible. Having painted the school building, we went back the next day to see the kids in school. An eye opening experience, we spent time singing local songs with the kids and generally having a good time. More importantly it seemed the same could be said for the boys and girls. Same games, including duck duck goose, took place during break time which despite not quite getting the hang of, delighted all those who took part. Following this, we visited the General of the Tanzanian army's mother (namely the mother of the most powerful man in Tanzania) where we sampled some cocoa beans. They have an odd fruity covering which is simply delightful. There was some more painting to finish the work we started but it didn't take too long before some us departed for the beach, whilst others played some Mao. 

That evening was spent planning for our final day in the village - a sports day. We devised 6 rather simple events - stone and spoon race, flat out race, water bottle fill, tennis ball throw, sack race and an African game. I, rather ironically, was put in charge of the flat out race, something I greatly enjoyed even if I did almost get beaten by the winners of each race! The event was a great success, something that was never certain with 180 children who don't speak English and frankly could have been a nightmare to control. But it wasn't like that - the events ran smoothly, the kids had a great time as did, I think, the group. 

With sports day over, so was our stay. We were destined to get up the next morning early (again) for the start of our 2 day journey back to Dar, which would include a stop off at a safari park. We hadn't got out of the woods yet though, with breakfast at a restaurant in Kyela (a nearby town). On our way to the village we stopped for dinner there and to cut a long story short it wasn't very good - everything was microwaved for example. Having already given our bowels a strong test by eating there the night before, breakfast could have stretched us to limit. Sitting here writing this 6 hours later (still on the road), I am glad to report all seems well! Currently on our way to the Safari park, the road ahead seems endless but at least we can all look forward to a refreshing drink when we get there. 

After a ridiculously long day, the accommodation (however bad) would probably have been well received. Luckily, it was rather good with decent size beds and working toilets. Well, working until we got there! After 4 days of being careful about our toilet visits, most of us (if you'll forgive the graphic image) took the opportunity to unload and in Sam's case on numerous occasions. It was also to be our first proper meal since "the best restaurant in keyla" gave our stomachs a run for their money. With images of microwaved chicken still fresh in our minds, we were pleasantly surprised to find steak, curry and the like as we sat down with our beers (or in my case cider) to read the menu. Well deserved plates of food were enjoyed before a rather good sleep. 

We woke up to rain and the opportunity to have full English breakfast, instantly reminding us of home. Whilst both were a surprise, they were gladly received. The Safari that followed, on the face of it, seemed a good way to break up the 2 day drive. If I am honest though, it probably wasn't really worth it. Excluding the customary early wake up, we didn't actually see anything we hadn't seen from driving on the road on the way there. I think allowing us to wake up at our leisure - I.e. By 8/9 rather than 5.30 would have been preferred, something demonstrated when the entirety of my car bar Solomon (driver) fell asleep for the second half of the Safari. 

A long while later it was over. The final leg of our four day journey to get to Kyela and back finally ended 2200km after it began. How the three drivers (Rob, Solomon and Dennis) coped, I will never know. Never before had so many been so happy to simply be home. Not even losing my phone could bring me down, especially seeing as Mary had made burgers for dinner. We had great fun using Ollie’s spray to kill the huge amounts of mosquitoes in our room – genocide on truly mind-boggling proportions had occurred. The floor ended up covered in dead mosquitoes. The food, once again, proved to be better than we could have imagined. It got even better: there was to be a lie in, a proper one, until 10am. That is where the good news ended though, with a fitness session planned for 10. The refreshing dip in the sea afterwards, however, made it completely worth it. 

Brunch consumed (I know, brunch in Africa?!), we made our way to the children's home. It was, again, an eye opening experience. We “sang” some traditional songs, played some cricket and were treated to some excellent dancing. Determined not to be outdone, we did some dancing of our own to the delight of those watching. The laughter was probably at us rather than with us, but at least people were enjoying our attempts. Dinner followed before we stood round a small fire and toasted marshmallows for the kids and sang some more songs, this time English ones. This paragraph doesn't really do justice to the experience I, and I would say the rest of the group, had but it was remarkable. Amazing how such simple things like the singing and toasting marshmallows brought such joy to the orphans. 

That night saw a few of us taken ill. I shan't labour on the misfortune of others, although it was a miracle that I hadn't pulled a sickie to avoid a potential fitness session! I woke up to hear Rufus describing how he had chundered during the night when Rickin came out with a, or at least in my opinion, brilliant line - 'Rufus, are you sure you aren't allergic to the orphans?' Even the majestic Jonathon Tho was taken ill, it seemed as though even bacteria can’t resist a bit of Jonny. Luckily, there was to be no fitness that morning, or so we thought. 
Those who weren't dying of the plague made their way back to the home for the orphans where a compost block required building. This involved moving far too many 15 or so kg blocks far too longer a distance, something we just about managed and were so glad when we had done so. The kids seemed completely unmoved by their new compost block as they were otherwise engaged playing cricket, something they seemed to really enjoy. 

Having laboured all day, I, for one, was delighted at the prospect of going out for an Italian, taking Rob and Mary out as a thank you in the process. Our first meal close to what we eat if/when we go out at home did not disappoint, at least if you could hold the food down. This, for some, was a challenge. It was the next morning that I realized we only had one day left, that we had pretty much got through the 2 weeks with great success. All we had left was a church service, some time with a kids and a little touristy time on the next day. Had we really been to Tanzania and done all those things? 

The church service wasn't the most amazing thing I had been to. One definitely should avoid basing your opinion on church on American TV programs! It was an interesting experience, but a real shame that I couldn't understand any of what was being said (in Swahili). The church's welcome for us was brilliant though and it was nice to say that they would help with the Kidzcare project in any way they could. We followed church with more time with the kids, playing cricket and the like. All too soon it was time to say goodbye and one kid who I had spent a lot of time with called Hussein, found this a bit too much and started crying. It just showed how, despite thinking we weren't doing much, we really were doing a lot for these kids who appreciated our company far more than we could imagine.

It was nearly over. Nearly, but not quite - I still had the Tanzanian authorities to deal with. Having lost my phone I needed a police report for insurance purposes. Whilst everyone else was at the beach (which I heard later wasn't great) I made my way with Rob and someone whose name I never caught, but nonetheless was essential in the process. I had images of action films and being sat in a room with a flickering light whilst being quizzed on my (slightly) fabricated story. It wasn't quite like that, but I did walk into the police station to see a man just lying on the floor randomly in the middle of the room. About an hour later, we had established that I was indeed entitled to a police report and all that remained was to pay for it and get written. Could you pay for it at that police station? Or the next 3 we tried? No of course not. Never before had finding the guy who dealt with the money been so difficult. After a few hours of interesting travel in a tuc-tuc where more time was spent o the wrong side of the road we finally hunted this 'money guy' down, paid and eventually had the police report - a glorified piece of paper as far as I could tell. 

Packing swiftly followed before a final little drive down to a more touristy area of Dar where we could spend money on local (tourist and thus overpriced) goods. My dad did tell me not to buy him 'any crap' which pretty much ruled out the entirety of the goods on sale, but I did pick up a nice scarf for my sister. And with that, it was over. All that remained was a delightful dinner at Rob and Mary's. Having just finished that as I write this, I feel horribly full, very hot (no power and thus no fans etc) and can't quite wait to get home. I think a nice shower and long sleep are definitely in order. 

Assuming the travel home 'passes in a blur' I can't imagine writing any more about the trip. It has been, as expected to an extent, a truly remarkable and eye-opening experience. We, in my opinion, got on as a group much better than expected with virtually no bickering in spite of the harsh circumstances where being slightly considerate to other wasn't quite enough. Everyone on the trip has had their memorable moments, everyone has contributed massively to my enjoyment of it and for that I am truly grateful. While I am sure there were moments where some wished I wasn't there, I hope that I, in some way, contributed to the enjoyment of the trip for others as well. 

Hugh, I made a deliberate decision not to mention you in the main body of the trip. Because I am such a top bloke (and because you made such a big, if sarcastic, deal about being in my blog) I have decided that thanking you personally was necessary. Although this addition is meant to be slightly humorous, I do mean it when I say that I enjoyed your company on the trip. I hope you appreciate being part of my blog! Much love, Waphy.

If you have made it this far, you deserve congratulations – it can’t have been easy. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it because I certainly had fun writing it and experiencing the experiences I write about. Tanzania 2011 was an amazing trip, one I shall remember for a long time to come.

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