Me be be

So its 9:06 PM here in Dar and we’re all chilling out in the house, nothing much more to do other than write this first entry, which is good because its been such a mad day the vacant time in the evening is a welcome break. We are fortunate enough to have a PC in the house with internet connection, even though its on dial up and takes an age to load. So sorry folks, you’ll have to wait ‘till I’m back in familiar territory to see the pics. So much has happened in the last 48hrs it’s going to be difficult to recite it all now, but I’ll give it my best shot.

The journey out was pretty smooth, apart from a few blips; me thinking I had lost my passport in the airport the most noticeable, but after duly rediscovering it in my money belt and rushing to the departure gate to make up for lost time (!), things went smoothly. Qatar Airways were very accommodating. The first leg of the journey, London to Doha, was very smooth. Although there was a slight delay before taking off, we were kept entertained by the TVs and complementary drinks. Stepping off the plane into Doha was like entering a sauna, the hottest climate I’ve experienced for sure, so we were more than happy to wait for our connecting flight in the comfort of the air conditioned airport.

The second leg, Doha to Dar, wasn’t quite as comfortable, the only entertainment coming in the form of sleep; but that was OK as it was much needed at the time. The views on the final descent into Dar were overwhelming. Having bagged a window seat, I watched desert turn into parkland and parkland into the beautiful landscape of the Tanzanian coast. As we grew closer to touching down, Zanzibar island came into view and doubled in size as we descended, a sure promise of great times ahead with its beautiful white beaches, palm trees and clear blue water.

The airport in Dar is small. It took us a while to get through passport control and obtain a visa, but eventually we found ourselves, luggage in tow, looking out onto a sea of people waving bits of cardboard with names on. Fortunately I quickly spotted David our driver, holding a bit of paper bearing our names. As he drove us through the centre of the city in the foundation’s mini bus I was in total awe in this new world I had suddenly found myself in. So much color and vibrancy; free-for-all randomness seems to be an appropriate description as I passed thorough and absorbed the variety. People sitting on the edge of the road, jumping onto dalla dalla (public mini-buses), working in little tiny run-down shops, cars pulling out of roads left right and centre (although in spite of the madness the transport system seems to flow seamlessly). Dar is just such a hive of activity, something new to see around every corner. The poverty hits you the moment you leave the airport, but the vibrancy and colour of the city is nothing short of beautiful.

Pearly gates of the volunteer house

Pearly gates of the volunteer house

After about forty minutes of driving we find ourselves in a small town on the outskirts, well out of the busy city centre, and driving down a dirt track into a gated community of large, stately looking homes that must be owned by the relatively wealthy, or foreigners. We passed the police station on the corner, although I’m told if assistance is required I should phone for a taxi on behalf of the police if I want them to respond. Security isn’t an issue though, which was clear as we reached our destination and one of the staff at the house opened two large gates and we drove onto the gravel outside our new home for the next 3 weeks. Having just seen the poverty stricken slums of the city, I was really very taken a back in my initial impression of the house and its surroundings. A spacious room between the three of us, drinking water provided, a cook (Batiste), a chap who does the laundry and other odd jobs (Salumu), a driver (Mapunda) and security guards overnight and an awesome bunch of people to live and work with (15 in total), I couldn’t ask for much more whilst living in this part of world. After greetings we took a short two minute walk down a dust track to take a swim at Bahari beach, which was an awesome way to complete our short but sweet induction. Greeted by most of the youth of the village who make a weekly thing of meeting up on the beach and going for a swim on a Sunday, it was quite something to be welcomed by such warm and friendly people and immediately feel integrated into a society and culture in which I am in the distinct minority. After a light dinner, I retired to our room for an early night in preparation for the busy day that lay ahead, constructing a makeshift solution for our mosquito nets that kept the bugs from biting overnight.

Our house for the month

Our house for the month

In the morning we were greeted by the sight of palm trees and the warming sun shining through our curtain-less window, and I emerged for a quick breakfast before jumping on the bus to be driven to the school in Kunduchi, a nearby village. It’s not really a school, more of a youth club or centre, but was established last month by the foundation for those villagers who can’t afford to go to school. This is great as it gives us the opportunity to be part of a completely new establishment and nurture it as it finds its feet over the next few weeks. We walked into the village to be greeted by small children en masse. They all swarmed around us, clasping our hands and clothes, which was a striking introduction to the work we will be doing. With a child holding each finger, we took a short walk to the school for the morning session. We sat on the floor surrounded by 200 young children that filled much of the small hall that constitutes the school. It was fascinating stuff to watch the class taking place, practicing the English alphabet, basic words and singing songs.

The morning session lasted only a couple of hours, with time for playing with the kids afterwards on the grass outside. I did achieve participation in a football game with them for a short period, although it was difficult to move with kids clutching at your hands and demanding to be lifted up with endless cries of ‘me be be’ (lift me), also fascinated by the color of our skin and the way in which it goes a pale colour when pressed!

Playing with the kids

Playing with the kids

After the initial session at the school we went down to the beach with Roxanne, one of the volunteers, and bathed in the sun and warm water. Welcomed by the locals as always, I had a few interesting discussions as I watched local fisherman heave in nets they had put out by hand. We returned to the school for the second session at 3:30 which was sightly less demanding as it accommodates an older age group that are more fluent in English. We sat in the notably under-equipped store room of resources at the back of the hall and discussed teaching ideas with Jenny and Lauren, two other volunteers. After the session was over we had more time for ball games with the kids, which was great fun.

Bahari beach

Bahari beach

This evening we took a short bike ride, stopping for a few photos from a couple of guys from the Maasi tribe that we met previously on the beach (notorious for polygamy and their poor treatment of women, a tribe that continues to exist even in the city maintaining their cultural heritage). Roxanne showed us the way to get to the school on bike, so that we can cycle there tomorrow if we wish instead of getting driven. It was good to get a better understanding of the lay of the land.

This evening we are all just relaxing and winding down from the days events. I have written what seems like the first chapter of an epic novel on the eventful 48 hours that precede. But it seems appropriate to document my first full day here, and I am sure that as the week progresses I will have far less time for writing. I have omitted so much and have so much more to say, but writing it down just simply couldn’t do any justice to experiencing it all, so I’ll leave it there for tonight.

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