March 2009

ORPHANAGE: 

Construction has finally taken off and progress is being made.  In fact, we can hardly keep up with the masons.  They are called fundis here.  The problem is getting supplies.

Currently, in this tiny village there are two big projects happening at the same time.  The school is adding three classrooms and a staff office which is  the responsibility of the government organization called TASAF.  This,  along with the orphanage,  is keeping the ONLY tractor very busy getting rocks from the foothills and the villagers busy making gravel from large stones. (Note pictures, gravel is made by breaking stones with hammers or larger rocks)

This week I traveled to Iringa to the TRA (Tanzania Revenue Authority, like our IRS) to get the paperwork that will remove the taxes from cement purchases and the tin for the roof saving about $3,500 USD.   Iringa gave  their approval, and then I took the paperwork to the Ministry of Finance in Dar es Salaam.  All of this could be handled without me, but the process would take months.  I, being an American who believes “time is money”,   rushed  this procedure as the supplies needed now.  Trust me, everyone now knows Bibi Kay at the TRA in Iringa, the Sub-treasurers office in Iringa, the Ministry of Finance and the Tax Exemption center in Dar.  I just patiently (not really) wait until they find my papers and then I explain the need to expedite the process ASAP.  They are very kind to me, this old mzungu (white person.)

Note that the administrative building is almost ready for the trusses, but the wood supply is not plentiful since TASAF is at the same stage in construction, ready for the trusses.  Consequently, this puts a burden or strain on the villagers to go to the forests and cut down the trees.

I especially like the pictures of the village mamas and a few babas making gravel wearing the safety glasses that 3M Co. sent me.  Also, note the hardhats from 3M.  Not only is this a great safety feature, it makes the fundis feel very special having a hardhat, something they did not have.  Thank you 3M Co. in Maplewood, Mn.

NEEDS:

Americans have asked me what they could send to help out over here.  Well, lots of things.  Back in 2006 Annette Margarit from the law firm of Severson and Sheldon in Minnesota had a girl’s  soccer team, and they sent me 12 #5 soccer balls.  I have one left.  These kids here are absolutely crazy about soccer, called football in Tanzania.  They come to my house many times a day asking to use my ball.  Whether it is raining, cold or whatever, they play in a field where the grass is 12 inches high….they don’t care.  Some play barefoot as they don’t have shoes.  How they love that game.

Tennis balls are second best.  Pens and pencils are a big hit, too. Any used clothes are appreciated.  Also, flashlights (called torches here).  Actually, anything you send can be used with gratitude. Tote umbrellas would be a treat as this is the rainy season and the storms come daily.

A man recently sent me a soccer ball and two volley balls.  I don’t know this man, Jim Tyson, but he has sent two packages, the second one is in Njombe as I have not taken it back to the village yet to open….just received it from the Post Office before this week’s trip to Dar.

I will tell you the book that would help many, many students in secondary school (high school). It is a dictionary written by Nicholas Awde, Swahili  to English, English to Swahili, published by Hippocrene Books, 171 Madison Ave. New York, N.Y..  This is a book that I value as the “gospel” in helping to learn either English or Swahili.  Every student should have one.  I have only given away 4 of them.

TRAVEL:

The long bus ride from Njombe to Dar is about 12 hours, and the only nice part of the ride is going through Mikumi Park Preserve.  The tarmac road we use takes us for 50k. through a part of the park.

The trip to Dar in February was the most interesting.  I saw three herds of elephants, maybe 10 to 15 in each herd,  water buffalo, many beautiful antelope (forgot their true name), lots of giraffe and zebra, not to leave out the wort-hog family that ran close to the road.  All of these animals were very close to the road which is unusual.  Some Peace Corps Vols. have seen an occasional lion (simba) but I have not seen a lion in Mikumi, only at the Norogoro Crater up by Arusha.

TRANSPORTATION IN TANZANIA: 

I left Dar yesterday at 6 a.m. taking a taxi from the Econolodge, where I stay, to Ubungo, the bus terminal.  This is an unbelievable terminal, hundreds of buses all leaving around the same time.  Well, my bus, loaded with passengers, experienced lots of mechanical trouble.  The bus literally stopped on the highway and all of us got off waiting for a coaster bus or a friendly car to stop and take some of us to Makanbako.  Finally, a coaster came along and took some, then a Land Cruiser, then another coaster that I climbed into with my pineapples and oranges I had bought out the window of the bus in Morogoro along with my backpack, computer, briefcase and two bags.  What a mess.  I finally got to Njombe at 8 p.m..  No wonder I have lost weight….travel here is very difficult and I do not like to eat the food at the one bus stop.  So, I travel with power bars sent to me from U.S..

BACK TO STATES FOR A VISIT:

The other day I looked at my Emirates round-trip ticket and realized when I booked it last May, they would not give me a return for Sept.2009  as their computers could not book that far in advance.  So I noticed my ticket had a return date of April 28th, so I plan to come home for the month of May to see family and friends.  I believe Fredy, the supervisor of construction, can handle things while I’m gone, though he is a little worried.  Fredy is rather “soft” whereas I am a little tougher. I’m sure he will do just fine.  I am a little homesick for family and friends.

I will get another newsletter off in April with pictures before I leave for the U.S…

BBK

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