The African Blog.....The below blog contrains a number of entries from our time worling in Moshi Tanzania, and our travels in Zanzibar, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.
15/12/2008 - The last leg of the African Journey
15/12/2008 - The end of the African Adventure
...bidding farewell to Moshi
The African adventure definitely ended on a high note for us both especially for Eoin who enjoyed stuffing himself in an all your can eat famous meat restaurent in Nairobi called Carnivore. We all know team focus loves a challenge and the idea of this restaurant was they continue bringing down delicious meats until you surrender by lowering the flag on your table. We like to think we beat the system. Nairobi (aka Nairobbery) was actually much more pleasent then we expected too, although we were only there for a day.
The main reason, however, for our African adventure ending on a high note was the fact the building works were completed and the kids, plus their minders have now moved into their new homes which you can see in the "Photos" section on Africa. The last day in school was pretty emotional in the end, we began to realise what an impact the children had made on us whilst in Moshi. It was their last day of the school year (which runs from Feb to Dec) so we threw an end of term party. It was great fun and the kids pretty much sang solid for about 3 hrs, until we brought out the baloons, sweets and a few other goodies, and the sugar high ensured chaos broke out.
It was encouraging for us to see how well most of the students did in their end-of-year exams that we spent the last 2 weeks of term helpling to prepare and then grade. Given that the school is English medium and very well-run, they are in a good position to do well in secondary education (which is taught in English in Tanzania, despite the fact that most primary schooling is through swahili hence why many pupils, if they manage to pass the English test to get into the secondary education system, subsequently fail due to poor english comprehension) We would like to think that their opportunities later on in life have been improved immensely as a result of the Tanzanian Children Concern work. We were reflecting on the volunteering work and concluded that, despite the frustrations and problems we sometimes encountered dealing with some of the adults in Moshi, it was the children who really gave us hope that maybe the next generation will have sufficient education and motivation to help improve the fate of the country. They really were full of enthusiasm and very happy despite the tough conditions some oof them found themselves in... in fact over the course of the 3+ months we only saw 1 child cry, a fact that speaks for itself.
We will mention this in another email directly to those who sponsored us, some of the funds we raised are still remaining, we spent over half of the monies received completing the building. the balance we have some good ideas for including sponsoring some of the bright orphans through secondary education or alternatively, if enough money is raised from other sources, the funds will be used towards the creation of a new orphanage in the existing community, as they only rent the school premises at the moment (a project which we were heavily involved in the planning phase, and is now moving into call-for-funds phase).
...one final trip
Before we left East Africa We decided we would take a trip down to Malawi (we had to leave Tanzania and re-enter because our 3 month visa had expired anyway, and the bribe the immigration "officials" were demanding was just obscene). For a start, that involved navigating our way through the Tanzanian transport system, a dodgy border crossing ..... and much more, a good-value-for-money 3 days of adventure to just get to Malawi!
We left Moshi on the 28th of November, fulfilling the classic Tanzanian Rite of Passage, the Moshi - Dar Es Salaam bus ride (the most dangerous road in the country apparently, although to be honest we had encountered worse!). Following a 3 month theme of "eventful" transport, the final 2 weeks didn't disappoint. The bus we got from Moshi to Dar es Salaam was state of the art (circa 1975), with a big logo on the front of the bus "Glory to God", and this seemed to inspire our driver to play chicken with everything from cars, to dump trunks, over and under-taking on blind corners, and generally the whole 8 hour journey to Dar, both of us were on the edge of the seat the whole way, but at least we had our own seat for once, a priviledge on buses in Africa. (see tips below on African Bus Experiences)
Once in the Dar Es Salaam, we caught a few hours sleep in the sauna conditions of the capital (how we wished we spent the extra $3 on air conditioning) and then started on Stage 2 of the journey down to Malawi. This time we got a 6am bus with Scandinavian Express, we read great reviews about this crowd on the net, but later realised these reviews were from the 1980's, the buses were a fair bit outdated, but still not bad. To shorten the journey, "Commando" was being shown on the VCR machine on the way down, what a classic.
After 15 hrs of sitting on a bus with no toilet, (note, not a great idea to risk a spicy indian the night before!!) we arrived at Mbeya. The drive down was actually beautiful, with effectively a free safari thrown in as the main road went through a national park where we saw elephants, zebras etc on the side of the road. On a scarier note we came across 3 buses & trunks on the side of the road, which had gone straight off or overturned. Fortunately in looked like there were no serious injuries in the accidents we saw but it made the remainder of the journey fairly worrying, although in fairness we had been warned that this particular bus journey was renowned for accidents.
Mbeya is fairly similar town to Moshi where we lived, primarily used by travellers as as stop off point before reaching the border to Malawi. The last leg of the Tanzanian side (Stage 3, Day 3) was the 5 hour bus journey from Mbeya to Kyela. When we could actually peep out the window of the dala-dala, this was actually a beautiful journey, the countryside down here was stunning and got ever better as we approached the dirt roads of Kyela with lake Malawi in the distance.
We didn't actually go the whole way to Kyela, we jumped off at this dirt road, which we hoped was a place called Songwe, this is meant to be the border town before entering Malawi, as usual there was no signposts to be seen or people willing to assist you without throwingf some mula into the equation, so off we headed in the direction of lake malawi with our backpacks hoping we were going to reach the border.
After about 20 minutes walking to our delight we reached the border, our instincts that Malawi was in the direction of Lake Malawi proving spot-on. The crossing was actually grand and straight away we noticed the difference between a Tanzanian and Malawian. They were actually friendly!! We got charged no Visa fee!! No bribe money required at the border!! And they didn't have a special rip off price for Mzungus. Most of the time anyway. It was very refreshing and our blood pressure almost immediately subsided. We worked our way down from the border to Karonga, then from there on another Dala-Dala or matola as they are called in Malawi to a campsite called Chitimba. This is where our love for Malawi started. Chitimba had a brilliant location, right on the beach front (yes! a lake with a sandy beach, and waves and even a small tidal change!!) with the beautiful Livingstonia mountain range behind. Only problem were the few field mice around the place which freaked Grainne out. We chilled out here for the evening, left the rucksacks behind and hiked up the mountains to Livingstonia the next day. The walk up took about 4hrs in the heat of the day which was pretty tough going. We had good banter with some of the local fishermen en route chatting to them about Jean Claude Van Damme, Rocky, Rambo, etc they seemed to love the old action heros/tough guys! While in Livingstonia, we stayed in one of the most original places we have ever been, a place called Mushroom Farm run by an Aussie called Mike. The place was unreal, mud huts, compost toilets, everything unique and different, plus the main drawing point, the most amazing views ever down on the lake Malawi below. (the first of many accomodations in Malawi to be actually making an effort to be eco-friendly) We stayed here for a couple of days, doing long walks up to waterfalls and just generally chilling after the long journey down from Tanzania.
Next stop in Malawi was Nkhata Bay, this place was a great little town, right on the lake, and our room for about $8 a night was a wooden hut jutting out on the lake front. We spent the next 3 days chilling here, swimming, canoeing and snorkeling in the lake which was like a big aquarium, with loads of tiny colourful fish (chiclids). We went for a few runs to explore the area too, the locals were definitely not the running type and it seems not many backpackers do running either, we got a few curious stares. One afternoon when we went to the local craft market (Malawi is famour for its wooden carvings), all the vendors recognised us as The Runners. It worked to our favour, as one of the stall-holders liked Eoin's old running shoes so much (the same ones he was planning on leaving behind him in Africa due to all the holes in them .. the same holes now classified as "cutting edge ventilation") he managed to haggle an old TNT Touch rugby t-shirt and the battered runners for a quality hand carved jewellery box.
After Nkhata Bay, we worked our way back up to Chitimba for a night, then following the reverse bus route to Tanzania. We had a bit of drama with Chitimba when we made it back there, given we arrived late at night and the nearest accomodation is about 3hrs away, we were a bit stressed when we found out they had given our room away, as a result we ended up sleeping in their computer room for the night, not the best night sleep in the world, in total I'd say we got 30 minutes each and got out of there first thing in the morning.
The journey back to Dar es Salaam was relatively painless with no real drama on the bus either. Once there it was off to Zanzibar for 3 nights, we stayed in Matemwe hotel up in the north east corner, then Pongwe beach for our final 2 nights there, this was the place we tried to book for our honeymoon originally and it was great that we finally made it there, absolutely stunning altogether, made even better with the free "honeymoon champagne", probably fleadhing the honeymoon thing 4 months later!! Was a sweet ending to the African trip, coming back to this paradise island.
Truly a brilliant experience in Africa, would recommend it to anyone, the hassle was worth it in the end, and working with the local community put a whole new perspective on life for both of us.
Next up the 2009 travels :-)
The African Bus Experience, a few tips...
You arrive at the bus station (muddy field outside of town with a lot of buses). People yell out where their bus is going, each name competing in volume with the next over the horns that are constantly honking. Punters grab your arm and pull you towards their bus. Sometimes you can shake them away, sometimes you have to be more forceful to prevent being shoved into a bus you don't want.
After enough exploring, fighting and evading the ticket sellers you find your bus, although a leap of faith is generally required.. it's always a bit of a gamble as to where it is actually going because everyone lies to get you on the bus anyway. Never make the fatal mistake of allowing anyone to touch your bag. Insist you put it in the aisle of the bus and don't let it out of your sight until it is at least too buried in boxes, bicycles, chickens, grains and bags for someone to easily snatch it.
Once you get on the bus the fun really begins. You will inevitably be charged at least 5 times the actual price by the "conductor" (althougfh there is ususally much ambiguity as to who is the actual conductor, there seems to be 4 or 5 such agents moving between buses, trying to pull people onto to random vehicles). When they tell you the price the first two times don't' even acknowledge them. The third time is when you show disbelief and horror. The fourth attempt, you look tough and only then should you begin to bargain. The bargaining process starts with you trying to get out of your seat and negotiate your way off the over-loaded bus until the conductor blocks your way. The sixth price finally coomes down to about double what the locals will pay. The conductor is happy because he overcharged you and gets to pocket the excess and you are because at least you gave it your best shot and anyway you are used to paying a Mzungu price.
Carefully monitor your liquid intake because you won't have a chance to pee all day. You'll sit there a couple more hours waiting for the bus to fill up, and it is too packed to fight your way off the bus, even if there wasm by some miracle, a toilet in the bus station. And anyway, the bus would surely take off as soon as you stepped off, and you'd be left watching your bags disappear into the horizon at 100mph. Whilst you wait for the bus to "fill" (i.e. at least double the number of passengers as there are seats on the bus), mobs of hawkers cicle the bus selling bread, drinks, eggs, bags, watches, sunglasses, spatulas, pencil cases, egg-cups, socks and anything else you could imagine. If they don't have what you want, they'll find it.
The isles slowly fill up with people, cargo, and livestock. Eventually the bus takes off over the potholed road. The heat of the day means the sweat sticks your legs to the faux-leather worn seat which is quite a handy shock-absorber for going over such a bumpy road. If you're lucky you won't have anyone sitting on your lap, but you will probably have a box or a sack of rice or something. You will most likely be sharing a seat with a complete stranger, to whom your leg becomes sealed by the aforementioned perspiration.
No matter how many times you have done it, and how much you have learnt from past experiences, a bus journey in Africa is a journey of false hope. The bus starts to pick up serious speed and you begin to believe, against your better judgement, that you might actually gain some ground. But then it stops again for more people to clamber on and off. Each time it stops hoards of people rush up to it with more goods bobbing up on sticks to reach up to the windows. Hair comb anyone? Can you be tempted by meat on a stick or a mirror perhaps? A tie? It certainly seems improbably and I used to wonder how anything was sold but I did one witness a fellow passenger buying a vegetable peeler.
Back on the bus, the air smells of sweat, puke, corn and hay. The smell is probably the worst aspect of the African Bus Experience. The noise is also generally deafening. Usually your obvious lack of comprehension, fails to deter the person next to you from long-winded monologues. Just nod and smile.
Eventually you make it to the final destination, and sure enough, the conductor lied to get you on the bus and it is not where you meant to wind up. But never mind, no matter where you are in Africa a mini bus (dala-dala) will appear. These are much worse then the luxury buses I have just described.
Once again, you wait for it to fill up. Eventually you set out, techno music blaring. You cruise around the parking lot a few times honking for good measure. The honking appears to be necessary. The driver is sure to do it every 20 or 30 seconds throughout the trip. You drive a little then slow down. People pile in while the van is still moving. The object is to fit as many people in as possible. There is always room for one more in Africa. At one time there are 34 people, their luggage and a few chickens in a pimped up high-ace van made for 11. You are a tangle of limbs, torsos and heads, not sure where you begin and the others end. If you have an itch forget about it.
The vans are usually in poor condition. They seem to be missing bits you are sure are essential for motion. In between stops the driver tries to make up time by going as fast as possible. The best course of action is to just close your eyes and pray. Looking is far too scary, especially because the driver is usually swigging sips of local whiskey as he goes. Still, locals manage to doze of on the ride, the person who is sitting on your lap dribbling on your arm.
Every time you stop, the conductor has to throw himself at the door to get it to slide open. Then, he puts it back on its hinges while running along side of it. You are driving down the road when the door falls off completely. Out goes your backpack, some bag and the chickens get a chance to run for freedom. No chance, this conductor has been training.. They cram it all back in and continue on. Just another day on public transport in Africa.
20/11/2008 - The good, the bad and the ugly.....
The GOOD ....
A long time since the last update we know, but that's mainly a sign of how busy we have been. We have actually been a bit stressed over the last week as we realise our time working on the project is running out and there is so much work to do before we leave. The work in the new school has been goining great for the last 6-8 weeks, we have been spending our time teaching the kids primary school subjects (much of it has been an education for us too ... who knew there was a tense in English called past participle?! ... not to mind Grainne walking in on another volunteer's maths class one day to find him teaching the standard 4s that the small hand was for minutes and the big hand for hours!!) A typical school day involves an 8am start, with break at 10:00-10:30 for the kids to have some awful looking watery porridge and we have some chai tea & fried dough balls with the other teachers (although thannkfully we have yet to succumb to the African custom of shovelling in 3-5 spoon-fulls of sugar). Then lessons again from 10:30-12:30, with lunchbreak from 12:30-1:30 and finally last set of classes from 1:30-3:40. Whether it's the heat or what (most of the classes are semi-outdoors with only partial shade), we are usually pretty bate after the day teaching, our respect for teachers and the teaching profession in general has increased a lot!!! It's pretty knackering having to mind the kids all day long, but hugely rewarding when you see them making progress.
Outside of the teaching we have also been working hard on the project front and we have started to make use of the donations we received. (Please note, that we have not been able to update the website while in africa due to the poor internet connection, relying on Eoin's brother Daire to update the blog from ireland for us, so for those whose names are missing on the donations list, we will add your info, etc at christmas when we are back in Cork, along with pictures of the projects, school, children, and more.) All of the above teaching work is in relation to the Pasua orphanage/school run by Tanzanian Children Concern about 1-2 mile outside moshi town. On the odd occasion we are still assisting the children in Newlands orphange as well, mainly by taking them to the hospital, the doctor or the dentist, which we had to do yesterday. Hard work considering the healthcare is so poor here, you can be waiting for hours without being seen.
About 40% of the funding we received has also gone into employing an army of builders, carpenters, electricians, transportation trucks, welders, masons, etc over the last few weeks to help us finish off two new buildings for Tanzania Children Concern. These buildings are where the orphans from TCC are going to move into in early December, one for the girls and a female mama/teacher and one bigger one for the boys with the pastor and his wife. Currently as it stands we have 14 orphans living in the school, the 6 girls in one small classroom and the 8 boys living in a bigger classroom. Outside of the bunk beds, they have nothing there... no running water, very little clothes/personal possessions, no living area or room to just play etc... so we can't wait to see their faces when they move into their new homes. Hopefully we'll be able to use the funds on getting them some new clothes and a few toys as well. Orla is here at the moment and as well as cataloguing and photographing all the sub-stations and power lines in the area she has made it her mission to "bring amperes to Africa" (her words, not mine, although a little poetic license always permitted of course and I know she can't access this website at work ;o) she just invested in 20 lightbulbs for the new buildings (energy saving of course) Also she is helping with kitting out the new house, putting her wonderful home-making skills to use.
We will put pictures up on the website when we are back in Ireland in December and have a decent broadband connection. The buildings are super, finished very well, and very homely, plus right in the middle of the community which will be great for the orphans. Last task remaining is finishing off the security wall which surrounds the house and connecting the electricity up, which we are waiting for the electricity supply board to complete. The security wall is meant to be finished this Saturday 22nd November, when the final metal spikes are put on top of the walls.
A sample of items purchased with the funds include 1,000L water reserve tank, (we are connected to the mains water supply but it is common for the mains supply to fail regularly hence the reason for the water tanks, most houses here have them), pipes for plumbing, internal and external to the reserve tank, creation of the reserve tank stand, foundations for the stand, bags of cement (a lot of them for the foundations, walls, plastering, etc and £2.50 for this poor fella who had to carry the cement in the back of a cart minus a horse for a few miles for us!!), stones, stone chippings, bricks, spikes for security wall, iron rods for the gate pillars, metal gates in front of the doors for the house, tools, brushes, large main metal entrance gate, wardrobes for bedrooms (working with carpenters to design and finish), mosquito nets, curtains, etc and hiring labour, at the ridiculous price of £2-£5 per day for the brickies !!! Imagine it would cost a lot more to hire brickies back in Ireland or the UK to lay 100 bricks a day, although the health and safety on site leaves a lot to be deired: no hard-hats in sight, never mind steel-cappeed toes - most of the builders are in bare-feet or flip-flops at best, rickety scaffolding you wouldn't send you cat up on...) Although we've had some problems with builders being a bit lazy (in this heat can't really blame them), generally the workers are quite skilled here with limited equipment and resources. As it stands the 2 houses are 95% complete, after the school exams next week which finish on the 28th November, we hope to move the kids in assuming our friends from the electricity board get their act in gear which like a lot of things here might involve a bribe to speed up the process but hopefully not, we could always buy a couple of gas lamps instead.
On the bigger project front we have made great progress as well, working with some local business men, a fella called Bunty who owns a large flower company, Path to Africa directors, Tanzanian Children (TCC) directors and the social welfare department, to produce a feasibility study reviewing options for the creation of a new orphanage for the Pasua community in Moshi working in partnership with TCC. After completing the feasibiliy study, we started to define the framework for how the joint venture will work, including organisation structure, terms of reference for each position and their duties, financial structure in relation to signatories for the bank accounts, withdrawal/deposit process and limits for withdrawls, memorandum of understanding between PTA and TCC, and finally the proposal document, in relation to where the new orphanage will be located, capacity in terms of children it will support over the coming years, costing, etc.
All this information will be put up on the website over the coming weeks, should you be interested in reading about it. The proposal document is being created in order to circulate to some of the main contributors to Path to Africa projects who will hopeefully sponsor the future orphanage costs, in terms of capital but with the long-term goal of contining the good work of TCC and having the day-to-day costs paid for by the community and from income generating projects, their own crops, chickens, etc and minimal school fees for those in the community that can afford it such that at some point in the future they will not be reliant on any form of external funding and will be totally self-sufficient.
More of THE GOOD... outside of the work front other good news, includes the fact we had our first visitors from Ireland and London over the last couple of weeks, and received loads of chocolate to Grainnes delight and mine too!! Of course it was nice cathing up with the gang too..! Orla, Dave, Brooke, Mark and Marie-Louise joined us over the last 2 weeks, during which we took a break and headed off on Safari in our very own Banter Bus - Africa style to Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. SPectacular is one word that comes to mind, these places would be beautiful without any animals, but when you have male and female Lions walking less that 1 foot from your safari truck, along with hippos, elephants, giraffes, impala, zebra .... it blows your mind away. Highlights included watching a Cheetah stalk and attack a small baby gazelle right in front of us, (although disturbing watching the distressed mum running in circles after it); a Lion marking his territory next to the Banter Bus, trying to impress a lioness, who was having none of it (we waited for an hour watching his pathetic attempts, but to our disappointment they never "did it like they do on the discovery channel"); elephants walking through our camp site in Ngorongoro campsite, (we had to eat in metal cages in case lions or hyenas came in search of food in the National Park campsites).
There were a few problems with the tour company, as expected in Africa, but all in all amazing 5 days, would recommend it to anymone, highlight being the Ngorongoro crater. It was funny how we evolved over the trip: at first we were so quiet and respectful when we saw our first lions, whispering, etc and by the end we were hollowing out of our safari jeep making dead animal noises, etc to try and get the animals to move and do something exciting ... admittedly not proper safari etiquette but some craic all the same :-) It's a wonder we're not barred from the Serengeti, although we are going to blame the guide for our antics, he made the mistake of making "distressed animal noises" the first day that resulted in two lions waking up from their sleep and looking directly at us. Although of our attempts (particularly Dave I might add) I suppose "moo-ing", "baaa-ing" and "oinking" aren't quite the distressed animal sounds that one might find in the Serengeti...
Brooke and Dave have been in Zanzibar for the past week, Orla has just gone there for a few days, but she'll be back next week to help out some more with the end of term exams and the new building, so thanks again Orla! We also took Brooke and Dave out to the school and project to give them a look into what we have up to over the last few months.
More good things include our hike we did over a month ago now to Mount Meru, it was a 3 day hike, up the 2nd highest mountain in Tanzania behind Kilimanjaro, standing at 4,562 metres. The hike was brilliant, first day was like a safari, as we walked through Arusha national park, passing buffalo, zebra, giraffe on the way finishing at our base camp for the night up at 2,500m. The next day we did a hike through dense forest, bumping into columbus monkeys, heartebeast and trees that were like something out of a Lord of the rings movie with cob-webs and all sorts hanging off them, really cool place. This brought us up to Saddle Hut at 3,500mt our base camp for the second night, and then we did an afternoon hike up to 3,800mt called little Meru to help acclimatise to the high altitude which causes dizziness, headaches and just zaps the energy. The top of this had amazing views of the national park below and the town of Arusha. The 3rd day was tough enough but extremely rewarding... we started the hike just after mid-night and had to walk and climb along very difficult terrain to get to the top at 4,562 metres 5 hours later. Under the cover of the most amazingly star-lit sky with just out head-torches the only artificial light for miles and miles. At times we were hanging onto the rocks with vertical drops below, and the way back down was nearly worse as we could actually see the vertical drops as the sun had come up by then... vertigo-inducing for even the least faint-hearted! Our guide came down with altitude sickness and one of the porters ended up taking us to the summit, with no medical kit, oxygen tanks, or anything useful in case of mergency except for his mobile phone which probably had no credit on it anyway :-) Being above the clouds Watching the sun rising over Kilimanjaro, and the sun burning off the clouds to give a fantastic panorama of Northern Tanzania was one of the highlights of the trip so far.
Of course we've also had the US elections this month ... the Obama effect is hilarious over here, he is being treated as a hero by all the locals, but I suppose that's not too hard when you consider who he replaced :-), everything from cars, buses, buildings, stall's, mobile phone screensavers, even skirts, have images and slogans supporting him, fingers crossed he lives up to his promises.
We managed to persuade a local bar called Glacier to search through their sports channels the night ireland were playing New Zealand in rugby union, it waS GREAT to get to see a game of rugby over here, the locals didn't have a clue what they were watching on tv, wondering who sat on the ball and squashed it. Shame it was such a poor performance by Ireland. On the Munster front gutted they didn't beat New Zealand in the end, so close, that's the game I would love to have seen, fingers crossed I'll see it at christmas.
The Bad ....
Crown Royal. Worst safari company ever. They should be blacklisted for being such a useless safari tour company, they were just lucky the guide they hired for us was so good, we got the vehicle we wanted and the safari was unreal. The bad was these shower of cowboys tried to fleece us for money, didn't book our first nights accomodation, didn't pack any sleeping bags for us which we had to pick up on the way, and we didn't have all the pegs for our tents.
Especially after the last week, both of us, and in particular Eoin will have to take some anger anagement classes !! in the space of 6 days, we had the tour company trying to rip us off, a guy in a hotel charging us double for our drinks and meal, builders not working on the school site for the day when they were meant to they were instead lying about not being able to get into the house which was open, our pastor at TCC who lied to us about all the properties not being in the schools name, which we are rectifiying with the notary public next week, and finally a dentist trying to overcharge for some work on one of the orphans from Newlands after we agreed a price up front for the work.
It's been like a roller coaster here at times, sometimes we finish dinner, reflect on the day with a massive smile which isnearly always attributed to the kids, whether it be from Batona who was chuffed with his teeth being fixed, (the guy had these rotten black teeth and then after about a half day sitting in the dentist chair, he has ended up with lovely caps on his teeth and fillings in his back teeth that were causing him pain). Other examples are the excitment on the kids faces when we are telling them they will be able to move out of the school classrooms very soon, into their new home, or when you are teaching them something like "30 days hath September, April, June ...." and they recite it back to you the next day or you here them singing it in the morning. All these little small things make everything worthwhile, getting greeted by a little army of kids in the morning, shouting "Teacher Eoin" or "Teacher Grainne", which helps in drowning out all the other crap that happens here, especially the adults when it comes to anything money related.
So what else was bad, Gordon Brown would want to sort out the UK economy, or savings for travels are taking a fair old hit now since the £ has been doing so poorly, since we landed here, we have seen nearly a 20% fall in value of the £ versus the local currency, making things a little bit more expensive.
The Ugly ....
Just put in to make the title for this blog update sound good :-) All in all our african experience has een amazing to date, in some respects we wish would could stay here for longer to finish off the work we have started, we will miss wakling up in our tent every morning, heading out for a jog up the hill to amazing viewing points of Kilimanjaro but there are some great people here who will be continuing this project we are working on and giving up their time to assist the children. For us, we will be helping supervision of the exams next week, Grainne spent this week typing up about 20 exam papers after she finished her teaching lessons, then with a bit of luck we can move the children into their new homes, and say a happy goodbye to Moshi and our volunteering experience. After this it is on to Malawi for a few days as our Tanzanian 3 month visa is running out very soon, then flying home from Kenya on the 16th Dec which we are both looking forward to.
Thanks again for all the donations, it's been fairly stressful putting them to good and honest use given some of the issues faced out here, but the funds have really made a difference for so many kids here. As it stands, we still have a significant portion of the funds left, we will provide a more detailed breakdown over the coming weeks in terms of where they will be spent. If our main joint venture project has all the legal documents signed over the coming weeks, then these remaining funds will be used to purchase the land for the new school with additional funds from other donors, alternatively the funds will be put towards clothing, medical and secondary school fees for the orphans in Newlands or TCC and food/school supplies.
Hope you're all doing well, this will probably be our last update until we are back in Irland. Slan Eoin and Grainne
Finally, the bit you've all been waiting for, the "funny stories" section...
Our latest transport escapade (am sure after our 3-4 day journey down to Malawi we will have much more to add to this encyclopedia) ... coming back from Mt Meru we called a cab which we agreed to pay $20 to take us to Arusha, about 40km away. About 10km into the journey the car went dead. After about 30 minutes of phone calls and searching under the bonnet, the driver paid some local guys to push it along... we assumed it was just the usual push-start, but once they pushed for about 200yards and we got to the top of a hill, we just rolled down the hill for about a km (turns out he was out of petrol). The next 3 or 4 times we got to a little incline, Eoin got out and pushed the car for a few hundred yards (with the 4 of us in the back-seat in stitches!) to the top of the hill and again we rolled down a km or so (lucky the journey was mainly downhill). It was maybe the most eco-friendly car journey we've ever made. We got to the main road to Arusha eventually, with still 20km to go, so we decided to hop in a dala-dala to take us the rest of the way. Amazingly the driver still got really angry when we only gave him half the fare, he was expecting the full amount!!
Our latest hobby - punching the sides of the tent and watching the lizards fly through the air out into the garden. Well there's not aa whole lot to do here...!!
A couple of funny quotes that we have come across recently include "money is better than ducation" being taught by the English teacher here at the hostel who is teaching the staff every day, whenever money comes into the coversation they have massive debates on it. if only they realised that education is so much better than money !!
"God hates corruption" another funny slogan, especially as it is the slogan for a currency exchange bureau, which looks as dodgy as they get.
Keep Lefti = Roundabout
Sleeping bagi = Sleeping bag
Cementi = Cement
Spiki = Spikes
Reserve tanki = Reserve tank
Noticing a trend ....
27/10/2008 - Our tent, Moshi, Tanzania
| || |
Been having a few problems with the old internet connection over here, but we eventually managed to post some pictures of our time in Africa so far on Facebook, there were a few photos from our time in Moshi working at the Orphanage, Rwanda, Uganda and Zanzibar, hopefully will have these pics and a few more up on the webpage soon as well.
It's hard to believe we have been in Africa for 7 weeks now, it's even harder to believe what has been going on around the world, especially with the financial crisis, our exit seems to have been timed well!! Sterling plunging versus the $ making our travels slightly more expensive, Munster still kicking a$$ in Europe, although I still haven't found a place to watch the Heineken Cup games and Liverpool leading the premiership :-), I saw my first live premiership game yesterday, Chelsea vs. Liverpool, I watched it in a local pub called Malindi's, I think I was the only Liverpool fan there, I got a fair few looks when I cheered the goal. It seems all the Africans over here mainly support Chelsea or Arsenal and then hate the rest, good craic all the same.
This update is a little later then planned, "pole" ("sorry" in Swahili) but here is how everything has been going on the project front and updates on where all your kind donations have been and will be used over the coming months. To date we have used very little of the money donated for a number of reasons as listed below, but we expect this to change rapidly over the coming weeks as we have now found some very good projects to work with and more importantly individuals running these projects who we know we can trust and who are doing amazing jobs:
1. There have been a number of problems with the current orphanage "Newlands" which we were working with on a full time basis when we arrived but we are now only working with on a part-time basis (1 day a week until Dec), see below for more info
2. Unfortunately there are a few corrupt characters out here, who are looking to profit by exploiting children i.e. setting up schools/orphanages but using all the funds then on themselves with little to no benefits of the funding going to the children. We even met a local pastor running a massive school/orphanage giving us advice to never trust an African when money is involved, which is sad but seems to be true quite often out here. This has been a big reason why we have been reluctant to hand over some of the donations to projects thus far.
3. We have spent considerable time reviewing a whole range of projects including schools, orphanages, community self-sustainability projects, etc in the local Moshi area to come up with various ideas and to find a project to partner with, which we seem to have now managed.
When we arrived in Moshi I was thinking we would be building schools, classrooms, teaching kids, etc and what we have ended up doing is spending the last few weeks researching, writing & putting together a feasibility study on finding a local community based organisation i.e. orphanage/school who Path to Africa can partner with on a long term basis as the Newlands linkage will be finishing from December. Meetings, writing reports, project analyses ... just like home!
The work has been very interesting, as we have met a host of people doing some amazing things out here, helping children in need, taking kids off the streets, helping communities become self-sustainable by growing their own crops, setting up piggeries, etc. Even though this work is maybe not as rewarding as construction work, for example, since you don't see directly the fruits of your labour, it is where our skills lie. We have come to realise there isn't much point putting clueless volunteers building a wall (that will probably fall down within a year!) when skilled manual labour is available and relatively cheap out here. One area we can really add value is by applying project management, analytical and organisational skills.
To complete our feasibility study we visited 7 projects over the last few weeks, finding out everything we could about them and reviewing all the facilities and programmes they have in place. Some of the stories are inspiring and some are very sad, like one project where there is a German lady in her seventies who is running a secondary school single handedly out in the middle of very poor countryside. She set this school up herself, taking some barren fields, and converting them into classrooms, homes for orphans, recreational space and planting crops, fish farm, etc. She has done an amazing job, but the project is not self-sustainable as she had hoped because the families in the local area are just so poor and cannot afford to pay any school fees. She has unfortunately become too reliant on external funding to survive and has not got the local community onboard enough to help, hence it is likely if she passes away or becomes unable to manage the school it will fall apart straight away and a lot of kids will be left in a very difficult situation.
Another project we came across was called Amani "Amani Children's Home is committed to reducing the number of children living on the streets in Tanzania by providing a nurturing place for homeless children to heal, grow, and learn. In addition to providing long-term care, Amani aims to reunite children with their relatives when possible and to equip their families with the tools they need to be self-sustainable. Amani is dedicated to creating a path for each child that leads to a future filled with hope." This started off as a single house with a few orphans back around 2000, to being a massive orphanage now, which providing housing, shelter, food and education to over 300 children and tries to re-unite children with their family where possible and then provide the families with support. This is an excellently run centre, well-established, but they rely on much funding from international donors via "sponsor a child" schemes... ideally we would like to set-up or work with an existing organisation whereby the project is self-sufficient.
During our review, we came across such a project called Tanzanian Children Concern. A Pentecostal Pastor set-up this community based project in 2002 with a close friend who lost his wife to HIV, and later died from HIV himself. When they started in 2002 they had single house with 2 rooms, where they were minding several children, in 2004 they moved onto their current rented premises of 2 dorms, 3 classrooms, playground and office.
TCC aim to provide an English medium school to educate the children in the region, whilst supporting vulnerable children. Some of these children at risk live in the TCC orphanage, others live with donor families and are supported financially by TCC. TCC also have an outreach programme to assist HIV people in the community and identify children at risk.
Having studied their organisation in details, examining accounts, etc we are looking to help them with building better facilities/buying land to support their orphans and the other community children who attend their school. What is so impressive about TCC is that the project is self sustainable, i.e. the percentage of children from the community who attend the school pay a fee, which is then used to pay teacher salaries, provide food for the children and a safe home for the orphans. From what we have seen so far they are doing a great job, they have been running since 2002 with very little international funding, and we are going to help them to make sure this type of entrepreneurial charitable project keeps going, and inspires more of the same type of work in Tanzania, rather than organisations relying totally on external donations. The funding they require at the moment is purely for capital expenditure, but it is very encouraging to see a local organisation like this surviving on a day-to-day basis and supporting many vulnerable children without any international funding. It seems like a very well-run project and a sound business model.
We have just started working there on a day-to-day basis, a good opportunity to get to know the organisation a bit better and find out where exactly our funds raised can be used. It is also an organisation where we feel our time can be well-spent: because it is an English-medium school, we will be able to communicate with the children and help the teachers (a lot of the time there is 1 teacher for 2 classes, so we will be able to help one class doing exercises while the teacher goes to teach the other class). We also hope to take the children who sleep in the school outside for a game of soccer and skipping in the afternoons, at the moment the orphanage is on the same grounds as the school so the children are inside the 4 walls of the school 24x7. We'll keep you posted how we're getting on...
What makes a lot of these projects so amazing is the people working on them... many are getting paid so little, most of the teachers are on less then $80 per month, about 15 pints of Stella or 20 Coffees in our former life!! And to think that in some cases they are not only teachers, but mothers, nurses, etc to the children. It is very admirable the sacrifices they are making to give these children not only homes but an education, when they could easily be earning a better living running tour companies, working in office jobs, etc.
Other things that have been keeping us out of trouble here.... So, as mentioned in the last update, the first few weeks here were spent teaching the kids at Newlands, taking some of the sick children with HIV/Malaria to the hospital, running the school sports day for the orphanage, taking them to the park for soccer, etc. We still visit the orphanage at least once a week to say hi to the kids and play with them for a while. We have also been playing football with some street kids about 10 minutes walk away from time to time. We have also been helping out in our spare time with some of the other projects volunteers in the hostel are involved in, such as doing the weekly shopping for Second Chance secondary school, and painting a nursery for children in a small village up the mountains towards Kilimanjaro.
More Information on the problems in Newlands is below, the plan is to continue visiting the orphanage on a weekly basis, continue to work with the social worker to see if we can re-unite some of the children with relatives and for those most at risk we are going to try and relocate them in the new orphanage/school we will be working with, as it is probable the orphanage could be closed down in the future if it does not meet the requirements set by the social worker.
For the past few months Path to Africa have had growing concerns regarding the safety of the children, the complete lack of qualified staff, the living conditions (the staff often seem to refuse to work and the toilets are filthy, food lies around on the ground etc), the mistreatment of staff, etc. Path to Africa approached the social welfare department to ask for the assistance of a social worker in advising both us and the management of the orphanage as to how to improve these conditions. We also in the last few months began to consider the future of the orphanage and how to attain long term funding. To this end we began to gather information in order to make both information packages for donors and a website which will document the on-going work at Newlands. However these issues have now become a huge problem for us and our continued support of Newlands.
On August 29th PTA held a meeting with the Board of Directors of the orphanage and the social worker to voice our concerns over these issues and the observations and recommendations of the social worker. At the time, the Board seemed to respond positively to some of our concerns and agreed with certain issues such as the need to separate the children from the bible school students, the need to expand the living space of the orphanage, the need for an effective management structure etc. They did, however, ignore many of our concerns and blatantly ignored the social worker to the point that they took out mobile phones, left the room for a while, etc while she gave her report. The next week we had a follow up meeting and again the board ignored most of the points discussed and we were informed of the following decisions.
Firstly, that path to Africa is no longer allowed to fundraise on behalf of Newlands and we are 'prohibited' to mention Newlands on a website, take photos of the children, send reports etc. This follows accusations that we are only involved with Newlands to exploit the children and make money from the situation. When questioned as to how the Board think we raise money and where it comes from, and how we could possibly raise funds without using fundraising means such as photos, reports, info on the web, we were told that the board were 'sure we would come up with another solution'. We were also informed that all donations we do receive must be deposited directly into the account of the Pastor for him to use at his discretion, though he will not be accountable for the use of these funds, we must just 'trust him as he is the Pastor'.
Secondly, with regards to the issue of a qualified manager (which is crucial as there is no one who knows how to create a safe environment for the children, no one to enforce any rules or discipline, no one to oversee the work of the Mamas, etc) we were informed that the manager would need to be a graduate of the Pentecostal Bible School. The board stated that they were not concerned whether the manager had any experience with social work or child care or was in anyway qualified, the only criteria that the manager must meet is that they 'have been saved by God'. The social worker tried to emphasis the importance of a qualified manager, but to no avail. During the following three weeks these decisions remained the same and the social worker was refused entry to the orphanage again.
Path to Africa aims not only to help in the short term but to work towards long term change and sustainability. It is apparent now that this is not possible at Newlands. Though we can continue to change the physical surroundings of the children and to provide the basic needs, there are many aspects of the conditions of living at the orphanage that we will not be able to tackle while the management remains as it is, and unfortunately there is no possibility of changing this. This leads us to difficult decisions as while we do not want to leave the children to return to the state in which they were living 14 months ago we no longer have faith in the longer term development of the orphanage.
During the next 2 months PTA will continue home visits already well under way to all the homes or communities of the children to get more background info. From this we can see which children could possibly return home if they receive continued support from us in the form of school fees, food etc, which could maybe find sponsorship to attend boarding school or a centre catering for those with special needs. We can also see which kids are the worst off and have no other alternative. This is where we hope the new project can come in.
11/10/2008 - Orphanage Update will be sent this week, lots going on some bad news some good news, will let you all know later this week, doing anything in Africa is frustrating !!
09/10/2008 - Uganda/Rwanda Update
- Sitting in our tent after borrowing one of the girls laptops to type this up. We have grown a bit disheartened with the quality of the internet connections over here, pc's in general and the fact everytime you are half way through writing a long email the electricity will go in the internet cafe and you'll lose everything makes life a little more difficult :-(
So, since we wrote last, the orphanage we were working at closed for a week due to a religious retreat which was taking place at Newlands. This gave us an unexpected chance to explore around africa for about 8-9 days, so we took off to Rwanda and Uganda. We flew into Kigali in Rwanda to start our mini adventure.While there we visited the genocide memorial centre just outside the city centre. We had seen the film "Hotel Rwanda" a few years ago, but visiting this centre gave a whole new perspective on the horrors that took place back in 1994. There were interviews with victims, photos and the stories of thousands of people who died, and the centre also reflected on the other genocides which have taken place over the years. All in all a pretty harrowing experience, we learned that over 500,000 women were raped during the genocide mainly by Hutus who were HIV positive and over 1m were tortured and then killed. The pain was sometimes evident in the city centre when you would meet people begging or walking around who had lost arms or legs during this time. Having said that, the country, on the surface at least, seems to have recovered well... even though the Rwandan countryside was quite poor and undeveloped, the roads were quite good, and Kigali was one of the most modern cities we've been to in Africa.
Once we left Kigali we crossed the border into Uganda to pay a visit the endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest at Nkuringo. As we drove through Rwanda and southern Uganda the landscape was stunning, pretty much every square inch of land was used to grow tea, bananas, maize, corn, mangos, etc .... It was a beautiful drive, the place was so green and hilly and everyone was going about their daily business, which as far as we could see generally involved pushing bicycles up steep hills with about 4 huge sacks of spuds tied to the bike, while balancing a bucket of bananas or oranges on their head.
It was about 5hrs in total to get to Kisoro, the small Ugandan town where we were based in for the night and would start our day trip to see the gorillas. As we crossed the border into Uganda it was a similar picture landscape-wise. However, even though we were only there for a few days, Uganda really grew on us more so than Rwanda, definitely a country we hope to return to some day. The place had the worst roads I have ever come across (dirt tracks) but it was stunning, at least the south west corner near Kabale, Lake Bunyoni and Bwindi Forest. Big mountains, trees, crops, lakes, the people were so friendly despite their obvious poverty, every kid we met was walking around in their bare feet on the rough roads, and we rarely met a car on the road; high nelly is definitely the main form of transport this part of Africa.
Gorilla time!! It was an amazing experience seeing the gorillas in the wild. There are only about 700 of them left, so it was a real privilege. The place we stayed had loads of books on them, and about Dian Fossey, an American woman who started the research into this endangered species, later killed by poacher, and had about whom the film, "Gorillas in the Mist", was based. We had a three hour hike to get to the gorillas, with our guide cutting through through dense jungle with his machete and finally we arrived at the family of 18 gorillas of Nkuringo Bwindi. We spent over an hour with these amazing animals, watching them feed, play and the big silverbacks scare the sh!t out of us walking around with their massive 255kg frames. They were really like humans (well, some humans), farting, picking their noses, eating and playing.
After that excitement we spent a day in Lake Bunyoni, a beautiful lake with islands framed by steep hills. We wished we had more time here as we loved it, really set up for backpackers (unlike many places in Rwanda which were really geared towards people with their own driver/guide), we were staying in a permanent tent, mounted on stilts looking over the lake... just like home. Our home in Moshi that is! The weather really was just like home though! Plenty rain (we were suspicious as soon as we flew over these green hills!) and quite cold. We had only brought
small bags with us, so ended up wearing nearly all our clothes most of the time!
So, we made our way back to the Rwandan border. We were waiting for the bus to the border at 6am, not sure if we missed it or not, but we were freezing standing round, and not sure if we were on for the sometimes 4 hour delays on the bus system. So we hopped in this randomers car, he said he would take us and some other locals to the border for the same price as the bus (about £3 for a 3 hour journey). Hopped in, there were 3 of us in the small back-seat of this nissan sunny, circa 1982, and one other guy in the passenger seat. We were thinking we were onto a winner here... faster than the bus, no live animals sitting on our laps and we had a bit of space. Too good to be true indeed. After about 5 minutes he picked up another big guy who sat in the backseat with us. So I am sitting on Eoin's lap, not sure who was more uncomfortable. Then another guy flagged him down, so now there are 2 guys in the passenger seat, so funny watching 2 grown men sitting on one anothers laps. Then another guy flags us down and the driver stops for him. We are thinking where the hell is he going to put this guy, so the driver gets out and this man sits down on the drivers seat. Then the driver sits down on his lap and starts driving again. Unbelievable!! We were driving on dirt tracks, up windy mountain roads way worse than Connor Pass. The driver can barely see where he is going, has to reach through about 6 limbs to get to the gear-stick and still manages to overtake a bus round a corner! He stopped one more time when someone else flagged him, he got out and opened the boot, yes, we were thinking what you're thinking, but thankfully this client just wanted him to bring some spuds and bananas to the next village. Basically we felt very luck to arrive back in Rwanda in one piece.
Back in Rwanda, we went up to Parc National des Volcans. A forested national park with... yes, Volcanoes. 5 of them. We walked for 2 hours to get to the hostel we were staying in. I'm not sure the locals had ever seen white people (Mzungus) walking up that road before. We were like the pied piper walking up the hill, had about 30 kids after at all times with shouts of "Mzungu!"/"Hello"/"How are you?"/"What is my name?"/"Give me pen" echoing in our ears all the way. Kids who were about 300 yards away in the fields would shout "Mzungu!" and run all the way through the fields up to the road to look at us. We made an attempt at hiking the Bisoke Volcano the following morning but it was pouring rain so we abandoned mission and went to Lake Kivu for a night. We were staying in Gisenyi. Nice lake, but the difference between rich and poor was a bit too much here. Lovely hotels down by the lake, and then a really impoverished town further back. We went for a quick stroll from our hostel, and after about 2 minutes came to this barrier where there were loads of UN vans and security. Realised we were at the border with the Democratic Rep of Congo, had no idea we were so close! Then reading the paper the following day we read about trouble with refugees in Gisenyi and Rwandans not allowed cross the border, also saw pictures of the fighting in DRC. Suffice to say we couldn't get out of there fast enough. Back to Kinigi for anoter attempt at Bisoke. This time we woke up to a fairly clear morning, so we gave it a go. The volcano is 3711m, really steep climb for most of it, and the mud made it harder, as well as the altitude. Got to the top and it was really foggy so we couldn't really see the crater lake inside, or the no doubt fabulous views of the countryside. On the way up and down though before we got to the clouds on the top of the mountain we saw some lovely views. The way down was great fun, we basically just slid down most of the way!
Back to Kigali after this and spent the day making the most of the fast-ish internet connection, and the novelty of wandering round some real shops and restaurants! Flew back to Tanzania from Kigali the following morning.
28/09/2008 - Arrived in Moshi
In Moshi now after an amazing honeymoon in Zanzibar. What a paradise ... white sandy beaches, crystal blue water, great reefs full of sea life, palm trees, coconuts, private islands, great seafood... All in all a brilliant 10 days.
Moshi has made Zanzibar feel like a very long long way away, where there were white sandy beaches in Zanzibar, there are dirty bumpy dusty roads in Moshi. The town is fairly small, about the size of Tralee. Hoff hostel where we are staying is about 10 minute walk from the centre of town, 18 volunteers are staying here at the moment a good mix of Irish, Brits, Yanks, Scandies, Aussies ... We are getting used to this lazy life now of not having to cook anymore, do shopping or washing. We have a great local cook called Caroline looking after us, with plenty of mash spuds served up a few times a week!! The two of us are living in our own tent out the back of the hostel, our home for the next 3 months, the night-time lullaby of cop cars in London has been replaced by lizards running across our tent, birds singing, and wild dogs barking. Not a whole lot of sleep so far when you add the Muslim prayers to that cacophany (about 50% Muslim, 50% Christian here). They have been celebrating Ramadan since we got here, so they are singing each night in the local Mosque from mid-night till about 3am, followed by the daily morning call to prayer at 4:30. I'm sure these noises will fade out eventually just like the cop chases through the ghettos of Surrey Quays!
The volunteers in the hostel are working on a range of projects, from teaching, to child-minding in orphanages, community development, helping start-up businesses etc. We are based in an orphanage called Newlands, about 30 minutes outside Moshi with a lovely view of Kilimanjaro. There are about 70 kids there in total, ranging from about 3 to 16 years old. They are lovely kids, used to volunteers and very affectionate, although quite "high-spirited" (read: "wild"). Conditions there are pretty tough, and all of the kids have a sad story to tell, many of them orphaned after one or both of their parents died of AIDS. But with the help and funds of the volunteers from the hostel over the past 18 months they have come a long way, now getting 3 meals instead of 1 a day, having proper beds to sleep in, rather than on the floor of the church, having funds to send the older kids to school, and of course the day-to-day presence of the volunteers has made a big difference to the teaching and caretaking of the kids.
There are 5 of us at the moment working in Newlands Orphanage, although one of the girls finished yesterday. We work in the afternoons, taking the younger kids for lessons for the first few hours, and then taking all 70 of them to the field for games most evenings. That part of the day is usually mayhem, a 35-aside soccer match! Teaching the younger kids is a challenge too, we teach them mainly sums and english for an hour or two, and then read a story or something. They are a few really bright kids so we try to teach them a bit extra. It is so hard to keep control of the class though, even getting them to sit down is a challenge, they just run riot all over the place, climbing up on the windows etc. We're having no luck with the old "teir a codladh" trick. Our mornings are ususally spent either preparing classes, buying supplies for the orphanage, or doing stuff on the (sloooow) internet. Hopefully in the next few weeks after the retreat we will be able to start the construction work, jobs which need to be done in the orphanage include painting the place, building an extra dorm for the older girls, tidying up the yard which is just a mudbath at the moment, and putting up a wall, at the moment we have kids wandering off an escaping the whole time, as well as village kids wandering in to the orphanage!
Yesterday, Saturday, we held Sports Day for the kids. We had wheelbarrow race, spud and spoon race, sack race which was hilarious, tug-of-war, and then all-out warfare when Eoin opened a bag of oranges and let them help themselves, scrummages and pile-ups and tears followed. Lesson learned. Treats have to be carefully administered. They got a sticker on their shirt if they won the race and everyone got a lollypop and a biscuit at the end of the day, and they were all thrilled with the day.
Next week the kids are being given a religious retreat, so there will be no classes, so we have a week off already! We have decided to make the most of it and go to Rwanda/Uganda. Hoping for a close encounter with some gorillas, we got permits to go see them in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Also just going to backpack round Rwanda and Uganda for about a week. Looking forward to it, loads of people we've met have said it was the highlight of their trip around East Africa.
We now have Africa mobile numbers as well, so if you want to give us a call or text, my number is 00255766079332 and Grainne's number is 00255766079333
Some tips from our time in Africa:
- Everything here happens in slow motion, "pole pole" (slowly, slowly) seems to be the motto of the place. Something which would take 30 mins to sort out at home takes an entire morning here!
- A price agreed today can be subject to about 200% inflation by the time tomorrow comes, as we found out from our lovely taxi driver Dinny in Zanzibar, who tried to fleece us way too many times. A real character though, it was hard to stay mad with Dinny too long, this fella married his cousin, who he had to divorce eventually after his dad died because she looked too like his sister
- Speaking of marital matters, if the whole monogamy thing doesn't suit you, northern Tanzania is the place to come... we went out to visit the Maasai village where one of our security guards comes from (we have 2 Maasai warriors as security - and 2 useless dogs - in full tribal gear including machete, really you wouldn't mess with these guys), and the chief there (his dad) has 10 wives and 56 children a bit of a Legend if you ask Eoin :-) They can't get over the fact we only have one wife!!!