Water Buffalo

A busy week of school visits with the names of Olaleni, Mandaka, Mrereni, Ifati, Rukima and Lombeta, to review the progress and in some cases challenges of various students. Margareth  from Mandaka village is doing very well despite finding herself in a class of 60 students at Mrereni school and when we visit she is wearing the donated shoes and backpack I gave her that morning.  She has passed with C’s and B’s which is better than many and Tanzania has seen test scores drop across the country this last year. Not enough well trained teachers and classroom size as well as demands of family and work outside of school. Jenipher  failed his year with a 29% average and Augustine tells me she lives with five others in a dilapidated hut with no windows or doors. Olaleni will not allow her to continue so we need to figure out where to send her as she really wishes to continue to try and learn. Vocational training likely though the headmaster at he vocational school complains that too many consider it a second choice but he and Tanzania need the best brains to create a competitive tech and trades sector. Stephen  is desperate for me to allow him to board so he doesn’t have to walk so far and lose study time to getting feed for the cows or other chores. So individual needs assessed.

After the week filled with interviews, anxious students and parents and the collection of impossibly complicated fee forms it was time to hit the banks. It was hectic last Friday in banks and busy markets, ‘to do’ list in hand and racing against time to get as many school fee payments made as possible so I don’t get behind. Our first stop was to a newly opened CRDB in Marangu, a sparkling new edifice in the middle of banana trees and the general rubble of Marangu Mtoni with Sr. Clarissa the head of Kilema hospital, Ireni and Sunday , who work the orphan program. At CDRB the floors are marble, the workmanship excellent, the glass polished and the place generally empty. Locals began to trickle in and everyone whispered as if in church, in awe of the gleam. To remove 400,000 shilling of your own money at the ATM costs 5,000 shilling. The banks appear to be doing well with those that have money.
After Marangu we dropped Sr. Clarissa back to Kilema and bumped down the mountain to Moshi to hit further banks. Each school has an account at one of a variety of banks and school fee payments are made into the child’s name at the correct branch. The receipts are then returned directly to the school or to the student to carry to schools farther off and confirm enrollment. By the end of Friday I had completed 1/3 of deposits and with no tales of drama to tell as in other years.

Saturday started with dash through the gauntlet of touts/hustlers at the bus station to catch a local bus to Usa River near Arusha, with the plan of visiting tiny Arush National Park, nestled between Mt. Meru and Kilimanjaro. Travelling with another young Canadian, Sarah who works at Kilema Hospital, we got as far as Usa River before the details of our plan became sketchy. How to get the remaining 20 Km up to the park. Young fellows on piki piki’s ( motorbikes) coaxed us to ride with them, 2 on one and 1 on the other bike. Sasha was the voice of reason and resolutely refused while Sarah and I considered the option. Twenty miles of dusty road ahead in a taxi had us shaking our heads and Sasha got his first (of now many)10 points for good decision-making. We arrived to retro Momella Lodge, site of John Wayne’s movie Hatari and little has changed since then. The sincerity of the welcome and the location between spectacular mountains made up for a sense of decay in the structures. A walking safari to within 50 feet of a herd of water buffalo had Mama quaking though our armed guide Paolo shrugged. ” It is the solitary buffalo like the one over there that you have to worry about”, as he pulled the kalashnikov off his shoulder and readied it. Later that night we were awaken in our cabin by clatter of hooves and a tearing of grass. Two mighty buffalo outside the window and we lay in the darkness listening to them grazing and brushing up against trees. Animals come right onto the grounds and the next morning we walked out toward acacia trees where 6 giraffe were at work for tender shoots between the thorns with zebras grazing nearby. Exhilarating to be in the presence of animals with ones own feet in the deep grass.
We were a tight fit on the bus ride home from Arusha on Sunday, locals dozing next to us, kids sneaking glances, fabulous headdresses on stunning women, Christian, Muslim, Maasai ..the wonderful Tanzanian mix. With the dry air Sasha’s nose began to bleed and being on a distant corner I could only rip newspaper and hand to hand it was passed over head to him. Then I saw a young woman mop Sasha’s bloody face with her own damp handkerchief, and another Mama called out the window for a seller to bring her a cold bottle of water and passed it along to Sasha, calling out instructions to him. All the passengers clucked and watched over him til the bleeding stopped. So  in this way  Tanzanians takes care of us.

Tutaonana baaadye(see you later)na Asante Sana
Stephanie and Sasha


Leave a Reply