Status Update: Physical and Otherwise

Our party of six is all well now though Rob from Holland was down hard with illness after discovering he had consumed a non-veg mmembe or mango. White wriggling proteins and other microbiology had us starting Cipro before long( thanks for the supply Dr. Freigang!)with favorable results. Rob was up though weak the next day and filmed again in his focused way thereafter. Even Audrey began dosing with Rob’s leftover tabs. This trip has had us tucking into the first aid kit with some regularity, Lockie with self-inflicted road rash after a sandal kicking competition. Well schooled in tropical risks he said to Claire, “I need a band aid right away. We need polysporin, Claire. We are in Africa, you know!” He has scrapes on his scrapes after tripping down the walk carrying our daily supply of beverages, Tuskers, Serengetis and Kilimanjaros which he is responsible for purchasing at the duka. As a fridge stocker he is under-age but enthusiastic, paid in Fanta passion soda and consuming 1-2 per day! Claire’s allergies have plagued her with constant dust, especially earth and maize all around. Bites of various size and description are counted daily and I for one am happy to have fresh non-expired benedryl on hand. But this Sunday morning we are all sitting at the YMCA taking coffee on the terrace, watching clouds form beneath Kilimanjaro, power out, modem useless, texts delayed but all in reasonable health.

This week has been busy largely devoted to filming and orienting our group to the new surroundings. We have been lucky enough to capture both orphan distribution days which are a significant part of what the program here does. First the school supplies and uniforms last week and then a food distribution this Saturday. The fundi or workman carried huge kilo sacks of maize into the store room fresh from grinding at the parish mill. Bags of maize like a set of drums were set up around Lockie and Audrey, with a plastic juice pitcher to portion out the maize flour. At home this is mixed with water and stirred on the fire to make ugali the local starchy staple. The method is similar to making oatmeal. Claire measured dried beans in the same manner. Children who need food, about 50% of the orphans,receive a pitcher of maize and beans, a bar of hard but excellent washing soap( I bring it home to Canada!) and a liter of cooking oil. While Sunday the OVC coordinator screened the arriving children, Rob and Priya filmed and I stationed myself at the oil distribution station, dipping and pouring by funnel, palm and sunflower oil into old plastic water bottles and various grimy containers. Familiar faces were many among children and grandmothers there to collect and again many happy reunions and greetings. Again I was left with the impression of growing, maturing children; faces the same but bodies much bigger.

Later in the day after gulping lunch we set off to catch a dalla dalla to Moshi town, with all our group wondering when the wreck would stop admitting new passengers. Not yet done for the day we set off to the markets on double road to look for filming opportunities among tailors and cobblers working busily in the spin off economy that the start of school stimulates. After a few false starts with wary tradespeople we met an mzee( old man) making shoes for the last 40 years. It turned out he was from Mauwa village which I know and we both know Exupery Mosha a local councilman who helps me with many students at Ifati and Rukima schools. In payment I ordered 3 pair size 9 girls school shoes, jet black, sturdy and most surprisingly coveted. The tailor we filmed was a young woman willing to sew a blue primary school skirt on camera. Her friend near by turned out to be an orphan who was sponsored by Priya’s NGO contact Kiwwakuki. So connections all around and in a very African way! We’ve reviewed segments of the footage now that we are done and it’s really something. I welcome having a pro around to capture the subtleties and individual character of some of the people here and hope that the short we produce will be a helpful teaching tool. Many thanks to Rob and Priya for jumping on the task!

Vocational school is not yet open so looking for teaching opportunities for Claire and Audrey elsewhere. On Thursday, children with HIV came in to be seen at the CTC (Counselling and Treatment Centre), a safe and non-stigmatizing acronym for HIV clinic. After being seen by Dr. Nyaki and team on the first floor they drifted up en mass to visit big brother bear, Sunday in the OVC office and he napped amongst them on his lunch break. Audrey and Claire took advantage of the cluster of children to teach English, draw and read stories. I watched Audrey read a story to a little girl who had her chin in hand, elbow tucked into Audrey’s lap. Teachers often express great satisfaction here working with so many eager and attentive children. That sea of smiling faces is always one of the highlights of being here.

The day at Kilema unfolds in a very unpredictable ways so I have taken advantage of the uncertainty by posting myself in the OVC office to receive a trickle of students, caregivers and advocates who arrive unannounced but often right in the nick of time. It happened again that just as I needed Augustine to confer on some detail he walks into the office, a kindly small man who has been the most consistent advisor and helpful home based care worker. This time he has brought his reading glasses which are as round as a coffee mug, covering most of his forehead and the arms of which are too short to reach behind his ears so stop on top. The lens are thick and magnify warm brown eyes. He has brought Ambrose  who is now a giant of a boy, fully matured and heading into his final year of vocational studies- construction. He has brought his certificates showing a B in his trade theory. Vocational has been a good decision for him. Jenipher  came in by herself and was able to describe her competency in installing florescent lights, bulb lights and the sockets needed to juice mine and a million other cell phones. Her English was as clear as her gaze and I could see a change in her level of confidence. She left with counter books, pens and pencils and shirts from Glen Lyon Norfolk School. The mother of Max, an ill widow, arrived with a kitange for a gift and the news that her son, KSF programs’s best performing student, had been asked to leave St. James Seminary for “unavoidable reasons.” St. James is certainly the best school in the district on one of the best in the country and is a place where priests are made. Has he been involved with girls? Perhaps he is more interested in receiving an excellent education than becoming a priest, a common deception.  What ever the case we will continue to help him complete his studies at another secondary school in Marangu.   I’m curious, though.

Well more on village and school visits later…for now…tutaonana badaaye kidogo.

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