A Day in the LIfe

These last two weeks have been a busy time with school and village visits, each day planned the day before with at least a few options in the hopes that one or more work out. In most cases the day unfolds, often with serendipity, and to our own surprise we accomplish quite a bit and still make it home before dark. Many people ask me how the specifics of the day go so I thought I would describe an average one, say our school visit day on Tuesday or Jumanane.

We stay in a cement block house we call Cacha house named after our NGO. Even Audrey says, ” I like our little Cacha house,” though her first task upon arriving was to do a thorough cleaning. Now the standards have dropped and even Audrey feels the futility in fighting the red dirt and is relieved that “at least this dirt is our dirt”. About 4:30 AM the roosters nearby begin to crow and other birds, black and orange, land and take off from the metal roof. The church bells start at 5:30. This clanging is just a taste of what is to come at six. We climb out from under mosquito nets and there is some taking stock; toenails, bites and the day’s agenda. The shower stall is painted naval gray but we have hot water from a heating tank in the corner. We put the padlock on the door of the kitchen that Audrey says reminds her of Heritage Park in Calgary. Up past the hospital to the new but unfinished Visitor Centre we pass through a corrugated metal barrier into a block room with high ceilings and a long dining table covered in clear plastic. Echos bounce. Powdered Africa cafe with powdered Nido milk is mixed with boiling water from a thermos. This gets us going. There is toast( if the power is on), bananas, tomatoes and one boiled egg per person. After breakfast we thank Emeliana, ” Asante sana kwa chai” and head to the OVC office to get ready the day.

Our plan is to visit six schools so Sunday and Irene are on it knowing this is a tall order. Then Sunday disappears for awhile and we find out he was tasked to get milk from St. James school but eventually, after a wait, he returns and we pile into the truck. As we pass through the hospital gate M.’s mother, who has come from 10 km away, runs up to the car in her best kitange with a rooster in a cardboard box, a thank you for the school support her son is receiving! Hoots go up as we debate to eat it or reproduce it. The rooster has since spent the last few days under, and tied to, a wooden box in the dining room as we decide it’s fate.

Taking the car means that you have to put gas in it and the one riding in the car needs to put the gas in it. The hospital can’t afford to underwrite others travel even if it means not filling up the car at the last gas station, last trip. So we widely detour to Marangu, 10 km to the east and find in the middle of a dirt clearing a gas pump and a table with Kili wter bottles full of kerosene, the gas station. There is no gas for the car. So down the tarmac road to Himo at the base of Kilimanjaro we go. At the next station the power is out so the pump will not work. At the third station the worker just waves us on with no explanation. Still further, almost half way to Moshi we fill up and consider the cost in mileage just to do it!

Now that we are in the lowland we decide to visit the schools starting at the lowest elevation and work up the mountain, Mandaka Vocational first. We are greeted and brought into the room where the headmaster, the second head and the secretary work each at separate tables piled high with papers and files, untidily. While reviewing results and discussing fees for the four KSF students, in the next room a plumbing class is in session and students are transcribing notes and drawings from an old plumbing text so precisely it’s beautiful, pipes and connections all labeled. In the mechanic shop a few motors and other parts are raised on wooden blocks around an old vehicle, which sits like a cadaver in a dissecting class. The wood shop is empty except for the teacher among a pile of wood sawing with the handsaw backward, two hands pushing down and away from him, similar to how men in the village handsaw planks. The headmaster says the man is left handed with only a right-handed saw. Finally to the welding shop where we look at a new pushcart the school designed, now tested in the village.

On to Mrereni secondary school where the sign threatens punishment if anything but English is is spoken and then wishes us a warm welcome.   M. has passed Form 4 and we are waiting for exams results. A.  finished Form 4 but then… ooops…suddenly married despite asking for nursing training last spring. At least she’s had 4 years secondary schooling which statistically could boost her income earning by 10% with each year completed. Same with A. but visiting her home the next day and seeing the poverty of surroundings and mental illness in her mother I wondered if she found some benefits to marriage. Another student F. has replaced her for school sponsorship. We visited her home too, a tidy shamba with a pole and mud house where her mother cares for a paraplegic husband injured in an accident. Laying in a dark back room, catheter bag on the dirt floor, the air thick and organic, he was very happy to greet us and uncovered two useless legs with the skin surprisingly intact. These are the sorts of families that can be helped by relieving them of the burden of school fees so they can deal with a myriad of other challenges. On leaving we spied some red chilies growing among her bananas and made a purchase of some of the hottest ever.. later Lockie has his face pressed into a plate of rice to kill the pain.
Onward and upward we stopped next at Olaleni in time to see the kids receiving a non-denominational morality lecture. Later, we arrived to Ifati and Rukima where 15 KSF students still await results for Form 4 and finally we arrived to Lombeta to wait in a long line of locals for teachers to finish their meeting so we could discuss school fees, the light beginning to fall out of the sky. We studied results posted on the walls to find that 2 out of 6 KSF students had failed to pass exams and that 10 of Sunday and Ilene’s  Cacha funded students had failed. While waiting we discussed best actions to take. Do we repeat? Do we give second chances? Exams are so critical here, the only measure of performance. But what if Raziki’s brother died a week before he sat the exam? Many issues we discussed as light fell, deepening the colors of trees and the orange and purple school uniforms that glowed on the landscape. Before dark we arrived through the gates of Kilema with waves to the guard. Showers, Tuskers, dinner and early to bed.
So there is a day….unfolded.
PS I discovered why our young prodigal student was discharged from St. James. After a visit to his new  school, so far up the mountain the air is cool and Kilimanjaro’s top looks like a hill, I met with Max and the headmaster who asked him to quietly shut the door before his confession. He was caught with a cell phone against regulations. Imagine that!

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