Thursday, 19 April 2012

Water tanks and painting in Africa, oh my!

The second week…and what a week! We definitely got our hands dirty (and clean!) in a very eventful week at Memorial.

After school on Tuesday we headed to Mr Michael’s for lunch. Magreth prepared a very traditional lunch for us – ugali and dagaa, which is teeny tiny little fish. 

Ugali and dagaa

Mmmm. Honestly, it wasn’t particularly easy to get down, especially when those teeny tiny bones got stuck in my teeth, but it was pretty tasty. I just tried not to think about it. Dad, on the other hand, seemed to love it! While eating, Mr Michael told us he hoped to one day visit Australia. We said he was very welcome, however when we told him there was no ugali in Australia, he may have reconsidered! This is how much he loves ugali. Give me a steak and seven veg any day! He also told us that he went to Nairobi for a conference over the Easter weekend. He then gave me the manual (Child Friendly Schools) and asked me to present a seminar to the teachers covering the topics…what the?? I’m on holidays, and you want me to do what a do for a living??!!! But, me being me, I agreed (I did try to convince my team leader and the Family Relationships Services Manager to refund me a weeks leave – but because I didn’t bring the required paperwork over, it’s a no-go ;)  

We then visited a few kids’ homes. This was a big eye-opener for Dad, as we visited children who don’t pay school fees. The way Mr Michael has set up the school is that well-off (by Arusha standards) families pay full school fees (Tsh 120,000 per term – there are three terms per year), some families pay half, and some families (the ones in really difficult circumstances) pay nothing – these are the students that I’d love to find sponsors for. Currently, there are only about five out of eighty students that have sponsors. One of my tasks to do while I was here was to sit down with Mr Michael and get the names, photos, and stories of every child that doesn’t pay school fees – sadly, however, time is tick-tick-ticking away, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. Still, it will be something for me to get Mr Michael to chase up when I’m back in Australia. Anyways, I’ve gone off topic – visiting homes.

The first child we visited was Janeth Philemon, who is sponsored by my old team leader from Child Safety days, Carolyn Travers (Hosey). Carolyn has been sponsoring Janeth and donating regularly to the school for the past three years. Janeth lives with her ‘Bibi’ (grandmother), and three other children. Their house is in the middle of a cement factory – Bibi rents out the backyard as a means of income, because she is too old to work. Pretty clever, but the noise is unbearable. Luckily, the kids are at school most of the day, and I think Bibi makes herself scarce. We had a chat with them (yay, Bibi remembered me from last time), and arranged to come back with a few odds and ends that they need, courtesy of Carolyn – a desk for studying at home, new uniforms and shoes, and some cooking utensils for Bibi.

Janeth and Bibi

Next we visited Kelvin. Both of Kelvin’s parents are HIV positive, and sadly, his father had an accident about seven years ago which has left him brain damaged, and at the moment, one side of his body is paralysed. This means that Kelvin’s mother must stay close by to attend to him – feed, bathe, and carry him to the toilet etc – so she can’t work far from the home. So she and Kelvin collect water from a nearby source for builders in the area. I’m not sure how much they are paid, but the last person I knew who did that for a job was paid 50 shillings per bucket (about 3 cents). They family has seven kids to feed. This is why I am sometimes angry at the world.

Kelvin and his parents
Quick note - we also ask to take photos, and I've yet to meet an African who does not what their photo taken. They don't often smile without prompting though - Benja says "it's not a part of our culture". 

Lastly, we visit Isa and his aunt. They live in a fairly typical mud house, outside which Isa’s aunt sells fish. If she doesn’t sell any fish, they don’t eat. Isa’s aunt asked us why Isa didn’t have a sponsor. It was pretty hard to explain why. They were in need of medication for malaria, so I slipped her the lousy ten grand ($6) I had on me, which is enough for two rounds of medication. She was very grateful.

Isa and his aunt... the fish shop

On Wednesday, we visited some more kids, and then spent the afternoon in a hardware store negotiating water tanks! We decided on a 5000L tank (for cooking, drinking, washing hands etc) and a 2000L tank to use for flushing toilets. They, plus all the taps, pipes etc, came TSh 1,289,000 (that’s one million, two hundred and eighty-nine thousand shillings) or about $785. A bargain. The problem then was getting the cash, as no stores in Arusha have EFTPOS or credit card facilities. I asked if I could do a bank transfer, but in order to transfer money to an international account through NetBank I need a code sent to my Aussie phone number…which obviously is not in action here. So, we headed to the ATM, and of course the ATMs only let you withdraw TSh400,000 at a time. Two withdrawals on Wednesday, and one the next morning just about covered it.

I have never been so nervous walking in the streets of Arusha than I was on Thursday morning, with over one million shillings strapped to my body (well, except for the week after the machete incident). When we arrived at the store, we were surprised to hear that the tanks had been prepared (holes cut, etc…I dunno…tank type stuff…Dad’s department) and ready to go. We were told they wouldn’t start preparing them until we paid at least a deposit, but we must have trustworthy faces. The best thing was that the price included delivery to school, and we got a lift in the truck. Oh, funny story – the day before when we were negotiated prices and Mr Michael asked about delivery. When the storeman asked how far the school was, Mr Michael replied “about four kilometres.” Dad and I were like “ummmm...what???” thinking it was much further. I couldn’t possibly believe that the trip from Friends Corner to school was less than a short run. But, sure enough, I checked out the odometer of the way there, and it was only four kilometres! Seems so much further when you’re in a dalla dalla or dodgy school bus. 

When we got to the school, we were greeted with much excitement. The two guys from the store, Dad, and a bunch of teachers got the tanks off the back of the truck (I, of course, was the official photographer). 


After the 5000L tank was on the stand, Dad realised he had to access the top of it, to attach the lids. There’s life in the old dog yet!

Go Daddio!

The pièce de résistance, however, came on Friday. We turned on the generator, got the pump pumping, and filled ‘er up! Then came the obligatory “washing our hands at the water tank” photos. Man I love these people!

Mr Michael

Yay for running water!!

That afternoon, after a standard lunch of ugali and “some green vegetable” made by the wonderful cooks…


 …the school staff, along with Dad and I, spent the afternoon listening to Mr Michael talk about organisation culture (Centacare peeps, I was so close to trying to explain organisation white noise to them, but decided against it). We also talked about school rules and regulations. Sadly, corporal punishment (better known as ‘sticks’) is very common in African schools. Last time I was here, I attempted to convince the teachers that this was not okay, but obviously failed. This time around however, I have the full support of Mr Michael, who has said that corporal punishment at the school is forbidden. Despite this, I have still seen two teachers (and heard one) use sticks on the children. Each time, I resisted the urge to walk in, snatch the stick, and snap it across my knee (or smack them with it), and instead reported them to the nearest senior staff member (Mr Benja or Mr Ipini, who also seem to be behind the no sticks policy). The saddest point about the whole things is that the children are not being sticked for misbehaving (which they rarely do, at least not compared to the kids at home), but for not understanding, or getting the answer wrong. Devastating. During Mr Michael’s talk, Dad reiterated a point I’d made previously that when a child doesn't understand, or gets an answer wrong, especially in a school where they are not learning in their first language, the teacher needs to reassess how they are teaching that child. Anyhoo, my seminar (to be delivered on Monday) covers sticks, so you may hear more about that later J At then end of the seminar, Mr Michael tells all the teachers that they must be at school tomorrow (Saturday) to assist with painting. We tried to convinced the teachers that it was not compulsory (especially Madame Chiku, who is fairly pregnant), but that their help would be appreciated. Mr Michael said “We will see all of you tomorrow at 9 o’clock.”

That night, I read a Facebook message from my dear friend Sally, which said: “Hi mate, hope everything is going swimmingly for you and you are remembering the joys and tribulations of trying to get things done like a westerner in the 3rd world! Just remember: 1. You will either look back on this and laugh OR 2. It will make a great story for other people to look back and laugh on!!" Despite that day being tough, I think she was foreseeing the future that was Saturday.

Saturday. Oh Saturday. You will be the perfect example of all the things I despise about Africa! Haha, oh no, I am exaggerating greatly. But it is the perfect example of trying to get things done in the third world…everything is five times as hard, and takes fives times as long. We agreed to meet at 9am. This is a brief summary of how the day went:

9am: Alan and Kasey arrive at school. Mr Anode is the only teacher there, along with the night guard. A few teachers arrive in dribs and drabs until…
9:40am: Mr Michael and Benja arrive, with two of Mr Michael’s kids, Nyerere and Kembaki.

**Because the previous afternoon was spent listening to Mr Michael’s seminar, Kasey and Alan didn’t have time to get to the bank or the paint store that afternoon. In hindsight, not getting paint before the day of the painting is a mistake**

9:45am: Mr Michael, Nyerere, Kembaki, Alan and Kasey get in the school bus to go and get paint, brushes etc.

9:46am: The battery in the school bus is flat. Swap batteries. Stuff around with the school bus. Kasey tells Mr Michael not to buy anymore school buses, as they are a drain on the budget, unless the person that donates them is willing to make regular contributions towards maintenance.

Changing the battery, behind the driver's seat

10am: Bus starts. Alan is driving in the backblocks of Arusha.

Captain Al!

10:10am: Arrive at our first “paint store”. The only water-based paint they have is white or cream. Alan says we want water-based paint, not oil-based. We leave.

10:15am: Arrive at our second “paint store”, to find that the only water-based paint they have is white or cream.
**use of inverted commas being due to the fact that, in comparison to Bunnings/Mitre 10, these paint stores look like Alan’s shed**

10:20am: Arrive at our third “paint store”, to find that the only water-based paint they have is white, cream, or apricot. A theme is emerging. Alan resigns himself to using oil-based paint.

10:20 to 11:00: Visit various “paint stores” and locate 20L of white undercoat, and a few tins of light blue, summer blue, and ripple green oil based paint. Visit various other stores to purchase pitiful paintbrushes, rollers, and turps.
Mr Michael leaves team at the first “paint store” to go in search of sticks for rollers. Kasey shouts team (which has increased to include Danny, one of Kimbaki’s friends from Standard Five) a packet of coconut biscuits and a pineapple juice. Delish.
Mr Michael returns with actual sticks (as in, from trees) for the rollers. Team heads back to school, collecting four brooms on the way (to use as sticks for rollers).

11:10am: Arrive at school. Alan starts sorting out paint. For the fiftieth time since arriving in Arusha, Kasey thanks the lord that Alan came on this trip. Teachers start painting the outside of the school with the water-based paint, as Alan has said the oil-based paint is a “pain in the @rse” to get out of everything.”

One of the few pictures Benja took without his finger in the top left hand corner

 11:20am: Kasey realises they have nowhere near enough paint. Alan agrees. Kasey and Mr Michael get back in the school bus.

11:30am: Mr Michael receives a text from Alan “Mr Michael we need another 20L of white paint.”

11:50am: Mr Michael and Kasey arrive back at school. Everyone smashes the white outside of the building.

12:00: Time for lunch. Yum, ugali. Kasey and Alan shout everyone a soda. 20 sodas for about $7. Everyone is very excited.

12:30pm: Alan starts mixing oil-based paint and solvent. Alan stresses about oil-based paint. Kasey is yet to understand the stress (but of course, belives everything Alan says). Kasey suggests starting with the unfinished baby class. Summer blue it is!

12:40pm: It becomes clear that 4L of summer blue will not be enough to complete the room, as the walls are not plastered and are made of what Kasey compares to pumice stone, hence it absorbs paint. Kasey sends Mr Michael to pick up another tin of summer blue.

Madam Editha, Benja, and Mr Ipini

12:40-5:30pm: Painting continues. Kasey now understands Alan’s dislike of oil-based paint. Kasey has no idea how this day would have turned out without a working water source. Kasey can’t even write anymore about the painfulness of the day. Buuuutttt…Kasey still had fun, as did Alan and all the teachers... 

Mr Anode

...and the kids!!

Nyerere and Kembaki

Oh and there is still more painting to do!! And we’re out of paint. But that’s a job for another blog :)

**A big ASANTE SANA to everyone who donated money towards the tanks and the painting. Despite the difficult of getting it done, it is so totally worth it :) **



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