Once again I have to apologize for taking so long to post another blog. Life has continued to be crazy here- there has been a lot going on. So I'll just start from a week ago, and go from there.
THURSDAY, SEPT 23
We traveled into Karatu for our weekly day off. I had set up a meeting with a local man named Henrey who was going to to help me climb Mt. Killi. He ended up setting a price for me at 1,800 US$, which is simply ridiculous. I was really sorry to turn down his offer because he is such a kind man, but I have found a much cheaper price, and I will in fact be climbing with three other students in mid December-our g it's going to be great. After the meeting I recruited a few locals as friends to show me around (they love following white people around) and we went into the market again. I bought some fabric which I later gave to a tailor here in Rhotia. She is making me some pants and a shirt for very cheap.
FRIDAY, SEPT 24
In my Environmental Policy class we have been learning about programs in N. Tanzania called CAP (community action plans) which are based off of PRA's (participatory rural appraisals). On this day I went into Rhotia for several hours and interviewed several community members. My topic was to identify the five most dire needs of the local community in terms of local resources. The three most important were access to education, clean water, and drought, with capital and health care closely following. I can say that these results ending up being close to what I expected, but I was very surprised to find just how critical education is here. The drive to become educated is huge, because the community recognizes that it can take them very far (many of them desire professional careers). However, it has become increasingly difficult to go to even secondary schools (high school equivalent) here. The only way to get accepted into a public secondary school is to do very well on your standardized tests which are administered at the end of your primary schooling. If you do not perform well enough, your only option is to attend a private secondary school, which is virtually impossible for the average Tanzanian family to afford. I can't imagine my education potentiality ending after sixth grade, just because I didn't do well enough on a test. The children here do not get nearly as many chances as American children, so the pressure to perform (even at age 11-12) is HUGE!
NOTE: I wrote a PRA report on the main issues in Rhotia Village. I won't post it now, but if you are curious to read it please respond and I will put it up.
SATURDAY, SEPT 25
Last Saturday (again for our EP class) we traveled to Mtu Wambu and visited a cultural tourism office. We were met by a man named Sunday who walked around Mtu Wambu with us and discussed what they do in response to tourism. They are called CTP (community tourism project), and they use money generated from tourism to support the local communities here. They give tours of the local are (by foot and bike), arrange safari excursions, and teach tourists how to cook, carve, and paint like locals. It sounded like a great program, until I got a good look at one of their financial statements. Less than 10% of their generated income goes toward their "community development fund", which is used to address the needs of the Mtu Wambu village in particular. The rest of the money goes toward advertisement and paying their staff. If you look you may be able to find their advertisements in the "Lonely Planet" Guide Book. I was initially very frustrated with the company, and thought that they were simply taking advantage of tourism while pretending to stand on the pedestal of community development. However, tourists have been coming to this region for a long time, and will keep coming indefinitely. The chance to employ 30 locals to work as tour guides and administrators, and at least allow some money to help with community development is a start. There is no question- CTP is trying to help, I simply think they could be doing more.
As a result of our tour we got to see how locals make all of the little zebra, elephant, and Maasai sculptures that all the Tourists buy, as well as how they uses knives to illustrate paintings which are also geared toward tourism. Many are beautiful in style and color (a few of our students even got to try their hand at it). If you ever come to visit and want to buy anything , remember that no price is set. Bargaining is expected here, and if you are too bashful to try, you are going to end up paying too much $$ for alot of things. For example, one of our students bought a painting initially priced at 70,000 TZ shillings for about 20,000!!! Crazy style.
One of our tour guides was studying to become a wildlife ecologist, and he had a collection of scorpions he wanted to show us. This one, he said, "would kill you in only 30 minutes if it were to strike, but don't worry, and watch as I pick it up"
As always, we attract a lot of attention no matter where we go to. This 9 year old followed us all around Mtu Wambu as we went on our tour. He is chewing on sugar cane, which he said is one of his favorite activities.
SUNDAY, SEPT 26
Sunday was essentially a normal day filled with classes. Afterward, I took a group of students to a nearby primary school where we played soccer for an hour. My team won 3-2, and I was happy to score two goals, and the children were surprised that a white person was good at football. About a week before this day I had a meeting with the headmaster, teachers of the school, my advisor here, and my Env. Policy teacher to begin a relationship with the school. They are not used to American students in their area, but were so excited to schedule weekly times where our students will visit them, and to their students in English (and perhaps teach a few lessons), as well as begin regular football playing times. After we discussed with them about our students being interested in community service, they immediately took us to their "kitchen". It's actually a very sad site. Every day at lunch for 300 students, they cook food out of a 3 ft deep * 6 ft long * 3 ft wide hole in the ground, heated by wood embers. It is not the most efficient, fastest, safest, or most healthy system in the world, and the school recognizes this. They asked us "Please help us get out of the ground." They showed us two old brick building which they soon would like to be made into a kitchen/pantry. I have sort of taken this project on behalf of all the SFS students, and I am trying to organize/plan ways where we can help them begin construction of a suitable cooking environment. We are trying to foster a relationship whereby we are not seen as (one student has put it) a 3rd World Santa Claus; where we give so many things away, or simply build things. Instead, I have learned from more experienced people, that it is more effective and important to help people help themselves. If we can build the kitchen side by side with teachers, students, and community members, and if they help us gather the necessary building materials, then I think we create a more meaningful relationship.
MONDAY, SEPT 27
We were lucky enough to be split from our large group of 28 students, to 14 smaller groups of 2/3 on this day. All of these small groups went to a house somewhere in the Rhotia village for a day long homestay (9AM- 5PM). My group went to the house of our Swahili Teacher (Aziz), where his mother, wife, 1.5 year old daughter, and younger brother live. His younger brother, Mohammed (age 20) was a fascinating young man. Based on our age alone, it was immediately easy to connect with him. We helped him gather water, and most of the day we helped harvest corn (used to cook Ugali- a local mush eaten for most meals). I was amazed to realize just how long this process took. It took 4 hours to husk a half car sized pile, beat/remove the kernels (ovule) from the ear, and sort them into buckets. In the end it was very rewarding to watch the 5 gallon bucket and 2 large burlap sack bags we harvested put into storage. Throughout the day they made us lunch (Ugali, lettuce, and anchovies), we drank chai (hot tea and milk), played with the children, told stories, discussed differences between America/Tanzania (I explained what a microwave, motorized wheel chair, clothes for dogs are), and exchanged different games. I learned the Mohammed is a very smart man- graduated top of his secondary class in Arusha, TZ, and now he goes to a small school in S. Tanzania, studying to become a doctor. He was a real inspiration. My only regret of the experience was that Mohammed knew so much English- I didn't get as much opportunity to practice my Kiswahili as I would have liked.
TUESDAY, SEPT 28
Another fairly normal day, except we have a 4 hour long morning lecture in which we traveled to three different sites East of Rhotia. All three professors were there, and even Prof. Okello (Kenya/Tanz Director) came and gave a lecture about tourism in Tanzania (how it is both a good and bad thing). After afternoon classes we went into Karatu to celebrate one of our students birthdays.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT 29
Yesterday we had a break from class. I spent most of the morning writing up my PRA paper and cleaning my Banda (we have had a lot of Jiggers, and we're trying to flush them out!!!!) Afterward I went again in Mto Wambu, but this time just to visit. I ended up making friends with one of the street vendors named Paulo. He was very kind, and just wanted to talk with me about America and if I thought he would ever be able to live there one day. I ended up trading him a T-Shirt for a necklace, and giving him another T-Shirt for his younger brother. We exchanged emails, and he really wants to keep in contact when I travel back home, and especially meet again before I leave TZ. I came back to the field station where I helped to prepare two goats for a traditional "goat roast" over our fire. It was quite an experience in biology, and very delicious.......
Tomorrow we will go on another safari to Ngorogoro Crater, which I have heard is one of the most amazing locations in the world to see wildlife :). Hopefully I will get some pictures up soon.
Sending Lots of Love Back Home
Happy Belated Bday to my Mom, LOVE YOU!
Peace and Love
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure