Sunday, January 30, 2011

Travel TidBits: Life at School

Give a Heart to Africa – Women’s Empowerment Program
A School for Women – founded by Monika Fox from Canada

Today, it is quiet at the volunteer house. Two of our volunteers, Alex and Halima, departed early in the morning for Zanzibar and then home to Canada.

My notes today will focus on the environment where I live and work while in Moshi, Tanzania. The GTHA School is located on the University grounds of Moshi College. The house, 3 bedrooms, bath, kitchen and living/dining rooms are built in (sort of) Spanish style with a porch. The house floors are tiles for easy cleaning in this dusty environment. There is a small lawn and an outside sitting area under a thatched roof to shade from the relentless sun. The bedrooms have bunk beds for 2 with a divided wall closet. I am rooming in a corner bedroom which has the advantage of 2 windows for cross ventilation. All rooms have ceiling fans running 24 hours a day.

Porch-front of volunteer house

Shady outside sitting

GTHA classrooms

Computer classroom porch - children's play area

The kitchen has all the basics and we cook on a propane 2-burner table top stove. Our drinking water is boiled tap water prepared daily. We prepare our breakfast and lunch, but have a cook Margaret, who prepares very yummy dinners or rice, beans and vegetable. Once in a while we have a piece of fish or chicken.

Margaret, our cook in the kitchen

Linda and Margaret

Dinner at GTHA

There are 2 smaller houses that served as servant’s quarters and are now used for 3 classrooms: English, business and computer.

The property is surrounded by a wall with glass chips and an electrical fence on top. The closed iron gate is locked at night or when we are not at home. We have a night guard, Pedro, who comes at 7pm and leaves in the morning at 7am. He sleeps on a bench in the English classroom.

Besides Margaret and Pedro, Mama Jo comes every morning for cleaning and laundry which is done outside by hand and then sheets, towels, clothes and all flatter in the sun and breeze. Since we leave all shoes outside on the porch, she also washes all shoes periodically – the dust and dirt roads color all shoes red. Most here wear flip-flops but I prefer closed shoes. One day I came home just to eat and then wanted to go out again – but in the meantime Mama Jo had washed my shoes and now they were wet and on the lawn for drying. There is an interesting custom here: People call mothers by the name of their eldest son, so Mama Jo eldest son is Joseph.

My day at the house starts early since I wake around 5am. I love the quiet morning hours to write my notes, work on my pictures and to prepare my next blog story. By around 7am, the house wakes up and the kitchen becomes active. By 9am, we are al ready for our various teaching assignments. Most of us wear skirts to class, most women in Moshi wear skirts or dresses of cotton material suitable for the constant hear. Some of the younger women wear western style jeans and tops. Headscarves worn in very creative styles and all kind of braided hairstyles are common. We have a couple of Muslim women with headscarves but not the face scarf seen in town.

Grace with a new hairdo with colored extensions braided into her hair.

There are several male students (minority) but important to get the word out that the school is teaching what it promises. Considering this is a very male dominated culture it is important to gain the trust of men to send their wives for education.

We have 2 class sessions form 9-10:30 and then 10:30-12 noon. The 38 students are divided into 2 groups of 18 according to their language skills with the level 2 including the more advance speakers. English is taught to all 18 students in one session, while the business and computer class each have 9 students. There are 10 laptop computers for the students to work on. We are teaching Word and Excel and most students have never handled a computer or typewriter – so you can imagine what a slow process this is. But by the end of the 6-month program, they at least have some familiarity of the programs. Unfortunately, none of he students have a computer at home and some stay to practice from 12-2pm. But I wonder how much can be retained after they leave if they don’t find a job to continue to learn? Before I come to GTHA, the computer class visited the local Internet Café to get introduced to the Internet and the wonderful resource of Google.

Computer Class Room

At lunch, everyone piles into the kitchen to prepare our lunch. I mostly prepare tomatoes, tuna and cucumber with some bread for lunch. Having to carry all groceries from town for 30 minutes, I buy just what I need and stuff it into my backpack for my journey home. There is a great bakery with fresh bread in town and it is a center point for our grocery shopping. We always go together and I am slowly memorizing the route through shortcuts and dirt roads. The local market with small stands of fruits and vegetable is yet further in town (about 40 minutes) and often we just buy the fresh things at a small stall across the road of the bakery.

The afternoon are taking up by these groceries runs, going to the bank for cash, browsing the small shops local wear, having a cold drink at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge before walking back to GTHA. This can take the whole afternoon and I certainly miss my car for grocery runs. Last time in town, we visited a small music and video stall with a colorful owner who let us sample many CDs with African music [mostly pirated!!] before deciding on 2 to take home with us. 

Rasta Dave in Moshi downtown

Dinner is around 7p. But sometimes we eat earlier due to lack of electricity. Power outages are a common occurrence here and one never knows when it will happen. So we have candles everywhere, I have a headlamp always handy as well as a flashlight. But then again, it can be a cozy atmosphere eating by candle light and just have conversations.

Dinner by candle light

Later we sit in the living room, reading, doing computer work – if the electricity is on – watching TV which apparently is new addition to the living room. Getting up so early, I mostly retire early to my bunk bed, read a little with my headlamp and fall asleep easily.

GTHA Living Room

... until the rooster and the call to prayer at 5am wake another day.

Jambo to all of you from Moshi, at the foot at Kilimanjaro.