Friday, July 1, 2016

Save the Date!

This year’s screening will be on Thursday, September 29th.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Flight Home

In Abu Dhabi, more of the group broke up.  Nick Chiang was flying on to Istanbul for a connection to Greece.  (That was scary, given the bombing of the Instanbul airport the day before.)  Jumana Zahid was headed to her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  She and Nick departed for the same terminal.  Ivan left to spend several days in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before heading back to San Francisco. So, all of a sudden, we were a group of five.

We found our gate and learned what we had to do in terms of U.S. Customs before going to the food court and having lunch (dinner?) at an O’Leary’s in the airport.  There had been an announcement on the plane that, during Ramadan, no food or drink could be eaten in the airport during daylight hours.  I think we were all amazed that an international airport could restrict food and beverage like that. But we were there after dark, so we were able to get food.  Later, we went through U.S. customs – minus our baggage – in the airport and then had another long wait before the flight took off at 2:30 AM.

Some sixteen hours later, the five of us landed in San Francisco. We retrieved our luggage, and sorted out the equipment for return to the BECA Cage. Then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  Another trip over.  It’s always bittersweet; everyone’s so glad to be home, but it’s hard to say goodbye.

Dar Es Salaam

As soon as we landed in Dar Es Salaam, Ashley said a quick goodbye to me and headed off to the international part of the airport – a taxi ride away – with Jumana in tow, to make sure she got to her gate and arrived in time for the flight.  I stayed at the domestic terminal to wait for the others and to look for the transport from our Salvation Army hostel in Dar to pick us up. The others arrived, with tales of landing on a tropical Zanzibar for a few minutes before making the last leg of the flight.

Finally, we made contact with the taxis from the hostel, which had been waiting for us at the international airport for an hour before receiving the call that we were at the domestic airport. Then all eight of us – with two pieces of luggage apiece  - squeezed into two taxis.  We still needed to pick up Jumana at the international terminal, so one cab headed there while the other went on to the hostel.  Because phones weren’t connecting in the new city, it took a good half hour to connect with Jumana. But finally, we were on our way.

By this time, it was rush hour and we were in traffic that made Arusha look uncongested.
The Salvation Army “compound” was a fenced-in area near the national stadium. (Soccer, of course!) From the outside, the stadium looks gorgeous! Inside the fence, there are many (50?) little cottages that contain two single beds with mosquito netting draped around them, and an adjoining bathroom. We learned the charge was $25/night for one cottage plus breakfast.  Wow!  And there was a big fan in each room to dissipate the heat (84º F) and coastal humidity. As everyone was tired and ready to go home, we decided not to leave the compound, but instead, to have dinner there. It was good food in a pleasant, large dining room.

The next morning we traipsed back to the big dining room for breakfast. Salvation Army “soldiers” were there this time, dressed crisply in white shirts and black pants or skirts. Unfortunately, this was the biggest insight we gained into the work of the Salvation Army while we were there. But we were surely grateful for the clean, comfortable, and inexpensive housing for our last night.  At !0:00 AM, we again stuffed ourselves into taxis – this time, three vehicles – and rode to the airport, a quick ride in the lighter morning traffic.  The plane left Dar at 1:30 PM for Abu Dhabi.

Back to Arusha

The drive back to Arusha was relatively uneventful. By now, we are used to seeing men and boys herding cows, goats and sheep, and people carrying huge bundles – on their heads, on their bicycles or in their cars. We did see Maasai boys who had recently been circumcised.  After the initial days of recovery, the boys wear warrior paint and dress all in black.  It’s not clear to me what the purpose of the attire is, but several boys dressed in that way were standing along the road, and I was able to get a photo.  Mount Meru, as you approach Arusha from Karatu, is pretty impressive, as well, and is much more visible than Kilimanjaro.

We had hoped to stay again at the hostel where we had stayed enroute from Sinya to Karatu, but Mama Simba’s place was booked up, so we stayed at a nearby hostel owned by Mama Christina.  It was a castle-like structure, and the nine of us occupied two rooms – bunk beds again.

In the morning, we set off for the airport.  The traffic in Arusha is miserable – much like Silicon Valley, but with poorer roads – and it takes a long time to get anywhere.  Even so, we made it to the airport with time to spare.  That was good, because we had to sort out the confusion with our flight.  Once again, we were booked on a small propeller plane between Arusha and Dar Es Salaam. BUT, much to our surprise, we had been split up between two planes run by two different companies. One made a short stop in Zanzibar enroute to Dar, while the other flew directly to Dar.  Ashley needed to catch an international flight to Addis Abbaba, a stopover on her way to Lebanon to be with relatives, and had only a 2-hour window to do it, so she, Jumana and I flew on the non-stop flight and the others flew on the plane with the brief stop in Zanzibar.

Tumaini Secondary School

Our final destination on Monday was the new Tumaini Secondary School just outside the town of Makayuni. Wow! The school opened in January of 2016 to fulfill a dream of Bayo’s – to start a secondary school to complement the primary school. And the only word for it now is WOW!  It is amazing!

Bayo had been thinking about starting a secondary school for quite a while, but neither the land – in Karatu – nor the funds were available.  In a rare coincidence, Bayo offered a ride to a man dressed for business, who was standing along the road, as Bayo was driving to Arusha for a meeting. The man turned out to be a member of the city council (or similar government body) from the town of Makayuni.  The man mentioned that the town was allocating land near town to people with proposals for projects that would benefit the town.  Bayo mentioned that he wanted to start a secondary school, and the man encouraged him to write a letter to the city council, proposing that he build the school on land near the town.  Soon afterwards, he was told that the town was giving the land to him for the school.  Within this same time period, Bayo received a call from TEC founders Carol Hall and Frank Lee, who told him that an alumus and parent of a Gould School student (Gould brings students to Tumaini each year.) wanted to donate funds to help with the construction of a school. So . . . building began, and a year later (!), the school opened!

There is now an administration building with a number of offices and a large conference room. There is a classroom building with four sizeable classrooms, as well as a science and technology building that houses the biology, chemistry and physics labs, and the computer room.  Temporarily, the school library is housed in the computer lab until a separate library building can be built. There are separate girls’ and boys’ dorms, and there is housing for teachers.  A garden, with drip irrigation, stretches between the two dorms. Between the administration building and the classroom building is an assembly area and space for netball. Along the side of the classroom building is the volleyball court, and there is a large space where a soccer field and a basketball court will be built. The World Leadership group that was at Tumaini the previous week started building the walkways between the buildings; it was physical labor that was accomplished in groups of three – one local workman, one Tumaini Secondary student, and one U.S. student from New Jersey.

When we arrived, we schlepped our stuff to the girls’ dorm. We all (SFSU students plus Adrienne) stayed in one large room equipped with bunk beds, with a bathroom next door.
Then the cooks – who work in a small kitchen building near the girls’ dorm – presented us with juice and bruschetta as we sat under new trees, caught our breath, and enjoyed the early evening. Later, we had dinner – a wonderful meal, served in the other side of the girls’ dorm, which had been temporarily converted into a dining hall. Then we gathered around a campfire built in the assembly area, and talked about our impressions of Tanzania, of Tumaini, both junior and senior, and the trip. When bedtime came, most of us had no trouble sleeping, even though Bayo warned us that giraffes, elephants and other wild animals in this dry, arid environment occasionally come up to the edge of the property. (One night during the school year, elephants broke down the fence and came onto the school campus!)

The next morning, after a great breakfast, we toured the buildings and began our shoot. (Note: our Tumaini video, as mentioned in an earlier post, will focus on sponsorship.  The idea is to encourage sponsoring children at either school, so we needed some footage on the secondary school, in addition to what we shot at the junior school.) Since exams for the secondary students are over and no students were around, Bayo and the staff of the junior school decided to bus the 7th form (oldest) students from Karatu to the secondary school for the day, both so they could pose as students at the secondary school for our video and so they could see the school and think about enrolling there in the year ahead. Their presence added a lot to the shoot. We simulated a class in the computer room for the purposes of the video. Then some of the students continued looking at the computers while biology models – a skeleton, an eye and a human body with all the “innards” – absorbed the attention of others.  I have never seen such an enthusiastic and “hungry” group of students as those left in the room after the shoot.

Later, some of the girls changed into uniforms to play netball, again for the purposes of the shoot.  Netball, in case you are wondering, is an Australian (?) game that used nets slightly smaller than those in basketball and smaller balls.  There are specific rules about what a player can touch, and how she or he pivots – and about many other aspects of the game, I’m sure. Anyway, two groups of girls had a short game, and then posed for team pictures.  At the same time, a group of boys were playing volleyball in their Tumaini uniforms.

After the shooting was over, we had lunch – again, a wonderful meal – and the children had soft drinks as a treat. When the meal was over, Bayo called each of our names and gave the women pieces of khanga cloth (Tanzanian fabric that has a slogan or motto written on it) and the men a shuka (the blanket the Maasai men wear much of the time). It was a lovely gesture. Then, of course, we had to say goodbye.  The children and Adrienne needed to get back to Karatu before the close of school so the buses could be used to transport students to their homes. And we needed to get on to Arusha, where we would spend the night.  It was hard to say goodbye, especially to Bayo, who is such a force of nature in the world of Tanzanian education, and to Adrienne, who has been so helpful to us while we were here. And of course, the kids are terrific!

Mto Wa Mbu

On Monday morning, we left Karatu.  That meant saying goodbye to our housemate, Allison, and sports volunteer, Chris, and to Janet Bayo and Agnes and her husband, who had cooked for us. I think we all really enjoyed being in Karatu, largely because of Tumaini, but also because there is a community of volunteers that welcomed us in even for a short time. We also enjoyed staying at the volunteer house, a great environment for us.

In two cars, with all of our luggage, we traveled to Mto wa Mbu, a small town between Karatu and Arusha, where we had agreed to shoot some footage at an orphanage called Children Concern Foundation. Gloria Upchurch, through A Global Connection, had donated playground equipment for the orphanage, and she had requested we go there.  Two other Bay Area women have been involved with the orphanage as well.

We toured the orphanage, which had moved to this site about five years ago.  Children are referred to the orphanage by a government agency.  They range in age from 6 to 18.  Children at this orphanage go to government schools, although they are hoping to start a school on the site.  Some of the children are also getting vocational training.  There are separate buildings for the boys’ and girls’ dorms, and there is a dining hall and kitchen. In addition, there is an administration building in which there is a large classroom where the youngest children (those not yet ready for primary school) have class. In the middle of the campus is a playground, with swings, teeter totters, a slide, and a jungle gym.

This was our only experience with an orphanage and with children referred to an organization through the Tanzanian government. It’s clear that the organization is well run and the children are well cared for. It’s also evident that the support of the U.S. donors helps a great deal.

We had planned to find a place for lunch in Mto wa Mbu, but before we had a chance to do that, Bayo arranged for us to take a tour of the town and have lunch at the end of the tour. The town is attempting to increase its potential as a tourist attraction and, indeed, it's a fascinating place. We looked up as we got out of the car, only to see what must have been hundreds of storks in the tops of the trees. We learned later that they are in the process of migration. That, in itself, was amazing! But the town is known for its banana production – and especially for red bananas.  We learned that bananas are used for eating, for cooking and for making banana beer. Red bananas, like the yellow ones we know, are used for eating. It is the green bananas that are used for cooking.

Our tour was through a banana-growing “forest” where we learned about banana cultivation, the flowers at the ends of the stalks of bananas, and the fertilization of the land – with elephant dung - to prepare for growing bananas.  The town depends on bananas because they are not seasonal; they grow all year. That means continuous revenue for the town.  In addition, we learned that one banana plant will only grown one bunch of bananas.  After that, it is cut down to make way for a new plant.  Our walk through the forest including the precarious crossing of a plank over a river, and took us to a workshop where several people were making articles out of wood.  There was some ebony and another kind of wood. The products – statues, masks, salad tongs, etc. – were beautiful, but we had seen most of the items in other stores, and no one wanted to buy anything.  Then we arrived at the place where we had lunch.  A variety of foods were being cooked outside over a fire. After a short wait, the cooks served our lunch – an array of food including two kinds of rice, ugale, a meat stew, vegetables, salads, and much more. It was an amazing spread – and delicious!

After the meal, we went to the Maasai market in Mto wa Mbu, where a number of us made purchases of items to take home. The market is a tourist paradise, with masks, wooden statues, beaded jewelry, shukas, and other items for sale.  It is also a place to bargain – and we did just that.  Our suitcases became much heavier before we left the market.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ngorongoro Crater

A short distance from Karatu is a national park called, “Ngorongoro Crater.”  It is a HUGE crater in which many animals live. It is also a Maasai area; the Maasai live and herd their animals in the park. We saved our trip to the Ngorongoro Crater for our last day in Karatu, a Sunday when school was not in session. We started from the volunteer house at 7:30 in the morning.  It was foggy and threatened rain; in fact, when we got to the edge of the crater, we could hardly see in front of our faces. (We may as well have been in San Francisco, given the fog!)  Soon after we went through the entrance to the park, baboons appeared out of nowhere, all along the side of the road. On the edge of the crater, as the fog began to break, we saw a large boma. In this case, “boma” refers to a large, fenced-in enclosure to keep the Maasai cattle and the people in the houses protected from predators.

We started down into the crater and it became sunny.  By the time we reached the floor of the crater, it was warm enough to pop the top of the Land Rover so that we could stand up.  And we immediately began to see animals! Wildebeests and warthogs were among the first animals we saw. There were African buffalo and impalas. We saw herds of zebras in several places. They are so beautiful! And we had the good fortune not only to see ostriches, but to get up close to them two or three times.  Near a river, we saw two hippopotamuses curled up together. THAT’s quite a sight! And we were fortunate to see a rhinoceros – and at a relatively close distance. Rhinos are quite a rare sight; in 2013, we saw one at the end of the day and from a huge distance, such that it looked like a speck against the landscape.

It’s easy to tell where someone has spotted a “must see” animal because the land rovers gather into a traffic jam in the middle of the savanna. That happened in front of the rhinoceros. It happened again later, and that’s how we found the lions. At first, we saw three adult lions lying in the sun, rather close to the road.  They weren’t very active; they were much more interested in taking a nap in the sun than in doing much else.  After awhile, we drove on and saw more ostriches and zebras, as well as a couple of hyenas. Then we circled back and saw that a buffalo was alone in the middle of a pride of five lions. What this meant to the guides was that the lions were going to attack. So . . . we sat, watched and waited, hoping to see the food chain in action.  It appeared, however, that despite the fact that this buffalo was fairly slow, and was really cornered, it was not his day to die.  Our guide speculated that the lions had already eaten this morning, and as a result were not interested in more food.

Eventually, we gave up and went on to the place where we had lunch – a small lake or large pool where there were many hippopotamuses that would surface periodically to take in some air.  This is the place where most, if not all, of the guides park their land rovers for lunch. I was looking out of the car and saw a friend from San Francisco – a woman who works with the orphanage that we will visit tomorrow in Mto wa Mbu. Amazing!  I had no idea she was in the country; our arrangements to visit the orphanage were through Gloria Upchurch.  The friend, Betsy Collard, was in the park with a group of people from the Bay Area who help raise money for the orphanage.

From the lunch spot, we started back toward the road that leads out of the crater. On the way, we saw Thompson’s gazelles, flamingos, a couple of beautiful birds, one with a crown that is spectacular, and more of the animals we had already seen. We also saw a jackal heading through some bushes, clearly protected from view. Unfortunately, there were no elephants today, although they are usually in the crater.  Giraffes do not go into the crater because there is no food for them there.  Sometimes, people see giraffes at the top of the crater on the way in, but the fog made that impossible today.

When we got back to the lookout where we had started our day, there was no more fog, and the view across the crater was spectacular!  It is hard to explain how large this crater is; you have to see it.  We were standing at the lookout, taking pictures and absorbing the view, when out of nowhere came a swarm of bees! All of us ran for the road and escaped being bitten! What a rush of adrenalin – and an addition to the list of wild animals we had seen! When we were all safely back in the car, we drove on to the park entrance, where we were met by another slew of baboons. They were sitting on both sides of the road and in the middle of the road.  Amazing!  As we got out of the car to go into the gift shop, our guide told us to shut the doors and windows of the car to keep the baboons from taking anything.  But we were too slow.  A baboon came up and grabbed an uneaten sandwich and pack of cookies out of the land rover.  He dropped the cookies but climbed up a tree with the sandwich, wrapped in plastic, and proceeded to eat it. Unbelievable!  The baboons are strong and quick – and they are hilarious to watch!

It was a great day – really satisfying!

Market Day

There is a big market in Karatu twice a month, and we happened to be in Karatu for one of those days.  There is a huge field on one end of town where people from all over the area set up shot and sell their wares.  On the front end are live animals – cows, goats, and sheep. Along one side is the food – all kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and meat on display.  In the back aisle of the foods, vendors are cooking and selling meat and other foods. Much of the middle of the market features “gently used” clothing, probably sent from the U.S. or elsewhere.  There is a rather large area for shoes – also either “gently used” or new, rubber shoes. In one area, ropes are for sale – hand made, for sure, and probably sisal.

There are fabrics, although the selection of new fabric is somewhat sparse.  But a couple of vendors sell short (probably about 2 yds.) pieces that are seconds – a large piece that is marred by a seam or a cut.  Those second are sold at a huge discount and pieces are large enough to make a skirt or blouse for a small person, or things like bags and computer cases. And there are several vendors who sell shukas – the plaid fabric that men wrap themselves in when tending the animals. We have learned that the Maasai wear red shukas, and that members of other tribes use other colors that identify them.

The best time to go to the market is 2:00 or 3:00 PM because that’s when the most people are there. Brian and I spent the morning walking through the downtown area to look at fabric stores (natch!), while most of the students slept in.  All of us eventually arrived at Tumaini, where we saw the end of career day, scheduled at the time that parents were visiting to talk with the teachers and receive their children’s exam scores. After lunch, all of us made our way to the market.  It was gift-buying time!

Assembly for World Leadership Program

Friday was the culmination of the World Leadership Program. The school held an assembly to mark that occasion. The 900+ students plus the teachers and staff gathered around the basketball court for the program.  One class – fourth grade, I think – recited a poem that went on for a good five minutes or more. The content of the poem was somewhat philosophical, about how to live a good life, how to stay away from violence and, in general, how to be a good person. There were hand gestures, dance steps and other movements to accompany the poem.  The fact that this group of at least twenty children could remember and recite a poem that long was amazing in itself.  The added dance routine made it even more impressive.

The Drama Club presented a play that, in a humorous way, laid out the problem of girls being married off rather than being allowed – much less encouraged – to finish school. It was complete with a father (apparently a Maasai man with a red plaid shuka, a walking/herding stick, and a determination to exchange his daughter for a nice profit), a mother who stuck up for the daughter, the girl herself, the head mistress at the school, who was asked to help keep the girl in school, and the potential suitor, an elderly, rich man. At the end, the police came and arrested both the father and the suitor for breaking the law against selling daughters.  What we had learned earlier from Adrienne, the TEC Program Coordinator, was that there is a girl at Tumaini Junior School whom they try to keep at school during breaks because the family is anxious to marry her off.

Finally, the teenagers from the two schools – Tumaini Senior School and a school in Montclair, New Jersey – did a dance routine.  They were dressed in colorful, African cloth and accompanied by drums.   Then students from each school thanked the school for hosting them and reflected on their time here. In all, the assembly probably lasted an hour, and the smallest children were getting pretty wiggly. Everyone was dismissed after singing the national anthem.

Friday is usually sports day; children do sports after lunch.  Because of the assembly, those activities were delayed until the end of school. There was a rousing game of volleyball; the fifth and sixth grade soccer teams played each other; and games were being organized on the basketball court. Jumana and Abene got involved on the basketball court while Nick, Kamran and Ashley played soccer. In fact, the soccer game lasted until dinner time.

Back at Tumaini

We finished up the major part of our shooting at Tumaini on Thursday. The last interview was of two girls, both of whom are sponsored, who were interviewed together. They are friends, and they wanted to be together on camera. In addition, Ashley took B-roll of a girl who had just been given a new sponsor, who was writing an introductory sponsor letter.

Jumana had the idea of writing an additional script from children’s letters to their sponsors. Adrienne gathered letters to sponsors that were ready to be sent, and Jumana and Nick read them, copied off parts of the letters they felt were compelling, and worked those child-generated sentences into a composite “letter” from a child to a sponsor.  They then recorded a child at Tumaini reading the letter. Their plan is to put a Go-Pro camera on a child during the day on Friday to capture the school – and the content of the letter – from a child’s point of view. This will become an additional video for Tumaini’s use.

After the dismissal bell, a couple of the sports-minded BECA students went out on the field to join the children in after-school sports.  It was fun to see Kamran, at 6’5” a stereotypical basketball player, give Mr. Paul, the Head Teacher, pointers on shooting a basketball.

Foundation for African Medicine & Education (FAME)

One of the jewels of Karatu is the Foundation for African Medicine & Education (or FAME). It is a clinic situated in the hills above Karatu. FAME was started by Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, in 2008.  The story is that Frank, an anesthesiologist from Modesto, and Susan came to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. (Climbing the mountain is what brings many people to Tanzania the first time). On the way up, “Dr. Frank” developed pulmonary edema and nearly died.  He was brought down and taken to Arusha, a city close to Kilimanjaro, where doctors were able to save him.

After that experience, Frank and Susan went home to Modesto, sold everything, and came back to Tanzania.  Dr. Frank spent two years re-training in primary care in Arusha.  Then he started a clinic in Karatu that is now called FAME.

In 2013, we had the good fortune of visiting FAME and learning about its services.  At that time, there were five Tanzanian doctors, in addition to Dr. Artress, and Susan was doing the grant writing. There was a building that was planned for an operating room and an emergency room, but there were no supplies or equipment for those procedures. All of us were tremendously impressed with FAME, and we were determined to go back if we ever got to Tanzania again.

Brian and I walked to FAME today – a distance of about 5 km. – which is gently uphill in an area that looks like the Tuscan countryside. Pauline, the volunteer coordinator, showed us around. As was the case with Tumaini, a lot of construction has occurred at FAME, so the facilities are much larger.  A new administration building was dedicated in December 2015. Another new building – a radiology center – will open as soon as a dedicated generator arrives from France and is installed. One part of the hospital area is set aside for maternity care.  It has been open for about two years, and to date, there have been no maternal deaths at FAME.  The clinic is doing outreach with traditional birthing attendants (TBAs) to encourage them to bring their clients to FAME to deliver.  It was interesting to learn that in general, it is not possible to give the TBAs additional training to deal with complications of pregnancy and birth because the TBAs do not have medical education to begin with, FAME has resolved the issue by encouraging the TBAs to take their clients to FAME to deliver, and allowing the TBAs to remain with the woman during delivery.  That compromise, they believe, will lead to an increase in safe births. FAME is hoping to raise money for a specific maternity building, along with a place where a mother who has begun contractions but is not yet ready to deliver can stay until the baby makes its entrance. Now, if contractions have begun but the woman is not yet ready to deliver, and she is sent home, usually the woman will not return to FAME when her contractions increase.

There are approximately 110 staff members at FAME; among them are ten Tanzanian doctors in addition to Dr. Artress.  Although we had met him before, we were disappointed not to see Dr. Artress today.  He was off in the Tarangire area for two days doing a mobile clinic. We learned that Pauline, the volunteer coordinator, is here for a year.  She is from France, and has lived in the U.S. and in South Africa, so her English has an unusual accent – mildly Australian though probably South African.

Having missed our usual lunch at Tumaini, Brian and I had lunch at the restaurant associated with the clinic.  There we met Denis, a man from the town of Kilimanjaro, who is both an architect and a painter.  He was responsible for the lively, animated paintings of giraffes and elephants we had seen hanging in the maternity wing of FAME. He had more paintings for sale in the restaurant, and I snapped up one of a Maasai man walking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Second Day of Production - Tumaini

We arrived back at Tumaini this morning to do more interviews.  The students conducted two more interviews with adults, and then started on interviews with children. Three children, all of whom have sponsors, were interviewed. What I mean by “sponsored” is that someone is paying the expenses for that child to attend Tumaini. Usually, sponsors are people who learn about the school because they have been in Tanzania on safari and the tour driver makes a stop at Tumaini. The sponsor commits to pay an individual child’s expenses for a year. The current price for sponsorship is $1500; that amount pays for tuition, room and board, uniforms, books and other expenses. Often, sponsors continue to sponsor the child throughout his or her time at Tumaini.  Now that there is a secondary school, that relationship can continue even longer. Adrienne Luczkow and Mr. Bayo asked us to focus the current video on sponsorship so that is what we are doing.

Among the three "children" we interviewed was a 16-year-old named Dixon who attends the new Tumaini Secondary School.   He had attended Tumaini Junior School prior to moving on to secondary school. At first, he was enrolled in a public secondary school before the new Tumaini Secondary School opened in January of 2015. In the interview, Dixon related some of the negative experiences he had had at the public school before he was able to move to Tumaini.  Dixon was at the Junior School today because he is involved in a program called, "World Leadership," that joins secondary school students from different countries together to do activities and talk about leadership. The students had spent some time together at the secondary school before coming to Karatu for a few days.  They will do a project together before the program breaks up later in the month.

One thing I haven’t explained about Tumaini yet is that it is an English-medium school. In Tanzania, the medium of instruction for the public primary schools is Kiswahili, while teaching at the secondary level is done in English.  What that means is that many children, who have had all their education in Kiswahili until that time enter secondary school at a distinct disadvantage because of the instruction in English.  In contrast, Tumaini teaches all subjects in English at the primary level.  All around the school, in fact, are signs reminding students (and teachers and staff, alike) to speak in English. Children are taught Kiswahili, as well, so they are able to read and write in their own language, but it is a single subject within the school curriculum, and not language through which other subjects are taught.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tumaini Educational Corporation (TEC)

In 2011, Carol Hall and Frank Lee, a couple who live outside of Boston, MA, began the Tumaini Educational Corporation to support the work of the Tumaini Junior School.  That organization has served to fundraise for the school and to coordinate the sponsorship program through which donors provide scholarships to the children. By the time we arrived in 2013, there was a Project Coordinator, hired by TEC, who was responsible both to Mr. Bayo and to Carol Hall, and who had a multitude of responsibilities in addition to seeking sponsors for individual children. That person, Elizabeth Kallop, organized our time in Karatu and helped us tremendously when we were here.

The person now in that role is Adrienne Luczkow. She did a lot of work prior to our arrival to prepare for our presence in the school.  Part of that consisted of making the Volunteer House available for us to stay, and another part involved working with Mr. Bayo and Carol Hall to determine the focus for our video.  Although Adrienne grew up near Boston – and thus, near Carol and Frank, she had been working at another job in Tanzania before taking this position.

One of the two coordinators between Elizabeth and Adrienne is visiting the school this week and finishing a project in the library. I’ve had the good fortune of working with her to do a couple of volunteer activities. Two other volunteers – one working on IT and one organizing sports activities – also are here. Please check out the Facebook page for Tumaini Education Corporation for more information.

First Day of Production at Tumaini

The whole group arrived at Tumaini at 9:00 AM. After depositing our equipment, the head teacher, Mr. Paul, gave us a tour.  Children in a number of the classes either sang to us or greeted us in another way.  We saw dormitories, classrooms, and of course, the new library and computer lab. It is hard not to be impressed with all that is going on at Tumaini – and the whole group was suitably impressed!

The students conducted three interviews on Monday – with Mr. Jimmy, Madame Christine, and the teacher who is currently serving as the librarian.  In addition, Ashley picked up B-roll around the campus. There is so much to see – children in class, laundry hanging on the line, dormitories, the kitchen that puts out 3 meals a day, plus a snack, for 900 children, as well as teachers, staff, and visitors like us, the sports activities, the places outside where children wash their hands, the sewing shop where uniforms are made and mended, and so on.

Tea is served at around 10:30 AM – a sweet, black tea along with delicious rolls made in the kitchen. What a treat! Lunchtime is 1:00 PM, and we were included in the fare of rice and beans, spinach, and fruit. When we were here in 2013, the lunch consisted only of rice and beans, or another, similar, hearty dish, with no vegetables or fruit.  Since then, a nutritionist from Long Island University did a nutritional analysis and made suggestions for changes in the diet, which the school implemented.  We attribute to that change the addition of the spinach and fruit. (The same nutrition professor will be back in Karatu in another week or two, with a group of students, to do a second analysis of the diet at the school. One of her students arrived early to do more volunteer work, and she is staying at the Volunteer House with us.)

While the BECA students worked on production, I wandered into the library and offered to help.  I was able to read with a couple of children and brainstorm with a volunteer on ways to encourage children to do more reading. I can think of few things I enjoy more than reading to children, so I was in my element!

Tumaini Junior School

It is so good to be back at Tumaini Junior School!  This is the school where Brian Favorite, the Production Coordinator on this trip, four BECA students and I spent almost a month in 2013.  What an exceptional school this is! The school began with 17 students in the living room of Mr. Modest Bayo’s home in Karatu in 2004. It now has more than 900 students from preschool through Form 7 (British system – about the end of middle school), 44 teachers, and four dormitories. (The dorms have bunk beds, and many of them are triple deckers!)

Kamran (the producer on the 2016 Tumaini video), Nick, Brian and I went over to the school on Sunday afternoon so that Kamran and Nick could get a sense of the school before production began on Monday, and so that Brian and I wouldn’t have to wait a second longer to go back to Tumaini.  The school has added a fourth floor since we were here, and that floor contains both a computer laboratory and a library.

A teacher named Mr. Jimmy runs the computer lab. He remembered us and knew we were coming because Brian has kept up with him on Facebook. The computer lab has both Dell laptops and Google Chrome Books – probably about 40 computers.  It has been set up so children can use computers for writing, email and Khan Academy, but not for social media.

The library is a large room with many books. (OF COURSE, it could use more!)  Apparently, an elementary school in the U.S. closed and the school donated its books to Tumaini.  Then came the problem of shipping all of those books from the U.S. to Karatu. Someone affiliated with Pepsico was sending a shipment to Dar Es Salaam anyway, and he sent the books along, and then transported them to Karatu by truck from the port. Shelves have been built, and the library has become a welcoming place, with rugs, comfortable chairs, and more “serious” tables and chairs for schoolwork.

On Sunday afternoon, a large group of children was playing sports in the school yard. (Keep in mind that about 300 children board at the school.) Another group was watching a movie. The youngest children were taking naps when we arrived. We reacquainted ourselves with some of the teachers, including Mr. Jimmy, and Madame Christine, who is in charge of the youngest children. What a delight!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Back to Karatu

We drove back to Karatu on Sunday morning over the dusty, bumpy road. One of our two Land Rovers had a bit of car trouble – a faulty fuel pump that the drivers together fixed relatively quickly. Ryan, the Bayos’ four-year-old son, insisted on sitting by the window in the front seat next to me, but soon fell asleep in my arms, and stayed that way for most of the trip.

After landing back at the volunteer house, we dumped our luggage and went to the nearby Happy Days, an ex-pat hangout, for lunch (and Internet, we hoped). It took an hour to get served; in other words, the restaurant is much the same as it was three years ago – the food is good but the service is slow. And there was no Internet. Alas!

Finishing Up Production

On Saturday morning, we were able to wrap up production. Our first priority was video- and audio-recording the “welcome song” the girls sang for us when we first arrived.  It begins, “Karibuni . . .” and goes on from there. (Note: “Karibu” means “you are welcome,” and it is used both when people arrive [e.g. Karibu – you are welcome here] and after thank you [e.g. karibu – you’re welcome].) The young women stood at their desks, in their uniforms, and sang it for us again twice! The first time, we got wide shots of the whole group and the second time, we got close ups on faces. Afterwards, the BECA students shot more B-roll and picked up sound – especially that of the treadle sewing machines.

There is a flag pole outside the school.  The Tanzanian flag was raised at the beginning of the day. As the projected ending of the video, we shot Violet, a student who had been interviewed on camera, lowering the flag. Then the girls gathered in front of the school, holding the flag, and waived.  That was our last shot, and it was a wrap.

To celebrate, after lunch we went over to the Lake Eyasi Lodge, where there is a swimming pool overlooking the lake.  Most of us went swimming in the cold water, and enjoyed sitting by the pool and looking at the beautiful view of the lake. Again, we were there at sunset, although this time, clouds concealed the view. Even so, it was gorgeous, and a nearly full moon shone over the lodge.

Sunset on Lake Eyasi

Late in the afternoon, we drove over to the lake for which the town is named. You don’t see the lake from the school, and I don’t believe we were able to see the lake when we were here in 2013.  At any rate, the lake is beautiful!

There are quite a few baobab trees in the area next to the lake. In the rainy season, the trees have leaves, but during the dry season, the top of the tree looks like upside-down tree roots sticking up into the air. The diameter of the trunk of the tree is quite large. There are a lot of baobab trees in Tarangire National Park, which is known for its elephants. The reason is that elephants eat the bark of the tree.  When they chew it, they get water from the bark. It appears that these same trees are so wide that some families live inside the trunk of the tree during the rainy season.  And poachers sometimes conceal themselves inside baobab trees to avoid being caught.

We drove from the Lake Eyasi Lodge, which overlooks the lake from a distance, down toward the lake. The area is very dry, with lots of aloe and cactus plants, in addition to the baobab trees. We made it in time to watch a perfect sunset.

Datoga Tribe

Some of the girls at Lake Eyasi come from the Datoga tribe.  We wanted to visit homes that the students come from to provide viewers of the video a sense of the transformation that occurs when the girls attend school at Lake Eyasi. So several of us, accompanied by Lightness, paid a visit to a Datoga family. In this group, the husband and father is 85; he has nine wives and close to 80 children and grandchildren. The man has a house for himself, and one of his wives goes to stay with him in that house for two days at a time. Then the next wife arrives.

The houses are rectangular in shape, with sloped, thatched roofs. We spent time with some of the wives, who wore gorgeous skirts made out of animal hide that had been heavily beaded.  The beading on the skirts, and the strings of beads hanging down from the skirts, were spectacular! One of the wives showed us the necklaces she had made to sell to tourists. Also hanging on display were small gourds decorated with beads. And the women were making flour from corn on a grinding stone.  They let a couple of us try to grind the flour.

Lake Eyasi is a big onion-growing area, and the variety that grows best here is red onions.  The Datoga family had a long shed to store onions, but it was empty when we were there because the price for onions is high right now, so the onions have been sold. When the price goes down again, onions will be stored in the shed.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Truth or Dare

Near the tent where meals are served, there is a big bonfire every evening.  On the 16th, the BECA group plus Lightness and Janet Bayo, and Rachael Fitzpatrick’s two daughters, Lauren and Courtney, sat around the fire and played Truth or Dare. Ashley Habr’s birthday was the next day, so a lot of the focus was on her. I had never played Truth or Dare (although I had heard my sons talk about it), and neither had the Bayos.  From a Tanzanian perspective, the game was quite risqué, although Lightness took a dare (from me) to sing the welcome song (Karibuni), and she did a great job!  I finally went to bed at around 10:00 PM, but the students stayed up and played until after midnight so they could usher in Ashley’s birthday.

Production at Lake Eyasi

We began production right away upon arriving at Lake Eyasi.  We made the mistake, however, of interviewing three of the girls in front of their classmates, all of us, along with Rachael and her husband and the Bayos.  Understandably, the girls became nervous and froze up, so we re-interviewed them the next morning in a small office where very few people could be present.  By that time, as well, the girls had become acquainted with the students so they were more at ease, such that they were animated and emotional in their interviews. The conditions for production are not great here; there is a lot of wind and the classroom is big and echo-y, so the students are learning to control the situation – good practice for them and necessary for this project.

While the students were interviewing Lightness and Rachael, I spent time with the vocational school students.  There have been a lot of changes in the program since Brian and I were here in 2013.  The focus of the school has changed to an emphasis on completing secondary school and passing the test that reflects secondary school knowledge. (This isn’t a GED, per se, but it has the same effect; it allows students to go on for higher education.)  On the board, soon after we arrived were a series of chemistry questions that yours truly could not begin to answer. We have seen math, Kiswahili, and civics lessons, as well. There are three young women who want to go on to be nurses, and others who have other dreams.

The vocational program has taken a back seat now as the focus is on empowering women to reach their dreams. I had remembered the school as one in which the typical student was a young woman who had become pregnant, usually because of rape or lack of sex education, and who, as a result, had to drop out of secondary school.  Then the treadle sewing machines imported from mainland China were new, there were several knitting machines, and the young women were not only learning these skills but attempting to sell their wares to tourist and schools. (School uniforms here usually include a solid-color sweater, knitted with acrylic yarn on a machine.)  Now, many of the machines are broken or in need of parts; there is one knitting machine; and although some of the girls are learning these needlework skills, the focus is on secondary school and going on for more training.  The students are not necessarily mothers, but young women from the ten villages surrounding Lake Eyasi who have had to leave secondary school for any of a number of reasons, including the inability to pay school fees.

At any rate, I spent some time with the young women who were doing sewing. I had been concerned because I had seen a number of their garments, and found seams in the wrong place and threads that didn’t match, etc. I was looking for an opportunity to offer some skills to increase the professionalism of the products. (Now, although the girls are not necessarily training to become seamstresses, some of them still will purchase treadle* machines and go back to their villages to sew as a way to support themselves and their children.) They have a rudimentary instructional sewing book, but the line drawings are not that clear. So . . . I showed them how to do a waistband so the stitching doesn’t show.  Then I demonstrated flat-felled and French seams. Then they wanted to learn how to do a herringbone stitch, which is a hand stitch used on hems, so we did that. Then someone wanted to learn how to do cross-stitch (a type of embroidery, to the uninitiated), so we did THAT – and then went on to straight and chain stitches.  I had a great time – and was exhausted by the end of the several hours!  Keep in mind that all of this occurred with THREE hand needles and THREE different colors of thread (white, black and purple).

(Note: I plan to buy the girls some needles – and thread, if I can find it – before I leave Tanzania. AND when I get home, I plan to collect notions to send with the next person traveling to Tanzania from San Francisco. If you have materials to contribute, please let me know.)

Anyway, the production continued while I was with the girls.  By the end of the second day, the interviews were done, and all that was left was to shoot B-roll.

*If you are wondering why I say TREADLE machines, it is because electricity, where it is available, is intermittent. You can’t count on it.  So an electric machine would not be reliable here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dear Blog Readers

Greetings from Lake Eyasi!  I am writing now to say that we have been away from the Internet for much of the time we are here.  Occasionally, I can get email on my phone, and I have been responding to a few messages that way, but quite frankly, I don't do thumbs! I have been able to keep up with the trip in terms of the text, but it takes about a half hour per post to add a new post when I include pictures, given the slowness of the Internet here. So . . . I have decided, for now, to post my text when I can, and to post photos when I have the luxury of time with the Internet.  I hope you understand! And thanks for reading!

Lake Eyasi Girls' Vocational School

After a sumptuous breakfast at the volunteer house, we stored some of our things and took off for Lake Eyasi. The road between Karatu and Lake Eyasi has NOT changed; it is all dirt, and is filled with potholes.  In two places, there are giant “gorges” where road runs next to huge, deep drop-offs.  In one place, a cement bridge holds the road; in the other, there is no support for the road.  In distance, it is a relatively short trip, but given the condition of the road, it takes well over an hour to drive that distance.

What a delight to reach the Lake Eyasi Girls’ Vocational School to see how the school has grown and changed in the three short years since Brian and I were here! Where there was only a cement foundation, there is now a large building that houses a big classroom and an office. Construction has begun on a second classroom for that building. Behind the main building is a dormitory – two large rooms, each with eight bunk beds.  The girls from the school now sleep in one of the rooms. (The dorm has been open for only about a week, so this is new for the girls.) Bayo* borrowed the bunk beds in the other room from the Tumaini Secondary School, because school is now out for the summer.  He brought in mattresses for those beds to arrive in time for us to use them. That was great, as we had expected to sleep on the floor. The bunks will now be available for more girls to stay at the school. In addition, there is a bathroom building and a small house for the matron who stays at the school.

We also saw the garden, where in the rainy season, the girls had grown vegetables that had fed themselves and much of the town. Now that the dry season has arrived, there is no water, although the garden is set up with a drip irrigation system.  Lightness is attempting to identify a source of water for the garden.

A doctor from Arizona is building a clinic very close to the school.  Right now, it is just a brick structure ready for a roof.  It looks huge, and it will be a much-needed addition to the Lake Eyasi community, which is constituted by ten villages in the immediate vicinity.

A little tent village has sprung up on the property, as well.  Rachael put up a tent – a substantial safari tent that has a bathroom with a (Western) toilet, shower and sink – where she could stay for several days while in Lake Eyasi.  Then the doctor added a second tent, and the Bayos a third. Bayo was able to get an old tent from his former tour company, which he put to use as a kitchen and dining room for the three safari tents. The Bayos can rent out the tents when their owners are not in residence, and the proceeds assist the school. Brian and I have each been housed in one of the tents, a totally unexpected luxury!

*Mr. Modest Bayo goes by the nickname of “Bayo.”