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.”

One Night in Karatu

The next morning, we left Arusha for Karatu. What was amazing to me was that the road between Arusha and Karatu has been fixed!  It was either pavement or blacktop all the way between the two towns.  (When we were here in 2013, there was road construction much of the way, and we traveled on either dirt or gravel roads almost the whole way.)

We passed Lake Manyara National Park on the way, where we had a great view of the lake.  Baboons played along the side of the road, and we were able to take pictures and watch them for awhile.  It took about three hours to reach Karatu, where Brian and I were excited to see familiar places. 

We drove straight to the volunteer house, where we spent the night.  (The Tumaini Educational Corporation, which supports the Tumaini Junior and Secondary Schools, rents a rather large house in a development of houses, many of which are rented by ex-pats who live in Karatu. That is the volunteer house.) The house has a living-dining room, two large bedrooms, each with two bunk beds, and two single rooms – one with a twin and one with a double bed. A kitchen and two bathrooms complete the house.  We settled into our rooms, and spent some time with Adrienne Luczkow, the program coordinator for the Tumaini Schools, talking both about the video we will do during the third week of the trip and about Adrienne’s experiences in Tanzania.

Then we went off to the Kitela Lodge, a VERY fancy safari lodge, where Gloria Upchurch, from the Olmoti Clinic, had invited us to dinner.  The other volunteers from Gloria’s group were there for dinner, along with Rachael Fitzpatrick of Angels Outreach, her husband, Greg Taylor, and Rachael’s two college-aged daughters.  Rachael, Greg, Abene and I had a meeting about the Lake Eyasi production, and we were later joined by Modest and Lightness Bayo, before we had dinner. The Bayos are the founders, respectively, of the Tumaini Schools (Modest) and the Lake Eyasi center (Lightness).

Back to Civilization . . . and the Internet!

On Monday, we traveled from Sinya to Arusha, the first stop on our trip to Karatu and Lake Eyasi. Leaving the gravel and dirt roads for pavement was the first sign we had left Sinya behind, although the fields of sunflowers and vegetables – corn, potatoes, and beans, in particular – followed us all the way to Arusha.

Now out of money again, we stopped at the same ATM we had traveled to before, but the Internet was down, so we had to wait. After lunch, we stopped at Shanga, a project where people with disabilities make artisanry to sell to tourists.  We watched two men make earrings out of beads and metal. We saw a woman adjusting the threads on her loom. A hearing-impaired man made glass beads out of recycled glass; he was working with a very hot fire and long wires with which he put glass into the fire and turned it. Ivan volunteered to try the glass work, and he was able to make one bead! We also watched women make the distinctive necklaces that combine beautiful, African cloth and beads.  It was these necklaces that put Shanga on the map and led to the growth of the organization. 

When we were in Tanzania in 2013, Shanga was located in a huge facility right in the city of Arusha. There were a lot more crafts being done, and we were able to watch that process.  Since then, a decision was made to move the sale of crafts to a safari lodge just outside the city to make it more convenient to the tourists who come through.  That meant that only a few artisans work at the new location to demonstrate what is being done. The rest are at the original location, and they are the ones who add to the inventory of products to be sold.  There is a gift shop at the lodge where we stopped, and we were able to begin to pick up gifts to take home with us.

We went on to a hostel called, Experience Tanzania, run by a woman called Mama Simba.  It was a very comfortable hostel, with Internet and hot showers. After the ice cold showers in Sinya, this was pure luxury. Within minutes after arrival, we were all glued to our phones as if we had never left home. Mama Simba teaches both Kiswahili (the Swahili language) and English, and her daughter will go to Iowa in August to teach Kiswahili at Iowa State University. It turns out that Mama Simba was Modest Bayo’s 4th grade teacher.  That was the connection that led us to this hostel. Mama Simba hosts people from all over the world who are coming to Tanzania for volunteer or educational experiences.

Sunday Walk

After shooting was over, we had a lazy morning on Sunday. Brian went along with the sisters to the Sunday church service, which lasted 2 ½ hours. He said the music – many of the Maasai are in the choir – was fabulous, but he couldn’t understand most of the rest.  The sisters asked him to stand up and tell the congregation what we were doing here, and those who understood his English were supportive.  The rest of us kicked back and had a well-deserved rest. 

After lunch, Engelbert and the sisters advised us on how to walk toward the Kenyan border, 7 km. away, by just following the path and climbing a small mountain from which we could see Kenya.  We started out, and enjoyed the walk, seeing goats and cattle, watched over by Maasai boys, along the way.  We saw a number of bomas, built in the traditional style with cow dung, but we also saw quite a few other kinds of structures that were clearly houses. It was alternately sunny and overcast; we were armed with sunscreen and hats.  I kept taking off and putting on a long-sleeved shirt to protect my neck and arms from the sun. We walked quite a ways, but finally decided to turn back when the direction of the trail became less clear. Several of us were concerned about not being able to find our way back in the dark, and Ivan, who had been a Boy Scout in Hong Kong, was worried that we were out there without a compass. In the afternoon, the sun was clearly our compass, but after dark, we would have lost that tool.

So . . . our walk was aborted, but we safely made it back to the hostel – and jumped into the ice-cold showers.


The nuns at the convent nearby invited us to a Maasai circumcision celebration on Saturday afternoon. Their parish encompasses a large part of the Sinya area. This was a celebration of the circumcision of three teenage boys.  (It appears that Tanzania has outlawed female circumcision, although we understand that, occasionally, it still occurs.) We understand that the night before the circumcision, the boys dance until all hours so that the blood moves away from the genital area.  Then, the next morning, the boys are circumcised.  Then they are taken to a hut to rest and recover while the community around them celebrates.

The celebration took place at the home of one of the boys.  The father is a community leader.  He lives in a house – as distinct from a boma – with a fair amount of land around it.  Some men were dressed in traditional Maasai attire while others wore Western clothing. The women were dressed in their best. The women from the families of the circumcised boys were dressed in traditional attire with sequins and bangles. One young woman wore a beaded headpiece that almost completely covered her face, traditionally intended to attract a young man. The women went into the cow pen to do traditional dances that involve jumping and singing. All three of the nuns joined them, and the women put the traditional beaded necklaces on two of the sisters while they danced. The students also joined in the dancing.

Then the women moved en mass to the hut where the circumcised boys rested.  There were three long tree branches outside of the hut to signify each of the boys who were circumcised. The women danced around and with those branches.  We were able to enter the hut, where a fire burned to keep the boys warm, to visit the boys as they rested.  They looked like they were in pain.

In addition to soda, the drinks served were bottled beer and a home brew made of honey and water and fermented for a month. There also was food, although we arrived too late to have any. We saw several drunk men, and one or two of them came on to the students. Fortunately, the BECA women know how to handle that situation.

We felt fortunate to attend the circumcision celebration, another amazing experience!

A Global Connection

Gloria Upchurch, one of the co-founders of the clinic, has an organization entitled, “A Global Connection,” which supports her work with the clinic. A number of people – nurses, social workers, and others - arrived in Tanzania on Friday to work with the clinic on Saturday and Sunday, the 11th and 12th.  Gloria invited us to join them for dinner at the safari lodge on Friday night. What a treat!

On Saturday, the group arrived at the clinic early to put on a day of a variety of services: an eye clinic, a teeth-brushing clinic, and a training session for nurse-midwives across the region. Gloria had sent supplies for the clinic with us and with the entire group working with her – toothpaste and toothbrushes, reading glasses of various strengths, sunglasses (which went fast!) and Anti-Shock Garments (ASGs). The latter are rubber-and-velcro devices that are strapped onto a woman who has lost too much blood in childbirth. The ASGs apply pressure to contain the hemorrhaging until the woman can get to a hospital; they are designed to save lives. These devices are not simple to use, however, and they require training both in how they are to be used and how they must be cleaned after use so they are available to help another woman.  Nine midwives from across the region came to the clinic to receive the training. First they watched a video that carefully described when and how to use the ASGs, and how to care for them. Next, they practiced putting them on and taking them off.  A colleague of Gloria’s strapped a pillow to her stomach (As she pointed out, she had her last child 30 years ago!) and played the part of a pregnant woman while the nurse midwives practiced putting the device onto, and taking it off of, her. This is an amazing device, and Gloria was able to obtain nine of them for the Sinya area.

In the middle of all of this, the BECA group was able to pull Gloria away and do an interview with her. It was outside, with a view of the clinic and the valley in the background.

At the end of the day, as the group was putting away all of the supplies, a group of about 50 women gathered outside of the clinic and began singing and dancing as a thank you to Gloria’s group.  They drew the volunteers into the dancing.  Later, the Americans (from the U.S. and Canada) sang a number of songs (like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “You Are My Sunshine” – chosen because everyone in the group knew them) back to the women.

Second Day of Shooting

Today, Jumana split the team in half and sent one group to get B-roll while the other group focused on the pregnant mother we had chosen as the woman to follow in the story the video will tell about the clinic. (For those who may not know, B-roll is footage that supports the narrative. For example, if the lab technician talks about HIV tests while being interviewed, we would shoot B-roll of the lab itself and, ideally, show the HIV test being performed.)

The first group followed the woman for the first part of the day, being checked by the midwife, receiving medication, and walking on the road towards the clinic. The second group pursued the B-roll shots. When not needed for other things, two students went out to record natural sound to be used as “background noise” in the video.

In the afternoon, the first group took the pregnant woman home to her “boma” so they could get shots of her in and around her home. (A boma, as described in a previous post, is a house made of cow dung and ash, and is topped with straw or thatch.) It turned out that another wife of the same husband was pregnant as well, and the babies were due only a few months apart.

Back at the clinic, yet another woman had given birth the night before.  She had understood that we were to give her and the baby a ride to her boma in the land rover. The B-roll group decided to give her the ride, even though that hadn’t been part of the plan. I tagged along with that group. The new mother, the baby, and two other women piled into the land rover, along with us, and we drove the short distance to the boma. We were able to follow her into the boma, which was exceedingly dark, except for a warm fire burning in the center that kept the house quite warm. Kamran got a wonderful shot of her inside her home, nursing the new baby.

Our driver took us a few hundred feet away to where the men – the new father and other men from the community – had slaughtered a goat and were cooking it over a fire. This is the customary celebration for the arrival of a new baby. The men eat goat meat. They also boil part of the meat, keep the fat, and stir it into the porridge that is fed to the new mother. Despite the mix of genders among us, we were offered some goat meat to taste.  It was wonderful!