Tuesday, September 28, 2010

West Kilimanjaro and WEECE

Hi Everyone,
This is Mary Ann, checking in from Moshi, where I am staying at Bristol Cottages for three nights on my own while visiting WEECE and catching up with Mama Mrema and the projects they are pursuing. We all arrived here yesterday from our weekend at Kambi ya Tembo lodge and nature conservancy in the West Kilimanjaro region. We stayed there in tents -- rather luxurious, actually, with chairs on our "patio" looking toward Mount Kilimanjaro. Saturday, the first day we arrived, we and some other guests were invited to the nearby Maasai village, where they were holding a celebration of the fact that several young men (15-16 years of age) had been circumcised that day. A lot of dancing and singing going on, and a very friendly Maasai guide, Lucas, explained everything to us and encouraged us to take pictures. The homes whose young son had been circumcised that day were marked with a small tree coming out of the roof -- I got to go into one of the homes and was told the son was lying just over here, but to tell you the truth I couldn't see a thing except a tiny little window through which came a sliver of light. It was our first experience this trip in a Maasai village where people were so welcoming to mazungi -- white people -- and it was nice.
Not a lot of big game in the nature conservancy -- it is just being established, and the giraffes, zebras and elephants that we saw were skiterish -- but we got our bones rearranged on the bumpiest, dustiest roads of the trip so far, and the hospitality and food were fantastic. Sunday we did an early game drive - 6 am - and returned around 11 for brunch, and then we just relaxed at home base for the rest of the day. Monday we said kwaheri and came to Moshi, had lunch and then Mary and Nick took off with Muba, our driver, to Arusha, to stay with our friends Donna and Nas (assuming their electricity and water has been turned on -- when we come in on Friday from Tanzania, we were put up in the Arusha Hotel because it had been off for three days) while I met Mama Mrema and spent the afternoon at WEECE meeting the students of the vocational program she's started there -- these are her "children," 14-23-year olds who couldn't afford secondary school and to whom she and the staff are teaching sewing, computer skills, English, mathematics, geography and what we would call home ec -- cooking, baking and the like. Mama came to my hotel to join me for a loooooong dinner, and just as she was saying goodnight and getting into the cab to go to her home, poof! the electricity went out. So I was escorted to my room by candlelight and went to bed.
Today, Mama came here with a driver and Dr. Goodlove Kessy, a GP from the local hospital which was started by the father of Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) who came along for the day to see everything and be my translator. Nice man. We went to the very rural village of Nganjoni, where we visited an irrigation project funded by Pangea, a small philanthropic group in Seattle. They have engineered a way to divert water from a river coming down the mountain and have built a cement channel of about 500 meters, from which local families take water to irrigate the crops that Pangea money supported education so they could learn how to do. That's a terrible sentence, but it's been a long day. It was very impressive, as were the gardens the people have wrestled from the brush under banana trees and in open fields -- I saw tomatoes, beans, peppers, onions and cucumbers being grown. This feeds the families and gives them something to take to market and sell. onions can be grown every three months, so it is very helpful to the people. They hope to make the channel 6000 metres long, if they get the money. We visited the primary school as well -- 12 classrooms of seven grades -- and sat and talked with the teachers there for a while. Then we went to meet the members of the VICOBA -- the village cooperative bank. That was a trip and a half. The women (and the chairman of the village, one of several men members) greeted us, served us lunch, and then opened the bank to receive funds from the women who are contributing and paying back loans. The bank is a metal box with three padlocks -- each held in the hands of a different woman between meetings. Everything is totally transparent -- the money is brought, held up and announced and recorded by two different people. I was very impressed. Well, if Mina is reading this, she will appreciate that I probably duplicated her record; we left the hotel at 9:30 this morning, arrived back here at 4:30 and I did not go the bathroom once during the day -- nor was I offered the opportunity, I must say. We were so tired driving back to town that dear Dr. Kessy fell asleep and laid his head on my shoulder, and I felt very privileged to support him for the ride.
Now I have washed off layers and layers of dirt from my feet (I can attest to the strength of my good Mephisto sandals, now on their second African trip) and written this, so I will settle down for a glass of wine and some relaxation and then dinner by myself or with one of the other lovely people staying here. I had breakfast this morning with an engineering professor from Toronto who is here consulting with vocational colleges, and that was fascinating. Tomorrow we go to a Maasai village and talk about how to support the projects further.
Life is good, and I am well. Love to everyone, Mary Ann

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