Friday, July 25, 2008

Jessie's Blog

On Thursday morning our motley crew of 7 woke up bright and early at 3 am to get going on our very own safari! Our trip was intended to scout out the route for our Ride Tanzania bike trip. The charity and service bike trip, which follows the old slave and ivory trade route, will bring awareness of the issues Tanzania faces with education and child slavery. TFFT believes that education will mitigate child protection issues. We had prepared by the trip by stocking up on water, oranges, nutella, Pringles, and candy! We all piled into the car ready for a long day of driving. It was freezing as we set off on our adventure - 5 girls, Kapanya our guide, and Kitcha our silent driver. We soon discovered that the back seat of he car was incredibly uncomfortable and sloping in such a way that our butts were numb in less than an hour! Day one we had hoped o make it to Nyakanyazi, however we soon realized that this was a stab in the dark, as soon enough we encountered a road block where trucks were lined up in a gridlock and no one was moving while men shoveled gravel out onto the road. We decided to take a detour through the "countryside" but we soon discovered that our radiator was leaking, we were lost, and our was smoking as it overheated. This meant that we had to stop every 20 minutes to find water and fill the radiator; luckily we managed to find little homesteads with water. It was a long day! We eventually arrived in Singida with sighs of relief - 15 hours after setting off! We found a mechanic who claimed he was able to fix our radiator and we set off on foot to find some food. We found food in a small little shack on the side of the road, where we ate Wali maharagwe (rice and beans) - my first truly Tanzanian meal! Little did I know hat this would become the staple in our diet for the next week. After our meal we settled into Osaka Garden Hotel. I was on the floor, whilst Alley and Adelaide got comfy in the bed. There was a baby cockroach but we pretended to not see it. Meghann and Lali were asleep by 6pm, ready for another 2:30 am wakeup call!
The next morning we woke up again bright and early and set off to Nyakanyazi. However we soon realized that our car was not fixed and still leaking. As we stopped on the side of the road for a quick fix-up we saw an enormous baobab tree with a makeshift ladder next to it. It was incredible! Soon after we got back into the car and stopped a small town and ate wali maharagwe (what else?) as our car was at another fundi (mechanic). Once our car was "fixed" we were back on the road until our radiator started to leak again! A bunch of kids came up to our car with the most incredible wooden bicycle equipped with springs and pedals! True ingenuiy! Even though Lali almost broke it, we rode around on it - practicing for the trip. It became clear that our car was a lost cause for the night, so we got a lifty from a nice family through a Lutheran church and they dropped us off in Kibondo while attempting to tow our car. we spent the night in Kibondo as our car was yet again at the fundi. After eating breakfast (some dirty cassava) we got back into our car and drove to Kigoma and Ujiji. Although the car ride was only supposed to take 3 hours, after 7 hours in the car we finally made it to the beginning of our scouting trip! After eating even more wali maharagwe we woke up the next morning to begin our mission. 
In Ujiji, we visited the Livingstone monument where we learned the facts behind the phrase "Livingstone, I presume" from the guide with a most hilarious voice! There we met two South African UN workers, who kindly told us to visit Jakobsen beach on Lake Tanganyika followed by joining them atop their UN Hercules cargo plane for sundown. It was a great start to Kigoma and Ujiji, truly a once in a lifetime experience. Our first day in Kigoma and Ujiji went well - we scouted hotels, conference rooms, and welcoming areas for the participants of the bike ride. After a fun filled night with our new UN friends, we woke up the next morning to meet with district commissioners and educational officers. We visited both the Kigoma municipal and Kigoma rural districts and learned a lot about the needs of Kigoma's educational system. Even though we caused some havoc by breaking a table, the officials we met with in Kigoma were happy to allow us introduce TFFT, and make connections for the trip. Our plans for town-hall type meetings with community members and officials of Kigoma seem a definite possibility! After our meetings, we visited the Kigoma public library - a small but filled library with over 400 members, very promising but with a population of roughly 130,142, access to books could be eased somehow and without cost to the community! After watching the sunset on beautiful Lake Tanganyika, Adelaide, Meghann, and I spent our last night in Kigoma and woke up at 5 am to make our trip to Tabora.
Tabora, founded in 1820 by Arab Slave Traders was once a major trading center along the old caravan route connecting Tanganyika with Bagamoyo and the sea has an important role with both education and the history of the slave trade route. The infamous slave trader Tippu Tib had his headquarters there, as it was once the most populated and prosperous town in all of East Africa. It also gained prominence as a regional education center, a reputation that has managed to retain itself today. The "Father of the Nation", Julius Nyerere attended school there.

After staying one day there, we traveled another 8 hours, north towards Arusha, landing ourselves back in Singida. Thankfully everything worked out and somehow we arrived in Arusha a couple days later and in one piece! (The car definitely did not, though). Full of wali maharagwe, baked beans, corn from the can, and more dust than one could ever imagine, we were glad to be at our home in Arusha! Although the trip did not go according to plan, it was a true safari! We learned a lot in Kigoma and definitely began making some important connections TFFT has now introduced its name into different parts of Tanzania, and can hopefully expand into these areas one day in the near future! The bike trip will definitely be an adventure next summer, and we cannot wait. We had a great time, but I dont think the 5 of us girls will ever eat wali maharagwe or get into the car we drove again!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gardening in TZ

June 26-27, 2008

A group of us from TFFT participated in a two-day seminar at the World Vegetable Center, right here in Arusha. We arrived to meet up with thirty other matrons and mamas from the local schools and orphanages we work with. The morning began with classes on different types of roots, fruits, vegetables, and seeds and the nutrients they supply. Although we were surprised by the Swahili-only lectures and directions, some of the mamas helped translated for those of us that needed it. Around midday, we were split into groups for some hands-on cooking. Each group prepared a different type of organic dish from various vegetables such as sweet potato leaves and cowpea leaves. After cooking and cleaning, everyone’s dishes turned out pretty well and we had ate them at lunch. The rest of the day we spent in the garden learning about different ways to plant and different types of seeds. After a long but very informative day at the Center, everyone seemed excited to learn more tomorrow.
We started out the following day with classes on the drying and storing indigenous vegetables and fortunately the instructions were in English. The cooking portion of the day covered recipes all involving tomatoes. My group made tomato paste, which turned out to taste better than the store-bought sauce. Others made tomato jam, ketchup, and tomato chutney. These were all surprisingly easy to make! After cooking and lunch we spent the afternoon composting- a much more complicated process that you would think. A successful compost pile involves of 10 layers of different matter. We ended the day with a bag of various different types of seeds and a green certificate of completion. Hopefully all the mamas and matrons will bring everything they learned back to their respective schools and orphanages to start up some organic gardening!
This past week has been amazing, a week of learning, of growing, of being present. I have been working on the new after school program "Full Circle" which will facilitate progressive social change through our children's exposure to and appreciation of the benefits of environmental restoration and conservation, healthy lifestyles and creativity. On the way to FK I always drive past a sign for "The World Vegetable Centre" how could I not be intrigued?! So I finally called them up and went to meet the lovely Dr. Mel - we now have a partnership! Last week 30 of our staff, teachers, and mamas from our partner orphanages learnt about Vegetable Home Garden Production Techniques (using Organic Gardening approaches); Preservation, and Processing of Vegetables. New recipes were introduced in such a way that nutrients are preserved and bioavailability enhanced. After the training, each participant received a pack of seeds with 14 indigenous vegetables - enough to feed a family of 10 for a year to set up their own gardens. This was our first step in trying to promote nutrition, and decrease micronutrient malnutrition! As part of our "Full Circle" we plan to set up a huge organic vegetable garden, and have a school full of green thumbs. It has always been a dream of mine to set up a fully functioning organic garden, as growing up one of my favorite things was being able to pick my own vegetables, and spend time in the garden.

My second mission of the week was to find an art teacher to help us introduce creativity into our children's lives - creativity with a theme of "Go Clean", promoting recycling and reusing local materials. Today I met with an incredible lady, Linda, from the Umoja Art Centre, who is putting together a phenomenal one month art initiative which will involve an introduction to drawing, painting, and constructing 3-D pieces for us to follow at school! So it seems Full Circle is almost complete.

TFFT also had the great fortune of being donated Henry, our new dog! He is divine, so naughty, full of character and a great asset to our team! Thank you to the Roots n' Shoots ladies!

So our life out here is full, we love having Meghann, Adelaide, and Jessie out here to help out this month.