It’s almost a month that I’ve been here, 3 weeks and 1 day exactly. Definitely doesn’t feel new anymore… but in many ways it never did. I knew what to expect, and aside from the tuk-tuks, I almost feel like I am back in Haiti. So many similarities, the land, the vegetation, the chaos, the way people dress. Even the savannah, unfortunately, is similar to the deforested lands outside of Port au Prince. The only major differences are relatively well kept roads, the mix of Muslims, Hindu and Christian – all that is more reminiscent of Abidjan.
The week started with a hike to Materuni Falls, a 30 min taxi ride to Mwtembo (sp?) village then 40 min hike up, well more-so down, then up to the falls. All within lush forest laden with banana, mango, avocado, a tropical pine tree, and coffee trees,. Fragrant little white flowers become green berries and then when roasted, your morning cup o’ joe! And yes, that’s a chameleon running up my arm. All pointed out by our character of a guide, Good Luck. Our fees starting at 20,000 shillings ($10), then, “oh no I said 50k” and then “ok, 20k, but if you are happy, give me a tip”. Which we did. The girls hung back chatting amongst themselves while I nattered with him, to discover he’s damn funny and passionate about his people and culture, one of several tribes that have a long history in the area.
Then, the falls, powerful and stunning, a 100ft (?) drop, get up next to them and the velocity and power are impressive. I did go in, damn cold too, but once in delightful. My phone battery died, but a fellow hiker did get a video, horribly unflattering, just to prove that I went in J Also gives you a feel for the power of the falls (but I will have to kill you if you share it)!
Indeed, I am surprised by the large diversity of peoples here, so many different faces and forms with over 100 different ethnicities from the Maasai to the north to the Bantu and other groups in the central and south. They all seem to live peacefully together, with there never having been detrimental internal conflict. Much of this is due to the original President’s, Julius Nyerere , initiative to unify his people after the country’s independence from the UK in 1961. A successful move, however according to some, has dampened, if not completely eliminated, strong a strong cultural footprint that is seen in other countries.
Back in the office, have found a bit of a rhythm, which is mostly waiting for internet connections L!! The modem is only on from 9am to 5pm M-F (11pm to 10am in ABQ) and very unstable. Plus, never less than 10 people all trying to get data back & forth on the connection. It can take up to 2 minutes to download an email. I’ll be working on something to have to reboot and reconnect every half hour! I have a hotspot on my local SIM card, but even slower and not enough juice to send images or make posts. All would be fine, from a work standpoint, but everything is done on Google docs, so dependent on a connection to get to and work within docs. Think of me every time you get pissed off that a site doesn’t connect for you in 30secs or page doesn’t open fast, we are soooo privileged J!!!
We all work in various non-ergonomic set-ups, most from cushions on the floor. My chosen posture is to sit on a mattress with legs extended (Maasai style), with my laptop in my lap and the mouse propped up on a book by my side. Ironically, although not great for my back (several pillows folded behind it), it has been wonderful for my hip, pain is almost gone! Everything is powered by extension cords plugged into extension cords… one has to negotiate an open plug once your laptop dies. A total fire hazard, as is the overlying layout of the place.
Household conditions also require a good portion of patience. No running water several times throughout the day, electricity cuts also at least once a day. Fridge a bit spooky as always leaking. Five of us share a small 3 burner gas unit to cook on. But all clean and semi-organized. Low pressure shower (when you can get water), and for me, just a showerhead in an open bathroom. Bugs everywhere, leave a sack of biscuits open and there will be ants or flies, or both in it within a day. Mosquitos come on strong at sunset, but lucky they never really liked the taste of my blood and still seems the case (never-the-less hose myself down with citronelle every day). If one takes it is stride, it’s all part of the charm J!
Had my weekly visit to the Bike Shop, checked in spare parts. And then got a “tour” of the Wholesale Shop, another income generating activity for the Kaza ni Sala (KnS) women. The store was closed for several months due to a theft of all stock, but thanks to all of you who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign, I was able to give them almost $2,000 and they were able to buy new stock, and hire a guard! So thank you, thank you!!!! Met with the store’s new co-manager, Margaret, and her gurgling baby boy. Shelves will be full on my next visit, thanks to many of you !!
Saturday was a (long and hot) day to meet with the Serengeti ladies, a second women’s group that self-formed inspired by KnS. After our usual 40min dala-dala ride to Msitu we Tembo Village (means Elephant Forest, but elephants disappeared some time ago), we, Bosi and I, hopped onto boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) and took off into the Serengeti. This is Masaai country. Beautiful, graceful, nomadic people. They walk the land, herding goats and cows. It took us about 50 minutes swerving thru the bush, stopping goat/cow herders asking for directions. Finally realized we were looking for the meeting tree! Not sure how my guy spotted it amongst the others, but sure enough he did! The ladies trickled in, all arriving by foot. We met with them to discuss a business training session for a new partnership with a solar lamp manufacturer, Solar Sisters. They are taking this on, along with the Kilipad (see Edition 1) and jewelry business they already are running (I am trying to get them hooked into the Santa Fe Artisans Market, they’d be great there). I am developing the business training module, teaching basic concepts of profit, costs and loss. The initial stock of lamps is being provided by many of you, also taken from my contribution from the GoFundMe campaign, so THANK YOU again! I showed them pics of the snow falling in ABQ, hard to imagine the different worlds we are in!
Then back to Msitu we Tembo village to attend the KnS women’s group monthly meeting. During the meeting a dala-dala pulled up with the first delivery of Wholesale Shop stock, yeah!!
On the dala-dala back home, got a coveted front seat, but ride was slower than usual as the weekend and took more stops. And although the front seat is less crowded, it's hotter as you are right under the always overheated motor. 2/3rds home, a young mother got on the bus, standing room only in the back, so she opened my door and plopped this beautiful thing in my lap… no questions, just trust. And then I was home.
So, feeling more contributory. I’ve also been helping out with developing some administrative and marketing tools for the organization. Will also be doing some staff training on fine-tuning content and communicating better in written documents (right up my alley ;)!). Also trying to help develop their funding network. So, feeling more connected and productive.
Habari za jioni (or za asubuhi or za chana) depending when you are reading this, baa daie (see you next time),