Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ndizi tangawizi!

We’ve now been living in Karagwe for over two weeks, so it’s fair to say that we’re beginning to settle in. Our Swahili is coming along slowly, but it’s fast enough for one of us to have invented a corny phrase that, sadly, he doesn’t expect will catch on. Ndizi tangawizi! This literally means “banana ginger,” and the inventor of the phrase thinks it has the ring of “Holy moley!” or “Jeez Louise!”. It seems like a pleasant way to express a not unpleasant shock, and even with settling in there are still plenty of these two go around.

Here’s one: we have a digital Poloroid camera that functions, well, like a digital Poloroid camera. Here’s what it, and a picture it has produced, look like:

The stick of lip balm is included for scale. You can see that the pictures it makes aren’t as big as good old-fashioned Polaroid pictures, but because they’re produced on a digital camera, you can select which image you want to make and thereby skip printing any duds. The thoughful folks who got this for us as a wedding gift should be pleased. It has not only made us happy, but it has made this family happy:

We printed this image for them. They were at least as impressed as we are with this technology.

Here’s a picture of a way, way simpler technology that we built and supplied them with:

It’s called a “tip-tap,” and it is used for hand-washing. These folks have a water tank (seen in the background of the previous picture), but it doesn’t have a tap. To get water out of it they drop a bucket down the top, as if it were a groundwater well. Because they don’t have a tap, they don’t tend to wash their hands. Enter the tip-tap. There are two small holes that you can’t see in the picture bored into the top of the narrow side of the can that is tilted to the ground. You fill the can with water up to those holes. Then, when you need to wash your hands, you step on the stick, which pulls the rope down, which causes water to come out of the holes, with which you can wash your hands. Oua-la! You’ll notice that we added a handy soap dish to the frame as well.

Here’s a picture of the woman of the house, putting the tip-tap to use:

Ndizi tangawizi!

As you can tell from the pictures, it is still very warm and fairly dry, but we got our first taste of what the rains will be like last Tuesday. They will be hard. It will be interesting to see how the rains affect our upcoming work, for we are to start a few tank-building projects in the coming weeks. We’ve also been told that the cold showers are much harder to bear once the rain takes the heat out of the air and drops cold water into our tanks.

You can bet what we’ll be saying when we have to deal with this.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Water Walks

It’s impossible to be in this part of the world and not think about water. It’s hot; you’re thirsty. It’s dusty; you’re filthy. You’re trying not to fantasize about flushing toilets. You can’t stop envisioning the horrifying Guinea worm.

That’s Day One. It’s Day Two when you notice the children – ten, eight, six, younger - carrying jerry cans, plastic buckets, containers of all sorts, full of water. At first, such a novelty what they can balance on their heads! But by Day Three they are haunting you. They are everywhere, these young children that American mothers would never leave alone, and certainly not send miles away to fetch water. They are carrying twenty pounds up the rocky slopes with grace as you stumble with exhaustion behind them. Driving, you see them on the hillside in the distance winding barefoot paths through the trees. They pass you on the road at dusk.

Kids (and women) have to do this because access to clean water is pretty rare around here. Some scarcity is attributable to natural causes, but in Karagwe lack of water access is often the result of poor infrastructure, both physical and social. The results of this are devastating; hours each day spent gathering water are hours not spent attending school, cultivating crops, or generating income. Two NGOs Amizade works with – Mavuno and WOMEDA – are addressing this problem at the family and community level. One approach involves installing tanks to store captured rain water. We’ve been able to visit a few project sites this week.

This grandmother has taken in four of her grandchildren, two of whom are infected with HIV. Jato, in the picture, suffers from full-blown AIDS. Amizade funds paid for this WOMEDA tank, which collects rainwater that falls on the roof of their home. The tank saves Jato and his siblings from traveling over three kilometers to the nearest available water source.

This family had a two hour walk to their water source. The local water committee identified them as “highest priority need” and approached WOMEDA for help with the project. The tank was installed by Amizade students during the summer of 2009.

This reservoir, partially funded by Amizade, was dug entirely by hand-shovel. Mavuno is building the reservoir to service the nearby community, but it will one day provide drinking water for an on-site girls dormitory and school.

This water tank services a family of eleven. As with their other projects, Mavuno asked the recipient family to dig the hole and collect rocks to anchor the cement. In partnership with other organizations, Mavuno then provided the materials and installation. This was the most difficult-to-access location we visited, requiring a hike of at least one kilometer from the nearest navigable roadway. Here is a view that sets the home in context:

Here we are walking to the home – a portion of the distance this family needed to travel to gather water each day:

It turns out that there is a walk that you can do to aid Mavuno, WOMEDA, and Amizade in the effort to expand water access to those in need. The third annual Water Walk for Women’s Rights will be taking place this April. (Please follow the link by clicking on “Water”.) If you live in the area, you can participate by fundraising and joining in the walk. Even if you don’t live in the area, you can still help with fundraising or by making a donation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hello from Tanzania!

(I'll spare you any complaints about the heat.)

For contrast:
Kigali, Rwanda

Karagwe, Tanzania

We have been at our home in Karagwe, a hostel on the campus of local NGO Mavuno, since Friday. Life for us here is rather grand.

Our accommodations are even more comfortable than we anticipated. We have one of eight rooms situated around a sunny courtyard. Some volunteers from Germany, our students, and Amizade’s site coordinator Stephanie fill the other rooms and round out the little hostel community. We have solar panels that give us electricity to light our rooms and a rainwater catchment system that gives us running water, even (cold) showers and flushing toilets.

We all share meals prepared over the pictured small stoves by our cook, Mama Kennedy. The food is outstanding – everything is so fresh! Porridge, “chipsi”, and roasted ndizi are made with the bananas growing right outside our windows... we have (very) local pineapple, cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, meat, eggs, passion fruit, mangos, cassava, and more... and fish from lake Victoria.

Saturday our friends Marty and Natalie came to visit from their homes in Uganda and Kenya. They were able to attend a fantastic Amizade welcoming party where we were introduced to our hosts. With 30 or 40 guests of all ages – including the staff of Mavuno and their families, volunteers from another local NGO, several community leaders, and folks living in the nearby village – we drank Coca-Cola and Kilimanjaro beer, ate a delicious meal (with samosas!), played two rousing rounds of musical chairs, and danced the night away.

Sunday we took a hike to visit one of many successful and impressive Mavuno projects, a solar-powered pump that moves difficult-to-access water from the bottom of a valley to the community living along the ridge, saving locals – mostly women and often children - uncountable hours of strenuous labor carrying jugs up the severe hills. Unfortunately, my attempts to photograph the project were unsuccessful ... but we do have lots of other pictures from our walk:



pineapples (yes, they grow on the ground)



gum wrapper

Friday, February 5, 2010

Weaver Bird!

Here is the previously promised picture of a weaver bird, as well as a picture of me in front of its (quite large) nest.

Off to Tanzania in less than an hour!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 2 in Kigali

Today we went to the Kigali Memorial Museum for Genocide. As you might imagine, it is quite intense, but it is really well done. A blog like this is not the place for extensive reflection on either the Rwandan genocide or genocide in general, but I must say that it is striking how apparently quickly and thoroughly Kigali has recovered from the horror. You can't know what lies under the surface until you've lived somewhere for a while, but on the surface, Kigali is a city of and for the future. The folks here are friendly, the city moves, but it is not chaotic. And we had remarkably good pizza last night.

Tomorrow we are off for Tanzania. The drive will take more than 10 hours. Stephanie, the on-the-ground Amizade coordinator here, says it is beautiful and that we might see some monkeys. If we do we'll try to get pictures.

Next-to-final note: we saw our first weaver birds at the museum today. We'll try to post pictures of them on the blog over the weekend.

Final note: our friends Marty and Natalie will be visiting this weekend for our welcoming party at Mavuno, the organization that is hosting us. We're superexcited to see both of them.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coming to you live from Rwanda...

We're here! Both of us are pretty sleepy after the trip. We flew to Amsterdam from Detroit, hung out in the Amsterdam airport for ten hours, flew to Nairobi, chilled in that airport for six more hours, then finally arrived in Kigali, Rwanda. Worth mentioning are the museum in the Amsterdam airport (there is one) and the quality of food on Kenya Airlines (top notch). Hopefully we'll have pictures in our next post. Kigali is a very busy city, but it seems warm and interesting. And I mean warm in many ways, including the literal one - it's hot! Off to some well-won rest.