Sunday, March 21, 2010

A member of the Karagwe Steelers Fanclub

She's not happy, at all, with Ben. Her expression changed though once we told her that Larry Foote will be back next year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break 2010

We spent the past weekend in the lovely town of Bukoba, which sits on the shore of Ziwa Victoria. Lake flies and a student’s sprained ankle aside, it was an idyllic weekend, due in no small part to the fact that we spent a lot of time at a campground that served us meals on the beach. Here’s a sample vista:

Looking inland, the view was of goats (which we are used to) and gigantic birds (which we are not). Sample bird:

Friday we enjoyed a hike up the bluffs and our first swim in Africa (in a pool!) before an evening of music & dance on the sand. Saturday’s agenda included a walk to the Kagera museum and the cool drum-making operation next door. Budap is an initiative to employ disabled Tanzanians in the construction of percussion instruments and other curiosities. The men working there impressed us with their enthusiasm as well as their elegant, simple process for turning cowhide and native trees into ngoma.

Just after leaving Budap, we were overwhelmed with a delightful cacophony of bird sounds. Looking up, we were amazed to see a tree hosting dozens of weaver birds (ahem, ploceidae) furiously constructing their nests. It was a made-for-blogging moment.

Saturday afternoon, we were lucky enough to visit Masira Island (visible in the background of the first image). Our boat was awesome:

So were the boats anchored just off the island:

We climbed to the summit of the small hill in the middle of the island, took in the sights, and came back down. The island is great for fishing, birdwatching, and taking oval-framed pictures. Just look:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ndiyo tunaweza, wanawake!

If only our internet connection supported the posting of audio. March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a holiday that has passed without great fanfare for both of us – until now. This afternoon Juma Masisi, the executive director of our partner organization WOMEDA, took us to an incredibly memorable event we’ll be thinking of for quite a while. If we could post the sounds, you’d hear a number of local women’s groups singing songs about development, education, work, and empowerment. A refrain that keeps replaying itself on our borrowed mini-disc recorder and in our heads is the title of this post: “Women, yes we can!”

Speeches from dignitaries and incredible dancing were also a part of the celebration, as was recognition of local girls’ exemplary academic achievement. After the festivities, we were able to interview two groups of ladies from partnerships that work collectively to advance the interests of women and children in their respective villages. These conversations left us impressed and invigorated. To continue our celebration of a holiday we’ve ignored for too long, we’ve collected some pictures of inspirational women we’ve met during our time here. Enjoy!

These two ladies are traditional healers. They spent an afternoon with us telling stories (through a translator) and showing us medicinal plants used to cure ailments ranging from sore throats to muscle problems.The woman on the left here (a widow raising four grandchildren) received an Amizade water tank last summer. At sixty, the enthusiasm she showed at being able to devote more time each day to farming (as opposed to gathering water) was a startling reminder of how much WORK women do here. The other ladies in the picture are also widows who live nearby. They are all fabulous singers.

These young tailors-in-training are participants in a WOMEDA vocational program that provides a one-year course of study to young women unable to attend secondary school. In talking with them we learned that they expect that their apprenticeships will position them to be independent, allowing them to help their communities, their families, and themselves.

This is a teacher at a different vocational training site who has a very powerful, feminine presence. Excited to teach disadvantaged youth a skill she herself developed only in the last two years, she created elaborate teaching materials including her own textbook.

This one is sort-of cheating... we haven’t met this baby-carrying girl, we just accidentally captured her while we were trying to photograph the door of a saloon in a nearby village. We’ve included this picture because it’s pretty, and because it demonstrates something we see every day: young girls, with heavy shoulders.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mambo sawa sawa

Everything is alright. Since we last wrote, we’ve been getting very comfortable in Karagwe. We’re becoming accustomed to the pace of life here; we like the forty minute walk into town along the red clay road, we love the hikes through the hills. We don’t admit it before we’re drinking coffee, but even the practice of building a fire to boil water in the morning has it’s charms (enhanced by the fact that we only need to do this by ourselves once a week). We’re very actively appreciating the sun, the calm, and the monkeys.

Yes, monkeys!

We don’t see them often, but to our delight we have spotted a few playing around in fields and in trees while on our ventures through the cultivated terrain surrounding Mavuno. They seem particularly fond of eucalyptus (which is understandable; it smells fantastic). This monkey, however, was not photographed by us. If you look closely, you’ll notice a rope tied around the little guy. Amizade’s site coordinator, Stephanie, captured this image while the monkey was being held in captivity. It turns out that with their highly effective brains and fingers, these fellas are troubling pests who excel at thievery. Locals will capture the monkeys and kill them to prevent the destruction of their crops and disappearance of their belongings. This particular monkey got lucky and was purchased by someone who eventually released him.

Monkeys are not the only charismatic pests in Africa. We are really fond of our geckos; few-inch long ubiquitous lizards that roam our walls and munch on mosquitos. Geckos > spiders. That’s all there it to it. (Not that there aren’t any spiders... we’ve got plenty. A tarantula even showed up in our bedroom last weekend.)

On the other, absolutely-not-enchanting end of the pest spectrum are bed bugs. We’ll spare you the details, but do want to share our at-least-somewhat effective solar bedbug reduction technique, pictured here:

What else have we been up to? We’ve continued to assess water containment tanks and create tip taps . Here’s a Graham action shot:

Later today, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’ll post an update on what we’ve been learning and doing related to women and water in Tanzania.

One of us had a birthday since our last post, which was celebrated with all due pomp and circumstance, including a surprise dance with the district commissioner (!). A fire-baked cake, gifts including a package of markers and can of diet coke, and a rare red wine treat were greatly appreciated. The day was rounded out with a gorgeous walk in the hills where we met up with our neighbor Manase and some of his friends.

They really enjoyed playing with our camera, and we really enjoyed watching them play with our camera. They captured lots of fun images, including this one:

And, Dad-in-Iowa, this gratuitous shot of the hills is just for you: