28 June, 2008
Wednesday was the day to dot i’s and cross t’s in preparation of departure. The day conclude with a dinner party of the Global Outreach staff. Above is Miraji Vanginothi (currectly on educational leave of absence), Ally Mbugi (new Country Coordinator), Lucas Mwahombela (Tanzanian Director), Dismas Nziku (our scholarship student), and Allen Mwalupilo (Technical Coordinator.)
Two events were taking place on Thrusday as I began my journey home. One was that our office furnishing were being trucked to our new office at Kichangani completing the most unbelievable occurence of the whole stay. This project was completed in less than a month (okay – maybe not totally completed since we still have carpetting and/or tile to install – but close enough) and gives us exactly the space we need to cover current needs and provide room for growth.
The second event was not so pleasant, as Allen travelled to Mtera to return with our computers from their school. Mtera has fallen on difficult times – not just in the computer program but overall – and is trying to get back into operation. They ran out of money, lost most of their teachers, and are in a desperate struggle to reopen their school. We requested return of our computers so that we can use them in schools that will utilized them. If they can get back on track we will consider restoring them to the program, but they will have to go through the formal process and meet that criteria at that time. It was a downer because it’s the first school we have had to take this step with, but this kind of thing is a fact of life in Tanzania.
Barbara and I left Iringa on th4 6AM bus on Thursday. Barbara had a strange return routing leaving the airport early so we did not want to tempt fate. This led to a lovely wait (would you believe 9 hours) in the Dar es Salaam airport for my own flight making a rather nasty trip even more so. The one good thing on the way back was that three months away means that all the airplane’s movies are new to you – some I had not even heard of – so the diversion factor is good. But if you count the trip start as boarding the bus in Iringa – and that certainly is the beginning – the journey was well over 40 hours. It is not the highlight of the Tanzanian experience.
Friday ended in Sarasota with Betty at the airport. My bags decided they weren’t quite ready to call it a day, but they have since been delivered. I am writing the penultimate entry before I get on the scale to assess that damage, but after I have had my first Diet Coke in three months.
24 June, 2008
YES, that is what it looks like. Our container has arrived and much of Monday was spent unloading it and transferring it to the new office. We are fortunate that we don’t need our conference room for a while since a large part of the shipment went there as a staging area until we can check the machines out and move them to intended destinations or into storage.
In the afternoon we travelled to Mafinga Seminary, a secondary school under the auspices of the Catholic diocese. They have made application for acceptance into our program, and we will work to find a sponsor for them during the remainder of the year. It costs about $5,000 for us to completly install a new school – hint, hint, hint.
The seminary is beautiful and quite large. All the churches put a great deal into education here, particularly this Catholic diocese. Until the government can open (and adequately fund) enough secondary schools to handle the rapidly growing needs, private church schools will continue to be a big part of the educational opportunities in the country.
Since we had spend so much of the day with the container, our travel had started late and we found ourselves coming home after dark. It was a truly terrifying experience, and I am not sure if Barbara will ever talk to me again. The worst part is passing the pedestrians who are totally in the dark, black in color, and dark of clothing – and they tend to walk right on the edge of the tarmac. It is hard to understand how there are not multiple deaths every night as you swerve to avoid 5-ton lorries hurtling at you in the center of the road with their lights on bright. This is an experience I commit to never repeat.
Tuesday afternoon Mama Zenda had a going-away party for Barbara and me at Iringa Girls. Actually it’s tough to do much with the school closed, but they so want to show their appreciation that they had an event anyway. It is quite heart warming how appreciative most of the people are, and their commitment to education is really inspirational.
23 June, 2008
A major activity Saturday was accounting. Due to interesting interpretations of procedures by the local rotary club we have been borrowing funds from Global Outreach to pay many Internet Library expenses until budget line items are complete. Saturday we got an advance against operating expenses and set about setting all accounts straight. Let’s just leave it at that for details – but it doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the task we undertook.
One of the challenges in all this is the 1000+:1 exchange rate, meaning Allen returned from the bank with about 7 million shillings – and the largest bill in the country is 10,000 shillings. His wad measured about 8 inches high. We spent several hours moving money and concluded only when we got to within $5 of everything balancing. Daily exchange rate fluctuations make it impossible to get to anything closer. I will be very happy to stop walking around with multiple envelopes (personal funds, Global Outreach funds, Rotary project money, construction budget) of cash in my briefcase.
Saturday night I was invited to a dinner party to celebrate the presence of Mark Hanson, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and President of the Lutheran World Federation. This makes him kind of the hierarchy equivalent of the pope for Catholics. He has been to Iringa three times and in my early days was a person I phoned for advice on travelling in Tanzania (before I understood that he wasn’t just a parishioner.) The partnership between the Lutheran parishes of Iringa and the St. Paul MN synods has served as a model for Lutheran outreach activities over the last twenty years and has grown to encompass close to one hundred congregations. I was quite honored to be invited since I was the only non-Lutheran there other than the head sheik from the region – and the only non-cleric other than diocesan managers.
On Sunday we made our first actual use of the new office. Miraji returned from Dar with a pallet of computers that we had purchased from a US-based NGO called World Computer Exchange. (No, I don’t know how they got theirs cleared faster than we have even though it was the same ship.) Although the facility is not quite finished, the storage room is basically done so we were able to move the machines right in. I am still optimistic we will fully relocate before my departure Thursday. That’s right! I AM coming home.
21 June, 2008
This could be a near pictureless entry as I am busy doing one-on-ones to reach agreements and plans as I start the wind-down process, so I’ll throw in a little local color to start.
Wednesday thru Friday were many meetings, although in Tanzania the waiting process is usually as long as the actually meeting process. I am trying to take new Country Coordinator Ally to as many activities as possible so he meets the key contacts, and learns more about the organization by osmosis rather than me just sitting and presenting.
We now have formal agreements with Tumaini University and Ruaha University College on supporting our program and in the process providing practical training for their students. In addition, three Tumaini students, supervised by Miraji, will work for us as interns the next two months. They have even agreed to pick up the costs of travel for their work. This is all very positive and goes a long way in our continued effort to provide support at costs that others cannot comprehend. You really can work miracles with good partnerships.
Thursday it was Barbara’s turn to experience the reality of Tanzania as we lost power in the Internet Library. It appears that the increased demand has uncovered problems in the utility company’s transformers. The result is that we had to suspend the teachers’ class for a day. Power was back on Friday, but we lost the internet in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this is life in Tanzania. Our total facility plan was designed to accomodate things like this (we would be really stupid if not), but it hurts when we lose even one day of someone as talented as Barbara who has moved the teachers from curiosity to motivated enthusiasm.
Any donors – and especially the Rotary clubs – would have been quite moved to hear the teachers chronicle their experiences and appreciation at the end of the class. They thanked and gifted Mwalimu Barbara and marvelled at what they had learned. They are thrilled with the breadth of the internet, and excited about the wealth of ideas they received to get their students engaged and involved. We will work with Tumaini University now to continually reinforce and add onto this knowledge so they are ready to begin active involvement of the students at the beginning of 2009.
18 June, 2008
Sunday, while Angelina primped for a party, I had a surprise visit from Crispin’s sister Winnie. Surprise because her school in Morogoro has three more weeks until break. But all the students (as well as students from numerous schools around the country) have been sent home because the government has run out of funds and has not bought food for the schools. Tough to run a boarding school with no food. So Win is home and must listen to radio daily to find out if students are called back to classes.
Realities like this sometimes make me question the avant garde stuff we are doing. But our vision is to provide a model for the future. I always compare us to the R&D department of a company. We are working on tomorrow and letting the others get us to that tomorrow. But if someone does not do the R&D, there won’t be anything waiting there if they make it.
Monday’s high point was a look-see at the new Global Outreach office which is nearing completion. This has been a truly amazing project. We are less that one month from when we broke ground and it looks like we will relocate before I return in a week. The facilities are perfect for our needs. Asante sana (many thanks) Diocese of Iringa!
Tuesday I convened my newly created Advisory Board for the first time. It is composed of the heads of school from Ifunda, Iringa Girls, and Image. It will provide input and advice on making our programs more effective and valuable. They will also assist in formulating policies and procedures to ensure that this program becomes more and more self-sustaining as we enfold more schools and activities.
15 June, 2008
Friday marked more departures as Lugalo students left for break, but not until they had one final assembly for us. The timing was good because they were able to meet Barbara, the second representative from their sister school Saint Stephen’s. The day also marked the end of the road for Paula, who caught the mid-morning bus to Dar and her KLM flight late night. I will really miss Paula. She was a source of much help and motivation while she was here – at a time when I really needed it. However, my sadness at seeing her go was far surpassed by my joy of seeing how much the experience moved her.
Last week might have been the showcase for the masses at the Internet Library, but Saturday was the beginning of the real deliverables. Barbara opened the doors of her workshop to full attendance, and the teachers were busy discovering what the future will look like for the rest of the day. We have challenges because some of the equipment planned for the room is not installed yet (NO – the container is not in Iringa yet – maybe next week – wait a minute, that’s what I said last week – and the week before) but we are achieving our objectives. This will be a week and a half of accelerated learning for all, and we are most forturnate that Barbara is here to spearhead the workshops (and might I add at her own expense.)
This will be a stretch for all. Tanzanian education tends to be super structured and teacher driven. These teachers will all be in uncharted waters as they try to appreciate the vastness of the internet, discover sites that are relevant to their coursework, visualize integration into the curriculum, and plan how to include and motivate the students. If they succeed in all of that, they will then have to deal with all the issues of new-found internet opportunity for a room full of students who will undoubtedly be anxious to try anything and everything. We expect the first half-year to be almost completely experimentation, with serious usage in the 2009 school year. These teachers will be true trailblazers for their country, or as we have named them, the viongozi wa viongozi (the leaders of the leaders.)
Father’s Day was spent wishing I was watching the U S Open to see if Tiger could add another miracle to his portfolio. Hopefully someone taped the Saturday-Sunday action so I can see it myself on my return!
13 June, 2008
Tuesday marked a definite turning point as toward-the-end activities started kicking in. Uncle Bill and his band of merry fundis (Lindell and Jarod) departed Tanzania for the US after yeomen work in the new lab and several of the schools. They will spend a couple nights in London on the way back.
Paula, Barbara, and I took off for my most peaceful place on earth, Mwagusi River Camp at Ruaha National Park. We took Mama Zenda, head mistress at Iringa Girl’s Secondary School, with us. What a treat to be able to share this adventure with the ladies. Everything about Mwagusi is wonderful from the accomodations to the food to the personal service. The evening meal, set in the dry river bed and surrounded with lanterns set into the banks to give a wonderful effect, is to die for.
The animals cooperated and gave us a good show on our afternoon game run.
Much of the excitement on Wednesday was right in camp. A particularly friendly elephant entertained us at breakfast and at one point looked like he might actually come in and join us. He stayed around camp the rest of the time, causing detours when travelling to and fro. He also left numerous and profound reminders of his presence on the footpaths.