We have been here for 10 days but I have been dying to write up day one since we arrived. It was just such an amazingly, unexpectedly productive and positive experience.
After weeks of anxiously wondering what unforeseen and unprecedented complications would arise when we finally arrived in Tanzania, the many things that were achieved on day one pleasantly surprised us.
Our concerns about whether we would be granted tourist visas on arrival and what questions would be asked, evaporated in the face of the universal problem-solver: money. As smooth as silk, we paid the fee and were efficiently processed. In no time at all we were heading for the luggage collection area. Once again, worries about our luggage being nearly double the limit for the final leg from Nairobi to Kilmanjaro, came to nothing and our mountain of possessions were within sight as soon as we cleared immigration. Even the one suitcase, which had absolutely no identifying baggage tag or nametag, was miraculously waiting on the carrousel for us. This had not been the case when we last sighted it in Bangkok but the gods were smiling on us. Events continued in this totally positive vein all day.
At the arrivals area in the airport Peter Luis, the director of ieft (Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania) and Lisa, the volunteer coordinator were waiting patiently for us and they immediately ushered us away into the school bus. The scenes flashing by the windows and the flow of information pouring from these 2 experts, ensured that the hour or so journey from the airport to Arusha evaporated in no time.
Once in the bustling city of Arusha, we wasted no time getting cash, mobile phone connections, a data stick for the Internet and even some groceries for the days ahead. With no real concept of what to expect or what would be available, in the town of Monduli or the volunteer house we would be sharing, we simply took the advice of Lisa and purchased items, that she assured us would be treats for the girls in the house and unavailable in the local community. We were given a quick orientation to the town and managed to get a surprisingly tasty, cheap, western lunch and complete some of the necessary paperwork for our working visas, before once again boarding the bus for Orkeeswa.
The bus was required to transport teachers from the school to the town of Monduli, once the after school activities were over for the day so we sped off on another hour long journey as soon as it was viable. We arrived with the afternoon rains that have punctuated almost every afternoon since we set foot in Tz. These rains by the way, ensure that it is considerably cooler that we were expecting which is another pleasant surprise but they also create the biggest mud bath you can imagine. Every unsurfaced road and there are plenty of them, is a mud pool and staying upright is a skill we are developing. This is the big wet and there will definitely be a lot more rain to come.
Our first glimpse of the school was awing inspiring. Students immediately came forward to introduce themselves and a couple volunteered to give us a tour around the campus, which was buzzing with sporting activity and laughter.
Before we even thought about it, we were piling back into the bus with 12 or so other volunteer and Tanzanian teachers. Crammed in like sardines and bumping and sliding along the rutted and treacherously muddy track from the school, we realized that this would be one of many such journeys over the next few weeks, months and probably years. Thankfully since then many have been in the 4-wheel drive not the bus but the number of passengers remains the same!
After dropping most of the teachers in town, Hamad, the school driver cum handyman and do it all run-about, agreed to drive us up to our new home but that proved a little ambitious in the muddy conditions. About half way up the hill the bus was well and truly bogged and we off loaded all our luggage and with the assistance of our ever willing and enthusiastically helpful housemate, Sara, we slipped and slid our way further up the slope to the volunteer house locally know as Pastor Justin’s house. After 3 trips each swapping loads and resting, all our possessions were finally indoors and we were sweat soaked and exhausted. We stopped for a breather and within 10 minutes Ellie, our second housemate arrived to say that Hamad was still trying to dig the bus out, so we trundled back down the hill to assist.
Luckily for us at that point Peter and the volunteer teachers, who had remained at school playing basketball, when we all took off, arrived in the school Land Rover and they pushed and maneuvered it enough to get it mobile. They were completely doused in mud in no time but the bus inched its way up the hill and finally made it to the yard of our new home.
At that point it was decided that we should all go for a beer at the Green View Club, conveniently located at a point down the muddy track where the road divides and branches off towards the other volunteer house. Over beers we were told that the following day we and a number of other teachers, had been given a reprieve from school and that was a relief. At this social gathering we got to meet all the volunteer teachers and chat about the Orkeeswa experience and it was very apparent that we had landed ourselves in a friendly, community of like-minded spirits.
As darkness fell I began to wonder about the sense of drinking when we had that slippery climb up to the house to negotiate without any light but yet again my fears were unfounded as Seth, volunteer teacher and leader took the wheel of the Land Rover and deposited us and our 2 housemates at our home and Peter at his a little further along the track, before returning to ‘the club’ collect the others and drive them to the other volunteer household where he and his wife Lisa also reside.
Ellie and Sara cooked up a storm for dinner and we fell into bed that night amazed at how much had been achieved in one day and wondering if every day would be so jammed packed full of activities, adventures and advice.
The answer is “YES”
But what an amazing beginning.