Mwanza got me back – in English please!

A canadian friend of mine asked me to translate my first blog entry, so here it is! Though, I can’t promise that I can always find the time to do so, probably mostly I won’t.

I’m sitting in the dining room, next to me there is some strange TV series running on the TV – I’m back to Mwanza. It’s my fourth time at FONELISCO and like two years ago, I’m going to do a legal internship at a law firm here. I’ll be staying in Mwanza at least until mid of September and I’d be glad if some of you liked to follow my blog from time to time. There has been a lot going on during my first days, so get prepared for a long entry.

But one thing after the other. It all started on Saturday, August 5th. I took a crowded train from my hometown Freiburg to Frankfurt Airport. I was lucky to meet Marius at the queue of the check-in. He was on his way to Capetown and would take the same flight with Emirates to Dubai. It’s better waiting and flying the two of us, so we decided to stick together. At the counter, we got the promising news that our flight was overbooked and they offered us to take on flight later. This one, we would enjoy in 10.000 meters hight with champaign and delicious food in the business class. So we kept waiting for the next couple of hours hopin until we got the good news that would actually be moved to the evening’s flight. Besides the business upgrade we were offered another free flight within the next year and got accomodated in a nice hotel with food while waiting.  For me, it also meant skipping an eleven hours waiting time in Dubai during night time – so only the positive for me.

The business flight was indeed pretty comfortable. After watching the final of the German „Supercup“ between Dortmund and Bayern while drinking champaign, we enjoyed the delicious food and the good wine during the flight. Then, we decided to get our seats in the horizontal position and kept sleeping during the rest of the flight. Arriving in Dubai, the airport was completely crowded and a bottle of water was pretty expensive with a price of 7 USD. So I was glad when my next flight to Dar Es Salaam would take off – this time in the ordinary Economy Class. In Dar, I had to wait for my visa for a very long time, but when I finally got it they gave it to me without any problems so that there was no more between me and my stay in Tanzania. A last short flight brought me to my final destination: Mwanza. At this familiar airport I could see Joseph and Sibylle, one of our volunteers in place, waving at me already while I was getting my luggage.  Joseph was welcoming we warmly like always and it was great seeing him again after more than a year. At the orphanage, I was also warmly welcomed and could meet the other two volunteers. Silke spends parts of ther sabbatical in Mwanza and Juliane from Denmark chose Denmark for her six months‘ internship during her studies. After dinner and shower, I went quickly to bed so that I could recover from the exhausting journey with a good portion of sleep.

My first morning in Mwanza started with a little surprise. My internship wouldn’t start before Monday, August 14th. Yet, my lawyer asked me spontaneously whether I could present myself this morning. So, together with Joseph and Juliane, I went to his firm. From the outside, it looks like a normal house but from the inside it is actually quite luxuray. Leonard, the director of the firm, showed me around and introduced me to the work, I’m going to do there. Luckily, penal law plays a greater role at the firm than I expected. Since this is the field of law, that interests me the most, this is pretty good news. I’ll see whether I might have to help defending the „bad guys“ since the firm is also representing economic firms like mining companies. But I’m pretty expectant to what is waiting for me. The working hours (7h30 to 17h00) are pretty intense, but therefore the firm has its own kitchen we a horrific cook whom’s skills we were allowed to try. Leonard himself is in Paris for two weeks, but his colleague Bruno will supervise me. I’ll se what the work will be like – on Monday I’ll get started!

Together with Juliane, I bought water in town and withdrew some money. We brought great joy to the Tanzanians carrying two big water boxes halfway through the city. A street trader made me happy fixing my necklace that I bought for years ago at his place and that I always carry with me as a memory of Mwanza, my „kumbukumbu“. The city was still the city I’ve left one year ago. But you can definitely tell that the city is changing. There are a lot of new buildings, mainly hotels. Even the road to the city is being extended to four ways and close to the „Rock City Mall“ that had been opened last year, there is now a pretty modern bridge. A thing that shocked me was the risen number of street kids in the city, at least that’s what my impression was like.

After lunch, it was finally my first time going to the kids to Fone. After a warm, partly shy welcome we went to „Tunza“, a beach bar nearby. Our volunteers had a deal with the owners that our children could go there playing for free from time to time. They enjoyed their time at the beach including playing soccer in the sand. I bought some popcorn that the children ate with great joy. Typically Tanzanian, they didn’t keep their portions for themselves but offered us volunteers to share with them.
We four volunteers spent the evening in the close „Miami Bar“, where they informed me about the current situation and problems in place. Even though the Fonelisco e.V. is supporting FONELISCO for almos six years now, there are still so many little things, that cause problems all the time. Still, it was a very good talk that gave me a good impression about some things that I can take care of, but where I could also clarify some things I guess. Though, I realized once more, that cooperation between people from different cultural backgrounds is a huge challenge. Maybe this is actually the challenge of our work, but also the thing that makes it so special. FONELISCO wouldn’t be FONELISCO, if it hadn’t been for Joseph that it was founded and being directed. It’s this initative of his own that makes the organization so interesting and supportable to me. That some problems are connected with this, is pretty much obvious.

„Knock, knock, knock – Domi“. Tuesday morning started surprisingly early, at least I was still deeply sleeping when Joseph woke me up. We had planned a trip to the New Land this morning, but hadn’t defined when exactly „morning“ would be. Apparently now. So we quickly had breakfast and there we went in direction of the piece of land owned by FONELISCO, where we started several agricultural projects. I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes, so I was pretty curious to get an impression of the work there. During the half hour’s drive I could already realized how dry the area was. Actually, the surroundings of Mwanza are known for being pretty green due to the proximity to Lake Victoria. Now it is dry season and you can definitely tell that the last two rain seasons literally din’t take place. Unfortunately, this has a great impact on our projects on the New Land. The rice harvest is drastically less than what we expected it to be. During the next days we will try to get a bag of rice prepared in order to see how much we actually harvested. Since the market price for the rice suddenly dropped again, I’m pretty disappointed how this promising project went like. As well, the planted maize struggles a lot with the drought and animals that keep on stealing the harvest. Fire places on the ground proove the attempts of our Massai to keep the animals away from our rice. At least our cows look pretty healthy. They are all pregnant so that they are not giving milk for the moment. But we hope that, as soon as they will have calved, we can make a good profit from their milk. Joseph showed the three water bassins then where we could maybe start a fishing project.  However, I’m a bit reserved since the result of the other projects hasn’t been very convincing. The chicken project is just another example where we even lost money after a huge Indian company called „Kuku Poa“ settled down in Mwanza that „produces“ thousands of chicken and reduced the market price from 12.000 TZS (about 5€) to 6.000€ (about 2,50€) within short time. We are definitely not the only ones suffering from this development. On the other hand, it is also a good thing that chicken get accessible to the population. This is why we had decided to to use most of the chicken for our own children. With bug shrieking the remaining 12 chicken were cought and brought to the orphanage in the trunk of the car. On the way back, I was pretty amused seeing a DalaDala with the wonderful inscription „Air Force One“ –  what a suitable name for these „comfortable“ mini busses. I’m going to write a further „agricultural report“ about the ongoing of the projects on the New Land to give a more concrete overview on the situation.

After arriving at the orphanage, I watched the slaughtering of the chicken that one of our older boys executed in a professional and unexcited manner. I played some soccer while our pitch kept being crossed by kids carrying dead chicken to the kitchen. Then, we went home to the volunteer house and enjoyed our delicious meal: chicken with spaghetti. In the afternoon we volunteers went to the opposite side of the city close to Igoma. The 8th of August is a Tanzanian holiday called „Nane Nane“ (Swahili, Nane = 8), the day of agriculture. There was a big festival in Igoma, but unfortunately it was rather disappointing. Instead of exhibitions of animals and plants we mainly found a huge market to take place with a lot of shrieking, noise and countless people. After walking an hour through the crowds, we decided to go back home. Since the DalaDalas were far too crowded we decided to take PikiPikis, the „motorcycle cabs“. In the town, we went eating burgers in a restaurant lead by Danish who are planning to open a soup kitchen for poor people with their profit. In the evening, I had a very good talk with Silke. We were planning where we might be travelling at the end of our time in Tanzania. Though, I’m not sure what I’ll be able to do with my tight budget. At least, I really want to do the trip by train that I’ve been dreaming of since my first time in Mwanza. Then, we also spoke a lot about FONELISCO and the work of the Fonelisco e.V. – a very good talk that I keep thinking a lot about. mit PikiPikis, den Motorradtaxis.

On Wednesday we went to town in the morning and were actually planning to participate in a Danish organized meal serving of street children. Unfortunately, this had to be postponed to a later time so that we decided to have quick lunch. „Quick“ was the wrong word to describe the meal. Our bony chicken and watery fries apparently needed special care, so that we had to skip the meal serving. After that, we went to a flower shop. Juliane wanted to buy some flower seeds for a project where the children could grow the flowers themselves. The sellers were on fire bringing us flowers from everywhere pulling out the younger plants. Fully packed with plants we stopped on our way back at the supermarket in the grandiose „Rock City Mall“ and then went to one of my favourite organizations in Mwanza: Tunaweza. This is a place where handicapped people are tailoring and suing clothes and souvenirs that would be sold for the maintenace of the organization. I’m a good friend of Stefano, one of the workers of Tunaweza whom I have also supported for his wedding a few months ago.

Alphonsi with a selfmade Radio.

I spend my afternoon at Fonelisco. Together with Margreth, a 13 year old girl, I translated two books from English to Swahili. My Swahili is normally good enough for communication, but it definitely finds its borders on words like „hovercraft“, scuba diving“ or „current“. Still, it was great joy and I was allowed to feel like a real volunteer again. This awesome feeling has probably been reserved to my first stay in Tanzania, nowadays I see Fonelisco through the eyes of a worker of Fonelisco e.V. Eyes, that unfortunately keep on seeing problems too often… After that I joined Silke for her English Class that she managed pretty well and where the children participated nicely. Silke said that this was rather because I was present. Apparently there is an aura of fear on me… In the evening I had a long talk with Joseph at the beach of Tunza where our waiter was Rama whom I still knew from the sports charity. We had a very productive meeting in positive atmosphere sweetend by some Tanzanian beer and cidre while we kept on talking about many problems. I’m optimistic that many of these things will now be dealt with. One of our main problems is surely the relationship of dependance between FONELISCO and our partner organization in Germany since we’re the biggest supporters of the orphanage moneywise. That’s why sometimes Joseph is taking an subordinate role which is something we absolutely don’t want him to do. Our main goal is to work as partners with equal rights and to help him stand on his own feet on a long-term basis. That’s why I encouraged him to always communicate his own opinion on things so that we would never decide against his will. But of course, it is not always easy to find the balance between our responsibility towards our donors and his freedom in decision making. Still, I think that our talk was a good step forwards on this topic. Moreover, there is a staff meeting scheduled for Saturday which is overdue for a long time. I’m expectant to see whether our talk will produce further positive results.

On Thursday morning I had another talk with Joseph about the current financial sitiation. We are very worried that the food is not yet secured until the end of the month and our staff hasn’t been paid so far. A huge problem is the situation concerning one of our girls. She is sick from cervical cancer and is being treated with radiochemotherapy in six cycles. The next cycle will be on August 18th and she will also have to undergo a surgery then. Her treatment is very expensive and I’d be glad if anybody wanted to take a look at our donation camapign where you can also find further information: https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/56225-unterstutzung-fur-krebskrankes-waisenkind

After that, I went with the PikiPiki driver that I know for two years now to the language school where Silke is having her language course. Her teacher, a German who lives in Tanzania for many years now, offered me a contract so that our volunteers could do the courses for special prices there. After another long and interesting talk with Silke we went back home, where I spent the afternoon sitting in front of the computer to do some Fonelisco related work – among them this blog. I also had a skype meeting with my German team to update them about the current situation in place. Now I face the stereotypical problem to take shower out of a water bottle since we haven’t had water in two days now. During some construction work, a pipe has been seriously damaged so that the whole Ilemela region doesn’t have access to water.

All in all I had some pretty eventful and busy first days in Mwanza where I’ve already experienced a lot. The volunteers make a very positive impression on me. It really feels good being back to my „second home“. Even though the „thrill“ of my first trips is mostly gone, the feeling of feeling home here is maybe even more precious.

Till the next time!