It is not without a huge sigh of relief and a broad smile on my face that I find myself sitting here with my laptop in Arusha writing the first blog post of my second stint in Tanzania. Who would have thought it, just twelve months ago I was getting myself ready to plunge into the unknown and leave everything behind. Months later I am actually living in a village with local people learning a new language and only imagining how my life was back in the UK before I left. I had dreams of Big Macs and clean pavements; of flat, well-surfaced roads and highways; and of my friends… and when I finally saw them again it brought a overwhelming sense of warmth and love for my life and literally everything in it.
Moving forward, and now I am back. I spent two weeks in Amsterdam with Adrian and Lisette and partied my ass off for the entire time. She is going through a rough time at the moment, and has now gone back to Portugal to start mending those wounds. Was so good to see her, to spend some much needed time hanging out and catching up, and again was quite painful saying goodbye; but we did at least part on very good terms this time, with no part of our relationship under any kind of doubt. We know where we stand, and just like every other time I have said goodbye to her, it won’t be the last kiss – she really is amazing, and I just wish I could be there for her the way I want to. Perhaps she’ll come out to Tanzania and stay with me, perhaps she will find her perfect man and get married, who knows, but one thing is for sure, it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
Adrian on the other hand is moving on with his life and as my little brother, a friend and a great guy to boot, I’m so proud of him. He has taken his problems – which are many, and none of them are his fault – on the chin and taken methodical and encouraging steps to improve his situation in all aspects of his life. I’m so happy to say that I’ll be meeting him at the airport in Dar Es Salaam next week as he has signed up to join me up on the mountain for some much needed time away from Amsterdam. I hope he enjoys it, and more than that I hope that he sees what I see about this amazing country and finds the time to make Africa part of his life. It’s addictive to say the least, and knowing he is the same as me, I’m sure he’s going to love it here.
Next up was a brief, but fun trip to Denmark, landing in Copenhagen late on Friday night to see my lovely ladies Lisa and Tine. It was a long drive back up north to Arhus where they live, but once we were there, they treated me to a weekend of typical Danish frolics: we got very drunk – the details of this are not that wholesome for family viewing, and probably best left to memory, but I had a really good night, met loads of their friends, and even met a new recruit to the Tanzania party, Maj will be joining me up on Kilimanjaro in February as she begins work for an NGO in the next village over, in the Marangu area. Lisa said to me on Sunday morning, that it was great to have me back, and she loved having a hangover with me more than anyone else. Aww… I love both of them with all my heart, and really hope that they get the chance to come back out here when they get back from Australia.
At present I’m still in Arusha, straightening my affairs and catching up with friends, new and old, and slowly pulling myself back into the way of things here. I have collected my bike, swapped the gear shifters, changed the brake disks, realigned the derailleurs, had my wheels rebalanced professionally, and put on my new tyres: Maxxis high rollers, which are just awesome, and apart from looking absolutely fabulous on the rockhopper, they are sure to give me those precious few kph extra on my downhill runs on Kili, I can’t wait to get her back up there! It’s good to be reunited with my steed, look out for photos of my runs around northern Tanzania in the coming weeks, I plan to break my record of 88 minutes from home to Moshi.
Back to the work side of things, and I’m going to be so busy in the coming months, that its hard to know where to start. The container of motor vehicle maintenance equipment and computer parts, now over six months delayed, is finally being put together and will be joining us out here in the new year. Inside I have a whole raft of goodies on the way. 24 computers, with another 5 added by John Douglas and his colleagues, 5 laptops, 2 very decent, solid and dependable servers from two different customers at Solsoft, and a box full of bits and pieces. I also have a full 5 seat server 2008 R2 enterprise license, 30 device and TS cals for the workstations, and a full Office 2010 site license. I’m going to have to spend a good while designing the spec, determining the layout and configuration, but essentially this is a geek like me’s wet dream! I have so much kit to play with, and literally endless possibilities for what I can do. We have enough computers to kit out the internet café, to turn the second teaching room into an actual teaching room, and to finally get the whole site up and running on proper UPS power supplies meaning the on/off nature of the power grid in Tanzania will have less impact on my working life, and should enable everything to power down safely with no corruption. Watch this space for a full breakdown of my design and planning phase for this project, my aim is to design and implement a cost effective solution that can be “bought” and installed by other institutions and projects and for this to be my raison d’etre once the system is live and running. All aspects of the problem are to be considered, and my system should be able to handle whatever the needs of the end user are, not least of which is a solid base for teaching, learning, and business continuity. My time at Solsoft has been invaluable in this regard, and I owe a big shout out and thank you to Clive, Matt, Matt, Matt (yes there are three of them) Ray, Phil, Craig, Scott, Louisa, Bryan, Dan, Dan (and two of those too), James, Khalid, Pat, Dawn, Louise, Sam, Mike, and last but not least, my bestest geek friend Luke who put me forward for the job and whose trust got me there in the first place. Look forward to working with all of you again next year!
Alongside my own work in Mshiri and Marangu, having arrived in Arusha and given Jasen a call, he picked me up and took me to his clinic, and it astounds me how far things have come and I am eager to help with my particular field of expertise in whatever way I can. He is a busy man, and an inspiration to anyone who has ever thought of being selfless and doing some development work. What was initially an idea, drunk round the table in Majengo, Moshi back in February, has become a reality, and he now lives at and works in a small building on the plot next to Ally’s orphanage, seeing over 100 patients a day, day in, day out. The support he has is literally mind-blowing, with corporate sponsors in the form of an American drinks company and sports equipment manufacturer, the former deal being worth over $62,000 this year alone, and which also includes a commission on all units sold with the projects branding logo printed on the side. For now at least, funding is not an issue, the only problem Jasen has is staffing. Patients are travelling from all over the country to come and see this amazing American-trained doctor who is performing general doctor duties and surgery, free of charge, to anyone who comes along. Sometimes he has people waiting for 7 or 8 hours at a time, and working with him is an amazing team of volunteers who have come from all over the world to help out. Organisers of NGO’s and other development work in East Africa take note… this is how it should be done. For more information on Jasen’s work, to make a donation, or even to sign up and join us out here in Tanzania to volunteer, head over to their website or facebook page: http://Justusfriends.us
So now, I’m off to pick up my bike from the fundi, dash into town to grab some bits from the supermarket, then back to Jasen’s clinic out south for one last night of Arusha before I head back to Marangu tomorrow. Onwards and forward!!