Small coffee shop in Arusha, kahawa na maziwa, Tanzanian style, and a somosa with chili ketchup. Life is good eh? I have woken this morning with a painful hangover the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. It’s 11am, the sun is already high in the sky and I am prepared and ready for the slog of a journey ahead of me. My bag is in the Impala hotel ready to be packed onto the bus, and I have two hours to kill before it leaves for Nairobi and the real test of my travelling skills begins. My flight is tomorrow, just after mid-day, which is a shame, because it means I have to stay a night in Kenya’s capital, and lay out money I don’t want to spend, but this is all for the right reasons, and despite the anticipation of the 4200 mile journey back to London, I cannot wait to see everyone, and give my mum a big hug when she picks me up in Exeter on Tuesday morning.
These are trying times for our family, as we pull ourselves together and remember what makes a family a family. Grandma is going through what can only be imagined, and I think understandably, I am very worried about what I am about to witness in the coming days. She is a strong woman, from a strong family; we have had our differences over the years, but what we lack in continual communication and contact, we make up for by all being independent and focussed. Each of us have our lives to contend with, and each of us has a direction in which to travel. It pains me to say that this will be the first time I have seen mum in over a year, the last time being when I was down in Cornwall with Grandma before I left for Africa the first time around. Oh how things have changed in the last year and a half.
My work here in Tanzania continues to enthral and excite me; I am happy with my direction, and I love my life here; but I have been humbled and brought back to reality somewhat by having my brother come to stay with me for three months, and this current news only serves to bolster this new found family connection that I hope does not wither as we part ways again. I am back in the UK for two months only, having cut the initial three month jaunt down due to a discussion with Katy, and my own belief that two months is more than enough to get done what is needed. It’s a real shame that things cannot have been according to the original plan, with my trip now bringing me back to the UK just a month before Lucas represents Tanzania in the Olympics, and I will not be able to accompany him there as I intended. I do however, believe that this is a sign of things to come, and whatever “plans” I have are all going to change as time passes by.
There is some good to have come about through all of this however: my new colleague and trainee techie up on Kilimanjaro has arrived, and despite his job description mentioning nothing of Linux administration or teaching facebook, he has been dumped at the deep end, and will be filling in for me while I am back in the UK. Dave is an ex-volunteer of Katy’s from 2001, and has wanted to return to Tanzania ever since his gap year experience here all those years ago, and now is his chance. He is roughly the same age as me, and exhibits all the traits of a mzungu that I did when I arrived (and continue to do to this day) and is well motivated and charged ready for the onslaught of being alone in the village. He’s a good guy, and I have enjoyed his company so far, and believe he is the perfect addition to our little crew of helpers up the mountain, and I fully expect him to have settled in nicely by the time I return in April. To that end, he has already begun with unravelling some of the mysteries of why we are so quiet and why the villagers are so reluctant to support our work here, and I hope that this marks the end of the politics, as two fresh faces now grace the land and our work continues to grow and evolve.
The charity we all work for, and which brought us both out to Mshiri in the first place, deals exclusively with education, and growing the base of educated people in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. Having been built in 2006 it was first fully kitted out and working, and then left to “rot” as nobody kept it alive or worked on its development. Since I arrived in January last year, things have changed considerably, and with the addition of Dave, I firmly believe we are on the right track to turn this around. Some very positive new connections have been made recently, and a positive meeting with Erwin Groenweld of ViAfrica in Moshi has perked up Katy’s enthusiasm for the centre, and also thrown up a few new, and excellent, ideas that could rescue every dwindling aspect of the work we do. The VTC that Peter is principal of, is moving down to Njia Panda, and with it the use of all the buildings up in Msia-Mshiri that are in use or unfinished. Katy’s many lost nights of sleep have brought her to the conclusion that finishing the accommodation block is an unfeasible waste of donor’s money, but some new insight into it’s use, combined with my own ideas for the computer centre, have perhaps saved it from this doomed future, as we plan a partnership with Erwin to complete construction, and offer the accommodation as part of a “centre of excellence” for IT learning and training, offering intensive residential courses to teachers and groups on a range of information technology subjects. Our aim is to work closely with Viafrica in the short term, to establish a core set of needs between our two organisations, and then share our resources in this way to ensure that we don’t have an empty building up in the village, and help solve some common problems we both face. Seminars, meetings, conferences and pretty much anything could be held there, and not only does it save our face in terms of unfinished business, but will help to keep our charity alive, and even perhaps help it grow into some new markets, and form the second generation of VEPK, with the likes of me and Dave leading the charge to turn this around much more quickly than any of us could have imagined.
So, the container has arrived in Mombasa, and is currently being readied to be brought across Kenya and into Holili where we will collect it. Sadly I am going home and that pile of computers that I have been waiting for, will now have to wait a little longer before I boot them all up, but when I do, it will be for some real purpose. I cannot wait to get the classroom finished, to begin work on the new face of the building as a youth centre for all to enjoy, and then eventually start administering what will be the most high-tech computer lab and training centre that East Africa has ever seen, and all of this right up at 2000m above sea level in one of the most beautiful rural areas of the country.
Its not without a wry smile and knowing gaze that I look out across Arusha this morning, and see my future more clearly than ever before; and that is also building in some unexpected turns along the way. Yes folks, I’m in this for the long term, and can’t wait to be back again.