Tanzania diary: August 12-August 15

August 12: The cellphone-banking revolution may have to move forward without the help of people who, like the Ufani School teacher Daniel Amma, fear the kind of scam that has already snared at least a couple of teachers in the area. The teachers who had signed up to receive their salaries via cellphone fell for the promise of a cash prize in exchange for revealing their banking security codes.

This doesn’t mean that cellphone-banking is not the wave of the future in sub-Saharan Africa, only that Africans need more education in the uses and misuses of current information technology. Most residents of Dareda Kati’s subvillages lack electricity in their homes and even some of Daniel’s teaching colleagues have no idea what a movie is. So they figure to be relatively susceptible to IT fraud and therefore relatively cautious about using current technology.

But this morning Daniel told us a story that explains the need for such technology here. Once a month he must travel for an hour or more by bus to Babati in order to collect his salary from the nearest ATM. Earlier this year, however, one of Babati’s frequent power blackouts disabled the ATM on the afternoon of Daniel’s arrival. Unable to afford an overnight stay in any of Babati’s guesthouses, he simply returned home, empty-handed, on the next bus.

In the afternoon, Islam spared Marianne and me the pleasure of slaughtering two chickens presented to us by Ufani School’s head teacher, Paul Yoronimo. Paul had given us the hen and rooster for our community dinner. Alert for an escape route, though, we realized that our translator Yusufu Ramadani, a Sunni Muslim, probably would refuse to eat an animal slaughtered by non-Muslims.

Yusufu didn’t disappoint us—which we can say also of his translating and of his tireless work in the construction of teachers’ apartments at Ufani and Ayalagaya Schools. Yusufu’s family is the only Muslim family we know of in this area, although we’re sure there are others. (The single mosque is tiny, but still too big for Yusufu’s family alone.) Today more than ever, we’re grateful for them.

August 13: Edward, one of the teachers at Ufani School, broke our hearts today by insisting that he must give us something even though he has nothing to give.

No matter how many times Marianne and I assure the villagers that all we want from them is devotion to improving their lives and the lives of their children, it doesn’t sink in with some of them. Telling Edward this today only provoked more embarrassing praise.

“Do you think,” he asked in all sincerity, “that I can ever become as good a person as this: wanting just to give and never to receive?”

If only I were as virtuous as Edward imagines that  am!

August 14: On this night, our last in the village, our volunteers shed many tears.

But those only came following the laughter. Josephus, who revived and continues to lead traditional dance here, visited our cafeteria with three of his most athletic comrades, Petro, Esther, and Martina. Standing, but with her upper body parallel to the floor, Martina led some of our younger, more fit volunteers in a dance, borrowed from the Goro tribe, of which a Victorian traveler might have written that “decency inhibits a more exact description.” I content myself with relaying Dr. Susan Hughmanick’s joke: “I’m worried that somebody is going to get pregnant.” (Susan specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, so that would have been all right.)

At the end of the night the four dancers walked out into the pitch-dark toward their homes, having politely but decisively refused our offer of payment. Because they possessed only one flashlight among them, Marianne and I and Yusufu, our translator, accompanied them part of the way with a flashlight of our own. Through Yusufu, we learned that earlier in the day Petro had taken his youngest child, who is not yet two, to the Catholic hospital and received a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Petro could have justified taking payment for his dancing by telling us about his sick child, since neither treatment at the Catholic hospital nor transportation there is free. But, like teacher Edward, he wanted to give us something.

August 15: My entries for the last few days have been sparse, so I need to do some catching-up—in particular, to make sense of my remarks at today’s farewell ceremonies, reproduced below.

On Friday the twelfth, Daniel Amma led Marianne and me on a one-mile walk past Ufani Primary School to visit Bacho Primary School. Bacho School is in far better condition than Ufani was when we first saw the latter four years ago: Bacho School is fully roofed and has cement floors, doors in the door-frames, and wooden shutters for the glassless windows. But the walls are unfinished inside and out and the students don’t have enough desks or textbooks. It’s a school we probably would already have helped if, in 2007, we had toured it rather than Ufani and if the community had asked for help. Yet we have also seen Dareda Kati Primary School, a short walk from Ayalagaya Secondary School and in worse shape than Bacho School.

Just as we have come to understand that doing what we can for our friends in the community can’t mean drawing the line at assisting Ufani and Ayalagaya Schools, we also see now that bringing clean water to Ufani School won’t satisfy the water needs of the entire community. Awareness of this has been unavoidable almost from the start of our visit due to complaints by villagers for whom a long hike to fetch water from Ufani School is out of the question.

Then on Saturday the thirteenth some of the villagers led Marianne and our cheerful, insatiably curious water specialist, Jacqueline Rose, to a spring with the potential to stream water to a large area far from Ufani School. Why, the villagers wanted to know, does Karimu have no plan to pipe water from this spring and to clean it up prior to tapping?

Knowing about this question and about the needs of Bacho and Dareda Kati Primary Schools gives context to my speech which follows (and which Daniel Amma translated into Swahili as I spoke):

“Out of the thirty-one foreigners visiting your village, you have one from Japan and two from England, but the rest of us—all twenty-eight—come from the United States of America. In America, many people are afraid to travel to Africa. Our volunteers, though, having enjoyed the beauty of your land and its people, as well as the overwhelming hospitality of this village, will from now on shake their heads in wonder when they think about those Americans who fear Africa.

“Therefore one of the benefits of travel is clear: the traveler can learn important things about faraway places. Another benefit of travel, however, is that the people who host travelers can also learn about far-off places. For example, this year your village has seen with its own eyes that not all Americans have white skin. In fact, the number of Americans with black skin is something like thirty million—only a few million people less, I think, than the entire population of Tanzania.

“But you cannot learn everything about people who visit you just by watching the visitors. Sometimes the visitors must tell you about themselves, so now I want to tell you a little bit about us.

“First, please do not think that we are rich just because we come from America. I think none of the Americans here are rich. Some of the university students who have come here from California had to work very hard for the money they needed to pay for this long trip.

“And for much of the last year, Marianne and I had no jobs. That is why we traveled all the way to the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman: we could not find jobs in California. Yet we still cannot find jobs in California. For this reason, in a few days we will go not to California but to New York, five thousand kilometers away from our home and our children. At least in New York, so far from our home, we have found jobs.

“I tell you these things not so that you will feel sorry for us. I tell you so that you will understand that we are not rich, that Karimu is not rich, and that therefore Karimu cannot help satisfy all the needs of this village at once. We want, for example, everyone in the village to have clean water, and not just the people who live close to Ufani School. We want all the schools in the village to be better, and not just Ufani School and Ayalagaya Secondary School.

“However, I want you to understand that it is not our riches that allow us to bring better schools and mosquito nets and clean water to you. We do not have riches, but we have a profound love for your village, and it is love which gives Karimu its power.

“Some of you know the great words in praise of love which St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians, in the thirteenth chapter. Paul wrote there that love never fails. We believe that, because of our love for you, Karimu will not fail you.

“But in that same letter Paul also wrote that love suffers long, that love is patient. I think that if Paul had written in Swahili, he would have written that love goes pole pole [slowly—a frequent expression among rural Tanzanians, who seldom have reason to hurry].

“So I beg you to believe not only in the success of love, but also in the patience of love. If we unite in love and show patience toward one another, in time we can succeed in improving more than two schools and in bringing clean water to more than one part of your village.

“The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that ‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Please give Karimu time to achieve its purposes.

“For many of us, visitors and villagers alike, today is—referring again to Ecclesiastes—a time to weep. But please let us make this afternoon also a season for rejoicing.”—Don Stoll


About Don Stoll

Don and his wife, Marianne Kent-Stoll, are co-founders of the Karimu International Help Foundation. They established Karimu in 2008 at the request of the people of Dareda Kati Village, in the Manyara Region of northeastern Tanzania. Karimu is devoted to working with the residents of Dareda Kati in order to satisfy their development needs, as defined by the villagers themselves.
This entry was posted in Africa, development, poverty, Tanzania, volunteering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tanzania diary: August 12-August 15

  1. Cynthia says:

    Don, thank you for sharing the words that you shared with the villagers. It, I’m sure, provided a different perspective and perhaps dispelled some of the stereotypes that they may have about the US and the Karimu contingent-members. Your simple eloquence is profound…..

  2. Don Stoll says:

    Thank you, Cynthia. After I spoke, teacher Edward told Marianne and me that he had always assumed Karimu’s money came out of our own pockets. I wonder how many other people in Dareda Kati Village had the same idea?

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