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TIT: This Is Tanzania

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Some Tanzanian miles have been covered in the last month. Back from 2 weeks in the big smoke, Dar Es Salaam, for VSO training and language lessons. I'm now equipped with what to say if the police ask for a bribe; I know it is rude to smell food before you eat it; inappropriate to hang your underwear in public view; bad manners to blow your nose or pass wind in company; culturally insensitive not to greet people and ask after their home, family, children, work, chickens, farm so on and so on. I also have a better idea of what I am here to help do. Incidentally, this is to ensure one million women and children have better access to health services and that mother and child mortality is reduced by 50%, by the end of 2015. It so happens that I am only here until the end of 2014, which kind of relieves the pressure on me somewhat. It was much fun meeting the other new volunteers.  Eating out, shopping, getting on buses with 30 pale-skinned, wide-eyed new arrivals; nothing like a large group of wazungu to draw attention.  Once everyone had arrived from Canada, the UK, the Philippines and the Netherlands, we made the 3 hour journey north-west to Morogoro, at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains for 4 days of Kiswahili training.  Morogoro is one of the few places in Tanzania outside Zanzibar where women wear burkas and it has the largest munitions factory in East Africa, a legacy of the town's role as a major base-in-exile for South Africa's ANC, whose cadres were trained in the mountains.  Thanks for the heads-up, Lonely Planet.
We stayed in luxury accommodation (for Tanzania). Kiswahili lessons finished by 3pm at which time we were free to do our own thing or were sent off into town on language exercises. These consisted of conversing with the locals as far as possible which we usually finished after a stressful 15 minutes of faltering over saying "hello, how are your chickens?". I am sure the locals appreciated our retreating to a bar which meant they wouldn't have to endure yet another group of students who turn up in their home town every few months with nothing to say but "How old are you?", "Do you have children?", "What do you like doing at the weekend?" Four days of being cooked for, cleaned up after and peered at by (yet more) nuns, lessons were over. Sadly not fluent but the money for teachers had run out.  Our entertainment committee organised a quiz. My favourite question: "How many Americans had their brains mutilated in mental institutions between the years 1935-1965?".  It was a tough quiz. "Not enough" wasn't one of the optional answers. Some of the more energetic group members absconded to a local nightspot where there was a live band and vigorous performers. It was refreshing to see that in Tanzania, women who have clearly given birth more than once are comfortable bumping and grinding on stage.  They kept us dancing until 1am by which time we had been locked out by the nuns and had to wake up the unimpressed watchman to let us in. The driver of the bus on the way back to Dar Es Salaam made us write our names down on a piece of paper. Turns out this was in case there was a bus crash the police would be able to identify who was on-board.  We weren't asked on the way to Morogoro because the bus was "too busy" - I guess you have to keep your fingers crossed there will only be an accident on the way home.  TIT.
A few more days of making the most of the company, food variety and pirate dvd shopping opportunities and it was time to return to the village. As is often the way, the trip home was prolonged when the driver who picked us up at the airport to drive the last 150km, took us back to his own home whilst he had his car serviced.  We ended up staying for breakfast, then for lunch and eventually left 5 hours later, experts at using a squat toilet. TIT. I miss being in the company of 30 other people all the time. It's not the same talking to yourself or fan-bathing alone, a past-time my roommate and I invented after a particularly hot, sweaty day. It requires lying on your back in minimal attire directly underneath a ceiling fan. Once the front side is perspiration free, turn on to your stomach to dry the rear.  Repeat as required.
So back to the grind of life in Nyangao. Today one of the pharmacy staff asked me if she could take home a used printer cartridge I had thrown in the bin, to give to her children to play with. The children here are pretty resourceful. I've seen more than one pulling a plastic bottle behind them that has been fashioned into a vehicle of some sort, complete with bottle lids for wheels and pebble passengers. Must bring back some Hot Wheels on my next trip home. 

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