We are into our second month here at Sarakasi Ya Vijana (which translates as "Acrobatics for Youth" centre). We are now teaching secondary school kids, 5 days a week. These kids are supported by the project, having their private school fees paid, and during their holidays they come to Sarakasi for extra tuition and fun. The private schools provide a far better environment as at government schools the teaching is at a low standard and children are still beaten by their teachers.
Owing to a misinterpretation of C’s former job description (Film Production), we are now drama teachers! With this challenge thrust upon us, we decide to put on a play of Cinderella. Together with the 14-19 year old kids we write the script and even a song, accompanied by E on the guitar! Please feel free to sing along:
“Don’t be sad Cinderella,
Be glad Cinderella,
There really is no need to cry at all!
With a swish and a swirl,
I will say the magic word,
For you are going to the ball!”
Cinderella is being played by Paolo, a 16 year old boy, and E is one of the ugly sisters, which he really enjoys, since he is finally allowed to wear a dress and shake his hips!! C is the horrible stepmother, which she plays with aplomb!
And after a week of practice…..Show time!! We set the stage outdoors for the official opening performance of “Cinderella”. There is a natural stage area by the main house that is covered with greenery and washing lines. We use sheets for the curtains, create some posters, a fireplace, and get into our costumes (which consist of clothes donated from other countries.) We put benches out and invite the Mamas and the guards to enjoy the show! Everyone performs spectacularly, and we have Mariet stand-in for the pivotal part of the Fairy Godmother, as Hamza who is one of the kids, is unable to take part. It is extremely funny for all, and the kids really enjoy themselves. Next stop Broadway and the West End!
E is also teaching computer lessons to the kids, using an offline children’s version of Wikipedia, which he is combining with Word, Excel and Powerpoint training. Also there is general computer skills to be taught, like how to find files, and the importance of saving your work, and backing it up! (At this point we think it very fair to say how much we admire teachers, and their skill for making classes fun, keeping order and making lesson plans). For most of the kids, it’s the first time they really use computers. They seem to be picking it up very quickly and are extremely eager to learn!
Today we have helped the secondary school kids write letters to their sponsors (those that have them) telling them what they are doing at Sarakasi during their school holidays. Their skill with MSWord is greatly increasing, as they skillfully use bullet points and change fonts!
Saturday is a full day: four computer classes in a row. We both need to teach intensively, since the children need a lot of help! Primary children have to look up facts about their country, like how high the Kilimanjaro mountain is (we can dream the answers now after having to repeat them for 20 students). A tiring but rewarding Saturday, and completely different than the others have been.
C continues teaching the guards English (their third language, after Maasai and Ki-Swahili), which is quite a lot of fun! She asks them to draw the outline of a human figure, so that they can name the different parts of the body. It takes them two hours to just copy the picture in their exercise books! Obviously, they have never really drawn before (some of them just learned to read and write 2 years ago, let alone drawing, since their youth was spent herding cows and goats), which is why this process is accompanied by lots of laughter!
Sander and Johannes were regularly running on the savannah. Since Johannes left, Sander is looking for a replacement and finds it in E. The last run is very rewarding, because on the horizon they see the unmistakable silhouette of a giraffe! Instinctively, they run towards him till they have reached a distance of only 800 meters! A Wildebeest looks on even closer to them. Amongst E’s runs -the marathons in New York and London, half marathon in Amsterdam- running with a giraffe scores pretty high on the list of unique experiences!
For Johannes's leaving, we went for dinner at Pizza Point in Mto. Fine pizzas and beer is on the menu. The restaurant is mainly for Mzungus, as the locals do not know what pizza is, let alone what it tastes like. A fine farewell. That leaves just C&E as the only volunteers on site.
Sticking to the exotic animal theme, we don’t have to travel far for a safari. Sitting in front of our banda, as we do every day since that’s our ‘office’, suddenly a head pops up next to C’s seat. Eyes meet, and there is a sudden realisation that the eyes belong to a rather long snake, which is looking at her in the same surprised way as she is looking at him. Shock seems to be what both parties feel. The snake disappears quicker than a rat up a drainpipe into the bush, before C can realise what just happened.
In the space of one afternoon we see four snakes, one of which is constricting a chameleon, before having him for dinner. All of them are circling our banda, which is putting us on high alert 24/7!
These latest sightings are most likely due to a change of season. In the mornings it’s pretty chilly and some days are overcast; we are wearing jumpers. In the afternoons it is dry with mostly clear skies and scorchio temperatures! Snakes like to sunbathe apparently.
At lunch today, we are joined by a vervet monkey, sitting with his brightly coloured bits, less than 2 metres away. To our right, a plethora of colourful birds are bathing in the bird bath. It makes a change from the canteen at SWIFT.
There are so many birds here, very colourful and producing unusual chirping conversation in the nearby bushes. We need a bird book, but there isn’t one in the library here and we have yet to successfully download a guide. So if someone can find an e-book with an overview, please send it to us and we’ll tell you which ones we have seen.
So far we are sure to have seen the Augur Buzzard, Melachite Kingfisher, Fischers’s lovebirds, White cattle egrets, Glossy ibis, Lesser Flamingo, Silver checkered Hornbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, African Pied Wagtail, Superb Starling, Hop, Swallow, Maribou Stork and smaller stork, pelicans, herons, speckled moosebird, red billed firefinch, Cordon-bleu, pigeons (yes, even here we find the dull looking pigeon), doves….and others that we don’t know the names of.
On Sunday we visit a local choral competition in celebration of the 25 years of the Lutheran church. It is held in town, near the football fields. When we arrive there is already a big crowd. Under the protection of shading trees the choirs perform in front of a panel (Yes, it’s Tanzania’s got Talent!). We are treated to 2 Maasai choirs, who sing wonderfully and leap majestically. Each choir is dressed in their traditional costume, and each has one member dressed with a head piece that makes him look like a male lion. We are with Masi, one of the Maasai guards from Sarakasi, who is just loving it! The crowd is a mix of many local tribes, and all whoop with joy as the Maasai choirs perform.
We are keeping up with the outside world of news and of course sport. For the euro championships football games, we are going to support the Dutch and the English games. For the first Dutch game we dress in Orange: E in orange braces, C in orange cap, Mariet in orange scarf, and Sander in hat and braces. All of us have the Dutch flag paint on our faces. We watch in the local bar in Mto. A disappointing start for the Dutch!!!!! Better for the English team. We are enthusiastic supporters, and learning some Kiswahili : kadi nyakundu (red card). As we become more frustrated, the locals say "Polepole!" ( which translates as "slowly slowly", but here means "chill out" or as the scoucers would say, "calm down mate"). After each game the locals say to us "Pole!" which means "Sorry!" - for our teams' poor performances!
We have also begun planning the next stages of our African tour. Looking at the costs of Safaris in Tanzania slightly takes your breath away at 400 USD per person per day, and we have put our budget heads on, and made the decision to do a safari in Zambia at South Luangwa Park where you can see all the animals. Also we can do this in C's birthday, woo-hoo!! It gives us something great to look forward to once we finish our work here.