Thought Bubble: Susan Reed's Blog

More from Africa

Part 6

First thing in the morning we meet up with the Umoja Music School teachers and head to their outreach school, a government school in Arusha called, the Mianzini School. We wind through tiny dusty dry streets until we come to a small school building nestled in the crumbling city. We park creatively in the parking lot to block off half the space for our performance. That’s right. We’re performing in the parking lot, which triples as the playground and assembly space. The children come out of the school building class by class in their light blue school uniforms carrying their chairs in their hands. They are excited to see us and there is a lot of waving back and forth. Tatu plays and answers questions then wind up the show with songs and stories. It’s tricky because there is a wide age range and a slight language barrier with the younger classes, who are just now learning English. We make it all work though and the school is very grateful for our visit. The headmaster and several teachers make speeches thanking us. The children sing us two songs then perform the Hokey-Pokey for us. We sing right along, and dance too. “That’s a first!” whispers smiling Kate.


After the show Cate takes us to TGT, the local club for all the ex-pat families. Here we plunge into the extreme opposite lifestyle as we relax in day beds overlooking a beautiful sports field. We enjoy free wifi and a brunch. At 2:00 we work with Cate’s older class of violinists- it’s Keys To the Castle time, and it’s universal. The kids love it. I teach them how to learn Don’t Stop Believing off the recording. They rock it. Then it’s home to the Lieke’s to change for tonight’s community-wide concert. The concert is a big hit. Afterwards, the entire community goes back to TGT for Friday night social. The field is covered in tables, tents, and lanterns as everyone enjoys the evening out together, visiting from table to table. The children run and play games in the surrounding fields. It’s quite beautiful.


A few observations- while driving today, we see the butcher. Along the street, in the back of a white pick-up truck was a large dead animal. By the tailgate stood a man in a white jacket with a carving knife. That’s the butcher. It smelled awful. The women continue to amaze us with all they can carry on their heads. Today a woman walks with an entire branch of bananas on her head- 50 bananas at least. She looked like she carries them that way all the time. We have also seen several people wearing sandals made out of tires. Michelin or Goodyear? I don’t know. We see backbreaking manual labor everywhere. Most people have a mobile phone- I understand now how the world is “going mobile.” There is no infrastructure for computers but mobile works for all. We all have a new concept of recycling and waste. People here are ingenious and creative with the ways they use and re-use nearly everything; the tires for shoes, makeshift carts from old wood, cardboard boxes transformed into business cards, each batch of dishwater goes out the door for the plants, every leftover crumb is a treat for the chickens. The poverty here is the same as it is anywhere in the world, but the difference is the percentage of those living in our definition of poverty- it feels like 95%.

Part 7

Today is a day off and our boys return from Kili. The excitement is very high. We spend the day with Cate enjoying coffee shops and shopping, then visit Annette in the afternoon, the woman who has organized this trip for us. Her house is beautiful. As we walk to the door there is a giant cactus by her door, the biggest cactus we’ve ever seen. It must be 15 feet tall in the center. Annette tells us the year she moved to Africa she got this cactus as a cutting from a friend and it has been growing ever since. Amazing. We meet her tiny little dog named, Fupi- Fupi means “short” in Swahili.

The Lieke’s are hosting a dinner for us at the house. Maria is an excellent chef and the aromas wafting from her kitchen make your mouth water. We are having lamb, potatoes, rice, carrots, red cabbage, beans, salad, then chocolate mousse for dessert. We all wait for the boy’s taxi to call from the mountain. They are being delivered to Arusha after this, their last day of climbing. The calls comes in. I anxiously jump in the truck with Manfred to meet them at the Coffee Lodge, our designated meeting place. They’re here! They look exhausted but they are grinning – - – they made it to the summit! Ken and Jon have summited Mount Kilimanjaro, the fourth highest mountain in the world! They can barely move and say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their whole lives. We are SO GLAD to see them! Dinner is a celebration. We tuck the boys in bed soon after. Now that it’s quiet I pack for our safari tomorrow. There’s much to do before the morning. I don’t know what the wifi situation will be in the bush. Stand by…


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