Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Landed safely

The time is 8.15 and we are in the bus heading out of Heathrow so should be back at BES by 12

Monday, 27 February 2017

Volunteer awards 2017

We've landed at Dubai and have nearly four hours to wait for the next flight ... all in good spirits so far.

The students have all been amazing ... and if the worst thing that happens on a trip is a lost room key costing me 20,000 Tsh then you know that it's been pretty good. What I liked about this team was the fact that they started in very different places and yet from the first singing in the bus to Heathrow you could tell that they had the potential to be more than their respective parts ... that there could be real synergy ... and so it proved ... the outcomes with regard to the teaching/learning and relationship building with Umonga secondary and Kaloleni primary schools far exceeded my expectations ... and that was down to the students but also to the great work done by Mrs A who was great support on the trip ... and a dollop of great luck meeting Kathryn at church!

As is my way I would like to suggest awards for the students on the trip ... they won't know about this unless they read the blog ...

Best lyricist (and having hidden depths that I want to see more of in school) Dan

Most eloquent public speaker and person most likely to make the other students cry (because of his moving words ... but what an exceptional young man) George 

Best dance performance and twerking (well received by Umonga students) as well as being the DJ for the trip - Max

Person who most defied my pre-trip expectations in a very positive way (more of that in school too please) Alice

Most use of social media/messaging and person most likely to use their phone Tanzanian style (e.g. Rose Msafiri answered hers half way through her thank you and farewell speech to us in front of the whole school ... but it's the Tanzanian way!) Eloise (have to congratulate her on her bravery as well because of having to do all those injections before and during the trip so she could come - well done)

The Day-glo award for most sun burnt student (but did brilliantly in so many things throughout the trip and was the first student to go up and write on the board in our first observation lesson - really gutsy) James 

Most popular student amongst our Tanzanian friends, both students of any age and teachers ... and who played a strong leadership role with the whole team throughout - Beth

Most attempts at breaking the hospital duck (urchin spines, stubbed toe, sun burn but all with no complaints) Ellie

The person who really embraced being out of their comfort zone the most (quietly concerned at the start of the trip to confident speaker and teacher after a few days) Miles

Person most reluctant to embrace the Tanzanian culinary experience (although still managing to eat pretty well) Oli W

African fashionista and person who made the best progress in embracing the African culinary experience during the trip (from zero to full on!) Oli T

Person most likely to end up in a role that involves negotiation and peacekeeping and definitely not phrenasthetic (😎) Anna

Most humble and deep leadership award (leading and supporting his team very well from the back and even sang when we performed our song!) Josh

Person most likely to be an MP in the future (as well as developing good self evaluation skills and always being willing to climb down with an apology ... probably not MP qualities!) Faith

Obviously the awards are just a bit of fun and there were many more facets to each persons contribution than I can mention here ... the most important thing to me is that they have opened their eyes and their hearts to people who have a completely different culture, life style, colour, economic viability, education and opportunity and they have treated them as equals and given what they can to assist those people ... and hopefully I have given them an opportunity to be globally grounded, recognising where they sit in the world and what most of the world really feels and looks like so that they will, throughout their lives, consider those less well off than themselves. Selfishly I hope it has ignited a desire to learn more about Africa and Tanzania because those are places close to my heart (but it's not about me it's about them). Mr L

Quick update from Dar airport

Time check: 15.00 Dar es salaam airport (12.00 UK time) Now there's a turn up for the books ... free wifi at Dar airport! All sixteen of us have managed to get through the airport security and passport control ... although we nearly lost Oli W because they hadn't printed a boarding pass for him for the first leg of the journey ... fortunately I noticed it and he is looking very relieved! It's been a good day but long already ... we started travelling at 08.00 this morning (05.00 U.K. Time) and we will be in transit until about 14.00 tomorrow (UK time) when we should be at BES ... as I said earlier I'll update during our stop over in Dubai (4 hours) probably after the squad have visited MacDonald's or whatever fast food joint is there now! Flight from here leaves at 16.30 (13.30 🇬🇧 time) ... talk later. Mr L

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A day of relaxation and interest

The day started later than most with breakfast not until 8.30 but many were up and enjoying the surroundings well before that ... a lovely walk upon the beach for some with the sun coming up ... Breakfast was a mix ... yoghurt with muesli, fruit, toast, local breads and eggs anyway we wanted them (a pleasant change as we have had hard boiled eggs at least once a day since being in the country). The mangrove lodge is almost too posh (if that makes any sense) as it's more like a beach holiday anywhere else in the world and almost insulates you from the poverty around whilst still allowing you access to the local foods ... it's a long way down a dirt track from the rest of the world ... however the students have been mingling with the local youth on the beach in that way that young people can connect and interact with anyone else their age if they have not been brought up with prejudice ... great to see.

Received unsolicited praise for the. behaviour of our students this morning after breakfast ... and then again later in the day which doesn't surprise me but is still good to hear 😃 

I have to report the first sea urchin casualty of the trip ... Ellie who did everything right, wearing sea going footwear and going carefully, has part of a spine in her leg and the very ends of some spines in her feet as they went through her footwear. When I consulted the owner and staff of the hotel they were clear that no hospital is needed ... if they apply Papaya milk it will stop the pain, act as a disinfectant and encourage the spines to come out in a week ... Ellie is happy to go along with this as she doesn't want to break the hospital zero ... so I will monitor the situation and see if the African remedy will do the trick for her. The students are trying to do things I notice to get into the blog ... but I don't think this was one of those! However I must again mention Oli T who purchased an African shirt last night and is wearing it with real aplomb today ... he really carries off the style ... I'm regretting not getting one myself but not sure I have the elan to carry it off as well as he does!

Lunch was fantastic and then a relaxing couple of hours with many  students paying for henna tattoos from staff at the lodge ... boys and girls ... so parents please expect your child to arrive home with a variety of different tattoos ranging from dolphins to lizards to patterns ... mostly in places where I won't have to tell them off on Wednesday 😃

Then it was time for the Stone town tour ... so we embarked upon our daladala transportation ... up the crazy rutted track to the road which seems to go on for ever and nearly causes sea sickness because of the rolling of the minibus ... the tour was great ... started at the slave museum where we learned all about the disgusting degradation of human beings by other human beings ... really gritty stuff that made them all stop and think ... then onto the old fort and the house of wonders (first elevator and electricity in east Africa many moons ago) and food at the fish market where the items desired the most were the chocolate pancakes and the chocolate and banana pancakes ... very tasty open air fare surrounded by lots of Zanzibar nationals ... Miles was the odd one out with the meal supporting Sampson by having a Donner kebab (we had cleared three stalls to give choice of meal to the students and everyone had gone for two stalls with beef kebabs and naan and the pizza stall) ... you can always rely on Miles to do the right thing ... he has been really great on the trip, quietly getting the job done with a smile on his face ... 

On our return to the lodge we had a fire on the beach with lots of conversations ... some getting far too deep and meaningful for this stage of the holiday about life after death and whether there is life on other planets ... but they all had a ball ... and now to bed ... bit later than expected but it was hard to get them to stop their conversations and I didn't really want to ... but it's a long day tomorrow and I want them to be as well prepared as possible. I'll sign off for now ... next wifi is likely to be Dubai at silly o'clock Monday night so I'll write a few words in preparation for that. Good night for now. Mr L

Saturday, 25 February 2017


It was an early start as predicted with students ready for the bus by 5.45am. We were in good time for the ferry ... and then the mayhem began! To board the ferry there are all the checks of the airport ... passports, tickets, X-ray machines for all bags, metal detectors ... but none of the organisation ... it becomes a free for all ... we were clear with the students before we got there to stay close and stay tight and move fast ... and they didn't do a bad job but then there is the rush to get on the ferry with bags, trying to find space for suitcases whilst being battered and bashed by people who are all desperate to get the ferry ... its ten minutes of mayhem which if on your own or with one other would be fine but trying to get a group of students through is pretty out there! But just like last year we made it 😃 

When I spoke to Sampson about the security and then the immigration cards on disembarking when we are in the same country he assumed that we go through the same rig-moral when entering Wales or Scotland which made me chuckle. We decided it was about ensuring that the authorities knew who had entered the island and left etc

Anyway ... the programme changed fluidly, as it has to in Africa ... we visited a mini market for provisions ... and after all my protestations about local produce I did succumb to a Bounty amongst my other produce! I told the kids I'd admit this on the blog 😃 

Then we set off for the spice tour ... which was as fantastic as I expected ... seeing coffee, vanilla, white pepper, lemon grass, ginger, cloves, turmeric to name but a few in their natural condition ... and to taste them and lots of different fruits ... they tasted so good taken straight from the tree ... the mango was 'to die for' and Sampson got us some lychee to try as well which  was new to most.

Then off to Stone Town for lunch ... we decided on Tanzanian take away ... a whole variety of things such as three types of samosas, pancakes, chicken (of course), naan breads, rices, fish and many more ... Something for everyone (to be honest most have eaten pretty well on the trip apart from Oli T but he has got by with snacks and bits ... I've tried to encourage him and he has tried a few things).

And then it was off to one of the highlights of the trip ... the mangrove lodge ... since we had been given the trip advisor photos the kids and I had been really excited by this part of the trip ... and it certainly lived up to expectations ... mostly but more of that in a mo ... we picked our dinner from a great list of local dishes including calamari , tuna nuggets, tandoori chicken ... and then to our rooms ... we got the kids settled first in their bungalows ... absolutely beautiful ... then Mrs A into her bungalow ... and then they say something to me about being fully booked and I'll have to stay in a Tanzanian staff room?? Fortunately we have now come to a compromise that I am happier with as that was very poor. The kids experience is amazing and they are having a great time ... and that is the main thing.

The beach is great, the sea is a pleasant temperature ... the kids had a great swim, throwing a ball, sunbathing etc ... then dinner was great ... we then had opportunity to buy some gifts from some traders
linked to African adventures and that was great because in a safe environment the kids had a chance to try their hand at haggling ... some with more success than others but they all had a go which was great.

Update on Oli T ... he ate really well at dinner ... he had tandoori chicken and the starter which was samosas and pakoras ... so well done to him ... he has responded to the encouragement and done well.

There was then a couple of hours of chill out time for all which they did on the hammocks ... chatting merrily away ... they really have gelled very well ... 

So it has been a really pleasant day, the mangrove is fantastic (even has bushbabies in the garden ... they will make a chattering/laughing sound all night so warned the students about that so they don't think they are being invaded by something wild and dangerous 😃)

And so to bed ... hopefully will get to post another blog tomorrow ... out last full day in Tanzania ... good night for now. Mr L

Friday, 24 February 2017

A day of travel from Dodoma to Dar

The only thing we didn't manage to achieve at Umonga (and I forgot to put on the blog yesterday ... slacking ... only had an extra twenty four hours to remember it!) was putting the colour and the message onto the gate ... the weather and emotion made it too difficult to ask the students to focus on the more intricate task ... so it remains black which is better than most gates we see which are not painted at all ... we left Rose with the design, paint and brushes and asked her to send a photo when it is done. The other thing of note from yesterday that I didn't mention was the response of the Umonga students to the dancing of George and Max during the second rendition of our song ... they threw some shapes and the students particularly liked the wiggling of their nether regions 😃😃

We were well looked after at the Four Points hotel and if I get the chance to bring more students to Tanzania it would be my first choice, above Citi Climax for three reasons ... the food, the pool and the staff. The quality of the food we were given was excellent every meal, the pool gave a focus (when it wasn't raining) for the students to let off some steam after a hard day (emotionally) at the school and the staff were just so welcoming and helpful.

We set off at 8.15 this morning, stopping at a great little food place in Morogoro that I have used before ... the kids were a bit dozy after over four hours on the bus but seemed to appreciate the great Tanzanian food. 

Then back on the bus to arrive in Dar 18.15 ... at the peculiar but familiar Sawe hotel with its bathroom doors that lock you in and only one key to service every door in the place ... we met Sampson at dinner (chicken and chips of course!) who was one of the team last time I was here and who takes over from Fred for the Zanzibar leg of the trip ... it's an early start in the morning as we have to be at the 7am ferry by 06.30 ... so early curfew of 9pm for us all tonight ... wifi at Sawe is the best of the journey so far so it should be easy to post this rather than my usual wait! 

Here is something to ponder on ... the country waits for rain and needs rain (I have seen the sign 'water is life' in a number of places here), but when it arrives it arrives with such fury over a few hours, it affects services, roads, education etc hugely ... for instance everything stopped at Umonga in the rain! Their drainage system is poor and little water seems to be actually trapped for good use? I am sure they could do more on that front.

Obviously I'll be discussing with the students that next time it rains at BES we won't stop lessons and stand around enjoying it 😃. Hopefully there will be good wifi tomorrow night and I'll update you on our first day in Zanzibar ... all the best for now. Mr L

An emotional day

And so to the last day at Umonga secondary school ... the day started with a rousing chorus practising our song before breakfast ... I say rousing ... what I really mean is croaky and bleary eyed first time through but they soon got in the mood ... then a cheer as the students realised that it was pancakes for breakfast.

Then to the ongoing saga with the bus ... well guess what, it was on time! Unfortunately we were then sat on the bus for ten minutes waiting for Fred who had been communicating with the bus owner for hours to ensure it was in time and then assumed it would be late! Only in Africa!

We got to school and unfortunately Rose had forgotten to tell the class 1E teacher that we were going to take the class so she decided that we couldn't teach them ... disappointing as all other form 1 classes had received two lessons and class 1E received none ... instead we joined Mrs A's group and introduced Kathryn from the nursery to Arran at kaloleni... whilst playing with the parachute and bean bags with the nursery class ... I am really pleased that we have made this link. For years I have been trying to find a partner for kaloleni and on this trip I have found two ... St. Leonard's and Kathryn. Kathryn has agreed to go into the nursery at kaloleni every Wednesday (her day off from the nursery at Macedonia and teaching at St. John's university ... what a great way to spend your retirement!) which is a huge bonus as she will train the nursery teacher and help improve the effectiveness of the school ... so I am very happy with this outcome.

From kaloleni we went back to prepare for the great football match between the Umonga first team and BES, supported by the teachers. At the last minute a netball game was sprung on us as well ... Rose really hasn't been on the ball with her support this trip and I do worry about her a little ... Anyway, the game started ... Umonga sporting the Wolves kit that the Claverley business men had taken out for them when they built the assembly hall ten years ago, with BES kitted out in one of the kits we got for Umonga through the RAF shirts for Africa scheme four years ago. The game started with BES under pressure from a very good Umonga team ... as the rain started to fall BES eventually gave under the pressure but not before Eloise had made a stupendous tackle and clearance to rapturous applause! The rain got harder and harder until the ref (me) had to call the game off because the mud playground had become dangerously slippy ... and we were absolutely drenched! the girls had been much more sensible and had got under cover before it became torrential! 

The decision was made to return to the hotel to change our clothes ... the rain was the heaviest I have ever seen anywhere ... we changed quickly and were back in the bus to return but the gully was so full and running as a torrent that we could not see the very narrow earth bridge over to the main road so the driver sensibly decided to find another much longer way round ... 

Back at school in typical African fashion the quiz we had agreed before the trip became something completely different and ended in a team of the best Umonga form four (18 year olds) students against the mixed endowed team ... two rounds from myself and three rounds from Rama ... Rama was concerned that the Umonga students wouldn't understand my accent so imagine our hilarity when half way through his team were asking me to repeat his questions because his accent wasn't helping 😃 safe to say that endowed won the day convincingly ... I have to say my questions were more balanced than Rama's so the Umonga students didn't really have too much chance! 

Then it was displays for our benefit ... there was a fashion show, a play about a drunk and a Doctor and a singer ... the Umonga students were a bit unruly and we felt sorry for the singer because no one really stopped to listen to her apart from us (it's one of those strange africanisms ... they just let the kids be unruly ... few staff in the hall, token gestures to keep order but hardly any teachers present) and they then finished with fire rating and acrobatics ... both very good entertainment ... and then came the endowed song (which went down very well, so well that one student could sing the chorus to us later on) and a short speech in Swahili from yours truly and some gifts ... money from the sixth form Taste of Tanzania company to pay for extra English and maths lessons ... and two tiles depicting ironbridge as the centre of the industrial revolution and a book of the history of ironbridge (last time we were presented with a carving of man making fire as Tanzanians believe they were the place where man first made fire) ... and now the emotions started to surface ... 

We retired from the hall but were mobbed by students and there were tears and smiles and swapping of email addresses and gifts which went on for quite a while before we retired gracefully back to the hotel via our favourite mini-market.

After some chill out time Rose and Sinene joined us for a celebration meal (plus the lady who prepared our lunches) ... it ended in speeches with Fred master of ceremonies (and a grand job he did too) ... speeches from all of the adults ... and when the students were invited to make a speech George very eloquently obliged on their behalf ... tears were flowing freely now ... and then Fred produced a certificate for BES and a cake with the African adventures logo iced with BES there as well (you'll have to see the pictures to do it justice) ... in Tanzanian culture if it is a celebration you cut the cake up into small pieces and feed it to each other on cocktail sticks ... but with feints and dodges so that the recipient doesn't get the cake straight away and nearly wears it instead of eating it ... Faith was a good sport and when called forward by one of the Africans played along beautifully ... that didn't help things and the tears continued to flow so we released them so that they could go and play some music and run through the emotion before bed ... leaving us adults to talk about Tanzanian education and culture and put the world to rights!

When I went to find the kids to send them to bed at 10.20 they were all in a room singing merrily and asked to sing one more song so I joined in with wonderwall and there Ended the night! 

In summary: in Rose and Sinene's speeches they talked about the investment that I and the Endowed had made over five years and the sacrifices many parents and supporters had made in helping students to join this trip and their appreciation of the input. They summed up the impact of five years by talking about students Improvements socially, economically, academically and culturally ... Rose said that the students had really built in confidence over the five years and that showed in examination results. It is important to know that you are appreciated and I wanted to echo Fred's message of praise for those who have supported each of these 14 students to make this trip because we are absolutely certain we have made positive impact on both kaloleni primary school and Umonga secondary ... and I believe that each of our students has been changed irreversibly by the experiences of this trip ... so thank you to mums and dads, to grandparents and other friends and relations for your support to help me continue my work in this region ... and really big thanks to those students in particular who did the volunteer thing the real way and raised all the money themselves through graft and hard work ... I hope the experience was particularly worth it for you.

And so ... with no internet because of the rains the blog will sit written and waiting until I can find the next wifi, probably at the Sawe hotel ... we're preparing for the long bus ride back to Dar tomorrow ... we'll talk again soon. Mr L

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Extra blog: discipline in Tanzanian schools

I have discussed the discipline system with the students a number of times because it is important for them to understand that it is like the uk 50 years ago ... the notion of spare the rod and spoil the child. 
In primary classes we have seen teachers head towards groups of excited children with the stick in their hand, for the children to quickly head to their seats ... at Dodoma school we saw the teacher march out with stick in hand to hers the children to lessons, and the children flee before him to class.

Yesterday however we arrived back at Umonga to paint the gate earlier than expected. Rose has been very good at keeping their discipline system away from students in our trips but the unexpected return meant we arrived right in the middle of it.

As the bus drew into the compound we found about 16 students on their knees with their right hands out stretched waiting to receive a lash of the 'birch'. We sat on the bus and watched as they received this punishment as we didn't want to disembark and disrupt it.

Afterwards we sat and talked about it, but because we had already discussed it in quite a depth the students could recognise that it was a stage that even our education system had gone through and despite it being disturbing to us we could recognise that as their education system develops it would eventually be left behind ... but for now it was just 'part of the system' 

The students agreed that it was disturbing, but if they had witnessed it against the younger, primary children then they would have been more distressed ... they know it goes on in primary as well, but they would have really struggled to witness it.

It was not something I particularly wanted the students to witness but I was proud of the way in which they expressed their disquiet but could rationalise what they had seen. However, I would value parents talking about it with their youngsters in our return to make sure that they are ok and can really put it into context. Thank you Mr L

Another thought provoking day

Here is a mark of the calibre of kids I have on the trip ... we have had no wifi for a day and a half and on our return today suddenly there was wifi ... weak but there ... they all immediately reached for their phones but I asked if they would mind waiting until I'd got yesterdays blog posted and without a murmur they just switched off and waited ... remarkable in this digital age ...

Busy day today ... breakfast included Andas, the doughnut-like breakfast we had in Dar, but lighter and fluffier and very nice ... again we were there for the bus at 8.00 ... some improvement on yesterday because it was only 15 minutes later than expected ... and off we went to the nursery ...

The kids really enjoyed working and playing with the three and four year olds and really didn't want to leave ... in fact the boys were enjoying playing with the Duplo so much that at one point they were so enthralled with building their tower they hadn't noticed the two little boys they were supposed to be working with had lost interest and were playing with the cars :-) I'm pretty sure Oli T and Oli W were two of the three but I'll have to heck the camera to be sure. Kathryn is doing a great job at the nursery and there are big plans for how it will develop slowly over the next few years. 

Then it was off the Dodoma school ... this school built by the British before independence is the oldest and largest government school in the region ... over 1400 students including 400 a level students ... it is also very successful with part of that being down to them taking the best students around (selection to a degree) and being established for so long so expectation is high on entry ... they have more teachers and more money including some serious investment from south Korea in two computer rooms with all the kit since I last visited ... Umonga really are the paupers in comparison and it's no wonder the students make better progress at Dodoma. There is also a stronger under current of anti-white ... still barely discernible but stronger at Dodoma school. The differences elsewhere are huge e.g. students learn English and always speak English but they also learn Mandarin, French and Swahili! 

Four successful lessons taught at Dodoma school and lunch there ... we then headed back to Umonga for the gate painting! It was a bit hot but again they all worked as a team and got the gate painted in no time ... black today and we will add colours tomorrow ... the two flags of the uk and Tanzania with the name of the school between them and also some of the railings above painted in the colours of the two countries ... the design sounds good but we'll wait and see how it looks once we have finished. Some of the kids got more paint on themselves than the gate and trying to get it off their hands afterwards was a nightmare until the second master (deputy head) arrived with paraffin and soap ... the two added together shifted enamel paint like nothing else would ... hopefully it will dry successfully over night for the next colourful coats tomorrow ... the gate and finishing the wall around the school were part of our gifts to the school, as is painting it.

And so to the main market in Dodoma which is under cover ... definitely an experience I wanted the students to have ... all the produce from cooked tiny whitebait and slabs of meat to bell peppers and rice and myriad of spices piled high ... I wanted to buy Rose (headteacher) lots of rice and white bait which are a real treat for her and her family as they are expensive compared to their normal fare with enough to last a good few meals ... so we toured the market which was as great as I expected ... atmospheric, dark and slightly foreboding but exciting and entrepreneurial ...

Next stop our usual mini-market to stock up on Pringles (sigh!) but also lots of local produce ... George even venturing to buy a local delicacy whose name is Visheti Sukari Nazi! it's basically sweet pastry with cardamom and some yeast so it's 'grown' a little bit and is then deep fried ... producing a very solid sweet piece of pastry ... good work for your back teeth but hard to bite a lump off ... 

Back to the four points for swims and relaxation before a tea of ... you guessed it ... chicken ... very nice going with sliced potato, a cucumber, tomato and onion salad with some vinegrette (Greek salad or close to it) and pasta ... with water melon to finish.

The task for this evening is to write two songs to sing at the celebration tomorrow (and maybe choreograph a dance) as we know they will sing and dance to us ... so far the writing has been to Adeles Hello which is a bit slow and dirge like but they can use the Swahili word habari as part of their new lyrics ... anyway I'm encouraging them to also do an upbeat number ... we'll see what they come up with ... I'll update this later ...

Update 10.15: Well I have to say that they have hit upon a winner ... they had two songs they worked lyrics to as I said earlier and although the lyrics to both were excellent one was easier tune-wise (is that a word?) and more upbeat so I think they have made the right decision to go with that one ... we practised a couple of times tonight but they have agreed to be up earlier in the morning to give it another couple of run throughs ... here are the words of the song:

To the tune of call me maybe Carly ray Joesph 

We came from Bridgnorth endowed
We came, we looked and we found 
So many smiles around
And now we want to stay

We have had plenty of fun
Such a shame that we're done
You made us feel so welcome 
And now we want to stay

Your kindness showing 
Grinning teeth smiles glowing 
We came here not knowing 
Now you've taught us so much lately

Hey, we just met you
And we all love you 
So Asante sane
We will miss you

Loved working with you
It was our pleasure 
So Asante sane
We will miss you

George 'are we together?' (Typical thing said by Tanzanian teacher 20 times every lesson)


I'll have video evidence of how well it went and will post it once we get back to better wifi ... have a good evening, Mr L

If only half of this posts I'm sorry wifi is a nightmare after the rains yesterday

Day two at Umonga and rain nearly stops play!

No wifi yesterday at all so I wrote the blog but haven't been able to post it until now 

It was supposed to be an earlier start with us on our way to Umonga at 8am ... well we were there ... the kids had done great to be up and ready and breakfasted ... but the bus wasn't! I shouldn't be surprised by this of course but this morning was our visit to kaloleni (the primary school) so that Mrs A could start to develop the relationship with St. Leonard's and there were only a couple of hours assigned to this. 

It had rained over night and we were hoping to get away with it today ... but our luck wasn't in. We aren't complaining because the Tanzanians have been waiting for rain for months and the farmers desperately needed it ... but surely it could have waited two more days after being three months late!

We got to kaloleni and the heavens opened and dry sand/mud roadways  and paths turned into slippery passageways and it really pelted it down! After initial discussions and a clear strategy for St Leonard's to support the school we went for a look around getting drenched and mucky in the process ... the heavy rain lasted about four hours well into our return to Umonga ...

Mrs A's summary of kaloleni - the new headteacher Arran is great, he has moved things on even further from the great work that I had seen Zephaniah had done ... for instance now there are some displays in classrooms ... number lines, letters, shapes and some pictures. They have huge challenges but are very positive about the future and are happy to embrace change e.g. One teacher has recently done training on Montessori methods ... but they lack the resources and the room currently i.e. The nursery class are in a cleared stock room as their classroom is uninhabitable at the moment and they lack the resources to refurbish it. Even so they have smiles on their faces, the teachers are positive and they had great fun with the parachute which was a gift from the Halls. They regaled us with songs even from the nursery class and the Endowed students got a good opportunity to see what it is like being a primary student here. Arran is energetic, charismatic and student focused ... just what the school needs.

Back at Umonga we taught another four lessons between us (endowed students again were brilliant, the care and dedication to the task was inspiring) and observed an English and Geography lesson before a brief break and then a late lunch with the teachers of Umonga ... you'll never guess what the meat was 😃 Lots of great conversations ensued ... Oli W even stole Rama from talking to me ... clearly his conversation is far more sparkling! At sports time not many students turned up because of the rain earlier in the day ... and the 'playground' was slippy and muddy in places but we put on rounders and badminton which were both very well received ... with Rose Msafiri partaking of badminton (she also really enjoyed the parachute at the primary school). It never ceases to amaze me the natural athleticism some children possess ... there were some potential super stars out there today amongst the Umonga student population and it's hard to come to terms with the fact that they will never get the opportunity to develop such amazing natural abilities ...

Before we knew it the bus was there to take us away ... and not a moment too soon to be honest ... maybe it's my years ... hopefully it's just the heat ... but I'm worn out! The kids have been great but I guess being responsible for them 24/7 away from home keeps the mind constantly on the go! And there's a lot invested in this partnership that I want to continue to develop so everyday needs to be a winner as we have such little time here ...

My summary of the day at Umonga ... eye opening, inspiring, challenging, daunting ... I can see how far the school has come in five years but there is still so far to go! The pace of change here is incredibly slow ... but as I said to the students I was taught in mostly boring classrooms where the board duster, the slipper and the cane were the means of keeping order (some parents might remember similar) and our education system is now amazing in comparison 40 years later (not that our students appreciate it as much as they should) ... so change does come in East Africa, we just have to be patient and do what we can to speed it along. Here is a figure for you to conjure with ... the headteacher at kaloleni (650 students, 28 teachers, 10 classrooms all in need of repair) gets the equivalent of £110 per month to resource everything apart from teacher salaries ... no wonder they cannot afford to refurbish the classroom apart from a very little here, a very little there! I thought BES was hard up ... think again Mr L!!

This evening we had as our guest to dinner (beef curry ... very nice) an English lady we met at church who has committed herself to using her retirement to improving nursery education in this region ... she is doing a great job and we visit one of the nurseries in the morning as an extra on the trip before going to Dodoma school ... I very informative discussion was had by all and it's great to see the passion for Tanzania in someone else.

Hopefully we might have some wifi so I can post this blog tonight ... it's not looking too hopeful after the rains and thunder storms today but I can live in hope ... thanks for continuing to follow us. Mr L

Monday, 20 February 2017

Finally we get to Umonga school

Sorry no internet last night so couldn't post blog but here it is now

Wow ... what a day, what a way to start our time at the school! 

The day started with porridge ... well that was a non-starter! It was liquid porridge in a thermos and didn't look appetising ... so they did us omelettes to go with the bread and mango ... and then a Spanish omelette appeared ... so we did rather well in the end!

The journey to school was uneventful ... what I really mean is I didn't see any of it as I was working on my speech in Swahili that I would have to give to the whole school later ... Fred was of great assistance! 

When we arrived at the school students were in lessons so all was quiet ... I quickly noticed the differences ... now there is a wall around the main compound and a gate (part of the money paid by volunteers has bought the gate and finished the wall ... which we will be painting on Wednesday). The School day starts at 8am with two 40 minute lessons and then 5 minutes before two more lessons ... once we had been welcomed by Madam Rose we went to observe in two classes ... I took my group to the form four biology class (equivalent to GCSE/AS) whilst Mrs A (don't know why I called her Mrs C on the other blog?) took her group to a history class ... whilst mine was fairly slow and uneventful she had the raw end of a history lesson about the white mans oppression of Africa and Africans! Now that's a way to win friends and influence people who have just travelled 1000's of miles to support you in your work ... it all ended amicably enough but was obviously a little disconcerting at times. 

The visit to Zanzibar will delve into the way in which the white man oppressed the black man and subjected him to slavery and the barbaric acts that were carried out ... but I have to say that I have been very impressed with one and all and the way they have just mucked in with our friends at Umonga with no hint of anything apart from mutual respect.

Anyway ... then we had the welcome and my speech in Swahili did the job of breaking the ice for one and all ... I am told I did well and my pronunciation wasn't too bad but they were probably being kind! There were lots of smiles and response from the 650 students, so I was pleased.

And then straight into our first teaching ... four successful 40 minute lessons later we evaluated and were happy ... Mrs A's group did shapes and angles and my group did time ... all taught to classes in form 1 ... students between 13-15 ... who have had nearly two months of being taught in English from a very low baseline of primary English language ... so they are struggling, or some of them are. We found them keen and eager and no bother at all ... they were a bit non plussed by our active type of learning initially but loved it once they got going. BES students were great, helpful, supportive, confident ... particularly in the second of the lessons they taught ... and we were responsible for some good learning #proudheadteacher

So then it was time for lunch and a little 'Chill time' ... hard in this heat of course ... before getting ready for sports coaching ... we had a good group of girls turn up ... Beth and Ellie got them dressed in the donated netball bibs and skirts and did some drills which was great and then Josh and I got the footballers to do a few drills before playing a game ... which was a lot of fun but far too hot! The bus arrived and 14 hot and sticky volunteers boarded, well satisfied that they had made a difference in their first day ... 

A quick stop off at the mini market again ... the previous evening we had discussed that one way to support a developing country is to make sure that you buy local but obviously they should go with their conscience ... I tried the moral argument .. so today I bought cassava chips for everyone to try and they bought a variety of snacks ... many informing me that they had bought local ... but one chap was very quiet ... because yet again he had bought Pringles ... obviously he shall remain nameless ... but I know him as Totti from football teams :-)

Back to the hotel and lots of high jinks in the pool ... which is a welcome addition to the last visit and has made a huge difference so far ... today it was a game of keep Max's crocs from him in the pool ...which led to great hilarity ... and when he did get them both back he basically offered himself up again to be scragged as they were having so much fun ...

A dinner of fish and chips tonight ... not as you'd know it but incredibly tasty ... and almost on time ... African time having an evening off! I have to report that I asked the kitchen to preparea small amount of Ugali (staple food for Tanzanians which is basically a very firm porridge that forms the majority of a Tanzanians one meal a day ... very starchy) and I think everyone tried it with my encouragement ... they kids continue to grow in my esteem ... 

And still I haven't had to visit a hospital or a pharmacy ... things are going well! There was a moment during football today when josh fell and skinned his knee and I thought as I viewed it from afar 'here we go again' but it's just a graze and he's been great about it ... 

Lights out at 10 again tonight ... early start tomorrow as we visit the primary school, kaloleni, for a couple of hours before teaching at Umonga ... the kids have been brilliant again ... so I'll sign off and go and see how they're doing ... then hopefully I'll be able to post this on the blog ... wifi has been terrible today with the power cuts ... all new experiences for today's teenagers and valuable too ... all the best Mr L

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Here I am again!!

well I was wrong ... dinner wasn't arriving ... what was arriving was an excuse that food wouldn't be arriving for another hour! Hey ho ... the kids took it in good humour as a great excuse to play more games!

Church goes down well!

The day started well ... sausages for breakfast with eggs, bread and mango juice ... very nice too. Then off to church ... as many pointed out, if it was that lively in the U.K. they would like to go! Out of the mouths of babes!

I was given two whole seconds notice that they were expecting a few words from me in the welcoming visitors section ... so thinking on my feet off I went ... the most interesting thing was there were three other white English faces in the congregation and when I mentioned Bridgnorth one lady perked up and when I mentioned umonga she peeked up again ... it turns out she has retired and is out here lecturing and teaching in a nursery for two years ... lived in Bridgnorth for a year and her Tanzanian ward went to umonga ... its such a small 🌎 

Anyway, after some socialising we have an additional visit to make (to the nursery) and then walked through Dodoma ... photo at Julius Nyerere square to add to last time ... and then a super market for soda and snacks ... I bought some baobab and banana crisis so they could all try ... Max bought Pringles!! His excuse for not supporting the industry of Tanzania was it's a different flavour ... obviously we discussed the error of his ways 😃

After a lunch of guess what?? Bet I got you there ... it wasn't chicken it was a beef curry ... although it is roast chicken again tonight (with pasta) ... they all had an afternoon by and in the pool ... lots of high jinks ensued! Rose Msafiri (headteacher) joined us to be introduced to the students before we sat and planned the school itinerary for the next four days ... 

We have just met as our two groups and planned our lessons ... one on shapes and one on time which sound good ... and now at nearly 7.30 we are waiting for the dinner promised at 7 ... kids are getting used to African time now so have quickly got games started when dinner isn't appearing ... they remain a great group and are doing really well ... and it means they are playing a game giving me time to get an early blog post in meaning I might get toned earlier! Apologies to those who have made comments on the blog, really great for me to read and share with the students but the wifi isn't strong enough to let me reply (for some reason!) ... please keep commenting as it's good to know you're there (also I somehow managed to delete the post that had been read the most ... fat fingers trying to blog on a phone is my only defence ... I've sent a plea to Toby at school to see if he can restore it ... it had 123 reads!) ... 

There are signs dinner could be on the way so I'll sign off and if it's a quiet night I'll leave the next update until tomorrow ... kwaherini ... 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Dodoma at last

have to say the kids have been great ... it's been another interesting day ... really giving them the true African experience!!
They were all up on time this morning and ready and eager for a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, andas  (like doughnuts) fried green banana and bread with some tea ... then onto the bus for the trip to Dodoma ... 7 hours we were told ... 9 hours later still on the bus ... it was an eventful journey full of great experiences of people selling produce every time the bus stopped, knocking on windows ... different countryside and loads of colourful Masai as they had a gathering from far and wide by the side of the road ... experiences of 'interesting' driving styles and rough roads ... chicken three meals out of four ...  and then we arrived at the four points hotel ... it looks fantastic, the staff are very welcoming and the manager is great and helpful ... we met Sinene (teacher from Umonga I know well) and planned a few things and then sat down to dinner ... and then the lights went out! And stayed out! Again the kids were great ... phone torches to the rescue as Fred gave them an orientation chat (very atmospheric!) but the food was going cold as the staff all tried to sort the power out ... eventually all power restored and kids fed ... and then someone found the wolves v Chelsea game live on tv so that sorted most of them out for the rest of the evening! Mrs C, Beth and I taught Fred a card game (Rummy) and he proceeded to beat us in only his second game! The kids all think he is great ... and he has been brilliant ... even when I got him out of bed a few minutes ago, the power had failed so it was torches again but Joshes mosquito net was too small ... he's got a room upgrade for tonight whilst they get another net!

So finally we have power ... the kids are all in bed ... possibly without a/c tonight as the power keeps tripping out ... but we have power and therefore wifi ... and more importantly than that Mrs C and I can get on the wifi because we've banished them all to bed ... so finally I can do the blog and keep you up to date.

An eventful day, brilliant experiences ... and then it's church in the morning for an hour ... not sure how they will cope with that but we're promised gospel singing and no experience that broadens your mind can be too bad! I'll let you know the verdict tomorrow evening ... so
Long as we have power ... can't keep my eyes open any longer so better sign off for now ... kwaherini Mr L

Thursday, 16 February 2017

On our way

On the M40 with the rain on the windscreen and with tunes on ... lots of singing ... adeles set fire to the rain being belted out by one and all ... great mood on the bus ... excitement tinged with some nervousness ... just checking out the weather ... expect it to be 32C on our arrival ... They are three hours ahead ... so we land in Dubai at 04.45 then take off for Tanzania at 06.30 U.K. time landing at 12.00 U.K. time ... 15.00 Tanzania time ... 20 hours from now!
I'll try to send another message before we leave the uk

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The final countdown

Habari (hello how are you) volunteers, 
Just a quick reminder that you should take your anti malarials at breakfast time please as that is when I will be asking you to take them in Tanzania ... remember to start taking them the prescribed amount of time before we leave ... if it's malarone that will probably be from Wednesday morning. Please also make sure that the tablets are in your hand luggage as you will need to take them on the flight.
As previously suggested please bring bags to room 60/61 (the demountables nearest the sixth form student centre) at the start of the day. I will ensure they are locked away until 1.05 and we will meet in the room at 1.30. 
For parents who want to wave us off remember our intention is to leave at 2.30 at the earliest.
Kwaheri ya kuonana (goodbye for now) 
I wish us all Safari njema (safe journey)
Mr L

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Draft itinerary for the trip so you can follow where we are

17/02/2017 Friday
Arrival Day

You will be met at the airport by African Adventures’ friendly in-country team before heading to a bank and a convenience store. Here, you can withdraw some Tanzanian Shillings, the local currency, and buy some refreshments for the journey to Sawe Hotel in Dar es Salaam.

You will have some dinner (included) on arrival and then time to relax at the accommodation.  

18/02/2017 Saturday
Transfer to Dodoma

You will be served breakfast before heading to off Dodoma and checking into your accommodation.

Once you have unpacked and settled in our team will deliver an orientation that explains more about life in Tanzania and your forthcoming trip.

In the evening, you will have dinner at your accommodation.

19/02/2017 Sunday
Free day

You will be served breakfast at your accommodation (Four Points Hotel). 

In the morning, you can visit a local church and experience a church service. On return to your accommodation, lunch will be provided.

In the afternoon, you can go to town and have a look around and purchase items such as snacks and water. 

In the evening, you will have dinner at your accommodation and some time to relax.

20/02/2017 Monday
First Project Day – Umonga School

You will be served breakfast at around 7.30am before being picked up and taken to Umonga School where you will be volunteering. Once you have arrived, you will meet the teachers and children and be introduced to the project work you will be helping with for the duration of your stay.

You will have lunch at the project before spending the afternoon in your volunteer role.You will be picked up between 3-4pm and returned to your accommodation.

In the evening, you will have dinner at your accommodation, before spending the evening as you wish. This is a great time to talk about your project experience so far and prepare any lessons or work for the following day.

(Activities/visits to the supermarket in the late afternoon and evening will be arranged between your Group Leader and Trip Host.)

21/02/2017 Tuesday
Second Project Day – Kaloleni and Umonga School

Breakfast will be ready by 7.30am, so you can be ready to leave for your project between 8-8.30am! You will spend the morning visiting Kaloleni Primary School and the afternoon you will spend at Umonga. 

Your lunch will be brought to you at the school between 12-1pm and there is usually a one-hour break. 

Afternoon lessons and project work usually recommences between 1-1.30pm until around 3.30pm, when you will be picked up and returned to your accommodation.

In the evening, you will have dinner at your accommodation and some time to relax. 

22/02/2017 Wednesday
Third Project Day – Dodoma School

Breakfast will be ready by 7.30am, so you can be ready to leave for Dodoma School between 8-8.30am!

Your lunch will be brought to you at the school between 12-1pm and there is usually a one-hour break. 

Afternoon lessons and project work usually recommences between 1-1.30pm until around 3.30pm, when you will be picked up and returned to your accommodation.

In the evening, you will have dinner at your accommodation and some time to relax

23/02/2017 Thursday
Final Project Day – Umonga School

Breakfast will be ready by 7.30am, so you can be ready to leave for your final day at Umonga School between 8-8.30am!

Your lunch will be brought to you at the school between 12-1pm and there is usually a one-hour break. 

After lunch, there will be farewell celebration assemblies until around 3.30pm, when you will be picked up and returned to your accommodation.

24/02/2017 Friday
Transfer to Dar es Salaam

You will be served breakfast before you leave Dodoma for Dar es Salaam. 

You will spend the night in Dar es Salaam and tomorrow you will get the ferry to Zanzibar island. 

Check into your accommodation where you will have your evening meal.  

25/02/2017 Saturday
Taste of Zanzibar Weekend 

You will be served breakfast at the accommodation. You will then board the ferry for the crossing to Zanzibar Island.

Once you arrive you will head north to a spice farm where you can discover new herbs, spices, soaps and other natural produce from this famous exporting island. You can even sample some! The tour rounds off with a refreshing coconut drink.

Arrive at your beach resort in time to enjoy the sea and sand before the sun goes down and the tide comes in.

Evening meal (included) together before an evening of relaxation.

26/02/2017 Sunday
Taste of Zanzibar Weekend 

This is your morning to relax. Wake up and enjoy breakfast (included) whenever you like and enjoy the resort’s facilities - namely the turquoise waters before heading over to Stone Town.

After lunch (included) you will begin your walking tour which begins in the heart of Stone Town, the centre of Zanzibar’s historic capital, also named Zanzibar City.

Slalom through the narrow streets, passing through an array of famous attractions.

Check into your accommodation at 5 Star Lodge where you will have your evening meal (included).

27/02/2017 Monday
Departure Day

Unfortunately, it is time to head home! Your group will wake up bright and early, have breakfast and bid a fond farewell to the African Adventures staff.

You will be on an early morning ferry crossing back across to Dar es Salaam and taken to the airport to head home!

(In Zanzibar, we don’t say ‘goodbye’, we say ‘see you soon’!)