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