Thursday, March 27, 2008

JAMBO!! just discovered at this brand new exciting internet cafe just opened in Mto Wa Mbu catapulting this village into the 21st century, that the good owner Justin has made a wipe of his computers, gone into my blog pictures on my special machine marked SERENGETI and erased them all out! 3 hours of selecting, preparing, reducing, cropping, gone, YIKES!! I ask him which he replies I am finished with those pictures, why should he keep them?? he says placidly....ah....patience - okay, well, that is just that...we begin again..

YESTERDAY, a memory never to forget, with 5 boys swimming, age 7 to 12, the older ones: Elia of course, Jackson who I sing 'we got married in a fever, hotter than a peper spout!' the Jackson country song, Zackaria the oldest - calm, wise, watching, Stefoni the showman, entertainer, and Justin - sweet Just in Time..i found you just in time'- they love these songs with their names - these kids never get out of the confines of the Orphanage except for school - day after day cramped into that small compound, moving around with 30 other kids - three rooms off a small courtyard at the back which was flooded Easter day with torrential rains and mud. The children were confined not only to their little dormitories, but to their BEDS! Mud and water everywhere. I was up in Moshi over Easter, but two very wonderful people from Sweden who've been working with the ORphange came by, saw this travesty and put their collective minds together. The next day with an agent they went through four properties, buildings already built and ready to go, locating one which is PERFECT for our little orphanage! 15 rooms! if can you imagine! 5 bathrooms, all of this off a good sized courtyard in the middle, ready to move in except for building a kitchen, cleaning up a little and a fresh coat of paint, and its a go!

Everyone is excited! Ecstatic! The Board of the Orphange, we donors and the children. And now the details...the owner who offered the sale for $75,000 US overnight, after wisetalking from friends and relatives proclaimed it was too first he wouldn't sell, but maybe he will, but for much a higher price. Of course. When there are Europeans involved, American, white, the price catapults, it is always this way, and to be expected.

To buy a building in Africa, in Tanzania anyway. You must check first for ownership, not only who owns this property, but what relatives, spouse, children may be involved; sales happen only according to the wellfare of children. Deeds must be produced and signed not only by Village Government Officials, but by neighbours of the property in order to justify and verify plot dimensions. Ownership. Money is exchanged, and as far as i can understand, it is a go.

My Swedish friends have left for home, due to return in a month to finalize the dealings, all going well; I keep saying all going well, from experience..there is so much to do. The Orphanage board must take responsibility for checking the condition of the property, the renovations needed, budget and the ownership and Village offical/neighbours verification. Once this is accomplished, by no means and easy feat, our Swedish friends will have raised the money for the purchase and renovations, beds, linens, tables - whatever needed to move these incredible little beings well out from an intolerable situation to a safe and secure place where they can begin to breathe and grow..

WE agreed my responsibility is for the SPONSORSHIP of the children - all 16 of them, who are full-time living permanently on the premises. I have figured out to the best of my ability, and again this is no mean feat, the day-by-day monthly budget of running such an establishment: food, rent, staff, soap, cooking oil, maintenance, plus yearly school fees, uniforms, shoes and books....I am setting up a program where i can offer friends back home the chance to help individually one of these kids through the 7 years of Primary through to Secondary school, for a further 4 forms...a huge commitment, but for many of us, easily arranged and affordable.

This is an exciting and worthwhile project, and already my Swedish friends have found someone to take Sifoni (see hugely smiling artist at the pool), a little lion of a guy with a personality to fit his magnificent Simba status!, someone to sponsor a little princess called Neema, and a woman who is a retired dentist in Sweden who has asked for 5 boys to sponsor all by herself! Beware my dear friends in Canada. When i get home, i will be putting together information sheets on each of these children, with their short and, in every case, heartbreaking stories, photographs -and will be on the lookout for Canadian sponsors...Between all of us, i am certain that within a year or so, we will have every one of these children sponsored well into their teens, living in a wonderful open airy large new home, with a playground out front and a garden out back. It is our dream!

Today ICA is beginning a 3 day workshop on CAPACITY BUILDING specifically for the five Orphanage Board members to teach and offer support and professional expertise in areas such as accounting, donor accountablity, staff growth and teaching HIV AIDS training, prevention, testing with home care for our three children who have tested positive. ICA is doing this gratis, a huge favour to me, and showing once again their commitment to this community - these workshops generally costing each participant $200. US dollars, in attendance.

And...ah the swimming, yesterday....everytime i go to the orphanage now, i am surrounded by them, the ones who have been and the ones who are dying to go..they hover, smile, hold my hand, look into my eyes and without English yet murmur softly PIGGA PIGGA to me, one after the other...Pigga means KICK!! and that's what i am constantly telling them KICK!! Legs: MGOO, Arms: MCCONNELL, easy to remember that word! PIGGA PIGGA! So everyday i am saying no, not today, in a few days, so many other things drawing me away. Finally, yesterday we take off, laden down with bathing suits, art supplies, a plastic bag filled with greasy sombosa, bananas, boiled eggs and chipatis and two big soccer balls. WE pick up bottles of coke, fanta and water and head into the campsite which is very nice, built specifically for safari travellers, white foreigners, with hot and cold running water, a deliciously inviting swimming pool surrounded by wide and open plains of freshly-mown green grass, deck chairs, tables and a staff there who i know well, and who love these kids. Their second time here, and today they leap like pros into bathing suits, a quick shower and dash into the pool.

Justin has joined us this time, unable to come before with malaria, so i start with him sitting at the end with his feet in the water only watching. The others, having one lesson under their belt act like they have been doing it forever, showing off and blowing bubbles underwater, jumping up and down, diving off the side, heads down - there is absolutely NO FEAR....none. It is astonishing, I could never imagine this! i am wary of Justin, his first time in a pool. But it is unjustified...he watches the others, moves himself in slowly, and within minutes is jumping up and down! I have to tell him to keep his mouth closed underwater and he is on his way, joining the others PIGGA PIGGA practicing and copying each other, front crawl, stride jumps, somersaults. i am not kidding. Could swimming actually be a natural normal activity? are we coming from fish? Is it only our FEAR which stops us?? Could this be true??

And following that, i wonder, is it only our terrifying fears that stop us from doing so many things? Could we, without fear, without a basic but maybe learned lack of confidence achieve so much more if we just gave ourselves half a chance! At every age, not only with children, but why not, as we get older too - just allow ourself to get out there and try it! What is there to lose?

I am thinking of painting...all my life i thought i couldn't paint, couldn't sing, couldn't paint. I always envied secretly those who were artists! They had something special i thought to myself. I wish i could, but i can't. And that was that! A bit of a diversion from my African blog... but back in 1975, Bracebridge, Ontario, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I stopped my life as i knew it and moved into her home, learning about homeopathic everything and helping her in whatever ways i could to make the last ten months of her life manageable. To help with my stress, i took a little watercolour painting course in a basement of a church, nothing lost, nothing gained i thought, something to alleviate the day to day worry - and in Bracebridge, a small town, who cared? Little did i know but this was to be the beginning of a love affair which keeps me fascinated to this day! Every night we watched old movies from the 40s, my mom and i, with a table set up in front of me, watercolours, a pot of water, some paper..and i practice, enchanted with the way the blues moved into the yellows making green, brushing with red, brown, purple, it was again, astonishing....i now know, EVERYONE CAN DO IT! That summer, after she passed away, i opened my art retreat, basically for me to learn how to paint! I hired the best teachers i could find, and while learning myself, created a community of hundreds of other would-be and accomplished painters over the last 12 years, again..a miracle....

I am telling this story, because without my mother's illness, i would never have allowed myself the opportunity to try art making....and as it is with these kids and swimming, ANYONE CAN DO IT!! I KNOW!!

Flip back into yesterday...we swim, we lie on the mats wrapped in big fluffy royal blue towels, we bask in the sun, we drink Fanta, Coke...we eat, we bring out the art supplies and draw...a couple of us are AMAZING ARTISTS!! Look at my boy Elia..he is incredible. When i get home i am determined to make a calendar of ELIA ART!! He is a natural and they are all great! Jackson makes three solid lines down the page with neon yellow markers and calls it 'the highway through MTO wA MBU', their imaginations stretch and sparkle. They put their shoes on and run through the grass, kicking the soccer balls; Job the head chef of the hotel rolls up his pants and joins them, running, leaping, so much space, all of them laughing....

As the day draws to an end WE pack up and walk slowly, all 6 of us back across the two mile safari past rice fields and rows and rows of jam-packed artist's stalls exhibiting Tinga Tinga inspired paintings - Tinga himself having been shot to death by police 35 years ago by mistake, another story - rows of paintings swirled with palatte knife, paintings of elephant, giraffe, MASAI...zebra...monkey, mountains, flowers, lion....and on into the noise and bustle of Mto Wa Mbu cental, the shops, bars, restaurants, bus depots, shoe-shine stalls with four or five guys sitting side by side, behind old and new shoes displayed and waiting for business, some sewing on peddle machines outside shops filled with fabric, with little piles of garbage burning inside small fires, little charcoal burners cooking chipatis, french fries, eggs along the road....the buses atop with grocery, baskets, bundles, people of all colours, size, wrapped in calicoe, with babies slung on backs, pails, bundles atop heads, heaves of grass, wood, boards stacked and dragged along in big wooden wagons...we move along...past the long open avenue of jungle and trees and the odd baboon family frolicking and on toward the orphange, under massive fig trees thick with pelican birds flying, leaping and shitting and stinking at will, with little babies learning to fly from nest to branch - a never-ending white with black tailed endlessly moving mobile swinging with bird life, high in the trees as we walk underneath, some of which falls down, splat upon the pavement, life and death along the road, as we move one by one along. Jackson and Justin are bouncing the soccer balls, Stefoni his little hand in mine, and independent Elia and Zackaria lag along behind, perhaps unwilling to say goodbye to the memory of such a perfect day...

more and more and more..later! BEDAI!!!

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