My First Two Weeks

Sunday, June 12, 2010. Msasani, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

It’s been a long haul, coming to Tanzania this time and I’m still not settled.

On looking back from boarding my British Air flight to London May 25th, so much has happened; I feel as if I’m in a whirlwind. I’d prepaid my extra baggage at home previous to my flight yet overlooked that I was not on a connecting flight (less than 24 hours between flights) from London to Dar, so at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 I discovered I had to pay another 170 British Pounds to have my goods accompany me. On the tiled floor of Heathrow I couldn’t decide which ‘child’ to leave behind.

I enjoyed two days of calm at the Palm Beach Hotel in Upanga (an area of Dar) while I organized my banking and visited Tanzanian friends whom I hadn’t seen since August 2008. On June 1st, Alyssa, coordinator for Jane Goodall Institute – Roots and Shoots came to the hotel to guide my way to ‘Jane’s House’ in Msasani (an area of Dar). I’m ashamed to admit we needed 2 taxi’s to accommodate my baggage – but hey! consider Stanley as he bartered his way across Tanzania. I have many special Tanzanian friends for whom I bring gifts and gifts for friends I’ve yet to meet AND six months is a long time from home.

The first week at my Dar home was cluttered and frantic. I needed to disperse with a lot of stuff I’d brought – I needed to ‘organise’ – I can be a cranky old snit until I’m organized as my Expedition friend, Becky can attest to. Well, unpacking didn’t happen until the weekend. Closets and shelves I would use needed sweeping down, washed out, air dried, sanded down to slide and close, debugged and finally sprayed with essential oils to deter wadudu. I had no personal time to do any of this until 4 nights of sleeping in confusion – as Don (my husband) would describe, “It looks like you sorted your room with a hand grenade.”

Days were packed meeting the Tanzanian staff at JGI Office in Mikocheni, (just across Old Bagamoyo Road, but yet a different ‘area’ of Dar) orientation, collecting reams of paper & online information to read in my ‘spare time’…all generally ‘learning the ropes’. I knew I’d never get personal names straight for days but, strangely, I did remember and quite quickly.

Wednesday morning, June 2nd, Alyssa and I headed for our first attempt at Tanzanian Immigration downtown via daladala. This is a ‘cross cultural experience’. Early morning travel in Dar today is stop-start all the way a 40 minute ride packed like sardines in a tin can – literally. Better in the early morning rush than the late afternoon when the deodorant (if used) has worn off. I had all my paperwork organized, even had my expired Residency Permit Class C (for volunteer workers not receiving money) from February 2004 to February 2006. But wait! Aha…this isn’t the ORIGINAL permit. We need the ORIGINAL permit. Gee, and I thought I was clever in bringing my permit! OH! And we need a written release from you previous sponsor, HAYOSAP, stating they have no objection to my working with another Tanzanian NGO! OH dear…now how do we locate HAYOSAP when the High Court of Tanzania couldn’t locate them when they were attempting to sue me for 1.5 million US dollars. “Never fear – Gail’s here” was the battle cry (in my head).

Alyssa left for Moshi early Thursday morning, June 3rd, taking Amy who will be my working partner at Mweka Wildlife Center, to the JGI home in Moshi. Amy is from the US and has been here at Jane’s House since April studying Kiswahili and undergoing orientation. She’s ‘breaking trail’  for my arrival in July.  Anya ( my fellow recruit from Poland via Canada, US, Paris and heading for university in London in the fall) and I were together alone at the house until Saturday when Dr. Anthony Collins arrrived for an overnight stay enroute to Kigoma and Gombe Stream where he was to be hosting 28 visitors last Monday. Sunday night, his wife Esther and her sister Miriam arrived from Arusha for medical treatment and they were here until this past Friday. Alyssa arrived back from Moshi Monday night, so the doors of Jane’s house are constantly opening and closing. I believe Dr. Collins is back this week for the office’s KUBWA final touches to planning Dr. Goodall’s trip to Tanzania celebrating 50 Years Of Gombe July 1st. Amedi, our housekeeper, and Abdullah, our gardener, are busy spiffing up the home and grounds for this occasion.

This Wednesday, June 9th, Alyssa and I made our second attempt with Immigration, a ‘No Go’ until I explained a court action against me by HAYOSAP. We were herded to a back room office with four officers who heard my story then offered a remedy. TAXI! To my lawyer’s office and after obtaining the file number, I headed off to the High Court armed with my Civil Case No. 135 of 2005. A sweetheart of a clerk at reception took me under her wing and by Thursday noon I had two official, stamped decrees with the final verdict: Case dismissed due to Plaintiff non-compliance of….YAHOO! Taxi swiftly to Immigration with paper in hand, so this Friday, June 18th, I will know if I am accepted by Tanzania and know if they really want my money!

Friday, June 4th, was an extra special day travelling with Japhet, one of JGI’s Tanzanian Roots and Shoots co-ordinators, and Anya to Kibamba Secondary School. It was their last day of school prior to holidays until around July 9th. What an exciting event. I was mesmorized.

The students sat in the shade of a huge tree, while teachers, and then Japhet, spoke. Japhet introduced Anya and me. Then came the presentation by Kibamba S.S. Roots and Shoots Members…ahhh it was amazing. Their  faces were made up and they had clothing props; they danced and sang a song they had created saying even though they are Tanzanians they don’t know all of their National Parks because they don’t have literature, maps or information and how sad is this. Brian & Tara, you would have hugged them all and wanted to take them home. I couldn’t take my eyes off one young fellow – oh, the rhythm and energy and what a cutie – the startling fact was, he was the ‘twin’ of my daughter’s stepson, Jacob. He was watching me also and his eyes were Jacob’s eyes. His face and movements will be imprinted in my mind forever. Oh, I kick myself… Anya & I didn’t even think to take our cameras…mine was still packed away in my ‘hand grenade’ mess. After the dance and song the secondary students dispersed while we and the 29 or so members of Roots & Shoots who were honoured to remain (there are 48 members but those who did not contribute during the year were not invited) continued on to a classroom where refreshments were served. We were given bottled water then a plate with cupcakes and a package of peanuts then, a soda. The refreshments were supplied by the young Roots and Shoots members and they are to be praised for their warm and generous hospitality. Speeches were given then Anya and I were asked to say some words. I told them that I am a Bibi (grandmother) so I KNOW they are no different than secondary students in Canada who would be saying “Let’s get out of here and get on with our school holiday” when it was their last day of school. But, I had to tell them that, having been a painter, the artwork on the blackboard (that they had sketched for this celebration) was beyond anything I could ever create. It was absolutely beautiful. The room exploded with clapping. I told them I loved their performance and that they should be so very proud of their achievements. I was honored to have been their guest. It was hard to ‘read’ their reaction, but as they passed by our guest table at the front of the room to shake our hands, well over half of the students took my hand in both of theirs and said “I love you”. I saw the sincerity in their faces. What a great group of young Tanzanians – their parents, their teachers and their country should be mighty proud of them.