Sunday, March 22, 2015

Every Good Thing Has To Come To An End

Uganda . . . it is so green here, even in the middle of a drought.  Just seems everywhere one looks, there are green and growing plants.  It is really quite remarkable.

Two short flights brought us to Entebbe (via Nairobi); Mustafa (our driver from 3 years ago) wasn't able to meet us, but his younger brother was waiting for us at the airport.  The drive from Entebbe through the edge of Kampala is chaotic, crazy, noisy, hot and dusty.  Imagine the worst traffic you could conceive of, then subtract traffic lights, lane lines, sidewalks and basic 'rules of the road' and you have Kampala traffic -- with the addition of about a gazillion little motorcycles which are used as taxis.  Needless to say, it took a while to get out of town and on the road to Ft. Portal!

We met up with Mustafa who was bringing Ineke, her brother-in-law and another friend back to Ft. Portal from their safari up north, so it was fun to hear about their adventures.  We finally all met up at the guest house in Ft. Portal in time for a cold beer and a lovely dinner.  Rwenzori View Guest House (ineke's establishment) is such a lovely place to stay.

Over the next few days, we hung out at the guest-house, walked into town, visited with friends, shopped a little and met up with a Rotarian who invited Jaime to their meeting in Ft. Portal.  We also visited Gertrude's school in her village; unfortunately, much to our disappointment, none of the women from whom we purchase baskets  (through Gertrude) were available for us to meet, and Gertrude had no baskets for us to see.  But we had a nice day at the school and the students presented some lovely singing and dancing to welcome us.

We did get a chance to meet with some of the women from the Rwenzori Women's Group (which is really 4 groups together).  We saw their weaving, watched as they made the dye from flowers and leaves, and hiked down the hill to the swamp where they pick the papyrus for the baskets.  It was great to visit with them, and I loved being able to watch them work.  Ineke and I talked about possibly providing some classes on how to make some new colors, as well as the possibility of follow-up classes to build on the home and money management class we sponsored a few years ago.

Jaime attended a rotary meeting in Ft. Portal on Wednesday; I was invited to accompany Ineke and her brother-in-law to visit the home of one of Ineke's staff -- he has been building his home for a couple of years and just these last few months, finally was able to move himself and his family in!  It was pretty exciting to visit his home, meet his wife and share in the celebration of having it so close to completion.

Lots of interesting discussions with various Ugandans about politics, presidents, corruption, education, health-care and the kingdoms in the country.  Most of the folks I talked with believe that education is the critical issue in their country and that corruption is what is seriously holding them back.  The problem, of course, is how to control and eventually eradicate the corruption.  There are small, hopeful signs that a new generation of leaders are, and will continue to be, motivated to honesty.

Friday early morning we went on a birding walk through the Botanical Garden; then into the car for the long drive back to Entebbe and the even longer flights to Amsterdam, Seattle and Anchorage.  40 hours later, I was home -- exhausted and jet-lagged.  Jaime stayed on a few days to experience Kampala.

Sad to leave Africa, glad to be home, and already thinking about what I want to do on my next trip over! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Long Post to Catch Up

So here we are in Uganda. everything is quite lovely here but let's back up a few days.

Jaime felt better on Wednesday and so was able to drive into Arusha for the Rotary meeting. Thank goodness for air conditioned cars!

I drove with Janet and Julie to Mwika to visit with Glory and Mama Jessica who do most of the tailoring of clothing and aprons.  I had brought some clothing with me to help explain the various ideas we wanted to get across.  Glory is just so talented!!  She pretty much understood everything once I could explain it to Janet and Janet could translate.

Then we had to address the difficult issues of her continuing to sew for Asante, and filling our orders promptly.  Last November and December we had some misunderstandings about the need for promptness and attention to detail as well as her taking other clients when Asantes orders were going unfilled.  Much discussion ensued. and then even more discussion.  And then some more. But we reached an agreement in the end--I hope.

it was a very long, hot day in Mwika, but I am hoping it will turn out to have been a profitable one for all of us. The drive home to Moshi from Mwika was also very long, hot and dusty.  Jaime returned from Arusha with good reports of her Rotary meeting; after a late supper, the bed felt so good.

Thursday we were able to sleep in a bit before heading over to Janet's workshop so Jaime could meet Puzo and we could follow the batiking process. It was amazing to watch as Janet and Puzo turned plain fabric into works of art. Draw a design in wax, dye, dry, more wax, more dye, dry a little. Then boil in water to melt out the wax, rinse in cold water to set the dye again, hang to dry and "presto", a beautiful piece of fabric.  But of course, it isn't presto, because of the time, talent and energy required.   I am so glad to have seen the process, so now when folks ask at our sales, I can explain and show photos.

Friday--up early for one day safari to Tarangire NP, known for elephants.  Long drive, but almost as soon as we were inside the gate we were slowed by giraffes and zebras and impala  in the area. Right up CLOSE!!!  Then one elephant, and more zebras and Cape buffalo.  We followed one track up and around and suddenly we were in the midst of an entire elephant herd!  It was almost scary how many there were and how close they were. Old matriarchs, mature females, teenagers and infant elephants -- all just milling around, grazing and ignoring us. it was quite remarkable, to say the least.

As well, we saw cranes, hawks, buzzards, tortoise, wart hog and mongoose.  And more and more elephants throughout the day.  Finally we had to leave for a long drive back to Moshi and dinner with Janet

We were invited to a thank-you celebration for everyone who helped with Frederick's installation as Bishop of the ELCT, Northern Dioscese. So we knew no one and couldn't understand any of the speeches but it was a lovely party and everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening.

Saturday we flew to Uganda.

Enough for now . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moshi, TZ

Here I am in Moshi, for the first time in a couple of years.  It is bigger, busier and more crowded, with lots of new construction.  Hopefully, the economy can support the new retail and commercial space.  Residential buildings are being pushed further and further out into the edges of town.

I arrived Saturday night; Ima and Julie met me to bring me back to the hotel.  Sunday everyone was busy, so I had the day to myself.  After an initial bout of feeling lonely and abandoned, I realized I didn't Have to do anything!  What a treat.  So I rested, walked, photographed Mt. Kilimanjaro from the back balcony, read, and in general, enjoyed the heck out of the day!

Jaime arrived late Sunday night; we visited all the school where we provide a lunch program.  Here's what I thought was hilarious -- you will have to tell me if I am warped . . .

When I travel to bush Alaska for work, I visit the school kitchens and cafeterias.  Sometimes, the village cook happens to be 'sick' when I come to visit and I get to meet with the sub; or the business manager was unexpectedly called out of town; or the food service director called in sick.  In short, some times I feel as if I am a persona non gratis!  So, the funniest part is that when we got to the first school we were visiting here in Tanzania, the cook wasn't there!  They had a sub!  I was laughing pretty hard in side, especially since we weren't there to review anything; just to introduce Jaime to the headmistress and show her how our sponsored program works.  We did look at the new garden, which is modeled after the gardening techniques taught in the workshop Asante paid some of the teachers to attend.

The second school we visited, the headmistress was 'out of town' and the person who had attended the gardening workshop wasn't available; and the third school, the headmistress was in Arusha with some students.  Hahahahaha!  I just thought it was so funny -- AK and TZ the same.  Maybe I need a new job or a new persona!  Anyway, the lunch programs are runnnig smoothly -- Asante's woman here in Moshi does an amazing job of purchasing a delivering rice, beans, cooking oil and ground corn to the 3 schools, over quite long, rough roads.

Then today we were to visit Mwika, to check in with the women who do the sewing and tailoring for Asante.  Mwika is about 45 minutes away from Moshi.  About halfway there, Jaime began to feel quite ill so we turned around and drove back to Moshi to a well-known and well-respected physician.  He diagnosed dehydration and told her to rest and drink more water.  Thank God she is OK, and the cure is easy.  That is what she is doing now; I am on call in case she needs me.  She just doesn't do heat well, I think.  We are hoping she will feel good enough to visit the Rotary Club meeting in Arusha tomorrow, before we head north to Ketumbeine.

Stay tuned for more . . .  I hope to get to Mwika tomorrow while Jaime is in Arusha.

Friday, March 6, 2015

From Amsterdam through the fog of exhaustion and jet lag!

Good Morning from Amsterdam!  The original plan was that I would meet Jaime here this morning and we would fly together to Kilimanjaro Airport . . . that was the plan . . .

Friday morning, she called from Anchorage --her flight to Seattle had been cancelled; hence she would miss her connection to AMS.  Soooooooo, here I am, and there she is.  She'll be on the same flight, one day later.  I will arrive in TZ in about 12 hours and she will arrive Sunday night.  Dang, I will miss her company on the flight and I know everyone in TZ will be disappointed that they will miss a day with her.

My time in Minneapolis went quickly!  it was wonderful to visit with Mary Ann in her new home; I just wish Jack had been there as well.   Mary Ann and I had a great time catching up with each other and she was able to give me a little information about Jack's recent trip to TZ.

Bethany Freiburg came over early Wednesday morning for a visit and then MA and I ran a few errands.  It was definitely more winter-y in Minneapolis than it has been in Anchorage all winter.  Cold, snow and windy.  Brrrrrrr!  Good thing I had brought all my winter gear. :-)

Thursday morning we met Bethay at the train and rode downtown to visit Diane Jacoby with Operation Bootstrap Africa and the Maasai Girls School in Monduli.  Asante has long supported girls via scholarships at the Girls School and it was great to visit with Diane again and to see the OBA office.  She had some lovely photos of their recent anniversary celebrations at the school.

Then home with Bethany for time to focus on NAAPOK.  Which is just what we did for the rest of the day!  We talked about successes and continuing challenges for the bead ladies.  I am looking forward to visiting Ketumbeine this week to greet them with love from Bethany and Asante.

After a leisurely hike Friday morning to Minnehaha Falls and the locks on the Mississippi River, Mary Ann and I had lunch; then I took the train to the airport.  And here I am, awaiting the next 8 hr. flight which will take me to Kilimanjaro Airport and my friends there in Moshi.

Later . . .

Monday, March 2, 2015

ok. just checking to make sure I can publish from my I-pad. I keep trying to convince my kids I am not a techie illiterate but I don't think they believe me!!
and one more important goal:
follow up with Floresta and Plant With Purpose on the gardening workshop Asante provided for some teachers.
We sponsor school lunch at some primary schools in the Moshi area, and feel that it is important if our schools can also have gardens to provide fresh vegetables to supplement the meals.  So there was a training a few weeks ago, and we will be talking with the participants, visiting the schools, etc. to see how it all went.

Funny thing -- I am pretty involved with the Farm-To-School initiative here in Alaska, working with schools to begin gardens, greenhouses, high tunnels, etc.  So it will be interesting to see how Asante's little "Farm-At-School" program is shaping up!
The clock is ticking down . . .
Get up tomorrow at 3 am, leave here at 3:30; board the plane at 5:20 and off to MSP.
Plants are watered, laundry is finished, and my house is about as clean as it ever gets  :-)

I am so excited to see Bethany who is our connection to the Maasai women beaders; and to see Mary Ann, who is our founder. 

Some goals for this TZ and UG trip:
1.  Assist Julie in developing some strategies for minimizing defaults and late payments to our micro-loan fund.  She has really stepped up to the plate as far as administering the program; we just need to work together to iron out some of the difficulties.
2.  Meet with some of the seamstresses who sew our batik clothing.  We have come a long way in the last few years in terms of helping the women in Tanzania understand how women in America shop for clothing.  Over there -- you go to your tailor, he or she measures you, and you come back to pick up your order.  Over here -- you go to the store, head for the size 12's and try on what you like.  Some of the new styles and batik prints the Miichi women have come up with are wonderful, and selling well.  We want to capitalize on that success.
3.  Check on the progress of the latrine for the girls' dorms at the secondary school in Ketumbeine, where our Maasai women live.  Asante partnered with the school to construct a lovely new latrine for the boys a few years ago; we are in the process of assisting with the construction of the girls'.
4.  Reconnect with the basket weavers in Uganda with NEEPU.
5.  Meet once again with the basket weaving women of Rwenzori Mtn. Women in Ft. Portal, UG.
6.  Locate new sources of jewelry, batiks and wood carvings, since the disastrous and calamitous fire destroyed the Maasai Open Air Market in Arusha. 

And now it is time to prepare for a nutrition workshop I am offering at our church this evening.  2nd in a series of 4 -- tonight is reading and understand ingredient and nutrition labels.