Kilakala Schule ya Viziwi. School of the deaf.

Raheema arrived just as I was starting to water the garden this evening. The Non-Formals had been into town to an HIV/AIDs forum which unfortunately had challenges in its delivery, however having reported this minor fact, Raheema excitedly shared with me that she was so very, very happy today. When she had been at the meeting there were deaf children signing to each other. She was able to tell me many of the things they had said to each other with their signing! She was so excited and I was so proud of her! Renee had only spent 2 hours with our girls last week, teaching them Kiswahili signing and, here was Raheema, able to relate to these children in public!
I was thrilled as yesterday I visited Kilikala Deaf School at Renee’s suggestion in the hope of doing some community work with them during 2011. Some of our students had asked for this so I am pursuing it as part of our leadership program which I hope, will incorporate a community service aspect. Furaha, the Headmistress, was so welcoming and very accepting and excited by the prospect of a SEGA/Kilikala team!
As I walked through the school, visiting the classrooms with Furaha, the children signed excitedly, welcoming me and especially noting my mzungu skin, long hair, sunglasses and jewellery. Apparently after spending s short time with you, they give you a ‘signed name’...I know my name will be related to one of these things!
I am looking forward to pursuing this project and to visiting the deaf school at which Renee works, in Dodoma this Friday. Mae and I are travelling the 3 hours to be with the other Dodoma Volunteers, share our experiences, check out their community and relax!

Wednesday. 24 November. Getting the job done! Exams, Self sufficiency.

As I sit on the verandah with the breeze blowing through my sweat dampened hair, I look out across the assembly square, past the flagpole, and the sunflowers wilting in the hot 4pm sun, to the cluster of girls seated in the shade of the big tree at their favourite study spot.Their commitment to study hard and to achieve well has been evident all week and for all of the weeks I have been here so far. Form 1 exams began Monday and end next Monday with two exams completed each day.
Having had dinner with the Dolans, Saturday evening and been swimming Sunday arvo with Polly and Martha, I was feeling very relaxed. To give the girls some support I went out to SEGA where I firstly I relaxed with them weaving makeke, ate Paella for dinner then guided them through some intense revision of Civics, one of the subjects I have been teaching.
I know Dad is here with me in this harsh, challenging environment. He would have loved the challenge of succeeding and the simplicity of how things get done! Monday was Dad’s 3rd Anniversary and I was grateful to wake up on this day, surrounded by these girls who are so generous in giving their love and affection. Nina kupenda Baba. I love you Dad.
All the girls had wanted me to sleep in their bed. It was Subira’s bed I slept in and as I drifted off to sleep around 10:30pm, wrapped in my kanga with the blue mosquito net tucked securely around me, I could hear the girls helping each other study. Much later I woke briefly, and could see the little solar lamp on the top bunk, working hard to assist the anxious, late night student...getting the job done!
SEGA aims to be self sufficient. The school’s energy is totally sourced by solar power. The large panels shining brightly on the rooftop absorb the energy needed to be converted to power. In addition, each girl has her own small, solar powered light which I often see re-energising on the verandah during the day.
SEGA has recently obtained 5 computers sourced by solar power – No danger of damage from power surges here! The girls have been learning the basics of computers, mainly sourcing games in their leisure time. Next year, with additional computers in the newly built lab, we will be able to nurture their ICT skills and hopefully, eventually communicate using the internet!
Having spent a lot of time and energy establishing a viable vegetable garden, and nearly being beaten by the fickle weather, SEGA is determined to continue to produce. Unfortunately, the underground water supply was salty so additional water is trucked in for drinking and sustaining the edible produce. These challenges are so familiar to me having been raised on a farm and dependent on weather and natural resources.


It helps when making bread, to add a raising agent to the flour...especially when the yeast is not strong (1 stubby of beer is ok but not great!) My second batch of bread with the addition of baking powder and soda was sensational! Definitely Fran style: wholemeal/crunchy crusty – all over/ and light and aerated inside!
I find it hard to resist crusty, fresh, nourishing bread topped with real butter and lashings of Vegemite (....and no one to fight for it!!! Lol )
I might need another tube of Vegemite soon having mastered the delights of freshly baked bread in a dodgy oven!!

Another Wikiendi!

Saturday morning I was determined to stop and slow down a bit! My day started at 6am. When I wake up, that’s it.....I have to get up and get going. I love reading but hadn’t given myself the time to sit still long enough to get into the final book of the trilogy “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. Having watered the garden....over an hour’s worth of time, I sat curled up in the comfy chair on the verandah, book in hand, freshly made crepes with banana and jam, freshly brewed coffee and a whole day to do whatever I pleased....and it was only 8:30 am! This was it.....Bliss............!
Two hours later, I got restless so swept/mopped/dusted the house and the caught the daladala into town.
You know when youj just pop into town to get a few things....and you come home with a trolley load???....
Well that’s what happened to me! My new basket weave, shopping basket didn’t survive and I nearly didn’t either! Riding a bus in Melbourne laden with shopping is hard enough (I know... having done it many times as a student!) but to even think about riding a daladala fully laden......
is stupidity.....mmmmmmmmmm........!!!!!!!
Oh Well.....I managed! No need for a gym workout these days:
“Simply living, is a workout!”

Saturday 20 November. The Blue Bus!

I did a double take and had to laugh the other day as I was travelling home from school. I had looked up and there in front of me was the twin of the Tony Brutys’ infamous Blue Bus! Same color, almost the same size and crammed full of people just as the Blue Bus had always been. When my brother, Tony’s children were younger, the people mover was a necessity to transport all 7 of them (and the extras who were ever present!) Many an adventure was had by entering onto and becoming a passenger on the Blue Bus. The seats could swivel around so that all could face each other and play board games, UNO or just chat....especially handy on long trips. I know each of my children has a story to tell which included the Blue Bus!
I pass this Blue daladala as I go to and from school and am hopeful that I will get to ride it one day as its journey goes from town to Kihonda, passing my dusty track. Tony’s bus was always full of kids, their luggage and everything else that goes with transporting kids....the daladala is just simply packed with people....It’s 12+ seats overflowing with another 12+ people standing squashed together in the limited space....atleast I haven’t seen anyone hanging out the door...yet! There is no such thing as personal space here in Tanz.
 Pics of my vision whilst waiting for the school bus at 7am

Friday 19 November

I have a little surprise!
We have been adopted.
Last Saturday we were sitting around just chilling out, eating mango chatting and biding time before Renee headed off to Dar. We looked up to discover a cheeky little visitor had made his way into our family room and was wandering around as if he had been here many times before! This was impossible as it was the first time we had met him and, we were to learn later, that he was only 4 weeks old. We knew there was a litter of puppies next door but hadn’t met them until that moment.....when we all instantly fell in love with him!
His name is Kehawa (coffee) and he has irresistible charisma. I was hesitant at first as I had been warned about having pets due to rabies being prevalent however, John our landlord has reassured us that we can take him to the vet any Saturday morning and get all the necessary shots for free.

Our unanimous decision to accept Kehawa’s adoption of us and have him as our guard dog was an easy one! We wait in anticipation of the transition into our yard when he has reached the grand age of 6 then Elena and Camilla will have returned from their 6 day safari to Zanzibar....
It’s very quiet here tonight as I sit eating popcorn with only my music blaring for company! The two girls left at 5.30am to catch the bus to Dar then do the crossing to Zanzibar where Wendy will be hosting them for 3 days. They will then head north of the island to laze on the beaches. They are doing the ground work to report back on possible must dos when Gem and the girls arrive at Christmas! Have fun girls....I’m missing you already!

Wed 17 Eid Mubarak - Thursday 18 November. Mboga.

A midweek Islamic holiday because of the position of the moon, interrupted our Pre-Formal swimming program however, as the Form 1’s were at school we organised for them to use the swimming session! It was a win/win! The girls were delighted and we had heaps of fun swimming, relaxing, helping them float, blow bubbles, playing games and singing and generally feeling at ease in the water.

Having dressed we were ready before the bus arrived. Due to the holiday, classes were not being run at the International school. This was fortunate as the next half hour was rent with squeals of laughter and screams of delight as we all entertained ourselves playing on the playground equipment!

Sadly we farewelled the girls and we walked down our dusty track, through a herd of goats, to an afternoon of baking.....My first loaf of wholemeal beer bread, wasn’t quite cooked however, it was topped with vegemite and couldn’t be wasted so I opened a cold Kili and washed it down!

Leo ni Alahamisi, asubuhi, Tarehe kumi na nane mweziwa kumi na moja mwakka elfu mbili na kumi.
Today is Thursday, morning. 18 October, 2010.
Leo, tuni kupanda bustani mboga wetu!...Today, we are going to plant our vegetable garden!
Mustafa, our gardener helped us prepare the beds yesterday and today he has gone to town to buy the seeds and seedlings: Karoti: carrots, viazi kitamu: potatoes, mgiligilani: fresh coriander, kabichi: cabbage, vitunguu: onions, pili pili hoho: capsicum and maybe rasiberi: raspberries.
We already have mchicha: baby spinach and nyanya: tomatoes growing randomly in the garden beds around the flowers which are a bonus as we don’t have to wait too long before we can eat the mchicha. At SEGA, the girls have been educating me on how to tend to the plants and which ones can't wait to taste the rewards!
Since I arrived the yard has been transformed into a relatively dust free, tranquil setting. Scoria, small stones, have been spread over the areas that don’t have garden beds so the rain will drain away more easily and hopefully reduce mud and flooding. Many roses have been planted, together with hardy, bushy plants and flowers. I am so happy as I love roses...hopefully some of them will be red ones! The fruits include, mangoes, bananas, guava, oranges from which we are already eating fruit as one tree was already here.


Having arrived home from school, and the others back from town, we started gardening....some of the expected seeds were unavailable so we have proceeded to plant: carrots, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Spring onions (red salad onions), Mchicha (the seedlings are unable to be used) and we transplanted the tomato seedlings from the flower bed into the veg patch!

Our landlord, Mr John Fuhsi, has a large compost so we used several barrow loads to feed the beds, sprinkled them with a fine layer of dirt, then gently watered each bed. Our job is to ensure that these beds don’t dry out!

As the afternoon progressed, I looked at my hands and could hear Mum saying “You should be wearing gloves!” Sorry Mum but I had two choices: not to help OR...
.... to help, have fun but get disgustingly red dirt encrusted hands and nails! Oh, but it was so worth every grain of dirt to have an afternoon in the garden with the prospect of our own veggies and to achieve almost weed free plants.

It became a very domestic arvo as I decided that to rid my hands of the encrusted dirt, I would do my washing! It worked! I now have very clean hands and clothes and while I was at it......I swept the whole house and washed the floors! Spring cleaning....don’t you just love it at the end!?
I had one small problem. Having washed my new dresses and tailor made outfits, I realised that I didn’t have an iron or coat hangers! I drip dried the outfits so they were pretty straight when they dried, but I ran my hands over them pressing out as many bumps as I could, then laid them along the back of my couch under a kanga to keep the dust off. I will close my eyes when I put them on and by the time I get to school they will be a bit crumpled anyway!
Life’s pretty simple really!

15 November. Trust. Signing

“Tutaonana baadaye Mae” as I left for the bus and an early start!
Having worked on Core Values, I was concerned that the Pre-formals might not have a grasp of the English vocabulary connected with each of the Values they had highlighted. We had introduced the theme: Leadership last week and some vocabulary connected with it so I linked Core Values with Leadership focusing on Honesty, Trust, Respect, Right and Wrong using cue cards to highlight and define each one. To complete this session we replayed the trust activity I had done with them last week. This time with a lot more success and understanding from the girls!
Our first attempt: One girl blindfolded with 2-3 sighted girls guiding her physically or verbally to safely reach a given destination and return.
I blindfolded first and trusted the two girls to look after me...I was anxious as I didn’t really know whether they understood me...however, all went smoothly. We talked about the task and my expectation of my helpers: “Trust = belief in someone that they will do the right thing”
By the time I had grouped the girls and blindfolded the 6th and final group, I stepped outside anticipating a vision of 6 groups moving between the flagpole and school building.....
“OH NO... Where were they?” I could only see one group and that was the 6th one which I had walked out with!

I quickly headed around the school to witness 3 lone, blindfolded girls wandering aimlessly way down past the canteen with no help from their groups! Potential Danger with the building site in their paths.....Frantically waving and signing at the groups, they finally realised they had to help the girls at risk and bring them back to me. Before returning to the classroom I had one of the girls explain to her peers in Kiswahili what needed to happen. This time I stayed with them, encouraging them to support each other and talk the blinded girl around challenging or potentially dangerous situations. We only had one girl walk straight into a pillar...fortunately she was tough but we used her incident to highlight the importance of trusting her friends. Once they had had a turn at being blind they began to realise that it was very important to guide and support the blind one and that the blind person needed to trust them to do the right thing and keep them safe!

Earlier this year, Sandra, my predecessor Vol, also friends with Renee, had responded to a request from the SEGA girls to invite Renee to teach them signing in Kiswahili. Renee had been sharing this with me and saying that she would love to visit the girls we organised it!
Returning from Dar, she joined us for lunch where she met the Pre-formal girls after which she spent 2 wonderful hours sharing her amazing skills of signing in Kiswahili.

Renee had organised to bring 2 deaf students from our local deaf school in Morogoro, Kilkara unfortunately, their day finished at midday and our session was during the afternoon. However, Renee expertly delivered a very powerful session without the deaf children. Her gentle manner and clarity of explanations made it easy for our girls to learn about being deaf and the challenges it presents. Renee was able to converse in Kiswahili which enabled the lesson to move quickly and easily. It was a pleasure to see the excitement in the girls’ faces as they quickly followed Renee’s lead and learned to sign many words, the alphabet and simple sentences. So quickly in fact, that they were able to have conversations with each other by the end of the session. We were amazed at the speed at which the girls grasped this skill!

Some of the girls had encountered a deaf person but generally they had little concept of deafness. Renee showed some films of the deaf children communicating during various activities at her school. This visual information was very powerful in helping our girls get some insight into the deaf children’s lives.

We challenged them to a game using cue cards to give the word they had to sign. The number of successful words signed within 1 minute was added to their team’s score.....100% participation...lots of laughter and many very proud girls who continued to sign to each other after the lesson and to us as we were leaving SEGA homebound! Great work Renee!

Today, with time to spare whilst we waited for the whole school assembly, we challenged the girls to role play: Signing to each other in conversation. To our amazement, they eagerly took it in their stride and laughed their way through silent conversations which we could all understand. Our girls have asked to become involved at Kilkara, the deaf school, something I will pursue. What a great way to get them involved in their own community at their own request!

13-14 Nov. My Birthday Weekend.

Wow....What an amazing weekend!
My birthday text from Prue said: “Hope you get to celebrate in a way you never have before!”
That is exactly what happened! We had so much fun with many unexpected events unfolding!
I farewelled Renee as she bused out to Dar and welcomed Mae off the bus from Iringa. Not having had mirrors in our house, I discovered a vendor selling a variety of them and arrived home with one for each of us...much to the excitement of the two young 18 year olds ...(I’m not too sure that I’m really excited about seeing the 51 years of wisdom etched into the face staring back at me!!)

Peter drove us all out to SEGA where the girls greeted us with excitement. This was the start of our promised movie night/sleepover. We were just as excited as the girls. Mae was welcomed warmly as we were all given a detaied walking tour of the whole of SEGA after which we relaxed in the canteen. The girls patiently helped us start the weaving and we all proceeded to create the bookmarks we had agreed to help produce. Time passed quickly as we laugh and shared stories. They were intrigued that Mae’s Phillipino skin was ‘the same as their skin’! Subira had very patiently and expertly guided me through learning to weave and so to say thank you I taught her how to use my camera: to focus correctly and look carefully at the content in the screen before gently squeezing the button without moving the camera. She became the unofficial photographer whom I easily trusted to take care of and respect my camera.

As a result, we have a very candid, extensive pictorial account of everything that happened! It was such a pleasure for me to see their enjoyment in this simple task and then to watch and listen to their reactions on Sunday morning, at seeing themselves in a slideshow on Kelly’s screen!

As the sun faded, a fire was lit to create some warmth and also get the coals needed to make a huge bucketful of popcorn.

After much laughter and many group photos, we moved to the school building in anticipation of starting the movies, to discover the truckload of new chairs and mattresses had arrived! I have never had this much fun unloading a truck! Everyone was excited: Baba Yona, Syotite, Matron, and all of us....lifting/moving/supporting/passing/relocating/avoiding newly planted roses.....

Then finally the truck was empty and it became an imprompty stage!! Singing/dancing/laughing....”Madam Fran come up , join us!” I didn’t hesitiate however, once up there, I realised potential danger if one was to slip off the truck! The night and truck were dark....Madam Fran had to be firm to get the dancing to end but enticed them with movies/lollies and popcorn! Thankfully we housed all the new equipment in the classroom without incident!

It dawned on me that we had just been presented with the perfect resource for our movie night and, with Matron’s approval, we moved 6 plastic covered mattresses into the Form 1 classroom: Kangas were lain over them/ 27 girls arranged themselves/ Kelly (my 13" screen laptop) propped up on the front bench with speakers attached/ lollies thrown to the crowd by Elena, Camilla and Baba Yona (a bit like feeding hoards of hungry fish as the chaos was frantic!!) / popcorn distributed/ lights turned out..... and the movie began.
Seventeen Again, an American teen movie...the girls hung onto every scene as the interpretation of the dialogue was done by Elena, Camilla and I. We were seated amongst the different groups of girls therefore the explanation gradually reached all of them in Chinese whispers style (however, these girls don’t really ‘whisper’ very well!) They loved the cheerleader dancing and singing, the fashion, the social scenes...It was fun to hear them on Sunday discussing their favourite scenes!
Explaining where The Phillipines are....where Mae is from.

As the first movie ended I assumed it was time for bed as the night was late however, in response to their protests and, again with Matron’s approval, we began movie #2: The Pirated of The Carribean. Some girls had gone to their dorm but most had brought in blanket and pillow and the slumber/movies proceeded. I’m not sure that the entire story was understood, however, they loved the different scenes and the fact that they were actually ‘at the movies’!

Finally to Bed!! Apparently there had been much discussion as to who should sleep in which bed. The lucky girls proudly showed us to their beds whilst they shared their friend’s beds.
Sleep came to me very quickly amongst a haze of noisy bedtime preparation. Suddenly, it was morning! The 6 am bell sounded as those girls on duty silently slipped out of their beds.

7am I ventured out to experience a typical Sunday morning: Girls watering their gardens, preparing the fire, making porridge to drink, peeling potatoes, kneading chapatti, making chai, washing clothes....amongst laughter and chatter and “Happy Birthday Madam Fran”...always accompanied by a warm hug.
As I sat helping the girls peel potatoes with a knife, I knew I would never forget my first birthday in Tanzania.....and my day had only just begun!

Arriving home, dusty, tired, exhausted and elated, I happily.....successfully......received birthday call from home in Australia!
During the activity of last night I had sadly missed calls from Julie and Dylan and had many missed call on my phone when I took it from my bag. I was frustrated as I had had my phone near me but had still missed the calls when finally I was connected. Mum happy.....but her surprise made me cry! Unbeknown to me, Dylan was still with her and came to the phone. Not having spoken with him since I left Aus...I was unprepared for the emotion I experienced! Soooooo good to hear his voice and about his pending adventures. Safe hiking the plateaus of Kosciusko National Park mate!
It was fantastic to hear so many familiar voices throughout the day. Thank you all for your thoughtfulness and for making my day special. I miss you heaps.

Saba Saba, is a sought after market for all Morogorians! With Raheema and Jesca as our local guides, we scouted the stalls to find a few bargains and some surprises for the two girls; back home via the bus depot to buy Mae’s return ticket; then we fought the dust storm as I tried to have a conversation with GT in his last day on Mylin.
My night ended with the 3 girls shouting me out to Indian at Oasis and on arriving home,

presenting me with a homemade chocolate birthday cake with candles and my very own tailor made bag (now we all have one) and matching kanga!
 My eyes were leaking at this stage!

Thanks girls.....You are a wonderful substitute family. I really love being here with you.