So this morning I found myself hurtling along a dirt road towards Songea town on the back of a motorbike. This was only the third time I'd ever been on the back of a motorbike. The first was on Saturday.
Two inches from my face the driver's protective headgear read, in huge letters, "SAFE HELMET", serving to remind me precisely what I lacked.
At least Mwenyekiti (the village chairman) wasn't driving. It was his bright idea to take the motorbikes, which took us as far as the main road so we could catch a daladala there, rather than wait for the local bus, saving us about half an hour.
On Sunday Mwenyekiti drove me from the village centre to his house, and although it was quite slow as the village roads are bumpy sandy tracks, it felt rather less steady than the ride I'd received the previous day. Mind you, I suspect the fact it was a different motorbike also had something to do with it.
It's been an eventful few days, and as I now have about 9 minutes to tell you everything, I'm going to skim quite a lot.
The bus to Songea was comfortable and uneventful, despite the 14 hour journey (it turns out that Sumry Coaches provide particularly good leg room). The eventful bit was when I arrived at Songea and my large bag, containing all my clothes, didn't.
The coach workers assumed that the bag must have been taken off when the other wazungu left the bus the stop before town, and one very nervous taxi journey later, turned out to be correct. It was odd though that the wazungu in question just let the workers in their guest house deal with the issue and fetch the bag, and didn't come out to say hello, instead visibly pottering around just inside.
Arrived in the village on Friday, and discovered I'm staying with Mwenyekiti again, rent free. And also discovered that Mwenyekiti is still determined to ply me with as much Safari lager as possible. We keep on "going home" from one bar and then he'll just "stop off to say hello" at another.
On Sunday the performance group came and performed at Mwenyekiti's house, and I filmed some of it. We also filmed Oswin talking with various people about Hoja, though there was so much background noise from drunken talking (there was ulanzi there), coughing, Mwenyekiti's cockerel raping all the local hens, and people throwing shoes at the dogs whenever they wandered into shot, I don't think much of it is very useable. We also forgot to tell people to talk about Hoja and COCO, so that the DVDs produced can be used by either charity.
I've a couple more things to say, so I've now added another half hour, although I shouldn't really use all of it - there are lots of things to do in the office.
Most of that evening involved people very drunk on ulanzi (alcoholic bamboo juice from Iringa region), and strangely many of those people know the greeting "Kamwene", which means hello in Kihehe. The Hehe tribe get around.
There were also several drunken ladies gabbling at me in the local tribal language here, Kingoni,
and trying to teach me some. I'd already learnt some earlier, and I managed to learn no more from their fast and slurred speech.
I managed to avoid the drunken ladies (but not so much the drunken men, who wanted to join in), by persuading a group of children to let me teach them some English. So I now have several coming each evening to learn some more.
Yesterday, Mwenyekiti and I cycled to the Vocational Training Centre (VTC) funded by COCO, where we met Oswin and the staff of the VTC. I'm quite impressed how well it's going - it's rather better staffed than most secondary schools in the area (6 teachers for 4 classes, as opposed to 5 teachers for 9 classes at Lupunga), and the carpentry and construction students are building the new kitchen, which is saving on labour costs for development while they work on a real project they can be proud of and which will contribute to their qualifications.
Similarly, the college plan to sell the clothes made by the tailoring students, and the kitchen building will also feature a local shop that will make a bit more money again for the college. All of the food for the students is supplied by the parents (so they are spending money on food that they would have spent anyway, had their children not attended school), and they think have enough maize and beans to last until September.
It looks like I'm going to be teaching rather more than I'd like to there, while they offer tutoring to any of our sponsored students in the local secondary schools, as they will have a lot more students in that time and will need as many hands as possible. The secondary students at the VTC, however, are reportedly doing extremely well, due to their actually having teachers, so it should not be so bad - they put on an excellent drama yesterday when I visited.
Today I have been writing health slogans on the bottom of posters for our football league, which this year will include a girls' football league.
It's all go go go.