Today I will again be spending much of the day in town, sorting out various computer issues in the office, trying to organise files better, and defragmenting C drives.
I also intend to eat some ice cream. There is a place near the Hoja office that does a pretty passable imitation of a Magnum, called the O'Mega, an item of confectionery named apparently after the last letter of the Irish alphabet.
I'm feeling rather a lot better than I was yesterday, although as I type this I've just taken the malaria medicine and my head is starting to pound. Pretty soon most of the joints in my body will be aching. It's pretty strong stuff, apparently.
[Whoops. Power cut in the middle of defragging the office desktop. Hope it's okay...]
I also need to get some flipcharts, pens and other materials for use tomorrow in Mitawa Primary School, where we are supposed to be helping the teachers make resources and come up with ideas to use with their special needs class. We've necessarily left preparation for that rather late, after being so busy the last week and a half - and it's the last week and a half that I will now attempt to summarise.
The CCM "Ngoma"
Last Monday Krista and Liz came to Mpandangindo to watch what we expected to be a big ngoma performance ("ngoma" meaning traditional dance).
Sadly, it turned out to be nothing of the sort. We already knew that the ngoma was really a CCM celebration (CCM is Tanzania's ruling party), but we were naive enough to get caught up in a bit of political skullduggery.
We were quickly sat down in some seats to the side of the politicians' area, and soon found that we couldn't really see the ngoma very well, which turned out to be not all that good and cobbled together anyway. It was largely schoolgirls who clearly didn't know most of the words, and kept on having to be handed cheat sheets.
Worse, the more senior regional members of CCM would get up to hand over small amounts of money to the performers, clearly aimed at endearing them to the party without any real understanding of what the party do or stand for.
The ngoma didn't even last very long, and was followed by a protracted political backslapping rally. One by one the leaders would get up and spout rhetoric whilst showing precious little understanding of the local situation. The main leader was saying how there was not just one secondary school in Tanga ward (as the Government had promised one secondary in every ward in the country), but four!
Er, no, there are two government schools. And the Hoja VTC, which provides some secondary education, but has nothing to do with the Government whatsoever. This wouldn't stop CCM blatantly trying to make us get up and say something to make Hoja's success reflect well upon them, however.
When we refused (on the grounds that we are not political, we told them), they still insisted on pointing us out. Some local government people (such as the chairman of Mpandangindo village, who has given Hoja land for building a secondary school) have been fantastic, but CCM as a party have consistently failed to fulfil any responsibilities they have to local secondary schools in the ward.
The day before, Oswin told us that while primary school teachers are paid 108,000 shillings (about £54) a month, Government MPs receive 150,000 shillings (£75) a day just as a turning-up fee. That's on top of their 2.6million a month salary, and allowances to pay cleaning and cooking staff at home.
We left the Ngoma a little bit pissed off.
Painting the VTC
Also on Monday, we received another volunteer - Giza, a Malawian artist whom Krista and Liz met whilst on their travels, and who had been in Mbeya trying to figure out whether he could make a living in Tanzania. Krista and Liz suggested he might like to come and help paint the Vocational Training Centre, and do some extra special artwork on the walls. So on Monday morning we moved to Sanangula, close to the VTC, so we did not have to cycle an hour each way every day.
It was a busy week at the VTC - painting all day on Monday and Tuesday, before tutoring "started" on Wednesday. Annoyingly there were a number of teething problems with the tutoring of sponsored secondary school pupils - firstly the mess over the timetable, which should have been written the week before, rather than on the first day, meaning there was no actual tutoring on Wednesday. Such basic things should not go wrong, but it's getting underway rather more smoothly now. Apart from me not being there at the moment because of malaria.
DEA for NAMACO
This is the name of a project we visited on Friday and Saturday. Which wasn't very good. They have their hearts in the right places but apart from seeing Oswin's old secondary school and eating some really nice food, it was rather a waste of our time. Hopefully the advice we give them will steer them towards a slightly more sensible course.
Mostly so far they have been providing clothes to orphans, the elderly, disabled and HIV victims, which is not a long term solution to anything, and a waste of money. They have been pouring members' money into a rice growing project with the intention of sharing in the profits, without first agreeing the terms of their partnership.
The one thing going for them is enthusiasm and the sheer number of people they have involved in the project. If they can start thinking about how they can be most effective then they have a chance. It's not expensive to provide community education.
On Saturday night we went out on the town and stayed at Oswin's place. We not only got to meet Stella, Oswin's wife and Pestarose, Oswin's daughter, but we also met a very drunk bus driver called Japhet, dancing in a small roadside bar. Then we went to a nightclub that turned out to have very few people in it (after everyone told us it was the place to be), drank Konyagi and Coke, and then left when it closed early because of a power cut.
Cracking night out.
Oswin also told us the story of how he and Stella ended up together, which started when they were children, and involved secrecy (Oswin was supposed to be training to be a priest), forced separation, frantic searches for each other in Dar Es Salaam, and finally Oswin refusing to pay a bride price. It's a Hollywood epic.
I think that brings you pretty much up to date.