Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Not OK Hotel

So as I was saying...

Last Sunday was the community health event in Litisha. Our performance group there, Kambano, were all set to perform, along with groups from other communities. We even had a lady called Martha, who is HIV positive, coming to speak there.

The event itself went very well. It wouldn't have been right and proper, however, if everything else had gone to plan.

We got up after our last night in Sanangula at 6.30am, aiming to be at the bus stop at 7.30am and leave our bags in the OK Hotel in town at 9am and head for Litisha straight away. We wouldn't be back until late and so would be staying in town Sunday night.

As it happened, we needn't have got up so early. It took until 8.40am for a bus to come that we could fit onto with all our bags, and although Mr IGP was waiting for us at the OK Hotel, he was also still waiting for the bus we had hired and a couple of other people.

It was a long and pleasant journey to Litisha, beyond Peramiho (which is the other direction from town to Tanga ward), although we were starving by the time we arrived there at 11.20am, having only had a couple of bananas when we got up.

Not to worry, however, as musical food torture awaited us. While one by one pots of food arrived on the table in Mr Matembo's house (he's the Hoja education coordinator, and has a very nice house full of plants), teasing us with their not-yet inaccessibility, the generator was set up, and the television plugged in.

And Rose Muhando appeared.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rose Muhando (that will presumably be all of you, for which you should be very grateful), she is a born-again Christian Gospel singer with a penchant for using very nearly the same tune in every song she sings, for being preachy in multiple expensive-looking outfits in a country where most people are desperately poor, and for causing wanton environmental damage to waterfalls in her music videos.

I'm told she became born-again when her husband divorced her for not providing him with any children (was she married to Henry VIII?), but that's no excuse.

We were "treated" to a good hour and a half of this travesty, and it didn't help that all the music videos were recorded at the same time in the same locations, so they not only all sounded the same, they all looked the same as well. One of the locations, for some reason, was a car park, but it was the waterfall that was most annoying, as they had clearly filled it with soap to make it foam up as much as possible.

When the credits finally rolled (very very slowly, with an instrumental playing in the background), it was a huge relief. Until that is after the credits finished, the words "Bonus Track" appeared on the screen, and there followed Rose Muhando's longest and most repetitive song of all.

The food, when we finally got to eat it (during Rose Muhando, so we were at least able to tune some of it out), was delicious.

For those of you still waiting to hear about the event, so were we. It was supposed to start at 1pm, and of course no fool would expect it to actually start at 1pm, but it was more than a little late, thanks to Mass at the local Church overrunning. The people late from Church (after 2pm) included the Ward Education Officer, and when he arrived at the house, he of course had to be fed as well, which added to the delay.

The event finally started at about 2.30pm, and was brilliant. There were loads of people there, and our Kimamba Performance Group played an absolute blinder. They even used the HIV risk line we did with them in the workshop and school event the week before.

We weren't quite sure about the drama one of the other groups put on about HIV (I couldn't quite follow it but it seemed a bit stereotypical and not very informative), but it was a cracking day.

Martha was a brilliant speaker as well - the crowd weren't really on her side to start with but she definitely won them over by the end. I've got her whole speech on video so at some point we shall translate it so I can explain properly what she said. The long and short of it is that someone she knew spiked her drink - it only took one time to get HIV.

After the event I quickly whizzed round with the camera to interview a few of the attendees ("What did you learn today?" "I didn't learn anything." - that sort of thing) but dropped the fuzzy head off my microphone. I went back to the house to see if the others had picked it up, but they weren't there. It was at this point that someone came looking for me and said...

"The others have picked up the fuzzy head of the microphone. They sent me to come and fetch you, because the bus's headlights do not work."

We hired a bus with no headlights.

I was shown to the village office, where food was being served, and we ate. Then we had a bit of a dance with the performance group while we waited for Oswin, and then decided we still had time to leave before dark.

So we left.

And then we stopped after a couple of miles because someone had promised to take four massive bags of rice to town with them, which involved three people going half a mile away from the main road to pick them up.

We did not have time to leave before dark. Suffice to say it was not safe, and involved an angry motorcyclist following and shouting at us for a mile.

When we arrived back in town, we discovered that I had been placed in a premium single room at the OK Hotel, not a normal single room, and they were trying to charge us a fortune for it. So I said we would not be paying the higher price. And they told us that there were no other rooms left - the hotel was full.

No, I will not be paying the higher price.

Oh look! Here's another room after all! How did I not see that key hung on the wall with all the others before?!

Cheeky gits.

We weren't very happy on Sunday night. Apart from about being alive. That bit was quite good.


And in other news...

On Monday I said goodbye to the girls, and went back to Mpandangindo, to discover just after I had left, one of the dogs produced a puppy! It's about three weeks old now. This is what it looked like a few days ago:

Yes, yes, this is the only picture I've posted (apart from those I've posted on the Hoja News Blog), but I promise I will get around to posting some more.

All this week I have been cycling/running 5 miles to work in Sanangula for the tutoring, and since Wednesday we have been doing exams, the results of which are not particularly good - but then, most of the schools the children go to are short of teachers, and we have tried to cram a lot of learning into four weeks. Two of the Form 3 students very blatantly cheated on their Biology test yesterday, so they missed football while I made them re-sit it.

On Thursday afternoon I went to town and over lunch Oswin told me he had a shagalabagala issue to discuss with me afterwards. It turned out that someone from Mpandangindo, who is now studying in Tanzania, has told him that she loves me. I have apparently met her a couple of times before, and the name vaguely rings a bell.

My initial reaction was one of mirth - I know Tanzanians have a tendency to use the word "love" very quickly, but this is taking it to a bit of an extreme. I don't think Oswin's entirely comfortable about being her confidant, either, and would rather I responded to her directly. Which I don't feel entirely comfortable about either.

And I think that's enough of an update for the moment.


  1. Great update - so nice to hear about so many different aspects. Glad things are still proving interesting!

  2. "Interesting" is the same word my mum used.

    Malaria's back now though so will have a quiet couple of days at home.

  3. The malaria also explains why I've been so grumpy the last three days or so.


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