Charming Chole and Mental Mombassa

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February 16th 2010
Published: February 24th 2010
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We arrived back to “Charming Chole” but not without complications, first off we were asked to pay around $3000 in Marine Park fees before even entering the Island, Chole is situated in a protected area and as such park fees have to be paid by every visitor, we were supposed to be exempt from these fees but Africa being Africa no-one had taken responsibility for writing our “exemption letter”. Bureaucracy, makes you want to scream. The short version of events, we had to wait for a week before doing anything and also had to visit the “District Commissioner” of Mafia Island, certainly a dictator in the making if ever we saw one!!

So now here we are going about our daily lives as two of the Islanders, we have been accepted into a local family so much so that we are now seen as their sister and brother and are rapidly becoming part of this wonderful community. But first off, let’s paint a picture of our new temporary home, which will now always have a special place in both of our hearts forever….

Imagining Charming Chole

Imagine the huge continent and collection of many countries that is Africa, and imagine one of the largest in area yet the one of the poorest of these countries that is Tanzania
Imagine this country that has enjoyed stability and peace but is still developing pole pole (slowly slowly)
Imagine this country that newly weds worldwide flock to and enjoy the adventure of an African Safari and the paradise beaches on the warm Indian Ocean
Imagine an archipelago strangely and mysteriously named Mafia eight degrees south of the equator a half an hour flight from Dar es Salaam on a little plane Imagine a bumpy and packed local bus across Mafia and then a short small boat ride to another Island just one kilometer long and less than that wide yet with no roads, tracks, let alone cars
Imagine a few bikes and just endless meandering sandy paths through the bush that only years of living on the Island will give you the ability to know which path goes where
Imagine this Island with no mains electricity, gas or clean water making life a daily challenge in today’s modern times, not even police, or security needed
A place where signs of wealth include owning a bike, a mobile phone, a pair of sunglasses, a cap, a small handmade wooden boat, a house made of brick and cement and a small subsistent farm - in no particular order
Imagine an Island surrounded by mangroves and inhabited by fruit bats that dangle from the trees and fly off to far away places each night and return each day because the Island is their home
Imagine the most friendly and welcoming people who are proud of their Island, their bats, their heritage and their culture but who are desperate to progress and are hugely ambitious
Imagine being part of the first generation to be able to go school where the elders respect that education is the way forward yet are so aware of the limitations of the island
Imagine a population of about 1,000 people, 70%!u(MISSING)nder 18 and about 260 mud huts/houses
Imagine an island dependant on fishing, boat building, rope making, selling oranges and coconuts and in the last few years one salaried employer - Jean & Anne of the small Chole Mjini Conservation & Development lodge, offering seven fabulous tree houses for their guests
Imagine an Island battling to survive with restrictions on fishing from the Marine Park and needing to embrace tourism, conservation and maintaining community values
Imagine a place where you can swim with the harmless whale sharks and snorkel or dive with countless beautiful coral fishes within the archipelago
Imagine falling asleep most nights at 9 pm, still hot, sticky and itchy from bites and on edge for fear of spiders, snakes and many strange noises outside the mosquito net yet remembering the best stars you saw whilst brushing the teeth
Imagine sharing your mud hut with a thatched roof with spiders, snakes, rats, ants, lizards and geckos to name a few of our faithful animal kingdom friends
Then imagine waking up at dawn to a prayer man preaching, a rooster screeching COCK A DOODLE DO - then hearing hundreds of different birds tweeting as the sun rises rapidly
Imagine showering from a bucket outside each day as the sun rises or falls beneath a beautiful tree and some bamboo fencing for privacy
Imagine eating white bread, pancakes or chapati for breakfast, sweet spaghetti or potato for lunch and rice and fish for dinner every day
And now you are imagining and experiencing our time here in Charming Chole.

We have rather a long to do list whilst we are here, in short:
1) to build 2 roofs on 2 classrooms for the primary school and get the Community to pay a contribution towards this, a mission because in the past they have been given everything and not had to provide for themselves before
2) to set up enterprise/business planning classes to individuals, groups and the societies on the island
3) to teach English to young adults and students who are waiting to reach the next level in education 14 -23 in the Learning Centre on a daily basis
4) to teach Kindergarten three mornings a week - 50 three to six year old kids, providing English matieral for the existing teachers and teaching a few ryhmes, numbers and the alphabet , great fun and very tiring…
5) begin the process of the applying for modern Solar power through Solar Aid to the school and learning centre and get a local project team to run it and think of business ideas to sustain the maintenance of the system
6) start a long term project wherein a hostel is built for Chole children going to secondary school on Mafia Island where they can stay instead of having to board with relatives so that more children have chance of a good education instead of just those with relatives on Mafia
So our hands are well and truly full! We are loving the teaching, it can be a bit difficult as it’s hard to know if anything is being understood but it seems to be going in and they enjoy any English conversation. The Kindi kids are fabulous and so switched on, they pick things up very quickly. It’s proving difficult to get people together for a meeting about the school but we have arranged one for tomorrow so hopefully all will go well.

Now a note on Mental Mombassa. Our visas ran out on the 2nd February and from all accounts we have learnt that it is a complete nightmare to get them renewed in Dar. So we decided to trek up to Mombassa for a day and cross the border, enabling us to get a new Visa on the way back into Tanzania. Mission to get there, 3 flights up to Tanga then a 5 hour bus ride, but we found a beach hotel and spent a day chilling there, one of the posher hotels had a huge swimming pool with a swim up bar, it would’ve been rude to not spend the whole afternoon in said pool supping a few beers. Bus back was epic, 6.30 am start and arrived back in Dar around 5 pm. But mission accomplished, we never became illegal aliens (although James is still a little alien)! We were also able to stock up on things like honey, jam, paper, crayons, incense sticks, wine, all the essentials for a desert Island!

So goodbye for the time being, our next blog will introduce you to our Chole family and provide and few more snaps (takes so long to upload on the dial up connection from our old nokia brick!).


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