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Published: December 21st 2017
We arrived in Arusha on the ninth of December, a Saturday, after another six hour African bus ride. We actually made our departure at the village of Shangarai, a few miles outside of Arusha. Our instructions stated that the apartment was located beside an orphanage - Faraja's Orphanage. The dirt road looked pretty bleak as we came upon the sign announcing the orphanage but, no apartments or flats in sight. A kind soul named Fernando helped us out by asking a security guard sitting in a roadside kiosk, the location of Rayan's apartments. He knew the place and pointed us in the appropriate direction. It turned out that we actually had to enter the orphanage itself, and the apartment was located a few hundred yards away at the backend of the alleyway.
The structure was brand new. We were its first inhabitants. A young man met us at the gate and escorted us inside out of the hot sun. Shadi was only in his late teens or early twenties however, he was managing the place. We were paying $32.40 a night for the one-bedroom on the ground floor, however, he told us we could stay in the much
larger two-bedroom on the second floor. It offered quite a bit; a full kitchen, high ceilings, a spacious living room, two bedrooms and three bathrooms. (one had a shower, the second a bath tub and the third a jacuzzi). The living area even had a smart tv as well as the internet. However, the owner, Olivia, lives in France, and had assigned Shadi the task of setting up the apartment. It was missing a lot. The kitchen lacked a number of basic utensils such as a cutting board and knife, vegetable peeler and corkscrew. The bedrooms all needed bug nets and the apartment had been built without any closets or even hooks for one's clothes. We ended up spreading our clothes out on the bed in the second bedroom. Also, the bedrooms lacked bed tables, lamps and any kind of fan. The three balconies were all spacious but lacked any chairs or tables. The bathrooms were okay, however, the water pressure was too low to fill either the tub or the jacuzzi. The internet and hydro were another matter. The internet data was exhausted when we arrived and whenever more was bought, it tended to run out every other day.
Message on the Road outside of Orphanage
this is across the road from where the children reside.... future plans in this area include a mill for grinding
On top of this, the government would turn off the power for long stretches during the day. There was no discernible schedule or pattern to this.
Shadi was pretty good at getting what we needed. He ran out the first day and came back with bug nets and a number kitchen utensils. He fired up the smart tv for us and kept arranging with Olivia in France to add more data to the internet. He even drove to Arusha and took us to a very elite mall that contained a very upper class grocery store. (basically for whites and tourists only - too expensive for the locals). He even arranged to pick up a twenty litre jug of water for us and a milk crate filled with Kilimanjaro beers. He was responsive and conscientious. As a kind of manager/custodian for the apartments, Shadi really did not have a clue as to what was expected of him. Being the very first residents, he really appreciated all of the feed back we could give him.
What dominates one's existence here is the orphanage. Faraja runs the orphanage and is also a pastor,
giving his sermons each Sunday right here at the orphanage. He was an orphan himself as a boy, rescued from the garbage dumps by a pair of German women. He has never forgotten his background and has dedicated his life to helping kids in the same dire straights from which he emerged. The orphanage houses fifty or sixty kids. Faraja claims that another 150 or so attend boarding schools and will all come back here for the Christmas break. A quick look at the culture and one can conclude - there are just too many kids. The Maasai tribe dominates in this area of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. They number around 1.5 million or so and, despite pressure from the surrounding cultures, they cling doggedly to their ritual customs. Some of these include male circumcision at puberty without any anaesthetic. The withstanding of the pain without flinching or breaking silence is looked upon as a sign of manhood. Female circumcision or female genital mutilation is banned in both Kenya and Tanzania but still practiced. Even today, Maasai women who have not been circumcised, often find difficulty finding a husband or acceptance. Concerning the number of children, Maasai men often
shot from our second floor balcony
take six to nine wives. This is still quite normal. Fertility and reproduction remain powerful cultural elements for both genders. There is little or no birth control and/or family planning. The kids grow up with an extreme pressure to mate and reproduce. If a widow remarries, the husband has the option of demanding that his wife discard her children from the previous marriage. This is an accepted norm and helps explain why so many orphans exist. Some of these kids are born HIV positive from infected parents. Most of these kids end up on the street or scavenging through the garbage dumps. This is where Faraja finds them. A few have the spots and rashes associated with scurvy and many suffered from malnutrition. So what does the orphanage provide? It houses and feeds the kids as well as giving them some basic schooling, however, this is done by volunteers who are not qualified teachers and who come and go through a constant revolving door.
So schooling is the key aspect in the lives of these kids. The public schools in Tanzania are government supported and free for any child to attend. However, their
reputation is very poor. The teaching is of low quality, and the children are consistently disciplined with what is referred to as 'beatings'. I would suspect caning and strapping would be the usual forms of pain infliction. On the other hand, the private schools are of a higher moral and educational calibre. The problem for these kids is that these private schools cost money to attend. In order to get a child from the orphanage into a private school, they need to be sponsored with money from outside the orphanage. Education is really their only hope for the future. The private schools teach and function totally in English while the public schools teach in whatever native dialect of Swahili resides in that area. To become fluent in English is, in reality, their only hope. It opens doors into advanced schooling as well as making one a much more desirable commodity in the fast growing African economy. Without English, these kids simply remain trapped in the cycle of poverty. For the girls, this tends to mean early pregnancies and/or marriage. The boys can become prime targets for the War Lords so prevalent just across the border in Rwanda, Uganda and especially
Taken from below the television
very well behaved and easily captivated by action on the screen
the Congo. (watch Idris Elba in 'Beasts of No Nation' to get a handle on how these child armies can so easily materialize)
We are located about a 15 minute dalla-dalla ride out of Arusha. (a dalla-dalla is a kind of minibus that dominates the transportation routes. One just flags one down, - there seem to be hundreds going by all the time. Behind the driver, there are usually five rows of seats each sitting three comfortably or four jammed together. There is a tiny bit of space to stand on the side where the conductor slides open the door. The conductor whistles or yells out the window to anyone who may need a ride. He seats the passengers and takes the money. It is cheap. A ride into Arusha costs 500 shillings or around 25 cents. However, these dalla-dalla vehicles are often in pretty rough shape and they tend to cram twenty to twenty-five aboard. Not comfortable, but cheap and functional). Arusha has a strong reputation for crime especially around the large station area where the dalla-dallas drop off and pick up. One just has to watch your purse and wallet closely.
A round-a-bout in the centre of town contains a clock tower. The insignia on this tower claims that Arusha is the north/south centre point of Africa - the same distance north to Cairo as it is south to Cape Town. It is a mixture of first world and third world with modern buildings and plazas, heavy traffic and roads in dire need of repair. The many, tiny shops often put their wares on the sidewalk, forcing the pedestrians to walk on the road, thus clogging traffic even more. There are malls with expensive shops that appear all but empty beyond the security guards with their automatic weapons. And then there are local markets selling practically everything in a chaotic, hap-hazard manner. Pyramid piles of clothes and shoes standing twelve feet high for example, with hundreds of locals wandering about, purchasing what they can afford. Our first instance of begging took place in downtown Arusha when an elderly woman approached our SUV, with Shadi driving, while we waited for the light to change. She thrust her hand in through the open window and only withdrew it once I had placed a few coins in her palm. We befriended a woman who
is staying in downtown Arusha and volunteering at the orphanage as well. Liz resides in Italy but has ties to the U.S. as well. We met her for lunch at an Indian restaurant called McMoody's. Excellent food from the chicken masala, the spicey jeera chicken and the loads of garlic naan bread we enjoyed. The service was wonderful and our server even walked us back to the dalla-dalla station and made sure we got on the right one. About a twenty minute walk one way that he did without us asking. For all the fearfulness we tend to hold towards deep, dark Africa, we have found the people friendlier and more accommodating than the same found back in North America.
The week, though, was dominated by the orphanage. Our flat is located at the backend of the alley, and everything between us and the main road is some part of the orphanage. From our balcony, our view is straight down the alley. To the left, is a grove of banana trees with a goat or two leashed to the trees. To the right is a solid row of small, attached huts. Some contain
Two is my max
the one in pink is very possessive and insists on being on my lap
beds for the kids, some a few desks and a chalk board. There is also a kitchen. For the most part, the kids are adorable. They are cute, courteous and curious. Every time we walk down the alley, a dozen or so appear, racing towards us, jostling with each other for the right to hold our hand. Most of the volunteers are female so I am of special interest - especially being white. They stroke the hair on my arms and tickle my beard. I am okay with all of this, however, I must admit I am no bleeding heart. After 30 years in the classroom, I have had my fill of kids 'en masse'. Monica is much more receptive to their constant need for attention, affection and recognition. They run to her, all getting their turn to sit on her lap. One day, she had them all singing 'Ol McDonald had a Farm' and plans on teaching them Christmas carols as well. She reminds me of a blonde Mother Teresa.
The orphanage gives the kids an awful lot and Faraja works tirelessly to keep everything going day to day. He has an
incubator for the production of chickens and eggs and plans on starting a mill to grind his own corn and other grains. He has a vision of becoming self sufficient. However, things sometimes appear to be very chaotic and one wonders if he simply takes on too much and too many tasks at one time. Monica and Liz are planning to set up his web page with pictures and a write up on all the unsponsored kids. Meanwhile, a number of other visitors have started staying in our tiny apartment complex. The large two bedroom flat is really a set up for a hostel. There is a third bedroom across the hall on the second floor and each bedroom would then have a bathroom of their own, with one shared kitchen. Rather, than having others stay with us in the large apartment, Monica and I suggested to Shadi that he move us downstairs to the much smaller, single bedroom flat. So starting the second week here, we will have lost our balconies and space, but retained our privacy. After all, we are paying only for the single room while the larger flat is double the cost. Now all we need
is a fan.
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