Travels and Malaria by Angus Yellowlees

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Right, well, where to start?

I’ll start with safari (though I’ll try and keep it brief) because that happened just after I sent my last report.

School broke up on the 29h of November, although I’d taken a week off because my friend from Earlston was flying out to see me and I didn’t want to be teaching while he was here. We spent a few days at the very North of the Island where the tourists flock and the sun is always shining. The beaches are beyond amazing: they stretch for miles into the distance, dotted with coconut palms and bandas, and glistening in the sunset. Because Cam, my friend, was loaded we went snorkelling on the reef. Everything, bar the sunburned backs and heat stroke, was breathtaking.

Leaving the North, we headed into Stonetown and, having first visited the infamous Forhadani Food market, caught the overnight ferry to Dar. Cam had left the day before so it was back to our original threesome. This didn’t last for long as we met up with a fellow volunteer in Moshi and proceeded as a four from there. To get to Moshi we had to catch a bus from Ubongo bus station in Dar. Ubongo is huge, bustling, and noisy and, above all, it stinks. Bus companies try to rip-off mzungu (Europeans) left right and centre and nobody is helpful. After handing over far too much money and then battling to get it back, we boarded and embarked on an eight hour ride up Tanzania.

Moshi, as it turned out, is a lot bigger and a lot more developed than Makunduchi, and it was a welcome relief (if slightly strange) to see real shops with christmas trees lights and any number of festive goods.

We met up with Ben and stayed at his accommodation for a couple of nights before moving on to Arusha and then up into Kenya. The bus took hours, although it was made more bearable by view. Rolling landscapes drifted by, punctuated by the hills and pastures of the Maasai land and entirely dominated by Mount Kilimanjaro. We arrived in Nairobi after nightfall, which is never a great idea, and went through several hotel lobbies before finding a cheap room for all four of us. The girls took the only double bed while Ben and I slept on the floor. After a slightly scary night out in Africa’s “most dangerous city,” we headed back to our room; stopping only to watch the numerous groups of handcuffed detainees and AK-47 clad police that wander the streets. The first thing you notice about sleeping on the Mainland is the temperature. In Zanzibar you suffocate in the heat every time there’s a power cut, whereas in Nairobi, we practically froze.

Our tour of Kenya took approximately four days and included Nairobi, a small town called Naivasha and a YMCA on the shore of Lake Naivasha. I had a horrific cold (which, after testing at a private health clinic in the middle of nowhere, turned out to be Malaria) for the duration but even that didn’t take away from seeing hippos on the lake and the immense Rift Valley from up on the mountain pass.

Malaria was fun. The quinine injection in the bum hurt like hell but once I had the right medicine it was ok: similar to flu.

After taking another bus (there are very few train lines) back across the border and bribing the border police because we’d over-stayed our transit visas, we found ourselves in Mwanza. Mwanza is on the shore of Lake Victoria and it is Tanzania’s second largest city. I tried to enjoy myself but waking up and being unable to stop your hands and face shaking is a bit of a downer. From Mwanza we over-night ferried it across Lake Victoria and motorcycle taxied through bukoba, a random lake port at the very top of the country. We spent Nat’s birthday (December the tenth) in Bukoba enjoying cake and spiced tea in local resteraunts before taking a nineteen hour bus trip to Dodoma the official capital.

There is nothing in Dodoma: it is dull, slow moving and mostly grey. Safe to say we didn’t stay there too long.

That took us back to Dar because Ben had to get home and we were running out of money. After one final night watching Harry Potter at a western style cinema, we called it a day and said bye to Ben at Ubongo. It rained for most of the ferry ride back, but even then, the old Arab fort and sea front of Stonetown harbour was a welcome sight to us all.

Since then, we spent two weeks (over Christmas) pottering around, working on Elise’s school’s farm and trying to be useful where could be. School began on the 3rd of January and with the New Year came new students. I now teach English at one school and Physics at the other.

English has been going well and having just marked a test I feel both classes are, at least, improving a small amount. The difficulty comes in making the lessons enjoyable and engaging, especially when teaching grammar, which tends to be a bit dry. On the whole, though, both Form One classes at Kiongoni are well behaved and fun to teach. On the other hand, Kajengwa is quickly becoming a bit of a nightmare. I have sixty-five students in Form One, none of who speak English reliably, and who all to talk. It’s hard enough when a class of thirty-odd mess around, but dealing with so many pupils is getting tricky. This, combined with the disjointed and sometimes irrelevant syllabus, makes getting up at half six to teach a bit of a drag. Still, I’m trying to find ways to engage the class and Mum has found some science equipment to send out, so maybe that will help. I’m mostly keeping positive but it’s difficult at times.

Otherwise, life goes on. We have two new volunteers in the house so that has added a new dynamic. They’re both really nice but it sometimes feels a little crowded. I now have a return date but I’m not telling parents and getting friends to pick me up from the airport so that’s all a bit top-secret. My book is going fairly well although the story has changed several times. Still, I’ve reached 106 pages so I reckon I’m doing fairly well.

Anyway, that’s all for now but I shall hopefully keep you updated…