Working in Kilimatinde

1 Conversation

Part One: In the Beginning

I had planned to take a GAP year since I was in year 8 at school... you
could say I was desperate for a break from education. When I was about 15 I
decided I would like to spend some of that time working in Africa. I didn't
care what I did, I just wanted to go.

I investigated all the usual
avenues that GAP year students tend to go down, I looked at GAP, I looked at
Project Trust, and I tracked down various charities that worked specifically
in Africa. And I drew a blank. They were either too expensive... a GAP
project can cost up to £1000, or were year long projects, whereas I wanted
to do two entirely different things with my year, and I wasn't sure if I
could cope with that length of time away from home. In the end I was
beginning to think I would have to use family connections and go and do some
kind of work in South Africa, although I really wanted to go somewhere very
3rd World, and Live Aid - ish.

Then, when I was on holiday 2 years ago, my mother went to a church service
where the preacher was trustee of a charity working with a college in
central Tanzania. She got some information, and before long emails were
flying to and fro between Cornwall and Hartlepool trying to arrange my trip.

The Kilimatinde Trust seemed ideal for me; it is a fledgling charity working
in one of the poorest areas on earth, and I could go when I wanted for as
long as I wanted. They would even pay me... a bonus I had not expected,
although I was warned that the £120 a month would barely cover living
expenses. All I had to do was get myself to Tanzania.

So, at the end of March this year, I flew to Tanzania for 10 weeks to work at
St John's College in a small village called Kilimatinde. It is on an escarpment of
the Great Rift Valley in the middle of the country (you will need to get out
your atlas' and look for Manyoni, the nearest town). I was working with the
Diocese of the Rift Valley and the original plan was for me to teach English
and Biology.

I arrived in Dar es Salaam, feeling slightly nervous and very
underprepared, and was met by Joanne and Matthew, who were also working in
Kilimatinde, and Reverend Kasulwa, the director of St John's Bible College
and Junior Seminary
. I was later told that they were also a little nervous
as I was one of the last to exit the airport (due to my bag being last off
the plane as usual), and apparently Kasulwa had been asking every other
'Are you sure you're not Hannah?'.

I spent my first weekend in Dar es Salaam being given the guided tour of
Tanzania's major city and its air-conditioned internet cafes (a drastic
temperature drop from 350C outside to 160C inside), and also met some of
Kasulwa's relatives who belong to the educated, rich minority of Tanzania. I
was regularly told by Joanne and Matthew:
'This isn't REAL Tanzania, you

Joanne and Matthew were on their way to Zanzibar as it was the
College's half term, but Kasulwa was under the Bishop's orders to take me
back to Kilimatinde to be welcomed properly... and what the Bishop of the
Diocese of the Rift Valley says will be must be. It was a nine hour car
journey from Dar es Salaam to Kilimatinde, the vast distance being combined
with ill-maintained roads... only a very small percentage of Tanzanian roads
are tarred, the rest are dust, and we arrived at about 2 am. It was
unfortunate that my arrival coincided with half term as it meant that I was
the only 'Wzungu' (Swahili white European) in Kilimatinde; Peta, Reuben and
Bill, the other English workers had gone to Kigoma on the western border for
the break. So I spent my first few days in relative solitude, getting used
to my new home and the people around me, and picking up tiny amounts of the
language... mostly greetings.

I was sharing a house with Joanne, who was
teaching English and Maths, and acting as the College's finance officer, and
we were looked after by Mama Naomi (or Terezia... the women take the name of
their first born child) and Mama Chiso (Rosie). The Diocese runs a
rotational system supplying the Wzungu with house-girls, this does create
much needed work... however, with people coming and going, it doesn't give much
job security.

My prospective meeting with the Bishop was interesting to say the least. I
had already had a tour of the college, and Kasulwa and I had discussed what
my role would be. He and the headmistress had decided not to tinker with
the timetable for such a short period of time, but the library did need
reorganising, and the church really needed a new kindergarten. These ideas
were far preferable to me than the nerve-wracking business of teaching, as I
would actually have a clue about what I was supposed to do but the main problem
would be pitching the idea to the Bishop. I had heard many stories in a
short space of time about the Bishop's charm and easy mood swings, and also
of his running stand-off with Kasulwa who he regarded as being too close to
the Wzungu. The meeting was in Manyoni,at nearly an hours drive the nearest
town to Kilimatinde, and the one with a post office. I was officially
welcomed by Bishop Alfa Mohammed (he converted from Islam), and a large
proportion of the diocesan officials, and somehow he decided that the idea
of me working in the library and Kindergarten was a good one... but of course
it had been his, and so I returned to Kilimatinde to await the restart of

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