Shelui - Singida - Shelui
friday, 10th august
Awoke, awoke, awoke again - fearful. The window above my head was open and fierce wind blew across the desert outside. It was dark and hot and my head was full of cold and cloudy. I imagined someone reaching in through the window above my head from outside in the dark, and lay still for perhaps two minutes or twenty before climbing out of the mosquito net to bolt it shut. Irrationally fearful.
Plan-making and budget sorting during Lindsey's visit
saturday, 11th august
On the move again: no dreams. Got up early and left Emilie sleeping. Efy was already waiting in the cafe, and we had chapatis and coffee for breakfast while the flies buzzed. [...] Shelui wakes with the sun and I watched women in bright patterned kangas climb into an open-top truck. All the coaches and daladalas seemed to be speeding northwards, away from Singida, and I wondered how long it would take to catch a lift back to town. As it was, we had barely crossed the road when a daladala assistant hustled us towards a beaten-up minivan an we were bundled into the back. [...] Singida lake, azure and sparkling, eventually appeared, and I felt an affection towards this town which I now recognised. We walked from the bus stand into town to search for a guest house, looking like mzungus but feeling as though we were returning home.
[...] At the Regional Offices we were led out to a row of locked offices, and when we opened the door we found the whole room piled high with cardboard boxes. It was a good moment when I saw all those labelled (KE). Nice job, Kent Book Project.
What followed is best described as the world's worst day at storage! Between Efy, Lindsey, and I we moved all two hundred boxes out of the tiny room, rearranged them into subject piles, worked out which schools needed which textbooks, and moved them all back into the room again, rearranged in new piles. By five O'clock we were dusty, sweaty, box-scarred and shattered - but the boxes were ready to go.
tuesday, 14th august
We dumped our bags and threw on some new clothes, and went straight down to the school. It was such a joy to see the library room we had left as a building site now freshly painted, with white walls and a sparkly-new feel. "Get stuck in!" Jacob said, and we worked until it got dark.
The kids had asked for yellow, so we painted a thick border around the walls, and started white-washing the window bars and frames. Two of the prefects, Christina and Juba, had shown up to help, too, so we taught them how to paint without breaking the brush bristles, and Jacob brought out his iPod speakers to play - can you believe it - Abba! (Why oh why does 'Dancing Queen' always follow me to this continent?!)
Yours truly, shot by Jacob on Linden
Today I made big decisions and took a daladala two hours north and painted a library yellow and took photographs. Three weeks ago I was on a plane thinking about courage, and now I am covered in paint.
wednesday, 15th august
As classes began to finish students - mostly girls - began to peer in through our windows. We encouraged them in ("karibuni!") and gave them paint brushes. The only people who had more fun than Linden and I in the next hour were the girls themselves. "Girl fundi!" one grinned at me when she saw my picture of her and her friends wielding paint brushes. "I am girl fundi!"
Jacob and the boys making chairs
[...] We encouraged her to join us but she resisted - "I cannot do that!" - until I proved to her the paint wasn't poisonous by covering my whole hand in emulsion. She stayed to work meticulously on her chair while we danced and sang along to Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen on Jacob's iPod.
thursday, 16th august
The census is taking place in a classroom across the courtyard from us, and a group of people in smart suits and well-cut kangas came to see what we were doing. A man helped us translate, and when he found out I was "from London" (a white lie which makes my African life easier, along with "I'm engaged") asked if I knew of a particular school. He was a lecturer at a university in Arusha, which has a partnership with this London school, and it was good to hear his enthusiasm for the project - I often feel these sorts of arrangements often work mostly for the benefit of the western partner.
The outside wall, too, was dry now. We masking-taped a straight line across and threw some sand on the floor, and got out the rollers. Soon a crowd of census professionals had rolled up their sleeves and skirts, and were helping stamp READ's blue all over the library wall. Many good pictures.
[...] And then a cloud of dust appeared in the courtyard and a jeep pulled up. Efy got out, grinning. "We have books!"
It was like a scene I remember from last winter, when B and I stacked his micro roof-high with textbooks from my old school. Cardboard boxes pressed against the window of the jeep, (KE) on the final leg of their epic journey.
The little boys who hang around all day to play with Jacob were as excited as the rest of us, although they couldn't read a work of the books they carried. As the boxes piled up inside our room my lens went blurry, but it was my eyes not my camera. All those hours in storage were worth this.
We thanked the drivers for all their hard work, locked our new lock, and walked home under the sunset. Emilie and Efy kicked the football to each other and the cooking oil kids across the road, and I looped Linden over my shoulders with her memory card almost full. As we walked down the road shouts and laughter and hi-fives and smiles followed us. With cameras and a football we made a tidal wave of good will which took us all the way into the village. Lorries, tankers and buses thundered past, blasting their horns and sometimes blowing us kisses. When we laughed and mimicked the lopsidedness of on truck its driver leant out and waggled his finger at us - hapana! - laughing.
Oh, it's half-hours like that, with women running up the road in raucous laughter to kick a football with the children, which make me love what I have here. It is days like this, where most everything goes even better than expected, which makes me love what I have here. What I have made here. (What I am making here?)