It is another gorgeous sunny breezy day here in Mugumu. It’s Saturday so I got to sleep in a smidge and enjoy another hearty breakfast with Laura and Tarik on the small patio of our home away from home, the Thompson Parking Hotel. “Thompson” as in the Thompston Gazelle and “Parking” because… they provide parking?
We arrived in the Mara Region of Tanzania on Tuesday after a short flight to Mwanza on the coast of Lake Victoria. Then we enjoyed a drowsy six hour car ride to Mugumu with the Safe House driver, Job. Seeing the changing weather and countryside was stunning as we made our way into the bush on a surprisingly “smooth” dirt road.
Arriving as the sun set at the Mugumu Safe House and Vocational Training Centre we were warmly welcomed with a short tour of the facilities and dinner of rice and beans with sweet chai. As we expected our plans once arrival where ambiguous and ill communicated, but now used to this cultural quirk, we relaxed, smiled and went with the flow.
Now that our first week is under our belts, we can comfortably say that we are really enjoying Mugumu. Laura and Tarik will be here just for this next week before moving to Musoma for some exciting dental and physical therapy volunteering through May.
My next five weeks will be spent at the Safe House. I have looked forward to this opportunity for a long time and I’m happy to report that it is living up to my expectations. A brief summary of what I’m up to includes teaching computer skills/typing class, English, and health topics, while mostly just hanging out with the 81+ girls that currently call the Safe House home.
I look forward to sharing in more detail about the work of the Safe House in future posts very soon. For now, please take a look at this awesome graphic novel that was made at the centre this year. It’s a phenomenal depiction of their work and the stories of some girls taking shelter there: Safe House: Voices from the cutting season by Marc Ellison
For now, here are some tidbits from our time so far in Mugumu:
- Mugumu was where Laura lived for the five weeks of service during our SST experience in 2011. I visited once back then as well. It’s fascinating to see the change six years can bring to a place. But Laura found her favorite juice spot so not too much has changed.
- The first night, Laura and Tarik checked into a local hotel room while I left with Job to move into the Safe House’s volunteer house. It’s currently empty because the British women who lives there is back home for an illness. I spent one night alone there battling misquotes and decided for many other reasons against staying their the remainder of my six weeks. Though I feel a tiny bit guilty about changing plans, now that I’ve moved into a comfortably small, turquoise room across the hall from Laura and Tarik I am very thankful. For the first time since we arrived in TZ together, Laura, Tarik and I are living as neighbors!
- My Swahili brain has certainly cranked up a couple notches. People here speak a smattering of English if they’re well educated, and I’m so thankful for the social worker, Neema, at the Safe House who speaks very good English. But generally I’m noticing the familiar SST exhaustion that creeps up from spending so much energy trying to understanding and communicate with everyone around you. I’ve probably learned more in the four days I’ve been here than the six months I was in Arusha.
- It is beautiful here. There is no looming majestic mountain for me to gaze at, but Mugumu and the surrounding countryside is steeped in the vivid green of the rainy season. This is the vast land of rolling hills nestled between Lake Victoria and the famous Serengeti where beauty and utility enmesh. The skies are bright blue with clouds building and darkening for each day’s rain. The sun’s mid day heat is fought back by the welcome cool breezes, and mornings and evenings comfortably allow for long sleeves and light jackets.
- It looks like I’ll be walking everywhere. Especially now that I’m living at the hotel instead of the volunteer house, I have a less than 10min walk to the Safe House, 15mins into the town center and market, and give me half an hour and I can walk all the way out the other side of town past the immigration office. Which by the way we have already had dealings with, hopefully for the only time. We clarified with them that we are here to “visit” and not to “work.” *insert exaggerated eye roll*
- People here have been by in large friendly and doing so without being overbearing as we may have experienced in Arusha. I can walk down the street and draw attention without being hassled, and the children who yell “mzungu” are also interested in trying out their one or two English phrases. Their favorite being “How are you!?” repeated without pause for any sort of reply.
- Two thirds of my diet during my time here is likely to consist of rice and beans and chai provided by the Safe House. Though this may contribute to mild bloating, I am actually thrilled because the rice and beans here is tasty and a much preferred alternative to the traditional ugali paired with overly oily sautéed greens. Otherwise restaurants in town offer more rice and beans, or chipsi (french fries) and some form of meat.
- I made friends with the Safe House/Church puppy that no one seems to care to name. He’s adorable, needs meds for worms, and I seem to be the only person who will scratch his belly.
It sounds like I’ll have my weekends free from the work at the Safe House, and since I’m trying to cut back on spending and there’s not a whole lot to do here, I will be enjoying lots of reading.
I also have great phone service/data so feel free to shoot me a line just like normal!
And one final note – I will be concluding my fundraiser at the end of May when I leave Mugumu. So I will post more updates with hopes to raise enough money to cover my lodging here as well as provide some supplies and aid at the Safe House.