Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Full Moon and the Mongoose

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh, what a night!  People were sleeping comfortably until about 4:00 a.m., when a piercing sound woke all of us with a start.  It kind of sounded like a bird but it kind of sounded like some other animal.  Maybe like a very loud crow with the accent of a guinea pig in distress.  Soon after our collective “What in the world is that noise?” we heard another similar noise that seemed to be a response to the first one.  Then we heard a sound like a really really intense catfight.  A series of noises continued for a while then they trailed off into the darkness and silence ensued.  Our camp staffers weren’t at all alarmed, as they recognized the sound as the mating call of a mongoose.   Now most of us will recognize the sound too, probably for the rest of our lives.  Our staffers assured us that the mongoose is very afraid of us and poses no threat to anything but our sleep. 

Despite the interruption of our sleep, we were ready to hit the worksite with great vigor and finish digging the holes.  Though yesterday we only dug about thirty holes, today we dug almost 50 in such a short period of time that we actually brought our work to a standstill.  That is, we prepped all of the holes so quickly today that we had to walk away and wait for materials to be delivered before we can take the next step.  We heard that our support poles would arrive by 1:00, then by 2:00, then by 5:00 and now by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning (we hope). 

Speaking of time, we keep needing to make big mental adjustments as we figure out the time references being made by our Tanzanian hosts.  Here time is referenced starting at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. rather than at midnight or noon.  So the time that we would call 8:00 a.m. is called 2:00 in the morning here, because it is two hours after the start of morning.  Clocks here (though rare) look just like our clocks with the numbers in the order and place that we would expect but when our hosts talk about time, they use their own 6 to 6 method of measurement.  We are catching on but it takes a few moments of contemplation every time we try to make arrangements. 

Because we were waiting for the materials, we were stuck in camp just checking with the folks at the worksite by cellphone for several hours this afternoon.  Some of us napped, some of us journaled, some of us started organizing parts of our eventual projects.  We all hoped and expected to make the walk down to the worksite again as soon as we knew that there were poles to install but we never got to make that run. 

Instead, we followed up on the advice that Thomas had given us about another potential worksite close to our camp.  The site is a school that is not currently operational due to lack of funding for a teacher.  Because it has been shuttered for awhile, it needs to be cleaned up and spruced up before it can be put back into use. 
We heard that it was only five minutes away but we wondered if it would turn out to be a pretty substantial hike.  The answer, happily, was that the site really IS only five minutes away and that getting there doesn’t involve too many awful uphill stretches.  (We have discovered that everything here is uphill from everything else.  Prepare to be impressed with our calf muscles when we return.) 

The site is a sweet one-room schoolhouse made of concrete block.  It has a few big cracks that we will try to fill and then we will wash and paint the interior.  If our budget will allow, we will build some tabletops to help students do their work.  We are also fantasizing about construction of a small playground outside the school as there are obviously children there who would benefit from its presence.  We will price out all of these possibilities and set priorities about which ones to pursue. 

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the school is its setting.  On one side, when the shutters are open, the students have a full-on view of Mt. Kilimanjaro (when it’s not covered by clouds).  Just below the school in one direction is a quaint little waterfall that runs through a rock canyon and just below in a slightly different direction is an even bigger waterfall with a big deep pool at the bottom.  We were crawling all over the area, getting a big kick out of the idea of working there for the next week or so. 

Our plan tonight was to do a movie night.  Simon brought us a projector and two dvds that feature him.  We intended to hang Lily’s white sheet as a screen then watch the movies together in the lawn.  Unfortunately, the power grid was not on our side and we were without electricity all evening into the night.  We were surprised that we had no better ideas than to go to sleep so that’s what most of us did. 

Tomorrow we get to begin to set posts in concrete to secure the fence.  If the posts are not where they belong then we will chase paint and cleaning supplies for the school instead and get that project started.  Because the posts take three days to set, we hope to get the first several installed today so that we do not slow our overall process too much. 

Here’s hoping that the mongoose will stay quiet tonight . . .

A girl we met at the school where we will work 

Digging the final holes at the work site

Lily, Zoe and Amelia looking down at the stream

Child chilling in the grass

Some of the kids hanging out at the school

Martha and Sia: Student workers standing by as a tree is cut down

The view of Kili from the school where we will be working

One of the many waterfalls around us

Some local kids playing in the stream above the waterfall

Surprise!  More digging!


  1. Hello beautiful people!! I am so happy to see everyone doing well!! and I can not wait to catch up with all of you when you return -although I am sure you all want to stay =)- I miss you all keep being your beautiful selves!!

    ~Christina Downing

  2. Hi from Southwestern!!! We had a sub yesterday afternoon, so we made up some questions after watching the video...
    1. Have you seen any snakes, and will you take pictures of them? Travis, age 8 and Zane, age 8
    2. Is this the only way to sharpen machetes?
    Eli, age 9
    3. How did they get the sharpening bike out to the worksite? Jennifer, age 8
    4. How deep do the holes need to be? Logan, age 9
    5. Why did you decide to eat the slug? Tim, age 8
    6. What flavor was the birthday cake? Kasper, age 9

    We are trying to do some research about Africa so we can ask better questions!
    (Shawny - I DID point out you in your skirty suit!)