I was very happy to visit TunaHAKI, where it all began for me. It was great to see the kids again, though several have left – either returned to families or kicked out – but I was especially happy to see Leonsi and Thomas and others, and they were surprised and happy to see me in return. Leonsi taught me a game called Draughts – kind of like checkers and chess, though it was a first for me. I brought a DVD from the 99 cent store in Venice: Abbot and Costello in ‘Africa Screams’. A black and white comedy which they got a big kick out of. (I also brought a Kung Fu movie which they liked even more – they absolutely love anything Kung Fu, Jean Claude Van Damme, etc.) They also like Shakira and asked me what country she came from – They were hoping Tanzania. Not sure how the conversation about the moon and the concept of gravity started, but it’s challenging enough to explain it, let alone in my Swahili which does not include much any science vocabulary. Leonsi wondered why houses were level when the earth is round, he was amazed there are stars a million years away, and he wondered if people live in Antartica. Thomas thought a race of short people lived there.
I walked to and from TunaHAKI from my hotel in the town, and my feet are killing me. Must remember to take more taxis. My hotel is great. There is wireless, there’s a TV in my room with cable (mostly Indian and African channels, but also the BBC and usually one channel showing odd shows from the US), and the hotel is very quiet and I am sleeping so well, which is a first for me after many times here. And it’s only $25 a night. Except for catching one of the cleaning girls snooping through my things, it’s been the perfect hotel for me. (She said she wasn’t doing anything bad, but I told her I disagreed and I reported her to the big boss.)
There seems to be a rise in youth living on the street. I also notice more drunk men coming up and trying to start conversations. And lots more motorcycles. Nice new motorcycles. There are new businesses popping up, and some gentrification of sections previously sketchy. Maybe the gentrification is the reason for the rise in street kids – families getting pushed out by the higher rents. I’m meeting with several folks in town to try and identify the best way to help such children.
I also saw the home where former TunaHAKI kids Abdul, Anna and Sadik live together. It’s 2 rooms without electricity. No kitchen or bathroom. I’m going to find them a better place before I leave.
I’m surprised at how many people remember me, even when I don’t have a clue who they are. Shopkeepers, taxi drivers, waitresses… They all ask why I’ve been away so long. Moshi is a pretty big place, yet somehow it is also small. Many tourists come here, but I think it’s my shiny white head that stands out. Also the fact that I speak Swahili. But mostly the shiny white head I think.
I was supposed to go visit the kindergarten GO supports, but the teacher had a death in the family and the kids are off for 2 days. So instead we went to Arusha to visit Tuseme – the other nearby project supported by GO. It’s a home for former street boys. There are 17 sleeping there, but the Centre supports others who live with relatives. We took a bus to Arusha (an hour and a half ride). Choosing the bus is a huge ordeal which takes a half an hour in itself. There are big buses, short buses… Some go fast, some go slow…. There are people trying to get you to choose their bus, pointing you this way and that way… It’s exhausting. We finally got a nice bus with nice seats. In the past, I’ve had to hold babies, and I’ve seen other people get goats handed to them, or have some fat person sit on their lap. This ride was smoother, though there were 5 live chickens tied together by my feet, and a Maasai warrior standing in the aisle next to me.
At Tuseme, I got some histories and video interviews, ate some stew (maize and beans), and some of the kids showed me some amazing back flips.
A s we left to go visit a car garage down the road where some of the older boys are doing vocational training, a young man whispered something to Dominic (the Exec. Dir. of Tuseme). We left tuseme and then Dominic asked me to check my bag and see if anything was missing. Indeed my wallet had been opened and about 60,000 Tshillings were missing. ($45). (It could have been worse – the thief could have stolen my laptop. But he never would have been able to walk out with it, and he knew that, so he only took some (not all) of my money.)
Apparently some nearby high school kid had stopped by while I was there – He occasionally comes by for food and to say hello – and someone saw him leaving Dominic’s office where I had left my bag. The Tuseme kids went out in search of him, but after a half hour, they returned unable to find him.
It was a good lesson though. For Tuseme and for me. Worth the $45. I’ll be more careful with my bag, and the Tuseme kids won’t be letting friends into the compound any more.
And Dominic called the kid’s teacher, so they will find him within the next few days and confront him. I don’t expect to see the $45, but he’ll never be allowed back at Tuseme and the neighborhood will now be wary of him. He likely went to the office in the first place to steal workbooks for school, so now he has $45 to buy school supplies. I’ll consider it an educational grant.