A Visit to Wete

Pemba. We’re sitting in the one air-conditioned office at the Ministry of Finance in Chake Chake, the office reserved for the Officer in Charge. We have an appointment to meet Maua, the acting officer in charge, who is handling Bakari’s responsibility while he’s in the UK getting an advanced degree. Maua agreed to take us to Micheweni today to introduce Stephen to the District Commissioner and the people in Kiuyu Mbuyuni. But Maua is not here. On Friday she told me she would be here to go with us. Instead we are meeting with Mr. Hamdou, who is the Deputy, I think.

We actually just saw Hamdou. We stopped by MoFEA on Friday morning and chatted with him. That’s when he invited us to attend the Madrassa Day celebration in Wete on Saturday morning. The day was a celebration of achievement for madrasa students throughout Pemba; Hamdou was the master of ceremonies and the Wete DC was the guest of honor.

The ceremony itself was kind of boring, although Hamdou has a nice way about him and, had I spoken Swahili and known any of the kids there, I probably would have found him charming. Hasina came with us. When I went to the IdC house to get Stephen, I told her we were off to Wete for Madrassa Day celebrations. Hasina is incredibly devout and at the mere mention of madrassa, she perked up, so I invited her along.

Wete seems almost as big as Chake and certainly as interesting. The roads are not paved for the most part, and it has a sleepier, more laid back and less grimy quality of a real small town. Not a place where people land, not a nexus. People are going about their business – the internal business of living: business, education, food, school supplies; very few noticeable tourist shops; lots of open space. The market building is similar to the one I saw in Tabora – light green with the word “market” in the same lettering from the 20s.

We got there an hour into the ceremony and immediately, someone asked or a young man volunteered his seat for me. Then the young man next to me – all in crisp white shirts and dark trousers – turned and asked for a bottle of water for the mzungu. Very polite kids. The girls were behind them, also in crisp white head tunic things and black skirts.

I took pictures throughout the ceremony, trying to catch the kids as they were handed their gift – a school bag, mostly with a goofy cartoon picture from Disney or some such place – but it was hard where I was sitting to get a good shot. I was too much of a distraction with my camera, though.

The kids and I were making too much of a commotion, and elicited a stern glance from one of the authorities. Chastened, we snapped back to attention. The ceremony droned on, kids being called by name, one after the other, coming up to get their book bags and quietly returning to their places. Finally, after about 45 minutes, Stephen, Hasina and I left.

We drove home quickly, stopping to pick up a few hitchhikers on the way – and then again when Hasina spied her sister waiting for a dala dala on the side of the road.

November 2nd, 2009

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48 Hours in Pemba

27 September 2009

The Kiuyu Mbuyuni Primary School

On Friday I made my last trip to Kiuyu Mbuyuni (at least for now), stopping by to talk with the Micheweni District Commissioner and the District Planning Officer on the way.

I was escorted by Adi F., who works on the JP5 program for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA). I was happy to see that after all the discussions and tension about per diem payments, Adi and I were on good terms. I had asked him to help me give updates to everyone – district leadership and the people in Kiuyu Mbuyuni – about where things stand with the project and what would happen next.

We drove to the District Commissioner’s office in Micheweni and met with his second in command along with the district planning officer. I told them we had hired a team leader from the mainland but that we were also hoping to hire a woman from Ziwani to serve as his deputy.

The second in command, whose name I don’t remember, asked how many jobs would come from Micheweni. I told him that there were still several other jobs open, all of which we hoped to fill locally, if at all possible. I asked about ongoing communication and how they wanted to interact with the project. They answered, as I had hoped, that the Team Leader should attend the quarterly District Planning Meeting.

Adi and I then went to the village, stopping on the way so I could photograph the schools which serve both Kiuyu Mbuyuni and its neighboring village, Maziwa Ng’ombe (which means literally milk cow). Aside from the fact that I hadn’t been inside the school, I wanted to be more conscious of the distance from school to the village. Way too far for a 7-year old to walk comfortably (at least by my American standards). Especially when the payoff for the 2-3 km walk is a filthy, crowded classroom with overtly wrong information on the blackboard (see above center) and at least 100 other students vying for one under-trained teacher’s attention.

We drove on to the village market where the men convene in the afternoons. I had brought the photographs from previous visits and the men had a good time passing them around. Women aren’t normally allowed to enter the market (at least in the afternoon when the men sit around in the shade and gab), so I asked for permission to enter. A stern-faced old man in a plaid work shirt, kikoi and kofia shook his, so I stayed outside while Adi started to explain in Swahili why we were there. He motioned for me to join him, but I was reluctant to transgress.

Author: Beth Browde

Runner. Fiction writer. Explorer. Free range thinker. Management Consultant. And many other things.

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