I am on my way to Africa. It’s to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda this time. CAI donors have invested in multiple projects in Kenya and we must make sure all these are defect-free. In Tanzania, I’ll commission the new Sakina Girls Home in Zanzibar, caring for orphan girls with total care and an opportunity for quality education. There are several other projects to inspect and commission, including handing over the renovated Chimba Primary School in Pemba. New classrooms, a toilet block for both sexes, and new desks. In Uganda, CAI donors will insha’Allah be investing in constructing a school in a poor village near Mbale and also embarking on drilling many water wells for arid villages where potable water is a daily struggle for the people, especially women. Insha’Allah.
So, my flight to Nairobry (Nairobi) is through Detroit and Amsterdam. Then, after a night in Nairobry, I fly to Mombasa with Murtaza Bhimani, CAI Africa Rep who awaits me. Sohail Abdullah is convalescing at home in NY, to recoup and regain his dampened vigor resulting from wrestling with a nasty Covid doodoo. I used to love flying Emirates Airlines since I could go direct to Dubai from Orlando, not worry if the food being served is halal, pray on the flight without the crew freaking out and me getting arrested, and with the benefits of a Skyward platinum membership. I could meet relatives, friends, eat so many varieties of foods in the city. But the airline is now a pain in the backside, abandoning Orlando as a destination, demanding too many irrelevant doodoo negative reports and nonsensical quarantines in Dubai, this Delta/KLM flight is an acceptable alternative – Emirate’s loss, I insist.
Kenya is rather aggressive with the doodoo and imposes rather draconian measures to contain the pandemic. Masks in place all the time, temperature checks everywhere, mandatory hand sanitization, and a 22:00 to 04:00 curfew. The police have been hauling away unsuspecting laggers to the local jail if they do not have sufficient moola to lubricate crooked palms. After three days in Mombasa inspecting CAI projects that leave me wanting and frustrated for not seeing the perfection that I demand for the use of donor funds, we head to Tanga by car. Every civil servant we encounter at the doodoo subdued border crossing at HoroHoro expects a baksheesh and I’m relieved when we finally head towards Tanga.
Tanzania has a much more relaxed approach towards the doodoo and no restrictions or curfews exist here; we still have our masks on all the time, however. A stop at a deprived village along the way where CAI is mulling the completion of a medical clinic puts me in a pensive mood. They also desperately need potable water. How can an expectant mother commute 6-10 miles on a bicycle to lay down her burden? How can a community educate a child whose primary concern is to tote a barrel of muddy water on a bike from miles away? Heavy burden on CAI shoulders on where to allocate finite resources.
Tanga town is deserted and dim past sunset and locating a reasonable restaurant is as easy as stumbling upon an oasis in the Gobi Desert. We end up in an open-air barbecue joint run by a robust Bohri woman. Since we’ve been packing nundu-mushkaaki stuff the last few meals with Mohammed Hemani in Mombasa, we order grilled Changu this time, a fine coastal fish I grew up eating growing up here in Tanga.
The restaurant is decrepit, with cheap plastic tables and chairs, serviced by two harassed waitresses, Rehema and Haleema. It is surprisingly busy, however, with few walk-in customers but a steady stream of call-in-and-pick-up orders keeping the Bohri Mama, covered in the sect’s colorful chador, sleeves rolled to her armpits, into a constant barrage of orders to her beleaguered girls. Although the wait for the fish to grill up is rather long, the hour passes by in listening to the constant amusing banter between the employer and her girls.
Ayee Rehema, nasooberi chipsee, fanya bedee! Oh Rehema, I await the French fries, hurry up!
So says the Mama, agitation clear in her voice.
Ayee Rehema! Oh Rehema!
Bea, answers Rehema warily, fatigue sounding clearly in her voice. I’m surprised she’s still around. Livelihood, of course. Poor girl, what can she do. And so, it continues…
Aye Rehema! Chipsee? Hizoo naan tayaary? Ayee Rehema, ghadereeni! Nita pata heezo chipee, au?! Oh Rehema! French fries? Are the naans ready? Oh Rehema, you ass! Will you bring me the French fries or?!
Loh! I feel for the girls, but the Bohri Mama is a riot. I wonder why she does not call on cute Haleema, who flutters around like a moth between the kitchen and servicing the customers at the wobbly tables.
Mohsin Nathani of Nyota Foundation, CAI’s partner NGO in Tanzania joins us the next morning. The CAI donor-funded Abul Fadl Abbas (a) Elementary School, probably the best in town is doing fine. CAI will drill the water well for the hapless village we visited earlier insha’Allah and they’ll have potable water shortly but there is no funding for the medical clinic so we’ll have to let that project go. Unless one of you reading this Blog can shell out US$70k? You’ll save quite a few lives for sure but you’ll also help heal thousands of hapless, very poor people.
Our next stop is a bitty airplane hop to the island of Pemba. This is probably the poorest of locations in the country with pathetic education opportunities for children across the spectrum. CAI donors have already distributed over 1,500 sturdy desks (sitting three each), completely renovated two schools, and built two toilet blocks (five cubicles each for girls and boys) in two schools. We are now headed to Chimba Elementary School for the handing over of a new three-classroom addition to the school and a toilet block. Perhaps about 500 boys and girls are waiting for us, seated on the dirt floor. It is as hot as a furnace, with a relentless sun baking us. Poor kids, especially little girls, all wearing a hijab. Government and school officials put us through the grind of repetitive speeches and political mumbo-jumbo. It’s a relief to head to the rickety beach hotel that’ll be our sanctuary for the night. Except the doodoo has made it forlorn; we are only four guests in total including the three of us. The hotel was probably built when Adam (a) was born.
I’m hot and bothered and drenched reja-reja; I can’t wait to get under a shower. The window air-conditioner unit in my room sounds startled to be woken up after a long hiatus perhaps. It splutters, coughs, and complains but steadies after a while. But the darn thing has lost her umph and struggles to cool the moist and warm sea air; I keep on sweating, even after a cool shower. On the way to the airport the next day, we stop by yet another impoverished village to take a peek at a proposed preschool. The village wants kids to be ready for elementary school and there are no kindergarten schools for miles around. CAI will consider this proposal favorably, insha’Allah.
It’s off to another hop on a bitty aircraft to Dar es Salaam – twenty minutes nose up to touchdown. To a hotel where the air-conditioning works and the hotel Wi-Fi is half decent. Where juicy soopa-sweet pineapples descend from the heavens and meaty mangoes and zesty zambarau and flavorful fanesi dazzle my palette. It’s a wajib trip to K Tea Shop the next morning after hitting the Hyatt gym hard, to make up for lost days not working out. K Tea Shop is teaming with customers all wearing invisible masks; mine is the only one that is evident. The ancient Mzee Abul tells me to wait for a fresh batch of garam-garam kababs and chai – I am not disappointed.
The next stop is to Kampala for more project inspections and then on to Zanzibar where I will commission a brand-new CAI sponsored Sakina Girls Home, an orphanage giving an unequaled opportunity to twenty poor orphaned totos from Pemba and Zanzibar, insha’Allah. More on this in my next Blog, with photos galore. Until then, burp.
The views and opinions expressed in this Blog are entirely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Comfort Aid International or her Trustees.