Ever since I lived in Malawi (in the early 90’s), I have longed to return to an African village. One of the expats I have got to know is Joel, from the USA, who also goes to language school ( although a different class to mine). He has been involved in a project in Nkome, a rural community a few hours away from Mwanza. The project aims to support orphans in the community, who are taken in by the extended family, however, this results in a considerable financial burden, on an already tight budget. School, is not free. So, for example, if a family has 3 children and then gains 2 from the death of the parents of a relative, they will take them in, but if they can only afford school fees for 3 children, then the additional children won’t go to school, but will help the family by working out in the family farm. The project aims to provide these families with the funds to enable all of the children to get an education.
I was thrilled to be invited to visit Nkome with Joel. So, on Thursday, I met him in Mwanza by the ferry port, intending to catch the 12:15 ferry across to Kamanga. He’d already purchased our bus tickets so we put our bags on the bus, that we would take from Kamanga and then walked to the ferry’s ticket office, as you have to buy a ticket and walk onto the ferry. The ferry arrived about 12:30 and we boarded it, together with buses, lorries and cars.
At the ferry port
the bus that will take us to Nkome
the ferry arriving
walking towards the ferry
boarding the ferry
This ferry company requires everyone to hear a safety briefing (in Swahili) and this also gives “machinga” (street sellers) the chance to sell things to the passengers.
Once the briefing was over, Joel and I decided to board our bus, to escape the free-for-all of everyone trying to board the bus on the other side. However, the question was how to reach it! The vehicles are parked with very little space between them, so we chose the best route next to the left-side of the bus before our bus and the ferry side. However, the gap between these got steadily narrower as we made our way towards the front of the bus. Me being not quite as thin as I might like, made it most of the way, but realised that wishful thinking was not enough to get me all the way! So, when I reached the door, I boarded the bus and then asked the driver if I could go out via the driver’s door, on the other side, which provided a solution. Having negotiated getting down from this bus, I then was able to get to our bus, passing 3 people and made it to the steps of our bus – phew!!
After the 30 min crossing, we began the 4hr journey to Nkome. There were a number of stops on the route, and although the bus seats 62, there were over 100 on the bus. At each stop more people alighted, including a young woman and her small child. This little boy was probably 2 years old,
but obviously wouldn’t be able to stand for the whole journey, and the mother asked me to help her, so I picked him up and sat him on my lap. After a short while he fell asleep, and stayed that way for most of the way. I was pleased I could help her in a small way.
We arrived at Nkome and walked the short 30 min walk to the home of our hosts, Onyango & Jane. It was nice to stretch our legs. En-route, I was really surprised, to see a pine forest – really didn’t expect that in Africa!!!! Upon arrival we were welcomed and offered tea – hot, sweet, black, spicy and delicious.
the road to our where our hosts live.
a pine forest
Joel + Onyango
Grandma Jane + Baby Jane
Joel has a tent which he keeps at the family home, so I helped him put it up. I was given a room to sleep in, complete with bed & mosquito net. The loo (a pit latrine) was obviously outside and I was really impressed with how immaculately clean it was. There was a bucket of water and jug to act as a flush. There was even a toilet brush!
The project’s office building has only recently been completed and is located nearby Onyango & Jane’s house. A meeting had been arranged for the project, to which I was invited, to discuss the formal opening ceremony of the office.
Afterwards, we were offered a lovely meal of rice, beans, and greens. Although there is no electricity in Nkome, the family have a couple of solar lights in the house, which gave good light inside. After the meal, we played some cards. I taught Onyango how to play a simple game, I’ve known as “Strip Jack Naked”. He thought it was hilarious, and we all laughed.
It’s amazing how the lack of electric light makes you want to go to bed earlier, and I was more than ready to go to bed by 10 pm, and soon fell asleep, wondering what the next day would hold…..