Filth, fish and the future of our planet

It really is difficult to explain how filthy life can be here on Kome. The ground is made of black dust-sand that quickly turns to tarry mud once it gets wet. With no taps or sinks, it’s easy for water to land on the floor and with children in and out all day it’s easy for the floor to be covered in the black dust-sand, as a result, mopping alone can feel like a full time. There is a constant breeze coming off the lake, which continuously blows dust in, covering tables, shelves, pots and pans etc. The bricks are poor quality and between their natural nightly crumbling and the work of ants, bits of the house must be swept out each morning. And that’s all the baseline. Most people here do not have a concept of germ theory.

For most people soap seems useful to get the food off your hands after you eat, while washing with water alone seems suitable before eating. I never see soap in or near toilets and water is used alone for cleaning when in the toilet. We forget that using toilet paper is not a global norm. Babies wear small sections of regular cotton cloth tied round for a nappy (no disposables here!). They may have a plastic cover, but I’ve never seen one that fully covered the ‘nappy’. Once the baby is sitting and beginning to move around this is abandoned and an effort is made to start trying to predict when they need to go and squatting them outside. When this goes wrong the child is taken outside and washed and life carries on – again no effort is made to find soap and there are no lovely baby wipes or nappy bags. If it’s wee it’s left in the sun to dry for a bit, if it’s the other then it’s washed onto the floor. In one of the sanitation seminars we asked what should be done with dog poo (dogs are left to roam free, like all the other animals here) – no one could answer the question and it was clear that the answer was that nothing is done with dog poo, except perhaps toss it in a bush if it’s directly outside your front door.

It would be easy to judge this approach, lack of knowledge or consideration for hygiene. That is, if you forget that the great sewers of London were only put in because London stank so much Parliament could no longer meet, and that it was only after they were put in that they realised the affect they had on reducing disease!

Anyway, the point of this ramble isn’t to complain about how difficult the environment is here (although you may guess we’re beginning to look forward to our forthcoming UK trip), but just to put context to the challenge of keeping everything clean when a new baby arrives. It takes so much water to keep cleaning that black dust of everything, to wash and to scrub. Mobile children need a full scrub down every day, none of this sitting in a warm bath and a little bit of a wash down that is common in the UK. Although it’s harder to see on the Tanzanian children, I know from how black our children look at the end of the day, that full on scrubbing is definitely needed! All baby maintenance and clothes washing is done by hand. And all that water has to come from somewhere, and it’s not a case of turning the tap on!

When we were on Kome last week I had the privilege of joining the women from one of our health groups as they visited one of their members, who had given birth the previous night. Of course the biggest way the women could help was to carry water. I don’t know how long the women will continue to carry water for the new Mum, but I’m not sure how soon I’d feel ready to go fetch my own after giving birth! In the local custom the mother is allowed to go outside whenever she likes after giving birth, but the baby will stay inside the house for a month.

When we arrived at the ferry port ready to cross over to Kome this week there were a lot of fairly heavily armed police representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. We quickly realised that the were looking for fish – people exporting fish from Kome illegally, either because they hadn’t paid the proper duties for commercial fishing, or because they were catching fish which are prohibited. We weren’t surprised to notice a few large fish lorries on the other side of the crossing, who had perhaps decided against taking the ferry at that time! On a previous visit to Kome we were met by low spirits as apparently the Ministry had visited and burned all the illegal fishing nets. I’m not totally sure on the rules, but I think that on the ones they use the holes are too small, thus they catch young fish, which is contributing to the depletion of fish stocks in the lake.

On the day of our arrival this week we noticed some awkward behaviour from the neighbours and by the evening they were beginning to act a bit strangely. They finally got up the courage and suddenly a group of men carrying a couple of logs walked through our gate and up behind our house, with no explanation. They reappeared a few minutes later with the logs balanced across their shoulders, like pall bearers carrying their huge illegal fishing net, which had obviously been hidden in case the Ministry made the crossing once again. Apparently it’s not the first time the property of the unlikely whites had been used as a illegal fishing net stashing zone. For these people, who can sparsely afford the basics needed to stay alive, it’s pretty hard to explain that they need to protect the lake for their future, they just know that small holed nets will bring more fish and more money now. Ironically when there are fewer fish, the price goes up, but somehow the changes will need to be made on a community wide basis, because no one is going to be the one to choose to catch fewer fish.

Everything is so raw in these communities – they are surrounded by animals and dirt, while they carry about their works of fishing and farming. They know how to scrub better than any white foreigner I’ve ever met, but there are big concepts of unseen germs that they don’t yet get. They need to fill their bellies now, while they need to learn to plan for the future. It’s such a privilege to get to work with these people, after all fishers and farmers were the people Jesus spent so much time with. But about the dirt… I’m glad to be back in Mwanza for a week, then one more Kome trip before we’ll be in the UK. We’re already planning our ‘must eats’!

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Bees and Banks

A bee sting to the chin and cheek can really make your face swell up! The irony was, that even before the stings, I had been complemented by the Malya beekeepers group for having become fat and healthy since my visit in May last year!

One of our Mwanza EI community development projects is beekeeping. We have partnered with Bees Abroad, a charity from the UK who assists community bee projects as a method of contributing to poverty relief. Julian from Bees Abroad has beeen visiting here every six months and recently spent a week with us to help our Mwanza EI bee projects with their harvest. This was my real first chance to get up close to a working hive (Victoria had the joy and pain last year!)

Our EI staff member John has quickly become an expert in African beekeeping. Much of his work involves travelling around the region visiting the beekeepers , monitoring the hives and answering questions about the ‘modern’ techniques we promote. The ‘traditional’ approach of harvesting is to burn or smoke the hive so that the colony either flees or dies, allowing the farmer to remove everything from the hive (honey, wax, dead bees) and extract the honey for sale. This destructive approach risks wiping out the entire colony.  Our groups have been taught to use hives with ‘top bars’ which allow a trained beekeeper to non-destructively inspect the state of the hive and then, when ready, harvest only enough honey and wax as is safe, allowing the colony to replenish quickly.

We experienced a full range of bee types; from docile crawling bees, to angry buzzing bees which will try and seek any holes in your suit to come and sting you! Our best success was harvesting at night, in a remote field, using a red torch (which bees can’t see)  – we filled nearly 3 buckets!

We learnt one very important lesson- when to walk away! At one hive the bees were stirred up so much the local cattle, goats and chickens started getting stung. This can end in tragedy for a farmer since animals can easily die from multiple stings, so we stopped and got out quickly.

In total over 70kg of raw honey was harvested which will now be filtered and jarred. The wax will be processed for either the production of future hives (bees are attracted to bees wax so it helps to colonise a new hive) or to be used in other products such as body cream and candles. The money will be returned to the beekeeping group and its up to them to reinvest it wisely.

[Victoria takes over…]

Life continues in the busy and varied way of life here. We have started up a breastfeeding and early nutrition support group in a second village on Kome Island. The first village we started in have seen their group as very much a ‘church project’ and it’s been challenging to get people from outside of the church involved. There are various reasons for this and at this stage in the game there’s not much we can change. At least for the household sanitation work that Simon has been leading, we have been more successful in engaging the wider community a bit more.

We have now started in a second village – Buhama. There is such a different feel to working with this church and particularly with the pastor. The pastor of this church is a woman, which is quite unusual here. She seems to be well connected and well respected and keen to involve all the women she can, regardless of what church they go to, if any. We feel really encouraged that there have been so many women at the past few meetings. We are also excited that we have been able to set up VICOBA as part of this group.

VICOBA is a community saving scheme. Basically, before every health education meeting all the members have the opportunity to ‘buy shares’. The group have established the ‘rules’ of their group themselves, with guidance from us. This group has decided that each share costs 1000 Tanzanian Shillings (about 30p). Each week the women can buy between one and five shares. Once the ‘bank’ has enough money the women can take out loans to use for business investments. The group has set their priority list of what kinds of things will be most likely to be given a loan for. Those who take loans will pay back to the ‘bank’ with interest. It is a favourable rate in comparison to loan sharks, the women have decided to set the rate at 10% and the loan is paid back over three months. There are various ‘fines’ in place for ‘misdemeanours’, such as being late or not turning up without having informed anyone, or having a good justification for having not done so. These have all been decided by the group members themselves. The fines also go into the ‘bank’. The women have decided to run the scheme on a 12 monthly basis, so at the end of the 12 months they will split the money they have collected between them.

The purpose of the loan scheme is to support business investment, and so increasing the amount of money owned by all members of the group, and enabling the borrowers to be able to afford the interest. Loans must be approved by the group, since it’s a risk for everyone if loans don’t get repaid. Schemes like this can be challenging where community members lack the ability to buy basic necessities, such as medicines. For this reason there is a second, smaller collection each week for the ‘community box’. This is a kitty of money that the women can take loans from for essentials such as medicines or school books. There is no interest on money borrowed from this smaller collection.

Its coming up to the summer holidays and we are close to finishing Tabitha’s schooling. Homeschool groups have been a bit disrupted, most of those on the American system of homeschooling have already finished, for us schooling has lagged a bit due to our nomadic lifestyle. Also we have sadly lost 2 homeschool families in Mwanza who have moved away. This has been very sad for the children and us, losing friends and surrogate aunts and uncles. This has however given us the ruthless opportunity to pilfer any household items they were selling (coffee pots, carpets, power tools etc…). Every cloud has a silver lining!

Finally we are excited to announce we’ll be spending eight weeks in the UK in September and October, we’d obviously like to see as many of our supporters as possible in this time, so please let us know where you’ll be, and we’ll attempt to do the same! We’ll confirm our itinerary nearer the time. Our home visit will be an important time to update our supporters as well as continuing our fundraising and getting more supporters. If you’d like us to give a short presentation about our work in Tanzania to a group or church near you please let us know!

New knickers and sewing stockings

Well it has been a very busy but blessed February and March. With a visit from the Ewing parents, a Safari holiday,  Nutrition meetings continuing on Kome and planning for household sanitation work in April…

Visitors from afar…

My mum and dad visited for 3 weeks and it was a delight to show them the sights of Mwanza and Kome. It was so nice to see them after a whole year, and Tabitha and Reuben certainly got used to them being around! In their bags they managed to find space for (alongside tools, books and chocolate) new pants for the kids and a bag of black ladies stockings (keep reading to find out why!)

‘It’ll be just like camping’ is the advice we give when visiting the island, and yes, just like camping, it did rain! We had the privilege of having the last wet-weather church service at Nyakabanga chuch, which had been postponed due to a torrential downpour, and then started again during the service!

Praise God the church now has a roof, so my parents were the last ones to get sunburnt and wet simultaneously while worshipping in this church!

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Nyakabanga Church, March 2018

Mama’s meetings…

The womens meetings at Nyakabanga church on Kome island have become regular, every week with Gertrude doing a fantastic job of coaching and translating.  The topics of conversation have been around the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and the importance of appropriate food in the months after. Breastfeeding discussions are much easier with a model breast to hand, so this was a priority job for my mum who donated her old tights!

The work with the ladies group is in full swing , with all manner of topics being discussed, from positioning a feeding baby, to preparing foods for older babires and toddlers. Many of the women in the group assume it normal to introduce non-milk foods to an infant not even a month old, for example uji (watery maize porridge) and banana and they have some disbelief that milk alone is enough.

Safari so good!!

Its a special year for the Ewing Family, our 10th wedding anniversay in May, my parents 40th anniversary and a ?0th birthday for someone, so we were treated to a 5 day safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. This really was a holiday of a lifetime and we saw so much its impossible to report. We were rewarded with numerous giraffe,  elephants protecting a dead relative from a pride of lions, a cheetah stalking some wildebeest,  and a leopard hiding a cub in a tree. The views in the crater were also phenomenal and impossible to capture the scale in a photo!P1090183.JPG

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Starting Sanitation…

We’ll be starting the santiation work in the communities on Kome next month so I am busy organising the content of the household training. We aim to work with around 6 families in the church community, and it is hoped these families will become educators of the neighbouring  households. We are not attempting anything massive but suggesting simple technologies for improving handwashing, water treatment and safe storage of drinking water.  The approach is that everyone (including us!) can make small improvements at a household level on issues surrounding water and sanitation wherever they are on the “ladder”. By giving the families a biblical understanding of how and why they should be taking care of their households we hope the families will perservere with the suggestions we make, and in turn the community at large will benefit.

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A family discussing what small changes they can make to their toilet facilities

Finding the plot

A couple of weeks ago one of the elders of Nyakabanga church on Kome invited us to look at a plot of land his father owned. Word has got around that the wazungu are building a hospital so I think he thought the plot would be good for that. (We’re not building a hospital by the way!). I (Simon) visited the plot today (Monday) to see what potential it had. Something in me enjoys the challenge of walking into the unknown with a guide who speaks no English. I met Josephat ( the elder ) at the pastor’s house and we walked off, with him carrying my shoulder bag, as is the custom. We walked quickly through the fields, mostly cassava and sweet potato and some maize. After a 20min fast hike through fields we arrived at a clearing where an old man sat in the shade of a tree. This was Josephat’s father (Babu, meaning ‘grandfather’) and I could see his mother hoeing cassava in the distance. We talked for a while about how I was mad to only have 2 children at my age and that we must hurry to have more, at least 10, to ensure we ‘fill the earth’ as God has instructed us!

Babu and family live in mud brick, grass roofed houses and cook over an open fire outdoors. They collect water from a well, which only works half the year, and also a muddy spring.

We talked about how EI is different from the Korean and Chinese NGOs who the rural people have seen splashing the cash on large infrastructure projects ( Kome received a basic electricity grid 3 years ago, but only a small proportion of the island can afford the connection). They were intrigued that EI were not interested in making money from the rich agricultural land or fishing opportunities on Kome, and even more interested to hear about our agricultural projects that could potentially give Babu an income. It was early days to make any decisions about what sort of thing Babu could pursue, but I was able to encourage them that since they were already skilled farmers some farming project, or at least education on improved farming practices would be most appropriate. We sat in the shade of a tree while mama brought freshly uprooted cassava to eat raw. I was then loaded up with aubergines and more cassava to take home with me. These sorts of experiences are really crucial in our understanding of the church community, the extended families, underutilized land and skills, and it also helps structure our thinking in how we can engage the church in ways other than the health project.

In other news, which Victoria will report on, the health project had its first proper meetings this week. The women in the church met together to discuss openly issues around breastfeeding and infant nutrition. These open air meetings are a challenge in both hot sun and rain since the church has no covered building to meet in. We are raising money to put a roof on their building, which will not only help our project meetings but also allow the church to gather in all seasons, literally come rain or shine! If you feel you’d like to contribute please click here https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/komekanisa

Kome life

It felt familiar to be travelling back to Kome the other week. Things are generally less exhausting when they are more familiar, because your brain is having to do less work. Even the odd disaster here and there seemed familiar – this is the moment that the push start was enough to get our front wheels off the ferry, but not enough to get the battery started, leaving us in limbo for a few minutes until someone ran off and got a car battery and a couple of wires to get it going!

Our children were also more settled with the familiarity. On the way there Tabitha asked me whether the local children would call out ‘friend’ or ‘foreigner’ when we got there. We arrived to calls of ‘Tabitha’! She’s not the only one being called though… both our children have adopted this very distinctive way of calling me ‘Mummy’, and they do it quite a lot, often many times in a row until they feel they have my attention. There are now about 20 other children on Kome Island who imitate this, so for me there is no escape!

So much of our life on Kome for the time being is about language learning and engaging the community. It was evening when we arrived and as soon as we had unloaded the car we wandered around to all of our immediate neighbours’ homes. It is challenging being limited by language, but they all greeted us warmly and it is something we’ll strive to do on all our visits. Our children have really taken on board the local culture of greeting people and they always run out to give their greetings to whoever arrives. They spend about 20 minutes greeting our night watchman most evenings in Mwanza! I was very proud of them so confidently greeting all the locals on Kome. Greetings are generally done on a person by person basis the children dutifully greeted everyone with ‘shikamoo’, which means ‘I respect you’. It was a bit of an adjusted to get them used to using this particular greeting when we first arrived in Tanzania, but they’ve taken on board the importance of respecting older people, whether you know them or not.

Simon spent much of the trip sorting our practical things for the house. This included cutting up sheets of corrugated iron and turning them into a guttering system to collect rain water, and putting up lots of shelves in the house. Both of these things should improve the quality of our lives while we are there. Our house on Kome is pretty basic – this is our kitchen:

We bought a stack of Swahili-English children’s Bible story books before our trip and a local ball (plastic bags stuffed into a woven exterior). For a period each day we let the local children in to our garden to play with ball and then have stories. The children just loved the books; they probably don’t get many opportunities to see nice big colourful pictures and hear stories being read. Each time it was them that put the ball aside and asked me to bring out a book (or two, or three). I didn’t want to make any assumptions so asked whether any of the older ones wanted to have a go at reading the Swahili, but they preferred me to. I don’t want our children to learn Swahili from me, but as it happened the local children started repeating every line of the story after I read it. So I would read in Swahili, the children would repeat in Swahili and then I’d read the page in English for our two. This felt like a good learning opportunity for everyone! (I should add that Swahili is totally phonetic so actually pretty easy to read, even if you don’t fully understand what you’re reading.)

I also spent some time at the RICHI clinic while we were there. We’ve had some challenges working through the practicalities of running the health education project, but it was good to have another opportunity to work through the issues further. I think we’re making good progress now, which is encouraging.

We deliberately went across for a weekend this time, because we wanted to start getting connected to some of the local churches. Due to a bit of a miscommunication we ended up going to two different churches and having food with two different pastors. It was lovely to do it, especially since it was one of the pastors’ last Sundays on the Island as they are being transferred, and we’d built up a good rapport with him over the past few visits. But it also meant that the children had to sit for quite a number of hours in Church, followed by trying to sit nicely in important peoples’ houses after having sat for so long already and not having eaten any food for very many hours. It was actually over eight hours from breakfast to lunch in the middle of the afternoon and Reuben didn’t get a nap until the evening. Our children are used to eating about every two hours in the morning! We will work on planning things a bit better to avoid that happening again! The good thing about Tanzania is that children are such a big part of the culture and mamas are generally experienced in managing children and can often see very quickly what the problem is. When a child is chewing eagerly on a straw and scoffs a handful of raw rice when they see it, you don’t need to make excuses about unsettled behaviour, the locals can see that the child is hungry! We’re also fortunate to be a fish, beans and rice loving family as that’s what we get served everywhere we go! I think the locals are too afraid to serve us the local dish, ugali, and I’ve hardly eaten any since we arrived in Tanzania!

Daily life on the island continues to be quite a bit of work and it often feels like a lot of effort just to stay clean and fed. This trip had the added joy of a visit from a plague of flies. For the first time I really understood what it must have been like for the Egyptions! Apparently it’s quite common during the rainy season, so we won’t look forward to more of the same! I also feel the need to add that we will always be happy to receive visitors, but appreciate that not all our visits would necessarily want to travel with us! So don’t be put off, if you would like to visit us, but would like to enjoy all the luxuries of modern life, these things are available in Mwanza!

A typical Sunday and more

Our days are quite varied here, but things tend to start on the early side, especially if you are travelling anywhere. When we go to church on a Sunday, we usually need to leave by around 7.30am and the services are usually around two hours long. A lot of the churches have several two hour services on a Sunday which run one after the other! Some of the churches have chai in between the two main services. This includes extremely sweet tea and possibly chapattis, mandasis or bread.

We don’t have a specific church we go to on a Sunday, but instead we try to visit a variety of the local churches. Visitors are very important in the culture here and repeat visits are a sign of acceptance, support and appreciation. There are a number of good, hardworking and gospel focused pastors working in the area and it’s a privilege to be able to support them by visiting them from time to time. There is also a small expat house church that meets from time to time on a Sunday evening, where we can share and spend time with people of a similar background.

EI (our mission sending organisation) work with the Tanzanian Assemblies of God (TAG) churches here in Mwanza, so while we have been here it has been the TAG churches we have been visiting. They vary from church to church, but generally the services are enthusiastic and worship is LOUD! There is usually a worship group that leads the singing and there is often a choir, local or visiting. Matching outfits are a regular feature – local tailoring is big here! You can see a clip of part of the service we visited this week…(sorry the sound is dreadful, that is my phone rather than a reflection of the actual music there!)

Since Tim and Rachel Monger got back from the visit to Canada and the UK we have tried to make some visits to churches as an EI Mwanza team, with all three missionary families. This week we all travelled to a church that us Ewings hadn’t been to before and we decided to all go out for lunch together afterwards. There’s a nice place that’s near the church we visited, but a bit of a trek to go to just for food. They have a fairly large, if slightly rickety boot, and this week we all went out on a ride on it together. It was quite windy and choppy and the girls enjoyed being splashed with the water which came over the sides! At various points we wondered whether the engine was going to keep going and get us back for our food! Food takes a long time to prepare here so we put our order in before going out of the boat for an hour. As it was we didn’t have to wait that much longer once we got back before the food arrived. It was a fun day and we enjoyed spending the time together as a team!


This coming Sunday we plan to go to church on Kome island. That will be our second weekend on the island, and we hope to spend more of our weekends there over the coming months so we can develop relationships with the churches and leaders.

We still have things to smooth out in the partnership we are setting up for the community health education project. I (Victoria) had a long meeting yesterday and there will be more in the coming weeks. We hope to have some agreements in place before the 23rd August when we’ll be meeting with the District Commissioner to ask for final approval of the project. Pray that we manage to work out all the details. Pray also for safe travels and a good visit when we head back to Kome at the end of this week.

Tabitha is taking part in a Swahili challenge, where she’s competing with other missionary children to learn the most Swahili words in a set time. She has a notebook to write down new words and she’s very enthusiastic about it at the moment. Hopefully this will also encourage her in her interactions during our time on Kome!

Home from home

The journey to Kome was quite a bit tougher this time. We were delayed on the first ferry for two hours and when we got to the other side it was obvious they’d had quite a bit of rain. Mostly there isn’t quite space for two lanes of traffic to fit easily on the road, because the road slopes down at the sides so much. To add to which the buses deal with their loss of steering ability by travelling down the middle of the road (at high speed), with no intention of moving for anyone or anything. We made the decision when coming out to Africa this time to not take any unnecessary risks, and that means avoiding rushing when driving. Thankfully, despite our decision to take it easy on this journey, we had no problem getting the next ferry.

It was so nice to be able to actually stay in our own house on Kome. It really helped the children feel settled. There’s just enough space in their room for both their beds and they were very excited declaring their own sides of the room! The house is almost finished and looks pretty good, apart from the absolutely filthy walls. There were some sketches on the walls and the children added a fair few of their own during the week! The walls will be cleaned and painted next time, so hopefully they won’t be too disappointed to find their drawings gone!

The main purpose of the next few trips to Kome is to just get used to how life works on the Island, to get to know people and to work on our Swahili. There are some interventions that we’re hoping to promote on the island and the plan is to use them ourselves and model their use to encourage uptake. One is a tippy-tap (http://www.tippytap.org/). This is a simple tap that works by hanging a bottle on a rope, there is a hole in the body of the bottle for water to come from and a string tied to stick at the bottom. By standing on the stick the bottle is tilted and you have a basic hands free tap. A bar of soap is also tied to the bottle or nearby branch. The second intervention we plan to use is SODIS (http://www.sodis.ch/index_EN), this is a way of purifying water using UV by placing clear plastic bottles of water on the roof of the house and leaving the sun to do its thing. The bottles rest between the corrugations of tin roofs (which the vast majority of houses have here). Third, is a fuel efficient cook-stove. These stoves use less fire-wood and produce less smoke. In order for these interventions to be attractive they have to work for us, and that is where I think we need a bit of practice!fuel efficient stove

The tippy-tap worked OK, but wasn’t the most convenient – we probably should have checked the instructions online first because I don’t think the holes were in quite the right place and at one point I got an unexpected shower when the string broke! The water is a definitely a challenge. Due to a miscommunication, water hadn’t been collected for us when we got there, which was quite late in the day because of the various delays. Lake water needs to be stored for at least 24 hours for the schistosomiases to die, so that was already a lost cause. Sitting for that time also helps the dirt to sink to the bottom. The water was also pretty dirty and it was only when we asked someone to re-stock the following evening that we were told that the lake water is much dirtier in the evenings. Being there helped me realise how much life revolves around water. You don’t notice how much you use when you run a tap and how much you appreciate that the water coming out of it is at least relatively clean. Collecting lake water is a major part of daily life on the island. After letting our water sit for a while we decided the untreated water wasn’t clean enough really for washing our dishes (after using it a few times), so tried adding water treatment to it. Unfortunately the treatment sank straight to the bottom and needed stirring, thus mixing all the sediment back in. It’s such a lesson of trial and error. We now know to remove the clean water from the top and treat that! Water collecting and cleaning is definitely time consuming, and takes a fair bit of thought.

It’s also the top level water that needs to be used for SODIS, because UV can’t effectively kill germs if there are lots of particles in the water blocking it. This means that water needs to sit for about 24 hours and then be SODISed in full sunlight for about 8 hours (two days if half the sky is covered in clouds) before we can use it. So for this to work for us for the first few days of our trips the process would have to be started before we get there, so realistically we’ll only be able to partially use this method. We already know we can get along with SODIS from our timie in Iringa where we treated rainwater collected from the roof, so we plan to model something similar on kome- using plastic tanks and gutters to store rain (which will still need to be treated because of e.g. bird poo on the roof).

We have a camp shower, which really made a difference. It’s effectively a big black bag that you fill with water and leave in the sun to warm up. It was nice to have a warm, if brief, shower in the evenings! On our first day I walked into the toilet/washroom and was immediately greeted by several faces in the window that had climbed up to watch the ‘white woman uses a pit latrine’ show. Thankfully the house we moved into in Mwanza had double curtains on several windows (four instead of two), so we’d brought a bunch with us. This made a huge difference to the quality of my life at that moment!

The final challenge was the fuel efficient stove. Simon is pretty handy, being a Queen Scout and all, so this was a job with his name all over (despite it being a bit countercultural for men to be involved in cooking). We didn’t have great success. Simon did make some bread using a fire-top oven, and boil some water, but we found it quite smoky – not a great example for a reduced smoke cook stove. Perhaps the wood was a bit wet, but whatever the cause someone actually came to try and sell as charcoal telling us they’d seen all our smoke, and that coal would be much cleaner. This kind of goes against the point of the stove, so again we need to do a bit of problem solving! We cheated a bit and took a small one ring gas stove. I’ve felt a bit torn about this because the advice is to use the intervention you are promoting. But equally there’s no point trying to pretend the fuel efficient stove is ever going to be easier than a gas stove and honestly the need for sanity will always win the argument in my mind!

Some of the successes of the trip included getting to know our neighbours a bit – we shared food with our immediate neighbours a couple of times. I had been sort of dreading having to eat ‘dagaa’, the local very small fish that are dried across the whole coastline of Kome and then boiled and served in the very fishy smelling sauce. It turns out though, that when you’re staying there and everything is fish, from the air you breath to the lake water you boil and filter, that actually there’s not much contrast between the general environment and the fish itself and it actually tasted pretty good. Tabitha was a big fan. It’s cooked with plenty of salt too, which your body craves in the heat.

The local children enjoyed spending time with our children and by the end of the trip instead of calling out ‘Mzungu’ (foreigner) they were calling out ‘rafiki’ (friend), which was really nice for Tabitha especially. It would be lovely if she could make a couple of friends who can enjoy her friendship without having to constantly touch her to see what she feels like. I think there is potential with some of the girls who are a couple of years older than her. Reuben may have a harder time as it’s harder to reason with children of his age!20170928_121008

We had one of the pastors over for dinner one evening and managed pretty much the whole time in Swahili, so that was encouraging, although there’s still a lot of work to be done on language acquisition! We’ve had meetings with the heads of the surrounding villages and people seem fairly well informed about why we’re there. We had several people come to ask when the health project will be starting. My background is public health and I do believe that’s the best way I can be most useful on Kome, but it is challenging that inevitably people have come knocking with immediate medical needs. I’m grateful to be working with the RICHI clinical officer, who I can refer people onto. I suspect though that they’d love to see a fully qualified doctor, but unfortunately most of the time that isn’t possible.20170929_183436

We’ve budgeted to go to travel to Kome twice a month and we just need to work out the logistics of it. To be honest the five day trip took its toll a little. With washing dishes in a bowl on the floor, cooking down low and handwashing some clothing, my back was pretty achy. We definitely need to get a couple of low stools to sit on! Equally the journey there and back is pretty spine jarring. There’s quite a lot to pack as we don’t have enough duplicates to stock both houses so the packing and unpacking is a bit of a mission, not to mention having to leave at the crack of dawn both ways. Simon easily did most of the workload and had all the signs of being exhausted when we got back and spiked a fever the next day. As for me, I used my forward facing phone camera as a mirror while we were there. It has an automatic setting to detect your age. It’s usually pretty much spot on for me, but when I looked in it after one particularly bad night on Kome it suggested I was 51! We’ll need to work out a pattern of travel that works for us. Hopefully we’ll be heading back next week, but it may be towards the end of the week, rather than at the beginning.

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