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Day 7: Bukoba

July 7, 2009

Awoke at 4am with my new "friend" the rooster who did not stop from then on. Staring at the "shower," it’s really more of a faucet over the floor. Since I had little hot water in Zanzibar, I'm wary. Sure enough cold again, thank God it’s not the dead of winter. We meet for breakfast, eggs, toast and fruit. We ordered lunch before we left as it takes between 1 and 2 hours to prepare. Then 15 of us piled into the van to head to the first village. 

Winding down dirt roads that are really just massive potholes, through the millions of banana trees, the streets are full of people, it’s a national holiday today, something like Labor Day. All the women wear brightly colored skirts (tangas), turbans and shawls. It’s a kaleidoscope of color. We eventually arrive at our first stop, a small mud home back in the trees. As we pile out of the van, we hear women clapping, dancing and singing to us. Their partners are here! They have made an area for us with bamboo walls and fresh grass on the floor. They have covered the walls with brightly colored fabric and colorful mats for us to sit on. They have a program for us. They dance and sing to us, they express their gratitude for us, we all introduce ourselves. Then one by one they show us their businesses. 

The first bought a pig and then eventually a cow. The cows are now three and the manure has gone to a compost and she is also selling vegetables. The second used her loan to buy a few mismatched cups and saucers. She goes to the school and sells tea and some snacks. The third sells milk, the fourth roasts peanuts and with her loan bought plastic to package them, the fifth banana beer, and so on. We try their beer, tea, peanuts and corn cakes and they are thrilled. We know we are eating their profits and make sure we leave a donation plus some. I tell them this is one of the happiest days of my life and that I leave a piece of my heart with each of them. They cheer and sing “Mama, mama.” 

Many of the women take pictures of the children and show them to them. I wonder if they have ever seen themselves. They are so precious. We pass out coveted pens to everyone to fill out a needs survey. We have many more gifts of supplies to pass out at the celebration dinner on Thursday evening. When it’s time to leave, they bring us gifts of mangos, milk, tomatoes, nuts. They have given us so much and I feel bad taking it but they are joyous and happy to share and give back. Their small loans, their small businesses have given them hope and confidence and we are partners now and partners share. 

Back to the hotel to rest and eat before we head to the second village. We take time to get the 40 gift bags ready for the celebration dinner on Wednesday afternoon. We have filled them with office supplies we brought from the US and will have a special dinner for them. 40 will attend. We then leave for the second village and meet the group making batik and shop later at the cooperative. Our suitcases are full, we want them to know how much we support them. On the way we stop by the beach for a walk and then back to have drinks outside in the glorious weather. An unforgettable day.

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