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Day 9: Bukoba

Up and out the door to "town" to see if we can get the airline tickets figured out. It seems as if our tickets "somehow" changed from 7am to 10am on Saturday, which is too late as we immediately hit the road for safari when we land. We have been back and forth to the office, which is not computerized. Their notebook of names is the Bible and we are having a tough time trying to change their schedule of 12-seater airplanes in Swahili. After much pleading, we are told to come back in the afternoon and they will see what they can do. I cover Plan B and call the Mwanza airport looking for the Belgium pilot that brought us, Olivier. The guy remembers us and the flurry of activity we created when we came through Mwanza on our way here, he will try and help. It’s time to go to our last village. We arrive to music and hugs and excitement. This is a much more sophisticated environment, a farm with pigs, goats, chickens, cows and banana trees. We hear the stories, drink tea and have slices of white bread with the children in our laps. 25 women drinking tea from an assortment of mismatched cups and trying so hard to cross the bridge with our sameness, where our children, families and work were concerned. The only real differences are economic, which often translates to education; the dreams are the same.

It’s the afternoon and time for the final celebration dinner. It’s to take place on the patio of the newest hotel in Bukoba. We have brought many office supplies from the US and I have had tote bags made up with the WGN logo on them. We have divided the supplies evenly into 40 bags. As each woman arrives, she is given a bag. The women arrive in their best clothes, gorgeous headdresses and tangas. They are excited with the bags and the dinner. The program starts.

Lots of thank you’s go back and forth between WGC, WGN, the Global Business Partners and the BUWEA cooperative of women. We are all grateful for the connection for very different reasons. Lots of dancing and drumming takes place. They laugh and are happy when we join them and attempt to dance their native dances. I tell them that WGN will be donating $500 to their farming cooperative which should help them yield further profits for their revolving loan for women (thank you Karen H. and Zoraya B.) and they sing even louder. Claire and I tell them we will sponsor two more women. They bring us gifts of tangas, beautiful fabric to remember them by. But how could I forget one of their beautiful faces? The dancing, singing and eating goes on for a few hours and then it’s time for them to make their way back to their villages and us to pack and get ready to leave tomorrow. The airline has come through and we head to Mwanza at noon. I am waiting delivery of 100 necklaces to take to the US to sell. My hope is to sponsor a few more women with the proceeds.

As I sit here tonight, I can't begin to take in the magnitude of what I have experienced for the last few days. I have tried hard to write with my two thumbs each night on a Blackberry of my experiences each day with no computer and often no electricity. Today I had to explain how to use a binder clip and pencil erasers. The calculator was more difficult. The packages of marigold seeds I brought for each of them, they held gingerly and ask if they were food, but were delighted to find out that they were to be planted for flowers. “Every woman needs flowers,” I told them, and they agreed. We have changed each others’ lives forever.

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