Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Arrival in Mwanza

The last leg of our journey of these weeks, the flight to Mwanza on a rather small plane, went without a hitch. We immediately realized that Mwanza, on Lake Victoria, and at a much higher elevation than Dar es Salaam, was also decidedly cooler than Dar. The quality of the air also seemed more like that of Jos, which is on a plateau. 

We were thankful to meet the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Bernardin Mfumbusa, with whom we had corresponded over the last months. Because the house we were to occupy was not ready (there was some confusion over the date of our arrival), he took us to a local hotel, the Isamo (where we stayed for two nights), and then took us out for dinner at a lovely restaurant, the Tilapia (named for the local fish) which, as we soon realized, was one of the best of Mwanza.


View of Lake Victoria from Isamo hotel, looking west

 View of Mwanza from the Isamo, looking south toward the peninsula on which the university is located; like Jos, the city is built on the rocks and is distinctively hilly

Mwanza looking north toward the center of the city

It was raining off and on for the first few days, and was decidedly cool for us. In fact, after the problems with the Johannesburg flight, we had both come down with colds and we really felt the cool breezes! It rains here from time to time, since it is rainy season now. But we discovered that when the sun did come out, it is much hotter than Jos! We are very close to the equator here (about 2 ½ degree south), and the sun is pretty much directly overhead. Starting in early March it will be north of us. So we feel the strength of the sun's rays, and really need to keep suntan lotion on hand here, even if it is cooler than in Dar es Salaam.

The next day Mfumbusa took us around to meet many people whom we needed to get to know on campus, so we got a good look at the facilities, and met so many that it was hard to keep track of them all! 

But we would not forget Timothy, the Nigerian professor of history who is spending his sabbatical year teaching here at SAUT. 

Students were still writing exams to finish the first semester, so things were actually pretty quiet on the grounds for the first few days. This was good for us, because we had to do some shopping. 

On Friday morning, first thing, the SAUT driver, Sylvester, took us to see the house, right smack in the middle of the campus, near the women’s hostels, not far from the classrooms and the imposing new library building. We discovered that the house already had some basic furniture, three beds, a dining room set and living room furniture and lerned that the refrigerator and stove would be delivered later that day. The house had been left stripped of everything by the former occupant, who had moved into Mwanza. After seeing it, we went shopping for pots and pans, plates, silverware and other basic kitchen equipment, as well as a first installment of groceries. 

When we got back to the house after doing our shopping, we discovered that the stove and refrigerator had arrived, and were happy that the electrician also came to make sure everything was properly connected. That night we were able to cook a simple meal, get a shower, and sleep in new beds with new sheets! It was especially wonderful to be able to unpack our bags after all these weeks of travel. It would take us numerous trips into Mwanza over the next days to finish shopping for the basics, but we were thankful to have a good head start on the matter. 

We were thankful too that Sylvester was with us when we went shopping the first time, because Swahili is a new language for us. Although the lectures at the university will be in English, everywhere else people speak Swahili! It would have been difficult for us to get the shopping done without some help. 

The women's hostels, our nearest neighbors on campus 

We soon discovered that the impressive new building (only two years old) which features prominently on the SAUT website is the library 

Our home on campus

Adrian at our back door, which is also our main door 

On Saturday we took a bit of time to explore our immediate surroundings, and Adrian was brave enough to take a ride into Mwanza with the local mini-bus, called ‘dala-dala’; they take about 20 passengers (although it seems there is always room for one more!). The cost is reasonable enough, the equivalent of about 30 cents for a 10 km ride into town. The alternative is taxis, which cost about $10 from town to the university. We do that when it is late at night, and thus not safe in a dala-dala, or when we have too much to carry. We do not intend to buy a car for these few months, so these kinds of transportation allow us to get around fairly well. 

A mini bus is know locally as a 'dala-dala'; each route has its own station in the center of the city

We also discovered that we do not need to go into Mwanza for all our purchases. Between the university (located on a peninsula of lake Victoria, outside of Mwanza) and the lake there are roads, and houses, and even some villages; as we took some walks over the next few days we found that people sell fruits, vegetables and other daily necessities like bread, and at prices that are comparable to what we pay in town. That will certainly simplify life for us the next few months. 

Area roads near university

The university is located in a rather rural and agricultural setting 

We are beginning to settle into a new routine. Unlike Jos, we do not have household help here. Our house is smaller, with a kitchen, dining room, living room and three small bedrooms. At the moment it rains rather frequently and it is not too hot yet nor too dusty either; so we can keep things under control. Water runs fairly consistently, though we have had days when it was ‘off’ more than ‘on’; we have been promised a water-holding tank, which will be helpful. Electricity has been fairly consistent, although the voltage fluctuates considerably, and we have had some evenings when it went off, and even one day when we had no power at all. 

We do not have the 12-volt backup systems that we had in Jos, so when the power is off we have to manage with candles and flashlights. At the moment our stove is electrical, though it has provision for gas burners; we hope to get a tank hooked up soon, so at least we can do some cooking when the power is off. So there are still some basics which need attention here! 

Settling into a routine in our new Malimbe campus home 

But our main assignment is to teach in the Department of Philosophy. We were introduced to the head of the department, Aidan Msafiri, on the first day, and discussed the courses we were to teach. Adrian’s MA class on the history of political ideas started on Monday, Feb. 16. Wendy is teaching introduction to philosophy, which also introduces the students to ancient philosophy. This course started on Friday, Feb. 13. The students had little time to recoup their energies after exams before starting the new semester. In fact, there were only a few students who showed up; the rest of the 122 students came along for first main lecture the next Wednesday (Feb. 18)! We are getting the matter of textbooks and basic readings straightened out. Textbooks do not seem to be available at all for the students to buy. The library simply has multiple copies of basic texts, and students will probably have to photocopy some sections for themselves. But like Nigeria, this is an oral culture, and we expect that the really important teaching will be done in the classroom. 

Karibu means Welcome! We certainly feel warmly welcomed at SAUT

Monday, February 23, 2009

Further travel update

When we left Jos on the first of February, we flew to Lagos to connect with South African Airlines taking us to Johannesburg and from there, the next day to Dar es Salaam (we took the long way to Dar, via Johannesburg mainly because that was far cheaper than the short route via Kenya). We arrived in Lagos late in the afternoon, checked in for our flight to Johannesburg, and waited in that rather unattractive airport for many hours. When it was finally time to board, we were informed that the plane was late in arriving. But, as we were to discover later, there were other problems….

This was the 747 that we took from Lagos  to Johannesburg--it was later being towed away after our arrival.

We waited for more than an hour in sweltering heat in long lines in a miserably small room with very few seats, obviously meant for far fewer people than those planning to fly to Johannesburg that night. The air-conditioning in the airport was not working properly, or it could not cope with the numbers of people. Later we discovered that the reason why we could not depart was because the air-conditioning system on the plane had broken down. When we were finally allowed to board that system had still not been repaired, and we discovered that the heat in the airport was nothing compared to that on the plane. Once we were airborne the cabins cooled down considerably, so we went from one extreme to another. We arrived in Johannesburg the next morning somewhat tired after all that. But, fortunately, the airport in Johannesburg is newly renovated (in preparation for the 2010 World Cup games) and we were able to get a good breakfast and some much needed coffee to keep us awake for our flight to Dar es Salaam in the afternoon.

We knew that the flight to Johannesberg would be a night flight, and had decided in advance to spend a day in Dar es Salaam before continuing on to Mwanza, both to catch our breath (and catch up on sleep), and acquaint ourselves, if briefly, with Dar, the largest city of Tanzania. We arrived in Dar early in the evening and stood in line for about an hour while our visas for Tanzania were being prepared. After we picked up our luggage, we were very happy to be greeted by Rachel Brink, a CRWRC volunteer, who drove us to the Catholic guest house where we are staying for two nights, until leaving for Mwanza on Wednesday.

Our room in the guest house is in center of the photo; Adrian

The next day we went to the CRWRC office, where we met the rest of the staff, especially theTanzania country representative for CRWRC, Margaret Njuguna,  who gave us an overview of the work CRWRC was doing in Tanzania

Margaret gave us some good tips for successful work in Tanzania

Then Rachel took us on a tour of Dar es Salaam, and we treated her to lunch; she took us to a lovely Indian restaurant. We also bought a new phone for Wendy and a new SIM card for Adrian so his old phone could work in Tanzania. By the way, Dar means 'port'; thus Dar es Salaam is 'peaceful port.'

Rachel took us to a spot in Dar with a good view of the ocean

One of the main attractions of Dar is its location on the Indian Ocean, and we appreciated the breeze and the view, although Dar has few good beaches. Back in the guest house we were thankful that we could make use of a wireless connection, to let family and colleagues know that we had arrived safe and well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Travel update

It is hard to believe that it has been more than two weeks ago since we left Canada; so much has happened in the meantime. After two overnight flights, first from Toronto, and again from London, giving us very little sleep, it was good to arrive in Abuja. The flight with BA was more economical than others, but meant a rather long and tedious day waiting in Terminal 5, the new BA terminal at Heathrow; unlike the older Terminal 4 where we used to arrive, there were no comfortable chairs on which to rest; the builders obviously wanted us to keep moving, or shop at their ritzy shops with overpriced goods! Once in Abuja, our driver wasted no time in taking us to Jos, where we arrived before noon. 

For the first three days we stayed at the CRC guest house, and soon settled in. The day after our arrival we already welcomed three of our doctoral students, and we saw the other three not long after, during the following week, when we had moved back into our old house at the university. We discovered that while we were away, Chikas, one of our students, had been successful in her application to finish her studies in Germany, and we were able to congratulate her on a handsome scholarship! And Dauda, one of Wendy's students in New Testament, has also made progress on his research at the South African university of Kwasu Natal, and will be able to finish doctoral work there. So it now looks like we still have responsibilities for two students, Adrian for Cosmos and Dennis, Wendy for Kate (who is only in beginning stages of her work), and Rebecca.

Us, with our doctoral students Cosmos, Kate, and Dennis

We are still listed as faculty in our department at Unijos--disregard the spelling of Adrian's name, which happened repeatedly

Wendy was able to spend considerable time with Rebecca Dali, who was also able to make the first of three required presentations. It went quite well, and we are thankful for this. 

Rebecca at her seminar, from left to right: Chikas, colleagues Ibrahim Musa, Umar Danfulani (former HOD), Danny McCain, Musa Gaiya (former HOD also), Dennis, Wendy, Rebecca, Adrian, Kate, and colleague Pauline Lere

We spent about two weeks back in the house we used to occupy, which has been used by IICS colleagues who are in Jos from time to time to teach, or take a break from their own locations. It felt somewhat strange for us to be back in the home where we spent the last six years. The basic furniture that belonged to the university was still there, but most of our own belongings were gone; we sold them when we left about eight months ago. So at first we had the impression we were just camping in the place where we had lived so long. Yet there were enough of our old things left for us to feel at home again after a few days. It was also helpful that some IICS colleagues stayed with us for several days. By living together we got to know them better than we had before.

During these weeks it was a special joy to have Angelina helping us, and to welcome our longtime helper, Julie (and her daughter Sharon) back to our house again too. 

Jos itself had not changed much, except that we noticed many buildings burned down in our area of Northern Jos, including several churches where we had worshipped. Zaria Road, a main artery from the North to the centre of the city, had changed the most, since it was being widened. In addition, parts of this road were lined with hulks of hundreds of burnt out cars and trucks, including a few fire engines. These businesses were owned by Muslims. Other businesses owned by Christians were destroyed as well. Although many churches had been burnt, we saw no mosques that had been leveled, although there may have been some. The latest Jos crisis was supposedly political, but many people wonder why, then, so many houses of worship and businesses were targeted, but no government buildings? Many people we talked to in Jos have theories about the reasons for this crisis, which was much worse than the one in 2001, a few days before 9/11, but no one knows for sure, and it is by no means clear also who was responsible for organizing the killing and burning. A number of commissions were immediately formed to analyze the recent crisis, but even so the answer will not necessarily emerge. The report of the commission that examined the 2001 crisis has never been published.

Below are a few more scenes from the devastation in Jos during the riots last November. It includes scenes of the burning of buildings, cars, and Trinity Anglican Church (where we worshipped for a few years).