POST 1: Getting Ready

I’m sitting at the airport in Montreal waiting for the next leg of my milk run to Tanzania (that’s what happens when you buy a cheap ticket on points): Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Istanbul, Tanzania. It’s always a bit hairy getting ready for a big trip and if you are anything like me you do things either WAY in advance OR VERY last minute, nothing in between. I packed one full suitcase about a month ago but didn’t get my malaria pills until yesterday and had to run around trying to find a place that had them. I am so grateful to my lovely friends for the well wishes and for helping me bring a nice bag of stuff to KOLO village. The stress of my oversized bags feels like it was ages ago and now I can just think about tomorrow and the next day and the next.

My plans for this trip are a little different this time. I am working with a new partner who I have not met yet so we are figuring out how to work together. We need to sync our visions for the company and make sure we all have the same values. It’s almost like dating. I’m checking him out and he is checking me out for compatibility, trustworthiness, integrity. It’s a bit weird and exciting all at the same time.

When you go to another country you realize that “customs” or things that we do here, like bring a bottle of wine when someone invites you for dinner or the way you greet someone with a little hug, are culturally different. All those things change when you visit another place so I decided to read a book about Tanzanian culture. Then I started wondering how people in other countries describe Canadians, so I started googling. It noted that Canadian were “big eaters” of mostly meat and that For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties; women should wear conservative suits or dresses and that overall we were a polite and conservative people. I don’t think I really fit any of that (except for the politeness).

What I really think is that not one single person I have ever known fits any kind of stereotype so I am just going to follow a few things that make sense like shake with your right hand (or is it the left?) and make sure that I ask lots about people’s families and am polite and then I’m just going to ask Moshi straight out to tell me if there something that I am not doing right. It will just be easier that way.

Am I nervous and excited all at the same time? Yup.

We can pick and choose the memories that define our life and piece them together like a puzzle.

Many years ago, in the wake of my mother’s death, I traveled to Africa for the first time. Uganda.

Our time to leave Kalagala eventually came, and my family embarked upon a classic Kenyan safari.

The three of us headed for Tanzania where I met Moshi Changai, a pivotal piece to this story.

From Tanzania, we made our way to the island of Zanzibar, a place to pause and reflect, and to write.

We left Zanzibar for Marrakesh, where the sound of Muslim prayers echoed from the speakers.

Life returned to normal—for just a little while. We returned home, and Zoe went back to School.

Fast-forward six years, and once again, Tanzania stood before my daughter and me.

Our destination was Kondoa, but to get there, we had to board a cramped bus like a bunch of sardines.

Before making our way to Cheku, we visited many of the surrounding Irangi villages first.

We drove up the long road dirt road to Cheku village and finally saw the well that had taken so many years.

With the Cheku well confirmed to be real, the time had come to return to Vancouver.

I finally landed in Tanzania, excited to meet Moshi again and the rest of the safari team.

I spent the days before meeting our potential business partner, Ikaji, at the hotel, practicing my Swahili.

By spending so much time at the hotel, I grew close with the girls who worked there.

On our way to snap some shots at Ntomoko falls, we got stuck in the mud, much like how I felt about Ikaji.

One morning, Moshi and I headed to buy trees and I sat and reflected on the situation with Ikaji.

Ikaji was simply not a good fit for this project and we had to decide how to proceed.

To help foster a community around the tours we decided to have a party for the people of Kolo.

The dry season had been especially brutal for the village of Iyoli and water was scarce.

This trip was winding to a close, but before I left, Moshi and took a final, bumpy motorcycle ride.

Once again, Perry Buchan leapt at the opportunity to be part of another water project.

I was back in Kondoa once again, at the same hotel (or at least the one next door).

To help determine how deeply the hole needed to be dug for the Iyoli well, the team conducted a survey.

We went back to Iyoli with a car full of computer equipment, a generator, and people.

With a car full of just about everyone, we headed to Iyoli one last time before leaving, but this time it was for a party.

The time had come to leave. I knew this because I had used my last square of toilet paper.

It took two and a half minutes to walk off the plane into the Turkish airport and breathe the unfamiliar smells.

It was like a fade-in into a movie, one that started with a reunion between two friends.

The next two weeks went by slowly as the drillers dug inch-by-inch toward the depth of 100m.

Initial digging had concluded, but we still had to test the water, build the tower, and dig trenches.

Tower construction began on market day, and led to a lot of people stopping by to watch the work.

Brick-by-handmade-brick, the tower went up. Soon, it would hold two water tanks and solar panels.

One morning in Kondoa town invited me over to play music at his house behind the hotel.

My worst fear, and I’m embarrassed to say but I will anyway, was having to go pee in the bush.

Today, I met Bar from Innovation: Africa - the woman who helped bring this project on.

I debated whether I even wanted to share this part of this story, but I will.

A few days later, work resumed at the project site.

Despite the recent setback, life continued—progress continued.

Things that were once green were starting to turn brown.

In many ways, our engineer was crazy and messed up.

Moshi, Juma, and I were at the site every day to make sure that things were getting done.

Water began flowing to the different distribution points throughout Iyoli.

This is my story. The stories I tell are the ones that hold me up, that keep me going, that feed me hope.

Each night when I drink a glass of water, I often think of Moshi, and the memories wash over me.