POST 8: Movies Under the Stars

Today I learned that perfection is overrated.  On the way to Iyoli village school I was going over lists, plans and expectations in my head.  We arrived at the school and were greeted by the teachers who took us into the head masters office to sign the guest book and do the standard greetings.  I was standing with Evelyn, a friend of Moshi’s friend and a new friend of mine. I started telling Moshi what we should do and he said “Wait Lara, you need to be patient and trust me.” and I got really frustrated and upset and I had to go the the car and breathe (nimepumua). I told myself that I had to let things go, to stop micromanaging, because I realized that along with the language, the culture is also something that I don’t understand.  I made a choice to stop telling Moshi what I expected and instead asked him what he needed from me to make things happen and just enjoy the moment.

So that’s exactly what I did, and even though I scrambled to get the projector working (he said you can play now but I hadn’t set anything up) it was exactly what needed to happen.  He greeted the class, the elders, village chairman and woman’s group and thanked them for welcoming us into their classroom.  He talked about the importance of stories and had Baraka read one of the stories from the book to the class.  I would never have thought to do either of those things.  We had lunch and then, finally, they watched the greetings from the Strathcona kids , fully understanding what the project was all about.  They sat, mesmerized, watching the Canadian kids in the video greet and introduce themselves and then, at the the end of the video of the song, when one of the Strathcona kids writes “Children of Iyoli, We love you”,  they understood that in that moment they were not alone, that there were kids on the other side of the world who cared.

Afterwards we went into the village to set up for a movie and invited everyone from the village.  I was trying to tell the technician what to do because I was so scared that the projector wouldn’t work, or would burn out halfway through the movie, or something but in the end I also let that go and just chatted with people until he asked for my help.   The sound and the projector worked and over 200 people from the village came and watched a 3 hour movie that I did not understand, other than it had something to do with a man who kept getting in trouble and being sent back to primary school.

I sat under the stars with the villagers, watching a crooked and blurry movie, Baraka falling asleep on my lap twisting my hair through her fingers with the soft hum of the generator in the distance.  On our way home I thought to myself that, for me, this is my idea of perfection.

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.