Sunday, February 19, 2012

All is WELL...

Feb 18, 2012


How are you all doing? I thought, since another two weeks have passed us by, I’d bring you up to speed on all the latest developments of Hero Home!

So, where to start…. Well, first off, just to get it out of the way,… I’m sick. SHOCKING!! I KNOW! :) However, so far it’s just been a 3-day cold so nothing that a good Winnipegger can’t handle. Although, instead of calling it a cold, they should really call it a hot because I feel way more hot than cold… I think I like having a cold in Winnipeg a lot more than in the African heat. The last couple days, even my sweat has been sweating! On the upside, my voice has sounded like an 82 year old grandpa for the last 3 days. Tabitha likes it… she says it feels like there’s a man in the house. I would laugh at her, but my laugh also sounds like an 82 year old man... and then it just ends in a coughing fit.. very unattractive.

But, so far, this “hot” hasn’t slowed down productivity, so I’ll bring you all up to speed on HERO HOME! It’s exciting!!!!!

So, we moved in 2 weeks ago and spent the first week settling in. Tabitha was sick with lingering Malaria which was very unfortunate!! It was painful seeing her so sick. She’s usually up at 5am like a ball of exploding energy, so it was quite a shock see her in bed til 9 or 10am. However, we got settled in. Bought some buckets and stuff for our house. Filled our pantry with 3 kgs of dry beans, 5kgs of dried corn flour and some rice. Hunted down the closest water source and went to town filling up as many buckets as possible. By the end of the week, we were all stocked! I managed to open a bank account (in case anyone wanted to wire us money :) and rented a post office box (in case anyone wanted to send us candy). So, basically, by the end of the first week, we were set to get down to the real work.

Our first order of business is digging a well, as without water on site, everything else takes a lot more time and money. So, Tabitha and I began seeking out some well diggers. You know how in Canada, there’s like.. the internet and you just type in what kind of service you’re looking for and in seconds, you have 89 460 options. Or for the old schoolers, you go to the yellow pages and look up your desired service and start calling away. WHILE, let me tell, in case you didn’t realize…. Internet advertising has yet to hit rural Africa! Bummer! So, we walked around town, talked to friends, stopped at every random well and tried to track down the owner to find out who dug it and how much they dug it for… (sounds like the start of a hip hop song… “did you dig? Ya I dug!” ok, not a good hip hop song, but I’m sick… what do you expect!).

So, we found a couple of young dudes… they quoted us 7000Tsh/foot. So that you can appreciate how ridiculous of a price that is, let me give you some background info.

*A regular well in these parts is anywhere from 45-65 feet.
*Three well diggers can dig about 5 feet per day
*1$ is roughly 1500Tsh
*So, to bring you back to your elementary school days, here’s a math problem for you to solve:
If three well diggers dig 5 feet of well in one day and charge 7000Tsh/foot, how much does each of them get at the end of the day? I was going to let you figure it out, but it’s so ridiculous that I just had to write it… 11 667 Tsh/day!! (approx 7.38$ PER DAY!!! Nobody in a rural African village gets 11 667Tsh/day! An elementary school teacher that has a college diploma gets roughly 6000Tsh/day and these dudes expect us to pay 11000/day each!!!! It was crazy!!! A highshool teacher with a bachelor degree might make 20000TSh/day but that’s only after 4 years of university. I think you get the point :)

*Also, talking to our friend (and newly appointed general contractor- kaka Jonathon) we learned that the price should be about 2000Tsh/foot.

So, needless to say, we didn’t waste too much time with those blokes and quickly went on our way. We got word of another digger and went to visit him at his mud hut. We met his wife and 5 kids but he was nowhere in sight. He paid us a visit later that evening with an even more ridiculous quote of 8000Tsh/foot. We let him have it a little before we sent him on his way. We did the math for him but he didn’t seem to think that 40000Tsh/day for three people was ridiculous. His defense was that it was hard work. But here’s the thing.. ALL work in rural Africa is hard work! Living is hard work... it doesn’t mean you get to inflate your price 400%! So, we sent him on his way as well.

So, we’ve quickly learned that two women, both under 5’ 6”, one of them being a young white girl and the other looking like a young black women (Tabitha is in her 40s but doesn’t look much over 30) will not get a good price on labour. On some level, we expected that we would have a challenge but we were definitely a little discouraged by the lack of respect we got… thus, leading us to recruit Kaka Johnathon. He’s a good friend of Tabitha’s and was instrumental in helping her secure the land back in 2010. We invited him over, explained our dilemma (us having boobs and not a penis- tho, we didn’t explain it in those terms :). We asked for him to join our team and help us make Hero Home a reality! He accepted and we cheered! So, he’s our new GENERAL CONTRActor! It was a great day!!! So, now our team is one person stronger! Very exciting! Two days later, he had recruited 3 well diggers!!!!! We’re loving it! He’s lives out by our land, so he has great connections and gets things done!

On Wednesday, we headed out to the land to meet our new diggers. I biked (I’ll tell you the bike story in a minute) and Tabitha took a motorcycle so that we could deliver the digging supplies which I had picked up in town. I was going to write about getting the bikes.. but I decided it was not that exciting of a story.. basically, it took us 6 trips in to town (and more than 30 hours of waiting) to find and purchase 3 decent used mountain bikes. Like I said, internet advertising hasn’t hit rural Africa so unfortunately we couldn’t goggle map “used bike shops in mwanza, tz.” It made for a lot of walking and hours upon hours of waiting for bikes to be tuned only to discover they have irreparable damage.. And keep in mind, when I say “decent” it’s all relative! We are the proud owners of a Raleigh, a Solar-made by Raleigh, and a Schwinn… so.. yeah, definitely relative. However, the gears work, the brakes don’t rub too much, and the tires aren’t too, we’re happy.

So, back to the well. The diggers are good guys in their early twenties! They initially quoted us 4000Tsh/foot but we worked them down to 3000Tsh/foot and we would bring them corn flour and dried sardines so they can cook up lunch while they work. I’m not sure everyone would agree to those conditions, but they did! J So, on Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012, we hired our first workers and today, Feb 18, 2012, the land will officially be broken and work begins! It’s a very exciting day in the story of HERO HOME! Tabitha is heading out there right now to deliver the food and see the start of the work. I would be going, but being that I sound and feel like an 82 year old gramps, I’m opting out of the journey in hopes that I heal up quickly and can head out there on Monday.

That’s the end of the updates for now! I’ll keep you posted on the well advancements.

My last little bit of news is disappointing news… but I thought it was important to share it with you all. So, Tabitha and I created our budget back in 2009. However, as I’ve discovered since returning to Tanzania, inflation has hit… and it’s hit hard. Prices of everything has sky rocketed while salaries remain unchanged. The world has decided that anything less than 1$/day per person is “poverty”. I can say without hesitation that the majority of people living in Kisesa have fallen well below that line. Since the inflation has hit, families of 4 or 5 are living on anywhere from $1- $2 a day. It’s a sad situation. In 2005, sugar was 600Tsh/kg, today, in 2012, sugar is 2400tsh/kg. Unfortunately, salaries have not increased by 400%. Even 1 kg of beans now sells for 1500Tsh whereas in 2009, it was somewhere around 700Tsh. A bottle of Fanta was 350Tsh in 2009 when I left and now it’s 500Tsh. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Life is much harder. A 50kg bag of cement, which not too long ago sold for 9000Tsh is now up to 20000Tsh or 18500Tsh if you’re lucky. So, what this means for Hero Home is a re-evaluation of our budget. We’ve sadly discovered that because of the price changes, our target of $50 000 is not going to be enough. We’re not discouraged though! It just means we need to be smarter, work harder, and do our best to raise more money. I know that all of you have already been wonderful supporters and we appreciate it a whole bunch!!! None of this would be possible without the support you’ve already shown!!!! And we don’t want to keep asking you to support us as we know everybody has financial responsibilities and times are hard everywhere. All we ask is that you help us spread the word to new people… your friends, family, co-workers, and maybe we can get more supporters on board and we can reach our new goal, which right now, is sitting around $70 000.

Thank you so much for all your help!!!!!! I hope you’re all doing well!!!!

I’ll be sure to keep you posted as construction rolls along! Pictures are on the way. I had some videos but my camera card has picked up a virus so I cant upload them! Don’t worry, I’ll get some soon!!

Lots of love and hugs!

PS. Apparently the google search assignment from last email was harder than I intended. For all of you who searched "side effects for women on antibiotics in hot climat" and didnt find a concrete answer, the answer was YEAST INFECTION. now you know!!! yikes!! it was painful!!!