19 February, 2011

The End of the Blog

Elizabeth writes:

We’ve been back now for three weeks, so I thought I would sign off the blog with a few comments on readjusting to life back “home”.

It has not been easy.  First of all, naturally, it was wonderful to be with the family, and we have had great fun rebuilding our relationship with the grandchildren.  However, adjusting to life here has been quite stressful, and will probably continue to be so until we move back into our home and unpack all our belongings which have been in store for two years.  People have been asking me to comment so here goes….

I miss my friends in Lesotho a great deal.  When you have lived and worked amongst people who have nothing, yet remain cheerful and uncomplaining, it lifts your spirits.  I miss the way everyone greets you on the road, in the bus, talks to you in the queue at the bank, asks after your family while serving you in the shop.  To them, people are more important than possessions.  They are so grateful for anything, but mainly when someone takes an interest in them – they feel that no-one cares about them, and I think they are right.  I still don’t know how we are going to solve the problems of Africa since their leaders, on the whole, are too full of self-interest to lead the way.

Naturally, after two years’ effort, I think a lot about Fusi school and its progress.  I am delighted to hear that this year there are well over 100 students and a fully-qualified teaching staff.  All we need is the promised government support and it will continue to provide education for children who would not have access to it otherwise.

So, now I have to move forward.  I will continue to support fundraising for Fusi school (which is desperately needed for staff salaries), but I also have to adjust to retirement – still no idea the direction that will be taking, but I’m sure will involve more travelling, and more time with the grandchildren.

11 February, 2011

The intrepid travellers go on…

Elizabeth writes:

We said our goodbyes to the family and caught a series of buses and taxis into Mbeya in Tanzania.  After two years in Africa, we realise that we don’t bat an eyelid when our already-full vehicle stops to pick up more passengers with their luggage – live and otherwise – before carrying on.  Keeping an eye on our rucksacks as they were shifted around was quite a challenge.

We had chosen Mbeya as a stop-off as it is on the Zambia-Dar es Salaam railway and I had a desire to experience a long African train journey.  We then discovered that one of Caroline’s university friends, Deborah, lives there and is running a wonderful charity supporting orphans and other vulnerable children (http://www.theolivebranchforchildren.org/).  Deborah was actually away fundraising when we called, but Lety, her assistant looked after us and showed us some of the charity’s work.  Another home from home.

Off to the station to wait for the train.  There are only two trains a week but they are always late and very unreliable – no worries – we were not in a hurry.  We paid extra to have our own compartment and settled down for our 24-hour journey.

I love trains – I can just sit and look out of the window for ever – just as well, the rate we were moving!  We were promised wild-life viewings as the railway passes through a large national park.  We saw a wildebeest, a few impala and a small group of elephants in the distance.  A bit disappointing, but the journey was fun.  Every time we stopped, local people crowded round selling food through the windows.

We arrived at Dar and found somewhere to stay.  It’s not a very interesting place, and most visitors  pass through en route to Zanzibar.  Exactly as we did.

We decided that we were going to chill out in Zanzibar and treat ourselves to a little luxury.  The ferry arrives at Stonetown, a fascinating labyrinth of old streets with traditional markets; our hotel was here.

 Zanzibar is a cultural mix of African Asian and Arab traditions and has a checkered history. It was once a slave trading centre and this memorial at the old slave market was quite poignant.

A spice tour is a must for visitors and we had fun trying to identify the spices by smelling the leaves….

…while our guide’s assistants wove hats, jewellery and other things from leaves for our adornment.

We ended our holiday at the beach and it was very relaxing as you can see.

Time to come home – we returned to Dar and took the morning flight – passing Kilimanjaro on the way.

3 February, 2011

Visiting our Extended Family

Elizabeth writes:

After leaving Madagascar, it was time to move northwards, so we headed for Malawi.

Our first visit was to Andy Uglow and his wife Arani who now live in Blantyre.  Andy was the prime mover in getting Fusi Secondary school started several years ago.  It was good to see them, and to update Andy on the state of things at the school when I left Lesotho.

Many of you will know that our eldest daughter, Anne-Marie, worked as a volunteer in Malawi and there met her husband Wilson.  They now live in Nottingham, and we have never met his family.
Wilson’s brother, Symon, met us in Blantyre, and for the next week we were looked after by him and other branches of the family mainly in the North of the country.

We had a wonderful time and were treated like royalty.  Sometimes, there were barriers of language but a smile overrides everything :-)

..and here are the two mums!

Malawi is a beautiful country, and it made a welcome change for us to be surrounded by green countryside and lots of trees.  We also managed to make a visit to the beautiful lake Malawi, before heading North to Tanzania.

Tour of Madagascar

Elizabeth writes:

Madagascar is something different.
After leaving Lesotho, we joined a group of 16 on a fortnight’s organised tour of this island.

Although geographically part of Africa, it has had huge Asian and French influences during its history and it is really like visiting another continent.  It is the home to much unique wildlife, the best known of which are the lemurs.  We were fortunate to spot several different species of these in the wild:

We also visited a rescue establishment where they got much more close and personal, along with other forms of wildlife:

Our tour ended with a few days at a beach hotel.  Access was by boat only, and we needed zebu carts to take us out to the boats.

It turned out to be unbearably hot there, so all we could do was swim and rest (It’s a hard life!)
We enjoyed the tour, but realised that we have become quite used to independent travel, and missed the real interaction with the local people that you get when using public transport and generally fending for yourself.

Back Home

We have been back in Britain for a few days now, and it is wonderful to catch up with the family.

Apologies for the lack of blog – it proved too difficult with no computer and only access to some quite flaky internet cafes.  We will try to make up for it in the next few days.

I think we are both suffering from shell shock.  The lifestyle here is so different from where we have come from that adjustment needs to be slow.

We have had an amazing journey returning home the “slow way” so I shall try and share some of our experiences.