Having no checked bags, we were able to walk right through the airport when we arrived in Mwanza. We were greeted by our new co-workers who would also be our friends and family in Tanzania. Seth, the campus director, was the first to step forward and introduced us to the two other international staff: Melinda and Paula. Since it was 8 p.m. and we had an hour drive to our final destination, we quickly boarded our truck with our Tanzanian driver Emma (pronounced E-ma).
In the city, there weren’t street lights, but there was a full moon that helped illuminate buildings and people. We drove through lantern lit markets, down dark packed streets, and eventually into the country. Had I not been to Central America, the whole experience would have felt alien to me, but it reminded me of our time there and so instead seemed all a bit familiar, despite having just arrived in the country. They drove on the left side of the road in Tanzania, though the width and quality of them were on par – if not better – than the roads we drove in Ireland while on our honeymoon.
The paved road turned to dirt as we turned off the main stretch and headed toward Kitongo. I remembered sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck as a child as we drove the 45 minutes down dirt roads to the lake that our camp was built on. I’d fantasize on those drives of being in Africa. This drive reminded me of that: driving in to the camp, surrounded by trees and the occasional home.
They drove us right to the bottom of the hill; our new home was at the top. I’d read blogs about the experience of arriving at JBFC and wasn’t disappointed. As the car parked, dozens of the girls living at JBFC surrounded the jeep, giving us hugs and handshakes. I didn’t know if the handshakes were for my benefit or theirs, but I took them all happily.
When we got to the house – which we’d be sharing with Seth – we were pleasantly surprised and in a future post, I’ll give you a tour. Right off the entrance is the kitchen with a fridge, freezer, and gas stove. To the left, the kitchen opens up into a massive open room with a huge dining table that would fit 12+ people, a variety of JBFC made couches, and a huge book shelf with pictures and African trinkets. Towards the back was our bedroom with a tv stand/book shelf, a queen-sized bed, and our very first mosquito net (more on that also in a future blog post). We loved how big and open it was and could definitely see getting comfortable here.
The best part was yet to come. In the morning, we found out that the door and windows all open on the far side of the house and overlook Lake Victoria. The view is amazing. One of my favorite places in Tanzania is sitting just outside that door in the late afternoon when the house creates shade on that side. We have a cold drink, wave to people as they walk by, enjoy the view and the breeze off the water, and do our best impression of our friends Aaron and Steph who notoriously enjoy being at home and watching the world go by through their bay windows.
Seth took us on the tour of JBFC early that day and we got our first taste of the campus. We were surprised with how close everything was to our front door. From Papa’s Restaurant at one end to the Administrative offices at the other, it is less than a 10 minute walk and includes our home, the girls’ home, the primary and secondary school, a chicken coop, pig pens, herds of cow, and acres of gardens growing things like tomatoes, kale, and broccoli. The extent that JBFC has gone to in creating all of these moving parts that work so seamlessly together is a testament to the work they do. The farm helps supplement costs for food at the school and girls home, while providing fresh produce to Papa’s and creating a training ground for locals to learn about permaculture. Papa’s acts as a draw for tourists (and their money), a place for staff to enjoy a meal, and a training ground for future students of their vocational college. The girls live in their dorms with four bunk beds, a bathroom, a living room, and a mama’s room and have a shared dining hall. They all go to the school with around 300 other students from surrounding communities.
Wherever you walk, small lizards lead the way, scurrying out from under foot just in time to avoid you. The females are a dull gray or green, but the males have a bright red top half and a bright blue bottom (hence their nickname “the spiderman lizard”). They’re quite a sight to see. Small geckos are also everywhere and as we’ve unpacked and started to organize our new home, we’ve been regularly startled by tiny geckos darting out of our way. We always jump, but are also immediately relieved… at least it’s not one of the toonie-sized hairy spiders that occasionally make an appearance!
There are three dogs that also live on campus. There’s Kony, a large mastiff, who knows how to sit, likes to be close, and regularly tries to hold your hand. Heineken is a Jack Russell Terrier, who regularly chases lizards and is often seen following around Mamas and napping in the kitchen. Spotty is a black Pitbull mix that’s sweet deep down… really deep down. Heneikin and Kony tend to treat our house as home base and so when they’re not out having “Homeward Bound”-style adventures or visiting with the girls, they’re napping in our living room in the open door frame or pressed up against a cool wall.
We took their lead on that first day at JBFC and also had a nap in the afternoon, trying to sleep off our jet lag. Around 6, we walked down to the girl’s home for prayer time. I was a little nervous, not sure what to expect when faced with nearly 50 new faces…
(Read more about prayer time in my next post!)