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Week 64: Returning to Malawi

I started the week thinking I had a good plan, I would sell my bike in Stone Town, go to Dar es Salaam, sort out the paperwork for the sale of the bike, then get a bus from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe. I had moved out of the school house and was staying in the hotel at the beach, I spent Monday and Tuesday waiting for the buyer of my motorbike to arrange a time for us to meet. Then on Tuesday night he called and dropped his price, also adding that he couldn’t buy it for another week. Obviously this wasn’t going to work, so after feeling quite stressed for a few hours, I decided that I would take the motorbike to Malawi with me.

This wasn’t as simple as it sounds, I had let my temporary importation documents get out of date because I was trying to sell the bike and would sort out the paperwork after the sale. So on Wednesday I got a lift into Stone Town, dropped my bags in a hotel and went to the Tanzania Revenue Authority Head Office. I went in and spoke to the Manager, told him about my trip, showed him my website and explained I needed to renew my document. He was really friendly and once I had paid $25 he wrote that the document had been extended and put this stamp on it. From there I went back to the hotel and managed to arrange for the bike to go straight onto a cargo ship headed to Dar es Salaam that afternoon. By the time this was sorted out I had missed the fast boats to Dar, leaving only the slow (over night) boat. So I got that boat and slept on the chairs, I guess it saved me a night in a hotel.

I arrived in Dar es Salaam at 6am and went to the YMCA to check in before heading back to the port for 8am to get my bike. This actually ended up taking two hours, I spent most of that time sat watching the crane damage every car they lifted off the boat. Once I got my bike out of the port I went back to the YMCA and spent the day sleeping, going down to the cafe for cheap meals.

On Thursday I drove 515 miles from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya, this took 11 hours and once I arrived in Mbeya it took around 2 hours to find suitable accommodation. I ended up in a cheap local hotel, the room was tiny but clean and they had a hot shower which was great after the days ride. The only problem was my arms, I threw my gloves away when I thought I was selling the motorbike and 11 hours in the African summer sun left the backs of my hands rather burnt.

On Friday I rode from Mbeya down into Malawi to Nkhata Bay. This ride wasn’t too bad, there was a police checkpoint just before the border and they wanted to see my insurance, when I looked confident and started taking my document folder out of my pannier the policeman said he didn’t need to see it and let me go. The border crossing was easy enough too, although I get tricked by one of the guys who exchange money on the border. I knew that $100 is 30,000 MK, so when he counted the notes out 1 to 10, wrapping the tenth around the others to make three bundles of 10 you can easily think that is 30,000. The trick being that the notes are 500 MK each, not 1000, so you end up with half as much money as you should have. It took me a few minutes to realise, and by that time the guy was over on the Tanzanian side and I was in Malawi.

I also got a text from Simba, telling me that it was a guy called Ali Mcha who had reported me to the Security officer and Ministry of Education. Whether this was because I had helped Mohammed and Janet not get ripped off by him, or whether it is even true or not, I’m not sure. I don’t really trust Simba either so he may have just been saying it to shift the blame away from himself.

I arrived in Nkhata Bay and checked into their cheapest dorm, my hands were burning even though I had used my first aid kit to bandage them up, to keep them out of the sun. I have been here in Nkhata bay since then, resting in the shade, overlooking the lake. I plan to drive down to Lilongwe tomorrow and meet a friend, I want to sell the motorbike there and then find some temporary work here in Malawi for a few months while I arrange my time in India. Maybe do my scuba diving qualification while I’m here.

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Week 63: Visa Countdown Begins

This week has been quite stressful, it started with the shocking news that my application to the Ministry of education had been cancelled by the headteacher of the school I was trying to work in. He was worried about getting into trouble because I didn’t have a visa, even though immigration had said it was ok. So the next day (Tuesday) I travelled into town to try to speak with immigration and see what my options were, this time I went without any teachers, but with the contact name and number of a friend of a friend who works there.

I arrived at the main immigration office in Stone Town and asked for to see my ‘contact’. He was in a meeting so I had to wait for about 30 minutes before I was asked into his office. After about 5 minutes talking to him we realised that he was the wrong guy and I was in the wrong building. Instead of the main immigration office I should have gone to the regional office at the edge of town where someone with the same name as this guy worked. Luckily the guy I had come to see by accident was a nice guy, he called this other guy and arranged a lift for me. But the guy I was actually supposed to meet was out of the office, he had actually gone to Makunduchi looking for me and I had unknowingly gone looking for him at the same time. So we arranged to meet the next day. I then headed to the airport to meet Billy and Zoe, two new Zanzigap volunteers, and we all headed back to Makunduchi.

On Wednesday I headed to meet the immigration guy, this time I waited for about 10 minutes before I was asked into the office. After a brief explanation of the situation, I was told that I could only have a one month extension, and this one month rolls on from my previous visa. This left me will 11 days, yet they asked me for $100 for their ‘help’, I managed to get that down to $40 then headed back to Makunduchi. I was now left with two choices, the first was to leave Tanzania within 11 days and re-enter to get another 3 month tourist visa. The second was to try to get the Ministry of Education to process my application and grant me permission to stay and work, within the 11 day time limit. After talking with one of the teachers we decided to try the Ministry first, I spoke with the head teacher and was told that he would write me a letter to help the process along.

Thursday I went to town again, this time I was with the Assistant Head of the school. Unfortunately the head teacher had failed to write the letter he had promised but insisted it wasn’t needed. We went to the Ministry of Education and after a short wait we went into an office to meet a large man lounging in his chair with his eyes half closed. As we spoke to him he stared at us as though we were boring him, when we finished he told a few seemingly unrelated stories about previous people who had been ill-suited for teaching in Zanzibar. I reiterated that I had already lived in the village for a year before, I speak Swahili, I have a degree in IT and am a qualified English teacher. He said that I could have his permission if I brought him a letter from the head teacher and one from the director of Zanzigap. I left the office positive that this would not be a problem and sent texts to the head teacher and director. Within an hour I had texts back from them both saying they would not write the letters. The director explained that it was because the government were looking over Zanzigap and were watching my situation to judge whether Zanzigap was a trustworthy operation. The head teachers reasons were more due to his incapability to understand the situation.

This means I have to leave Tanzania before the end of the 30th of September. Since then I have packed all my belongings and moved to the hotel on Makunduchi beach so that I can spend my last few days in comfort by the pool. I’m sure this coming week will also be stressful, I need to finalise the sale of my motorbike on Tuesday or Wednesday, get some paperwork confirming my sale of the bike so that I can leave the country without it, then travel to Malawi on or before Sunday, all using public transport. I plan to stay in Malawi for a while and hopefully arrange all my India plans while I’m there.

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Weeks 61 & 62: Trouble in Paradise

The school finally reopened after Ramadhan but I am not teaching there yet. This is because of the visa problem I mentioned in my last post. After speaking with the people in Immigration it seemed clear that I just needed to get a letter from the Ministry of Education confirming that I am helping in the school.

Well I started that process last week by sending my application, along with the new Zanzigap applications, to the Ministry of Education. I thought that my problem would soon be resolved. Unfortunately that is not the case. Today I thought I should check on the progress of my application and was told that it had been cancelled. Obviously I was surprised by this and asked why, it turns out that the Ministry of Education called Mr Kinole, the head teacher of Makunduchi school, to confirm that I am helping at the school. Mr Kinole refused to confirm this.

I called him to ask why that was and he said that until I have my visa he will not confirm that I am helping in the school. The problem being that the Immigration people want the confirmation in order to process my visa. So today I have been rather worried, talking to a few experienced people to ask for advice. It turns out that Mr Kinole had let a previous Zanzigap volunteer stay in the school house and work in the school, without informing the Ministry of Education. He was then told off about this and given a strong warning. Now I am here and I have been staying in the school house and helping kids from the school. So now Mr Kinole is afraid that he will be punished if they find out the truth.

My plan is to go into town tomorrow and see the Immigration people and the Ministry of Education, to see whether I can solve the problem. If not, I may be getting arrested and deported.

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Weeks 59 & 60: Website, working and visa trouble

The last two weeks have been strange, after Katie left I was alone for the first time and I suddenly had nobody around to distract or entertain me. This meant that I had brief instances of loneliness followed by productive days. Week 59 was a bit of a surprise, although the official Ramadhan had ended there was an optional extra week of fasting. This meant that the shops in Makunduchi remained closed, even though only about a quarter of the people in the village were fasting.

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I spent most of week 60 sorting out my pictures from previous trips, which had been sitting on my computer for up to seven years without being looked through properly. As I completed each trips pictures I uploaded them to replace the old pictures and cleaned up the ‘Travel Stories’ page for each one. I have finally got up to the start of this trip but decided to give my self a break before taking them on. Towards the end of the week Rihana, my employer, came back to the village, so I spent a few days helping her. My teaching work should start again in the coming week, I’ll be teaching in the hotel and will teach IT to a group of teachers in the evenings. I should be getting a class or two from the school when they start up again from the holidays. Then yesterday (Monday) I found out there is a problem with my visa.

Basically, I was hoping to get my visa renewed through the Ministry of Education, but because of Ramadhan it was taking too long, so my visa ran out last Wednesday. I decided the best thing to do was forget about the Ministry of Education and just go into town to get another tourist visa. When I arrived they said that I had over stayed and so I had to pay a $600 fine. I tried to explain that it was due to delays with the Ministry of Education but they just said that I shouldn’t be going into schools when I only have a tourist visa. They said I needed a visitors permit which costs $200. After some discussion they agreed to drop the $600 fine and said that I just need to get a visitors permit for the remainder of my stay here. So I had the forms and will sort it all out over the next week or so.

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Weeks 55 – 58: Nungwi, Dolphins and Goodbyes

This is the longest I have gone without posting here, a whole four weeks, there is quite a lot to catch up on. Most of this time has been Ramadhan so food was an issue for a while. Week 55 was spent in Nungwi, the Aston group went to stay there for four nights, we (Me, Mohammed and Sian) went up for three but rented a friends house in the village, to save money, rather than staying in a hotel. After a tiring four days relaxing on beautiful beaches we needed to unwind so we went to Kizimkazi on the Sunday to swim with dolphins again. When we arrived back in Makunduchi we met a new Zanzigap volunteer called Janet who had come to teach nursery children for around 6 weeks and was now living in the house with me and Mohammed.

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Week 56 was quite uneventful, my teaching is on hold because of the Ramadhan holidays so I spent a few days sorting out the house and catching up on my journal. Janet was disappointed to find out that all the schools are closed during her time here, so she wouldn’t be able to teach, which was the only reason she paid to come here. Another two people arrived from England on holiday, my old friend and house mate Katie, and a new friend called Michael. I visited them a few times during the week too. The Aston group left at the end of the week so I travelled into town with Mohammed, Katie and Michael to see them off. While we were there two more people arrived, one of my old school teachers and his daughter.

Week 57 was much the same as week 56. We had no teaching to do so we spent our time visiting Katie, Michael, John and Annie down at the hotel. Janet decided that she should go home early as there was nothing for her to do here, so she changed her flight to the weekend. John and Annie left towards the end of the week and the rest of us headed into town to meet Michael as he returned from his safari on the mainland. Janet left on the Saturday, Michael arrived that afternoon, Mohammed left on Sunday and Michael left on the Monday.

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Week 58 was Katie’s last week in Zanzibar so we spent three nights in Nungwi. We rented my friends house again to keep costs down and spent most of the time sunbathing, this was lucky because Katie had her purse stolen from her bag as we were travelling North to Nungwi. When we returned to Makunduchi Katie moved into the school house with me for her last couple of days, then we both headed into town for her last weekend. She got the ferry to Dar es Salaam on Sunday and I came back to Makunduchi. Now I have the house to myself until the 18th September when the next Zanzigap person will arrive. Before then I need to extend my visa, which ends at the end of the month, so that I can stay for another three months. Hopefully I can use this time to get my motorbike sold and sort out India.

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