We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Squeeze on Ukewere Island

The long Coca-Cola truck, the cow, the goat, the chickens... we arrived at 6:30am after them all, as well as a number of trucks and loads of foot passengers. We were trying to leave Ukerewe Island on Saturday morning, and it was looking sadly rather unlikely that we would get on the ferry leaving at 7:30am. But it had been a good visit ...

It was our first time to Ukerewe Island, the largest island in Lake Victoria (530 km²), a 3.5hr ferry journey from Mwanza, and a remarkable island. The four of us went with Phil Norris and Bishop Charles to meet a number of church leaders on the island and talk about how we might work with them. So on our arrival, we joined about 20 pastors for a great lunch of rice, goat, fish and fresh fruit. This was followed by a meeting in the church building in which Tim was able to share about our role in empowering churches to serve the needs of the poor and how we might be able to work together. We looked at some of their assets and opportunities as churches and talked about future possibilities.
Getting on the ferry in Mwanza, Phil directs Tim's reversing

Starting the meeting in the large church building at Ukerewe

Mingling after the meeting
At 4pm we filled our car with as many people as we could and drove off to see some of the island and what the churches are doing. First up was the fish farm, a church-led income-generating initiative for the community called the Neema (Grace) Project. The idea did occur to me that we could start a fish farm in our basement, but seriously, there is lot of potential for fish farming projects on the islands.

We drove out to some land that the church owns and would like to see used for something "good." One interesting possibility is a tree farm and nursery, particularly for Moringa trees. We visited the home of one of the pastors interested in a stoves project. He has already built his own more efficient stove out of mud and he and his wife were very interested to hear about the work we have done with stove projects. By this time it was getting late and was now dark (not a good time to be driving on the rough roads across the island!) and we were all getting rather hungry again. So we had to stop the tour and head back to our guesthouse where after a rather long wait (Louisa asleep at the table!), we had tilapia and chips on the beach.

The Fish Farm (Neema "Grace" Project)

Walking to the church land on the lake
Visiting church land, thinking about potential projects
After that rather late night, we were up at the crack of dawn to try and catch that ferry ...

The ferry looked pretty full even before the trucks got on... Bishop Charles and the Ukerewe pastors were doing their best to pull strings, and we were given a 50/50 chance of getting on. It was a good time to do a bit of shopping there at the lakeside; a few mamas were there in the early light selling piles of fruit. Bishop Charles bought us a huge bag of oranges for 3000Tsh (£1.30) and I bought some lovely big mangos!

After a sleepy wait, we were given the thumbs up! But it looked completely impossible. The Coca-Cola truck was off to the side now ... we were glad it was so big that it clearly couldn't get on. Tim turned to reverse the vehicle onto the boat, but then as he went for it, was told to go back and get out of the way. To our chagrin, the smaller vehicle behind us was waved on instead. But it was ok ... they had realised it would fill a little hole before us. Tim got back in position and as Phil, the girls and I watched, he rather skillfully managed to manauever into an impossibly tight spot!
Tim reverses on as we say our goodbyes
Then there was a loud honk and we turned and were amazed to see that the large Coca-Cola truck was actually driving on! We then realised that while we had been watching rather incredulously, we hadn't thought about how we would then embark with all the cracks filled. We had a very tight squeeze to pass with our backpacks between the vehicles to get out of the way of the oncoming truck! We clamoured over the frozen fish sacks and baskets of oranges to a wobbly ladder and all climbed up to the deck above. Then looking down, we realised that Tim was stuck. He had no room to open any door! He climbed into the back to try and get out the rear doors, but with the fish and oranges there was no way of opening that door either. Phil climbed back down to rescue him. With the help of another guy they budged the huge sacks just enough for Tim to squeeze out!
We realise Tim cannot get out!

Phil to the rescue

Nowhere to move!!

Result! Tim squeezes out!
The whole journey was a squeeze. Squeezing through a tight stairwell to find a way to stand. Squeezing between so many people to find a place to stand at the railing on deck. There were no seats left. There was no room to move! While happily relieved to be on the ferry, the thought did cross our minds that this ferry was seriously overloaded and it was no idle check to see where the lifejackets were stored! But we survived, and we even managed maandazis and chai in our squeezed vertical positions.
Three and half hours is long time to stand up ..
the girls get the books out on the ground!
Phil squeezes through the stairwell
Hot on deck ... but see the Coca-Cola truck?
Three and half hours later, we squeezed our way through the scrum, managed to get Louisa down the ladder with us amidst the pushing throngs of passengers! And we came off with the cow.

You can just Phil making his way down the ladder

Louisa walks warily past the cow!
It was a really productive and encouraging trip albeit rather a squeezed and busy time!

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