Friday, January 24, 2014

Out Of Africa

I fly to warm, muggy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and immediately set on feasting on mangoes, pineapples, zambarao and plums that are in season; ahhh, what delight, but promptly get a bellyache and the runs. Dar now resembles mini Mumbai in filth, minus the curs; haphazard construction, rowdy, snarled traffic and backed up sewer lines that leaves a pong strong enough to curl my toenails. I meet grumpy old Mullah Mchungu and he is full of usual complaints: whines about DSM Jamaat accounts not prepared on time, moans that his undies are all wet because the AC at Jooma / Zohrain is switched off, the kutba is agonizingly long...I escape from him as quickly as I politely can. He may have a point about the AC, however. I wonder; why have it off with a jam-packed mosque in peak summer heat but turn it on at magreebain? Ajeeb, no?

Murtaza Bhimani, Sadiq Meralli and I fly to Zanzibar next day where we distribute CAI sponsored school desks sitting over 1,200 plus poor children who currently sit on dirty floors while studying; what a wonderful experience. CAI takes on another refurbishing project for a dilapidated wing of a local school at a remote village and the completion of a medical clinic sponsored by BETA Charitable Trust, UK. After feasting on Zanzibar mix and the super spread at Forodhani, we return to Dar and prepare for our trip to Liberia.

The flights that take us to Monrovia are via Nairobi and Accra, so it is with relief and bleary eyes when we land at chaotic Monrovia airport. Joining Murtaza and me in Nairobi is Nabeel Adamali; Sayyedna Muhammed Mussawi of WABIL and Abbas Jaffer, a CAI Trustee from NY arrive later that night. Unfortunately, Abbas comes without his luggage, misplaced on arrival due to chaos at the airport. We are guests of few Lebanese who run businesses in Liberia. We are housed in a scruffy apartment on a busy street of Monrovia, our home for the next three days.

Again, the experience of giving very poor children an opportunity at education cannot be captured in words. A modern school sponsored by CAI donors that will educate about 600 children is inaugurated and another school at Bo Watersite, some 60 miles from Monrovia is initiated; this should be ready by June insha’Allah. These poor children, some in rags literally, are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, with no education opportunities. Our schools will insha’Allah now provide them with this fundamental right for a better future.

Our hosts are full of gracious hospitality; the hunger pains of our last visit are forgotten as we are constantly fed. The hospitality is, at times, overdone. Especially for Abbas Jaffer. Our hosts, you see, are avid smokers so the apartment is cloudy with smoke whenever they visit. All of us, except Sayyedna of course, lose control and join in, puffing away in frenzy, as if our lives depend on the nasty habit. The place stinks, my clothes stink and I swear I can smell nicotine in the bathroom. One host takes a special liking to Abbas, offering him cigarettes, one after another and will not take no for an answer. If Abbas asks for a cube of sugar in his tea, he is ordered to have two. Poor guy, he looks to us in bewilderment for succor, but we are all full of mirth, offer him no help.

Sayyedna Mussawi and Abbas are supposed to depart one day before us but a series of mishaps keeps them around for another day. The hosts arrive late for the 3:30AM ride to the airport, some 45 miles away. The front door will not open so it has to be broken down, the vehicle going to the airport in thick fog runs out of fuel, a hard to find taxi replacement runs out of fuel as well; they miss the flight. A miracle occurs however, Abbas demands to be let in at the secure luggage storage room at the airport and recovers his unlocked suitcase, all contents intact.

Apart from the sense of great accomplishments at gifting the two schools to the poor children of Liberia, we gain much more from the companionship of each other and the wise leadership and counsel of Sayyedna Mussawi. He takes on giving short 10 – 15 minutes lectures after leading every salaat and we all learn a great deal from him. Why, this trip is a mini camp of accomplishments and learning!

A proud CAI / donor undertaking.

Please click here for some wonderful photos of our trip.