Sunday, 13 November 2011

The land of two lunches and church-going livestock

This week was an exploration of being alone at site and getting to know my neighbors. And I’d rate it a success. Aside from my adventures running, I’ve been visiting my vill a lot. After a particularly long day at school last Friday, I swung by my favorite Mama there. I gave her this bracelet that I made and we chatted for a long time. I sat next to her while she sold fish, mangoes and onions and she cheered me up. It was great. Then, her friend, Mama Fatuma that runs the nearest mgahawa (lil cafĂ©) made me her concoction of chipsi mayai minus the chipsi with mangoes, tomatoes, onions and even maandazi (the Tanzanian equivalent of a donut). It was delicious. I’d already filled up about an hour ago on rice and beans at my school, but in Tanzania, you always find room for more. I think I’ve forgotten what hunger feels like in this country. The dish was made just for me, but I shared it with all of them and she kept adding other food like rice and more beans.

Next day, after my long adventurous run, I went to do errands in town before the sun set and shops closed. I arrived at Kassedy’s duka to find him spending time with his wife (to say that he was helping her do work is an over statement…he was more just company and a source of snippy remarks. It’s highly amusing.) So, he invited me for a soda and I spent the next half hour watching the locals by lots of phone vouchers, cigarettes, peanuts and fish while he chatted about life at school and here and the fam and all the other wonderful topics that seem to materialize. Afterwards, I dropped off onion bread at Mama Fatuma’s to give to Mama Diana and brought some kerosene on my way home. Before I reached home though, I biked to the mkuu’s and found Mama Msami doing obscene amounts of dishes. I chatted about her day while Happy, her lil daughter, attempted to ride my bike and ended up just falling into a large basin. Then, continuing home, I came across Mama Tom and Baba Tom (my neighbors) . We joked about how snazzy their nephew, DC (a student of mine) looked in his shiny silk, bright pink shirt and then Mama told me that I looked like a sharobaro with my skirt so long. Ooooooh Tanzania. They invited me for dinner, but I’d already cooked some beans so I passed. Then, as doing my dishes, I discovered that they were cooking nyama choma (grilled meat). OMG yum. So Mama tom offered to bring some and within an hour, her two sons were knocking with a dish full of meat. Delicious! I munch while I taught their oldest, Titus, how to use facebook and got him started on an account. Facebook + nyama choma….what else could one need?

This morning I went to church for the first time in Tanzania. I went with Mama Tom after my early monrning run and its was really nice. So nice in fact that a goat wandered in to the church (the doors were wide open) and several old ladies in the back had to shoo him out. All I could think was…”only in Africa…” The service took about an hour and a half, although they started a half an hour late. Later, I went to their house for lunch and watched some of the Expendables with them and their 9 year old son, Malasa while he demo’d his karate moves. He could probably be the next Jackie Chan. It’s adorable. I spent the rest of the day chatting on the phone, munching on biscuti (like cookies), and watching (500) Days of Summer. Later, I went and had a soda at my other neighbors, Shafii and we chatted about life in Tanzania. He’s the nicest old man who owns a really nice house here and another one in Arusha. Basically, he’s like the grandpa that I never had to spoil me. And I love it. His cook is super sweet too and I love chatting. The rest of the night I spent chatting on the phone and now, finally, I’m attempting to write my Form 3’s final. As you can tell by my blogging, it’s going well. : )

“All you gotta to is watch me, look what I can do with my feet”

Song of my week: Forever- Chris Brown (if only I could run to this song)

This week has consisted thus far of returning to site early Tues morning and sorting out how to cover the last bits of material I want to teach before composing the final. After finishing teaching this week, I decided to dedicate my life to running. And run I did. Ever since getting my Ipod stolen, I’ve had wavering feelings about getting my butt out the door to run. And those feelings basically made me reevaluate why I liked running so much. With an Ipod in my ears, I can drown out the whole world: Tanzania, my thoughts, the state of my body…everything. And its glorious because all you want sometimes is just not to be present…especially when your day usually consists of having to be extra present in even just normal conversation just to follow what is being said. However, through losing my Ipod, I’ve found a new appreciation for this passion that I’ve cultivated ever since high school. After about the first thirty seconds of jogging, exercise become passion and I just feel so happy with myself. It’s not the music, the world, or some other purpose that I feel this but the mere and complete satisfaction that washses over my body as I feel my feet pound the dirt and my muscles work in rhythmic, repetitive motion. It’s glorious and wonderful. I feel so me and I didn’t appreciate it before because I could drown out reality with my music. But when it’s just me and ground, a new passion arises and I discovered that 1) I run better because I’m more in touch with my body 2) I realize more of my surroundings and appreciate them more 3) I like running better without music. Because running becomes just that…running. No bother with words, songs, other’s laments about life…it’s just me. A happy me. I love it. On Saturday, fueled by one too many banana pancakes, I ran for 1 hour and 20 minutes and discovered the nearest village, Mulbadaw, that I’d been hearing about since coming to site but had yet to visit. I felt so strong throughout the whole run and afterwards, ready to go again. The next morning, that’s what I did. I woke up early and all I could think of was getting out the door. So, at 7:15, I stepped into a cloudy awaking world and pounded out 4 more miles. Beautiful. I like the world better before it wakes up.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How to Be a Genius In Tanzania…

Today, as I was getting a lift home from school with my mkuu, we passed by the center of the village. I hadn’t visited Mama Diana/Mary recently (she was previously my tomato mama, but now that mango season has started, she’s currently my mango and onion mama….so, anyways….). After the usual greetings, she told me to say hi to her friend, Mama Fatuma, whom she’d introduced me to last week. I headed towards the nearest Mgahawa and found her sitting there eating something that resembled the Tanzanian equivalent of fast food, chipsi mayai (this literally translates into fries and eggs…which is really all that it is….). But, this concoction was missing the “chipsi” part (the fries) and instead included tomatoes, mangoes and onions. Thinking it entirely odd that she was eating fruit and vegetables in was is basically an omelet, I inquired. First, she insisted that I taste it, then made me finish the rest. OMG was it good. I have no idea why no one has ever thought of doing that before but, holy crap, delicious! I immediately texted Huong (One the one who’s party we just had in Singida) telling her that we needed to add this to the list of “Things to sell late at night next to a college campus.” Between all the fried foods that Tanzanians make, chipsi mayai and this…I don’t think that I’ll ever need to find a real job. Now if only we could think of a clever name….

It’s all in the way that you mix the two….

This past week, after staying at site for, oh, a whole 2 complete days, I went to Katesh on Friday and then Singida. We were throwing a “Welcome Back, Huong” party for, well, Huong. : ) She’d been in the states for a month after having all her stuff stolen during training made her a little more than wary of living alone at site. She returned happy, healthy and which a crap-ton of new stuff. Woot woot! (and of course, this is the week that I get my Ipod stolen….oh, it just figures….) So, we started out mini bar crawl on Friday when we all met up. It was me, her, Justin and people from Singida, Dodoma and Kili region. Oh, the awesomeness of it all! We all bonded super well and the night even consisted of me and Justin starting a dance party on what was initially an empty dance floor during the song “Waka waka.”
The next day, after waking up late, running errands and hitting up the safi dukas (the nicer shops…which actually just resembled gas station convenient stores but here…that’s high class), we decided to have a picnic on the rocks. Complete with fresh baked rolls from the bakery, we made sandwiches of avocado, cheese (OMG Cheese!) and tomatoes and then loaded up on chips, mangoes and popcorn. The hike out to the rocks that over look the lake in Singida is about an hour and its definitely worth it. We even got to watch a rain storm in the distance that completely passed us by. As we ate, sunbathed and danced to some American tunes blaring from the Ipod and speakers we brought, happiness emanated. It was glorious. What a great great day. And, to complete it all, we got a bit lost on the way home and ended up taking the long way around. But, that’s kinda expected.
That night ended with 2 scrumptious cakes baked by Alana and Mel and decorated by yours truly and then a huge poster that we all signed. As the electricity fluctuated in the bar that night, we burst into bouts of “Happy Birthday” to Huong (there’s no well-known “Welcome back” song…) and enjoyed the bongo flava music blaring in the background.
*In case you were wondering, this title refers to the two different lives that I’m leading. Between traveling and making Katesh my second home and then returning to site to teach, I feel like I’m in 2 different worlds. Sometimes the change is nice, but the hardest part is switching between the two. After I get to one place, I’m happy. But the transition, ergh, it just makes me want to stay. However, without all this constant travel and stimulation, I think that I’d just end up going crazy. You can only take so much of Tanzania for so long before you need other white people. Wazungu, ninawapenda.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tunaomba pipi!!! (or “Trick-or-treat” in Kiswahili)

First, before I forget, I wanted to let my Aunt Donna know that I got 2 more of her packages (that makes 4 total at site…thank you! Thank you!) and the latest one, for Halloween, arrived at the post office right on the day of Halloween. It was great! Thank you for all the candy and games for the kids. I can’t wait to play games and give them the prizes : ).
As for updates, I spent last week at site arranging my house and organizing all of my stuff. I was able to move into the big room (since Charlotte left) and clean everything. It was wonderful. I saw Charlotte off to Singida and helped her bring her stuff there. I also got money from the bank and meet up with people from my region that were visiting Singida as well. It was a lot of fun. Then, the next morning I caught the earliest bus back to Katesh and made it in my 8:30. Me and Justin ran some errands before catching the 10:50 coaster back to my vill. I was so happy to get back to site and reclaim what is now my house and also to drag Justin along with me. Between Justin visiting and Charlotte being there, I’ve only spent maybe a total of 3 days actually alone (away from other Americans) at site. So this coming week should be a good adjustment for me. Luckily, I have some wonderful neighbors and I really love the other teachers at my school, so I guess I really never should feel actually alone.
Anyways, back to cleaning and organizing. I spent all of Sunday and Monday throwing things out, dragging furniture to new places and mopping/scrubbing the walls and floors. It was tedious and exhausting, but totally worth it. Justin took over the dishes those days too…which was awesome. Esp. considering his disdain for washing dishes. By Tuesday I needed to return to teaching, but leaving the house was a good change of scene. I taught one class tues, one wed and combined my classes on thurs so that way I could leave site early. The missionaries in Katesh were having a Halloween dinner that I did NOT want to miss. American food and candy? Yes, please!
So, back to my week at site. I put most of the furniture in new places, just so that the house could feel like my own and stuck only my bed, easel and a small table in my new, big room. I also put the big floor mat that I bought in Singida there because I was to be able to do pilates in that room. After scrubbing the walls, Justin helped me hang up the mosquito net and I put pictures and my homemade calendar up. It looks like my own space now and I’m so happy.
We spent a lot of the week cooking delicious food, including lots of breads. One Monday we made paneer using milk that I bought from my neighbor and then naan to go with it. It was awesome! I don’t even think I’d have been that adventurous in the States. Next day we made onion bread to go with a soup of beans and veggies and then Wednesday, Justin’s bday, I cooked mango bread in the morning and, at night, a vegan chocolate cake with homemade, not so vegan, icing. It was delicious!!! I even got my neighbors in on it and we went over to her house so that they could all sing Justin “Happy Birthday.” It was great. Thursday came up so fast. We were planning on taking the afternoon bus back to Katesh but, I talked with one of my fellow teachers who was making a trip in, so we bummed a liftie off him. I went to school early that morning to teach, only to find that my class was taken over by the history teacher. Since I had errands to run in town, I did those while I was waiting and, while visiting the duka for flour and rice, I ran into Mr. Kassedy who offered the liftie. So, I rushed back to school, taught for a little over 2 periods (2 periods is my usual class length…) and then they drove me back to my house. Justin was awesome and had cleaned everything up and organized all the dishes so I just threw my clothes in a bag and dashed to the car. I also took my easel along because I wanted to get it altered in town (it wasn’t tall enough).
In Katesh, we visited the bank where Kassedy joked, again, about me marrying one of the bankers. His name is Adam and he’s a teller at the bank. He’s a real sweetheart, and actually speaks English, although we usually talk in Kiswahili. But, mr. Kassedy thinks its really funny to joke about us eloping. It all began on one trip to the bank with him and my mkuu when mr. kassedy asked Adam if he was married and, when he said no, said that he could marry me. I joked along with it, because getting annoyed at things like that in Tanzania would just make life a whole lot more stressful, but a few days later, when I was really sick at home, Adam called me because Kassedy had given him my phone number. It was nice and all, but I wasn’t too crazy about Kassedy just giving my number out. So, back to the bank, again Mr. Kassedy joked about us getting married, and so I said “twende sasa hivi” (let’s go right now) so they would know that I was joking, and told him that dawry was 20 cows (an expensive rpice in this country). I said when he got them, he could send them home to my father (yeah…get excited about that dad…) and then we’ll arrange the wedding. So, yep, that was where it ended and now I’m avoiding the bank until I HAVE to go there. Although I don’t have ot worry about getting ignored or bad service there now though, which is nice I guess. Well see how long this joke lasts.
After grabbing lunch at the awesome rice and beans place, me and Justin napped and chilled until we decided on kiti moto (fried pork…which is delicious!) for dinner that night. OMG so good. Parents, I can’t wait till you visit because we are going there for sure. The next morning, people came in early, staggered by one and twos, of which Justin from Singida (Justin Q) was the earliest. We grabbed chai and then trekked out to mnada (the bimonthly flea market) to look for Halloween costumes for that night. I already had gotten a Tanzanian primary school kid’s sweater made a few weeks back. The sweater that you see all the kids wearing is the colors of the TZ flag. So, we searched the clothing piles for other’s costumes (someone was a panda, another was batman, wear’s waldo and someone was even a corn stalk) and I bought a school skirt to match my sweater. It reminded we of being back in grade school with uniforms when I put it on. So, around 5 we headed up the hill to the missionaries house and were met by an incredibly welcoming family and a delicious spread of appetizers. There was even cheese dip….oh! the rarity! So we spent about 5 hours eating homemade pizza, veggies and dip and way too much candy, as well as the best cupcakes of my life. One of the most fun parts was playing with their kids, who were probably about 8, 6 and 3. They were super cute and constantly eating candy. They know Kiswahili, but their English is perfect, so it was great because it was like being back home with American kids. I miss babysitting.
We got invited back the next day to watch Game 7 of the World Series, that Steve, the dad, was taping. We partied that night, woke up late the next day and then went back to their house around 3 the next day and watched some great baseball, ate hotdogs and more cupcakes and hung out. It was so much fun. Later that night, we visited Antonio (Justin’s counterpart) at his duka and visited with him. Antonio is by far one of my favorite Tanzanians : ). The next day, Sunday, Me and justin did the usual Sunday lunch at Antonio and his wife, Belle’s house. I taught Belle how to cook banana bread, and Justin brought a chicken and we had another awesome (albeit Tanzanian) spread of chicken, chapatti, rice, beans (she cooks amazing beans!) and cassava. I was stuffed yet again (third day in a row…oye) and around 4 or 5 we waddled back home. After a attempt at napping…which always turns into Justin napping and me just writing letters or going on line, we passed out early. Monday, my last day in Katesh, consisited of staying in bed till 1pm (gotta love Tanzania sometimes), eating fried eggs and French toast and running the last of my errands. I was super proud of us because we even made it on a run before the sunset. Dinnner was kiti moto yet again (I’m addicted!) and popcorn followed. So. Much. Good. Food. Site was looming overhead but, aside from winging what bus I’d catch in the morning, I was actually looking forward to some alone time and continuing to organize my house.
I headed to the standi early this morning (at 5:45am) and chose between either the cheaper bus or the faster coaster (I was going to go with whatever one actually had a seat …I hate standing for more than 30 minutes) and turns out the coaster had one right up front. The coaster actually left right after 6am, which was awesome, and I spent the first half of the ride listening to my ipod while watching multiple Tanzanian bibi’s (grandmothers) shoved their way on to and off of the coaster (a coaster is a small bus). I even witnessed one bibi literally climb OVER a man in the seat next to me to get to the aisle. Tanzanians are not very adept at moving orderly and making room, so its like a jungle getting in and out of those things. So glad that I had a seat. About 20 minutes before my stop, the conductor and the guy next to me figured out that I spoke Kiswahili and so we chatted about what I was doing in Tanzania, where I was from and what I’d do when I got back the states. The conductor didn’t like the fact that I was living alone in Mulbadaw and offered to come live with me. Yeah. Right. I told him I’d manage. : )
So, now, off to teaching and then some chores around the house. Hopefully I can fit another run in. It’s good to be back at site, especially with all this candy in the top drawer of my desk. I feel so spoiled. Thank you missionaries and Aunt Donna!!! You rock.
Siku njema na upendo sana wa Afrika! (Have a good day and lots of love from Africa!)