June 30, 2008
So, I was having a thought as I walked home today. I never really told about my first strange and terrible night at the house of Mama Kabendela, and how I came to realize, within the first 20 minutes of meeting her that I would probably never come to love the women.
Let me start by prefacing this story with another story (hahaha, classic Margaret style, you have no idea how many times I have said that in the past three weeks!).
Well, during the first 5 days that I was in Tanzania I was with all of the other PCTs, we had some training together, had some Kiswahili together, ate together, drank together and basically just hung out. When we arrived in Ilonga, a village near Manzesa, we got off of the bus to a whole slew of Tanzanians who were singing and dancing as a celebration of our arrival (We danced with them a little bit, and a few PCTs were so brave as to join the circle, but it was just a bunch of wazungu looking lost…really, I would say Classic Kodak moment). Then, we ate some food and went to our MOUND of luggage where site announcements for Cultural Based Training (CBT) would be held and we were given the name of the people that we would be staying with. I sat on my bags and waiting with more uncertainty then I have ever felt wondering, imagining, pretending that the rest of my day would not be something crazy and strange. Well, when Josh announced that I would be staying with a Ms. P. Kabendela I initially imagined a young skinny lady, living alone with a house full of kids. To my surprise I was more then 100% wrong, which I have come to find, is actually possible. After sending all of my friends away to their respective new homes, my CBT (myself, Laura, Meesh, Mary, Sarah and the LCF Neema) and I sat in a field waiting for a truck to come back, and pick us up, and take us to our new homes. About 2 hours later we piled the truck high with our belongings, hopped in and made our way over to Manzesa A. When we got here I saw this really old lady standing on the corner and a bunch of kids surrounding her, and I got really excited- Was that my Mama?!?!? (Feeling much like the bird in “Are You My Mother”)
No, that was not my Mama.
We proceeded to make our way past the houses with thatch roofs, past the children playing in the road, past the pig pen, past the outdoor choo, past everything Afrika to a huge cement house with an almost eerie gate and a nicely washed black car in the driveway. I imagined getting out of the car and having a bunch of my new little siblings running out to greet me and my mama coming out with a huge smile on her face and her arms open waiting to hug me and say WELCOME! It must have been the crazy water at Ilonga, probably some left over LSD in the cup or something because that is just a really really really funny dream now.
First of all, nobody even came outside when we pulled up. By nobody I mean the man who drove us there had to yell “HODI, HODI MAMA KABENDELA!”- Which means, hey dude, can we friggin come in?!? Then she came out. I knew almost instantly that the next 10 weeks were going to be much more real then the crazy dreams I had been having. First off, she was wearing something that my own mother would wear. This is not a bad thing, in fact it’s a great thing except for one small fact, I AM IN AFRICA, women are usually wearing multi colored mismatched fabric that makes no sense at all and that mainly looks like a crazed sheet which one can only fathom trying to wrap around your body and make it stay on your body. Anyway, she didn’t hug me, she didn’t smile, she didn’t help me figure out what the hell I was going to do with my bags, or were to put them or give me any clue as to what I should be doing. No, she corrected my Kiswahili. I tried to tell her what my name was and I said lako instead of langu and she corrected me. Our first interaction…how could I ever forget. About 5 seconds later I turned around to watch the car pull away and all of my friends leave me in the Castle of Mama K.
Anyway, after letting me look like a total idiot she yelled for Myjuma to come and help me with my bags and then proceeded to show me around the house, my room, the choo, the bath, the chicken coop, the kitchen. About 15 minutes later Jumapili, one of the Peace Corps workers, came over with money. Yes money, a whole envelope of it. This was, as I will always recall, the first time that I saw Mama K smile. Hahaha, oh I love how no matter who you are, or where you are, money will always get even the toughest of tough to smile.
After some water and strange silence Mama K gave me (on a loan, which I just found out because she recently took it back) a konga to wrap around my waist so that she could drag me over to her neighbors houses…what the hell. All they did was laugh at how I knew no Kiswahili and wonder why I was staying with Mama K, who is their neighbor, but in totally non-Tanzanian style, not their friend. Dinner the first night was so totally awkward that I have actually erased all traces of it from my memory. What I can recall is telling Mama K that I don’t eat meat and terribly offending her because she has killed a pig for me…well, all I can say is that I feel really sad for the pig. At some point during my first evening one of Mama’s brothers came by on a motorcycle to say hello and laughed at me some more, and I was also forced to talk with Mama’s son, Patrick (age 19), and one of her daughters, as well as go and meet Bibi, who lives in a room in the house but is sick, blind and totally dying, and yet still able to laugh at the stupid white girl living in her home. Grrrrrrrrrrreat!
The next morning I just wanted to get the hell out of the house and get to school so that I could see my friends, but that was almost impossible to do ASAP because Mama decided that it would be a FABULOUS idea to take me to the hospital and show me off to all of her co-workers, who also just laughed in my face. Thank you Mama K for showing me your real true colors, I now know what to expect- feeling stupid for the next 10 weeks.
So, that is the story of the first ½ of a day with Mama K. The sick and twisted irony of this tale is that I was sooo excited to get home from school today and write about it, I mean I really was thinking that I was getting into a routine, that I knew what to expect. Lesson learned, It’s never what you expect. Today I got home and there was a girl in the driveway, I thought it was Myjuma (who I have been bonding with so much over the past few days), but it wasn’t. Oh no. It was Mama’s daughter, Pricilla, and hey guess what! Yet another surprise, he son Patrick is also here AND Bibi actually came out of her fricking bedroom AND one of the neighborhood ladies that Mama works with was also around…what the hell?? 2 weeks of almost solitude and now THIS. Just when I thought that we were getting into a routine.
Mama K, Patrick, Bibi and Mama’s friend-Margaret, all sat outside with me and laughed at the fact that I still couldn’t keep up with their Kiswahili, then I was scolded for going out with my friends after class…sorry I missed the memo that I suddenly turned 15 again and had to come home right after school to do my homework…Then I went inside and chatted with Patrick for a while. He speaks a little English, AKA when I am talking to him in my native tongue I say words slowly and repeat a lot and try to use small words, which would be nice if they did the same for me, but whatever. After that I did some homework and felt like a wretched fool for not sitting with everyone, but one can only take so much. Then Patrick and Pricilla prayed the Our Father, Holy Mary, Lords Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed in English and Kiswahili and then we ate- which was worse then my actual first dinner here because Mama was totally horrible to Myjuma the whole time and I really despise that, especially because Myjuma is the only person who has shown me any care or concern in the last 2 weeks, or even tried to really get me to speak Kiswahili or sit with me in silence and just smile at the stars. Yeah, I must say I cannot stand how Mama treats Myjuma.
After dinner I went to bed and called it a night. Thank god, or Mother Nature, or the divine powers that be that I have finally met the whole damn fam and never have to have ANOTHER 1st dinner.
Ah yes, a new month! After last night’s “adventure” into the unknown and totally strange I have come up with a long list of assumptions that I have made about Mama Kabendela. After thinking it over for a while I have decided to leave this list out, actually I wish that I could erase it from my mind because I really want to like her, but she is just not what I had bargined for- however, as Meesh said today, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Which is so totally true, so for now I will stop feeling sorry that I am not living in a situation that I had imagined, I will suck it up and smile because, well I am living- in Afrika, and I am truly loving every second of my life- even the seconds when I am being laughed at because I have no idea what the hell is going on!
In other news, the CBT of Manzese A took a little “after school trip” to see our friends in Magomeni (I really don’t think that is the correct spelling), and after a short walk over the Daraga Hatari- DANGEROUS BRIDGE- and a long walk down a new road, we made it to their classroom, walked around the village, meet some peoples Mamas and Dadas and Kakas, and managed to squeek in a few fresh mangos. Oh it was fun. First off, Magomeni is totally different even though its only 30 minutes away. The town is really small, the market is much more cool, the people are all smiling and trying to help the white kids learn Kiswahili and it’s really flat. Random, I know, but it really is much more flat then Manzesa. So thanks to Korie, Katie, Teri, Luke and Caitlin for letting us come and adventure into the previously unknown. It was great to just get the heel out of Manzesa/Kilosa Town and see something much more like the village that we will soon be living in!
Other highlights of the day include:
A nap on a wooden futon shaped couch (with no cushions).
A visit from the Peace Corps Medical Officer, Karen, who dropped off self-test malaria kits, talked about medical situations and gave us candy- like real candy, not Biggie G (really popular and terrible Tanzanian bubble gum).
Today I also managed to get the end of a Q-Tip broken off inside of my ear…hahahahahaha. Thanks to Sarah and some sweet tweezers it is now out.
Neema hurt her leg on the choo and went to the hospital, but didn’t want to wait in line, so she came back to class.
And I gave some chocolate to Husseni, the little boy who always meets me at the end of my block and walks me home.
Basically it was a good day. Meesh is sick and I am sending her healing vibes right now. Laura might actually get to meet her Mama, who has been in Dar the whole time that we have been here. Sarah is just Sarah and I love her! And Mary is still staying with Mama Chacha wishing that Zena, the little girl who was there the 1st week, would come back so that she could have someone to play with!
Life is good and it’s getting better all of the time. Right now I am sitting in my room listening to Mama K talk with Patrick while Myjuma does all of the dishes and some crazy dog chews on a bone below my window. Oh, I can’t wait until I really have my own house, my own piece of this truly beautiful country! Which reminds me, on Sunday a group of us are planning to walk up the mountain that is outside of our classroom, I am sure that hilarity will ensue.
So, until next time, enjoy the 4th of July you Americans you. Burn things and blow things up, and be happy for the life that you have. I will be tipping a few back from 8,000 miles away feeling a new sense of American pride starting to ripen within me.
As always, peace and love, and let me know that you read this by posting a comment! Just do it, it will take no more then 2 minutes : )