Truly, I suggest that you read this in installments. I am sorry; I have yet to master brevity.
Wow, have I really been gone for almost a month!?!? Time is flying by, and yet it all moves soooo S-L-O-W-L-Y. Oh, I have so much to share!
First off, I hope that everyone had a wonderful 4th of July. Mine was totally random and fabulous in its own quirky sort of way.
Since I last left off things at Mama K’s went from manageable, to great, to horrible and now everything has calmed down. Where to begin? Well, on Wednesday after I posted my last blog I came home to yet a new face in the house! Was it going to be good or another totally awkward surprise? To my delight it was a GREAT surprise. My mama’s oldest daughter, Patricia, had come in from Dodoma. She is 24 and I don’t think that she speaks much English, but she is FANTASTIC. She laughed her ass off when I tried to speak Kiswahili, but it was in a much more loving and “awww, how cute” kind of way then any that I have yet experienced. Mama busted out the camera and took all types of pictures and it was great. I can not even begin to describe the total hilarity that life quickly becomes when your Mamma Jamma is standing over you, whilst you and all of your new brothers and sisters are eating dinner, with a camera held up to her eye zooming in and out like a person who only uses a camera on very special occasions, meanwhile you are sitting there eating ugali (this crazy semi solid, non-tasting bread like mixture) with cooked okra that is the consistency of snot, with your hands, looking like a total fool…what do you do? Do you stop and look up and smile? Do you just pretend that she isn’t there? Or do you just bust out laughing because it is all too crazy to even begin to process. I busted out laughing, which was the perfect que for everyone else to cut through the crazy tension building up. Oh it was fun.
On Thursday I have no idea what I did, that feels like a million years away. Somewhere in there Patricia and Patrick left to go back to work and school and I was left here with Priscilla and on Friday Mama K’s sister and her two younger kids came. Initially, I was thinking that I would love Mama’s sister because she seemed to be just as scared of her as I was. That might be true, but on Saturday night I sat in my room and listened to Mama’s sister and my Bibi sitting outback, cooking dinner and totally talking 2 hours worth of crap about me. Man, I don’t think that I have ever felt my blood pressure rise that much. I was so hurt and angry and ready to rip into everyone, so I decided to sing out my frustrations. It was fantastic. They didn’t know what in the hell to do with all of that, and I could really care less what they had to say about me after that. When they were sitting around talking a bunch of crap about me (like how it’s crazy that I love chapatti and that I drink beer, and how they don’t understand why I am here and how stupid I must be to know be proficient in Kiswahili) I thought that my Mama was sitting out there with them and it was really bumming me out, to say the least. Well, I found out that Mama wasn’t even here, she was in town at a meeting. Let me just say, the amount of relief that I felt when I realized that she wasn’t there makes me love her from now until the end of time. Seriously, the next day I gave her a big hug and just smiled. She really is a great person, I just need to be less intimidated by her.
So, that has been the news on the home front. On Sunday morning everyone left and now life is back to normal. I have been able to spend some time talking to Myjuma and that is always great! I actually have her one of my bracelets last night when we ate dinner together.
News in the classroom: Well, Neema is now really just a good friend and no longer our teacher. My Kiswahili skills have come to an abrupt halt. Shit. Last week we had a really long conference with a Tanzania doctor about HIV/AIDS medications and it was long and totally tedious. This is information that is not important and pretty hard to understand in English, let along English with a Tanzania accent…yikes.
On the 4th Meesh organized a sports day for everyone and it was perfect. We had a relay race, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and soccer. Teams were predetermined at random and everyone had a few Tanzanian Peace Corps workers on it. Oh man, it was so funny. First we all sang the National Anthem to a flag that one of the PCTs brought with them (thanks Greta!), then we all took part in a relay race that involved a raw egg, spinning, dressing in hats and kongas, running backwards with buckets of water and throwing a Frisbee. I must insert here that the Tanzanians had never heard of a relay race before, and we have a whole slew of neighborhood kids and adults watching all of us crazy people in the middle of nowhere running around with raw eggs screaming…Needless to say, it was a great success, not only the relay race, but the whole thing. At the end we amassed a HUGE tug-of-war and everyone was pretty pumped up. Just as we started pulling on the rope we all heard a huge SNAP and everyone fell flat on their asses, because the rope broke in half. Hahahaha, apparently you can’t tug-of-war with a rope that has been tied together, Well, you live you learn, and everyone ends up with grass on their ass. (I would say that at this point all of the Tanzanians think that we are totally insane, but they are loving it just as much as we are).
On Sunday I did my laundry and then headed over to my friend Sarah’s house to pike her up so that we could go and learn how to make Keki (cake) at Mama Kondo’s. When I got to Sarah’s her mom, Mama Haule, was happy to see me, so we danced a little in her living room (if that is what you want to call it). Mama Haule has 4 house gilrs, who for some crazy reason love me and they always ask Sarah to bring me over, so just as we were about to leave the house girl Winnie asked me to come back the next day for dinner! Oh man, I love Tanzanians! I mean I can’t really even have a conversation with you, but you want me to come for dinner, which really just means that you will have to do more work and cook more food…how more unbelievable could a person get? Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is some raw humanity there.
All of my CBT met at Mama Kondo’s to learn how to make chocolate cake over a charcoal grill, well it’s what they use as a stove/oven/all purpose food cooking, but it’s basically a grill. Let me tell you, that was the most satisfying cake that I have ever made! Yeah, it was a little burnt, nope we didn’t have frosting, sure it was cut up in little squares within 10 minutes of coming off the grill and totally gone after 30 minutes, but man it was good. Not only was the cake awesome, but so was the view. Mama Kondo lives on the top of the hill and she has this great back porch/brick patio that they do everything on. By everything I mean cook, converse, listen to the radio, watch chickens poop, and look out over the back of the mountain into the valley below. It is totally amazing (random fact, Mama Kondo has 160+ chickens, some cows, dogs, a cat and no sheep, even though Kondo is Kiswahili for sheep, hahahahaha). We also managed to have a little dance party to “Regina, Regina” some Kiswahil song that we have changed the words to so that they are now “Sambusa, Sambusa” (Sambusa is a crazy breakfast food/mini pie). Meesh’s million brothers and sisters and house girls loved our crazy Mazungu dance party, lets just say that we all made some new friends, and her little brother Aphise, who is 11, might have a crush on me, but he could just be using me because I let him play games on my cell phone…
After we made cake Sarah and I left to go to town and grab some lunch and a few beers with some of our other friends from villages farther out of town. We snagged our friend Luke and then headed over the DANGEROUS BRIDGE to meet up with the rest of the Magomeni CBT (Katie, Katherine- who is totally my cousin Liz, Teri and Kori) and attempted to climb one of the many mountains. Well, we got about ½ way up before the pathway ran out and we had to go back, but it was fun to go on a Safari after drinking a few Safaris, and to get another totally amazing view of the whole town. The bush did get a little prickly, but we were all totally fine, plus it was a BEAUTIFUL day, so what else are a bunch of 20 year olds going to do?
After pseudo mountain climbing we made our way back to the bar and things spun rapidly out of control.
We ran into some of the Language and Cultural Facilitators (LCFs) who may have had a few to drink and just had to laugh at their serious misuse of American slang…oh it was classic. I will say that my Kiswahili is at its best after I have had a beer, and I totally told a man in Kiswahili that he had blue eyes (as if he didn’t already know…) and that earned free round! Score. Note: If you are sure that you are safe, always bust out sweet Kiswahili skills, it could earn you free beer. Suddenly it was dusk and a whole gang of PCVs had amassed. My friends from Magomeni had a really long walk home and I was getting worried but then Parsons (Mama’s secret lover) swooped in, never missing a beat- or a beer at Jema View Point, and ended up driving them home…in his Barbie sided Honda. Hahaha! I may have has too much fun, and probably won’t be drinking that much whilst in Kilsosa again, but I really had to vent some frustrations that were still lingering from listening to my Bibi and Aunti saying all of those mean things about me the night before. No worries, I made it home safe and sound, Cheeki Manfred, the organ player at the church, who’s wife works at the prison, rode his bike next to me while I walked home, just to make sure that I made it home safe, thus is the Tanzanian way.
Today the new PCV of the week came. His name is Rashaad and he lives in the “deep south” of Tanzania. He pretty much didn’t know what to do with himself when he came to our classroom on Monday morning to find a bunch of ½ sleeping, totally slap happy crazy girls sitting around, attempting to learn Kiswahili but really just laughing at all of the craziness of the day before. (i.e. I told them how on Sunday morning I woke up and looked out my back window, and to my great surprise was oh so blessed to see, not a full moon, but close- my Bibi, totally naked, sitting on the chicken coop stoop, bathing her blind self…! Yes, that happened). After we sat around for a while, we went to our usual 10 am Chai and then came back to class, all took naps, went to lunch, chilled out and learned a little and then we all headed over to Sarah’s house to watch her get her hair did at Mama Haule’s.
It was fun, we all sat around and watched the sun set and Rashaad came over because Mama Haule is his host Mama from last year. It is really inspiring to see the people who have only been here for a year be able to sit and chat, kind of, with the locals in Kiswahili…someday! After a few hours of tedious hair braiding we all drank sodas c/o Mama Haule and then we had dinner! Totally impromptu for most of the gang but you can never go and visit a Tanzania and not eat food, it just doesn’t work that way.
After dinner, I was escorted home by Rashaad, Amy (the other PCV of the week) and Mary. We gotto my house and Mama invited everyone in for a hot second and somehow Rashaad managed to arrange a dinner for all of us on Wednesday! Hahaha!
After everyone left I started working on some Kiswahili and now I am here, wondering what in the world happened last night, how come I suck at Kiswahili and how did I end up with such a sweet life? : ) It’s good!
One month! Woohoo! And, another fabulous day in the life of this Tanzanian girl. To start the day, I had a fricking omelet for breakfast, come on- sweet life in the mansion! Then I walked to class and ran into none other then Cheeki Manfred himself, yes that is really his name, and I do suggest that you say it aloud because it is worth hearing! Anyway, Cheeki was on his way to buy come mchele at the market so that his wife could cook breakfast (mchele is just uncooked rice). After a little run in with Cheeki I made friends with a primary school teacher and did a lot of Kiswaenglish speaking. It was a good way to start the day.
We were only in class for like ½ n hour, enough time to do absolutely nothing, when Big Boy (on of the LCFs) and his CBT rolled up to pick us up and drive us over to Magomeni, where we meet with a few other classes and spent the whole day with one of the Peace Corps Medical Officers cooking authentic Tanzanian food! We started cooking at 9:30 AM and finally sat down to eat, on our straw mats, at 1:45. DAMN, cooking is one hell of a process! We cooked ugali, rice, beans, spinach, tomato/onion salad, pilipili- a hot sauce, and chapatti (and meat, but I had nothing to do with any of that so I am not counting it!).
The whole day was hilarious, with little construction, little/no direction and a whole bunch of kids sitting around while about 5 of us really cooked while the Tanzanians tried to instruct us, it was nothing short of totally shagabagala- chickens pecking at the rice, flower from one side of the “yard” to the other, a lack of water, a crew of townies watching us and every hour or so one of the LCFs saying “ Okay now, who is in charge of ________” which hadn’t even been started yet.
When we finally sat down to eat, amongst charcoal ashes, chickens and cucumber peels, we were all so hungry and tired that it didn’t really matter. I totally feel confident in my cooking skills, but defiantly learned today that I will not be cooking anything to that extreme ever again. No, never.
After cooking and eating, talking and playing we went back to the classroom to “process the day.” Which basically means that we sat around until Neema said that we could leave. Then I met some super sweet tailor women who work in town and they yelled at Rasheed for teaching me what a wowowo is (it’s Kiswahili for a big ass). It was pretty funny, I think I am going to try to talk to them everyday because they know that we are just learning and they like to force us to speak Kiswahili- which I need right now.
After that I came home and chatted with my Meema! (and I apologized for being totally out of it when she called on Sunday night…sorry again mom!) and then I went out and talked with my Mama for a while. Today was the first day that I made her crack up because I knew what kiti moto was (it’s pork) and she though it was great that because I didn’t know how to say pig I just used the term kiti moto!
Tonight’s gourmet dinner featured rice, okra, mchicha and fresh picked papaya. (Mama and Myjuma also eat ate a fish, including the head, and I learned not to ask if the fish was good because then they will try to make you eat it…hahaha, no thanks, not when I can still see it’s smiling face). After dinner I tried to make conversation with Myjuma which is probably the most crazy thing ever for her because I look like a grown up and sound like a fricking 5 year old. Yes, I did ask her if she had to feed the pork tonight, because I still don’t know the word for pig. I should probably work that out…soon.
Anyway, tomorrow night we are having everyone over for dinner and drinks and my CBT is pretty pumped to come over to the mansion of awkwardness and share in my solitude, it’s like a mini vacation from constant staring. I am excited for everyone to come and hope it is a great success.
Aside from having a dinner here tomorrow, I also need to find all of the ingredients to make a chocolate cake for Thursday at MATI for the whole PCT crew and my CBT needs to finish yet another song (the Tanzanians have been requesting an encore performance from Manzesa A), and we need to do some presentation about cultural matters...oh and I need to learn some more Kiswahili and mail some letters and hey, post this blog! Haha, strange how no matter where you are there is always a list of things to do.
Things in the mansion of Mama K are getting better all of the time, and I am so glad that I am here. In so many ways I am starting to understand how I ended up here, and I am happy, even if it wasn’t very easy to get to this place in my heart.
Life is beautiful and I miss and love you all. Thank you so much for the comments! Keep posting them, it means the world to me to know that you’re reading and traveling along with me!
July 9th and 10th, 2008
So, the internet wasn’t working today when I went to post this journal, and if it wasn’t already long enough, I decided to make it longer. What can I say? Writing is my release.
I promise, if you keep reading you will be entertained (because this is my flipping life in Africa, duh!...emphasis on the sarcasm which, FYI is lost in translation between me and the Tanzanians).
I can’t even believe that yesterday was an actual day in my life. It was totally ABSURD for soooooooo many reasons. First of all, I went to school, nope, that’s really not to crazy, basically the norm in my life these days, waking up at 6 am under my blue mosquito net, to the sound of dogs getting ready to kill each other so that they have something to eat while Myjuma pours water from one bucket to the next, to the next, to then dumps it on the ground and then starts all over again- what in the world she is doing with all of that water at 6 AM is still a mystery…
ANYWAY, I went to school and we actually spent the morning doing some Kiswahili exercises, and then we went to Chai at 10. I was thinking that we might actually have a day that was productive, but I was wrong. After Chai I went to the post office with Sarah while Mary, Meesh and Laura went to the bank to change money, and Neema went to the classroom. When Sarah and I got back to the classroom nobody else was there so we sat around and waited for the gang, who rolled up just a few minutes later. But where was Neema?
Oh life’s great daily mystery. Where could she be? We all went and did random things and all that she had to do was walk back from K Town, in theory she should have been waiting for us. Taking into account that she does walk at ¼ the speed that we walk and the fact that we never have any idea what in the world she is doing, we decided to just chill out and wait for her. Mary went inside her house (because our school is basically at her house) and took a little nap and when Neema came back we decided to start working on our presentation for MATI day (the next day). We came up with this totally out of control magazine, that was neither P.C. nor really informative, but it took us all the way until lunch to do.
At lunch we split up because ½ of the group wanted “kiti moto” (pork- which is like asking for drugs because there are so many Muslims) and Sarah, Laura and I don’t eat meat. So, we went our own ways and ate lunch and my gang got back to the classroom to find it was still void of other human life. We decided it was a perfect time to take a little nap, and about 20 seconds from me reaching REM I got a phone call from Neema which went something like this:
Neema: Where are you?!
Me: We went back to school
Me: We went back to SHULINI
Me: WE ARE IN THE CLASSROOM
Neema: We have NGO meeting!
That was when she ran out of phone credit. About 20 minutes later I got a message from Meesh saying that we needed to go back to town and meet at Mama Kondo’s Duka. So, I woke up Laura and we shook Sarah out of her serious nap time, and we all ran up to Mama Kondo’s shop. When we got there everyone was waiting., including all of the other CBT group and the people from the NGO. Um yeah, thanks for the for the warning guys!
So, we had a meeting with this totally random NGO in the back alley way with a big ol’ Mama, who seriously scares me with her huge red eyes, and crazy no bra wrap around purple satin top. It was ludicrous. Not only that, but also the fact that Mary, Meesh and Neema never actually got to eat their kiti moto because it took so long to cook they had to wrap it up in newspaper and throw it into a black plastic bag, and they brought it to the meeting! Oh man.
After the meeting, we went back to class and by then it was 4 so we just finished our presentation and the cranked out a song for MATI day. It was “Oh MATI Day” to the tune of “Oh Happy Day.” What can I even say about that? Nothing.
After the song, I went home to help cook food for the feast that was to be had at my house. I didn’t do much, just sat out back with a mortar and pedestal the size of my conga drums and smashed up herbs for the rice (and built up my ever growing right arm muscle). A little while later (AKA after a few beers at Jema) the rest of the gang rolled up in classic form. Mama K put on some sweet American hip hop and everyone drooled over my mansion. Seriously, I do have it sweet here. Then we sat and had a beer and laughed and chatted it up until Rashaad made his way up the mountain to my house. He spent some extra time at the bar and I can’t even believe that he made it. It is a good thing that my Mama is in love with him (I think all Tanzanians are because he is a black American man, who doesn’t want to be that?). He brought the ridiculous with him. He made a big show about himself, talked to my Mama’s son on the phone, drank too many beers and then we all feasted on a lot of GREAT food (The spread included spiced rice, chipsi, mchicha, scrambled eggs, meat, pilipili, and oranges! I know, I am being totally spoiled). Parsons also showed up to eat, drink and be merry, and listen to us girls sing our crazy “Oh MATI Day” song.
Around 9:30, which is seriously late here, Mama decided that everyone needed to go home and that Parsons would drive everyone in her car. So, they all piled high in the car and Mama, Myjuma and I sent them on their merry way. As they started driving down the hill I went to close the gate, this huge iron gate with crazy poker spikes on the top, and I heard an awful noise. To my surprise I was holding ½ of the gate (which is at least 100lbs.) because IT BROKE OFF…really, this is true,
So, not only was my home in total shambles, my friends drank every beer in the house, there was a pile of dishes worth at least 2 hours of work, but I had somehow managed to break off half of an iron gate.
This is how I know that Mama K really is golden. She didn’t even flinch, or freak out, or yell, she just laughed her ass off and helped me move the broken gate. Thank GOD she is really that cool.
So, the day was a great success. Meesh offended ½ of a mom’s club by brining pork, Mary’s little sister Zena came back to Mama Chacha’s house, Sarah rocked out her newly wrapped hair did, Laura looked up the word midget in the Kiswahili dictionary, and I broke a wrought iron fence with my single bare hand.
Today was much less eventful. We went to MATI day, saw all of our long lost friends, sang our song, learned about gender roles, drank tea, go envelopes of “walk around” money, got our 3rd rabies shot, and basically just chilled out.
I came home really early tonight and chatted with Mama for a while. Seriously, she is amazing and I never knew it! She is in charge of 2 different women’s clubs, she works, she drives, she takes care of her mom, her kids and on top of all of that, she takes care of me! Yeah, I would say I have taken a total 180 from my first few days here.
Anyway, I ate the best fruit with dinner tonight and I cannot even begin to describe it or how amazing it was in every way possible. I will say that if you ever come to Tanzania you can try the BEST FRUIT EVER, and if you don’t come to Tanzania that’s okay, you’ll never have to know what you are missing! : )
So, I am really done now. I love and miss you all. Again. Today, and basically every day. Until next time, enjoy life on the other side of the equator while I check life out from over here, in Africa, under this totally different chunk of sky.
Peace and love!
Keep the comments comming, I love them!