Monday, September 15, 2008

Did the tortuous really win the race??

Oh this week. Really? Really. Yeah, I am here and life is crazy. I guess good things first:
I am starting to feel at home! Not that Ikuna will ever actually be my home, but I totally pulled a Colleen Bidigare this week by washing all of my sheets and hanging them on the line to dry (as if there was another option) and then having the most amazing smelling, fresh sheet bed EVER! Ah, also I have started baking. Who would have thought that of all of the places in the world I would turn into my mother when I came to Africa! Haha, it’s all good. I am embracing it all the way. This week I baked brownies, which were a total failure, banana bread which was a complete success and a chocolate cake, which I gave to my favorites Malisalina and her 4 year old daughter Hefferitte. It was adorable; they didn’t know what to do with themselves.
Also, last night I saw the most beautiful African sky ever. It was dusk and I had gone over to the school to watch a soccer match between Ikuna and another village. The field is right about a huge valley and the sun, the color of burning coal, dark and orange, was setting over a distant mountain to my right as the moon, full as could be, was hanging high to my left, as if it were watching the sun set just waiting to let out it’s full effect. It was crazy beautiful.

Well this week has been very busy, entertaining, sad, and overall a whirlwind of adventure. On Sunday I went to church as usual. Then after church Mama Witi and myself went to the Masai Mamas house for lunch. The Masai house is totally sick (pimped out), with electricity, TV, glass windows, beer, a stereo, American music…the whole 9 yards. Mama Masai is named Dion and she is from Arusha, which is far from here, and she doesn’t know Kibena, so it’s something good that we have in common. She is sweet as pie and I think she’s about the same age as me. I told her that I liked her nail polish and she let me use to paint my toes. It was funny, a bunch of little kids watched and laughed at me. Anyway, Mama Witi and I had lunch with Mama Masai, who made me promise to come back on Thurday because that was when Baba Masai was returning from his safari.
I think I spent the rest of the day wandering around town with Mama Witi and reading. On Monday I went to the primary school in the afternoon to help Mama Witi and a bunch of other teachers cook food for the form 7 students, who had this huge, very important test this week and have been staying at school. It was quite an experience. First off, we got there at 2 and we cooked for about 6 hours. Yeah, it really takes that long. I sat there and talked with the teachers, who are pretty amused by my crazy non-conventional insanity (i.e. they questioned me about why I am not married and don’t have kids, and I said because I don’t want to be married or have kids which = a good hour of laughing at the crazy white girl). I sorted rice and beans and talked with some of the girl students who had come to help (really, only women cook here…). Around 4 or 5 they began killing the chickens, which is totally not my bag, and at that point one of the older men teachers asked me if I wanted to go for a walk with him. I was eager to get away from a bunch of dead chickens, so I took him up on the offer. He told me that hehas 16 kids and I laughed my head off because my grandma has 16 kids too and I had not met anyone with that many kids in Tanzania. Well, that was all good and well until he started hinting that we had some kid of “secret connection,” it was at that point that I decided to drop it likes its hot and get back to the women and the cooking. No problems, he wasn’t mad or anything, but I need to start doing a better job of going on excursions with women! Haha. Anyway, we finsished cooking and I stayed outside while all of the men inside got served food, then all of the boy children and then, finally- OUTSIDE, the women who did all the work were able to eat. Yeah, crazy. Oh Tanzania, why do you abuse your women so?
On Tuesday I thought that Mama Witi was coming over in the morning to go back to the school and cook for the next day, but an hour after she was supposed to show up, her semi-adopted daughter, Eliza ( who I adore) and her friend came to my house with a note from Mama Witi. It said (in Kiswahili of course):
I am not able to cook today. My sisters child has died suddenly in the night. Please come to the msiba(funeral) if you are able.

So, I fed Eliza and her friend half of the loaf of banana bread and headed out to the msiba. Yeah, well, I wasn’t prepared. Nope, not at all. First off, the baby was only 3 months old and really did die suddenly, like SIDS or something. Secondly, the body is laid out in one room where the close women family are allowed to sit and mourn- aka cry with their WHOLE bodies, shake, shout, scream…Because Mama Witi was so close to the family she was in that room and she came out and got me and had me sit in the middle of the room, right next to the grieving Mama, who ended up laying ½ in my lay crying and shouting “JAMANI, JAMANI” which means, “Oh god, oh god!” ….yeah, well I haven’t really broke down and cried since I got here and that was just one hell of a place to start the crying process. After a while of that I had to get up and leave. There was a burial,which I went to, and then a 2 day mourning process for the family in which the Mama doesn’t leave the house and everyone comes to visit her. It’s all really sad and I don’t want to get into all of the deep details of the reality of death here. It was overwhelming, but I am glad that I have the cultural experience…you know?
Anyway, on Wednesday I have no recollection of what I did. Haha. On Thursday I went to Mama Masai’s house to meet her husband and I ended up waiting for ever with Mama Anita, who is just a really crazy great funny Mama that wants to teach me Kibena. After a good 3 or 4 hours of baking in the sun Baba Masai came home and he as a bit more then I was excepting. First off, he is outrageously tall, people in Tanzanian are not tall- they are malnourished, I am a GIANT. This man was easily 6ft. Secondly, he knows English and he had a long list of demands from me, starting with, “You will bring electricity to this village.”HA! Why do I want to bring electricity to Ikuna? So you all can struggle to buy TVs watch “Americans” via horrid music videos? Yeah, I’ll have to think about that…However, he did give me a sweet light, which has come in handy the last few days. Crazy Tanzanians…got to love them with their outrageous demands.
This weekend has kind of been a blur. I have spent a lot of time with Mama Witi, she having problems with her feet swelling up to grotesque sizes so she isn’t really able to go anyway. She has also been teaching me a lot of Kiswahili, which I appreciate so much (and that’s why I buy her a huge bag of Mandasi..basically a doughnut…every time I go to her house). She is also the vice president of this group called ELIAJA which is all about teaching about health. It’s pretty exciting that a group has already been formed. They are all adults, a few doctors, and just good people from the community. They want to do some fun/informational events regarding Malaria, AIDS and TB…it’s cool I am REALLY excited to work with them. We had a meeting on Saturday and I think it will be a really successful go if everyone gets their crap together.
All in all, a solid week, and it’s already Monday of the next week…crazy, how does this happen?!?! I am planning to buy a bike today and ride it back to my village tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Missing everyone and loving life one little second at a time!


Mema said...

Okay - As your mother I have a couple of comments. First, don't go off on walks with strange men, second, please be careful riding a bike on the mountain roads (I am not convinced that Tanzanians know how to "share the road" with bikes, and third, glad you finally appreciate the fact that there is nothing like fresh bedsheets that have been hung out to dry. Clearly you are experiencing the sorrows and joys of your village. I realize more and more that you will never come home to us as the same young woman who left. What a wonderful experience this is for you. I love you, I am proud of you, and I miss you. Mema

_________________________ said...

Thanks Mom! I have a couple of comments too. First off, it wasn't a strange man, it was a teacher that I have meet a few times. Secondly, there really is not a road just some flattened dirt(!), but no worries. Third, I think I will come home a different person, but always with the same heart. I love you. thank you! (Also, mailed you something extra special today, you'll know when you get it but people e-mail when you do because I want to know how long it takes...!) Thanks!

Patty said...

Goodness, what an incredible education you are getting over there. I wish I could see the glorious sunsets! But as I have said before, I have grown accustomed to plumbing, and my husband actually lets me eat at the same time and at a table with him. I would miss that part. Discrimination exists everywhere I guess. I love how you do not judge, you just take it as it were that way and you will always be that way, which will keep you true to your soul. Love and peace...and please do be careful- not everyone has the same pure soul you do. Pat

Leslie said...

Hey there crazy white girl. (I've known that all along) It's great reading about your new life. It's interesting experiencing different cultures and how they do things. My sister had some amazing and strange stories to tell from the Philippines. (expecially funeral traditions) Forget the bicycle, get an old motorcycle. I think your mom would feel better about you sharing the road :}
Well kisses and a HUGE HUG
Aunt Leslie

Gretchen said...

Hi Margaret! (or Giant, Crazy, White Girl with painted toes!?)Heidi sent me the link to your blog and I've been catching up on your adventure - really, really great to read your commentary on the life there! Your writing makes me feel like I'm there - very realistic and you have a great knack for capturing human nature. I found this and thought it appropriate for you: They say "life is a journey." But you know what they don't say? It's a crazy, bewildering, mysterious journey...The journey is your very own. Everywhere you wander, you belong. And everyone who cares about you wants to come along.
Take care and know that there are many of us thinking of you!
Gretchen Miotto (Heidi's sister)

aunta said...

Oh Margaret,

So glad the mama with the souped up house had beer. That's always important. Happy Birthday to you (on Thursday, of course). We have a little something for you, but can pretty much guarantee it won't be there on time. I haven't mailed it yet. Oh and I think I have to agree with Aunt Leslie. A motorcycle would definitely be better.

Love and miss you,
Aunt Anne

Margaret said...

Hey family,
Well, I hate to break it to you but I'm not allowed to buy a motorcycle. Haha, PC says that I might get killed or something...Anyway, so glad to know that you guys are reading and enjoying. If anyone feels the need to come and investigate Tanzania first hand KARIBU! : )