Friday, September 5, 2008

Life in the Big World of Tanzania!

So, as I was sitting in church today amoung the sea of multi colored-90s style, Jesus slogan fabrics of Tanzania I realized that I should probably try to give you a more accurate description of what my life in TZ really looks like, really feels like, really smells like. I guess it all occurred to me when a little kid walked to me with his JUST DO IT-NIKE sweater on that this was probably not what you have in your minds as the Africa that I know. Let me just say that I have not seen any tribal men walking around with sparse bits of leather covering their groin. I haven’t seen any bare chested women (but I have seen a lot of breasts because public breastfeeding is not a shame here, as is shouldn’t be anywhere). I haven’t seen anyone with neck rings or sideways nose bridge piercings or any child who truly looks like they have had no food or water in days. The Tanzania that I know is a lot less “African” then Americans think that Africa really is.
So, what in the world does my like here consist of? What is this place that I have found myself smack dab in the middle of? Well, it’s really hard to find a place to start, so I guess that I will start with my village, Ikuna. My village is big, everyone is either a farmer, teacher, or shop owner. It’s always awake, even in the middle of the night when you can’t see your hand in front of your face because it really is that dark. My house is made out of bricks and has an iron roof. I also have bats, but that’s not a big deal, they are my new best buds. My house smells a lot like…well, I hate to be cliché, but dirt. It’s dusty in Ikuna right now because it’s the dry season. Every morning I wake up at about 5am to one of three sounds. 1: the wind in my roof-I live in the mountains and it always feels like I just woke up in a scene from Cold Mountain. 2- People singing on there way to…wait, I have no NO idea where they are going at 5am, maybe to the bomba to get water…or 3- Roosters, ah yes, roosters, they are always around me these days, really I can’t imagine life without them anymore.
So, I get up (around 8 or 9) and it’s dark and cold and I usually have no idea where I’m at, so I open up my wooden window doors, let some light in and put on my borrowed corduroy smoking jacket and meet the day. After a trip outside to the pit latrine, which is in dire need of a cover of some kind, I usually head back inside and debate weather I want to bother trying to like my charcoal jiko to make breakfast or just eat a PB sandwich and call it good…(most of the time I vote for the ladder…it’s too much of a hassle in the morning to make fire). Than I hang out for a while and watch the farmers on their way down the road with herds of cattle, or the lumber men flying past on empty trucks out to the fields, or the kids in their uniforms on their way to school, late as usual. When I finally get around to opening my door it’s about 9 or 10.
Opening my courtyard door is really a big deal for a number of reasons. One being that I’m usually not really sure if I am ready to face the sea of Tanzania and greet another day in a foreign language, in a foreign country with a totally foreign culture (by the way, EVERYDAY I am reminded that my skin color is different…really! I didn’t notice! Damn!), Two being that I am missing some really important bricks above my door i.e. the ones that hold it in its frame so I am waiting for the day when the whole thing falls down upon me. Three is that I never really have anywhere to go. (well, almost never…) Should I wander down to greet my friends, go to the school, go to the dispensary, go to the town center or just wander about and explore…I don’t know!
Usually I look out over my dusty, barren corn field and see the school and town office building to my left and decide to go right. I would rather face a million Mamas ready to quiz me in Kibene then deal with the school and government people… haha.
The people who live in Ikuna are really just average people. They work, drink, have sports, go to school, go to church, have choir practice, have clubs for community improvement, mourn the dead (which reminds me I went to my 1st funeral last Sunday), celebrate life, talk on cell phones, listen to the radio, eat food, sleep…really just average people, with a few subtle differences. To name a few there are no cars really, no fridges, microwaves or stoves, no running water, no grocery or fast food stores, no clothing stores, really no stores at all just these random shops you walk up to and look inside and are able to buy a plethora of random, but necessary crap including sugar, flower, rice, beans, degas (these HORRIBLE fish), batteries, rope, and soap…
I think the biggest difference is in how these people spend their day, allocate their time if you will. I mean when you have to walk to get water and fire wood (or something to burn) everyday, it becomes a little bit of an arduous task, and yet something that has to be done in order to eat, bath, wash dishes, wash clothes, drink…live! Really, it’s THAT important. Also Tanzanians are much more lax in their time schedules, for example, I went to a meeting last Tuesday that was supposed to start at 3:30 and it didn’t actually start until 5:30 and even then people were coming in late…it’s different, but good and I like it.
So, I have made some amazing friends already. To name a few Malisalina and her daughter Hefferit, who calls me her American sister, she’s only 4!
Mama Witi and her craziness, she is like a power HOUSE in Ikuna. She reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the Wests African sister. She rides a bike, has a head wrap at all times, and has a wart on her chin which is gone and all that is left is this white indent of a knarly thing that is always pussing…hahaha, but she’s good. I like her. She is the kindergarten teacher and she likes to have me come to her class and help teach. The other day I went into her class and taught the kids the Kiswahili version of “Miss Mary Mack” and the hand clapping and they LOVED it. It was great, I now have 70 new friends under the age of 5…They think I’m crazy and funny because I play tag with them and well, I have different skin…haha. It’s not a racist thing, just a kid thing, I totally understand. Anyway, Mama Witi knows English pretty well, or she makes me look words up, which is good, I need to do that, so she is going to be my new tutor.
The other day Mama Witi took me for a little walk and after we meet the NICEST Mama EVER ( oh man, she is just adorable! She has a sign in Kiswahili hanging up in her house- like the ONLY thing that is hanging, that says EXCUSE ME PLEASE, THIS IS A PLACE FOR PEACE AND LOVE NOT HATE AND FEAR. PEACE AND LOVE…like how perfect is that???). Anyway, we went on a walk and meet a bunch of people, but most importantly, we went to a WATERFALL. That’s right, I have a waterfall right in my own village. Oh man, really, can I get luckier?
I also made some friends at the church who want me to join the choir and some secondary school girls who have solicited me for help with English, which I am oh so happy to provide.
I have so many other random and I really need to stop giving my phone number out to everyone in Tanzania because even though you all can’t seem to even get through to me, the Tanzanians are calling day and night! Haha, well I can say that I feel loved and I am loving life. It’s a lot less different than I had expected, and oh so very different all at the same time.
I miss and love you all and I am running out of minutes so I just wanted to say HELLO to everyone who has been sending me fantastic stuff, Devon, Pat Mom, Dad, Aunt Marie, Scott, Sarah Navis, Chris, Grandma, Erin, Cari and I am sure that I have forgotten some, but I have gotten mail from all of you and it’s so AMAZING and great to read and look at and know that you all care! Everyone else, I know that you care too! No worries.
I love you all and I can’t wait to hear from you all.
Also, I have a new address, actually I have my OWN address now ( no worries mail sent to any of these addresses will get to me pronto!)
You need to address it:

Margaret Bidigare Peace Corps Volunteer
PO Box 942 Njombe
Iringa Region
Tanzania, East Africa

Peace and Love!!!


Stephanie said...

Mags, Sweet post. I will definitely keep up with your blog. Glad you're having a great time. Sorry everything smells like dirt :)

Silly question.... if I were, to per se, send something to the other side of the world... how much postage would I put on an envelope?

Love you!

Mema said...

Dear Sweet Girl -

First, to answer Stephanie's questions a standard size envelope needs .94 cents. Second, now you have grown accustomed to living with bats? What next? I can't even imagine what you are going to share with us next. My you have come a long way kid. Not sure where you get this "tough skin" from (must be your dad's side of the family). Everyone on this side of the world loves you, misses you and eagerly awaits your blog updates. Stay safe and healthy. Mema