Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SUPER STAR MGAHAWA, or a story of risky behavior, money management and my life in T-Zed.

It’s another Saturday night, and per usual, I ain’t got nobody. I just got paid. Now how I wish I had someone to talk to, I’m in an awful way.
Okay, I’m not really in an awful way, it’s just thundering like tomorrow will not come and my roof may crash down upon me at any time. I’m just saying that the loud KABOOM over my head is causing the little jars on my windowsill to fall, and I can see the lightening striking in the midst of the valley outside of my window. Haha, Tanzania in the rainy season, hey this is new!
But alright, whatever, I’m here and I’m soaking wet and covered in mud. It really is Saturday night and I just spent the last 2 hours serving food to a witch doctor. Wait, what? Yeah, serving fried potatoes and tea to some witch doctor. Okay, back track.
REWIND about 4 years. Here we find the last PCV and Witi living together while she is going to secondary school, and the last PCV is finishing up her work in Ikuna, and Mama Witi is rocking the village with her mgahawa (direct translation is café but please picture a small dark room, a few charcoal jikos, pots full of fried potatoes and bread and an endless supply of chai. Oh, and really loud religious music). The last PCV leaves, Witi finishes as far as she can go in school in Ikuna (which isn’t actually finishing Secondary school cause it doesn’t go that far in Ikuna) and Mama Witi closes her mgahawa.
Some months later Witi moves to Nombo, the next town over, to work at a bar. Barmaids are notorious prostitutes in this country, I’m not saying any more then that. After a while I show up in Ikuna, befriend Mama Witi and make the inevitable trip over to Nombo to meet Mama Witi’s daughter. Okay, just what I had expected, some little dinky bar with bad music, lots of beer and ulanzi (the local bamboo moonshine) and a million wasted horny men. I was proposed to more times then I can count in less then 4 hours.
About a month later Witi finally decides that she no longer wants to work at the bar and she comes home with a plan. She is going to get her dad, a police officer in Dar who she hasn’t seen since she was 4 years old, to let her live with him and get some work in the big city because the farm girl life is simply not for her. Okay, that was a great idea for about two and a half months until she finally gave up on finally getting a hold of her dad, and in desperation, decided to move to the booming city of Njombe and work with her cousin at “a bar next to a hotel,” or so I was told.
I was pretty skeptical of the whole silly situation from the get go and after an inquiry of the third degree about what exactly Witi was going to be selling, the only answer that I got from Mama Witi was “Sielewi” or “I don’t understand.” Okay, forward about two weeks after Witi leaves to go work with her cousin, I am giving the arduous task of bringing her a letter from her brother. Because I was only making a day trip to town and I had precious little time to spare I went to the “bar next to the hotel” right away. When I got there it was about 8 am and nobody had ever heard of this bar, just the hotel.
I was mad. As much as I wanted to believe that something is not what it seems, that someone who lived with a PCV couldn’t grow up to sell their body, that somewhere we actually HAVE TO HAVE an impact, I was wrong. After sanding outside of the hotel for a few minutes I got a hold of Witi’s cousin and they came outside, looking like they had just had a long night with their weaves half pulled out of their heads, smudged make-up and coat of filth that after a long night you think only you notice, but if people know to look, others can see it too. I basically couldn’t look at Witi and that was the last time I saw her for a while.
About a month later Mama Witi and I headed out to Iringa for the seminar, which dealt in large part with health and HIV/AIDS in our area. When we got back from the seminar Mama Witi was a lot richer and suddenly Witi was home. Was this seminar the stone that broke the bridge and forced Mama Wito to get Witi to clean her act up? Was Witi just tired of doing this? Who knows.
What I do know is that about 2 hours after getting back from my seminar and finally sitting down I heard a little HODI (“Hey, white kid, open your door!”) and it was Mama Witi ranting about some mgahawa that Witi was going to start in Ikuna, and could I please giver her back all of the money that she gave me to put in a bank account so that she can give it to Witi to buy supplies to start her mgahawa. Okay, sure Mama Witi, if that’s what you want it’s your money…and suddenly SUPER STAR MGAHAWA was born. Or should I say, it came into being with a lot of help from me and Mama. In fact since it’s been open I’ve been cutting, peeling, frying, sweeping, making wall art, washing, serving, etc every day. Along with Mama Witi, who is also teaching, running the CCM (T Zed political party) branch in our village, running a few other groups, and raising 5 other kids.
Where does this leave me? Well, it leaves me cooking potatoes for a witch doctor in the middle of the night during a down pour, which then leads me to running back to my house, slipping countless times in the cold mud, and finally sitting in my living room wondering by candle light how it’s another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody, I got some money cause I just got paid. Now how I wish I had someone to talk to!
Thank you Mr. Cat Stevens, I feel ya bro.


Chris said...

Dear Margaret,

You are not alone. There are so many people here who care so much about you, myself most definitely being one of them. You will get through this rainy, depressing season and be on top of the world once again. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone, though it may feel like it at times. You are in my thoughts each and every day, and I know that you will persevere everything you endure. Just keep your chin and spirits up, as I know you are doing already.



k said...

u r in a different country! of course u feel lonely but your doing a great this with your life

Mema said...

Dang girl, you must have gotten your love for Cat Stevens from your mother. Rest assured Margo, you are not alone. Each and every day there are more people than you can imagine walking along side you. Keep up the great work, keep up your spirits, keep up the faith for a better world, and for pete's sake watch out for those witch doctors.



annette said...

Miss Margaret
Hang in there, there will be rainbows, you are not alone. You are loved, you are amazing!!

Rose said...

Hey Margaret;

Just wanted to say hi, you seemed a bit down. Hope your spirits have picked up some and that you are feeling better! Sending love, sunshine and better days your way.


Faye said...

I sent you a letter and a book, hope you got them!

Love ya,