Monday, July 27, 2009

The Brit, the Thief and the Rattrap

Last March a 20 something year old British girl with deep Sudanese roots (Dot) moved into the village of Ikuna along with her Tanzanian city girl counterpart (Luc). Their house is directly across the street from me. In a good wind I can spit and hit their window. Volunteering for Student Partnership Worldwide (SPW) on a health HIV/AIDS project, they have some along with an extensive and long “checklist” of thing to do in Ikuna. Everything they are working on or teaching is stuff that falls under things I should be doing as a Peace Corps health education Volunteer.
I will say that it has been nice to speak English to someone in the village and The Brit's presence is a sort of comfort, especially because all of my other neighbors are only within yelling distance. However, the last few weeks have been…well, they have been intense.
After the Morogoro/ Dar es Salaam extravaganza, Dot and I returned to the village together (she was on holiday with her friends) and Luc has been MIA in Dar…
Dot has limited Swahili skills and relies heavily on Luc for translation, so I spent the past 2 weeks with her as an assistant of sorts. Because she is leaving at the end of August she is very driven to do a lot of seminars and meetings and things that she had originally set out to do in her 6 months in the village. As well as being her translator/assistant, I’ve also been a cultural translator of sorts. I cannot imagine trying to do everything that she wants to do in a 6 month time frame and also have time to fully culturally adjust or really begin to understand the mechanics behind village life. Dot is more concerned with the work part and less concerned with the cultural adjustment part, understandably, so being a cultural translator has not been the easiest of tasks. Also, we have extremely different ideas and approaches to the whole theory of development so it presents many challenges. On top of all of that, she is working with ELIAJA (Mama Witi’s singing/dancing health club) as her primary Community Action Group (CAG), and I am actually a member of this group. She, in the lack of Luc, has placed heavy emphasis and tons of work on this group and it is stressing them out. It’s turning into a crazy scene in which she wants seminars and meetings with the whole village every weekend…trying to translate the workload + exhaustion of the villagers + lack of care/concern on their part + feelings that this foreign girl is talking to “us” as if she knows it all + Swahili = totally overwhelming and absurd, isn’t it me that is supposed to be the outsider who thinks she knows it all….
So, I’ve stopped doing Peace Corps work until she leaves because I know that calling another village meeting or trying to further “educate the masses” at this point, will be the matchstick in the hay stack.
Aside from actually trying to work or help her out, she has been a great comfort in the past while, especially in regards to the thief that broke into my house last Thursday by means of ripping the chicken wire off of my bedroom window. Luckily, I was at the mgahawa with Witi and when I came home that night I unlocked my door and heard a weird noise and just knew in the pit of my stomach that I did not want to go in, so I locked my door on instinct and went over to Dot’s house. I got her and Mama Simone to come and look in my house. We found the broken screen and nothing missing. Even though tit was 9 pm my village chairman, Mama Witi, Baba Eliza (her hubby) and Witi all come to Dot’s house and we went over to my house and did a Scooby Doo style hunt for clues. After 2 hours, we came up with a foot print in the sand and I spent the night at Dot’s. The next day 2 teenagers were put into Lock Up (otherwise known as a room in the village office building) and I busted out of Ikuna and went to Brie’s site for the night. Peace Corps is on top of the situation and I think that my courtyard walls are going to be built higher with broken glass cemented on top to prevent further situations. (PLEASE: don’t let this tale freak you out, I also have a night guard now and they are all VERY concerned, I will be safe, do not freak out)
Aside from not sleeping due to thieves, I also have a crazy rat problem now that Bingwa (Champion!), my cat, has either ran away or been eaten by large dogs. The other night I was in my bed reading when I heard a rat in my dresses, so I grabbed the rattrap that I found and spent 20 minutes trying to set the crazy thing. After snapping it on my finger twice I realized that I had no bait and then remembered that I still had left over tiny dried fish that I was using for cat food. So, I grabbed three of these tiny fish and tied them onto the rattrap with floss. I expect that when I get home today I will find some sort of dead animal, who knows if it will really be a rat, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

Haha, so yes, this really is my life.

In work news, ELIAJA is going really great despite Dot’s rigorous agenda. We’re in the process of making a teen health sings/dancing club.
My friend Katelyn and I are planning a big seminar in August to get some care groups for People Living with HIV/AIDs started in the villages.
A testing day is scheduled in August along with a lot of things that Dot and Luc want to do (like soccer and netball games.
I finally weighed babies this past week and it was great. I’m glad that I did it just how they have been doing it because it has helped me to get lots of ideas of what they can do to make weighing babies a more information/education thing (like also measuring their height and then talking about malnutrition and what can be done to help…)
I’ve started a village secret ballet –esque Q and A box for health and/or life concerns for people who are too shy to come and talk to me about what they want to know. We’ll see how all of that works out.
My grant to finish building a classroom, library and offices is OFFICIALLY ONLINE. You can easily done by clicking . I’m trying too get the money by mid-September. Any bit (even $5) will help TONS. So please spread the word so I can try and get this rocking and hopefully finish the construction before January (when the new school year starts)

Witi is super pergo and mean. She makes her hired help (who is this sweet girl named Faraja from another village) cry daily…which is not a cultural norm, crying that is. So now when I am sad we just talk about homesickness and ask ourselves “What the hell am I doing here??” Until something happens that is so outrageous we can only laugh. It’s amazing how you can relate to people in seriously intimate ways even though there are so essentially different from you.
The garden/farm is nothing but dryness. We let the corn dry on the stalk so that we can machete it off, wash, dry, shell, wash dry, grind, dry and then use it to make ugali. So everything is very fall looking with dry corn everywhere. It’ also freezing. FREEZING. In terms of degrees I do not know, but I can say that I now were a pair of pants, a skirt, 2 sweaters and a shawl everyday. It’s insane. This is Africa…right? I think it’s over in a month, thank God.
That is really all of my updates for the past 2 weeks. They have been busy and even though the Brit, the Thief and the Rattrap is not as exciting as the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I can still pretend it is.
Life s funny. It’s summer in Michigan and I’m not up north or eating garden burgers. Man, this is weird sometime.

For now Peace and Love and thanks for all of the comments and concerns. Don’t worry, I am doing just fine, trying to tough it out and make some meaning out of all of this!


chrisc said...

Dearest Margaret: Was great talking to you yesterday..Thanks for the intense & informative blog up date!! Keep up the great things you are doing!! Love& Hugs Dad..

Faye said...

It's summer in Michigan? I wouldn't know! (Cool and rainy here all season so far).

Amazing update, I totally left my room and was in T-zed for a minute there! Thank you!!

Your letter will be in the mail today!!


mom said...

We have so much in common.Today it will be,hot,hot..and I can't unlayer my clothes..Scare the world. I too,had a big fat rat this week. It was dead though. It ate the rat poison I bated it with..So, you see,even though I am in the USA, we all have things we would like to change.Do you think people are ever really happy with everything?No matter how good or bad they have it,no one seems to be satisfied. When we were visiting with Kate, I never saw a child cry or whine. The villagers have so little and yet seemed to just get on with the day. A lesson for us all to learn. Stay safe and when you see my Kate, give her a hug. Carol

Patty said...

Sweetie! I am so sorry that I have neglected you. I definitely miss your updates and check frequently for them even if I do not respond or write - sorry. You reveal so much of the dynamic person that you are with each post. I would venture to say that most Americans go to their graves not realizing that we are all the same and yet so different and isn't that fabulous! No fear because of our differences, just acceptance because of our commonality. Wise way beyond your years. I have been trying to get rid of ants in my kitchen. You made me so glad that they are not rats!! Continue to go with the flow- you will stay saner that way. I pray for your safety, but I do not worry about you. I know that you will be fine, safe, secure and loved. Take care, keep growing and even though I don't respond, I am with you!! Love, Pat