Instead of writing about myself and my adventures I have decided to write about my 12 favorite people in Ikuna- their stories, and why I think they are amazing.
10: Onesmo Mwenda: This man is a GEM!! He’s a tailor in the village. He is a hard working, sober family man. His shop (which is a 10X10 room with 3 sewing machines and walls racked in fabric) is about a 2 minutes walk from the mgahawa. He’s always polite, funny and he likes to just chill with Witi, Mama Witi and I after he eats dinner at the mghawa. Considering that most of his peers are busy being drunk and causing a shit storm, I just give this man “Big Ups!” Plus he makes the most comfortable pair of PJ pants for under $2!
9: Suzie [and her Bibi (grandma)]: Suzie is an 8 year old village girl. Her story breaks my heart, not because it is the most tragic story I have come across, but because Suzie has the most amazing spirit ever- even after a crap hand at life.
Suzie’s mom dies last spring from AIDs. Her mom contracted the disease during a stint in the town of Makambako working as a prostitute. (It’s very common for village moms to leave their children with grandparents or relatives and go to town for a few weeks, work as a prostitute and make some quick cash). Suzie’s dad does some kind of wak in Morogoro- which may as well be Alaska- and I’ve never met him. Rumor has it that he is just trying to start a new and different life far away.
Suzie now lives with her Bibi who is old. She’s one of those women that’s so old they look as though they were made from the earth and clay itself. It’s beautiful, but also sad and scary. Between the two they maintain a farm, cook, clean, gather water and firewood, have enough extra to donate to church, pay for clothes, soap, salt and any other extras…its pretty much amazing. Suzie is just AWESOME because she does all of this basically for her Bibi which makes Suzie act like this midget 30 year old sometimes, but when she plays she is 100% kid. She loves to have me carry her around on my back, she like to draw, and sing and dance, jump rope and braid hair. She likes hanging out with me, but it’s so funny when she comes over she brinks a basket of potatoes (like a village Mama would do) and will only eat or drink ½ of what I give her because the rest is for her Bibi.
8: Gesu (or Chania Dunani…Which Means “Combs the Earth” …Which is what you do when you don’t wear shoes): This guy is the right hand man for everyone. One minute I may see this 23 year old guy washing the only car that brings goods into Ikuna, the next minute he is helping Witi hook up the power lines for the TV to the generator, the next minute he is trying to learn how to work the electric razor and play Barber and a half hour later it’s likely he could show up at my house with a 30 lb bag of charcoal. He’s just the class clown of the village, he likes to drink and I believe he smokes pot, but people still love him because he’s just lovable and real. He’s not married and has no kids, but he does have a girlfriend…whom I’ve never actually met. He has all types of crazy ideas- like to start up a music shop IN THE VILLAGE, but ideas are good!
7: Chuzi: The village drunk. The village moonshine seller. The man with the fishing hat and ripped navy blue coat he never takes off. The guy who’s sometimes so drunk he can’t walk more then 3 feet. The guy who waters down his tin roof to cool off his customers on a hot and sunny day. The man who yells to me, “HAS THE DOG BURNT HIS TAIL??” When I’m cooking at the Mgahawa and he wants to know if ugali is ready yet. The guy who took part in my Iron Chief competition and made ugali himself, even though all of the village ladies were laughing…specifically at him.
6: Mgana and family: Mgana and his wife, Mwalimu (teacher) Chota are my next door neighbors. Because Mgana is a “Big Wig” in the village government, the man has money. He also has a different wife and a totally different family in a completely different region of Tanzania, but whatever, I can’t disrespect a man for being as he feels he should be. The man says he’s got 16 children across TZ. I’m sure its more like 20. He’s probably one of the most scary looking Tanzania men that I have veer seen. He’s about 6’2 and at least 255lbs. He’s got hands the size of my face, and could possible kill me in one serious squeeze, but that’s one of the many reasons I am glad he’s my neighbor. Also, he’s smart has hell and his kids all look exactly like him. Plus, even though he has money and a TV and a generator and a motorcycle and a million kids, HE STILL DOES PHYSICAL LABOR!! And that folks- well, it’s amazing! Also he loves when I come over in the middle of the night to borrow his cat cause I can hear mice in my house. He’s a funny man with diabetes, and I think it’s weird cause even though he’s black and he lives in TZ, I feel like he could be my grandpa Korte’s African twin.