Saturday, May 29, 2010

Focus

It’s that time of the year again! The African winter!! Word on the streets is that the past few weeks in MI have been unusually warm. Well that’s just D-A-N-D-Y for you cats, it’s glass cutting over in these African hills and I’m not in love with it. The weather has been gray and cloudy with heavy doses of morning mist and partial sun in the late afternoon. The good news…okay, this typically up and up lady can’t actually find anything good o say about the weather right now. It’s the worst. Well, not as bad as a real winter, that would kill me for sure.

Aside from the weather things here are pretty damn good. Life in the village is wrapping up and I can’t say I’m too terribly sad because I’m only moving about 40k away. That’s right, I’m not coming back to the Mother Land, I’ll be living in Njombe Town working for this non-profit that sounds right up my ally. More details on that at the bottom of this entry.

The last 2 weeks in the village have been busy with lots of planning for an AIDS awareness day in Ikuna. I say “awareness” not because the villagers do not already know about the disease, believe me, they KNOW, the thing is that this is supposed to be an AIDS testing day, however I cannot get either the testers or the tests and I’ve talked to pretty much everyone and anyone that I can think of in order to get this done, but this is TZ and like many things, the system is corrupt and tests have been “lost in transit” or I just am not willing to pay the right price (…for AIDS tests that have already been paid for by some US/European aid organization). Whatever the case really is, I have been trying since JANUARY to get people to come out here and test the villagers of Ikuna, and it’s not possible. I’ve come to terms with this, and I had already requested money to do this, so I am just going ahead with the day and doing all of the planned things without testing. It’s happening tomorrow, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

In preparation for the day ELIAJA, the health choir, is helping me out to run some information and craft tables and they have been busy working on some new songs they are going to bust out. I’ve been busy meeting with them, meeting with the government officials who have to know what I’m planning on doing, and busy trying to keep myself busy because I only have 60 more days until I’m no longer a PCV (Okay, officially I’ll be an RPCV…haha).

Meanwhile, things at the mgahawa are going per usual. Witi is finally stepping up to plate now that Benja can sit by himself, and she’s been working at her pre-pregnancy pace. I’m digging it and so is Mama Witi, who is finally able to have some free time with her other family members (what this really means is now Mama Witi can go home and cook dinner for her husband and kids every night and he won’t be angry anymore because she was always too busy to ever leave the mgahawa before…Ugh, TZ!). Benja is getting huge, and I’m shocked by the whole thing. Do babies always grow up this fast? It just makes me more leery of motherhood, I mean it’s not that gratifying when suddenly one day you look over and your tiny toddler is walking around eating everything and talking to you…is it? It all feels kind of heartbreaking to me, I already want him to stop growing and he’s only 6 months old. How do you people deal with puberty and then little adults..? I can’t fully stomach laying down to sitting up.

Pakilo is still around. That’s right 7 whole months and I still have the same dog! Take that you Doubters! Are relationship is getting better, I actually patted his head today when he came barging out of the garbage hole to lick me in greeting. He did give me a good laugh today when he was barking at this goat tied up to a pole in the center of my village square. The goat was freaking out and Pakilo was running it around in circles, making the goat get stuck really close to the pole. I thought it was hilarious, the goat owners were less then amused and I pulled a classic “ I don’t really know what you’re saying” move and walked away with Pakilo in tow, laughing all the way home. I’m not always that nice.

I have a lot of random sad village news that is too long of a story to get into. Just know that all of the characters that you have come to know and love are all doing well and are not that excited to see me go, even if it is only 40k.

Which reminds me, Mama Witi and Witi want me to go on a quest to track down their missing daughter/sister! The quest, if I so choose to accept (highly unlikely considering it will be illegal travel, expensive, and probably hellish), would take me to one of the Northern most regions in TZ, the region of Shanyanga. It’s at least 3 straight days of travel there. Their plan to find her is to broadcast their names and phone numbers over the radio and hope they get a hit. The story is that this is actually Mama Witi’s first child. When the daughter was about 8 years old they went up to Shanyanga to visit her grandparents on her dad’s side. Apparently they got there to find that the grandpa was dead, the children all left, and the grandma in desperate need of help so Mama Witi just left her oldest daughter there in plan to return for her. Shortly after returning home Mama WIiti found herself to be preggers with Witi and one thing lead to another and it’s 22 years later. When I was told this story they acted as if this was just some run of the mill story, a kind of story that every family has. I mean, even for TZ standards, this is a little bit out there. So, they are finally going to track her down and I’ve been sequestered to come along. I’m not planning on going at all, but who knows, maybe they will drug me and throw me in their luggage and days later I’ll wake up on the train on my way to the uncharted North. Who knows…

I’ve decided that Tanzania is a land of extremely strange occurrences, twists of fate, and random chance.
For example, a few weeks ago I was on the bus on my way to Dar as Salaam for my Close of Service Conference and there was a MASSIVE traffic jam. Apparently a truck had flipped over right in the middle of the road and no large vehicles could pass. This created a dead stop string of busses and trucks of at last 4k. When my bus got to the line of waiting vehicles people were basically just setting up camp on the side of the road, so naturally I went to join them (who the hell would chose to sit in a stagnant bus for God only knows how long). I went out of the bus and quickly realized that I was the only white kid stuck in this mess for as far as my eye could see. Hmm, a least 300 aggravated TZs standing on the side of the road, not really a good time to make friends. So I just walked around a bit, tried to flag down some smaller cars that were still moving in hopes to get a lift to Dar and avoid the whole scene, averted the stare from some dirty truck driving men, and just tried to figure out what to do. As I was sitting in the grass, pondering my situation, my hypothetical arrival time in Dar, and what the heck was going to happen if I had to stay there, a man just walked up to me and introduced himself and out of all of the hundreds of people on the side of the road, this man and I both knew all of the same people in Njombe, and he was very familiar with Peace Corps and had actually heard of me from this guy in Njombe. It’s VERY rare to meet a TZ who knows about Peace Corps, even more so when you are traveling, even more so when you are meeting one person out of literally hundreds. It’s even more rare to meet someone who knows of you (rare as in it’s never happened before and I don’t think it will ever happen again).
It’s not just things like this that are just strange, but other things that are just lucky (or un-lucky). Like when you missed your bus and at the very moment you realize you’re screwed a random man is paying for a cab to the next town (which never happens) and you can just hop in without paying anything and get to the town before your bus does and then just get on your bus in the next town.
Or when you are stuck in Ethopia on your way home from America and you have no idea what to do, then you run into the only Tanzanian that was on your flight and missed the same connecting fight as you, and “Would you like to eat dinner with me?” And then you’re emergency friends and then, “You’re from Ikuna Village!?!?! My mom was born there!!” And come to find out her mom was Mama Witi’s friends.
Or it’s 2 days before you are supposed to be testing a lot of people for AIDS and every person you’ve contacted to come and test has turned you down, so you rely on Old Faithful, your village nurse, he can’t not be around and he’s certified, and then WHAM his wife has a baby that dies in labor and you don’t know if you want to just cry until next week or pull out all of your hair out or both.
It’s celebrating the fact that your teenage street kid “brother” got himself a job in town and then running into him 2 weeks later to find out that he quit.
It’s writing a blog all about your life as if it were Alice in Wonderland and then reading the next day online about this Alice in Wonderland movie that JUST came out and you really had no idea…
It’s wanting to go home and see your family and friends and just be American in America then getting a job offer you cannot refuse from a company that totally compels you, working in the only place you’d like to work in, and being able to just prolong what is turning out to be quite an adventure.
It’s meeting people for the first time and they say, “Oh hey, I know you, I read your blog!”
It’s meeting a person who you think is the cats pajamas but you only know them in TZ, are they really that great outside of this context? You can’t even know right now cause you are here.
It’s watching a totally random movie about the French singer Edith Piaf and then being sent her CD, without asking for it, months later.

Anyway, that’s enough examples off the top of my head.
About this job, in case you’re dying to know. I’ll be working for an organization called Daraja, which means bridge in Swahili. (Check em’ out at daraja,org). They are a non-profit funded by the UK to help connect rural Tanzanians with the government of Tanzania. I’ll be part of the team doing a project in Njombe called Twende Pamoja (Lets go togther). We are staring a newspaper in Njombe to serve the town and entire district (this would include farther out places like Ikuna and all of the other villages). The idea is to try and get information relayed “all the way other (t)here” and to create a venue for readers of the paper to share their own opinions on politics and news and relevant issues. There is a lot more to it that’s just too much to explain, but that’s the basics. I’ll be moving to Njombe Town in the beginning of August and starting then too. I’m thrilled, for real for real, this project is going to be great if we can do it right and sell the idea to the general public. I’m all about it!

I can only hope that you guys are all about continuing to read my blog for at least the next year!


Also, this is just a random article from Central's newspaper a few months ago...


That's all she wrote! Peace N' Love!

5 comments:

S. DeVoe said...

Mags,

I have never been more astonished yet less surprised at your decision to stay another year. I'm shocked because I can't imagine myself doing what you are doing, but at the same time, you are Mags. You don't follow anyone's rules but your own. You are the prime example of "blazing your own trail." And I am so proud of you. I can only hope to find something half as rewarding as what you're doing with your work in TZ. You are truly living out your dreams, Mags, and I am so proud of you for that!! I miss you lots and I wish you the absolute best when you start your transition into your new job!!!

Mema said...

I hope all those whose path you cross realize how lucky they are. We are so proud of you and will just have to be patient yet another year or two for your return. We love you, miss you, and look forward to talking with you on Sunday. Mema and Dad

mom said...

Congrats on the job.It sounds very interesting..I know your family must have mixed emotions.Happy you have a dream job,sad it isn't around the block from them.Hope you are with my girl this weekend,partying it up.I think of all of you often.A big Shalom from Israel .Hugs Carols

Devon said...

Well my dear friend, I wish you were returning home, but the reality is, you are doing amazing things and I"m so happy that you follow your heart! I hope you have a great transition to the new job and area. I would love to send you some stuff so give me your new address when you can. Love you lots! Be safe and have fun my friend!

Patricia said...

Wow - what can I say. Sounds like a great organization, put on your resilient skin though dealing with government in TZ. Hope you keep your optimistic attitude and love of adventure, it will sustain you during the next year. Life is good, do good, be good, Love and best of all good energy coming your way. Patty