Well, once again it’s been a bit since I last wrote. I’ll try and recall the highlights of the past few months, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to.
Sauti Za Busara
In February I went to beautiful Zanzibar for the annual music festival called Sauti Za Busara. Sauti Za Busara means Voices of Wisdom. It’s a five day festival that boasts acts from all over Africa and the Swahili world (thus including everything from Israel to South Africa). The main type of music presented was taarib music which is uniquely Swahili. It uses percussion, guitars, keys and/or pitched percussion and some unique instruments as well. It’s very bright and cheery—great for dancing! But there was also reggae, traditional (including a bibi singing who’s in her nineties), hip-hop, and Tanzania pop. I would say my favorites were a girl from South Africa and a fellow foreigner who goes by Mzungu Kichaa.
The festival was held in a beautiful old fort. It was a smaller venue, but it made it really intimate. We sat out on the grass or danced in front of the stage. It was like being at a lawn concert at SPAC without as many crazy drunks and about one tenth or less of the people. The concert started around 4 pm and lasted into the middle of the night. We often went out to the street where they sell seafood skewers, Zanzibari pizza, Tanzanian snacks, and freshly-made sugar cane juice (with ginger and lime).
It was one of the best vacations of my life. How can you beat all day at the beach, delicious Swahili cuisine, and a lawn concert every night? It was also amazing since a bunch of my fellow PCVs went to the festival. It was like a mini reunion!
Since I couldn’t really understand most of the words sung during the concert, I’ve been trying to think about all the sounds and wisdom I hear here in village on an average day. I thought maybe relaying some of the typical sounds I hear might give you a new glimpse into my life here in Tanzania. So here goes....On any given day out my window I can hear the sound of:
Ø Firewood cracking as its being prepared for use in the kitchen.
Ø Very loud music on the radio (It’s communal...not as in respecting that others might not want to hear, but assuming that they do and thus spreading the wealth)
Ø Pikipikis (motorcycles), cars, and lorries....and yes they sound distinctly different
Ø School children running/marching up and down the road and singing (gym class)—usually around 8 am.
Ø Greetings in 3 languages
Ø Squeeking bicycle brakes
Ø Kondas screaming (Teenage boys that advertise where various cars are going to recruit customers)
Ø School bell (the inside of a wheel hit with a metal stick) between each period
Ø Church bell letting me know I’m late for church (or a steady ringing every 30 seconds or so for 10 minutes signifying someone has died or there’s another problem and we should go to church)
Ø Chickens, goats, cows, and guinea pigs (You’d be surprised how loud a cow munching on grass outside your window is)
Ø Children singing and playing
Ø People yelling “Hodi” outside me door asking to come in
Ø Heady singing without shame or shyness
Ø Lumber mills sawing away providing income for the families in my village
I can’t say any of these sounds are necessarily the voices of wisdom, but maybe the fact that I can hear this symphony of sound on any given day has a meaning in and of itself. The thing is that when I think back to home, the first sense that’s shocked with memory is site. America is about images. A constant barrage of them. Sound is white-washed. In the country we value peace and quiet and in the city we simply here the sound of anonymity. The sounds of Tanzania are sounds of belonging. I imagine when I return to America and close my eyes and think of Tanzania the first thing that’ll come back to are the sounds.
One of my favorite parts of living in Tanzania is seeing how other countries celebrate holidays. St. Patty’s Day (and Marj’s bday) aren’t celebrated in Tanzania, for obvious reasons. But that didn’t stop Bret, Moritz, Sarah, and I from having a green beer or two to celebrate the occasion.
And since I was at Matema last year for Easter, this year was the first year I experienced a Tanzanian Easter. One interesting thing about Easter here is that Pasaka meaning Easter isn’t simply the Sunday that Christ rose from the dead, it’s the entire long weekend—Thursday to Monday.
On Thursday students are let out of school early (around lunchtime). Starting at 2 p.m. the church bell rings. Then again at 3. Then again at 4. After these 3 rings (representing Peter’s three denials of Christ) we go to church. On this evening we partake together of the Lord’s Supper as Christ and his disciples did on the night before he was crucified. On Friday morning after 3 rings on the hour we return to church again. This time to reflect on Christ’s torture and death. Saturday is a day or rest and preparation, but then we return to church once again on Sunday to celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the grave. Jesu Christo amefufuka leo! Amefufuka kweli kweli! All throughout the holiday that refrain can be heard. “Jesus Christ has risen today! Truly, truly he has risen!” Finally, on Monday we return again to church to reflect on the time Christ communed with his disciples after returning from the dead. It’s our time to “walk with Christ.”
Easter in Tanzania, unlike Easter in America, is void of pomp. There is no Easter bunny. There are no Easter baskets. There are no Easter eggs and therefore no Easter egg hunts. There’s church (and lots of it, as you can see). What does that mean? Can Americans not simply indulge in a purely religious celebration? Or do we just love lore and traditions. I’ll admit, unlike many of our Christmas traditions, I have no clue what the Easter ones mean or where in the world they came from. Although, that isn’t to say that I didn’t remember or miss our American traditions, because I did. I actually dyed eggs and made myself an Easter basket in a basket a Tanzanian would usually use to hold her ugali flour. I guess this just makes me wonder....am I sentimental? Is that bad? Is it wrong to want a card on Valentine’s day? Or to kiss someone special on the dawn of the New Year? Is it silly to crave funny colored eggs on the day Christ rose from the dead? Are my traditions beautiful because they’re full of meaning? Or beautiful because they’re full of memories? I think it’s more often the latter. And I’m not really ashamed of that, even if that makes me a machine-driven consumer monster.
Growing up in non-dom and Assemblies churches the idea of sprinkling babies and confirming angsty pre-teens is a bit new to me. But I’ve been observing and learning a lot as part of a very Lutheran community. This Easter I got a very hands-on lesson. I became the godmother of a Tanzania boy.
I now have a child named Innocent Jonathan (Ino, pronounced E-no, for short). The ceremony itself was pretty easy (thanks to stealing Bret’s liturgy book). I simply read a few words. I’ll be honest though. I was shaking. A lot. Standing up in front of a congregation is hard at home, imagine having to do it in another country and using another language. And add to it that my kid is no baby...he’s gonna be three this month. I thought my arm was gonna fall off when I gave him back to his mom. Good Lord, mom’s have some magic trick to carrying babies and not getting tired, I think
Anyway, a part of me is glad the hard part is over. I got through the ceremony. But now I’m worried. How in the world am I going to be a godmother to a child in Tanzania? I may never see him again. How will I be there for him when he needs me? Maybe I’ll be like his fairy godmother who just shows up at his most desperate hour to make his wildest dream come true. Who knows? I guess a part of me is wondering why his parents didn’t ask themselves this, but I think it’s better to take the compliment without question. Maybe they (as members of my PLWHAs group) are trying to show me that I’ve made a difference in their lives and they want me as a permanent part of their family history. Ino probably won’t even remember who I am in a few years. He won’t remember what I look like. But my legend will live. ;-) And I’ll never forget him. Or my connection to him. Can a foreigner living abroad ask for anything more?
Jimmy Eat World’s not the only one with Work
So, there’s nothing too new and exciting as far as work goes. The building the choos will be housed in is done. Now we’re waiting for the school to get the money to continue and for the rain to slow down so we can build the septic tank, put the sinks in each stall, and connect them. As always, I’m a bit worried. But I trust they’ll be done by the time I head out.
The chicken project I’m doing with my PLWHAs group, Upendo, is going really well. All the members have received training and we’re nearly done with building each family’s chicken coop. The roosters have already been purchased and now my counterparts and I are busy finding 90 hens to disburse among my group members! It’s a bit of a task to find ones of the right age and caliber, but I’m faithfully believing it’ll along come together in the next month (or maybe two). J
School continues to go well. This term I finished doing communication skills with my secondary school students and I’m looking forward to beginning decision making skills this coming week. My elementary school students have already done a chapter on bullying and are about to finish a chapter on disabilities.
Fun, Fun, Fun
But I continue to have fun as well. I’m still making lots of exciting foods. I think the best are:
Ø Homemade hummus and pita bread
Ø Pork Enchaladas
Ø Corn chowder
And of course reading lots of books, including:
Ø The Black Hermit by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Ø Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Ø Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Ø My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Ø The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
Ø Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Ø The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Ø Invictus by John Carlin
Ø Running With Scissors by Augusten Burrougs
Ø The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
Guess that’s about it for new and exciting in these parts. Hope this blog finds you all well and enjoy the start of warm weather and baseball season! Much love from Tanzania!