Samanga

Note: the first few entries provide quite a bit of background and description. The action picks up after that!

19 December 2011

I wished today that I had a tape recorder to record everything that was said to me, because there was so much I wanted to retain.
I’m in a homestay for the four weeks of the program. My hosts are Mr. and Mrs. Mlay. He’s a retired teacher, and she is the head teacher (principal) at the local primary school. His English is fairly good, although we don’t always understand each other. His wife speaks English, but I’m told not as well – I haven’t spent much time with her.

The house is nice; a good size. It’s made of concrete, with a corrugated metal roof. There’s a nice shady porch in the front and a pretty hedge in the front and flower beds with zinnias and lantana, etc, on the sides.

In the back there is the outbuilding. This consists of a storage sheds for tools, etc, and the bathing room and toilet room. Each of these is smallish, with cement walls and floor and a window. The toilet is a sort of shallow, narrow plastic toilet bowl type thing with a hole in it cemented into the floor. So I have to practice my aim… Then you rinse it with water from a bucket that is kept there. I don’t mind using the toilet in an outbuilding or that it doesn’t flush, but I wish it were up higher so I could sit! But women spend a lot of their time squatting; to wash, to cook, etc, so that’s perhaps a more natural position for them than sitting. The washing room just has a drain in the floor and you put a plastic basin of water and a low bench in to use to wash. Awkward, but it works, and after a sweaty day it feels just fine.

A little to the side is the kitchen, which is a detached rough wooden shed. They have electricity but don’t use it for cooking. Mama Mlay cooks over a little fire fueled by wood around which are three stones arranged so that you can put any size pot on them over the fire.

There is a good-sized living room with furniture that must be from the seventies – lots of gold and brown. They also have a small TV  though the signal doesn’t always come in. I have my own bedroom, which is big enough to fit a double bed, a couple of chairs, and a small table. They have electricity, but it isn’t very strong – the lights dim frequently – and the rooms are lit with just a single lightbulb, so despite the electricity, it’s still pretty dark after sundown. I think that’s the thing that’s going to take the most getting used to, the darkness. Dinner isn’t served till right before bedtime, and so there are several hours there where I’m just doing my thing alone in the near-dark. It’s lonely. They don’t invite me to help with dinner and I don’t know how to ask.

I would be happy enough living this lifestyle for a while, if I were living with people with whom I could communicate more easily. In the future this would be fine, or if there had been another person doing the program who also was staying here.

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