24-27 December 2011
I spent Christmas with Alison and her family and her husband’s family (he’s Tanzanian.) They have a house on her husband’s land that Alison’s father’s built. Flush toilets! Showers! It’s at a lower elevation than where I’ve been staying, and is near Moshi. The area is very dry and there are very few trees. People grow corn, mostly, and because it’s the dry season, nothing is planted, so it’s very dusty. It’s also warmer than up in the hills. There are big baobabs, though, and an amazing view of Kilimanjaro when it’s not covered in clouds. Alison’s children were baptized on Christmas day, so went to church up by some of her husband’s relatives and then to the relatives’ house for the party, like all the other Chagga parties I’ve been to. I tried mbege, the local brew that’s made from fermented bananas and millet. Bascially…ick! It’s very sour and I think you have to grow up with it to like it. We went for a walk. The roads are in terrible condition, barely passable now in the dry season. In the rainy season, I think a lot of people must be completely isolated due to muddy and unpassable roads.
The next day, the 26th, I helped prepare for Alison’s niece Dora’s confirmation party. Dora is great; she opened up to me immediately. I peeled garlic and learned how to peel bananas – it’s not easy! Unripe bananas (like plantains) are a local staple food. Then we went to Moshi, to a coffee shop/internet cafe. It’s a big ex-pat hang-out, and they serve American food. Moshi is kind of cool – it has a good vibe. I wish I could see responses to my emails without taking a daladala ride to Marangu when I’m back with my host family. Dora’s confirmation party was a good celebration. There was a cake that Dora hand-fed a bite of to each guest! I talked to people in English curious about America. One of Alison’s brothers-in-law asked was curious to know if it was true that in America and Europe there are people who don’t believe in God. He asked it the way you might ask if it’s true that there are three-legged people on Mars. I said it was true, and he asked, ‘What do they believe in? Science?’. I explained that believing in God and science aren’t mutually exclusive. Tanzanians are very religious.
The next day, I returned to my host home. Alison and he and I had a big meeting where many issues were discussed and changes will happen. For example, I helped my host mother with dinner tonight. She’s a good Swahili teacher. It’s much better to sit in the kitchen than in my room alone.