Compost and Chagga houses

21 December 2011

Today’s topic was composting (try not to get too excited, folks). Mr Mlay talked through the steps of making it and, after a tea break, we went and prepared an area, though we didn’t actually make any compost today. The livestock around here serve the primary and sometimes only function of providing manure for fertilizer. If you can breed them and make money for school fees, then good on you, but the main reason to have them is to fertilize the farm.

Then we went on a field trip to a tourist area. We took a daladala uphill (uphill = cooler) and got off at a small village at the base of Kilimanjaro. It was a little cooler than at the house, and very beautiful and of course, very green. The rivers are flowing up there, unlike down here at the house. There are, not surprisingly, a lot of flowers growing wild here that we use commonly as annuals. Huge shrubs of lantana, peppermint growing wild by the trail, angel’s trumpet (not in the wild, but perennial here), and hibiscus.  The path we took led to a beautiful waterfall. I saw a chameleon on the way! A male, with horns. The water wasn’t very cold, and apparently is drinkable.  Back in town, we had lunch. Then we took a daladala up the very bumpy dirt road that goes up the mountain. We got off to see the Chagga museum. The museum is a small outdoor re-creation of a Chagga village back in the day. Not that far back in the day, though – Mr Mlay and Mr. Pascal (another KEDA person who was with us) both grew up in the type of hut they had there. It’s a thatched hut, the whole thing thatched, not just the roof. It’s small and round and has one door and no windows. The whole family lived inside with the livestock. There’s a small fire in the middle for cooking and the smoke from the fire seals the hut from insects. Pineapples are planted around the outside of it to repel animals. Quite a change in living condition in just one generation! Indeed, few if any of these huts still exist in this region. Next to it, there’s a structure for storing grain that has cow dung smeared on the outside to keep out bugs.  There was also a small pavilion that housed Chagga artifacts like drums, spears, farm tools, and the instruments for making the local brew, a sort of banana beer.

Back home, after bathing, we went to a couple of the ceremonies taking place in the village. Christmas here is a time to come home, and while families are together, there are many celebrations of baptisms, confirmations, and weddings. We arrived near the end of the actual ceremony. The house had been decorated specially, with decorations including toilet paper streamers. We were served food and soda, and sat on plastic chairs on the lawn. The girls being confirmed were dressed up beautifully and sat on the porch, receiving congratulations and money. There was loud music, a strange mix mostly of pop music, some of it not at all appropriate for a supposedly religious occasion, but it was in English so maybe people didn’t understand the lyrics. I can still here it going on as I’m writing this – someone is playing it very loud.  So many people are trying to use the electricity for so much that it’s dimmer tonight than usual.

Still haven’t been able to communicate my safe arrival to my parents, nor has Alison, the woman who organized the program, been in touch.

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