The family

14 February 2012

Let me tell you about Mama Dora’s family. Her husband is a daladala driver (daladalas are the minibuses that are the common form of public transport). He works every day from sun-up to at least nine at night, except he works a half day on Sunday. Like Mama Dora, he’s a happy, gentle person. Mama Dora stays home and does the cooking, cleaning, etc, plus cares for the livestock and the farm. They have three children of their own, and one adopted niece.

Dora is their oldest. She’s thirteen, I think, and in her last year of primary school, which the equivalent of our (American) 6th grade. Like her parents she’s quiet, gentle, and intelligent. She’s third or fourth in her class. She wants to learn better English, and whenever I’m at their house and she’s home, we do some studying together. She’s obviously suffering from a serious lack of quality instruction, because she wants to learn it, but is able to speak very little – I speak more Swahili than she speaks English. Her mother (and her) would like her to be able to go to boarding school and get a proper education, but of course that’s expensive. After that, Mama Dora wishes she could study in Europe or America, where there are jobs, and just opportunities in general that there just aren’t here, even for educated people, in Africa.

Mama Dora put it succinctly today when she said, “There are a lot of schools in Tanzania, but not a lot of eduction.”

Their next child is a boy, Kevin; I think he’s seven and in standard two, which is like first grade. I think he and Dora started school a year late; they seem a little old for their grade. Anyway, he has a tendency to come over and start playing with the light switches and lamps, and loves to play with the stapler. If you’d never seen one before, you would too!

Their youngest is a girl, Given, who’s full of crazy energy. Always dancing around, or making funny noises. Very animated. She’s five and is in half-day nursery school which might be like kindergarten. I like her; she’s funny. She just jabbers on to me, even though I obviously don’t know what she’s saying. She doesn’t mind. She just talks anyway. She likes to slap my hands and all sorts; she’s very physical too. Funny kid.

And then there’s the little abandoned girl they take care of too. She’s three, I think. Her father apparently takes up with various women, gets them pregnant, and then takes off. Her mother left when she was 9 months old. Her name is Diana, like the princess, but in Swahili pronounced like we would pronounce Deanna. She’s a beautiful small child who likes to do somersaults on the couch and is easy to make laugh (not that it’s hard to make a three year old laugh!) She’s lucky to have Mama Dora as a surrogate mother.

Anyway, they all like me, and I like them. Sometime they come to my house, sometimes I go to theirs. They’re my friends, and really, my family here.


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