Family, connected

3 May 2012

As you regular readers will know, my neighbor and friend, Mama Dora, means a lot to me. Her whole family is just fantastic; they’re such good people. My parents, having heard me talk about her and the kids, asked if they could sponsor Dora to go to boarding school, which is usually the only way to get a good secondary education here. It’s inexpensive by American standards, but for most Tanzanians, it’s out of reach.

So last night, I told Mama Dora, etc about their offer. I brought them a picture of us to see, and told them about how I had told my parents about them and that my parents were happy I had friends like them here. Then, I said, ‘So Dora, if you want to go to boarding school…’, something changed in the air, a collection intake of breath, ‘…they will pay.’ They were so happy!  Tanzanians are not very emotive. Dora mostly just smiled shyly as she does, Mama Dora was grinning away, but Baba Dora was the most expressive. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, he jumped up and hugged me! They said many times to thank my parents and tell them how happy they are and actually Baba Dora hugged me several times. For a Tanzanian, he was absolutely beside himself. I was so happy. I gave them the photo to keep in their house. I’m going to take a picture of them to send to my parents, too. It was so wonderful. They absolutely deserve this.

The family, plus a neighbor boy.

Strange and sad

2 May 2012

I have seen two naked women this week, which seems statistically odd, as I had previously not seen any naked women here and then I saw two in one week. One was on Sunday morning. She had on a kanga, but was naked from the waist up. She was standing in the median of the main road into town. She was dirty and unkempt. The other one was a couple days ago. She was completely, fully naked, also dirty and unkempt, standing in the middle of the road outside town. The bus had to swerve to miss her.

Awe

1 May 2012

Sometimes there are things that happen that cannot be described in words. Things that defy the wide range of spoken language, of body language, of facial expressions. The incident speaks for itself, and trying to describe the emotions it invoked only demeans it. You just have to store it away in a jeweled box inside yourself and hope that others will catch a glimpse of the un-expressable emotions through a video of the thing that happened, if there is one.

Jo, with whom I’m doing some work for her organization, Shukuru, knows a girl from her volunteering days who we went to visit today. Linnah looks younger than she is; she is petite and confident. We met her at her sister’s rented house, where she’s staying. It’s in a beautiful area outside town that on clear days must have a stunning view of Kilimanjaro. She served us tea and chapatis in their 10x6ft living room while her two young nieces looked on. She told us her story while we filmed it for the organization’s website. Several years ago, one of Jo’s fellow volunteers had offered to pay for Linnah’s secondary schooling, but then reneged when he lost his job. Since then, this girl has dropped out of school, had a baby, gone to an informal school where she completed two years of secondary in one and passed the national exam while working at an orphanage where she was abused. She’s now waiting to do her next two years of secondary, also in one year, and has hopes to go on to university eventually. She’s seventeen.

Not only is her story and the fact that she’s so determined impressive, but she also talked about how strongly she believes that girls and women in Tanzania can do anything they want if they just have determination. All their lives they’re told they can’t do things because they’re women and they’re just going to be housewives but she knows they can do great things and furthermore, she knows that she will do great things. She wants to study international relations so she can go abroad and represent Tanzania to the world and by doing so, help lift her country up. Where did she get this stuff? Where did this belief and determination come from? This desire to go and show the world how great Tanzania could be is something I’ve heard before, but generally from men.  And not only is she a girl, she’s a girl who has faced some serious obstacles and gone through some seriously rough times.

Do you understand now why there are no words to express what it was like to witness this?