Where the white folk live

19 February 2012

I went to a flea market in Shanty Town today. Shanty Town is on the edge of Moshi, and it’s where the white folk live. The woman hosting it has a sculpture garden throughout her yard. I went with Amanda (my new friend, yay), and helped her sell her boyfriend’s jewelry. He’s Nicaraguan and is still in Nicaragua. He makes gorgeous jewelry and it was a hit. Nice day all in all. Not too hot. A little rain. Very nice people. Got some clothes very cheap (the only kind I can afford), including a dress in perfect condition for $1. Met some people, etc. Generally just a pleasant, social day. I had gone to Amanda’s apartment for brunch first. She lives right in town, in a nice apartment. I ate yoghurt, peanut butter, and cheese for the first time in over two months.  Mmmm, cheese. Mmmm, peanut butter!!!

I’ve been told that my fridge, still not fixed, needs several hours to become cold, so I’m trying it out. If I had a fridge, I could have all sorts of delights, like milk (!), bread (!), and meat that won’t possibly make me ill (I’ve been salting it, putting it in a plastic container, and finishing it the day after I buy it). And, if I feel like adding a little imported food to my diet, chocolate!

I had dinner with Mama Dora and the kids again, like last night. It’s good to eat with family. I think I will put some real effort into staying here for a while.

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.

Challenges and prospects for girls

8 February 2012

Look at the difference between 13-year-old girls like Dora and 13-year-old girls in America. Look at their activities and the things they have to worry about. Girls here are up first thing in the morning cooking, cleaning, chopping firewood, washing clothes, feeding livestock, and caring for younger children. On top of that, they have to go to school and do homework. Some of them have to walk many kilometres to collect water and firewood. Between that and the lack of formal jobs available even for men and the social requirement of marriage and children, is it any wonder that most of them don’t finish secondary school? That’s only the equivalent of 10th grade, mind. Why would they? Where’s the incentive?

And so the whole focus and pace of life is different in places like this than at home. The things listed above take a long time, and are essential. There isn’t time for extras, except the occasional special celebration. Each day is similar, cooking, cleaning, feeding, etc. What do 13-year-old girls see in their futures? Do they picture a different lifestyle than the one they’re living now? Do any of us? Or do they, and we, just take for granted that this is life and will continue to be when they grow up? On the other hand, take Mr Mlay and Mr Sabbas, who grew up in windowless thatched huts. The now live in big concrete houses with refrigerators and TVs.  A huge change in just one generation, at least for some people. Will it change again that much for the next generation?

What’s frustrating me at the moment is that there are so many people in need, not on the other side of the world, but right here where I’m living, and I’m just sitting around my house not helping them…