17 March 2012
It’s gotten really hot again and hasn’t rained in a while. After it rained a few times a couple of weeks ago, people started planting their maize. All the land around my house is for maize. People come from other villages as day laborers to help; mostly women but a few men. The fields were tilled by tractor; a few people own tractors and the rest pay them to plow. The rest is done by hand. They measure out the rows, drop the seed by hand, and cover it with dirt with their feet as they go along. It’s hot, slow work, but when they get on the dala dala to go home in the afternoon, they’re really a good-natured bunch. I’m looking forward to seeing how different the landscape is.
I’ve hit a wall food-wise. I’m getting mighty tired of the same food over and over. But there’s really not a huge variety at the market, and between budget constraints and lack of refridgeration, I’m really very limited as far as supermarket food goes. I went to Aleem’s, the ex-pat focused supermarket yesterday and the only things I could figure out to buy were a jar of olives and a small bottle of olive oil. I did then have a good little salad with a lovely sesame roll from the bread shop, but still. I don’t know what to do. Stop complaining? Or is there actually something I can do?
20 Feb 2012
Epic rainstorm today! Lately, there has been more and more very localized rain in the area. But this was the first really significant rain, and significant it was! It poured. There was thunder. There was wind. It was a good soaking rain, and you could just feel the plants’ gratitude as the dry season starts to wane. And for me, the best thing was that the wind, which usually just blows hot hair at you, was quite chilly! Huge temperature drop – it was wonderful. Walking to town after that, the path that crosses the gully near here was washed away, and it will be interesting to see how the rainy season affects mobility. With so few paved roads, and such poor quality dirt ones, I imagine there are many people who are just rained in during the rainy season.
On the way home from town, I saw something that just made my day. There was a bus parked off the road that had a big wrap-around ‘ARSENAL’ (the English soccer team, you non-Brits). It started at the back and wrapped around to the side. I could only see the back, though, and knew it said ‘Arsenal’ from the color and style, but because only the back was facing the road, and the word disappeared around the side, the only part that was visible was ‘ARSE’. Top Gear style!! It was all I could do to now burst out laughing like a crazy person on the daladala.
6 February 2012
It’s a full moon tonight and wow! It’s like having a giant lamp in the sky – it’s so bright. You can easily walk around outside without a flashlight.
I went into town first thing (ish) today, being out of breakfast food. I went to a restaurant and had a chapati and an andazi and tea, which is spiced and made with milk. Very yummy. Then I went to check out Abbas Ally’s Hot Bread Shop and Aleem’s grocery, both ex-pat haunts. The Bread Shop was indeed a bread shop, and had all sorts of good looking bread for what seem to me like very reasonable prices. They also have cakes (actual American-style cakes) and some other various pastries like buns, cookies, etc. Good place. I bought a flatbread with cheese and onion. I’ll eat it tomorrow with beans…mmm. Aleem’s was also interesting. Caters to ex-pats and has all sorts of things, like Betty Crocker cake mix and Old El Paso salsa! Of course this imported food is more expensive than local food, as I’ve said, and also I just feel weird eating it. Only African food seems right these days, like I’ve made the switch and can’t go back or mix it up. Well, except for those cookies I got in Arusha, wow, I want to go back just to get more. But they were at least made there. And oatmeal. Good ol’ Quakers. A latte (which, along with the tea, sated my craving for calcium for now) and lunch, then home.
In the evening I went to visit Mama Dora and family, and had a nice visit. We talked about cooking. She might show me how to make makande, which is maize kernals cooked with beans in oil and coconut milk, and probably some onions or something for flavor. She said she would teach me and give me a bowl. We’ll see! We really can communicate; it’s pretty cool. I study on my own, and then go talk to her and I inevitably hear a word or grammatical structure that I just learned, which is really great. So I’ll keep at it!
Tonight’s dinner is rice with, I don’t know, some sort of runny scrambled egg with vegetables concoction to go with it, and green beans. Yay, I’m feeding myself…
23 January 2012
Well, today’s the big day. I moved out of my homestay and into Alison’s house. I decided that comfort was important. I don’t mean the comfort of flush toilets or a big house; I mean just being somewhere you can picture being home and where you want to spend time. Loneliness will be an issue; it’s just me in this three-bedroom house. But one thing at a time. Here are some pictures from the area:
20 January 2012
I went with the guy from MVIWATA today to go see one of their projects. It’s one village that has a lot of projects going because the donor already was working with them through the Lutheran church and wanted MVIWATA to continue working in this village. So they have goats, bees, storage tanks, and community gardening, and possibly others I’m not aware of. As we drove out there in his friend’s borrowed car, going through the lower elevations that just grow corn, he talked about how when the country liberalized its economy, seed distribution switched from being done through the state to being done on the open market. When the government did it, they experimented with seeds to see which grew best in the that climate. But then the economy opened and the international companies came in and started selling hybrid seeds cheap, without testing them for local suitability and people adopted them. But these seeds required a lot of fertilizer, and while they had good returns at first, the returns declined and are now worse than the harvests the traditional seeds used to get, and of course the land has been damaged by heavy fertilizer use. He also mentioned that the influx of cheap Chinese-made goods has undermined local industries. Interesting stuff.
On the way there is an amazing view of Kilimanjaro. The summit was just peeking out from over the clouds. It’s pretty amazing the way it just rises up – I never look high enough at first.
The village we visited is way up in elevation. Very beautiful. The group leaders showed us around to the different projects. The storage tanks are a special design made of concrete, so cheaper than buying pre-made plastic ones. And they can be used for storing grain or water; the only difference is in the spigot/tap. And a village technician is trained to build them, so people can order them if and when they want and he makes them. There is also a village technician trained in building the beehives, so they don’t have to buy them pre-made either.
The other project I found particularly interesting was the community farming. They have plots scattered through the village, depending on where they’re able to get land from an absentee landowner or a member that has extra land. Their land may change from year to year or even season to season as it’s available. Each patch is farmed by 10-20 people who do work equally, according to a work schedule. They then sell the harvest as a group, thereby getting better prices, and divide the profits evenly. Some of the profits are kept for the group. They also maintain a seed bed and an experiment area, where they have several beds prepared where they can try different plants/seeds and see what grows best before planting a whole field of them.
They have access to irrigation water that is shared by three wards. There is a schedule for water usage between the wards, and maybe within the villages.
The group gave me a bottle of honey! It’s not like any honey I’ve ever tasted. Much sweeter, and with a very distinct flavor. Just extraordinary.