how do you spell Misungwi?

Friday, September 08, 2006

hustle never sleeps

Electricity - it's back!! Well, back to the glorious 4 days a week scenario, instead of the completely confusing, unpredictable, sporadic, and ill-timed 2 days a week [including Sunday] that had been the schedule for the past few weeks.

Rumor is that Mwanza is getting a break on electricity because the city needs it for the fish packing factories. Lord knows there are lots of small-scale Tanzanian businessmen and women who are trying to earn a days living, but no need to worry about them, what is clearly important is that rich white people in Europe get their much needed fresh-water fish. No but seriously, it's so important for these little guys, so at least they've cut us ALL some slack and provided us out of the city with the same rationing schedule as the big guys...

What is new. I just came from the office, where I managed to get all the work done I needed to but did NOT buy the eggs I had wanted to buy. Friday is always an interesting day, as it's the main weekly market, and so walking around in the middle of our office building are nice but slightly slow and definitely not 'city' ladies carrying big buckets of tomatoes or green peppers or spinach on their heads. Or eggs. I wanted the eggs, since the villagers sell them for 70 shillings but here in town I buy them for 150. But I swear, and I think i've written about this before, the women who work in the offices must be able to smell these people coming or have some 6th sense that I don't have, because all the good stuff, including the eggs, never makes it to my door....

This week has been full of a lot of, um, 'down-time.' I'm sure I've written about this too, but in Tanzania there is a LOT of time spent 'waiting' for something, anything. Yesterday I went to visit some secondary school teachers whom I had trained in a seminar, and spent a total of 3.5 hours waiting for various forms of dilapidated transportation [plus another hour walking when there were no other options but my legs]. The day before I spent an hour waiting for the generator to start working so I could send an important email, although that hour was MUCH more exciting than the ones waiting for cars because I spent the whole time talking to a guard at the internet cafe and office building, a friend of mine who took a long vacation and just came back, and who happens to be a Mmaasai. So I got updates on his family [he has like 50 brothers and sisters, since his father has 6 wives], his business [he walked god knows how many kilometers recently to sell some cows in Kenya, which itself is shocking not for the distance but that a Maasai would want to sell his cows...], and got a chance to ask some questions I'd been wanting to ask for awhile. His Kiswahili is much better now, as is mine, so we actually understood each other! I don't have the time or energy to explain much here, but here's a website that I haven't looked at but may be informative.... http://www.maasai-association.org/

The day BEFORE that, I was once again sitting around waiting for a car to go to Mwanza, though this only took about 45 minutes. And I was sitting with some people I know, and eating boiled maize, so that helps pass the time. And I saw one of the wildest [well, not wild, but crazy, or not crazy, but difficult] things I've seen here - a mama who was riding a bicycle while, without hands, carrying a huge bucket of fish on her head. I asked around, turns out they have competitions for this, and this mama placed 2nd last year in the whole of Mwanza region. She can apparently ride her bicycle even while carrying buckets of water. That's heavy, yo, in case you hadn't figured it out. And she doesn't even use her hands to hold it up there. Very impressive, and picture worthy...

Sometimes I feel like Tanzanians do a lot of things that, were Americans to try, we would severly injure ourselves. Such as buckets of water on the head. And opening soda bottles with teeth. And eating sugarcane as a dangerous activity in and of itself.

Another example - Tanzanian children are trusted highly, more than I think they deserve to be, with large machetes and knives. They use them to cut... wait for it... sugarcane, as well as to peel potatoes, other foods and vegetables, and to just play with. Oh, and razors for cutting their fingernails. I have countless pictures of children smiling, holding sugarcane in one hand and a big machete in the other, both pressed up to their faces, always wearing big smiles. Of course it helps that most machetes and knives here [do we even USE machetes in the states?!] are dull as crap, I couldn't even cut myself if I, well, if I tried really hard to cut myself. Although I did see some rather clever guys at the weekly market LAST week who had turned their bicycles into grinding stones and, while pedaling, sharpened the knives of market customers [who, of course, came to the market WITH THEIR KNIVES so that they could eat sugarcane, or just in case they might need a big enormous blade for something...]

But fortunatley for the children, I never hear about them cutting themselves. Usually they die of malaria, or AIDS, or lack of basic drugs, or scalding themselves on the open-flame fires that dominate everyone's yard [read: kitchen] in the evenings, but rarely knife fights or accidently self-impalements. Which is kind of surprising, because if there's one thing that children are better at then wielding knives that are half the size of their torsos, it's dancing. The children here can dance like Shakira at the age of 5, gyrating their hips and stomachs and stamping their feet and having a grand old time. And sometimes I see these children dancing while they are holding onto these sharp instruments of torture/food preparation.

Back to waiting - the car that I eventually got in was a 'daladala' also called Hiace, which has written on the side 'HUSTLE NEVER SLEEPS'. True dat. Inside, it had a plush blue velvet interior with a stuffed tomato hanging from the rearview mirror that reminded me of my mothers sewing pincushion. And we listened to hardcore Tanzanian rap and Celine Dion, alternating one after the other.

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