how do you spell Misungwi?

Monday, October 16, 2006


I forgot an interesting cultural observation in my last entry. Last week I kept feeling really tired in the early morning. I told this to one of my friends, Sam, at the Misungwi market, and he gave me the clearest, most logical, occam’s razoresque answer anyone could have given – obviously, he said, there are witches who are waking me up at night and taking me to farm in the fields without my being aware of it. That accounts for me being so tired when I wake up – I’ve been digging with a hoe all night! Of course I dismissed this as silly, but a LARGE portion of Tanzanians here believe in ‘uchawi’, which means something along the lines of witchcraft. Mostly doing bad things to other people, no ‘good’ witches. So I told him the following day about my sweating in the middle of the night. “See!! See!! I told you. You are getting your ass worked out in the fields, but you still don’t believe it!”


Speaking of scary people, fictional or otherwise. Well, the otherwise. There are always young men in Mwanza who do daily labor work – lifting heavy objects, carrying bags, selling bus tickets. Lots of manual labor. But there are a handful of guys who, it seems, specialize in loading and unloading corn and wheat flour from trucks into a few big wholesale stores that then sell these huge [100 kg? 80kg?] bags to smaller store owners. Well, these guys by the end of the day look pretty terrifying; if I were a kid who had never seen them before I would cry. They are, of course, really big and burly given the heavy, labor intensive work they do. But they are also covered, head to toe, in white flour. They don’t look Caucasian white, nor albino white. They look SCARY white, like they have been possessed by the Pillsbury doughboy or the Michelin man or something.


Mwanza is an interesting contrast in terms of activity and relaxation. Even with the street vendors gone, it is still very lively in the downtown and there are people everywhere. They seem to be pretty evenly mixed, however, in what they are doing. Half are REALLY working their assess off to make a little money. Like the flour guys, like the store employees, like the people inside the main market selling foods and fruits and the like, and like the bus stand guys trying to find potential travelers. Well, sometimes the bus stand guys. Because the other half of the people in the city seem to be asleep, literally. In between carloads, or bus departures, or when there just isn’t any work to do, or maybe just when they are TIRED, lots of people here sleep. Under a tree, on a bench, under a parked semi truck [seriously], anywhere where there is shade and a little breeze and no one who’s taken the spot yet. It’s sort of depressing sometimes, both in respect to the lack of employment opportunities, and the fact that it looks so tempting and nice and comfortable that I have a hard time preventing myself from going and sleeping too.


My good friend the carpenter, Sele, has about 10 young men who work with him at his workshop, sanding wood, building tables and chairs and stuff, and cutting hair in a small salon/hut next door to the carpentry stuff. I trained about 5 of these guys on condom usage so that they could sell condoms in the haircutting booth, since I noticed that these booths [and there are many of them] are a popular place for young men to 1) get their hair cut, which is frequently, and 2) hang out and, well, just hang out. So what better place to put condoms, somewhere they will feel free and comfortable to purchase them. Plus, they usually sit around the barbershop at around 4-7pm, which I presume is right before the time they all split up to go look for girls. So the main guy I trained on condom use – well, he ran away. Why run away? To avoid 30 years in jail. 30 years for what? For getting a primary school [grade 4] girl pregnant. Whoops. I’m 90% sure he knocked her up before our little lesson on condoms, and granted she started school late so she’s older [about 16-18] than everyone else in the school. But still. I try to advise these guys as often as I can, ok, if you must have sex, use a condom, and come on use some common sense, DON’T sleep with students! We’ll see if he is able to come back….


I am in Mwanza, and tomorrow am going to Dar for a celebration of the 45th anniversary of Peace Corps – no silver 50, but still not bad. It’ll be a nice few days away from Missungwi, a change of scenery, and then when I get back on Friday I’ll be ready to settle in for the last 6-7 weeks of my service here before I leave for good. Time is flying, emotions are increasingly mixed, but it’s feeling good to know that I’ll be moving on. Friday will be graduation for the form 4 students I work closely with at the secondary school, so that will help, I think, as some closure for myself too. It’ll be nice to see some other people moving on to bigger and better things too, not just me.


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