how do you spell Misungwi?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

observations - part 2

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I've been talking to a lot of my former students lately. They are all scrounging around for jobs/money, or some are just hanging out. One, whose name means 'premature' but he's a big guy now, he is one of the best and most dedicated in his class. And about a week after graduation, his father passed away. He just came back a few days ago, and I had a good chat with him. He seems to have taken everything in stride, and is now working on making some money so he can continue with his studies [I am sure he passed his exams, he's a sharp kid].

A few other students, again a nice pose.


Another student asked for a condom demonstration at the store he works at, so I agreed. People don't like thinking that students have sex, but they're all almost 20 years old already.

Another came and visited me at my house for some advice. We talked a lot, mostly about sex. He is 20 and has not has sex, and is the second student in his class. Apparently some of the girls at the school don't like this, so they pooled their money to try to get someone to finally tempt him into agreeing. He stuck to his guns and they started giving him a hard time. But he's the son of a pastor at one of the, um, further-out denominations. He asked his dad for advice on how to 'avoid impulses and urges,' and his dad yelled at him that 'you're going to get AIDS' and didn't have much more to say. So I filled in the gaps, taught him condom usage for when he's ready, reassured that abstaining or masturbation is perfectly healthy and won't cause impotency, etc etc. He's a good kid, his wife will be a lucky woman.

He also told me all kinds of stories about the school - teachers sleeping with students, teachers giving male students hard time because they are both [the teacher and the student] pursuing the same girl, a group of boy students essentially gang-raping a girl student because she wouldn't agree to sleep with any of them, so when she finally agrees to one he calls all the rest of them and they take turns in the dark so she apparently won't notice, stuff like that. Stuff that, yeah, I'm just sort of numb to at the moment, because I want to leave on a high note and I want to believe that stuff like this couldn't actually be happening.

The picture fests continue. I recently took 100+ pictures just walking around Misungwi, with the great assistance of my friend Alex who is an electrician [have written about him before, right in the picture below, with his brother Godi].

These guys are some of the funnest guys I've ever hung out with, and remind me a lot of some of the crazy antics from high school that we used to pull. Godi, for example, likes to dress up in bizarre clothing and walk around like everything is as usual to get reactions out of people. And we consistently have a good time hanging out at their house, though it is just a TINY two room affair that is jammed with all of their crap, mostly electronics stuff for their work. It's just too bad that they're classic Tanzanians when it comes to picture taking - funny all the time, but dead serious in front of the cameras.

The main result of this picture extravaganza is that now EVERYBODY knows my name [Masanja] and is greeting me, and wants to chat. And that means a LOT of people, everywhere I go there seems to be a crowd.

More evidence of picture fest - me with a fellow teacher at Misungwi, his wife, and the brightest little kid I've met here in TZ named Katisa.


I taught my neighbors how to gamble with dice. Exciting! I actually played cards with my 13 year old neighbor boy while talking with his mom, and decided to play for money. He got up to 3,000 shillings [2.50 dollars] before walking away, though I wanted to go double or nothing. HE stuck to his guns too, and I made sure to give him a little lesson on gambling, the dangers, etc etc. He's since bought a pair of shoes, and refuses to put up his own money to try his luck again...

I had an interesting conversation today at a bank here in Mwanza with a friend of mine who was in Misungwi and is now working here. We were sitting in the banks lobby catching up, and we started talking about his tribe, which is from the Eastern part of the Lake region and is in the same family as the Masaai tribe. Suddenly the topic turned frankly to circumcision. He was circumcised when he was about 8, along with 400 other boys in a large, traditional ceremony [which he says is better, it 'looks nicer' than how they do it at the hospital, he claims]. I knew he was proud of his heritage, but not ready to discuss genitalia in a bank lobby. Good guy though.

And on that rather bizarre note... those are just a sample of my thoughts, things are really quite intense these days. More observations will follow, but they will most likely be written next week after I have left my house and am relaxing in Zanzibar. Until then.

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