how do you spell Misungwi?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

one week left - observations

I'm going to miss random stuff just sold everywhere, and carried on people's heads to and fro after being purchased. Examples include 20 liter buckets of cooking oil, huge and very colorful mattresses, couch cushions, fish, etc. Spontaneous markets are nice, and they're not in America.

When they don't carry it on their heads walking, they tie it to the back of a bicycle. Everything on bicycles, beds, doors, 20 foot antennae poles, 100 kilos of flour or tomatoes, or 100-kilo fat African lady wearing brightly colored clothing. See pictures - daladala bike taxis, and a local expert who actually carries the stuff on her head WHILE biking...

Speaking of daladalas, I gave a couple of my favorite guys some of my old worn out jeans and shirts. They really appreciated it. Nothing fancy, but given the hard sweaty work they do, it was exactly what they would need and appreciate. Really, these guys sweat a lot, and some do a not-so-hot job of bathing. But these 2 are pros, so I was glad to pass along my worn-outs. Red shirt guy in the middle is wearing jeans, he made them cut-offs.

Africa is about 100 times more sensory stimulating than the states. Well, maybe not New York or Chicago, but what I mean is that the LITTLEST things here can still cause sensory overload. Colors, smells, noises - I've written about them before, but now that I'm close to leaving my brain is having a harder time tuning out. I'm trying to take everything in, remember every smell, cry, crazy outfit scheme [plaid red/black shirt, green striped pants, just walked by in the internet cafe]. In otherwords, I'm drowning.
Speaking of drowning, it has been POURING lately, even more so than the last time I wrote. All the rice paddies are filled TO THE BRIM with water now, rivers are flowing [they dry up the rest of the time], people are farming like crazy. And things slow down, as hour-long waits for downpours to end become the norm again. I sat in a house yesterday for about 45 minutes in silence, because it was raining so hard we couldn't hear anything anyone was saying [metal roofing]. There is a big swamp near Misungwi that I've never seen, well, swamped, but now it looks like the Lake itself has crept a bit closer...
Farmers must be glad for the rain, but others aren't. I visited my friend Jonathan who draws cards that my mom is selling back home [this guy has moderate talent but INTENSE devotion and perserverance]. He lives in the mountainy rocky outcroppings that surround Mwanza downtown. He lives in a small room that floods because the roof is leaky. It is the dankiest place I've been here yet, but he seems to keep his spirits up, and is hoping to use some of the money I gave him for the cards to seal the leaks.

The rain smells nice, but not when mixed with the trash. Here trash is strewn about EVERYWHERE. That's a sensory experience I'm not sad to leave behind.

The rain has also brought grasshoppers, who are noisy, and yet another unpleasant stimulant. Luckily, my cat seems to think they are tasty.
The rain has also somehow made things 'cold' here, or at least chilly. I own no jacket, but it doesn't bother me. Tanzanians are bundled up like January in northern Wisconsin, and then when the sun comes out and I start sweating they sort of, well, don't seem to notice and just keep walking around wearing these Starter-jacket poofy things that must make it feel 200 degrees out.

I had some African shirts made. They blend in very nicely hear with all the other colorful figures, and will surely look ridiculous when I return home. But a nice reminder, and I like the fundi [tailor] who made them for me - he has HIV but is living a positive life.

I went to the Lake with my friend Babuu the other day. It's about 7km from Misungwi, but 2 years and I still hadn't made it. We went, shocked some villagers with my whiteness and his vulgarity, took some pictures of me in a SHAKY, TIPPY boat [I would never be able to use it as an actual form of transportation, which they do], saw the devastation of the water hyacinth on the lake environment, and enjoyed a nice non-rainy day. I had fun greeting some teachers at a really bush school near the lake, whom I attended a seminar with, and felt proud that I'm able to distinguish tribes of Tanzania when I noted that one of their fellow teachers looked like a Mmeru [he was, the teeth gave him away]. Not as big a fan of the custom when, after asking for a glass of drinking water, a young girl brought it to me, knelt down to the ground to give it to me, and stayed their until I finished, before she got up and went away. A little too subservient for my taste, though if it were done out of AGE respect and not GENDER respect, I'd be all for it [I love how the kids here fetch stuff for me, or for their parents. American spoiled brats, that'll be a shock...]

After the Lake, we went to my friend Ray's house. Visiting people here means one thing - FOOD. We were welcomed with a big bowl of HUGE, RIPE, DELICIOUS mangoes [that's right, the season just started. Not a bad way to leave the country, plentiful rains and buckets full of mangoes]. We also had chipsi mayai, which is french fries fried in egg. Delicious. Other highlights, or things of note: We brought a mkeka, a woven mat, outside and sat around. That is what people do here, and I love it. Actually, when we came, my friend Ray had been outside SLEEPING on this thing [I'll give him credit, it WAS a Sunday so there was no work]. His brother is sort of a jack of all trades, a trained driver who was selling charcoal the first time I met him, then went to sell potatoes in Dar es Salaam, and is now burning bricks while contemplating a return to the driving world. Oh, he also recently just became Pentecostal.

And finally, we posed for a picture on the village 'mountain':

Talk about a pose, huh?

I wrote recently that I went to the Folk development College to teach some lessons on STDs and HIV/AIDS, along with Condoms, to about 100 of the 200 total students. Their behavior is a tad notorious, and notorious is never a good word, is it? They apparently sleep around a lot. Well they seemed to enjoy our presentation, especially THAT video [its so good i'm dubbing copies as we speak]. Apparently yesterday one of the young women who attended went to the hospital and spoke with a nurse and got some services regarding her reproductive health. I suspect treatment for an STD. ONE PERSON, that's all I needed. I was feeling a bit angry about the whole thing because a few of the students showed up late to one period incredibly drunk. But I guess I can't expect to rid the world of assholes and idiots.

The question box that I had put up on the health bulletin board at Misungwi secondary school is infested with bees. That's unfortunate, and sort of a sad ominous sign of what might happen to many of my projects after I'm gone. But at least this is temporary - the headmaster says they've arranged to have it fumigated.
continued below....


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