As usual, it’s been a long time since my last update. Quite honestly, I have lost interest (a little) in updating my blog; I feel like most of the things I have to say might be boring to read or difficult to understand. For example, I can write every single time about how important rain is to the people in our village, but until you actually set foot in Kibakwe, you cannot possibly understand what I mean. Life is so totally, completely different in rural Tanzania than anything you can imagine, despite how many movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read about Africa. So, having said that, I’ll do my best to paint a little picture of what’s been going on.
Speaking of rain—we just got the heaviest rain of the year so far. It rained a little yesterday—enough to put some buckets outside to collect it—but then it started pouring at midnight and continued for about 10 hours. Everyone went to their farms today to check things out; we stayed warm and dry inside, reading and cooking. These rains are desperately needed; crops have started dying. Dead crops mean potential starvation. Thank goodness for rain!!
Another thing to be thankful for: zambarau (plum) season is over. Approximately 4 million children came to our house to ask to collect plums—only a slight exaggeration—and trampled our garden beds and broke through our fence to sneak in when we weren’t looking. Grrrr. Tony has massive work ahead of him, re-building the beds and re-planting.
Here’s a random tidbit, to help put the Tanzanian travel situation in perspective: we live approximately 25 miles away from Mpwapwa, our banking and shopping town. It takes 2-2 ½ hours to get there by bus. It is faster to go from Milwaukee to Chicago than for us to ride into town to buy toilet paper. I’m not sure I will ever allow myself to complain again about traveling in the United States.
We are winding down our time in Tanzania, as our Peace Corps service is coming to an end in the next handful of months. We are focusing our sights on more hiv-related projects: vegetable gardens with our Persons Living with HIV/AIDS group; small hiv resource libraries at the hospital, women’s clinic and secondary school; creating Memory Books with our Persons Living with HIV/AIDS group; condom demonstrations at the secondary school. I’m sure we’ll come up with other things, but this is what we’re thinking of right now.
We took a little vacation when our wonderful friends, Brooke and Mike, came to visit us in late December. We did the triple threat: time in our village, safari at Mikumi National Park (we saw male lions!) and Zanzibar. We had an amazing time together; Brooke baked a chocolate cake over our charcoal stove, and Mike helped fill buckets with water when our faucet came on—quintessential Peace Corps Tanzania experiences. They met our friends, saw our village, said hi to some wild animals, swam in the Indian Ocean and shopped for treasures in Stone Town (Zanzibar). It was a perfect vacation, and they were troopers (sorry again about the cockroaches, Brooke).
What else? It’s fruit season in Tanzania, and the eating is GOOD. The freshest, juiciest, most delicious pineapples you can dream of; papayas that will convince you that you love papayas; mangoes that drip down your chin and make you say “am I really eating something that tastes this good?”; bananas that taste more banana-y than you ever thought possible. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the fruits of the season: make coconut rice (with fresh coconut milk made from grated fresh coconut), sprinkle on some raw sugar (the only kind we can get), top with chopped tropical fruit. Close your eyes and marvel that you were born in a human body that can enjoy such wonders. Truly one of my favorite parts of living in Tanzania.
Pipi hajambo. Anawasalimia sana. (“Pipi’s fine. She greets you all a lot.”)