11/7/11 - Dinner Party in Babati

I have started a message to all of you so many time and then stopped, completely overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to describe what has happened since I arrived in Tanzania Oct. 20. So, I think I will not try. A wise English teacher once told me, “Less is more…” Here, then, is a little piece of what has happened.

Last night I had my first dinner party in Babati. I am living in two rooms in a compound occupied by four or five families, three cows, numerous dogs and chickens and a frog. It is so beautiful here… out in the country, hills all around, large banana trees growing at the open end of the U-shaped complex, roses blooming just off the front porch. Two of the “families” here are from Amka Afrika School. One is Teacher Mary who is living with four students from Amka in what they call a hostel. The other is Rose, the cook from Amka, with her son and baby girl, born during my visit here last March. My rooms consist of a living room, bedroom and private bathroom! It is a typical Tanzanian bathroom. I’m still engaging in bucket baths and…well…no need to describe the rest. Simon had a queen sized bed made for me and Teacher Sifuel hung curtains on twine over the windows and doors. Everything sits on the floor and I am learning to do most things bending over at the waist to work at floor level. There is a back door that leads into the courtyard and a front door that leads to a porch. The view from the front porch is the best part about this house!

There is no kitchen. I am creating one in a corner of the living room with a one burner gas stove, pans, dishes, utensils, silverware, glasses, and food purchased from the market. No frig. I am learning a lot about cooking here from Rose and Mary. They make dinner for the kids who stay here and they always include me. We have a communal kitchen area in the courtyard where we gather at mealtimes. Sitting on large water containers, we chop, slice, sauté, and boil while we tell stories, share recipes, and try to teach each other our native languages. The children are around constantly and help out with everything. Cristina (perhaps twelve) can see what needs to be done before she is even asked and hops up to fill water buckets, fetch utensils, peel garlic or take the baby while Rose cooks. Nuru, the oldest boy, is here for meals although he lives with teacher Sifuel. He runs things when it comes to the other children and plays with them, organizes them, sees that they help the adults, settles arguments and sets them straight with a curt, “You there, boy!!”… or girl, as the case may be. They all defer to him.

I invited everyone, including Teacher Paschalina and Teacher Sifuel who live nearby, to dinner Saturday night. That morning Sifuel and I walked to the village to shop at the market. “A nice stretch of the legs,” of perhaps a couple kilometers. I didn’t find everything I needed, but loved the open air market with red jacaranda trees all around. We took a small three wheeled (bajaji) taxi home and I prepared chicken, rice and vegetables (eggplant, onion, tomato, carrot all cooked together) for dinner, with much help from Rosie and Mary. A crescent moon rose and stars began to appear while we moved everything into my living room. I turned on my iPod for music, used my solar lantern for lighting, opened a bottle of wine, and we all ate together, sitting on water jugs or the floor. The meal was a big hit, I think mostly because I cooked two chickens along with lots of rice. Every bit of chicken was eaten and the bones chewed on. We spent a good deal of time discussing Paschalina’s upcoming wedding. I tried to keep up with the conversation, which was mostly in Swahili.
Haruna, Rose’s son of about five, declared, “English only!!!!” and threatened to follow up with a beating for anyone not complying. It was such a happy scene, I wanted it to go on and on. But at last my visitors bid me, “Lala salama” (safe sleep) and with many many thanks, left me. I sat on the front porch, surrounded by the Afrikan night, amazed at this unusual turn my life has taken.

No news about the container, other than it is scheduled to arrive in Dar Es Salaan Nov. 2. Cross your fingers and send positive thoughts that it gets there, gets through customs, gets released and trucked to O’Brien School, and that everything you all have so generously donated and packed gets, finally, to Amka Afrika School.

Much love,

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