It has been just over two years since I arrived here in Tanzania (and I know, it seems almost as long since I’ve blogged!). Maybe I can blame how overdue this blog post is on just how well I’ve become integrated into Tanzanian culture. “Tanzania time” is “America time” plus 1 to 3 hours and five minutes. In Swahili the word kuwahi means “to be on time” but it is also used to mean “to be early.” So if you’re on time, well shoot, you’re early, go back home and have some tea!
Something that has also been very long overdue is the maternity ward bathroom project. Thank you to all you who generously contributed! I am delighted to say that it is now complete! Several months ago, we had a village meeting to develop a project committee and get input. The meeting in itself was noteworthy… the scheduled meeting was cancelled due to a funeral and postponed due to important people being out-of-town. But the next day I got a phone call from the village chairperson, who said I should come to the clinic real quick because I was already late for my meeting. When I got there, it appeared as if they had informed everybody but me about this meeting because there were so many people there! Here it’s common to have a town crier who walks around the village at 6-7am announcing news, events, deaths, etc, but he doesn’t walk all the way to the primary school. Maybe I could have known about my meeting had he made the hike over to where I live. Anyway, the men sat together on the ground under one tree while the women all sat together under another. People were able to share their thoughts on the project, but given this was a village meeting out in the open, there were still stray dogs milling about, chickens scratching dirt, and roosters interrupting with their coco-rico’s. Both mamas and babas participated in forming the project committee, but a lot like the chickens, the males were much more vocal.
Ok, fast forward months and months later, two weeks ago, a bathroom finally gets finished. 45 mothers a month use this bathroom. There’s even a bathtub and a solar panel for the mothers who are in labor in the middle of the night! The mothers are so grateful! It’s kind of a saga how we eventually raised all of the community contribution, but one of the ways we got money was through a harambee. Back on May 1st, like every year, there was a Workers’ Day mei mosi party, in which government workers throw themselves a party. (This party sort of raises some questions for me—these people with jobs are already the most privileged, wealthy people in the village because they have an income, so they throw a party for themselves to celebrate this?) Anyway, I was very grateful for the workers because at their mei mosi party, they did a harambee , where one person makes a speech asking for contributions, and people dance their money contributions up to the stage where someone is holding a basket, also dancing. Even old grandpas dance their way to the basket with their shillings.
Two years! For most volunteers these are their last few months in Tanzania. But for me, I haven’t had enough yet! I am extending in Dodoma town for another year working with an NGO concerned with food security and nutrition. There will be more on my new position once I get started any day now. Maybe it’s too much Tanzanian culture getting into me… kuwahi—these two years have come to a close just on time, but still, it’s early.