The past two months have been very busy! Last month was IST, In-service Training, Peace Corps-speak for when our training class reunites for two weeks of further technical training. We learned about grant writing, project design, technical info about malaria, HIV/AIDS, education and etc. It took place in Morogoro, a beautiful town at the base of a mountain, and it was a busy two weeks that, for better or worse, felt a lot like summer camp. Returning to my village was a little overwhelming…for one thing now I’m back to only partially being able to express myself in Kiswahili and passing my evenings by lamplight, but also now is when volunteers are supposed to be ready to start projects.
The first project I’m going to try is a permagardening project at the primary school. After meeting with the teachers to discuss the benefits of a permagarden project, the teachers were so enthusiastic and supportive that they said, “ok this is great, we’ll start tomorrow.” Woah woah woah…hang on a second! My counterpart and I had to rein them in and explain that we all need a little bit of time to prepare and organize the students first. It was exhilarating that they wanted to run with it, but woah, guys! Pole pole.
The World Food Program provides corn meal, beans and fortified millet porridge to my primary school for free, so the students have food to eat every day, but they don’t get vegetables. They get calories, but they still lack nutrition. Also, a few people in my village have said that vegetables just can’t grow in our soil. I made a demonstration permagarden at my house, and vegetables indeed can grow in our soil. So the permagarden will teach about nutrition, soil health and vegetable cultivation, and hopefully also demonstrate to others that with a few soil amendments and a bio-intensive garden design, they can grow beautiful vegetables for their families and for sale.
I am happy to report that bees have moved into both my hives! I haven’t been into the hives yet to see how they’re doing, but I see them coming and going, way up there in the trees. Next month we will lower them by the cover of night and get some honey and I can’t wait! Next month is when the rainy season ends. The beekeeping schedule here still confuses me, considering it is the opposite to beekeeping in the US or Europe, where we harvest honey when the environment is green. Here the honey season is when the environment starts to dry up.
It is interesting to experience a rainy season where the rain has such an obvious impact on every day life. For the entire month of February it didn’t rain at all. Many farmers’ corn fell over and was ruined. It was so sad to see the plants’ leaves start to brown, the pumpkins’ leaves collapsed like a closed umbrella (because after all what use is an umbrella with no rain?) And when it finally did rain, in March, the farmers were in their fields almost immediately, trying to replant their ruined fields of corn with sunflowers to try and make up for the loss.
I went to a nearby Gogo village for the Easter holiday with some friends from my village, and I got a new Kigogo name there. In my village I am “Rain” because I arrived with the rains. In this other village, I am matika, or “When the corn is yea-high [holding hand to hip-height]” in Kigogo. I am fascinated by the specificity of certain words that some languages have. As far as this suburban-raised gal knows, in English, corn is corn from the kernel to when it’s grilled on the cob. In Kiswahili, there is a word for a fresh coconut that is mostly water and a different word for a coconut that is dried and mostly meat. A different word for cooked and uncooked rice. There is a name for each individual type of ant but no word for a generic ant. And there are many different kinds of ants here. I have only been able to commit siafu to memory, probably just because those are the ones that bite. But these differences are becoming more important as I become increasingly conversant in Kiswahili, and as I see that ants of various kinds are just more prominent in every day life--at least one day a week a temporary river of ants courses through my house, each time in a new location. Similarly, there are many names for aunts as well. A paternal aunt is shangazi and a maternal aunt is mama mkubwa, also reflecting the environment here in Tanzania.