I have been living in my village for more than seven months now. Where does the time go? No, literally, what have I spend all these months doing? Well truthfully, the days are generally filled by ordinary tasks that just take up much more time than they would in America. For instance, doing laundry by hand: a time consuming task that could take me all day if I was doing the equivalent of a full load, but I’ll be the first to say that this might be due to my domestic ineptitude rather than the size of the task. Fetching a 20-liter bucket of water takes around 20 minutes, not including crucial schmooze time with the nuns at the mission, where I fill up every day. And then just boiling water for breakfast takes about 40 minutes. These are some of the tasks that set the rhythm for my days.
Ok, so I can set aside a good chunk of time every day that is spent completing these routines, but then there are the things that are not on this daily to-do list. For example: taking 40 minutes to individually remove dozens and dozens of ants from a kilo of sugar. Generally speaking, a lot of my time is spent on Removing Ants From _______. And then of course waiting takes up a lot of time: waiting for people to show up, waiting for my change, waiting for the bus to show up. I bet this I true of life in America, too, but trust me--the waiting is on a different level here. Oh, also I’ve spent a shameful amount of time scanning the shortwave radio’s 100’s of channels trying to find the news in English.
Another example, of the unexpected things that fill my days, is stumbling upon a Kigogo celebration. This month being the harvest season, people are feeling flush with money, and so it is the season to party. I’ve heard some people criticize this as an extravagance—come next February all that money’s gone and food becomes scarce. But either way, it is fascinating to experience these celebrations.
Last week I was invited to a party for a young girl on the event of her first period. I was invited by the girl’s dad! My dad has been incredibly supportive of me throughout all the stages of my life, but I could never imagine, let alone want at all such a celebration organized by my father! That aside, the customs observed at such a celebration are really neat. The girl was wearing beautiful new clothes, henna, beads, bangles and a whimsical headdress. The girl and some elders of both genders led a procession from the house to a little hill nearby where they placed a gourd on her head and tucked Tsh10,000 (big bucks!) underneath it. They hooked an axe over her shoulder and then said a bunch of stuff in Kigogo that I didn’t understand. An old lady had made a small hole in a baobob pod, poured honey inside it, then mixed the honey and baobob fruit well with a stick. She was dipping the stick into the pod and feeding herself the baobob-honey and then feeding the girl. The girl did not seem to like it, but the old lady sure did. Then the girl held two babies, a boy and a girl.
I found out that the axe symbolizes that the girl should hike up Kinyami, the big mountain by the village and cut down a tree to make a beehive out of it. The gourd is what she will put her honey harvest into, and the baobob-honey is the food she will make with the honey, and the cash is the money she will make from the honey. The two babies symbolizes that she will have both boy and girl babies. Then we enjoyed tasty food and a lot of old mamas playing drums and singing Kigogo songs and that was it.
As if there was any doubt in my mind as to just what kind of region I am in, I can now be certain that I am in bee and baobob country. I can already see myself craving baobob when I have gone back to America. Baobob fruit comes in a thick, fuzzy and bulbous pod. Inside, the seeds are coated in a chalky layer of fruit. It tastes pretty tangy and only mildly sweet; it’s a great snack and it also makes a very tasty juice.
In other news, or rather to add to my “everyday to-do list,” this month I started teaching Life Skills at the secondary school and English at the primary school. Yeah…I don’t have any background in ESL but the students can use any help they can get. Likewise I can use any help I can get--please send me your best practices if you have any tips!