Monday, November 8, 2010

Mungu ni Mwema

So this blog entry gonna be a little on the shorter side. Probably a good thing, I’ve started to trend toward writing novels. Wrote up a long entry, hated it, shan’t post it. Basically I was trying to write a day-in-the-life entry. But I kept going on tangents, and very soon the entry became a day-in-the-life-of-the-reader. And that’s no good. So here is a brief sketch of one day in my little vacation. It was Thursday, by the by:

-woke up at 6:15am to the sound of chickens and my cat.
-put on water for coffee and oatmeal
-fed cat cut up dried fish about the size of a paper clip
-took off water, poured coffee, put on water for bathing (half the water I need, I then mix it with cold water to avoid scalding.)
-do crossword, drink instant coffee, eat instant oatmeal. Instantly awesome.
-bathe (takes me about 5 liters of water…maybe less. Two to wet the body…that’s right, the body. Then soaping and shampoo, then three cups to rinse.) and shave.
-get dressed, have final cup of coffee. Leave at 8am to meet friend, we are going to his tree farm for me to look and learn.
-friend is not there.
-…still not there.
-formulate new plan! My friend the witch doctor has a pine forest that he planted, and it’s quite large, and I can’t wait to go explore it…and now I can!
-Walk down to the forest, meet a few friends on the way, then point me in the right direction.
-Enter forest.
-Sit down in forest.
-Think about Thoreau.
-Phone rings. Thoreau never had to put up with this shit.
-Kenzie having mild crisis. I am useless to help. She figures it out.
-Bask again.
-Leave forest, go to another stand of trees, eucalyptus this time.
-Much less peaceful here. Go check out a bridge my villagers built over one of the smallish rivers. Pretty nice job actually. Might have my civil engineering buddy start working up some designs for me using just nails and rough cut pine (Kucz, this would be you).
-Head back home, stop at the store to grab some biscuits (sugar and flour…yummy), and eat them with honey and peanut butter for a snack.
-Is now about 12:30. Take a quick nap and prepare for my meeting at 2. See a friend passing, she invites me to her church later for a seminar on the word of God. She’s good people. I agree to go. I don’t know why. She’s an Assemblist of God.
-Have a meeting at 2 with the head teacher to discuss the details of my upcoming Environmental Club. There will be 35 kids (yikes!), and we will do all sorts of fun activities. Details forthcoming.
-Meeting wraps up at 3:30, I quick run to the store to buy a fungu (pile) of tomatoes for dinner, and then head to church.
-Church. There is singing, there is dancing, there may have been some speaking in tongues, but there was no laying of the hands. I would have remembered. It’s been a while…
-Free from church! Good people, the Assemblists. They sing a lot, they dance, there are drums. Little more lively than my Catholic masses.
-Friend invites me to his house. We talk for about 15 minutes, he gives me an egg and bananas. I don’t need these things. Even though my stipend is fairly low (about 190 dollars a month), it’s plenty. But I’m a guest. This is tradition. These are wonderful people.
-Go home and cook spaghetti and my homemade sauce. This takes about 2 hours, involves me grating a dozen tomatoes, chopping onions, garlic, peppers, and lighting two different stoves, one charcoal and one kerosene. It is very dark at this point, and I finish around 8pm. I use a solar lantern for light, and I listen to music. This time I don’t spill the sauce everywhere. Yay!
-Eat by candlelight. Cat purrs.
-Do the dishes (involving three basins and an orange bar of soap. Pretty easy actually).
-Write a letter by candelight. Always fun! I believe that day was to Miss Drake. This takes about a half hour.
-Read for a little by candle, then call it a day around 9:30.
-Take a half cup of water to the choo for teeth brushing and flossing.
-Change into jimmies.
-Lock door.
-Lift up mosquito net, crawl in, put on headlamp (thanks!).
-Read for about a half hour…drift off into cozy slumber.


And there it is. A day in my little life. Not necessarily the normal day, but that’s only because there are no normal days. Everything before 8am and after 7pm is usually the same. In between, anything goes. Lots of days I run, lots of days I wash clothes or sweep, lots of days I show up as the guest of honor at someone’s house and get fed. It varies a lot.

Would like to return briefly to the point of the church and the forest, and the kitchen. I went to church 3 of the last 4 days. In case you are wondering, no, I have not changed that much. I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of that time spent on the wooden bench. But what I did enjoy was the singing. And the looks on peoples faces, and the happiness and relief I saw on them when we left at the end of mass. Church may not be where I get that feeling, that wonderful feeling, that realization that Mungu ni mwema (God is good), and so are we. I may not find that in church, but I do recognize it. If you could have seen my face as I sat in the midst of a farm of pine trees, you would have recognized it too. It was like being in a wooden cathedral, the columns in perfect rows marching towards the horizon, the light being filtered not by stained glass, but by pine needles and branches. It was symmetrical, it was natural, and it was beautiful. Or if you had seen me the day I cut open my cinnamon raisin bread and slathered some butter and bit in while it was still piping hot. It’s just like…alchemy. That moment when the potter and his clay interact, and when it’s over, still all you have is potter and clay, but something else is there. Something beautiful. Something gold. That’s what this experience is like for me, on the good days. And most days are good days. I think maybe it has to do with waiting so long, and working so hard, to be here, to do this. I’m just a guy, sitting in a forest, or kneading some dough. But the context, the history, the conflux of work done and work yet to be done, makes bread into gold, and pine into wine. Someone wrote me that you can't do everything in life. And that's true. You can't do everything. But you can do anything.

So I would like to address one little question that Mama Waldron has posed a few times. What am I called in my village? Sadly, I got nothing. It’s usually “Dani” or “Danieri” or “Piss Kor” (Peace Corps). Sometimes it is “Mzungu”, which is what they call all white people. Not a fan. But Daniel is not an uncommon name here, and they’re cool with it. So I have no tribal handle. Therefore, I have given myself a Tanzanian name. Not for the village, cuz they wouldn’t get it. But amongst the volunteers of my particular region, I am now known as Baba Sukari. For those asking the obvious question, Sukari means sugar. And Baba means father. Or daddy. Enjoy.


Piss Kor

1 comment:

  1. Hello Waldo! This is Shiffler. So I asked your sister how you were doing and she refered me to your blogs. I just spent like the past 45 min to an hour reading your blogs. You seem to be having an amazing time and enjoying yourself tremdendously. I must say I am so happy for you! I am sure you are doing a fantabulous job and learning a lot about african culture not to mention about yourself. I have thought a many a times to go to a third world country and offer my help not only as a nurse but just as a person and you have made me re think doing this again maybe in a couple of years. But I hope all is well and I cant wait to see your next blog! Peace and Love my friend and God Bless!