15 June 2009

I insist on living life to the fullest.

Currently, I’m watching Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on East African TV (EATV). Oh the good ‘ol days…


The end of the third week is here! It feels more like the end of three months, but the time here is going by very quickly. I am getting used to the more so daily routine of having tea and peanut butter sandwiches (sometimes fried eggs) for breakfast, going to class for six hours, coming home to watch the news and eat dinner, then going to bed. In the process, I am trying to absorb as much as I can about life in Tanzania.

The past week of class went really well. My group members and I interviewed stakeholders for our HIV and infant feeding case study.

On Tuesday, we interviewed an MPH grad student who just conducted research on HIV positive mothers in Moshi. We were supposed to meet him at 9am, but we didn’t meet up with him until 10:30. I am now fully aware of the concept of CPT (colored people time) that my friends always talk about (haha!). It’s no big deal though; I have no problem with people taking their time just as long as things get done. So, he took three of us to a small health clinic near town where I thought we would interview patients, instead we just sat in a room and interviewed him. We asked him about the differences in feeding practices he observed between rural and urban mothers, what he thought about national and local support for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs, and several other questions about infant feeding. I had a lap top with me so I typed almost everything he said. Then, the next day, we went to Uru Kyaseni, a rural health clinic located outside of MoTown on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and interviewed a midwife and pregnant mother. The ride to Uru was very bumpy as we went through narrow unpaved streets but, it was very scenic. All of our interviewees were very valuable resources for our assignment.

With a week and a half left to develop policy options and complete our project, I am very happy about my group’s work and look forward to our final presentation.

In strangers we trust? (Excerpt from reflection):

Last weekend, as I walked back from town with Roslyn, Adey and Jen, a man was walking behind us. He followed us from the roundabout off Double Rd. almost all the way to the corner of KCMC and Kilimanjaro Rd. I felt relatively safe because we were out in the open and in a group. However, in the back of my mind, I thought he might try to steal something from or grab one of us once he had the opportunity. So, Jen and I told Adey and Roslyn that we should take a break from walking with the hopes that the man would continue walking. Instead, he stopped as soon as we did. For half an hour, to no avail, we tried to figure out what he wanted and catch a dala dala the rest of the way home. Fortunately, two men driving toward town saw that we need help and told the man to leave us alone. So far in Kilimanjaro, I have not felt like I was “off balance”. Perhaps it is in the nature of this program or the home stay I was placed in, but I am comfortably on my tip toes and making the most of this unique experience.

Ni me shiba (I am full)!:

One of my classmates said, “I am never hungry in Africa!” and I laughed at her mainly because of the way she said it, but also because it’s true. I’ve heard stories from my classmates who sometimes receive two plates of food at dinner and either politely say no because they are full or eat it because they don’t want to be rude. Adey and I haven’t experienced this, but Mama is very subtle about getting us to eat more. Sometimes, after I’ve had a full plate of food, I will say “chakula kitamu sana (the food is delicious)”, but with a smile on her face she will slowly push a container of food towards me and then say “some more”. I’m not sure if that’s a question or not, but I laugh and say “sawa (okay)” as I take some more.

Bwana Chuwa explained to me that Mama makes food based on the number of people currently in the house. I assume that whatever is not eaten is used as compost since the food doesn’t last for long and cannot be reheated.

One of my classmates also pointed out to me that the meals at my home stay are very healthy. I didn’t realize that until I thought about it. Bwana Chuwa has diabetes and two weeks ago, when I first arrived, Mama was admitted to KCMC’s hospital because her blood pressure doubled. So, the meals at home reflect how aware and informed the family is about their health statuses. All of the meals I have had up are well balanced. I have never eaten so much cabbage, spinach, and cucumber (which are in rotation, haha) before. But, I’m happy to be eating healthy food with them.

Lost in translation:

So a couple of nights ago, Adey pointed out to me that Mama had a new hairstyle. Usually, she wears two pigtails, but that evening her hair was pulled back into a neat bun. I used this as an opportunity to compliment her in Swahili. During the Chaga tour, I learned how to say a female is beautiful, mbrembo. I went up to Mama and said this to her, as I turned to continue making tea, she slapped me on my shoulder. I asked her if I said something wrong and she said, “Mama, hapana (no) mbrembo”. I was pretty sure that the word meant beautiful. Adey and I asked Richard what the word meant, and he said that mbrembo shouldn’t be used for older women like Mama. According to Adey, I said Mama was “hot”. Then, everything made sense! I should’ve said mzuri which means the same thing but for older women.

I’ve learned that in Swahili certain words should be used with certain people, just like code switching in the states, but here I feel like it’s on another level. Whenever I greet someone older than me I have to say Shikamoo (a respectful greeting to the elderly) and if I’m with teenagers or young adults, I say mambo (what’s up?). If a young child is greeting me, he or she has to say Shikamoo to me. That makes me feel old! I don’t think of myself as being an elderly person to a seven year old, but that’s the way things work around here.

And another thing! Some of the words in Swahili differ by one letter and have completely different meanings. It goes unnoticed in English, but it’s extremely noticeable when learning another language and can make a big difference when someone is trying to understand what you’re saying. For example, mfugo (domestic animal) and mfuko (bag, pocket) or matango (cucumber) and matengo(basket).

Some more diffs:

I am convinced that every word in Swahili ends with a vowel. I am still searching for one that will prove me wrong. To be continued…

Men hold hands in public. It does not mean they are homosexuals; it’s just part of the culture. Oh and on that note, homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in many African countries and countries all over the world- end quote Adey.

The first day of the week is Saturday (Jumamosi).

More of a time difference, but TZ is 7hrs ahead of EST. I don’t think my mother remembers this; she called me at 3 in the morning. She asked me, “How are you, how is everything?” I said, “Mummy, I’m fine”. She thought I was catching a cold because I didn’t sound too well and I said, “No, I was just sleeping”. I told her it was 3 and her response, which made me laugh a little, was, “Oh, well it’s only 8 here”. She let me off the phone and I went back to sleep. Thanks mother…

It’s electric:

On Wednesday night as Adey and I were doing some work, the electricity unexpectedly went out. It was really late, but Mama gave us some candles and soon we went to bed. The electricity was out for almost twenty four hours when it came back on Thursday night. The last time I remember being without electricity for that long was during the blackout of ’06 in New York City (good times). Then, at dinner on Friday night, the electricity went out again. I asked Bwana Chuwa what was going on with the town’s electricity and what company was the supplier. He explained to me that the town’s electricity is powered by water. In the past, the Moshi Urban Water Company asked the residents to limit the electric output because the water reserves were low. However, now the reserves are full and sometimes over flow and he does not understand why the electricity goes out every Thursday night. Bwana lets go on a mission to find out!

My kind of Safari:

Fun fact: Safari is Kiswahili for trip. I didn’t know that when I came here; we use it so much, it’s practically English!

On Saturday, we went on a safari at Arusha National Park. It was so much fun!! We rode in open-roof vans and snapped pictures like our lives depended on it. Two of my friends and I sat on top of the roof and continuously braced ourselves for the rocky ride and the branches coming towards our faces. Our breaths were taken away when we saw the vast landscape of Tanzania. I was not able to take pictures because I was hanging on for dear life, but the image is definitely embedded in my mind. We also saw parts of Kilimanjaro’s neighbor, Mt. Meru. Clouds covered the peak of the mountain, but the sight at the base was plentiful. We saw blue, black and white, and tan Colobus monkeys, waterbuck antelopes, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, flamingos, and guinea fowl. In addition to the wild life, we saw Ngurdoto Crater. Reading about a crater does not compare to actually seeing one. It was a huge hole in the Earth! We also saw the Momella Lakes (big and small). At the end of the day we were totally spent!

I will try my best to sum up today (Sunday): Adey and I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with the family, we met older brother Venance, watched Next, Step Up, and are about to watch Dirty Dancing Havana Nights :-).


Almost done with class, then Zanzibar!

More on that later…

1 comment:

  1. Tea and peanut butter sandwiches, i been eatin that for years. guess its an african thing haha.. this is KC by tha way