We've had some rain. Not torrential, which would be nice, but enough to send the farmers back to their shambas with hoes. Hopefully it'll last and they can get a good crop in. It's gruelling, backbreaking work, sweaty, dirty, and there's not enough money in the world for me to go out there and dig. Asante Mungu I don't have to grow what I eat. Especially as what they grow is maize for ugali, and I think I've been more than clear on that subject.
The river is still bone dry, the water soaked right into the ground. But anyone who has a tank has a full one, and you can see buckets catching maji all over the village.The trees are starting to flower, and I can smell the plumeria as I walk to school. Amazing how so little water can make a tree flower. I guess the trees are like the people and animals of Africa, whatever you get is enough, because that's all there is.
Arobaini tree. Aissa describes the tea as siyo mzuri.
Africans are the masters of understatement
so while siyo mzuri means
"not good" I'm thinking ghastly.
There's a tree here called arobaini, and it smells like heaven. Arobaini is Kiswahili for forty, and taken as tea will protect against forty diseases. I don't know all the names, but I imagine there's at least forty african diseases I don't want to get. Mary said Aissa knows how to prepare it, and I plan to find out after my likizo. Until then I just work.
|This is what's in my backyard|
Martha, the other teacher, got malaria and a bunch of other stuff so has been out for three weeks come Friday, and will be out until school closes for Christmas vacation. So it's just me and the kids. Yikes. And I thought I needed a vacation before this.
They're good kids, but it's not easy, especially because in reality, I'm not a teacher. My friends have been helping me with the school chores. Some of my adult students have kids in my morning session, and they bring water for our hand washing bucket, and help me clean the classroom. If I had to fetch the water, I'd be in Morogoro trolling for hand sanitizer.
Isaac has asked me to extend my stay to three years instead of two, although I haven't finished my first year. His boy Mbuli is one of my students, a star, and Isaac is desperate to start a primary school. The chekechea is phenomenal, by African standards, and with the exception of the girls, the kids are eatin' up everything I give them. One kid, Dani, is an absolute whiz, a quiet kid, sweet and happy. He sits next to me so I can just explain whatever I need to explain, an then he does it. Just like that. It would be criminal to send him to a government school. Same goes for Mbuli, Bea, Freddy, Susy.....
The girls. I've talked about them before, it's a struggle to get them to speak at an audible level, much less assert themselves. Assertive women are underappreciated in village life, the older men just flat don't listen to them. At meetings, it's like the women aren't even there. Although I've always considered assertiveness one of my best qualities, it's not what men here look for. Girls are expected to marry and be good, meaning obedient. I worry for the girls, the boys tend to push them around, and occasionally they resist, which I support. I'm on the boys all the time to show them some respect, but it's so slow.
|At an african hospital, |
patients do their own laundry.
Even at the bus stop, one of the bus guys will just take a woman's arm, or her bag, and basically drag her onto the bus. I hate this and no surprise here, I'm not shy about expressing myself.
After all the time I've spent in Africa I've concluded that the only things worse than the state of health care are the educational system and the treatment of women.The government has decided there needs to be more schools, which is true. So they're building schools. However there's not enough teachers for the schools already here, SO to remedy this, they have shortened the teacher training period. Now we have more teachers, but they're even more poorly trained than the old ones. This goes for medical training as well.
If you're living where it's snowing, pole sans.
These are plumeria, the most divine smelling
flower on earth. And all
over the village.
The govt has also attempted to respond to the lack of health care for kids and the wazee (elders). Traditionally kids under five have received free health care at govt hospitals, but now the govt has extended that to the wazee. They have promised to reimburse the hospitals for the care given, but so far precious little reimbursement has happened. Hospitals may close, not that they didn't close before, but now it's going to be worse. Sometimes I think this place is just going to implode. These facts have been given to me by Isaac, so it's not just me making rash generalizations. The imploding part is from me. Isaac will never implode, I've never even seen him angry.
Berega Hospital is a mission hospital, so while definitely not for profit, they have not had to offer free services. Now the govt wants them to offer free care to kids under five and the wazee. But Berega Hospital does give free care, all the time, because it is a mission hospital and can't turn away sick people, kids or otherwise.
Poor Isaac, he's the Hospital Director, and a good guy. He's actually a pastor, but the previous Director was using hospital funds to live the life of the rich and famous, so the Diocese asked Isaac to step in. He's too wonderful. His office is right next to the room I use as my office/internet room. So I see him often during the day. He's very open about the problems he has running the hospital, and frankly if I had to choose, I'd grab a hoe and farm. Somehow he has to find the money to pay the workers, because the govt has reduced their contributions by a huge percentage. This is the same govt that has extended free health care, but can't seem to reimburse the hospitals. (Update, Isaac has borrowed the money to pay salaries, and is now officially up to his neck in debt).
Part of me wants to stay, I've invested a lot of time and energy here, and the results are good. But I want to travel. But I've made good friends here, but then I'll make friends somewhere else as well. I have a valuable skill set, Third World wise. I can nurse, teach, set up a preschool, even paint a little. This makes me Third World gold. Not blowing my own horn here folks, just about anyone from an organized society is gold here. Plus I like the simple life and don't mind hanging around for a while. So I have no idea what I'll do, but I've got a year to figure it out.
I always like where I am, but I always leave. I guess I'm looking for the perfect place. I'm marginally wanting to settle down (remember I have commitment issues). But then I want to see everything.
You'd have to be brainless not to sense my extreme confusion. What to do? This is not a rhetorical question. Weigh in please, if you like. I wish Mungu would reach down, point, and in a voice eerily like Charlton Heston tell me to GO THERE! I'm waiting, but so far no direct communication. But when and if He does, I hope the terrain is flat enough to ride a bike. And maybe there could be mangoes.
Since Martha has been sick, I've reorganized my classroom, brainiacs on one side, regular preschool kids on the other, and the kati kati (between), in the middle. Looks kind of like a dumb bell. So far it's ok, gives me access to each group so I can get the wizards started on something and concentrate on my normal kids.
The only problem is, like most really bright kids, they finish fast and start raising hell. Hard to get mad at them, though, when fifty years ago I was that kid. Best I can do is threaten to send them to a regular govt school where the teachers can beat them. Which they think is hilarious. Hopefully these kids will never have to do that, because kids in govt who do too well will get caned for showing off. So when Vincent adds 60 plus 60 in his head and answers 120, I say vzuri sana, but the local teacher grabs a fimbo (stick).
Local businessman selling gas for the
And for 200 tsh he can pump up your tires
or fix a flat. That's
his tire pump lashed to the tree.
I need someone very old and stinking rich to die and leave me a pile of money. Nobody I know, just some old geezer who's lived a full happy life and has no direct descendants.
It's a few days later now, and the rains have stopped. I hope it was enough.
My chekechea kids just counted by ten all the way up to 1000, with a little prompting, but they recognize the pattern. Some of the kids are trying to identify four digit numbers, and doing ok.
I have tumbo, I'm thinking giardia.
I'm assuming tomatoes are heavier
than water, so this has
to be 40 lbs of tomatoes on this
eight year old kids head.
Someone broke down the door to the classroom John is painting, stole four small cans of paint. Have put a 10,000 tsh reward on his head, and when/if they catch him, they will beat him. I'm inclined instead to have him work it off doing prep work, but maybe I'll just bow to the culture and ask them not to actually kill him. Or not. I think I need this vacation more than I thought.
I'm leaving for Dar in a day or two, will return sometime in January, so if I don't write, it's not malaria, or giardia, or typhoid, or any of the other thirty seven african diseases nobody wants.