We’re leaving Manow in less than three hours. We went to Klaus and Carina Dinkel’s for dinner tonight in Itete. It felt weird leaving in a car as the sun set on our last night here. I think I would have liked to stay in Manow and say goodbye but at the end of the evening I felt more adjusted to the thought of leaving and to the western world we’ll be reentering.
Leaving a place where you have lived is so difficult. You know that life will continue as normal even though you have left the pattern. I’ll miss the things we do everyday here. Listening to our water tank overflow outside my window as I fall asleep, waving to our students playing football with the village team as the sun sets, buying vibama from Frank’s mom on the way to Lwangwa, watching the men playing mancala outside of Whitey’s duka, hearing shrill voices scream “Madame! Good Morn’!” from in the maize. I can’t believe I won’t see this all everyday.
This last week was both slow and chaotic as we anticipated and prepared for leaving. Monday and Tuesday we reviewed for the final. They took the final on Wednesday. We were very happy to have a classroom at MLJS, instead of the church where half the class usually takes the weekly exam on benches. We graded the exams on Wednesday evening and determined who would win the scholarships to MLJS starting Form 1 next year. I also made cards for each student. It was really fun to think of a personal message and memory to write to everyone. It reminded me of why I will miss each of them. They have been my first class and they have taught me so much while I figured out how to be a teacher. This was a very difficult job. This being my first time teaching I quickly became aware of the challenges of being such a young teacher (who is really still a student herself). It was also a challenge to be working in a system that is almost totally unknown. My biggest struggle was finding a balance between authority and friend. Being very close in age to some of our students, and being a student myself, it was very easy to relate to their experience. At times this was helpful, allowing me to remember and use my recent experiences in high school language classes. Other times I really had to fight to be taken seriously and get their cooperation. When I played soccer with the boys during break I was excited to be accepted into their games. This also made me job more difficult as I was the only teammate who could end break and decide that class needed to begin again. Everyday I was met with protests as they all dragged their feet back to class. Sometimes I would get so frustrated and yell. I couldn’t understand why, after I was so close with them, they would still make things so difficult. I started to wonder if maybe I was part of a very unfamiliar relationship between teacher and students.
At the same time I feel very proud of my teaching. It’s a really amazing feeling to see them all looking up at you, paying attention, and answering honestly when you ask if they understand. That was one of my favorite parts of class, having them say “Madame Hannah, we don’t understand.” It was the best part of teaching. It helped me find some way to reexplain or redraw a concept and in the end, I think, gave me a better understanding of how people learn.
I did have a few students who I especially loved working with one-on-one. After the final one boy, who had struggled in the course and failed the final, was sitting alone in the back of our classroom. I sat next to him and he hugged me while he fought back tears. He seemed disappointed and embarrassed about his exam as well as sad to know we were leaving so soon. It broke my heart. While we’ve been here he has loved teaching me about his home. To me, he was the kindest and most creative student in the class. I hated that he had done so poorly because he was always so enthusiastic and excited when I worked with him writing his stories. Getting to know him was the highlight of my time in Manow.
Today, our last day, was full of goodbyes. We said goodbye and thank you to the congregation at church this morning, both for our classroom and for welcoming us into their lives. I was excited to see some of our students there to say goodbye one last time. Dot and I went to Isaac’s to meet his family before we left. He has four boys and a very sweet wife, Neema. We also stopped by the Mwasamwaja’s one last time. Their porch feels like a second home here and their family, my new extended family. I feel so comfortable there and it was very difficult to say goodbye. I hope I will see them all again and drink Mama’s sweet, milky tea with her on her porch.
It was a sad day. It came and went too quickly and tomorrow feels so unknown. I feel sad knowing that we will leave before the sun rises and miss the sun coming up over the mountains. We did have an exciting treat tonight though. In addition to cheese that the Dinkels shared, we watched a beautiful thunderstorm across the valley over Lake Nyasa from their porch in Itete. Each bolt of lightning lit the dark sky to reveal the layers of watery clouds. It was a strange end but I suppose I can’t think of how it could be different. I’ll be back again.
This was our last week of teaching! We taught sex education and STD prevention. I was a little nervous but it was actually a lot of fun. I really enjoyed teaching the reproductive biology lessons and drawing all of the organs on the board, although penises aren’t that fun to draw from any direction. Another highlight was the banana and condom lab on Thanksgiving. Dot took the day off to work on dinner so Katelyn taught the girls and I taught the boys. It went surprisingly well. Only one boy, Bliss, absolutely refused to touch the slimy, lubricated rubber. Yesaya called me over to help him at one point. He was having trouble stretching the condom over his banana. I smiled and said “You just have really big banana!” He grinned. The only misbehavior was from Frank, of course, who wanted to know how many liters of water or sperm a condom could hold so he snuck one outside to test at the spigot.
After the lab, Mwakaje came to our class to translate some the ideas we’d taught all week. He opened it up for questions and reassured the students that it was safe place to ask anything. The kids just went crazy. They asked so many questions, both funny and thoughtful, that they wouldn’t have been able to ask in English. It was great. One girl asked what she should do if she wanted to have sex with a boy but his penis wouldn’t become erect. A boy asked how he can tell if the sperm is in the woman. Another boy asked if a boy can ejaculate without a woman. We said yes and he just asked how…There were also a lot of questions about how HIV/AIDS is spread and how soon you will test positive after contracting it. Later Mwakaje said he had a lot of fun helping us. He said some of the students in form six didn’t even know the things we were teaching to our students. It was exciting to hear that we were really doing something different.
That night we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of our closest friends here. Katelyn and I killed two skinny chickens earlier in the week with a lot of help and emotional support from Martin. Apparently Tanzanians don’t chop off chicken heads with an axe but instead you stand with your legs spread, one foot on the wings and the other on the feet, while you cut the head off with a knife. Katelyn let go of hers after cutting through just part of the neck and I went to get it out of the bushes after it bled to death. I kept my feet still but had to beg Martin to finish cutting through the neck bone. Then together we held its body down until the heart stopped pumping. Martin taught us how pluck, gut, and clean the bodies, although he’d never gutted a whole chicken before. He was making some great facial expressions as he pulled all of the insides out of a small slit in its butt.
For dinner we had the two chickens, roasted carrots,, mashed potatoes, stuffing (made from both Dot and Mama Mwasamwaja’s bread), gravy, beans, avocados, mango salsa (to replace the cranberry sauce), and apple dumplings for dessert. It was a beautiful and colorful Thanksgiving table with a green and white striped sheet as a table cloth. Ngwitika, her son Godlove, Martin, and the Mwasamwajas were our guests. Katelyn, the youngest, washed everyone’s hands with a pitcher and a basin as is the Tazanian custom. Katelyn and I boasted that we had killed the chickens and Mama Mwasamwaja laughed and said, “You mean you cut them? You CUT and chicken, you KILL a cow.” Very cool lady.
We finished the week with a fractured arm. Frank, usually so loud and chatty, was very quiet while we reviewed for the exam. He’d fallen from a tree the day before and his arm was very swollen. He said he wanted to take the exam but sat there, icing his arm, with giant tears rolling down his cheeks one by one. After the exam I walked him to the clinic where the doctor tied probably the worst sling I’ve ever seen. It was a strip of gauze tied around the break and then straight up around his neck. He told Frank that he needed to go to the district hospital in Tukuyu for an x-ray and gave him a report to give to the doctor on duty. Katelyn rewrapped his arm and tied a new sling. I walked him home and he asked for me to stay a while because his mom was still selling food to the students at Manow. It was awful to see Frank so hurt. He has the biggest tears I’ve ever seen.
Now we are preparing for the busy week we have ahead.
This week I’ll work backwards. This weekend was very busy, all three of us are trying to fit everything in. Only two weekends left. Yesterday Katelyn went to Kasiba, a crater lake past Mbambo on the way to Tukuyu. Dot and I rode on the back of Isaac’s motorbike to a different crater lake called Itende (which we found out later Mwaikema has never been to—hard to believe we’ve been somewhere our local geographer has not). Itende is up in the mountains near where Isaac grew up. He invited us to the lake last Sunday after we walked to Lwangwa to see him sing and play guitar in the choir there. He’s very sweet and handsome with a gap between his two front teeth. His English is also very good. I was surprised to learn that he had never gone to secondary school because his family could not afford it. Instead, he took qualification test, which something like a GED, and went to study carpentry in Tukuyu. He was so proud to be showing us where he grew up, his parents home, his uncle’s home, and the church he attended as a boy (it was also the church he worked on to pass as part of his final carpentry exams).
He brought us to a very small, local congregation to worship where they had an incredible youth choir. They were so pleased to have us visit and gave us seats at the front of the church. Hearing them sing is something I will never be able to find words for. I’m not religious and I wouldn’t say the feeling their voices gave me was god, but the energy and emotion in their voices filled every space in the small, crumbling dirt church. One mzee told me Isaac that were the first wazungu she’d ever seen.
The congregation bought us each a soda and a couple bunches of bananas before we began hiking to Itende. The hike was a series of steep ups and downs and having hurt my knee on Saturday, I was forced to go very slow. Isaac would yell back to me “Hannah! Are you okay?! Pole sana Hannah. I know you are fast but today is slow with an injury.” We reached Itende, a deep, figure eight shaped lake, at the hottest part of the day. Isaac told us that he used to play there when he was a boy and he used to believe it was very large. Although it is deep, no one ever swims there. He said there used to be many monkeys near the lake too but yesterday there were none.
We took an even steeper shortcut back to the church and hoped on the motorbike. Sometimes, if the road was too rocky or steep, Dot and I would climb off the bike and meet him at the top of the hill. On one hill we went off the road and into a small ditch. Isaac laughed and apologized then asked if we would please push. We stopped at his uncle’s home again on the way back, where many of his family were sitting in the shade of a tree on a cliff that overlooked the lowlands toward Kasiba and all the way to Tukuyu. They were all very happy to see us and to share their home. They laughed with me when I told them the story about my fall and why I was limping. It was interesting to see that they’d installed a solar panel to their house since electricity doesn’t go that far into the mountains. I couldn’t stop smiling when we were with them but Isaac was the happiest of all, showing us everything that was so important to him and doing it with so much humor. My favorite introduction was to a man who he described as the one who has given him much good advice. He told him he should go to Tukuyu and learn to be a carpenter. It was such an amazing day that left me feeling really close to the people we have been living with.
Now, about the hurt knee. On Friday, some of the boys in our class, the ones who are the most local, living in Ndembo village (between Manow and Lwangwa) told us they wanted to climb Kyejo with us on Saturday. Unsure if they were serious, we told them if they really wanted to do it they had to come to our house very early at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. On Saturday morning at 7:45 I was reading No.1 Ladies Detective Agency in bed when I heard BAM! BAM! BAM! Dot yelled “Girls! Someone’s here for you!” Frank, Mponjoli, Erick, Umboke, and Diana all waited on the porch while Dot filled water bottles for everyone and Katelyn and I quickly got ready. The seven of us headed up behind our house toward Kanyelele. We walked to the carbon dioxide plant, which took us all the way around to the other side of Kyejo. Erick’s father, Fredy, the supervisor at the plant, just laughed when he saw us. He asked how we communicated with them. When we told him we spoke English together he looked shocked and said “They understand you!?” Erick just nodded impatiently.
It was a great hike, laughing and taking picture the whole way. It is pretty awesome that we could all spend an afternoon together as friends, communicating with our broken languages. They all have such strong personalities. Umboke is the sweetest, refusing to let me carry my backpack the whole way up and making a video of everyone eating manganga berries together. Frank is so quick and clever. He’s so smart. He was asking about the English words blind, deaf, and mute. I told him he should be a mute because he’s always talking. Frank looked at me with his big, round eyes, wrinkled his eyebrows and just started miming things as if he was unable to speak. He’s hysterical. On the way up he insisted on being the one to carry my camera and took very good care not to lose the lens cap. Mponjoli’s kind of the bad boy. He’s also very smart but so full of attitude. “Ponjo” doesn’t walk, he struts and his reply is always a cheerful but sarcastic “Okay, teacher” through his big, white smile. Erick looks just like his dad, with a funny grin. He’s pretty serious, always scratching his chin or rubbing his forehead like he’s thinking. He’s sneaky though, and just grins when he gets caught. He started pushing me in our tea time football game. I gave him a look as if to say woah! He just raised his eyebrows, grinned, and wiped his sweat from his forehead. Diana and Erick are cousins. She’s Mwaikema’s younger daughter and is very sweet and smart. You can always count on Diana to try to answer questions in class. She has big, round eyes and a very shy smile. It’s always funny when I’m teaching and look out into the class and see Diana and Yusuphu with their fingers buried deep in one of their nostrils. Diana because she’s thinking and Yusuphu because he’s always bored.
Diana was tired on the hike up but on the last stretch to the top she took off her flip-flops and crawled up the steep grassy ridge with her hands. We sat on the top together, everyone just resting and looking out across the valley and over to Rungwe. Katelyn and I needed to be at Mwasamwaja’s at 2:00 so we rounded everyone up and started down. Frank, Mponjoli, and Erick sat back down and said they were too hungry and needed chips maiai. I told them there were no eggs on the mountain and left them there. Eventually they ran after us. It was a very hot walk back but one woman invited us to her home and shared some water with all the kids. When we passed back through Kanyelele Fredy bought us each a soda and with the change bought Katelyn and I fifteen eggs! Eggs are the best gift. I think that’s what I’ll start bringing to people when they invite me for dinner in the US.
We told everyone we’d buy them all chips maiai when we reached Mbegele but when we reached a duka they said they were all out. We all dragged our feet back down to our house, past Isaac’s shop. Dot and Isaac just laughed at how tired we all were. Dot had met some of their parents on the way to Lwangwa who thought we would never make it with the students as our only guides. I think it was a better adventure that way. It was clear that no one really knew where we were going but it was so fun.
Once home, Katelyn and I had to rush to shower and get ready to go to the Mwasamwajas’. On the way down I bought chips for our hungry students and Katelyn and I started running down the road to Lwangwa and just before we reached their house I tripped on a rock. It was a very dramatic fall and all the kids nearby giggled as I limped the rest of the way.
Mama Mwasamwaja went right to cleaning my bleeding hand and knee. She sent me to the bathroom where she ran warm, salty water over the cuts on my palm. Then she told me she must put salt on them She dabbed a little salt on my hand then disappeared to another room to get some clean, white fabric. Oh my goodness it hurt. I yelled out for her in pain and could hear her chuckle from across the house. Without her First Aid kit all she had was salt to clean the cuts. She told me her grandchildren always say if something hurts you shouldn’t take it to bebe (grandma) because it will only hurt more.
Finally she blew off the salt and fed me warm beef stew with bananas instead of potatoes. For the rest of the afternoon we sat on the back porch talking, sharing pictures, and preparing pilau, the national dish of Tanzania. Pilau is a rice dish with beef, onions, garlic, and lots of sweet spices. I feel like I’ve been welcomed into their family. Their oldest son was there helping cook (she taught him to cook even though it is not Nyakusa tradition for men to prepare food). She’s a really amazing woman and has done so much in her life. Before she was married she was sent to Germany by her church. They also spent a few years in the US together when he was getting a degree at Wartburg Seminary in Iowa. They have so many photographs documenting their travels and all of the amazing things they have done. So much of their life has been dedicated to learning and teaching. He has taught all over the country and founded Manow Lutheran Junior Seminary in the early 1990s. They are definitely some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life.
I’ve been so lucky to have spent so much time getting to know her. I took Thursday off this week and went with her to her shamba in Ikombe. I got to her house around 8:00 am and helped her prepare her delicious, sweet, milky chai over a fire in the kitchen behind her house. We walked about a mile together to her shamba, bringing chai to her husband. They’re behind on tending to their maize because of the recent death of two of her brothers. I helped her plant beans and then, while she rested in the shade, I helped two women weed the corn. They laughed but said I was a hard worker. Mama told me they never thought a wazungu could work. We took a break for chai before planting more beans. She did everything in one motion, making a small hole with her heel, dropping in two beans, then gently covering the beans with her toes.
We walked home and I continued to weave my mkeka while she napped next to me on the porch. When Mwasamwaja came home we prepared ugali (stiff corn porridge) and a beef soup. We ate together and they told me they were so happy I had decided to spend the day with them. She told me I was her granddaughter, gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek, and said she would think of me whenever she ate beans or corn. I hope that someday they can return to the US to visit, and of course I hope I can come back and visit them.
It was a good week. Busy but very comfortable. I feel close to our friends here and it makes me so happy to know that they have welcomed me into their lives.
There was not a lot that happened in class this week. On Tuesday, just before dismissal, Frank asked to go to the bathroom. When I told him he had to wait he said “Ok, I poop in the class.”
About to begin week 8. We’re studying the lesson plans for First Aid. It was hard to get myself to write this post. My mind is all over the place thinking about home, our upcoming trips to Moshi and Zanzibar, and about the goodbyes that are creeping closer. I want to be able to remember and retell each moment exactly as it felt or looked or smelled. Beryl Markham had an amazing ability to make her reader feel the complexities of a situation or experience. There’s so much I’m trying to remember and fit in, I know it will be impossible to put it into words.
It’s Novemer and the rains are beginning, although Mama Mwasamwaja said it is still a bit early. She was unhappy with the rain because they are still weeding and not ready for the clouds to roll in. It rained every afternoon this week just as we were finishing our last lesson. It’s just about impossible to teach through the pounding of rain on the tin roof so we’ve been dismissing the students a little bit early. On Thursday we let them out when we heard the first rumblings of rain coming. Some of them refuse to bring their exercise books home if it is already raining when class gets out but we needed them to study for their exam on Friday. They seem to know it’s going to rain before we do. They get all anxious and fidgety and ask if they can leave before it rains. Dot and I just laugh and tell them they can leave soon, just calm down, the sun’s still out. Thirty seconds later it’s pouring rain and our lessons are brought to a chaotic end.
Last Sunday, Katelyn and I climbed Mwandanje – the large, round, green mound near Lwangwa. We were led by a young man from Ndembo village named Maxcepa and Mwaikema’s daughter Tumaini (“Hope” in Swahili). Two of Maxcepa’s friends came as well and, along the way, two young girls tagged along too. All together there were eight of us keeping Maxcepa’s fast pace. At one point a woman asked where we were all going and advised that we go a different way, a shorter way. Maxcepa ignored her advice and continued on his path until we ended up at the top of a different hill. He scratched his chin and then we all ran down the hill through a very dry corn field, leaving huge clouds of dust behind us. At the bottom we found ourselves at the foot of Mwandanje and we began to climb. Nearing the top of Mwandanje there is only grass and prickly berry bushes. In tired, concentrated silence, we all essentially crawled through the tall grass. Once we reached the top, Maxcepa was already beginning to descend the other side. Katelyn and I demanded a break and we all shared some bananas and day old chipati. We took a really funny photo of everyone using a timer and hanging the camera on a nearby tree. Although we got lost again on the way back (eventually Maxcepa’s solution was to just march us all through corn fields) we made it home, ankles bleeding and covered in dust, 4 hours after we’d left.
We had a few visitors this week. Jacob, who we met in Dar on our very first day in TZ, was in Manow visiting. He used to teach at MLJS and is a close friend of Nancy and our program. He visited our class and talked to the students about the importance of the next two weeks (First Aid and STD prevention). He’s such a cheerful, talkative guy. On Friday, we had him over for pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and BROWNIES. I baked brownies of Thursday evening and brought some over to our neighbors, the Malangas.
Our other visitor was the mother of our student Miriam. She lives in Ndembo and came over to thank us and bring eggs, a very welcome gift.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, the only day it didn’t rain. In the morning, Dot and I visited with the carpenter, Isaac, who was finishing a bed. Katelyn and I walked to the market late to be sure we didn’t miss the man who sells the really nice fabrics. I can gage my comfort here by my behavior in the market. We used to tumble through Lwangwa, throwing around money and bags in frantic frustration. I feel much calmer now, navigating and talking to people using the very limited Nyakusa and Swahili I’ve acquired. We each know where to get our favorite snacks and fabrics or who the nicest vendors are. Tangawizi (ginger soda) has been in town for a couple weeks so Katelyn and I treated ourselves and talked with a pastor from Lwangwa. He told us about the fighting in Mbeya between the police and mchinga (street vendors) and about the political parties in TZ. We eventually got all we needed and went over to visit Mama Mwasamwaja. She offered us tea but told us we are no longer guests and must get it ourselves, which I took as a great honor. We sat with her for a couple of hours and she let me weave some of her mkeka, trusting me to remember a different pattern.
Today was Dot’s birthday. Isaac invited us to go to the service at the Lutheran church in Lwangwa where he is the guitar player and choir leader. We walked down at 7:30 and were led to the front of the church when we arrived. Mwasamwaja was the pastor and gave us a very welcoming introduction. Mama Mwasamwaja and Dot sat on either side of me. I think I’ve adopted Mama Mwasamwaja as my fourth grandmother. At the end of the service Isaac asked if he could speak to the congregation. He wanted to tell them how happy he was that we had come and that we were very faithful to our word as we had only talked about coming yesterday. He was so happy to see us there. At the auction he bought us eggs and Coca-Colas.
Of course there’s more to write about. There’s always more to write but it’s Sunday night and I’m very tired.
Finished week 6 and it already feels like our time here is reaching an end. We taught sustainable farming this week. It was actually a lot of fun to teach, although it’s hard to tell how much the students understood. Learning about erosion, nutrients, organic matter, terracing, and contour plowing would probably sound very confusing in another language. Mwakaje came to our class (after a very last minute cancellation from Mwaisemba) to translate the weeks lessons on farming and global warming. I haven’t had a chance to look at their exams yet. Katelyn and I like to go to Mwakaje’s to watch Seinfeld while we grade, but he’s visiting his family in Mbeya this weekend. We decided to experiment with giving them a word bank on the board with sustainable farming terms…we’ll see how it went.
This week really flew by without many major events. The struggles of living together and working together have started to need addressing. Open communication and PATIENCE seem to be the most important ways to diffuse conflict. I started thinking about the differences between this adventure and some of my previous, shorter emersion experiences. I wake up some mornings and think I’m back in the U.S. and slowly realize (usually around the time a rooster crows right outside my window) that I get to walk out my front door and see the Livingstone Mountains one more time. Having now been here longer than I’ve ever been in any other foreign country at one time, I have some conflicting feelings about the U.S. and home. It’s almost like limbo. I’ve been away long enough that the stunning, fast-paced excitement has slowed (only a little) to a comfortable rhythm but I feel like I’m now having to look towards the end of our trip. What do I need to remember to photograph? What people do I want to give great thanks to? And gifts to? What hikes did I still want to take? My mind is not only full of thoughts about leaving but also thoughts of arriving in the U.S. Communication with home is forcing me to anticipate the shock to my system that will, and always does, occur before I settle back into another rhythm of living. It’s like going home from camp or from anywhere where you have spent a significant amount of time with the same individuals. You return home excited and full of stories but also feeling misunderstood without the familiarity of wherever you are returning from. This Saturday is a kind of tired day so I apologize for the tone of this week’s post.
I went to see Mama Mwasamwaja this Wednesday and pick up bread. She helped me prepare more green reeds so I can continue weaving. She’s excited for me to finish a whole mat. On my next day off, which will be the week after next, I want to ask her if I can just spend the day with her on her porch or at her shamba (farm). Her back porch is one of my favorite places here. The women here are all incredibly strong and beautiful. Sitting on her porch with them, I feel like part of their club. I’m not, I’m a young wazungu girl in Africa teaching English for just three months, but I feel really special in the presence of such smart, hardworking, women.
I guess I don’t know yet if I’ll feel ready to leave—it’s hard for me to ever feel ready to leave a new place, there’s so much more that I didn’t see and conversations that just never developed. For now, I’ll stay in the rhythm of living in Manow.
Taking a day off this week felt strange. On Thursday we played a game in class—all of the students had to pretend they were at the market. They were divided into teams of two then half of the teams played the role of vendors while the other half were shoppers. We gave the shoppers lists of what there were supposed to buy using only English. The vendors were supposed to come with appropriate prices for whatever food they were selling. The kids LOVED it. When we said go the room came alive, everyone was in character and busy negotiating. It actually sounded like Lwangwa! I think it really helped to have our friend Mwaisemba come in and translate the directions. There was no confusion about what we wanted them to do. I think some of the girls were also very excited to have a handsome African man visit the classroom…
On Friday, after their exam, we had each student draw a picture of a farm and then write a story about it on the back. It works really well to do an activity like drawing on Friday afternoons because it’s not a lecture but it keeps them focused on class work. Plus their drawings are awesome so it’s definitely my favorite lesson. I think they also enjoy this different form of learning where everyone has an individual project. At the end I always want to keep all of their artwork but we are saving some of their work to send home to their parents at the end of the course. I think the farm pictures will be especially fun for their parents to see. Everyone put so much thought into their stories. One girl wrote about a farmer who had no wife and had to learn to cook for himself. I helped Umboke write his story very, very slowly, helping him spell each word and trying to figure out what it was that he wanted to say. He’s so bright and really sweet but just can’t write well at all. He wants to do well and is attentive in class and still doesn’t seem to be down on himself when he does poorly. Helping him one on one is so much fun and by far my favorite part of teaching. He was so happy when we finished his story. He had this huge smile and took my hand very tightly and said “Thank you Madame Hannah!” It made me cry. It was so awesome. It’s going to be very hard to leave all of our students. I’ll miss seeing them down at the soccer field or working around their houses when we walk to Lwangwa. It’s so fun to feel like we’ve become part of the movement of the village.
Another student that I have written about before but is just such a character is Yusuphu. He’s hysterical. Before the game on Thursday he and I were making each other laugh. He was trying to get me to give him more mandazi but then I was supposed to calm them down before Mwaisemba arrived. I was trying to so hard to be taken seriously but couldn’t stop laughing. I walked to the back of the classroom to compose myself and when I turned around Yusuphu was looking right at me with his eyes open wide while stuffing a piece of paper into his mouth. I rushed over to him to try and grab the paper and just as I reached out he wrapped his big lips around the last of it. I totally lost it and had to go outside I was laughing so hard. They’re all just so funny and they love to make us laugh. Frank is like a little Italian and always wrinkles up his face and yells random things in English. It’s funny to see even the quiet, serious students get riled up when we play competitive games. Sayuni was slapping and yelling when she thought the other team was cheating.
In other exciting news this week, Katelyn and I walked about 4-5 miles to Itete to visit the doctor there, Carina Dinkle, and pick up some cheese she bought for us in Mbeya. It was great to get out of Manow again and see the hospital at Itete. Carina was taking care of a feverish baby when we arrived and let us stand in and watch. It had an infected umbilical cord and since it still didn’t have a name the forms had to say “So and so’s baby.” She told us about all the interesting ideas and practices she had to work against coming from a western medical environment. There are things that the people she works with will never practice because they are different than what they’ve learned. She said one of the most frustrating is trying to explain to mothers of premature babies that it is better to wrap the baby tightly against their body than leaving them wrapped in blankets in the house. She told us about one boy she lost last year who had rabies. After he was bit by a dog his father took him to a clinic where all they gave him was a penicillin shot. When he brought the boy to her two weeks later she knew he would die. I didn’t realize that rabies makes an infected person hydro and photo phobic. All she could say to the parents was that they could keep him at the hospital and keep him comfortable. She was shocked when the parents took advantage of the last five days they had with their son. It was the only time she’d seen people anticipate death and really spend time saying goodbye. Usually, she told us, death or the process of dying, isn’t acknowledged until it has happened. It was a very interesting visit and fun to hear about her experiences after living here for two years.
I’ve decided to post twice this week. It’s Wednesday and I have the day off! We’ve set it up so each week on of us will take a day off each week and rotate through for the rest of our time here. Katelyn was off last week. For my day off I am cleaning the house, listening to the Talking Heads (And She Was), weaving mkeka, and eventually walking to Lwangwa for onion and to visit Mama Mwasamwaja (Mwakaje told us her brother died this week). Madame Katelyn and Mama Dot are teaching more on paragraphs today. The students will have to rearrange cut up sentences in the correct order to make a paragraph. They love puzzles so I think they will love it.
It’s week five, which means we are half way through our curriculum. On Friday, we will send home letters to all the parents or guardians just to let them know how things are going and to remind them about the scholarships we will award to the best girl and best boy. We taught TONS of past tense verbs this week. It must be so frustrating to learn all of the irregular past tense verbs in English. Some of the boys in the class are getting very rowdy. We starting keeping students after class if we hear them speaking Swahili in the classroom. I think it’s kind of working. They’re all trying to say things in English more often. I like to listen to Frank and Mponjoli trying to speak only English. They were telling me through the window during chai that in Tanzania they speak Swahili and that I needed to go to Morogoro to learn. It’s funny that they know where Swahili is taught to volunteers (the Peace Corps volunteers learn Swahili in a three month program in Morogoro before going to their individual sites).
Yusuphu is another boy in our class that cracks me up. We’re pretty sure he has some severe ADD. He just can’t stop moving and is always distracted. He has these enormous buck teeth and is just overall a really goofy kid. I almost starting crying I was laughing to hard in class yesterday. We were playing this game where we have everyone line up in two lines and then rotate through the line so each student must say the past tense of the present tense verb we give them. It helps them hear English as well as practice pronunciation (L’s and R’s are very difficult…we even saw signs in Tukuyu that said “Liblaly” and one of our student’s primary school teacher wrote her name “Grolia” instead of “Gloria”). We give candy (peepee) to the winning line. Anyways, Katelyn was working one line and I was listening to the other and it seemed like Katelyn was letting her line go faster so my line was freaking out asking for Katelyn to come back to their line. I though Yusuphu was going to pass out he was so worked up. He made this ridiculous face, opening his eyes really wide and shouting at the top of his lung “TEACHER! NO CHANGE! NO CHANGE!” His urgency and panic were hysterical. Even the good, quiet girls started slapping each other and yelling. Needless to say they love candy.
This weekend we went on a hike with Mwaikema “The Professor.” He’s a teacher at MLJS and the father of one of our students. He’s very smart and seemed very happy to show off his village. He was born in a house in the village along with his six brothers and three sisters. His father fought with the British in WWII and when he came home he decided that all of his children needed to be educated. We’ve met a few of his brothers (Freddy, who is the supervisor and the CO2 plant, and the Mwaikema that drove us to Matema). Another brother works for a tea company and lives in Tukuyu (but still has a very nice white and blue house here). His sisters are in all in Mbeya working too. He comes from a very interesting family.
We walked to the top of this small ridge where there were lots of cyress trees. Along the way he showed us some coffee that this man was growing and the tree that this ugly fruit grows on. It was an amazing hike. We could see Matema and the Livingstone mountains stretching down to the lake. He told us that they go all the way up to Morogoro. We could also see the villages that surround us, Ndembo, Lwangwa, and the one to the west that I can’t ever remember. Tukuyu is also to the west and actually not as far away as I thought. He said before the roads or when the roads were bad people would walk over the hills to the west to Tukuyu. The road is actually a longer route because it goes around the hills.
Yesterday after class, Katelyn and I went back to some berries that Mwaikema had showed us. I can’t remember now what they were called but we picked enough to make a small tart last night. Every time we make something new it is very exciting.
Another very exciting thing we heard this week was about another teaching opportunity. Our next door neighbor, Mr. Malanga, approached Katelyn and me about finding young teachers from the US who might be able to come teach at a school in Malawi. I asked him about art classes since I didn’t think secondary schools had many art programs and he said he would love to integrate it into the curriculum. He seemed excited about any additions we could make to help improve the school. We’re not sure of all the details but I was excited to think about returning and teaching art!
That’s all the news today I think. I still wish I could convey everything that is happening here. I did visit Emily’s blog from last year and saw that she posted photos so I will try to do the same. Also, if anyone wants to write to any of us we would love it! My email is email@example.com We would all love to hear from everyone.
“Competitors in conquest have overlooked the vital soul of Africa herself, from which emanates the true resistance to conquest. The soul is not dead, but silent, the wisdom not lacking, but of such simplicity that as to be counted non-existent in the tinker’s mind of modern civilization. Africa is of an ancient age…What upstart race, sprung from some recent, callow century to arm itself with steel and boastfulness, can match in purity the blood of a singe Masai Murani whose heritage may have stemmed not far from Eden. It is not the weed that is corrupt; roots of the weed sucked first life from the genesis of the earth and hold the essence of it still. Always the weed returns; the cultured plant retreats before it. Racial purity, true aristocracy, devolve not from edict or rote, but from the preservation of kinship with the elemental forces and purposes of life whose understanding is not farther beyond the mind of a Native shepard than beyond the cultured fumblings of a mortarboard intelligence.” (Beryl Markham, West with the Night)
I just wanted to share this quote from the book I’m reading right now. I am stunned by Beryl Markham’s descriptions of Africa from when she was a pilot in Kenya around the 1930s. She’s very funny and honest about her relationships with the place and its people. I also reread Alexandra Fuller’s book Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight a memoir about growing up in Rhodesia (just before it became Zimbabwe), Zambia, and Mozambique.
Anyways, we’re back from Matema Beach! Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) was beautiful. After a kind of uncomfortable night with our drunken guests on Friday we woke up and sped off along the bumpy road to Matema with our friends Martin and Neverson. Mwaikema’s brother, one of the men who plays mancala outside the duka every afternoon, borrowed someone’s land cruiser to take us. It was strange to reach the market where we shop for food and then turn right and continue out of Lwangwa. We haven’t walked past that turn since we arrived with Nancy.
The first night in Matema we stayed at the Lutheran Center, right on the beach. Katelyn, Dot, and I jumped in right away and laid in the sun until it was time for beer and chips maiai for dinner. (Martin and Neverson said they would swim “later.” We later discovered that Martin does not know how to swim so we gave him moonlit swimming lessons so no one would have to see.) We went to this very loud bar with dirt floors and sugarcane walls where Dot was excited to see two Masai men walk in. They were tall and slender and very proud. After dinner we all wandered back to our beach houses where we were met by a woman that worked at the Lutheran Center. She said our dinner was ready for us up at the lodge and were expected to eat and pay for it. So we all walked slowly back up to eat spaghetti with beef, tomatoes, and cabbage—a wonderful second dinner.
The next day, Saturday, we had to move to the house that is usually reserved for Catholic priests on their beach vacations (the Lutheran Center was booked by the Bank of Tazania for the weekend). It was actually really nice because we had the whole place to ourselves, each with our own room, for the same price as the Lutheran Center. The wife of the man who runs it made us three delicious meals and found us some papaya, watermelon, and big, ripe bananas.
In addition to not knowing how to swim we learned that Martin LOVES fish. He found a man who took us out in a dugout canoe to see the colorful fish in the lake. Lake Malawi is famous for having the largest population and variety of tropical freshwater fish. Although he was terrified the whole time, scolding us to stop leaning too far this way or that, he stopped a man in another canoe who was on his way back to the beach with a boat full of fresh fish, covered in leaves to protect them from the sun. We bought one large fish that looked kind of like a catfish and a few small, iridescent blue fish for lunch. Martin wandered away soon after we made it back to shore to find someone to fry them for us. That was probably the freshest, most delicious fish I have ever eaten.
While in Matema we also walked further down the beach to the village of Lyulilo, which is just at the base of the mountains that rise right up out of the water on the east side of the lake. Lyulilo is where they make a particular kind of pottery and we were lucky enough meet a woman, Terezia, who showed us how she makes perfectly round little pots. She learned from her mother with clay that comes from up in the mountains and has now made some of her own designs like a ceramic iron.
On Sunday, before we left the beach to return to Manow, Terezia’s nieces Victoria and Kisa came to visit us for the afternoon. We sat around and Kisa, who was about nine, played with Dot’s binoculars on the front porch. They stayed for lunch and then returned to Lyulilo.
When I walked down to Mama Mwasamwaja’s on Monday she joked that she had waited and waited for me to come on Thursday. She prepared more green and white reeds for me to continue weaving. I really love visiting her. She takes my hand and shows me her yard and the peas she is harvesting. She gave my a bag full of peas to bring back up to Manow. I shelled the peas made coconut curry with peas, potatoes, and carrots. It as such a luxurious meal with Cokes too! We’re getting the hang of cooking with what we have here. I baked cookies for Ngwitika on Tuesday. It’s hard to think of gifts for people that show our gratitude. Everyone has done so much to help us.
Class has been going well this week. I taught the “Staying Healthy” unit on Wednesday. I think they really enjoyed that lesson. It was little bit of a break from grammar and vocabulary and it was related to them in a more direct way. They thought it was very funny when I demonstrated how to sneeze into your elbow.
Katelyn and I also had Ngwitika make us some new clothes this week. I have a new yellow dress like the ones our students where and Katelyn has a new loose sweatshirt. We wore them on Friday and the class loved it. They thought we looked silly but still liked our new outfits. We also had a surprise visitor on Friday night. Klaus Dinkle, the German pastor from Itete, came by to visit and to take care of some money exchanges (he bought the new fridge for our house recently and needed to be reimbursed). His wife, Karina, is the doctor in Itete and they’ve lived here for about two years. He’s very funny and talkative. He asked us what we missed most now that we’ve been here for a little while and we all said cheese. I guess they miss it too and he said we can find some cheese in Mbeya but they would pick some up for us the next time they go.
Yesterday we went to Tukuyu on the local bus that leaves from outside the duka, down the hill from our house, at 6 am. We had been told that we should walk 30 minutes to Lwangwa and take the bus that leaves from there at 5 am, but this was a cheaper and closer option. The ride there was fun, about 25 people crammed in a little metal bus with bench seats on either side so you are facing the other passengers. In the middle are piles of giant bags of beans, suitcases, and, near the back, chickens. We got to Tukuyu in about 2 hours. We immediately walked to a restaurant near the bus station where we had eaten on our first night in Tukuyu after arriving from Dar. They had no chips maiai, but we had chipati, sombusas (with meat!), sweet rolls, and chai. It was strange but this woman paid for all of our breakfast and because we were confused we didn’t really get to thank her. She left and I kind of thought maybe she said we had to pay for hers but the waitress wouldn’t accept money for anything.
Right after breakfast Klaus called to say they were also in Tukuyu on their way to Mbeya. We met up and he helped us look for a package at the post office that was supposed to be arriving for us from Ginny (one of the volunteers from 2009). While we waited two more wazungus (white people) walked in. The only people in the post office were 7 white people—more than we’ve seen since being here. They were Peace Corps volunteers teaching science in Tukuyu.
The ride home was less comfortable. We had a lot of groceries (cocoa, peanut butter, Africafe, peas, cucumbers, pasta, tomato paste, Blue Band, apples, chocolate cookies, and lots of fabric) that we can’t get near Manow. Everyone else had more luggage as well. The young woman sitting next to me got sick for almost the entire ride back which was not very fun for anyone on board. It was interesting because the older woman, or mzee, sitting next to her threw a kitange over the girl’s head so no one could see her get sick. Needless to say, we arrived back in Manow, hot, tired, and covered in dust but when we walked in, ready to shower, we realized we had no water. A pipe had broken in the middle of town, so there was no water at all, not just in our water tank. All three of us took sponge baths with just two pitchers of water each, in case the water wasn’t on again the next day. Half and hour after we had all finished the water came back on. So we’ll shower again after our hike with Mwaikema today.
There’s so much to say about what is happening here. I want to write it all but it’s very difficult. I want to describe perfectly the people I’m meeting and the situations I’m encountering as well as some of the author’s I’ve been reading. I’m having an amazing time and I’m starting to realize how much I will miss our students when we leave. I’m just trying to relax into it because the next six weeks are going to fly by.
This is another sentence a student wrote on an exam. Maybe she was trying to say pencil? I know it may look like we aren’t doing very well teaching English but many of our students are improving. Some of their sentences are just so funny I have to share them. We were practicing polite questions the other day and our oldest male student wrote “Can I take off her dress?” We couldn’t stop laughing.
Week three went very well. We taught object pronouns, prepositions (which Katelyn was very excited about since the students really struggle with this), capitalization, clothing vocabulary, and negatives (She does not go to school on Saturday). Every evening we divide up the next day’s curriculum so we each teach something different. Some days it is such a struggle to keep everyone’s attention and it can be really discouraging when you walk around to check their work and realize that nobody has written anything correctly, even if it is written on the board. On exam days (usually Fridays but Thursday this week because of the holiday tomorrow – October 14 is Nyere’s Death Day) we have an hour and fifteen minutes of review before we begin the exam. This week I decided to make a printed practice sheet for each student. It was just a third of a sheet of paper with a few questions in all of the subjects we have been practicing. I began review with each student working independently on the worksheet and then we went over everything, including the directions, on the board. Reading directions is the most difficult concept right now so we went very slowly. I think this review worksheet has been the best classroom tool and I can now understand why my teachers have used it in the past. It was so great to start class with everyone focused and QUIET! The other new thing this week was a listening portion of their exams. I felt so bad for some of them…they were so nervous to come sit with the teacher and answer questions. I reminded me of the oral section of Spanish finals in high school. We read them each a story and then asked six questions about the story. Some of them did surprisingly well!
After finishing the exam we had nothing left to teach for the week so everyone helped clean up the classroom for church on Sunday. They still think it’s strange but they all help pick up trash around the church with a sense of humor. Juma insisted, with a smile, that his wrist was hurt and then swept the whole classroom very slowly with his other hand. It was the first day the students really started to relax with us and we were all laughing and playing soccer. The boys were very funny teaching me useful Nyakusa and Swahili words. One of our smallest boys, Frank, kept marching around saying “Mama Dot, Mama Dot. I will see you on Monday. 7:30.” It was a really great day.
Outside of class I have been learning to weave mkeka, a colorful mat made our of dyed reeds. Mama Mwasamwaja, a respected mzee, or elder, is teaching me. I went down to her house near Lwangwa yesterday after I bought some green and white reeds. She laughed at me because I has purchased rough dirty reeds in my attempt to look like I knew what I was doing at the market. She’s so strange and kind of feisty. One minute she’ll be calmly teaching me or talking about different things but if I misunderstand her she gets very snappy. We were talking about when her and her husband lived in Ohio and how people there were surprised she didn’t have a thermometer. She explained how she used different parts of her body to test the temperature of different things she was cooking. She uses her elbow to test water for tea. I was supposed to walk back today because she was going to give me better reeds to take with me to Matema but it started to pour just as I got down the hill. I’m not sure what to expect on Monday but I hope she will not be too upset.