WH Chronicle No. 1.11

October 6, 2010

“Houston, we have chickens!!”  It’s a 'Big Feather Day" at Whaleherdienda as our herd (flock) just got a little featherier!

We purchased our fine-feathered (mostly) friends from some neighbors on campus.  While we were anxiously awaiting the adoption of our new pets, we found ourselves in a queue.  Several beautiful roosters were handed out the coop, legs then tied with twine from a handy banana stem (tree), and tossed into the back of a car.  Sam looked quizzically, as if that were a peculiar why to treat a pet.  The adults all laughed nervously at his innocence.  I gently (as possible) explained that ‘fresh’ chicken is the way people purchase McNuggets here in Tanzania. 

Of course, we carried our chickens carefully back to their newly constructed coop.   Tom mandated, “No roosters, they are too noisy, and the coop is near our bedroom.”  But it was explained to us that we had to have a rooster, so that our eggs are not “cold”, as they say in Tanzania.

So, Mr. Twinkie, Ms. Moonpie, and Little Debbie (and the lice they brought with them) have been successfully relocated into our care.  When we told our gardener their names, he was very sorry for them, and wished them better titles upon their baptism (common for Africans to receive 'Christian' names at the time of baptism).  I think that was a Tanzanian joke, but he flea-dipped them today, so maybe they have new names (like ‘Kuku na wali” i.e. 'chicken with rice')?

Mr. Twinkie is a young rooster who cowards in the nest boxes and screams like a little girl if you pet him.  Ms. Moonpie, has black iridescent feathers, but looks like, as Tom says, “she's been ridden hard and put up wet”, and Little Debbie is a lovely red hen with an pecky attitude (similar to Big Red).  We already have six eggs, but since we want to hatch little chicks, therefore making Mr. Twinkie worth the potential noise, we’re leaving them in the nest.  Though, we doubt that Mr. Twinkie has had anything to do with these future progeny beyond nervously cowering on the eggs.  

Tom said his first complete sentence in Kiswahili, “Naomba chupi safi.”  "I need clean underwear."  The entire Swahili speaking nation has not quit laughing at him.

This week, Tom went on a trip to Zanzibar with a group from Arcadia College.  He reports in with an occasional  text message indicating things such as:  long bus ride=butt hurts; ferry ride=nice.
More on his adventures next time. 

Oh, back to our daily routines.  After coffee, scrambled eggs, and toast with Nutella for the kids, we get hugs and they’re off to the Stubbs house.  Daryl is doing school there, but Sam has been running ferral with guidance from their son.  At some point, school will have to take precedent.  Shortly after their departure, we welcome our gardener, Reagan, and morning house lady, Mama Richard.  We discuss their errands and jobs, and then go about our own chores.  With the language barrier, the discussion of tasks can take some time, but not as as much time as the chores in which they engage:  mowing and maintaining the yard by hand (with a machete and homemade rake) or washing the dirty clothes in a wash basin and hanging them in the attic to dry*.

At 11:00am the country stops for “Chai”.   At our house, this sometimes consists of 6 or 7 people (our family, plus whoever is working around the house) sitting down at the table to have milky sweet tea and cookies.  This practice not optional.  Everywhere I’ve been in Tanzania it occurs with various degrees of formality.  Even the Universities take a 30 minute break between classes for chai.  I’m warming up to the custom.  I like my tea black, and they think this is as weird as my skin color. 

By the end of ‘chai’ Mama Mary, the young, modern (their words) lady who is in charge of the noon meal and Swahili instruction, arrives at our house.  The kids reluctantly embark on the Swahili lesson, at which point Tom and I make a speedy retreat.  If we are within earshot, the children are not cooperative—typical kids.   After a lunch of delicious Tanzanian cusine, Tom and I have Swahili lessons.  It seems slow and tedious, but luckily, the Tanzanians are thrilled when one attempts their language, and are happy to correct poor grammar and teach new words with smiles and laughter. 

The afternoons seem to disappear into activities and events.  By the evening, it is time to begin planning and  preparing for dinner.  As with most activities here, there is nothing easy or convenient.  Without pizza delivery and Taco Cabana as viable options, it leaves, ugh…cooking…from scratch…  Our fallback position is grilled cheese sandwiches with fresh fruit and avocados.  But otherwise, we face a short trip to the market (hoping they are stocked) and the concern of what possible creations I have the competency to cook.   Left-overs ease the stress.  But honestly, it is intimidating for me to look into the pantry at a tomato, potato and a bag of rice.  For the first time, I’ve felt an anxiousness about providing a meal for the family.  Of course, we still have the ability to call a cab (and wait an hour), ride into town (another hour) and eat at a restaurant (two hours).   I now pace myself, and know the necessity of saving reserve energy and resources for the evening meal.  The good news is that my kids are no longer picky eaters.  They don’t even ask what it is, they just try it, grimace, and swallow—something clicked and they ‘get it’.  Sam even eats the crust.

Finally, we have a family assembly line to clean the table, wash the dishes in a small basin and set them out on a drying rack.   The scraps go to the chickens.  I apply CPR  to the sink drain via a plunger in order for it to release the murky water. Then we fill up the Katadyne water filter so it can drip-purify the drinking water overnight. 

At this point, I have to weigh my remaining energy to manage showers for everyone, or just fuss enough to get the kids into pajamas and their teeth brushed.  Not to mention my own hygiene—always second to the kids’. 

Then, once in our bed with the kids, we play, “Mr. Chicken”.  This is where their stuffed-animal chicken asks them about their day.  They love this.  They reveal to him emotions that I'm always curious to hear.  At some point, they inevitably ask him to smell their feet, at which time he passes out and they administer CPR (no plunger).  After that, Mr. Chicken is worn out and we read a chapter of “Percy Jackson”.  Finally, when my eyes are barely open, I double tuck the mosquito net and hope that my nap is a good one. 

We’re still on vacation—imagine when we start work and school! But many of the chores described Tom handles much more gracefully than me.   And his return will be greatly cherished.

* Hanging the clothes to dry in the attic--Ok, drop whatever you are eating for the moment.  Mango flies, or the skin maggot fly:  these creatures commonly lay their eggs in moist places, such as human clothing hanging out to dry; then they burrow into human skin, until they are fat and happy little larvaes, at which point they make a dramatic exit via pusstuous boil.  The process can be accelerated by putting Vaseline on one’s skin which prevents larvae air intake.  It is avoided completely by ironing all clothing, underwear, and bed sheets, or hanging them in our hot attic.  Since this affliction is easily outlived, it is not considered a serious issue, but it definitely makes American pimples look like less of a nuisance. 

Jerry (Tom’s brother) and a crew from Lubbock are here in Arusha.  The kids and I have spent a few days with them in the little village of Sambasha.  It’s been very enjoyable getting off campus and seeing ‘real Tanzania’.    I had visited this small village two years ago and I find the progress they have made and the modernization ‘fascinating’ (as Spock would say). 

Though this community started with only a corral for a gathering area, the Compassion Int’l director for the country of Tanzania noticed that the pastor of this church was dedicated to education and progress.  As soon as the community could build a solid structure, and provide water, Compassion Int’l could offer services for people of Sambasha.  Currently they are constructing their 5th building, a secondary school.  There are 250 families that receive sponsored aid, which includes literacy education for the children and a guarantee that no one in that family will die of starvation (though, death from AIDS is rampant).  It's remarkable.

My first time to the Sambasha church service, I remember being mesmerized by the beauty of the a-capella choir.   But this time was different.  Now, the upscale community owns a generator, an electric synthesizer, amplifier, and large speakers, of which they were very proud (they go to 11 ½).   It is a very different church service, than the one I attended two years ago.   But I believe they are very happy to be joining the modern world.   It is easy for a visitor to pine for the ‘purity’ of their traditions, but who can begrudge the progress that is so desired.  We do not pine for horse drawn plows, dial telephones, party lines, or  (Lord, forbid) 8-track-tapes instead of itunes.

I notice my vocabulary changing slightly.  The English here is a conglomerate of English with Swahili references.  The people also speak casually of “God’s Will” and blessings. Rains and/or pests for crops are part of God’s will.  Bad car accidents are blamed on God’s will, even though the drivers are frightening (the most dangerous thing we do is ride in a car).  I automatically incorporated the word, "blessed" the other day--which made me reflect.  In the U.S. we have irrigation and pesticides, so it’s never ‘God’, but only bad luck or an important need that will be eventually satisfied by scientific advancement.  So here’s a question that arose in my ponderings:  For the amount of money annually spent on pet food in the U.S., ALL the world (developing countries) could have clean drinking water—so is it ‘God’s Will’ that they don’t?

As a student of the Enlightment Era—I say, “Of course, not.  It is ours--humanity.”

 More on religion in TZ later—it’s too early for any type of objective report—but then, that could be said about most of my opinions--at any point in time.

The saying about the Swahili language:  “Swahili was born in Tanzania, got sick in Kenya and died in Uganda.”  

When tourist ladies wear shorts and tank tops, Tanzanians comment that she forgot her clothes and went outside in her underwear.  

Drip, drip…
Happy to hear the sound of tomorrow's clean water,

Mr Chicken is not a finicky traveler, and he's certainly no longer white.

Home, Sweet, Home

Post a Comment