WH Chronicle No. 1.42

June 25, 2011

There are times I hear expats say, “Oh, I don’t ever tell anyone back home—they’d never understand.”     Of course, after purging my diarrhea story in the last Chronicle, I thought better of this advice.

But the expats also say there are issues here that you all won’t perceive properly—because it is completely out of your context or you have little reference to the Tanzanian culture.    

Take for instance…circumcision…. (I’m not including any photos here, despite the potential audience appeal)

Now this fore(skin)boding event is considered an exciting rite of passage into manhood, complete with ceremonial songs, special foods and adult beverages (for those with the sharp knives).   The Tanzanians gush about this affair just as we would regale our wedding stories.  Even though it’s often casual conversation,   I’m still not completely comfortable with the discussion and often want to cross my legs when this topic comes up.   

But I notice my perceptions changing as I see a few glimpses of this culture and begin to understand why they would esteem such rituals.  Just as our military are ‘conditioned’ to an annihilation mindset, and then cautioned about ‘acting normal’ around civilians; I imagine that the men who kill lions on the Serengeti are prepared for this fierceness of nature by the traditions of their culture.  It amuses me as I continue to  discover my own preconceived notions just as if I were picking the lint from my trouser pockets.

We’re in the final stages of the semester and preparing for our big concert.  It is an exciting (read: exhausting) time with the highlight being our evening dance rehearsals for African Ensemble.  Tom drums while the kids and I dance through several hot and sweaty hours of  traditional Tanzanian music.  We laugh and joke as the leader screams, “Shake your body!”; “Second position!”; “With beauty!” over the loud pulsating drums.   The camaraderie is touching and the students work diligently to teach me—just returning the favor, I suppose. 

After vigorously dancing until 9pm or 10pm, the kids and I take a short nap and then roll out of bed for karate.  The fleeting hope of an afternoon nap enables this early morning ritual of limping to the bathroom and shaking out the body kinks before finding our way to the dojo.   After 90 minutes of Karate we are all ready to start the day and no longer pining for the comfy bedcovers, at least not until after lunch. 

After University is out, and finals are over, Tom and the kids depart for Bear Valley Music Festival via Grandmother Ritch’s house in Santa Fe.  I will travel around Tanzania to visit some of the students’ families.   Remember, most of the students are adults with children at home eagerly awaiting for their parent to return from University.   I am really excited about traveling and meeting these folks.  

  One student recommended that we take the train to his homeland.  His suggestion:
 “We definitely want to travel 2nd class on the train; because 3rd class is very crowded with no room.  In 2nd class it is fine because there are only 6 or so to a compartment.” he explained.
 “What about riding 1st class?” I inquired.
“Oh, you wouldn’t want to do that.   You would be in a compartment all by yourself and that would be very lonely.”  

Another student of ours commented on how he disliked riding the buses in Finland. 
“If you brush up against someone, they look at you.”   He remarked in a worrisome way.  

Tanzanians do not have a personal space bubble.  In fact, it is quite the opposite—similar to the backside of two magnets.  Tanzanians are attracted to personal contact.  I believe they enjoy brushing up against each other, sitting close together regardless of available space, pawing at each other, and even holding hands.  I like this, too.  So, when I get home I’ll welcome you all into my personal space bubble.   

I requested some photos of Laura’s children so I would not be shocked by their growth.  When I saw them I was more alarmed by how clean they were…    I glance over at my untamed children and become concerned about our re-entry.  Unless we audition for the musical Oliver, our personal hygiene will appear to have suffered a serious backslide—or maybe that’s a mudslide.  We will have to reacquaint ourselves with the unfamiliar smell of clean laundry.   It will take a few weeks to get the kids’ skin back to its original color.   But these things don’t really seem to matter here, because there are plenty of little kids with one flip-flop and a singular holey shirt that hasn’t resembled its original color in years.  Brand names, styles, color coordination, fashion, and body image issues are mostly non-existent compared to our homeland.    No pressure to keep up with the Jones’…

For those of you getting anxious about us coming home, we pulled out our first suitcase and packed some books and music.  Wait… shhh…I think I heard a few of you cheering.  August 18th will be lunch at Camino Real! 

From our cub reporter:
How is everybody? Are you fine? Are you sure you’re fine? Ok I know it’s almost time to come home and yes there will be some things that I am going to miss like my friends and all that stuff.
But I am really happy that I am going to see my friends back at home especially my grandparents. Oh and don’t forget the food like chips and queso and tacos and enchiladas and burritos. Ahhhhhhh! I’m making myself hungry for Mexican food! Ok enough of that talk.
I am so happy to be coming home. I only have to survive 27 more days! Anyway I will put the
mommy bear back on. Toodles!

Back to the studio:

“Don’t hit her milk; that hurts,” ~Karate instructor to two young girls sparring.  The word  ‘Milk’ is synonymous for ‘boobs’. 

If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.  ~Albert Einstein

What do nudists wear on casual Fridays?  ~Author Unknown

Reminiscing about the color white,

Cub Reporter and 'Shrewbert'

Shrewbert, the shrew, thinking of his "unfinished" business

Post a Comment