18 November 2009

Sights and smells of Dodoma

Kate asked for more pictures, but I'm that girl who carries around a camera and never ever takes photos with it unless they're specifically required for work. I think part of it is an inferiority complex brought on by working with media geniuses (geniusi?) like Dan and Casey, but here are a few of the sights and smells (can't wait for smell technology on the internet!) of my week:

Smell: Pilau
Pilau is this awesome rice stuff with spices in it. Often it also has big chunks of irish potato and bits of meat. It's like the original, first and best Rice-A-Roni. My roommates made pilau on Monday, and at one point it actually kind of smelled like Cup-a-Noodle, which made me all nostalgic.

Sight: Pomegranates
The pomegranates at my house are beginning to be ripe, so Jackie and I sat outside Monday evening and ate a pomegranate each, fresh from the tree. We also stole one off of our neighbors' tree because it was hanging on our side.

Smell: Goat fart
There are goats that graze in a field that I walk through every day on the way to work. Yesterday as I was passing by them, one farted. Sick.

Sight: Dead rat
'nuff said. It was laying dead on a cinder block in one of the yards I cut through on the way to work.

Smell: Marijuana?
It's not really marijuana, but when people burn trash around here, it often smells like the first floor of Hewitt Hall in Fall 2001, if you Linfielders know what I mean.

Sight: Rosey and her mama
My friend Chitema's daughter Rose is always around, ready to play. In fact, because of her I've had lots of practice saying "Sichezi!" (I'm not playing!) Her mother, Chitema's wife, is probably seven months pregnant and the most beautiful and graceful woman I have ever seen. Yesterday she was fetching water, wearing a muumuu and plastic shoes, but looking for all the world like she could be posing for the cover of Vanity Fair. She had Rosey along to "help".

Smell: Smoke
Because the rainy season has started, lots of people can't cook outside anymore for lack of cover. Many of the families of the kids in our program here have only one room that functions as sleeping and living quarters, and, when it's raining, cooking quarters also. Lately whenever I've picked up a Lahash kid to sit on my lap I've been breathing deep the smell of charcoal or wood smoke in their clothes. It reminds me of camping and my friends who used to smoke pipes.

Sight: A small yellow ball whizzing at my head
Jackie has a game she likes to play that is basically like two person dodgeball. One person stands against the wall trying to dodge the high velocity pitches of the other player. You score goals by catching the ball, then throwing it back at the thrower. If you hit the thrower, it's a point. Jackie and I played for about 20 action-packed minutes on Sunday, then we did some stretches and the only yoga poses I could remember. We had some little competitions for stair-stepping (I lost because I fell off the stair) and wall-sitting (I lost, but I think she was cheating). I can kick her butt at arm-wrestling, though.

Final sight: The watchman's bemused face
Jackie and I did our stair-stepping competition outside, and our brand-new watchman, Maduka, just watched us like we were crazy. I suppose we are a bit. He's cool, though, and still likes us and we like him.

12 November 2009

Highlights of the past week...

It's been a crazy busy week, so I'm going to limit myself to one highlight from each of the past seven days.

Friday the 6th - HUGE thunderstorm to kick off the rainy season. I sat out on my little verandah to watch and listen to the spectacle. One thunderclap sounded right over the house (I've never heard one closer), scaring me badly enough to duck and cover my head, and making Jackie scream and fall down inside the house.

Saturday the 7th - We visited a woman who is living with HIV and had been so neglected by her family that she was found essentially starving to death. Leah had been to visit her several times, and was present the day she was found, but it was my first visit to her in the hospital. I'll spare you all the details, but they let me be a tiny bit helpful in getting her dressed and fed, but I wasn't the one who had to clean her up, if you know what I mean. She was so sweet, and so grateful to be alive, and she gave us a thumbs up as we left. (Second runner up for best highlight was a call from my parents.)

Sunday the 8th - I got my second roommate, another Tanzanian woman named Beatrice, and we had some Leah and two of our friends, Mseti and Paulo, over for lunch. It was the first time I felt like I fit in with these young people as one of their peers, in a similar, but different, way to my friends back home. We had a fantastic conversation, and had some meat for lunch that Jackie had cooked in the taco spices I brought from home, which turned out to be a hit.

Monday the 9th - Leah and I attempted our first public cooking spectacle: French Toast. It was the 14th birthday of my Tanzanian little brother, Victor, so we made some French Toast for the whole family, sweetening it by making a kind of sugar syrup and pouring it into the egg/milk mix. People enjoyed it so much I attempted it later in the week for another crowd, and got similar enthusiasm.

Tuesday the 10th - Small triumphs: I finished The State of Africa, which I had been reading for work, and The Man in the Brown Suit I re-read in almost one sitting out on the verandah.

Wednesday the 11th - So many great things happened this day. First Jackie, Beatrice, and I hosted the church staff meeting at our house in the morning, where I asked them to go around and affirm the person on their right. They'd never done anything like that before, and it was lovely to see them encouraging them one another. Mama Neema, the accountant, said such beautiful things about me that I nearly cried. Later at a planning meeting for the HIV Community Event, (remember how I was learning to dance for this event?), someone said "Why do we need to change the ngoma (dancing)? If Leisha can dance with her hips, surely the rest of us can." I'll take that as a compliment. Best of all, we finally got to the post office, and I had a book from my Grandma Adams and a stack of photos of my family from my Grandma Jones. Grandmas are the best!

Thursday the 12th - Does it sound callous to say that the highlight of today was firing my house help? She'd been making me dread the days she came to clean because she didn't clean well, didn't cook well, was rude to my roommates, always demanded breakfast that I didn't even have for myself, and might have been stealing sugar and oil. She's gone now, although she made it clear that I can call her if I want to hire her to do my laundry, which she's actually decent at. The lowlight of today is that I haven't had a soda. First day in probably two weeks that I haven't had at least one soda, although the day isn't over yet!

06 November 2009

Things I love about my house...

I love that the front gate sticks, so you have to either finesse it open or use brute force. It's a good mark of my attitude which one I resort to.

I love the flowering shrubs and trees and bushes all over my compound. It's really peaceful, and it cuts down on the dust that blows everywhere else in town.

I love that the kitchen is big and has a table in it, so when my roommate, Jackie, or I are cooking (aka Jackie cooking and me cutting veggies or watching), we have plenty of room to move and hang out together. More about Jackie to come in the future.

I love, love, love my bedroom. It's large and still lacking in important furniture, but it gets lots of natural light during the day, and is just peaceful.

I love this spot. This is my favorite part of the whole house. It's my verandah, overlooking the fruit trees along the side of the house. Nearly every day after work I come here and relax, read, text with people in the States, or just sit and think. It's amazing how much free time there is with no internet access at home, no television, no taking work home with me (which I have promised myself that I will absoutely not do). This is where I relax and take introverted time for myself. Sometimes Jackie or Leah join me here, but we just have quiet conversation or read. It's really nice.

So now that you've seen my house, come join me! I have lots of room for guests, and you can even partake from the oranges and pomegranates growing in the compound. There might even be water, if you come at the right time of year, which is not right now.

Best to all of you!