(This entry was written a week ago, and I’m using Lizzy’s computer to post it.)
It’s been a crazy, crazy week. We went to the market in Dar, which was where I picked up my favorite Swahili greeting (Mambo!/Poa!, or roughly “[How are] your matters?/Cool!”) and spent about a week at a hotel in Korogwe, doing orientation stuff- a refresher course on the basic Swahili grammatical structure, culture lessons, getting to know the other PCs, and exposure to spoken Swahili and the soko (market) of Korogowe.
I really enjoyed the first four days of orientation and found the information very useful, but in the wee hours of Friday morning I got some sort of stomach bug/food poisoning, as did 1/3rd of the other PCs. In addition, Lizzy was a bit feverish, though she most likely didn’t have what I have (I wasn’t feverish). We postponed our trip to Kijungumoto from Saturday to Sunday, since we weren’t sure how Lizzy would feel Saturday morning and I was dehydrated and exhausted by Friday afternoon. Lizzy felt well enough to go to the Korogwe market on Saturday, but I had to sleep and recover fluids most of that day.
I did manage to get out and about in the market for a few hours on Saturday, and I observed the buying of khangas (long peices of cloth that can be wrapped around the head/waist/wherever) and Kate’s lovely dress. We also bought me some bananas- the bananas here are smaller and greener than the ones in the US, but they taste fresher.
Sunday morning I finally felt fine (thank you, killer antibiotics) and we headed off! I was excited to meet everyone and see our house, and to finally put all the things we learned over the summer and in orientation to use. Kijungumoto is gorgeous, with green/grey hills undulating past each other on both sides of the road, and our house is really, really nice, with a huge sitting room with two armchairs and a couch, an attached pit toilet, and a bedroom for each of us (mine has its own attached pit toilet/floor drain for bucket showers!) A crowd of young men helped us unload our stuff and move it into the house, and some of the mamas filled our water tank for us (for a fee, which we found out from Ana was more than we should have paid. Oh well, we’ll do it ourselves from now on, and use going to the well as a chance to talk to the women, who don’t say much when they’re with their husbands.)
The highlight of my day was meeting Mzee Salim, who is an elder here of about my parents’ age- I believe he said he was born July 18th, 1957- who took the time to chat with us both when we first arrived and when we later met him walking along the main road that divides Kijungumoto. He sat with us for an hour or so and we talked in a mixture of English and Swahili about America, Tanzania, the weather, politics, a little bit about his family- he actually took us to meet a large swathe of his family, which is no mean feat, as his family makes up either 75 people in the 2,000-person village, or 75% of it (we weren’t clear on the numbers.) Either way, most of his family was forced by the government to move to Kijungumoto due to the first President of Tanzania’s Umojaa policies, which moved people from their scattered, shifting homesteads into more centralized villages and set plots of land. He grows about six different crops (we weren’t expecting that much diversity!) including bananas, maize, cashew nuts, and coconuts. He’s already invested a lot of time into us, and I think he’s definitely someone I’d like to talk more with and get to know, as well as someone who could potentially be a mover and shaker of our project.
And now for the bad news… I was feeling fine and chipper when we were meeting everyone yesterday, but we ended up going into our house and making dinner at around 9 pm, and by then we were all pretty drained. So we made a quick and dirty dinner of peanut butter and nutella smeared on Quaker Oats bars and rice krispie treats, went through our impressions of the day and plans for the morning, and went to sleep. Or at least, everyone but me went to sleep, because all of that sugar after three days of eating nothing (or at best, some white bread and bananas) almost immediately made me feel kind of ill. And then I found, to my surprise and embarrassment, that I was suffering one hell of a culture shock.
I lay awake for about two hours while my mind gibbered in broken Swahili and my thoughts flipped from one new face to another. I was already feeling sick, and worried about being sick again, and there was all this new information to take in, and on top of that my cell phone wasn’t able to call anyone. I was also shocked at how alone I felt when it was just me in the room- it was SO DARK at night and I hadn’t had a bedroom to myself for 2 straight weeks. I threw up a couple of times over the course of the night, and around 1:30 PM I knocked on Lizzy’s door and told her what was up. She let me stay with her for the rest of the night and talked me through some of my anxieties- she couldn’t talk me out of being desperately hungry and simultaneously kind of nauseous, but she helped with some of the psychological stuff. I tried to sleep after that, but there was some kind of tiny beeping noise going every second that just wouldn’t shut up, and by the time I decided I couldn’t ignore it and got my earplugs, it was almost 6 AM wakeup time.
The upshot of it all is that I got pretty much no sleep last night and was an emotional wreck this morning, which has been significantly alleviated by a) ginger tea, b) rice, c) finally being able to call my mom, and d) thinking about all of this in the light of day. My team is currently meeting the headmaster of the primary school here- I was going to try and go with them, but given the state I was in when they left (before elements b, c, and d) I think they were right that it wouldn’t have been very productive for me. I’m disappointed that I’m missing this meeting, since it’s the first semi-official one, but by posting this I’ve at least done my duty to one portion of my investors, and made sure I’m not eating my rice too fast. Also, once I post this, I’ll be able to include element e) of my recovery, which is sleep.
(I wasn’t able to post this last week, but I’m feeling much better and I’ve updated the main blog with what we’ve been doing this week! Also, if you want to write to me/send me things, you can do so at this address:
PO Box 506
Korogwe, Tanga, Tanzania, East Africa
I hope to be in touch again soon!)