Friday, December 2, 2016

Tanzania part one: Weston and Jeany

Weston: Tanzania was great.  It was very nice to stay in a nice little hotel in the town of Tabora,
which wasn't too big.  I liked the hotel because it was well air conditioned, comfortable, and had a television (when the power was on).
I greatly enjoyed spending time with Dr. Hong Choi and getting to do the solar lamp workshop.
We were driven every day to the village of Inala by our wonderful driver, Moses.  In Inala, we helped lead a solar lamp workshop where the people of Inala learned to make solar lamps (quite redundant, I know.)  I loved to get to create a solar lamp and help other participants create something of great value.  I loved the technical aspect and learned more about how electronics work.
During our nights, we would go back to our hotel, get food from the little restaurant a few blocks away, and eat beans and rice almost every night.
It was extremely hot, and you'd have to go to the market to get food for lunches, which we would eat in Inala.  At the market, there would be many mangos, watermelons, and pineapples.  I loved the mangos and I have never tasted any mango as good as some of the ones I ate there.

It has taken me over a month to come back to writing this blog, or should I say, rewriting this blog post.  Way up over the Tanzanian landscape, in a small Precision Air plane, I poured out my thoughts on Tanzania so far, with many funny and challenging stories, all the while listening to an American missionary seated behind me spout surety on American politics.  ...That blog got lost when
Donovan's computer got stolen after we checked our bags in departure from Dar es Salaam.  Opening his bag in Zurich, and finding that the strap holding the computer secure had been cut, and the device stolen, was a real kick in the gut, in so many ways.  I was the one who encouraged Donovan to "spare his shoulders" and put the computer in his bag under the plane rather than keeping it with him.  Alas.  Somehow that invasion put up a wall (yes, I know the resonance here) between me and Tanzania and writing the blog.  The impetus was gone and it was a painful reminder of what had been taken from us, and in particular, what had been taken from my earnest, good-seeking son.  He had already had his hard drive stolen on the flight between Uganda and Nairobi two weeks before.  Yes, the hard drive with several hundred of our trip pictures on it.  Lost.

So, it is with heavy heart that I start again.  You'll have to forgive my whining, and please don't tell me what we should have done or known.  For right now, it is enough to begin.  We want to acknowledge and honor the last three weeks of our huge adventure and to put it in writing so that those who are not right near us can hear the stories and get a glimpse.  And so we can value our experiences, both joyous and challenging.

Tanzania was hot hot hot. Hotter than where we were in Kenya, and near the sea (Dar es Salaam), it was humid as well.  It often bemused me, as I walked in the village, or sat on balance beam width benches in a room the size of my small kitchen with 17 others 2 hours one afternoon, how the sweat would trickle down my spine here, but back home there was snow and below freezing temperatures.  We would check the Rosebud temperature on Dave's phone, and compare.  Then we would chat with the locals about the differences while they waited for their turn to solder the wires on their home-made solar lamps.  We'd talk about the changing hours of daylight through the year (to the puzzlement of Equator living folk), we'd try and describe the Northern Lights (they thought we were crazy), and whenever it came to the snow, ice and cold, they would look at us with pity and shake their heads slowly asking, "how do you survive?!"  We would chuckle and think of our small home, glowing with light and warmth and the sparkling snow outside and think of insulated walls, and heating, and ovens and neighbors.

Mango trees are massive.  I mean HUGE.  They are so much taller and fuller than ANY fruit tree I have ever seen, (and that includes mom and dad's massive Detering Gravenstein).  And while we were there, they were LADEN with mangos.  LADEN.  "ma embe" in Swahili.  And they were delicious.  We bought a knife at the market so we could eat mangos on our lunches in the village.  We would also often pickup some eggs, which our small hotel staff would boil for us, and take some left over chapati from breakfast (a soft, layered, flour tortilla fried in oil).  Our dinners mostly consisted of rice and beans, which were quite good, and we developed a craving for pineapple soda (cold, if possible).  All the fruits were luscious and fresh: pineapple, mango, passion fruit, oranges, bananas, as well as cucumbers, ground nuts (little peanuts), and tomatoes.  We rarely had meat, but when we did it was either a beef and chili stew (for breakfast!) or we would splurge and buy chicken.  Twice we had some nice curry dishes at a hotel nearby that served supper.  That was succulent and expensive.

The most memorable meal for me though, was at the orphanage.  Earlier in the day, our guide Moses helped us navigate the open air market so we could purchase the supplies needed for the 20 person meal.  He knew the kids liked the little fish "dega" and there were PILES of them at the market.  Tiny dried fish from Lake Victoria smelling ... well, fishy.  We also bought rice, salt, oil, ginger, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and wonderful fruit.

When we arrived, I was sent to work with the mamas in the kitchen.  I was grateful, because I wanted to chop the vegetables on a counter, rather than on the floor, which Dave and the boys were doing with the fruit in the front room.  But the mamas did not lead me to a kitchen per se, they led me right through the house and out the back door to the little smoke house where they had their fire stove on the dirt.  Of course.  What was I thinking?  I marveled at the mama who could stir a huge pot of rice on that little fire.  She would feed the long branches into the flames gradually and lift the hot handles with the edges of her skirt instead of oven mits.

I was given an 8 inch stool to perch on and chop.  I was grateful.  Then I cut the vegetables holding them in my hand while little scoungy chicks pecked for the bits of peel.  It was warm and gradually moving toward sunset, but I was happy -- honored to cook with the mamas.  They were so efficient and patient.  They used everything we bought, with a few things like oil and salt left over.  But I don't know where their other supplies lived, if they had any.  I was glad we bought all we did.  The meal itself had some unusual rituals for me.  As the hosting mama, I was to serve everyone and hand out the bowls and I was to start with the oldest young man of the house and then do all the men before the women and girls.  There were only five spoons, so those were given to our guide and our family and most ate with their hands, as we had seen on other occasions.  And then I was to serve the fruit salad as well.  And here is where I wish, in hindsight, that I had been more intuitive.  I was pouring juicy liquid and pineapple/mango bits into their outstretched HANDS for goodness sake, and it was spilling all over.  So many hands were REACHING out for me and I was trying to do what I was told, which was to SERVE, but oh, how I wish I had just taken time to drain the juice first, or allowed them to reach in.  I remember one mama holding her hands to receive the juice and fruit and it spilling so much that she had to run down the hall to wash.  -- I'm not sure yet if I understand all the ways that this was upsetting to me.  I think it's because I felt set up to do a task I didn't know how to do well, and I was caught between wasting and being practical.  It plagued me through the next few days, thinking how I could have done it better.

But overall, it was a wonderful experience.  Once you share a meal with someone, you have a kinship with them -- a softer understanding of what you have in common, and I was glad to help provide and prepare along with the women and orphans of Tabora.

There are SO MANY more adventures to share.  But I will go ahead and post for now.   More to come soon, God willing.


Katie, the small Ponderer of the Deep. :) said...

I think I understand what you mean about that one experience at the orphanage being upsetting. You want to be helpful, and good, and do it right, like these lovely ladies around you who seem to know what they're doing, but then you don't know how! Everyone else seems to know what you're supposed to do, but you don't, and it's frustrating. I know the feeling. I experience it a LOT, and I'm not even serving foreign food to foreign people with foreign customs in a foreign country!!! Ahh!

This has been Katie, attempting to be deep and meaningful and relate. Annnd cut!


Jeany Meltebeke Snider said...

Thanks for your understanding Katie!

Whidden4 said...

Thanks for the delicious description of the fresh fruit, Weston! You made me very hungry.