Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Many Realities of Tanzania

I hardly know where to begin as so much has happened in the last few weeks. It has felt like several life times or at least a whole childhood relearning patterns of behaviour and communication. I guess I will start with some of the lessons I have learned and then go onto my exciting plans that have gone from seeds to sprouts before my eyes.

To be honest Reality is harsh here and so sometimes the people seem to be too. It is not a place where people are constantly concerned with how you are (though they may not actually care). You have to say what you want and what you don't want, there are no games in the way they communicate. It has been an intense lesson and I am still working on it. People care for each other but only if you ask and this is something we don't do at home. I almost feel guilty asking them for help but they don't care they expect it of you. It is an excellent practice at looking at what you really need and what you don't want. Saying no is particularly important, as they will not stop if you fumble on your answer. I can see why people do not have the neuroses here we have in the West but I can also see why so many of these people get cheated out by foreigners and locals who know how to play games with their words. There was a German doctor staying at the Jeshi for a few days before Christmas. He was about 65 and came from a very different generation than me. I had quite the love hate relationship with him. I loved having someone to talk to and some of the stuff he said was interesting the other stuff was slightly horrifying. He has been too many different countries during times of war or suffering to help people, and perhaps you would expect him to be a calm, caring fellow but on the contrary he was an abrasive, angry man who likes the drink. He sees life here in a startling and yet refreshing way. He sees the life of these people living with nothing and understands why they would rob each other or get stuck on a mzungu (white person) in hopes of salvation and yet he often referred to the people here as barbaric and stupid. He himself has a Tanzanian girlfriend who he says helps keep him in check while he helps her and her baby survive. His words all seemed to contradict each other and yet they all spoke of his reality. He seems to have taken on the abrasiveness that people here have but doesn’t quite have the calmness that they possess. One thing he said which I really liked was that people here will always forgive and once they forgive they will not bring it back up and rub it in your face, it is gone forever.

My days have become filled with much more action and I actually haven’t been studying or doing yoga as much as I was. I have started to teach English to a friend on Saturday mornings and I make a journey to the market ever second day to pick up the most fabulous fresh produce, a ripe juicy mango only costs 30 cents. I also have been to visit my friends in Mbande, the village I lived in last time I was here and went to the most amusing Christmas party ever. I was invited by Alex (who works at the Jeshi) to come to his house for christmas, so Abdallah, his daughter and I got all dressed up and hopped in a cab. The safari took us threw the small streets on Mbagala a large settlement on the outskirts of Dar to a beautiful home in the midst of great poverty. It was actually Alex’s friend’s house and by the time we arrived at 4pm they were all well on their way to being inebriated. They welcomed us warmly and immediately began to feed us alcohol. The yard was filled with children; some relatives, some the house girls and others kids of the four families gathered together. I was very thankful that these were all quite well educated people, even their kids went to private school and thus they could speak English because it gets tiring trying to understand people speaking Swahili after many hours. After many drinks and lots of laughing we were invited to the back where a beautiful feast had been spread out; pilau, rice, beef, chicken, salad, fruit and an amazing chilly sauce. We feasted and ate our fill and then came the music. Tanzanians really love ridiculously loud music, I don’t fully understand it but I highly enjoyed it this time. After a few more drinks (I had consumed a whole bottle of wine by this point) we started to dance to joyous African gospel, middle eastern inspired Tarabu and some bongo flava. I even learned a South African Kwaito line dance. It was a great party and
We partied hard until after 11pm. It was definitely the most action packed Christmas I have ever had.

Since Christmas I have been on the hunt for somewhere to live as the Jeshi will leave me bankrupt soon and haven’t had much luck yet, as I had to check out the beach area which was really pricey ($80-300/mth). But I have faith as I have some friends who pay as little as $12/mth for a room to $65 for a modest two bedroom home. I have also just put in my application for my residence permit which will allow me to stay in the country and volunteer for a year. I have started working with a wonderful local NGO started by an inspiring young man who comes from a very poor area near lake Victoria and was lucky enough to meet Jane Goodall at a young age and his involvement with her foundation roots and shoots has changed his whole life. His foundation is called Rafiki Development Foundation and works mainly with sustainability projects to help local people live a better life and take care of the environment.  I am currently putting together an environmental education program to pilot at a few schools and an orphanage here in Dar and we also hope to build an educational centre where people can learn about sustainable building, organic farming, wildlife and forest conservation, the 3 Rs and renewable energies. I am starting to help write the proposal for this and will let you all know more soon. At the moment though if you feel so inclined I would love it if you would download the igive donation button. It is a simple download and whenever you purchase anything at an online store $5 or a % is given to RDF.

Many thanks and so much love to you all

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