Friday, July 22, 2016
“The fate of every unusual thing is to be a usual thing quickly!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan
When we first came to Tanzania over thirteen years ago, we came to a country of an unusual culture, language, geography, topography, and climate. We were amazed every day by the things we saw and learned. Sadly, as the quote above is true, what was once exotic has become routine and hardly worthy of notice. As I am writing this, I am looking out my office window and watching a boy of about eight years driving two cows and two goats past our fence to find some fresh pasture. He was hardly past when a woman carrying a small stove and table and other cooking implements on her head came by going the other way. She is on her way up to the road to Ikizu where she will cook and sell bread-like treats to passers by. Today, that’s normal, but when we first came, we would gawk, point, and talk about it for hours. Hah! I just heard the whistle of the young man on the bicycle. The whistling over and over announces that he has small, dried fish (dagaa) to sell. Other bicycle salesmen will come by once or twice a week with live chickens and fresh milk. The other night, I was awakened by the sounds of a yao or sort of posse of about twenty or thirty men armed with bows and arrows and machetes. They made little noise but drove our dogs crazy. They were on the trail of some cattle rustlers. Now this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we’ve seen them at least once a year since we’ve been here. They came back about an hour after the sun came up laughing and talking and doing a lot of hand shaking and back patting. They had caught the thieves, killed them (harsh but common and allowed), and gotten the cattle back. Having a yao come by the house is not common, but I knew immediately what it was and rolled over and went back to sleep—so the amazing part has become routine. We are used to the power going out three or four times a day, sometimes for minutes, and sometimes for hours. We know if it goes out, we wait a few minutes and one of our workers will start the generator and except for ironing, hair drying, and hot water heating, life goes on just as before. Nothing unusual, just the daily routine here. Once a week or so, there will be a death in the neighborhood, and we are expected to send $5.00 to the belozi (like a neighborhood captain or judge) to help buy food for the funeral. When neighbors die, every neighbor is expected to help pay for the funeral. If we don’t know them, $5.00 makes everybody happy. If we know them, we will buy the coffin or provide the car for the funeral itself or both. Just like you do it in your neighborhood. Did I mention that even when we have power from the national grid, sometimes it surges and will fry all our electronics and fridge unless we have voltage regulators installed (we do). Sometimes, instead of providing 240V, it pumps out 300 or more and we have to run the generator to keep from cooking everything electric—just like you do, right? And just like you, we have exactly twelve hours of sunlight every day with the sun coming up between six and seven (never before six and never after seven) and going down twelve hours later. I don’t remember that happening when we lived in Los Angeles or in Arkansas. When we lived in Boston, in the winter, we would only get about six hours of sunlight a day—if the sun shone and it usually didn’t. Not the same, eh? You know we have no fast food, no restaurants, and the food we buy every day (have to shop every day) has to be cleaned when we get it home. We wash the eggs and vegetables in filtered water with a few drops of bleach in it, so we won’t get cholera or dysentery. Sound like your food routine? We also grow our own bananas, papayas, lemons (which are green), and even peanuts—called karanga here or groundnuts. While we did have fruit trees in the U.S., we didn’t have banana trees or harvest our own peanuts, but that’s now routine here. I can see Rachel hanging clothes on the line (no dryers here) with a roof over the clothes line. We are right on the equator and the locals say “jua mkali” or the sun is fierce and they are right. If the clothes don’t dry in the shade, everything fades in hours. Plus, during the rainy season, everything gets a second rinse. We often see oxen yoked with handmade wooden yokes pulling wooden plows just like in the time of Jesus. If we go the Lake Victoria, we will see handmade fishing boats exactly like the ones that plied their trade on the Sea of Galilee thousands of years ago. Yes, life here is not at all like it was for us in California, Arkansas, or Massachusetts, but we like it, and while it has become routine, we still stop sometimes and think about how this is so much like life in almost 80% of the world. It takes much more living and much less time spent on electronic gizmos and microwaves, but it suits us. It might suit you, too. We can sleep sixteen. Come and see. Remember to be kind, especially to those who do not deserve it.