Monday, 28 June

Endasak and Katesh

David readies the jiko

We rose around 8:30. David gave me some options for what we could make for breakfast. I thought coffee cake sounded good. He got his jiko—a charcoal grill—ready. He put some kerosene on the ashes in the bottom half and new charcoal on the top half.

Laundry David's courtyard

About that time, David's "house boy" came to do some chores. He's 38, so "boy" might be the wrong word. "Man servant" and "man boy" got thrown around as replacement names. He gets paid $2 a week to do laundry and clean up the floors. I spend more than $2 a week on coin-operated washers and dryers. We got our clothes ready (everything I had packed was dirty) and he went to town. (Photo on right merged from three images.)

Kneading tortilla dough Rolled out tortillas

As we prepared the ingredients, David realized that there was no powdered milk. The student who had been staying there while he was away had used it all up. "I guess it's not that bad," David told me. "He was here for a month." So we decided on tortillas instead. We prepared the ingredients. (I helped even though the pictures seem to tell a different story....)

Mwl Massong's daughter

While we were waiting for the coals to get ready, Mwl. Massong invited us over to his house for a meal. We entered through the courtyard where one of his daughters was playing with a Fanta bottle. Maxima, his wife, served chai made with milk (not water) because it was a special occasion (me being there...as if I'm special). We then had tortillas with meat and mushrooms in a marinade. There was freshly prepared salsa on the side and fresh bananas, too. It was quite satisfying, though unorthodox for a breakfast. (No silverware. Right hand only.)

Hot coals in the jiko Cooking tortillas

Back at David's house, we started cooking the tortillas. David showed me how to do it. Then, while I was cooking them, he would top them with honey, margarine, cinnamon and sugar or jelly.

Cell phone junkies

While we were cooking and eating, Mwl. Sabonga stopped by. He informed Daudi that he had cell phone service. David was in disbelief. He grabbed his phone to see if it was true. He threw his hands up in the air and shouted, "I have cell phone service in my own house!" That was the first moment that had ever happened. The tower was built while he was away for that month and the service was turned on that morning. No longer would he have to ride his bike a half hour to talk on the phone or send a text message. It was shaping up to be a good day.

A few minutes later Tony stopped in. (David's house is a hip place to be, if you hadn't gathered.) David told Tony that there was cell service there, so Tony had to check it out for himself.

We talked about Tanzanian life. "On some levels, I'm really jealous of you guys," I told them. "With no TV or radio, your mind is so free from distraction. It seems so peaceful and calm here."

"Oh dude, you have no idea," Tony said.

"Yeah, your brain is free from all that noise and clutter. It's great," David added. We talked about how when you do things like write your mind is really able to grasp what you're working on much more firmly.

We also talked about Peace Corps volunteers and how much they get paid compared to the locals (like the $2/week chore man). Tony's a millionaire...in Tanzanian Shillings. David was, too, before he paid to have electricity installed. Tony said that he's on the school board for his village. He has more money in his bank account than the school has in its. Crazy!

Tony told me the story of how he built his own sofa. He's the first PCV in his city, so there was no furniture to inherit. He bought some "wet" lumber and let it dry. He had to cut, plane and assemble it all by hand. He recalled his dad's power planar. "You just stand there and guide the board along." But he was certainly proud of his creation.

About that time, it was time to go to the sherehe that was being thrown in my honor. Since all of the teachers wanted to meet Daudi's brother, and he (rightly) assumed that I might not want to be paraded around from house to house, he suggested the idea of having a party at the school. In the month that he was gone, it all got planned and a cow got slaughtered (a teacher even picked out the specific cow). Tony joined us. Most of the teachers were there, totaling twenty or so people.

While we were waiting for the golden potatoes to be fried, us three wazungu (foreigners) took a short walk with the Headmaster, Mwl. Mkuu Happe. We talked about the challenges facing education in Tanzania. The Headmaster said he thought that illiteracy was the biggest problem. There are over 150 tribes in Tanzania, each with their own language.

Back at the school, I, being the guest of honor, was the first one to wash my hands (someone person pours water over your hands, catching the runoff in pail, while you wash..."running" water). I was then the first one to go through the food line. Tony followed me. There was plenty of meat, potatoes and veggies. As I spooned some meat onto my plate, Tony said, "Oh, it looks like you've got some tongue there."

"What?"

"Yeah, those pieces that are darker, that's cow tongue."

"What?"

"Don't worry, man, my mom used to make cow tongue sandwiches. It's fine." He grew up on a farm near St. Louis.

"Ah, crap," I said. "I'll have to eat it to be polite."

As I headed to the table, I was directed to sit front and center. The Headmaster took his seat at my right, Tony and David on my left.

Beginning with prayer

Before we began, we were led in prayer.

We ate. (No silverware. Right hand only.) I waited until the end for the cow tongue. It really wasn't that bad. Regular beef has a fibrous texture. Tongue has more of a uniform, tofu-like texture. As long as I didn't think about what it was, it was fine. Just chew and swallow. No big deal. If Tony hadn't said anything, I would have eaten it without second guessing it.

While we were eating, I was force fed. I turned my head and all of the sudden there was more meat on my plate. I also had my beer refilled a few times when I wasn't looking.

Mwl. Nasaforo Travis Pettijohn unsteadily gives a speech.

As were were eating, Mwl. Nasaforo stood up and made a speech. He then told me that I had to make a speech. I was not warned of this in advance!

I dropped into "special English." Simple, common words. Slow, clear speech. "I'll have to speak in English, since my Swahili is limited," I said. "All I know is jambo/si jambo, habari/salama and mambo/safi." That last pair got a good laugh, since mambo/safi is slang, a phrase like, what up/everything's cool. I went on to thank them for their generosity and hospitality. I said I felt right at home. I encouraged them to keep taking good care of David.

Tony went next, followed by David. They spoke mostly Swahili, so I can't relate what they said. Then David said something that caused the room to erupt with laughter. I asked him what he had said. "All of the white people have talked; now it's your turn," he said.

They went around the room and made everyone say their name. If they wanted to say a few words, that was their opportunity. The last person was the Headmaster, who thanked me for coming and allowing my "brother" to come and teach there. He referred to me as "his Excellency!" He also wanted me to thanks my "parents" for their support and supplying some computer equipment. (Uncle Steve had sent a CD burner back with David.) He told David that he wanted him to stay for another two year term when this one was up. David just smiled. I got the impression they really like him there!

Headmaster and District Officer Head table

After that, the District Education Officer, right, stopped by. He took his seat at my right, between the Headmaster, left, and me. He was on his way to Katesh, so a stop in Endasak was on the way. He gave a speech and asked Daudi to teach him how to use computers.

Mwl. Massong

Mwl. Massong, the man who met us at the bus, the same man who had us over for breakfast, took most of these sherehe pictures.

Head cook

The head cook came over and asked if he could get a picture with David and me. Of course!

Head cook

Left to right: Headmaster, Mwl. Sabonga, the District Officer.

The DO was going to give us three white boys a lifti to Katesh. While we were getting ready to go, people kept saying, "Have another beer for the road!" They would open a beer and set it down in front of us. We protested and they did it anyway. And these are not American 12 oz beers. These are liter beers, 33.8 oz bottles, 2.8 beers each. I was more than a little tipsy by the time we finally left.

The road was amazingly bumpy. You don't so much as drive these roads as you do dodge the holes in them. At one point, we were off-roading because the terrain was smoother than the road! I had some gas. A bump squeezed one out of me. It was a little bad. The DO laughed and said, "It means that you are healthy!" Tony kept blaming it on David (he was upset about having to give a speech, I think).

When we arrived, we met up with a bunch of other Hanang District PCVs at a restaurant. Lewis had some family visiting, his mom, dad and a sister. All four of them went to U of I. Go Illini! Lewis was an Illinois Engineer, too, so David and I had some company. Lewis' family had bought some food to feed all of us. I didn't need any more food, but I ate anyway. Maybe Tanzania was rubbing off on me. Or maybe it was the alcohol. I ate a lot of salted cucumber slices.

About the time that Lewis walked his family back to their hotel is about the time that things started getting hazy for me. We started drinking Konyagi and Krest Bitter Lemon. Konyagi is an African liquor that's similar to a cheap vodka. When the restaurant was getting ready to close and we were the last customers there, we asked if we could get another round for the road. We took a set of glasses and our unopened bottles to our hotel.

Hanang District PCVs

Left to right: David, Tony, Chana, Michelle, Chris, Lewis.

Tony's toes Chris, Travis, Tony, Lewis

Blurry memories. Someone bet someone else fifty bucks to suck Tony's toes clean. It didn't happen. I don't remember posing for this picture. Left to right: Chris, Travis, Tony, Lewis.

Soon enough, sleep was on us. It was 3am. We had started drinking at the sherehe at about 3pm. It had been a very long, very fun day!

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All content and photos Copyright 2004 Travis Pettijohn.