Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do! It’s been busy ‘round these parts.
Our last day off was last Thursday, and it was a really good day. We get a day off pretty sporadically, and try to do fun things when we get a chance. That day we started with a hike up a mountain in Mto Wambu. It was gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. I was exhausted, but it was well worth it. There were a few times I just had to look behind me and gasp a little. We had a great view of the hills with Lake Manyara National Park in the distances. Bah you have no idea!!
My favorite part of the hike was spending time with Johana, one of our Swahili teachers. I really enjoy his presence - very gentle and welcoming, yet strong. He taught me more Swahili and we laughed a ton. Honestly, I don’t think I remember any of it, but it was still fun. Too much at once, I guess. :)
The next day we conducted interviews for Environmental Policy. We’ve been learning about participation from rural communities - aka letting people tell us what they need instead of spending a little time in their community and then telling them what they need. The goal of these interviews is to get all your information from rural communities who live the issues you’re pursuing, and to take your own bias out.
My group focused on difficulties facing small-scale farmers. Small farms surround us, so all we had to do was walk outside our gate with our guide and translator, Daniel, and find our neighbors.
This day was super insightful, and was probably the first time I had any interest in policy. We asked each family we crossed about many things, but the problems they face in particular. Man, there were so many! Some families seemed discouraged, while others were well off. But overall, the system seems pretty disorganized. Just as we predicted, the biggest problem facing farmers in this area was lack of water. There are no irrigation systems, and each farm has to wait for rain, which is unreliable. We asked if anyone regulates water in the area, and each one said no. The next day I found out that there’s a water committee in Rhotia. We were going to interview them (aaaahhh I wanted to so badly!), but national elections are coming up, so we weren’t able to get time with them. I want to know why no one knows about this committee and what they do. What is this gap between the people who need water and the committee devoted to it? There’s water for domestic use in Rhotia, but no sort of irrigation system for agriculture.
Other difficulties included (and I won’t elaborate) pests, lack of capital, inadequate seed, soil quality/erosion, low market price, and lack of agricultural education.
A couple days ago, we did home stays with families in Rhotia. Best day ever. We were paired up and dropped off with certain families to spend the day with them, cook, work, see what their lives are like.
My partner was Robbie. He’s from Illinois and also goes to school there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, and we have more in common than I thought. Funny how that always happens. He’s constantly laughing and really appreciates people; you can just see it.
So Robbie and I spent the day with a family who spoke no English. Crazy, but so valuable. My Swahili failed me many times, and I wish I knew more. But we achieved a deep level of connection anyway, and we felt like members of their family. One of the best things about language barriers is how you overcome them.
Mom’s name is Agipina, and dad is John. They have eight kids. We met a few throughout the day, but some were away at school. Martin, Onesti, Francisco, Francisca (twins, ha!), Gilberti, Jazz, Magdelina, and James. I spent a lot of time with Francisca. She taught me how to prepare chai, ugali (a corn flour and water mixture), and a cabbage dish. I wondered all day long whether Robbie and I were actually helping - they had to baby us Americans a lot. Honestly, it blows my mind that you can make a room FULL of dirt on an uneven floor clean as a whistle using only a scraper and a rag. Blows my mind.
I spent most of my day cleaning, cooking, and sitting (wow I’m useful!), while Robbie did a lot of work with livestock and fetching water. So the gender roles were very obvious, but I saw a lot of value in seeing a beastly woman cook a meal. You wouldn’t think so, but ugali takes muscle. You have to beat it into submission because it’s so tough. Obey me so I can eat you!
At one point, Agipina brought out the family photo album! It brought me so much joy to see wedding pictures, and graduations, and family events! After showing me all these pictures, she gave me a few and told me to take them to America with me. Uhm, wow! What generosity to give someone else a part of your family! We took a few pictures with them and hope to send them back to Aziz (our Swahili teacher who set this day up) so he can deliver them to John and Agipina.
I loved watching John and Agipina interact. I have no idea what they were saying to each other, but there was a lot of connection and laughter. You could tell that even after eight kids and many years of marriage, they still liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company.
When one of the youngest, Magdelina, came home, she just could not take her eyes off the mzungu (white) girl. She pretty much jumped me and just started to feel my hair. So soft! She went away for a while, but started staring at me again, so I invited her to come sit next to me. She sat for a while, but her eyes drifted up to my hair again and she erupted into playing with it again. She was just suddenly out of control! :P
I have officially had my initiation into this community. This morning, we took the first jigger (like chiggers in the States) out of my toe!
Ok, please do not read the italics if you’re squeamish. I’m about to get descriptive.
I found the jigger last night before I went to bed. They find their way under your skin and grow and lay eggs and it’s disgusting. If you find them mature, they look like a swollen white thing with a small black dot.
To get them out, you go to Erica (our Student Affairs Manager, originally from Colorado). She’s a beast when it comes to getting these things out. You have to be careful to get all of the egg sac out. Otherwise you’ll have growing babies (like my roommate, Arima). Anyway, you have to cut around the jigger to make a sort of flap. Once you turn it up, the white jigger just kind of oozes out. It’s kind of like popping a pimple, except ... nastier. It bleeds a lot, because they usually burrow pretty deep.
After you get the jigger and egg sac out, you have rub an alcohol swab inside the wound to disinfect. Not the most fun thing you’ve ever done. Then you soak your foot in soapy hot water and cover! And you’re jigger free!
We had a goat roast last night. They let us observe the entire process, meaning the two goats were alive when we started.
It was actually really really hard to watch. I won’t detail it, but the death was definitely not quick enough. Yikes.
We watching the skinning (and some of the other students helped) and took out all the organs for a friendly little ruminant anatomy lesson. Their stomachs are so fantastic! I don’t remember what they’re each called, but goats have four. Each of the stomachs have a different texture - one’s like a honeycomb, another has a bunch of ridges, etc - it’s really interesting!
Poor goats ... but they were really yummy. Ask me more about this when I get home; I’m too bashful to admit here which parts I ate.
Ngorongoro crater tomorrow! I hear amazing things, so I'm STOKED!