Matema Beach and a Trip to Tukuyu

“Competitors in conquest have overlooked the vital soul of Africa herself, from which emanates the true resistance to conquest. The soul is not dead, but silent, the wisdom not lacking, but of such simplicity that as to be counted non-existent in the tinker’s mind of modern civilization. Africa is of an ancient age…What upstart race, sprung from some recent, callow century to arm itself with steel and boastfulness, can match in purity the blood of a singe Masai Murani whose heritage may have stemmed not far from Eden. It is not the weed that is corrupt; roots of the weed sucked first life from the genesis of the earth and hold the essence of it still. Always the weed returns; the cultured plant retreats before it. Racial purity, true aristocracy, devolve not from edict or rote, but from the preservation of kinship with the elemental forces and purposes of life whose understanding is not farther beyond the mind of a Native shepard than beyond the cultured fumblings of a mortarboard intelligence.” (Beryl Markham, West with the Night)

I just wanted to share this quote from the book I’m reading right now. I am stunned by Beryl Markham’s descriptions of Africa from when she was a pilot in Kenya around the 1930s. She’s very funny and honest about her relationships with the place and its people. I also reread Alexandra Fuller’s book Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight a memoir about growing up in Rhodesia (just before it became Zimbabwe), Zambia, and Mozambique.

Anyways, we’re back from Matema Beach! Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) was beautiful. After a kind of uncomfortable night with our drunken guests on Friday we woke up and sped off along the bumpy road to Matema with our friends Martin and Neverson. Mwaikema’s brother, one of the men who plays mancala outside the duka every afternoon, borrowed someone’s land cruiser to take us. It was strange to reach the market where we shop for food and then turn right and continue out of Lwangwa. We haven’t walked past that turn since we arrived with Nancy.
The first night in Matema we stayed at the Lutheran Center, right on the beach. Katelyn, Dot, and I jumped in right away and laid in the sun until it was time for beer and chips maiai for dinner. (Martin and Neverson said they would swim “later.” We later discovered that Martin does not know how to swim so we gave him moonlit swimming lessons so no one would have to see.) We went to this very loud bar with dirt floors and sugarcane walls where Dot was excited to see two Masai men walk in. They were tall and slender and very proud. After dinner we all wandered back to our beach houses where we were met by a woman that worked at the Lutheran Center. She said our dinner was ready for us up at the lodge and were expected to eat and pay for it. So we all walked slowly back up to eat spaghetti with beef, tomatoes, and cabbage—a wonderful second dinner.
The next day, Saturday, we had to move to the house that is usually reserved for Catholic priests on their beach vacations (the Lutheran Center was booked by the Bank of Tazania for the weekend). It was actually really nice because we had the whole place to ourselves, each with our own room, for the same price as the Lutheran Center. The wife of the man who runs it made us three delicious meals and found us some papaya, watermelon, and big, ripe bananas.
In addition to not knowing how to swim we learned that Martin LOVES fish. He found a man who took us out in a dugout canoe to see the colorful fish in the lake. Lake Malawi is famous for having the largest population and variety of tropical freshwater fish. Although he was terrified the whole time, scolding us to stop leaning too far this way or that, he stopped a man in another canoe who was on his way back to the beach with a boat full of fresh fish, covered in leaves to protect them from the sun. We bought one large fish that looked kind of like a catfish and a few small, iridescent blue fish for lunch. Martin wandered away soon after we made it back to shore to find someone to fry them for us. That was probably the freshest, most delicious fish I have ever eaten.
While in Matema we also walked further down the beach to the village of Lyulilo, which is just at the base of the mountains that rise right up out of the water on the east side of the lake. Lyulilo is where they make a particular kind of pottery and we were lucky enough meet a woman, Terezia, who showed us how she makes perfectly round little pots. She learned from her mother with clay that comes from up in the mountains and has now made some of her own designs like a ceramic iron.
On Sunday, before we left the beach to return to Manow, Terezia’s nieces Victoria and Kisa came to visit us for the afternoon. We sat around and Kisa, who was about nine, played with Dot’s binoculars on the front porch. They stayed for lunch and then returned to Lyulilo.

When I walked down to Mama Mwasamwaja’s on Monday she joked that she had waited and waited for me to come on Thursday. She prepared more green and white reeds for me to continue weaving. I really love visiting her. She takes my hand and shows me her yard and the peas she is harvesting. She gave my a bag full of peas to bring back up to Manow. I shelled the peas made coconut curry with peas, potatoes, and carrots. It as such a luxurious meal with Cokes too! We’re getting the hang of cooking with what we have here. I baked cookies for Ngwitika on Tuesday. It’s hard to think of gifts for people that show our gratitude. Everyone has done so much to help us.

Class has been going well this week. I taught the “Staying Healthy” unit on Wednesday. I think they really enjoyed that lesson. It was little bit of a break from grammar and vocabulary and it was related to them in a more direct way. They thought it was very funny when I demonstrated how to sneeze into your elbow.

Katelyn and I also had Ngwitika make us some new clothes this week. I have a new yellow dress like the ones our students where and Katelyn has a new loose sweatshirt. We wore them on Friday and the class loved it. They thought we looked silly but still liked our new outfits. We also had a surprise visitor on Friday night. Klaus Dinkle, the German pastor from Itete, came by to visit and to take care of some money exchanges (he bought the new fridge for our house recently and needed to be reimbursed). His wife, Karina, is the doctor in Itete and they’ve lived here for about two years. He’s very funny and talkative. He asked us what we missed most now that we’ve been here for a little while and we all said cheese. I guess they miss it too and he said we can find some cheese in Mbeya but they would pick some up for us the next time they go.

Yesterday we went to Tukuyu on the local bus that leaves from outside the duka, down the hill from our house, at 6 am. We had been told that we should walk 30 minutes to Lwangwa and take the bus that leaves from there at 5 am, but this was a cheaper and closer option. The ride there was fun, about 25 people crammed in a little metal bus with bench seats on either side so you are facing the other passengers. In the middle are piles of giant bags of beans, suitcases, and, near the back, chickens. We got to Tukuyu in about 2 hours. We immediately walked to a restaurant near the bus station where we had eaten on our first night in Tukuyu after arriving from Dar. They had no chips maiai, but we had chipati, sombusas (with meat!), sweet rolls, and chai. It was strange but this woman paid for all of our breakfast and because we were confused we didn’t really get to thank her. She left and I kind of thought maybe she said we had to pay for hers but the waitress wouldn’t accept money for anything.

Right after breakfast Klaus called to say they were also in Tukuyu on their way to Mbeya. We met up and he helped us look for a package at the post office that was supposed to be arriving for us from Ginny (one of the volunteers from 2009). While we waited two more wazungus (white people) walked in. The only people in the post office were 7 white people—more than we’ve seen since being here. They were Peace Corps volunteers teaching science in Tukuyu.

The ride home was less comfortable. We had a lot of groceries (cocoa, peanut butter, Africafe, peas, cucumbers, pasta, tomato paste, Blue Band, apples, chocolate cookies, and lots of fabric) that we can’t get near Manow. Everyone else had more luggage as well. The young woman sitting next to me got sick for almost the entire ride back which was not very fun for anyone on board. It was interesting because the older woman, or mzee, sitting next to her threw a kitange over the girl’s head so no one could see her get sick. Needless to say, we arrived back in Manow, hot, tired, and covered in dust but when we walked in, ready to shower, we realized we had no water. A pipe had broken in the middle of town, so there was no water at all, not just in our water tank. All three of us took sponge baths with just two pitchers of water each, in case the water wasn’t on again the next day. Half and hour after we had all finished the water came back on. So we’ll shower again after our hike with Mwaikema today.

There’s so much to say about what is happening here. I want to write it all but it’s very difficult. I want to describe perfectly the people I’m meeting and the situations I’m encountering as well as some of the author’s I’ve been reading. I’m having an amazing time and I’m starting to realize how much I will miss our students when we leave. I’m just trying to relax into it because the next six weeks are going to fly by.

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