Mwandanje

About to begin week 8. We’re studying the lesson plans for First Aid. It was hard to get myself to write this post. My mind is all over the place thinking about home, our upcoming trips to Moshi and Zanzibar, and about the goodbyes that are creeping closer. I want to be able to remember and retell each moment exactly as it felt or looked or smelled. Beryl Markham had an amazing ability to make her reader feel the complexities of a situation or experience. There’s so much I’m trying to remember and fit in, I know it will be impossible to put it into words.

It’s Novemer and the rains are beginning, although Mama Mwasamwaja said it is still a bit early. She was unhappy with the rain because they are still weeding and not ready for the clouds to roll in. It rained every afternoon this week just as we were finishing our last lesson. It’s just about impossible to teach through the pounding of rain on the tin roof so we’ve been dismissing the students a little bit early. On Thursday we let them out when we heard the first rumblings of rain coming. Some of them refuse to bring their exercise books home if it is already raining when class gets out but we needed them to study for their exam on Friday. They seem to know it’s going to rain before we do. They get all anxious and fidgety and ask if they can leave before it rains. Dot and I just laugh and tell them they can leave soon, just calm down, the sun’s still out. Thirty seconds later it’s pouring rain and our lessons are brought to a chaotic end.

Last Sunday, Katelyn and I climbed Mwandanje – the large, round, green mound near Lwangwa. We were led by a young man from Ndembo village named Maxcepa and Mwaikema’s daughter Tumaini (“Hope” in Swahili). Two of Maxcepa’s friends came as well and, along the way, two young girls tagged along too. All together there were eight of us keeping Maxcepa’s fast pace. At one point a woman asked where we were all going and advised that we go a different way, a shorter way. Maxcepa ignored her advice and continued on his path until we ended up at the top of a different hill. He scratched his chin and then we all ran down the hill through a very dry corn field, leaving huge clouds of dust behind us. At the bottom we found ourselves at the foot of Mwandanje and we began to climb. Nearing the top of Mwandanje there is only grass and prickly berry bushes. In tired, concentrated silence, we all essentially crawled through the tall grass. Once we reached the top, Maxcepa was already beginning to descend the other side. Katelyn and I demanded a break and we all shared some bananas and day old chipati. We took a really funny photo of everyone using a timer and hanging the camera on a nearby tree. Although we got lost again on the way back (eventually Maxcepa’s solution was to just march us all through corn fields) we made it home, ankles bleeding and covered in dust, 4 hours after we’d left.

We had a few visitors this week. Jacob, who we met in Dar on our very first day in TZ, was in Manow visiting. He used to teach at MLJS and is a close friend of Nancy and our program. He visited our class and talked to the students about the importance of the next two weeks (First Aid and STD prevention). He’s such a cheerful, talkative guy. On Friday, we had him over for pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and BROWNIES. I baked brownies of Thursday evening and brought some over to our neighbors, the Malangas.
Our other visitor was the mother of our student Miriam. She lives in Ndembo and came over to thank us and bring eggs, a very welcome gift.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, the only day it didn’t rain. In the morning, Dot and I visited with the carpenter, Isaac, who was finishing a bed. Katelyn and I walked to the market late to be sure we didn’t miss the man who sells the really nice fabrics. I can gage my comfort here by my behavior in the market. We used to tumble through Lwangwa, throwing around money and bags in frantic frustration. I feel much calmer now, navigating and talking to people using the very limited Nyakusa and Swahili I’ve acquired. We each know where to get our favorite snacks and fabrics or who the nicest vendors are. Tangawizi (ginger soda) has been in town for a couple weeks so Katelyn and I treated ourselves and talked with a pastor from Lwangwa. He told us about the fighting in Mbeya between the police and mchinga (street vendors) and about the political parties in TZ. We eventually got all we needed and went over to visit Mama Mwasamwaja. She offered us tea but told us we are no longer guests and must get it ourselves, which I took as a great honor. We sat with her for a couple of hours and she let me weave some of her mkeka, trusting me to remember a different pattern.

Today was Dot’s birthday. Isaac invited us to go to the service at the Lutheran church in Lwangwa where he is the guitar player and choir leader. We walked down at 7:30 and were led to the front of the church when we arrived. Mwasamwaja was the pastor and gave us a very welcoming introduction. Mama Mwasamwaja and Dot sat on either side of me. I think I’ve adopted Mama Mwasamwaja as my fourth grandmother. At the end of the service Isaac asked if he could speak to the congregation. He wanted to tell them how happy he was that we had come and that we were very faithful to our word as we had only talked about coming yesterday. He was so happy to see us there. At the auction he bought us eggs and Coca-Colas.

Of course there’s more to write about. There’s always more to write but it’s Sunday night and I’m very tired.

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2 thoughts on “Mwandanje

  1. Hannah,

    I love your posts. I feel transported to your world as I read them. What an amazing experience for you and Dot! I am so happy for you and also for the people there who get to know you. You are a great representative of Evergreen State College, our community and the US.

    I hope you continue to have a great time. I look forward to seeing you when you get home.

    Love, Melissa

  2. HBQ,
    Beryl Markham has nothing on you. She’s your soul sista. Your world is palpable to me when I read your posts. Maybe I’ll get Peter West with the Night for Christmas. I think he would enjoy it.
    I imagine it will be hard to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people you have met. Enjoy the remaining time you have with everyone. I for one can’t wait to see you when you return.
    Peace and love to all and please relay a belated birthday wish to Dot for me.
    See you in Neeeskahyuna in December.
    xo,
    TVA

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