Published: October 14th 2005October 14th 2005
Today is public holiday...specifically Nyerere Day, in honour of the first president of the United Republic of Tanzania, which only came into being in 1964. Nyerere is dead now, but he is still widely revered as the father of the country, and his picture hangs beside that of the current president in schools and government buildings. He is recognized as a man who single-handedly united over 120 tribes into a single functioning nation. He is also acknowledged as the main reason for the continuing stability of this country, which is after all on a continent where bloody civil wars are the normal course of business. Nyerere made Swahili the national language, which was successful to the point that everyone speaks it even though it is nobody's original first language. He also promoted an atmosphere of family, a sort of all for one and one for all. Overall Tanzanians are laid back and peace loving, and this spirit was instilled and nurtured by Nyerere, according to everyone here. They have never been to war, except to defend themselves against an invasian by Idi Amin in the late 70s. Tanzanians are widely admired throughout Africa because of it. So at dinner tonight, raise a glass to old Julius, because really, he's a big part of the reason I'm here. I couldn't have come if it weren't such a safe and welcoming place.
Work is going well. Carol and I finished doing the analysis on the questionnaires that were given to group members during the training that was conducted in the summer (don't worry if that doesn't mean anything to you), although it was less an analysis than an interpretation, in my humble opinion. There was very little statistical work done with the results, we mostly just compiled and explained them. But there you have it, that was what they wanted and Carol is happy, so I'm happy. Ali phoned us yesterday morning because we had been working at Carol's house, and I was glad to be able to tell him that we were just winding it up. It was a good thing he called, because that's how I found out today is a day off. Otherwise I would have gone to the FOGOTA office this morning -- and how happy would I have been to have missed the chance to sleep in? It's good timing to get this work done as well because my midterm evaluation is due at the end of this month, and I'll actually have something to tell the university I've been doing. Which is always good.
Tonight there is an exhibition of traditional African dance at the place where I'm learning Swahili (Nyumba ya Sanaa -- House of Arts), so I'm going with Kim, a Canadian girl from Victoria who I met when she sat in on my class one afternoon. She is learning too but that particular time slot is no good for her, so we're not in class together. Then tomorrow Carol and I are going to a water park that she knows -- a guilty pleasure for us both -- me because it's such a western, touristy thing to do, her because it's considered very childish for grown women. Whatever! Hallelujah, the thought of cold water has gotten me through this week, because although I have been reluctant to admit it it's time I faced the truth -- it's getting hotter here. Since the time I've been here it's always been around 30 degrees in my room day and night, but in the last week or so I have noticed that it's usually 32. You can feel the difference too. I ignored it as long as I could but I finally broke down and asked somebody. Turns out November to January are the hottest months of the year, and it will just keep getting hotter until I leave. Carol, who is from Kenya originally, where it's a tad cooler (at least away from the coast, where they lived), said even she finds it unbearable -- your clothes stick to you and nothing cools you off. Exxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxcellent. I can't wait. Needless to say that bit of news had made me a little cranky, but I'm trying to fight through it.
Speaking of hot, my cold lasted three days and I called in sick to work on Monday. Actually I sent a text to Carol telling her I wasn't coming, then one to Ali. I told him that I was sick so I wasn't going, but that it was just a cold, no fever (I checked) and not to wory. Then I went back to bed and slept for most of the day. In the heat. Every time I woke up I was drenched in sweat. Yuck. Then I dreamed it was snowing. It was glorious. I was here, but it was snowing, and there was about six inches on the ground and it was blowing like crazy but it felt wonderful. The daladalas were all getting stuck on the slippery roads and the men had to push them, just like happens in Canada. When I woke up I had to laugh...the mind is a wonderful thing. I also checked my temperature again because the dream was extremely vivid, but nothing, so I guess it was just wishful thinking and a very active imagination.
When I woke up that afternoon at around 3:30 I spent a few seconds figuring out what had woken me, then realized I might have heard somebody at the door. I went to check but there was nobody. Then my phone rang and it was Ali...he was downstairs. Somebody had knocked, to tell me he was there. So I went down to see him and let him see that I was okay. I said, hey, what are you doing here, you're supposed to not be worrying, remember? He did have the grace to look a little sheepish. But I think after the whole mama-upset-false-kidnapping thing, by God, nothing bad is going to happen on his watch. God love him.
I do find some solace in the fact that even the locals are starting to feel the heat. They all carry a handkerchief or some sort of rag for wiping sweat away, and I am seeing them used more often than before. Also walking down the street the other day I saw a daladala conductor (the guys who collect the money and who hang out the doors of the minivans calling out the destinations auctioneer style -- BuguruniBuguruniBuguruni -- PostaPostaPosta) hanging out the window of his bus, pouring a bag of cold water over his head. I knew how he felt. I don't think I've ever felt such empathy for another human being in my life.
A lot of my time now is taken up with going over my Swahili homework and trying to memorize vocabulary. There are two German girls who are staying at the Msimbazi Centre where I am who want my time slot with the teacher, but I am fighting them off because it's perfect for me. They keep trying to get me to trade with them. It's sort of becoming an ongoing thing. I am finding the learning difficult and I think it's because it's so concentrated. Yesterday I said to Musa, the teacher, okay, enough with the grammar! You are teaching me fine technical points and I can barely recognize yet when someone is saying good evening to me! He agreed to lighten up a bit. I think he just gets so excited because I can move along at a reasonable pace. As he said to me, many people go polepole (very slowly). I said okay but I'm getting overwhelmed and losing the fun of it.
One nice thing is one of the security guards at the Msimbazi Centre is a guy who would like to improve his English. So we are helping each other and that's fun. One phrase I have learned is lala salama, which is sleep well. I said to Joseph, the security guy, we also say sleep tight. He was like, huh? So I wrote it down. And he said, why do you say that? After some thought I said, well I think it actually comes from, good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite. And he was like, huh?????? (Strangely it didn't seem to help his comprehension.) So I spent the next ten minutes trying to explain/translate and of course it just went from bad to worse. So I finally said never mind, just say sleep well. That works fine. But the overall confusion is getting less and happily I am starting to recognize some stuff, although kidogo kidogo (a very little bit). I was in the little cafe that's sort of next door to our compound and a guy was taking apart a cell phone with what looked like a butcher knife. This I found quite amusing and I think I insulted him highly when I said, unaweza tengeneza? (You can fix?) He told me quite haughtily something that I took to mean he does this for a living. Oh well, okay then. I was still chuckling when I walked away. When I think of all the tiny little precise tools we use at home for electronics...who knew a machete would work just as well? Let that be a lesson to us all...