First things first……….
I am so sorry for the delay in e-mails!!! On the tuesday of my final week in Africa, several of us went to our beloved internet cafe to find it CLOSED!! Yep….bars on the windows and armed guards patrolling around it! Needless to say, we were heartbroken. Add to that the fact that I brought home a hitchhiking parasite that has interfered greatly with my first week back, and you have the reason for the absence of updates. In any case, here are the last few Africa reports.
I woke up this morning to a full, full day. After my usual breakfast of bread and peanut butter, I went to school. The morning flew by in a haze of children, chickens and ABCâ€™s and before I knew it, it was time for the kids to leave. As they scattered off across the fields, Mr. Masawe and a young Tanzanian girl named Susanna came to sit with us and wait for the van. Susanna is volunteering her time between school semesters, and her goal is to be a teacher. Jesca joined us and we started talking about children and teaching. The day was sunny and bright, and we sat on low wooden benches under the tin awning watching the chickens scratch for a bit of food around our feet. Mr. Masawe asked if I knew any songs, so I launched into â€œRow, Row, Row Your Boatâ€. It only took a few minutes for the others to catch on before we got brave and tried to do it in a round. We started the song over and over, each time getting a little further before we would disintegrate into garbled lyrics and giggles. As we progressed to â€œTwinkle, Twinkleâ€, â€œItsy-bitsy Spiderâ€, and â€œMary Had a Little Lambâ€, we got better and better. Suddenly Mr. Masawes voice rang out as he began singing Kum By Yahâ€. We all joined in and broke out into three part harmony. Chills ran up and down my spine and goose bumps raised on my arms as I sat back and listened to the sound of this song float out over Kilamahewa. As the song trailed off, I said to myself, â€˜pay attention, pay attention, pay attention….I want to remember this for the rest of my lifeâ€. As tears filled my eyes, Jesca continued on with a verse that I had never heard, â€˜disco dancing lord, kum by yah….disco dancing lord, kum by yahâ€. Huh? I laughed and laughed, saying to myself, â€˜pay attention, pay attention…â€.
When the van came to get us, we asked Simon to take Christie, Julie and myself to Honey Badger for the rest of the day. Mama Lucy, the woman that force fed me rum last week, , has invited us to come spend the day at the arts center and to learn about Tanzania. When we arrived, we found that Mamma Lucy had gone into town to buy food, but she had left a beautiful table set for four under the trees. We settled down to some idle chatter and cool water as the day got warmer and warmer. Before long, Mama Lucy had returned and joined us for a meal. Chicken, plantains and fresh fruit filled the table and we sat back to enjoy the company of this amazing woman. It seems that Mama Lucy and her husband had started this community center with the idea of enlarging it to a school, and possibly someday, a children’s home. There is a beautiful grassy lawn and a small stage where the tribal drumming and dancing take place, all encircled by a large brick wall. Outside the wall is the rest of the compound. There are camping spaces, meeting rooms and a small bar-type area for larger groups that come to visit. And there is a school. After lunch, Mama Lucy took us on a tour and the first place that we visited was the school. It seems that there is a group at the University of Georgia called OKAT, One Kid At A Time. It is a student-run organization and a group of the students come every summer to Honey Badger. They work with the school and the community, and the work that they have done here is profound. Mama Lucy said that two years ago, when the villagers would see a white person. they would run away. Through the work of OKAT and CCS, the villagers have come to welcome the volunteers and a rich relationship has sprung up between them. I cannot imagine how rewarding it must of felt to be here during the beginnings of that process!
The school is a whitewashed building with large windows that let the sun in. OKAT has built desks and seats and all I could do was eye them thinking, â€˜oh man….I wonder if we could do that for Kilamahewa?!â€. Seated in the room were six young women between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. The families of these girls could not afford to send them to government school, so Mama Lucy and the OKAT students have created this school for them. As I looked around at them, I found myself wondering if the students at OKAT realized what a difference they had made in these young lives! The students all introduced themselves to us and we agreed to come back later in the week to speak to the them. I couldnâ€™t wait!
After our school visit, Mama Lucy took us out into the village for a walk. This is one of the poorer villages in the Moshi area, and I could see how the families would struggle just to feed kids, let alone educate them. However, like all of the other places we had gone, the people that we met were happy, warm, and welcoming. Grown-ups shyly tried out the english that they knew and children giggled and followed us at a safe distance. We walked between corn fields that had been tilled under as the sun beat down on us with a vengeance. I could feel my skin baking as we scurried from the shade of one banana tree to another. Small mud huts clustered together while goats and chickens ran free. Every time the wind would stir up we would cover our faces to keep as much dust out of our lungs as possible. It was with relief that we finally came back to the arts center and settled into chairs to wait for our ride home. Mama Lucy told stories of the villagers and the center, always circling back to the students from the University of Georgia. She asked if I would go and speak to them and deliver letters to them from the students. I tried to express what an honor it would be, and she took down my address so that she could make the necessary introductions.
Before we knew it, Baba Charles, Lucyâ€™s husband, had come to take us home. We agreed to come back in two days and I left knowing that even after I return to the States, I had met a friend in Mama Lucy and seen a path to further volunteer work open before my eyes.
“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes