December 7, 2008

BIBI KAY, YOU ARE SO FAT!   

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lost 30 lbs. and not on purpose—just different food, environment and hard work.  Fatigue sometimes created a loss of appetite for me, too tired to eat.  Anyway, while I was home in Arkansas, I really “beefed up” and gained about 35 lbs..  So when I returned to Tanzania September 30th of this year, many people would greet me and then after looking me over, would say “Bibi Kay, you are fat!”

Now let me clarify.  Here that is considered a compliment, a sign of wealth and most men desire “fat” women.  Whereas in the U.S., that type greeting would be an insult.  Actually, if I hear that “you are fat” one more time, I think I’ll slug him or her.

IRRITANTS:  Things that bother me in this country.

The slow pace of everything. …It’s like “don’t do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”  My problem is being a Type A personality.

Opening coke bottles with their teeth….done all the time.

Picking their noses.  This is socially acceptable but flatulence is not acceptable which is a bodily function.  Sorry, but the bean diet creates tons of gas.  Many of us wazungu (white folks) have this problem.

Eating with their fingers and rolling ugali in their sometimes dirty hands before eating it.

A Tanzanian may say “yes” when they really mean “no” or vice-versa.  They do not want to hurt feelings or disappoint you.  I’ve learned to work through that one and get to the nitty-gritty truth.

WHY DO I LOVE TANZANIA AND ITS’ PEOPLE?  Many reasons.

They have tremendous respect and appreciation for the elderly (age 45 and up, if they should live that long.)  They feel the older adults carry all the wisdom in a village.  I love it!  I’m treated like a queen.

The country is so beautiful, open and majestic.

Every day the women sweep  with a small branch from a Hekia tree around their homes or little shops.  The students do the same around the school next to my house. (Of course, if they stopped the littering, sweeping would not be necessary.  I am working on that issue in my village now.)

The internal peace I feel  here…life is so simple, just the three basics;  food, shelter and clothing.  Diet is a problem as ugali is their staple food which is corm flour and water cooked to a past. It is cheap and fills the tummy, but more vegetables, fruit and protein are needed by the poor.

EMMANUEL:

I want to tell you about Emmanuel.  He is 22 years old, he thinks.  By the time he was 8 years old, he had lost both his mother and father.  Thanks to Kathleen Allen, Mike Moriarty’s sister in South Carolina, he will finish Tandala Teachers College in early 2010.  Kathleen sponsors his education.

Now this young man calls me his mother and sticks to me like glue now that he is home for Christmas holiday.  In fact, I am stumbling over him half the time.  He helps me around my home but he is also the most inept young man I have ever met.  I find I lose patience with him for his lack of how to do things.  But, since he raised himself, he had no role model.  So, I guess I am it now.

Last Sunday there was a big confirmation party for this young orphan girl, and I was invited along with the teachers and close friends.  It was held in the lovely, big classroom you all funded.  After a long ceremony of serving cake to her guardians and to her adopted family members, the head schoolmaster and I were served cake.  The gifts were given to music, dancing up to the table and placing your gift under a cloth. After the gift-giving, we were served a big meal of rice, beans and some meat.  After eating, the serious dancing started.

I love to dance, but I’m a dancer to the old rock and roll from the fifties.  So, I grabbed a couple teachers to dance with and then Emmanuel.  Well, let me tell you after about 3 minutes Emmanuel  had the two-step down pat and we were off.  That young man has rhythm…amazing.  He was having a ball and so was I.

THE ORPHANAGE:

Don’t despair, there is some progress on the orphanage.  No construction, but rocks for the foundation have been gathered and many meetings to decide how to get our tax exempt permit for the orphanage. Either we form an NGO (non-government organization)  between the village and me, or we go under the umbrella of the Lutheran parish 6 k. from Uhekule.  The village must make that decision, not me, though I prefer the latter, more sustainability under the church.

Now that the rains have started and my roof leaks in many places, I have hired Fredy Mbilinyi, who is the carpenter who will oversee the orphanage construction, to work on my house while I am in Dar getting my Class “C” Permit.  Besides repairing my roof, he will place ceiling board in my three rooms. Now if I ever get another rat infestation, I will hear them scampering above but won’t see them nor will they have the opportunity to eat my belongings unless they chew through the ceiling board.

Thanks for allowing me to share my life with you. It helps me feel closer to all my family and friends back in the U.S..

Peace and love,

Bibi Kay

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