Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Your Mark

While I’m not quite ready to “get set” and “go,” I do feel very nearly there. 
I returned to the village of Msaranga in rural Kilimanjaro last week not as the prodigal daughter per se but rather as the long-lost sister.  And this fact was not lost on me one bit.  Mwalimu Vumi met me at Stop and Shop as she has done a gazillion times in the past (yes, it is a grocery store; no, it is not part of the American chain; for my purposes, it’s where I get off the daladala to go into the village), gave me a big hug, and proceeded to berate me for being absent for two years.  While it hasn’t been quite that long, it has indeed been a while and I felt a bit nervous returningWe were meeting Baba Ngowi, Diwani Kiwelu, the village mwenyekiti or chairperson, the headmaster of the primary school, and the Standard One teacher to explain The Toa Nafasi Project activities, discuss our plans for the timetable, and answer any questions they might have.
The meeting itself went really well with Baba Ngowi elucidating my project abstract in Swahili to everybody present (and me interjecting when I could in order to further clarify; my Swahili is excellent comprehension-wise, pretty good written, and fair spoken.  It could be better spoken but I tend to be lazy and/or shy, so I often lapse into English or Swenglish with people who know me.  However, one of my new year’s resolutions is to speak more and not be so lazy/shy plus I am being goaded into conversation by everyone from Baba Ngowi’s kids to the DJ at Glacier, so in a few months, I should be comfortable again.  And spending so much time in Msaranga?  Forget about English, I’ll be speaking more Chagga than English there!)
Anyway, the meeting went really well after a slightly shaky start.  We began late (typical), this lady comes in and makes a big kerfuffle over me (“Helloooo, Mama Mzungu!!"), I get my back up and respond something like “Helloooo, Mama Mtanzania!!,” then it turns out that she is the esteemed village chairperson we’re meant to explain the Project to.  Whoopsie!!  But, it was actually fine because everybody just laughed and thought I was hilarious and clever and cute and mzungu-y.  Then I said a few words to the group in Swahili and turned it over to Baba who did the whole dealio and everybody nodded along just as I knew they would because this problem is real and no one knows how to deal with it and thank God for Toa Nafasi.  No, literally, thank GOD.  The Standard One teacher, Mwalimu Mshiu, told Baba that this Project was not mine, it was God’s.  While I appreciate the sentiment and what I gather is praise of the highest order, it was NOT God who filed for tax-exempt status, designed the three phases, and is currently working on the website, I can assure you that much!

At any rate, Mwalimu Mshiu and Headmaster Kennedy as well as Mwenyekiti Martha were all very pleased with the goals of the Project and the formal introduction that had had me in a holding pattern for so long is now OV-AH!  So, I am ready now to begin the observation period which will last eight weeks from the beginning of February to the end of March, which is perfect because then we will have the Easter break and I can catch my breath, analyze my findings, and figure out the next step!

So, the next few blog entries will no doubt be very interesting.  I’ll be spending the first three days of the week in Moshi at the school and the rest of the week back here in Arusha, going through my notes, meeting people and networking, and doing research.  The Toa Nafasi website is in development and we should have something up soon.  Baba is working on a signboard for our office in Moshi, so I’m hoping that will happen shortly as well.  I’ve leased a car for my personal use, which is exciting but also kind of scary.  I’m a good driver, but after living in New York so long (not to mention Moshi!) where I don’t drive and driving on the other side of the road here, I’m nervous!!  Plus, police and thieves and drunkards on the roads to contend with??  I figure I’ll take it nice and slow.  After all, there’s no hurry in Africa!!

That’s the word from here, and another post in a week’s time.  Enjoy the photos below!!

The Toa Nafasi Project TZ Crew, from left to right: Teacher Vumi, me, Headmaster Kennedy, Baba Ngowi, Mwalimu Mshiu (Martha the chairperson had fled the scene by this point….)

Vumi and her daughter Grace, who is two years old, which definitely means I have not been out of Msaranga that long because I held this kid as an infant!!  Pretty girl, rather large head….she’ll grow into it, I’m sure.

The grounds of Msaranga Primary.  Hot, dusty Africa at its best.  And all the kids wearing their sweaters as part of their uniforms because if they take them off and lose them, their parents will not be happy!

Our office in Moshi!!  It used to be a curio shop, then a printing press, now it’s a wakala where Baba is authorized to help people send money across the country through their phones.  What can I say, my Baba is a man of many talents and diverse interests….

My business card taped to the office door in lieu of a signboard….which Baba assures me is forthcoming.  “We’ll see to it.”

A view of the mountain from the office.  I exclaimed at its beauty and scrambled to take a picture while Baba just shook his head grumbling, “Why should I look at that mountain?  I have looked at it every day for 59 years.”  Baba humbug.

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