Friday, April 26, 2013

Mama T's Words of Wisdom

The Toa Nafasi Project's observation period is now completed and the final count of students we will be assessing next month comes to 156.  Of those, the majority will be weeded out with an initial blanket evaluation and the rest will get the whole nine yards, but I have already identified at least 10-15 kids with some sort of developmental delay, whether it's behavioral, intellectual, or emotional.  When Angi comes in a mere three weeks (!!), we will know much more.  Already, all the denizens of Msaranga are eagerly awaiting the arrival of mfanyakazi mwenzangu, Anjela (TZ spelling), who I have lauded as "the one who knows what to do."  Thank God for that!! 

In the meantime, I'm eating a bit of crow over here.  I know I was a tad critical of Mama T in my other blog entry, but over the course of this observation period, she has come to really grow on me.  Her appearance and mannerisms, at first brusque and even seemingly cruel, have revealed themselves to come from a place of love, tough love to be sure, but love nonetheless.  With her wowowo (hips) swishing, spectacles precariously tipped on her brow, and hints of a beard about her chin, she has the air of someone in total command and I absolutely loooove when she cloaks herself in this damask and whisks about the room, slamming her ruler on desks, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone and repeating "Haya, haya, haya...." to quiet the kids down.  She is the quintessential Tanzanian mama, capable both of extreme love and compassion as well as outright indignation and anger.

But the absolute best thing about Mama T is the stuff that comes out of her mouth.  Vumi and I have each individually had to leave the room from laughing so hard at some of her one-liners.  To be sure, it's not just the words, but the delivery.  The woman has the power to put you in your place and make sure you damn well stay there!  I love it!! 

1.) Nitakumaliza na hii rula!!  (I will finish you with this ruler!!  [said to naughty children])

2.) Unataka kuniua na presha??  (Do you want to kill me with blood pressure??  [said to naughty, naughty children])

3.) Unaenda shamba bila jembe??  (You go to the field without a hoe??  [said to a child who came to class without a pencil])

4.) Hasira, hasira....hasara....  (Anger, anger....loss....  [this is actually a Swahili proverb, but Mama T's delivery....HI-larious; said to extremely naughty children whose bad behavior has raised her blood pressure])

5.) Usinidanganye!!  Sidanganywi!!  (Don't trick me!!  I am not trickable!!  [said to the naughtiest of the naughty, naughty children with very bad, blood pressure-raising behavior])

And what I had misinterpreted as a sort of brutality or lack of tenderness is actually just the opposite.  Mama T expects more from these kids, and after 40+ years of teaching them, she has seen just about everything, so she doesn't hold back at this point.  Plus, her growl can turn to a grin in about 30 seconds flat, and the bark bears no real bite.  Even if a child gets a harsh word or feels the sting of the stick, if he or she hasn't recovered in five minutes, Mama T will soften the punishment with a cup of cold water or a pat on the back.

So, I think Toa Nafasi and Mama T are going to have a long and illustrious future together, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

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