Carla is "out of Africa," as they say, and safely back in the United States, so this piece is an ode to her time here. While we are certainly a madcap mother-daughter team, we are nowhere near the level of dysfunction Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep portrayed in the film based on Carrie Fisher's life, but still, I thought it was an apropos title for this post since there were definitely many times we felt on "the edge" of something or other....
As she has done in past years, Carla came for a little over a month, mostly to help with Toa Nafasi administrative matters and to generally crack the whip and make sure all of us are doing our jobs. (Note: Some of us are not. And Carla is not happy.)
As a seminal member of the U.S. Board of Directors, my mom takes an active role in the scaffolding that keeps Toa propped up. Her support is HUGELY (bigly?) helpful to me as when she is here, especially at the start of the school year, I can entrust certain tasks to her (accounting, copyediting, logistics) while I can be in school doing intake, observation, and testing. The relationship is ideal as it keeps both of us busy but not so busy that we are anywhere close to "the edge."
Anyhoo, this year Carlita touched down in Kilimanjaro with her usual aplomb and we got to work. Since I had arrived just six weeks or so before her, and experienced the theft of some stuff from one of my suitcases which had ostensibly been searched by TSA (TSA or KIA, I wonder?!), she came correct and left little notes to would-be robbers in her suitcases. Of course, she rolled through twenty-four hours of international travel, customs and passport control completely unscathed. She's Carla, after all.
Our first couple of weeks were relatively peaceful as we made the rounds to the bank, accountant and auditor, each school for salaams, and dinners out with my friends. At 72, Carla is spry but jetlag, red wine, and keeping Drogo out of her room did her in at night.
We managed to visit the schools several times over the course of her month here, some visits positive (greeting the headmasters and teachers and seeing our Toa staff at each site), some negative (the construction of the tent at Mnazi is still nowhere near complete and the excuses are off the charts: the soil needs to be watered before the concrete can be laid? O-kay.)
Carla particularly enjoyed meeting the new headmaster at Msandaka, one Mr. Mlinga. I would not be lying if I said that there was nearly a love affair between the two, culminating in a rather intimate scene that both Kaitlin (Toa's new volunteer) and I were unfortunately witness to.
Carla loved herself some Mlinga as he did not ask us for anything above and beyond what the Project was already providing, and in fact, he vociferously thanked us for the work we were doing here in Tanzania and our dedication to the children at his school. This is a rare thing for us. A rare and beautiful thing.
On another visit to Msandaka, Kaitlin and I found out that Mr. Mlinga speaks French! Mais, oui!! Knowing that ma petite maman would get a kick out of this (she was raised in Geneva), I promised Mr. Mlinga that I would return with his amour before she left so they could converse en francais.
Fast-forward the intimate scene a deux that I can't erase from my mind and see Mlinga's ode to Carla penned below and delivered by Kaitlin whose glee in doing so was about on par with Drogo's when I open a fresh can of tuna.
PLEASE, do not think he means ME when he writes "Dear Sarah." Oh no, he DEFINITELY means Carla, but I'm not quite sure who then he thinks I am.... Oh well, tant pis. (Note the heart and the message, tu es ma lumiere, which they called each other in the meeting of intimacy, "you are my light.")
Unfortunately for Mlinga, Carla was quite the little minx on this trip and he was not her only BF. She also got on quite nicely with Mr. Liana, the District Education Officer for Moshi Municipal and a man we REALLY need to have on our side.
Theirs was a different sort of love affair, however. Less gentle and lumiere-y. I think it was a case of two strong-willed personalities meeting, discussing, and coming to a mutual respect for each other. Certainly Liana shall not be forgetting Carla Peterson anytime soon. Here they are discussing pit latrines, of all things.
But wait, there's more. After meeting with Liana at the Municipal Council, we toddled on up the stairs (Carla's idea) to seek out the mayor of Moshi who happens to also be my neighbor. Whoa. WHOA. WHOA. More love. BIG love.
I have lived across the street from Ray Mboya since 2013 and never met the man. I always felt safe knowing he was there and appreciated the proximity in that way, but I never really considered that he might be useful to the Project. Or at least that he might open some doors for us. Well, I think Carla accomplished that task with our meeting with the Honorable Lord Mayor, who is about my age and might want to date me (jury's still out on that one). He was certainly taken with her, and you know what they say: like mother like daughter. He did mention that we were conducting "public" business in his office but since we are neighbors, we can meet on "private" matters at home. Hmm....
Last but not least, there is Mr. Makenga, the headmaster at Kiboriloni who is also brand-new and who was also tickled pink by my dear mama. No clue why as they met for all of five seconds, but he was so enthralled that he asked her to come back so that he could bestow her with a "surprise."
We met him just a couple days before Mom was due to depart so our meeting was really meant to be a hello/goodbye collabo but Makenga was having none of it and tracked us down the very day that Carla left so she could receive her surprise. Check the video that Kaitlin took of the great unveil below.
All in all, it was a lovely visit and we miss her dearly here in Moshi. Me, Kaitlin, and Drogo are making do, but really it is not the same without her. And I think all her "boyfriends" here would agree! Ah well, farewell dear Carla, until next year!!