Feeling lifted with the successful Life Skills Seminar, a wedding and appreciating people
17.06.2012 - 02.07.2012
I’m coming off a very good several days so thought I should write and make up for the last email which may have seemed a bit of a downer. Plus I am going away for a couple of weeks tomorrow so no doubt that email will be long. Very excited to see more of Tanzania though.
So we had the Life Skills seminar this week, all with 2 days notice as it was originally supposed to be on Monday so I stayed at the school all Monday waiting for students to arrive to tell them we could move it to Thursday – Saturday if they could come, then had to tell them it wasn’t definite as we needed at least 30 to go ahead with it. About 25 came so Monday night I spent phoning any parents of Form 4 girls we had the phone number of….cold calling in a different language – difficult. But managed to get 30 yes’s and although I was so worried no one would show up almost 40 did! And on time! – the students at least, the facilitators were about 3 hours late, as was G and for the same day we had a meeting with all of the parents of the girls staying at the hostel to work out a new budget and go over any issues and G was about 2 hours late for that (luckily the parents were about 1 hour late) so I was shoved into the role of conducting the meeting. That went ok though, all issues sorted and the Life Skills seminar was soooo great! The trainers were really good with the students, even though I thought both of them being men would be difficult for the girls to feel comfortable, I think it was even better than if women had taught as they could at least say “we were once young guys, we know what they want”. From the start to the end of the first day the girls had already become so much more open, as its pretty common here for when a girl stands up in class to speak or ask a question to look down or in the opposite direction so day one they dealt with communication. Day 2 they even spoke about ‘raha’ – orgasms and that they have the right to say what they like and don’t, why pretend? Lots of giggling, even from us as the trainers do some great impressions of girls and boys behaviours, as well as gestures that cross the language barrier with regards to … erections and orgasms haha. It was a good laugh and no one was shy in the end to ask any question. As last minute as always, mid way through the 3rd day the trainer asked if anyone wanted to be tested for HIV so off to the medical centre to arrange that as most of them were keen and so the doctor came and tested them and taught a bit further in detail about HIV also. A few 12+ hour days was a shock to the system after doing nothing for so long but has really lifted my spirits going into my last few weeks here in Ilongero (2 of which I won’t technically be here anyway).
TToday I went to an Islamic wedding, which started on Friday with the ‘Send off' where the gifts are discussed. We could hear the music last night coming from 2 houses at opposite ends of the village, one for the women with the bride to be (Bibi Arusi) and the other house for the men and groom to be (Bwana Arusi). So S and I got dolled up in our shiniest outfits, even some mascara and went to the womens celebration starting early afternoon. We of course were ushered into the room where Bibi Arusi and her 2 sisters were sat on the bed under a sheet, all painted beautifully with henna up their arms. The photo session started there, then we were inside with mostly just family singing and dancing in a circle, trying to pretend we could. Lots more “LILILILILI’ing” which I haven’t done for a while but always boosts the mood. The Wanyaturu do this amazing throaty sound in one of the traditional songs, almost like a growling but at the same time can sing normally. After eating (the first meal), Bwana Arusi and all the men came from their house and a couple of older men went to the room to ask Bibi how many cows etc she requests and if she accepts her husband and then they exit together behind gifts of big bags of flour, matresses etc and all of us danced all the way up the main road in a big group singing and the dance to this song was every few steps to backtrack with your butt and bump the people behind you kind of like a competition (this was done inside the house also and with some of these booties, I didn’t stand a chance) but luckily I was at the very front in the centre so it was only up to me to butt the girls behind me. With this flat thing I think I did as best as I could. By now it was just me as S had left so there are some great photos of this dancing scene as the camera man had taken my camera for the day as he liked it better than his, but good cos it was kind of like having a personal photographer as I spent a lot of the day being pulled around at peoples request for photos with me, when I wasn’t spending my time attempting to dance, much to everyones amusement. I tell you, you really feel like you’re a rubbish dancer when its 60+ year old ladies laughing at you. So where were we, oh yes, dancing up the road, through the town centre and then to the house of the groom's family. After dancing in circles a little more (think conga line style)and being told “CHEZA!!!” (DANCE!) when I really thought I was, I was invited into the ‘inner sanctum’ where even the bui bui’s (the full covering black outfits covering everything but the eyes) can come off. Then photo time with the Bibi and Bwana in their room for the night before they leave for his home in Mbeya tomorrow. So there we were: me, bride and groom getting photos sitting on the ‘special bed’. Then with the mother of the bride. Then the best man. Then all of us. Then in different postions around me. Then one at a time with me. Then another group shot. We ate some more, then I was invited to come back for the Parti – party – later on so had a quick rest at home then returned at night. It was all outdoors excepts for a section done up like a gazebo with draping fabrics all over and inside lounges and coffee tables for the wedding party to sit. Outside this are a few rows of chairs for about 40 ‘special guests’ to sit facing the wedding party. Then behind us – me front row of course – the rest of the guests can just stand or find bricks or whatever to sit on. Then behind them, kids from the village sitting on top of the brick fence and about 30 heads peering over. The entertainment was any guy who wanted to get up in front of us and dance, and these guys can MOVED THEIR HIPS! ‘Unfortunately’ being front row, I didn’t know where to look! They even tend to pull their shirt up and dance like that. When a few 10-12 year olds came up to dance I actually really didn’t know where to look, very uncomfortable but it’s just the normal dancing here, thrusting and booty shaking. A man who must be in his 60’s even came and gave me a special performance which involved a somersault until he got escorted out…a few too many pombes I think. And when we talk wedding songs here, it was literally 3 songs played over and over, sometime not even alternating! I did like them…..After more food and my 6th meal of meat for the week (!!!!!a special week indeed) there was a bit more dancing, a few thank you’s, announcement of who has offered how many cows (as far as I could hear she received 5 cows for her family and a grandma gave the couple a goat)and then inside the special gazebo for more dancing to say goodbye which was where I was thrust into the centre to dance for the wedding party and be laughed at. Luckily I have no shame anymore as I am so used to being laughed at as everything I do seems to be so strange but it’s all in good fun anyway so I don’t care. Lots of fun.
Another sweet thing this week was as I was walking by the house of one of my neighbours, a very sweet old man with LOTS of little kids as a few of his own have passed away so he has his grandkids there. He likes to try to speak English, as a lot of people in his age group seem to – I am trying to work out what time that would have been when there was obviously a big focus on learning English as then the next generation down don’t seem to know it at all – so he called me in to his ‘courtyard’ (the section of the homes that are built in surrounding an open middle area where they put their cows and goats etc) where I had to sit and have some of his pombe – home brew….still don’t like this. He kept telling me how much they love me, then he made me take his phone number and said “don’t forget me. When you go home, you must call and say “are you dead or still alive?” because I am so old!” he laughed…. And I was sent on my way to him calling out “we love you so much”. Moments like this really make up life's top memories.
Off to town tomorrow then to Tabora, Kigoma and Mwanza.
P.S – S is still yet to sweep the house, over 5 weeks into her stay. Lucky I don't have high standards of cleanliness and my stubborness has meant I am letting the dust and dirt build up to see how long she can bare it...I'm wearing thongs around the house let's put it that way.