Wow. So it’s been a while and my (very short) streak of posting every two weeks has clearly been broken. A lot has happened since I’ve last been on here. It would be impossible for me to catch you up on all I’ve been doing, but I’m having a great time and loving every day.
Last weekend I went on an adventure with the bike I recently bought. Another teacher from my school, Denis, and I, rode our bikes to Mtetezi to visit Machuga and Donald, two of our students who graduated last year. Before the end of the year I want to make it to all 7 of the villages that feed into Mpui Secondary School so that I can see where my students come from and what their lives are like outside of school.
Many aspects of this adventure were “truly Tanzanian,” and helped me feel even more integrated. For starters, we said we’d leave at 10 am. When Denis came by my house just after 10, I had lost track of time and was not finished painting a section of my living room. When I finished, it took me a while to find Denis who was off getting his haircut. We didn’t end up leaving until just after noon. Setting a time for something is normal here but it would be strange for something to actually occur at the decided time. “There’s no hurry in Africa,” Denis always tells me.
So we set out at 12 to visit our former students. Shortly after starting I had already reached a record distance away from my village down this dirt road. Everything was new and exciting to me, even though I was so close to home. A little while into the ride, 4 dogs came out of the bushes barking and my instinct was to run. I pedaled as hard as I could on my new bike, but it is not like my bike at home. I couldn’t go too fast, and the dogs easily kept up with me snarling right next to me. I realize that me going faster probably would them up and made them feel threatened but it was too late to stop now, and they eventually got tired and returned to the bushes. A little while later, we came to a point where a small bridge had washed away and the road had been flooded from the previous night’s rain. We decided to ford the river, which came all the way up to our knees. Cars do not drive this way in the rainy season so fixing the road is not going to happen for a long time. Or ever. Shortly after the water crossing we reached a very steep, very bumpy mountain. We had to walk our bikes up, which took a long time. It was hiking while pulling our not so light bikes up the mountain, which is exhausting. When we made it to the top of the mountain, Machuga was waiting for us, so we knew we had reached out destination.
As we rolled in Mtetezi, I could feel all eyes on me. It’s not likely that many (or any?) white people have been to this village so you can imagine their surprise when I just casually rolled up. As much of an outsider as I clearly was, they were extremely welcoming. I had to turn down three invitations for lunch, and a fourth would not take no for an answer. I had a great Tanzanian lunch of Ugali, fish, fried egg and yoghurt/sour milk. The people who lived in this home cooked for us, and only us. I didn’t know it before sitting down to eat, but they had already eaten lunch, so they cooked an extra time so that Denis and I could eat.
After lunch we went to the primary school to meet the headmaster and some of the students. They were as surprised as the rest of the village to see me, and even more so when I said that I’d be their physics teacher next school year if they passed their exams.
We then went to the farms of both Machuga and Donald. It was a nice walk just to get to them with beautiful views of the countryside. Rukwa is so beautiful during the rainy season. We crossed a river and could see the farm covered rolling hills in the distance. I could have sat by that river all day, enjoying the sounds of birds and rushing water, and gazing at the hillsides covered in sunflowers. Machuga grows a lot of sugar cane so we got to cut some and eat it fresh off the farm. They also grow corn, beans, oranges, bananas and lemons. They have extremely successful farm, especially considering they just graduated from high school last year. They both already work so hard to provide food and money for their families. It was kind of a proud parent feel for me to see how successful they have already become. They both took the day off of farming to show me around their village, and I know that means a lot of work didn’t get done that day. The people are so friendly here and continue to show me that they will sacrifice a lot for their visitors.
I then got to meet both of their families buck in the village. They were so excited to meet me and said they’d heard there was an American teacher here. We had teas and chatted a bit in Swahili before we had to head back to Mpui. As is apparently customary, they each gave me a chicken. So yea, I have two chickens now. Luckily for me one is female and one is male, so hopefully, if they fall in love, I’ll have chicks running around my yard pretty soon. Mostly I can’t wait for free eggs! Another stranger in the village gave me about 5 kilograms of beans, so it was a pretty successful day in terms of gifts, and I wont be lacking in protein any time soon.
It was not quite like the bike rides I’m used to at home, but definitely not lacking in adventure. This day was maybe my favorite day in Tanzania so far. Seeing where my students come from is such a rewarding experience. Everyone, including strangers were so welcoming and excited to meet me. Even though I went as a visitor, this day made me feel so integrated. It’s amazing how far a little bit of the local language can go. People stopped what they were doing to stare and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted in Kifipa. More than anything else, riding my bike home the last 15 miles with beans and chickens strapped to the back is evidence of integration. I can’t wait to go on another bike ride adventure and try to see more of the surrounding villages!
Thanks for reading.