Updates, updates! Myself, along with eight other volunteers from the Singida and Katesh regions, have been working hard to prepare for our upcoming Girls Conference. It will begin next Wednesday in Singida town. Each volunteer will bring five girls from their local secondary school to town for a four-day seminar dealing with women’s empowerment, life skills, HIV/AIDS education and women’s health. Joseph and I will be facilitating the session on goal setting and role models, and I, of course, will be leading the condom demonstrations (it’s kind of my “thing” these days). I’m excited for the girls. For those that are coming from more rural villages, this could be their first time to leave the village. Just exposing them to a world outside the ville will be valuable and the last day will include a panel of women who all work outside the home. I will most definitely let y’all know how it goes, hopefully with lots of pictures, too!
September 10th was significant for two reasons: one, I turned 25. (Thankfully, no quarter-life crises yet…knock on wood!) Last year, I celebrated my birthday with several other volunteers. It was fun- we raged. This year, however, I was happy to spend the bday in the village because it also just so happened to be Eid, the Islamic holiday that breaks the 30 day fast of Ramadan. Ramadan is always scheduled according to the lunar calendar. No one ever knows until a few days prior, when exactly it will be. So it was hugely coincidental that it fell on my birthday this year and let me tell you, Muslims throw down for Eid. Goats were slaughtered and folks feasted. Even the Christian population gets into it. Of course they don’t celebrate in the day’s events, per se, but the feeling of festivity is definitely contagious and permeated the entire village. I went to my friend, Mama Bilali’s house and ate with her family. It was great way to spend the day.
Other big news: Joe announced to me that he has begun looking for a wife. That’s huge news. After over a year of spending almost everyday together, Joe has definitely taken on the role of little bro, here in the village and I’m excited for him. I wish I could say I’m nothing but happy for him, but I’ll admit that the prospect isn’t entirely thrilling. When he explained how things will happen, it surprised me (but perhaps shouldn’t have), that the proposal, engagement and marriage will all progress very traditionally. He will choose a girl much younger than himself, most likely one of my students from Form 4, he will negotiate a price of cows with her father and the terms of the deal will be finalized with little input from the girl. I don’t know, I guess I just expected Joe to be different. He’s heard me preach about women’s empowerment and gender equality for over a year, now. He knows I wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of bride-price, but he here is, perpetuating the old-as-time practice. I can’t entirely blame him. After all society’s perspective hasn’t yet changed enough to where marriage without first negotiating a bride-price is even an option. Of course I want to Joe to be able to marry. I just wish it could be different.
Graduation at Masinda, the secondary school where I teach, was great. The ceremony took place under a large thatched banda that the students had built and decorated the week before. They had prepared a play about HIV/AIDS and even sang some songs. Then each was presented with a diploma. Mzee Mkuki, my baba, served as the guest of honor. I was so proud to see each of my students march up to shake hands with the dignitaries and receive a diploma. After all, I have been with these kids for a full year and it was special to see them finish school. Joshua, Joe’s little brother, was among the graduates and I’ve never seen Mama Mickah smile so big.
Nyika, the dog, has taken to stealing my underwear when he’s bored. It began one day while I was doing laundry. Apparently, the attention he was receiving wasn’t doing it for him because out of nowhere, he races off towards the center of Ihanja, a pair of my bright green and polka dot panties in his mouth. I took off after him and thankfully, caught him before he made it to the cluster of little shops where people hang out. Then, just last week a little kid who I didn’t recognize came to my house and knocked on my door. I answered it and he handed me a dirty bra covered in sand. He simply goes, “Your dog is a thief” and walked away. Nyika sat there grinning, watching the whole thing. Jeeeeeeeze…
I plan on spending this month working on my village projects. With school out and no Peace Corps seminars/workshops in the nearby future, I’ll be able to focus all my energy on my chicken and OVC projects. I’ll also be getting ready for my trip back to the States. As the rainy season will most likely start in my absence, I’m going to try and have my shamba planted before I leave. We’ll see if that happens, it may be too soon. Oddly enough, I will also put up the few Christmas decorations I have as I will not be returning to Tanzania until the beginning of December and I would love to come home to a festive house!
Thank y’all again for the continued support from home. The letters, cards, packages and facebook messages are always appreciated! XOXO