Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Walk Around Makoko

A view from the balcony of the school. If you look closely, you can see Lake Victoria in the background.

As per request, a picture of our "home".
After numerous requests by Caitlin’s dad to send pictures of our area, we finally set off on a picture taking expedition this afternoon. Little did we know, this walk would provide such a rich snapshot of Musoma and our experiences here.

As soon as we exited the gate of the language school, we ran into Father Art Willy engaged in his routine afternoon walk. The man is a Maryknoll legend. Rumor has it, he not only received language training from Nyerere (the first president of Tanzania- if you haven’t heard of him, look him up) but also spent the last two weeks of Nyerere’s life at his bedside in Great Britain and returned to Tanzania after Nyerere’s passing on a private jet with Nyerere’s family.

Next we walked to the Ephata Retreat center to take some pictures of Lake Victoria, as specifically requested by Caitlin’s dad. While sitting on the shore practicing the Swahili conversation that David has to recite tomorrow in class, we watched first one daring teenage boy swim out into the Bilharzia infested (look that up too) lake to dive off a rock followed by about 20 more naked and unashamed teenage boys. Bilharzia be damned they appeared to be having the time of their lives jumping in the waves. It sure made us wish we were oblivious to the skin-penetrating parasite that lives in the mud on the shores of the lake.
After realizing that we were being a little bit voyeuristic (clearly not intentionally), we decided to continue on our walk, shikamoo-ing every person who may or may not have been older than us and shouting “watoto” (children) at the nearly 20 small children that we walked past who screamed “wazungu” (white people) at us.  (Our other favorite thing to do when kids yell “wazungu” is to yell back “Wapi?” (where?) and look all around us. They usually don’t get it.) Our next stop was one of the places on our regular walking route that I have come to dislike the most, the corner where many men from the neighborhood hang out waiting for unsuspecting wazungus like us to walk by so they can start long and involved conversations with us in Swahili while watching us sweat.
Today’s contestant was fishermen who smelled like he had been drinking and who was very insistent on carrying on a conversation directed mostly at Caitlin alone. For about 10 minutes, which felt like ten hours, this fisherman talked to her in broken English and Swahili about learning Swahili, about America, Obama (the usual), her preschool job in Mwanza and about how poor people in Tanzania are.  At least Caitlin was pretty sure that is what he was talking about. She was pretty proud of herself for getting a few appropriate Swahili phrases in, but the one she probably said the most was the one he was not going to listen to” Sasa, tunarudi shuleni” (Now we are going to return to school). The man just kept on talking and we thought we were never going to get away, but then when he turned to grab something (God only knows what), we saw a familiar face, our teacher Joakim who we immediately ran to. Joakim must have known that the man had every intention of talking to us for the next couple of hours so he immediately told the man that we were going to his house and began walking us there. On our very short walk to his home, Joakim explained to us that he knew that man was very bright and had studied in Dar Es Salaam but in his words, had been “corrupted by alcohol.”
We were very greatful to Joakim for saving us and taking us to his home. There we met his wife, sister in law and two young children. As he knew that we had to be returning to school for dinner, after a very short visit with his family, Joakim walked with us a bit to show us an alternative route back to the school so that we wouldn’t have to walk past our new friend the fisherman again. While Joakim was walking with us, we walked up to a man lying on his side by the path. Immediately Caitlin’s heart jumped into her throat as she thought the man might be dead, but Jaokim quickly assuaged her fears by turning the man over, and then smacking him several times on the legs until he moaned and waved him away. Then as if it were just a normal thing Joakim looked at us and said “Drinking is a very bad problem with the fisherman. Maybe he didn’t eat today. I will come back and bring him water so he doesn’t die.” It was a very sad scene to witness, but it was very refreshing to hear Joakim without hesitation take responsibility for his fellow man.
After leaving Joakim we walked into a large field where about 10 boys were playing soccer. The boys immediately stopped what they were doing and started shouting, as you can probably guess by now, “WAZUNGU!!!” We responded with our usual and kept on walking but then amidst the random shouting in Swahili we heard one of the boys yell “Dawdi” the name everyone calls David in Tanzania. A boy ran from the crowd towards us and David immediately recognized him as Jerry the kid who had slid under the language school fence the other day to come play tennis with him.  David talked to Jerry for a second and then all of the boys ran over to talk with us too. We talked with the boys for a few minutes and juggled the ball with them a bit until we decided that it truly was time to “rudi shuleni” if we were going to make it back on time. The boys who all seemed very entertained to see a girl juggle a soccer ball told us to come again and we really hope to do so.
The rest of our walk was pretty uneventful. We saw some cows. Caitlin got called out by an old lady for not Shikamoo-ing her and we made it back just in time for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are having the time of your life! Glad you are getting out on walks around town.