Living in Ushirika, Tanzania

We’ve been adapting nicely to our living situation. Last Sunday was the first day of bucket showers. We’re right next to a church so all I could hear was choir singing in the shower.  The latrine will definitely take some getting used to…

Last Sunday night we had our first cooking lesson with the women of the house, and even Lucas and Simmeon (Zekeo’s other brother) helped out. A lot of the neighbors came to watch and laugh at us. Many people were surprised that we had never cooked on a kerosene cooker before. Although others, like Zekeo, know that we use electric ovens. I had some difficulty cutting a carrot and they found it pretty entertaining. Diana and Mary pretty much took over the cooking and we just kind of watched.  They peel tomatoes here! We made pasta (which is a rare commodity in rural Tanzania) and mixed in veggies. It ended up being really good and different from the way we usually do it. They also made us rice and beans. So far we have made wali (rice) and vegetables,  nyama (meat), and we even made the traditional dish ugale. Ugale is hard to describe – it’s made with flour and water and doesn’t really taste like much of anything, but you dip it in meat or vegetables .  Every night Lucas comes to check on us and see what we are making, sometimes he takes us to the market to show us where to get certain things, and then almost the whole house watches us cook. I now fully understand that old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen! I swear they must think we are helpless, but we just do things a different way from them sometimes (for example leave the skin on tomatoes).  But it’s always interesting to learn a different approach. And it’s really sweat that they worry about us. They are always very concerned if we leave the house without drinking tea.

Speaking of our housemates thinking we are helpless, the women of the house taught me how to properly wash clothes the other day. There’s quite an art to it. Unfortunately I struggle with this fancy technique. They did not approve of my biodegradable camping laundry detergent so they used one of their soap blocks. Tanzanian soap is amazing!  I will definitely have to bring some back.

We are also getting used to the insanity that is Tanzanian transportation. We went with Lucas, Zekeo’s younger brother, to see Zekeo in the hospital (he’s doing much better now and is back to his peppy self).  A friend of the family named Alice also joined us, as did Emmanuel, another teacher at Ilima secondary. We packed into a “cab” and right as we started going we hit a motorcyclist. He got up and looked okay, though. A crowd starting forming around and Lucas got out to look, but then another driver just hopped in and started driving! And of course the buses are an adventure.  They are big rickety old vans packed full of people, bananas, and bags of rice. They usually never quite come to a complete stop to let people on and off and I have yet to see anything resembling a seat belt.  Alphan, headmaster at Ilima Primary, has been a big help getting us settled in Ushirika. The other day we went to dinner at his house. He owns a van that is used as a bus. Other people drive it and he splits the profits with him. Right after telling us about he can’t drive, has no license, and just never learned, he jumped in the driver seat and drove us through the dark jungle of banana trees to his house along a windy, bumpy, dirt road that was barely wide enough for a vehicle.

Shona and I have done some more exploration of Ushirika the opposite way of the market and the main street.  It’s mostly farm land, some churches, plantain trees, chickens, a few cows. Sometimes there are a lot of people walking on the road: men dressed in button down shirts and blazers, women in colorful fabrics carrying baskets on their heads, many screaming children that run up to greet us. People greet us in Swahili, Nyakusa, and even some English. Other times the roads are quiet other than the occasional motorcycle (pikipiki) whizzing by.

We’ve met some interesting characters here.  Just as we were about to eat the other night there was a knock at the door. It was Noel Mahyenga, the Regional Director. We figured that he was the equivalent of the mayor in the US or maybe an MP in Canada. He wanted to check up on us, but also to tell us about potential investments. He had been urging Roger to invest as well. He has a lot of ideas relating to tourism and the exportation of livestock to the Middle East. We have no money as we are poor students nor do we know many people who would be interested.  He told us to ask our parents. He got our emails and phone numbers and has sent us two emails about all his ideas. Oh my! And we’ve started to compare many people we know to characters from The Lion King. The wise old Alan Minga is just like  Mufasa and the very helpful, clever James Magila reminds us of Rafiki.

One thing we have discovered is that Tanzanians LOVE their music. Early every morning we wake up to the sounds of either fast-paced, upbeat Swahili music meant for dancing or some kind of gospel music, which is also meant for dancing. We even saw a gospel music video being filmed in Tukuyu! So what else to Tanzanian listen to? Well there’s the occasional Bangrha song or even some Jason Derulo, but there is a nation-wide obsession with Celine Dion! Everywhere we have been, everywhere we go, and every time of day we hear Celine Dion.