African Adventure: B-a-n-a-n-a-s
Wednesday - July 19, 2017 Packing four days worth of clothing into my UM backpack has made me realize how little we actually need in this life. But it also made me realize that wipees are the world's greatest inventions. On the way to Mweca, we stopped at a supermarket to bring our temporary families presents. Africa also doesn't believe in flowers as gifts so I settled for two packs of cookies. Going up the slopes of Kili to see where we'll be staying was bumpy but much steeper than what we'd been used to. You can feel the weather get colder too. The Dali Dali left us at the farthest point it could, around some bars and a few little markets. Climbing up the next 10 minutes was absolutely excruciating. Made the Rau 15 mile hike seem like nothing. Puts stair masters all over the world to shame.
The Mamas at the site of where we'd be working started singing and clapping when we got there. As part of the Chagga tribe, the Mamas were in charge of lunch for the next few days. These women, who ranged from younger to much much older, all were doing pretty grueling work to get lunch ready. This particularly older woman was chopping wood with all her might and many had to go up and down the slope to get water. If we had trouble doing it with our backpacks, imagine doing it in sandals and with a bucket of water. Again, women are badasses. Along with the Roots and Shoots volunteers, we all got split up to do work around here. Half the group went to do more tree planting (like we did at Rau) and the second half got the task to fix the local library. I got put in the library section but carrying sand up the slope to then make cement was absolutely horrible. Kilimanjaro: 1, Alina: 0 Luckily I got picked to repair the soil filter, which made the soil feel as soft as snow. A few more tree planting efforts made and more sandbags brought to the library called for a break. The groups learned about the surrounding trees and Mount Kilimanjaro. The Mamas were cooking and I found it much more interesting. One stuffed a whole banana tree leaf into a pot but I never found out what it was for. We had an appetizer of some strange banana and beef stew. Not terrible. Lunch was the usual, rice and beef and yada yada yada.
The moment of truth came: where we'd be living in the next few days. I got paired with Irene from R&S and we both greeted this older gentleman with a suit on, socks and sandals, a little hat and really yellow eyes. The Chagga tribe says hello by shaking your right hand and placing your left hand under your right elbow as a sign of respect. I had to restrain myself from saying hello with a kiss on the cheek. Walking to our house, a slew of trees revealed where I'd call home. There was a smokehouse, a main house and a third one behind the smokehouse. The smokehouse was not only where they cooked the food but where the goats were kept and where the Mama of the house sleeps with her four month old newborn; they believe if the baby is by the fire, it'll grow more. The main house had a very simple dining room and three rooms; one in here was ours. The third house seemed to belong to the men because, since the women don't sleep in the same area, that's where they'd be. I was absolutely thrown through a loop with the goats and the baby's sleeping area. For the night, we just helped cut up potatoes, veggies and bananas; bananas are the Chagga tribe's favorite and the trees that were surrounding the whole area. Without entertainment, the night just consisted of watching the food cook and try to talk to each other through Irene. The Mama was kind enough to put a fabric on the wooden stool I was sitting on. The four year old, Joshua, kept staring at me because he'd never seen a Mzungo, white person. The Mama found it super funny and really tried to get Joshua to say hello but all he did was eat the cookies I brought them.
These two older boys joined us for dinner and, if I understood correctly, they're from the grandpa's wife? Not sure. He had two, one of which was buried in the front yard. I had to pee at one point and because the wooden bathroom was too far, they said to pee anywhere and pointed at the grandmother's rest area. I just did the sign of the cross and peed elsewhere. Because Africa. The men don't eat with the women of the families either so all I could do was eat with Irene, the Mama, Joshua and the two kids, who aren't old enough yet to be separated for dinner.