After breakfast, we again trekked up to the GSC office for a second day of orientation. My feet were killing me! Stupid hiking boots. When we arrived my feet were blistered from walking in the tough dirt, since it had rained I tried extra hard not to slip. However I tried to recover, as we listened to a guest speaker named "Mama Beti' who shared her story about how her husband gave her the HIV virus and how she is coping and sharing her natural foods diet with other HIV patients. Her story was very touching; every angle of how she found out she had the virus to how she was transmitted. It turns out her husband, a Maasai, was having extramarital relations (typical in the culture) and had passed it on to her. Because of this, as she began feeling ill, she checked herself out in an HIV clinic. It was startling how she was not given the proper information because the nurses and those in the clinic did not want to give her the results. As it turns out, many Maasai wives were killing themselves after finding out their HIV/AIDS status. After finding out, she ran into a nun who told her she was not going to die, and that she should protect her health and immunity by changing her diet to include more natural vegetables to build her immunity. Mama Beti began to share with us dozens of tricks to give the body more vitamins, and tonics she often prescribes HIV patients to begin healing.
I was struck by her description of her relationship with her husband, who after giving her the virus did not take responsibility for doing so and then ceased supporting their children. However, she says she would not divorce him because it is shameful and she calls their relationship only a 'separation'.
My favorite part of the day was right after when we met with another woman 'Mama Moshi', who leads an organization called 'Women for Action in Development'- a brilliant Tanzanian NGO that somehow runs an orphanage, womens' resource center, legal representation, a micro lending program and a primary school catered to battered and disadvantaged women in the Arusha/Moshi area. Her account of violence on women in Tanzania was astounding. Similarly, the work Mama Moshi has done in the Arumeru area has been with high school students on HIV/AIDS prevention. She told us a story of how in one training session, there were students who did not understand proper condom use and would often share with each other used condoms under rental, and she says this was only several years ago. I'm not in the HIV program here, but will be in Cambodia so I have some questions and obviously some fears about that.
We also met with Dr. Mollel a Maasai doctor who works with villages and was there to share with us HIV AIDS in the Maasai community. His testimony of the problem of HIV AIDS in the rural villages really drew some ire in me!! Here are a sampling of some of the notes I scribbled down,
- men have total supremacy for all matters in the culture
- women have absolutely no say on ownership of property, children, financial decisions, and sadly, sexual roles
- women are forbidden to say no to any sexual desires of her husband, or she is ridiculed or beaten
- many Maasai practice age sex grouping, a pattern of seasons in male circumsicion. They circumcise for maybe 10 years, stop and then start again for 10 years so to create a gap in mens age groups. Wives of men in an age group can be shared if the husband's peer so decides to show up to his house when the husband is not around. And the husband cant say jack, imagine the wife! (Note: allegedly the Maasai in Arusha dont really this theyre more monogamists. But I hear some people in the villages we will be in two weeks practice age set group sharing)
- Maasai are polygamists. When a wife has a child, she cannot have sex with her husband for another two and a half years. What does he do in this time....drink chai and get chummy with a new wife.
- instruments for circumsicion (male and female) are not washed in the entire period of age set grouping.
- women do ALL the work in tending the children and cooking. Men only take care of the cows and bulls. Maasai dont farm, traditionally anyway. Thats what we're here for.
- So incidentally, men refuse to eat ANY kind of vegetable. They think thats for women and babies. All they do is eat meat, and drink cows blood. Not great for your health if you've got AIDS
We also learned a bit of kiswahili,I can now say 'jina langu ni Stephanie' which means "my name is Stephanie" and "ninatoka marekani, jimbo la new york": Im American and i live in new york. After lunch I realized I am soooo not going to lose weight, the food here is way too delicious and theres too much of it and its so damn cheap!! Tomorrow, we've got more training and we;'ll be going to terengeru to visit the GSC plot and begin real Sustainable Agriculture training! I'll be sure to get dirty! Stay tuned!