Last Monday morning in Tanzania! Monday mornings are nothing like those in New York, but this morning was particularly different. There weren't as many people in the streets--I'd heard many Tanzanians typically have a lax week after elections (which I hope explains our lack of structured trainings this week). Besides that, my morning was pretty regular. On the commute, my dala dala was playing Backstreet Boys 'That Way" and the conductor was singing along. It was entertaining to watch him standing with his head out of the window, and bills of shillings in his hands, then climbing back inside the van shaking a handful of coins at us to pay our fare as he sang ''I never wanna hear you say, I want it that way."
At the GSC office, we loaded up the trucks with the materials we needed for today's training. However, when we arrived the students were not ready to be lectured just yet--they were taking chai. We waited for an incredibly long time outside of the classroom, until finally the class was filled with students. We only had time for me to teach how to make a nursery bed and I showed them some examples of weeds and flowers that can be grinded to make a natural pesticide solution to spray on crops. Apparently, the word for thorn apple (a thorny stem with big leaves that sprouts small apple like fruits; inedible but deters pests) is mbangi bangi which alone, bangi means marijuana. Our very mature students began laughing, making jokes and enjoying the fact that something that sounded like marijuana was good for your vegetable garden. As our counterpart spoke to them in Swahili, he took over the lesson to take any questions about bio-intensive agriculture that may have arisen over the weekend. None. It was also becoming a slight issue the past couple of days how our other female volunteer was feeling uncomfortable since she could tell that the students were making fun of her and looking at her while she was sitting waiting for her lecture to begin. It was true, I could hear them snickering and laughing occasionally when we were in class together. It has begun to make her more frustrated with this teaching situation, and this is also her last week. I tried to explain about my problem a couple of weeks ago working with the group of villagers in Maweni, which proved more difficult because I was alone. However, it kills the volunteer spirit when you feel virtually useless and you know you are not being of much service.
I wasn't feeling as bad, and haven't really been bothered as much by this group's training as much as the other two volunteers. Until when I was teaching I mentioned that some of the information about pesticide control and the plants which can be used for pest solution can be found in their booklet--a small stapled booklet GSC prepares and distributes at the start of every training. These booklets are sort of controversial within GSC especially the groups we've worked with in the past--the books are in Swahili and some Maasai don't speak Swahili, and also some groups that do speak Swahili aren't literate. Anyway, our counterpart informed me that I shouldn't have said that because this group did not receive any kind of booklet. Well. That certainly explains a lot. When I asked why, as this was standard for every training group, he said it was because they felt from the first day that the group would not be attentive. As one of the teachers of this group, I would have loved to be a part of that conversation. It would have made an enormous difference in the style and efficacy of our lessons if they'd have some material to look over to follow along. This was really what drew the line for me, and killed any motivation I had to continue teaching with as much dedication as I've always had.
That afternoon, as everyone gathered to collect materials for tomorrow's lesson, us three volunteers sat under a tree to talk about non-BIA related topics, vent our frustrations with teaching these brats, and decide which watering hole we would gather after we get back to the office.
It was decided we'd get to the Maasai Cafe, one of my favorite places in Arusha. Originally owned by an Italian woman who married a Maasai and opened a fancy Italian restaurant in Arusha. Well, fancy by comparison--its not much more than a modest bistro would be in New York. It's hidden down a small road from the UN International Tribunal for crimes against humanity in Rwanda, and its known for having many foreign diplomat types dine there. We enjoyed some beers and drinks and laughed at each other for a bit to put a nice end to the day. We were about to pay the bill when we heard a thunderous noise and shouting in the streets. Afraid, slightly saucy, and not knowing what was going on, we asked our waiter what the commotion was. He told us that Chadema had won majority of the parliament seats for Arusha and people are very happy. We shrugged it off, and decided it would be ok to go home since we knew it was just revelers. As we went out, mobs of people were in the street shouting and holding Chadema flags, cars were honking and people holding small children in the air á la Lion King--it was an amazing sight. Until I realized I live 40 minutes away, I'm kind of inebriated and I have to take two dala dalas. I think I read something about this kind of irresponsibility in my study abroad materials--but African intuition prevailed--decided against everyone's suggestions that I should take a taxi and moved on to the dala dala stand.
On the main road, there were hundreds of people standing and waving flags as cars passed, honking. People were walking up to me and putting up Chadema signs as I walked by, and I made the signs back. After several minutes of jam-packed dalas making their way past me without even stopping, I knew it was going to be a tough commute. Finally I got on one dala, standing with my backside out the door, fearing I wouldn't fall out. Sorry mom, I had to get home somehow. I overheard some of the passengers of the dala arguing numbers in Swahili. One man, obviously taking the side of CCM was arguing something about the count while everyone else in the van argued back shouting other numbers. If this was a statistical representation of the ratio of Chadema voters to CCM voters, I assumed Chadema took a landslide victory in Arusha. I could also make out one young man arguing in favor of Chadema say something about Kikwete, and slightly standing up and pointing to the CCM guy, trying to make his point. I could hear him arguing in Swahili and saying bara bara (road) and Serengeti, perhaps arguing about Kikwete's proposed plan to build a highway through the Serengeti. Its been an international controversy especially this week, since a re-election (which is probably going to happen) could mean he may go through with the construction. The United Nations is supposed to make an announcement about that, since a highway will cut the ecosystem in half. But, some CCM supporters argue it is beneficial to transportation and development to western Tanzania, or the Maasailand.
The debate continued as I got off at Mianzini to take my second dala. I crossed the road (pretty easy when its just people on the road). Again, I realized it was going to be very difficult to take a dala dala since almost no cars were running, and it was getting dark. I wasn't sure if I would make it home before dark and I was becoming increasingly worried. A man in a suit on a piki piki (motorcycle) rode past me, and asked me what I was doing waiting at that stand. I usually don't talk to men in Tanzania, its known for a fact that they only speak to wazungu women because most Tanzanians think everyone with white skin is filthy rich. I tried to ignore him, until he told me he was a security guard (sometimes people hire them instead of the police......because it's Tanzania and police = vigilante). He asked me why, as an American was I standing here because I was in a dangerous situation. He pointed out to the crowd of people still passing in the road, and he had a point. Now people were running down the street instead of the normal procession when I was closer in town. One man had just finished a small bottle of Konyagi (some local alcohol thats even served in a plastic pouch you can buy for about $.30US) and smashed it on the ground. The suited security man offered to wait with me until a dala arrived, or a lift on the back of his motorbike. Although still too inebriated to make a wise decision, I thankfully stayed and waited for a dala. My prayers were answered when one finally arrived, still almost no room for me to get inside but I managed to squeeze in. There were still hoards of people running in the street, and I even saw some soldiers with rifles standing in the middle of it in case there were riots or something (which thankfully, didn't look like there would be soon). At Mazeewa, my stop, I got out to yet another enormous crowd of celebrants on the main road. What was surprising, was the almost equal number of Tanzanians and wazungu that were standing and waving flags at cars--this street really is full of foreigners and now I actually got to see that. After a couple of minutes, it was already completely sundown and I felt stupid for making the decision to come home this late, however I think everyone was in too good of a mood to harass an mzungu and I was home safely. My homestay mama was cooking a huge meal of stewed beef and vegetables, rice and beans and chapatis for everyone. Everyone in the house was in a good mood and all were watching the television on updates on parliamentary wins around Tanzania. It was just as everyone had predicted--CCM took a lot of votes in the rural areas and the south, while Chadema won most of the north. Surprisingly, I thought Dar es Salaam as a large city would be fairly liberal; however because of its strong Muslim population in favor of Kikwete (who is Muslim, and actually has around 5 wives) is rather conservative and predominately CCM.
There were reports that somewhere in the country two people were killed for celebrating CCM wins either in Moshi or here in Arusha--and I hoped it wasn't Arusha, because if so I most likely just passed the scene of the crime. I was grateful to have experienced this kind of thing, and despite my irresponsibility and defying the State Department's warning, I was glad I was able to experience a true, successful, democratic election in Africa. Successful, that is, until we find out in the following weeks that inevitably, CCM has stolen votes, money, etc. But tonight's dinner was amazing, and the people are happy, and isn't that what America is after?