Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be your own radio


The other day, Ash, Claudine (Italian friend/fellow volunteer) and I
left Chipole for the weekend to visit our friends Paul and Tyler, two
Johnnies living at Hanga Abbey. There is one bus a day that goes from
Chipole to Songea (where we catch another bus to Hanga) and it leaves
on Saturdays at 4:30 AM. On this particular day, the bus was
especially packed because the secondary school girls were all headed
home for mid-term break. Almost instinctively, I reached for my IPod
to help pass the time, since the trip to Songea can vary from 2-4
hours long.  Just as I reached for it, though, the girls broke out in
song. Teenagers. At 4:30 in the morning. Many of them would stand for
the whole four hours it would take to get to Songea that day, singing
all the while. I realized they were doing just what I was trying to
do, pass the time, make the trip a little more enjoyable and
ultimately, entertain themselves.

Perhaps it’s the leisurely pace of Tanzanian culture, (everything
takes longer, people usually running late, in fact time is rarely paid
attention to) but it’s a skill I’ve noticed I’m developing here: the
art of passing time. Whether its getting lost in a daydream while
mixing, cutting and frying over 1500 doughnuts in the bakery, playing
a song in my head during our half hour walk to school each day, or
coming up with an idea for the next best-selling novel while waiting
for a car in Songea, a few spare hours has begun to feel less like
wasted time and more like an opportunity.

What is most interesting to me is that for people here, they make
every effort to make these activities communal and most of mine
remains in my own head. This has never been more apparent than over
the last two days. When we returned from Hanga, we returned to the
celebrations of first and final vows. These two days are difficult to
describe, but I think a few rough numbers will do the trick:

Hours spent at mass: 9
Visiting Priests/Brothers: 35 (not including the bishop)
Novices making first vows: 8
Sisters making final vows: 9
Hours the sister spent baking bread to prepare: 12
Bruises: 2 (on my knees, no joke)
Pictures taken: 200+
Visitors/guests: 700+

Basically, it was a celebration of epic proportions. What I cannot
begin to estimate, however, is the number of hours everyone spent
singing and dancing. For weeks we have been waking up and falling
asleep to the sister’s choir practice for the celebration, it has
become so constant we hardly notice it now. And after a 4-5 hour mass
each day filled with singing and dancing, the families and guests
continued dancing for hours, took a break to eat, and then started
back up shortly after. The enthusiasm and energy was seemingly

It isn’t difficult to realize that events like this, especially the
singing and dancing, are the major source of entertainment here. And,
really, everything you need to be happy, entertained and stimulated
you’ve been given. Where I rely on books, T.V., movies or music, they
can pass hours with their own voices and bodies. It is immediate,
always accessible, and economical. Perhaps most importantly, though,
it is communal. For entertainment, they come together to celebrate one
another. What a beautiful way to pass the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment