Thursday, November 3, 2011


October brought our first real experience with the African sun. It has
been unbearably hot, at least for us wimpy wazungu (Europeans). In
spite of this, or perhaps because of it, we have been persisting in
some of our usual fall traditions and in doing so, sharing a bit of
our culture with some of our new friends here.

So, on Saturday, we made apple pie. Though there are many delicious
fruits here, papaya, bananas, tangerines, and mangoes- apples are
difficult to find in Tanzania, since they must be brought in from
Zimbabwe. This means that the process of making the pie began with
tracking down ingredients in Songea, forced practice in Swahili, and
eventually finding a new friend who was able to speak English when our
Swahili proved inadequate- all an adventure in and of itself. But find
the apples, we did and with pride and excitement brought them to the
bakery to attempt our pie.

To say it was a success would be a gross understatement. Perhaps the
lack of variety in food here has left us with less refined palates, or
perhaps the flavor was made sweeter by nostalgia and memories of home.
In any case, Ash and I vainly agreed that it was the best apple pie we
had ever tasted. We shared with our friends at the bakery- Sr.
Jackline, Sr. Diana, and Emman all of whom gave rave reviews and
excitedly attempted to translate the recipe into Swahili. Sr. Diana,
in particular, laughed the entire time she was eating it, which we
think is just what she does when she is really happy? We also shared
with Sr. Thawabu and Sr. Mgaga who are the sisters currently working
in the guesthouse. When she finished her piece Sr. Mgaga said, “When
you make pie again don’t forget me.” Needless to say, it was fun to be
able to share something so familiar to us that they had never
experienced before.

After finishing our pie, we were talking to Sr. Thawabu about our
plans for the following day. We were getting up early to go to the
parish in the village of Mkongo, which was celebrating its 50th
Jubilee. Sr. Thawabu said, (I think jokingly?) “Bring me back a
chicken!” We laughed- good one Thawabu! As a general rule, I am
learning that the second you laugh and say or even just think to
yourself they aren’t serious, right? That can’t be for real- I am
quickly proven wrong. One example: During the mass at Mkongo, when a
woman with a large basket on her head wrapped in cloth was processing
through the crowd we assumed that in the basket was the Bible. Sr
Gotharda whispered, “It is a child.” Whaaaat? She’s not serious,
right? I must have heard her wrong. Sure enough, the cloth was untied
and a child, a large child of probably 6 or 7 years old, popped out
holding the Bible. The crowd went wild.

Similarly, Thawabu’s request acted as a prophecy. On our ride home,
when we offered to take the far back seat of the land rover, we didn’t
know that we would be sharing our seat with a third passenger: a live
chicken. Now, out of necessity people bring chickens everywhere here,
in plastic bags, in purses, with squawking heads popping out, in
baskets bigger than laundry baskets- full of chickens. They carry them
on buses, around town, and don’t blink at picking one up by the neck
and handing it over to a guest as a welcome gift. We’ve grown
accustomed to this, or so I thought. As it turns out, sharing the
backseat of a land rover on a 3+ hour drive is a very different thing
altogether. For most of the ride, it sat quiet and motionless. No big
deal, I thought, remembering the chickens we had when I was a kid,
internally exaggerating my farm girl roots. I’m just sittin next to a
chicken. Then, out of nowhere the bird began to squawk and flap its
wings. Naturally, and like perfect idiots, Ash and I began to squeal
ourselves, laughing intermittently and practically putting on a
contortionist show to avoid the flapping feathers- all of this only
seemed to provoke it. Finally Ash, regaining her senses, threw her
sweatshirt on top of the chicken. The effect was immediate; the calm
and quiet of the evening trip home was restored. The next night at
dinner, however, the chicken was permanently silenced. Thawabu got her
chicken, after all.

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