Living in Tanzania

Pix from Ngorongoro crater are here:

Well, I have been having a lot of fun getting to know Danio, the driver from our trip to Ngorongoro. On the 4 hour drive home, we talked, while everyone slept, or seemed to. He’s from a small village near Ngorongoro, where people often bring the farm animals into the house for the night, and his mother owns a small farm. He’s learning Italian, and it was fun trying to see how much I could understand, based on my Spanish and French. He asked me about my family, and when I told him that my brother David had covered the task of creating the next generation, and that my brother Gary and I didn’t want kids. He found this absolutely shocking, having never before met someone who didn’t want kids. He expressed concern for the state of humanity, when I told him that many, not most, but a lot, of Europeans and Americans feel like I do. I explained that some of us have other interests we find more compelling than making and raising children, and that as societies become wealthier, and women become more educated, the birth rate drops. He was still shocked. I explained the situation of exponential growth of the human race, and how we are running out of resources, especially clean water. To illustrate this, I referred to the big river that runs through Arusha. He agreed that people bathe, defectate, toss out trash and drink from the same river. I explained that that is why so many children die of preventable bacterial diseases in places like Tanzania, and that until the infant mortality rate drops, people will continue to feel compelled to have many children.

So then, I asked him how many kids he wants. He said two, a boy and a girl, and asked if there’s any way to tell if it’s going to be a boy or girl. I said no, not until the mom is well into her pregnancy. It’s so weird thinking about the vast chasm that exists between us, culturally. On the safari, the other girls and I broke into song occasionally, my personal favorite was when we’d see the backside of an elephant, we couldn’t help but sing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “I like big butts…” We asked him if he knew it, and he replied that he wasn’t much into that stuff, as he’s a cultural dancer, and thus focuses on traditional music. Wow. When we went out to dinner last night, he just came right out and asked “…not even one kid?” Talk about turning the tables! I reminded him of all the orphans living on the streets in Arusha, who are just as worthy of a good home as any newborn. I’m trying so hard to adapt to Tanzanian life and culture, but certain things have such universal repercussions, they need to be changed. Like condoms, for example. Apparently, someone’s daughters were practicing putting condoms onto some guys and their mother found out, and complained to the school, so we had to have a big talk with them. There used to be a PSA on tv here showing how to put on a condom (something many adult TZ men don’t know how to do!) but the public outcry was so great, they pulled it. Well, yes, abstinence is good, and can be practiced by some, as well as monogamy, but hey, for the rest of us, condoms are essential. So teaching was really frustrating today, also because this week’s students are not as focused as last weeks, and I was feeling like the whole thing is pointless, they’re not listening anyway. Well, we do what we can. But it seems like every time we tell some grown man about what we’re doing, he wants to know more. It seems like the info just isn’t getting out fast enough.

I wish I could be a good sport, and just go hey, c’est la vie!, but I have found it really difficult to adapt to The Simple Life… I’ll try to post a video of the street I walk down each morning, because it’s quite interesting. While there many people, animals, and businesses to look at, all I really see is the ground, because if you look up for even a second, it could mean a broken ankle, or a fall into mud. It’s fun, actually, it’s just that I’d like to be able to look at the people and stuff too. The place I live is great, I’m really glad I got the nice middle-class homestay, some of the others are very spartan! So now we’re off to dinner at my Tanzanian Mama’s house.


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