Have you ever been driving along a winding, dirt road in the middle of the wilderness and came upon a small pond running the width of the road? What does one do in such a situation?
Well, back home I would likely not be driving down such a road, but if such an instance did occur, I would first look for an alternate route. Assuming no such route was to be found, I suppose I would continue through the water, hoping to not get stuck but remaining confident that if my vehicle did stop, I could always call AAA or some similar company to come tow me out and bring me back to a paved road. Well, when you’re in Africa, there is no AAA, so the solution to such a problem is simple: Kristina wades through the water to see how deep it actually goes, estimate if the ground is firm enough to drive on, and then cross your fingers and plow through it. This is precisely what occurred yesterday afternoon on our drive back towards Bunju after a visit at Olof Orphanage and Secondary School.
Eileen and I had gone to Olof on Thursday with our friend Aichi to observe a mentoring program she leads with some of the girls there. Aichi is a highly educated and accomplished Tanzanian woman, and her specialty is in animal science and research. Through a group called African Children Haven, Aichi occasionally meets with students from Olof who are particularly interested in careers in scientific fields. She talks with the girls about the importance of women in science-based careers, but also spends a great deal of time talking with them about the importance of self confidence, self motivation, self reliance, and character traits that will benefit them throughout life.
Aichi invited Eileen and I to attend their meeting this past Thursday, and it was on the ride home from Olof that we came upon the pond in the road. As I waded through the red-brown water testing its depth, my only thought besides hoping to ascertain the water to be passable, was a distinct hope that there were no leeches in the water. I find this extremely odd, as I spent a great deal of my childhood romping around woods, prairies, swamps, and other wilderness areas which are often full of standing water quite likely to contain leeches, and never before that moment has the thought ever passed through my mind. Considering I am quite certain that leeches live around the Midwest, but I have absolutely no idea whether or not they exist in Tanzania, I find everything related to this concern to be amusing.
After returning from our trip with Aichi, Eileen and I decided to accompany Babu to a nearby field where his goats live. With the recent rains, much of the road up to Babu’s farm was somewhat washed out, but it was no matter, as we just the blazed new trails next to the muddy road. Once we reached the farm, the adult goats were already out grazing, but we were greeted by a small clan of seven or eight goat kids, the largest of which was not more than two days old! There was even one who was born just a few hours before our arrival, as it still had after-birth all over its fur. Of course, this ended up on my legs shortly after our arrival; the new baby was obviously very confused about everything because it kept trying to get my legs to produce the milk it wanted, and it was due to this that I ended up with the after-birth rubbed onto me--yuck. Aside from that that slightly irritating and gross incident, seeing the goat kids was very cool, and definitely my second “well I’m definitely in Africa” moments of the day (the first being the trudge through the road pond).
The rest of this past week was fairly quiet. Eileen and I had classes and went to visit the boarding students after school. I had an extremely interesting conversation with some of my Form Four boys, who were curious about my thoughts on polygamy. This conversation was very enlightening for me. As I went through my different reasons for not believing in polygamy, it because increasingly clear how many different cultural beliefs and assumptions formulated both of our sides. They had difficulty appreciating my assumption that if a woman is completely devoted to one husband than it is only fair for the husband to be completely devoted to his wife, and that (to me) means neither can have another partner.
They tried to explain to me how having multiple wives increases the likelihood of children, and I told them that while this is true, it is not necessarily a good thing. Now to an African, for whom children are often viewed as a type of life insurance, because no other type truly exists here, this can be a very difficult concept to grasp. I also tried to explain how as long as both partners are in fairly good health, it is quite likely that they will eventually conceive a child, but if not they could always adopt one. At this comment, the boys nearly fell down with laughter. I am not certain as to why this was entirely funny, because I have seen first-hand that adoption (at least a form of it) exists in Tanzania, as two of the boys who work for Babu are basically adopted sons. But to this I was told “Madam what if the parents can’t afford that?” I replied that if the parents cannot afford adopted children, why would they be able to afford biological ones, to which they replied “Oh well if they don’t have the money, their children can work!” Alas, I explained that this was another assumption we differed on, as I do not believe that children should be forced to work to help pay for their livelihood. This was just one of several times where these underlying cultural assumptions and beliefs were so different, I am not sure there was a good way to make them understand my reasons for supporting monogamy over polygamy. And while I’m fairly confident I could find research to support my side further, it was not really the point in the end.
So yes, this past week was definitely one in which my African knowledge was once again expanded. Due to the Easter holiday, we do not have classes Friday or Monday (in Tanzania they have Easter Monday as a day to recuperate from Easter Sunday--I fully support the implementation of such a day in the US!) and Tuesday is Union Day, another public holiday, so school will remain closed and will resume on Wednesday. I am looking forward to lounging around the next few days, but after the break, I will only have a short two and a half weeks left in Tanzania! Yikes, how time flies. Until next time, enjoy the holiday if such is your prerogative, have a wonderful week!