Pat and Tom invited me over to the village where they are working
as Peace Corps volunteers. We took a dala dala or minibus taxi. It
was one of the medium sized ones. About numerous stops to fill it up
with passengers and about an hour later, we arrived on top of a hill
where we had to get out. Simambwe is located on the main road between
Songwe border (from where I came crossing over from Malawi) and
They live in a small house with a central living room and two
bedrooms. The house is part of a small compound with two other houses
where the family of the VEO (village executive officer) and his
family lives. They are nice people who were eager to meet the guest
mzungu, so they invited us for supper the same evening. With Pat and
Tom we went to the local market to buy rice and a couple of other
things to bring to them for the meal. Usually Pat & Tom are
invited over for supper. They also told me that they are not let to
wash their clothes or cook if Mama Happy or Editha see them do it.
They say they don't do it properly and proceed with helping them.
Michael, being the village executive officer, which is an
appointed and paid position, has lots of duties in and around the
village and ten sub-villages. There is also a chairman for the
village, which is an elected position. He also is Tom's local
counterpart for the Peace Corps projects. He comes over to the house
quite often, and has now begun a course on how to use a computer with
me. It is difficult, because I have never taught anything before, and
thus have no structure at all. But I try to keep it varied in folder
and file manipulation, creating word processing and spreadsheet
documents and so on. We presently don't go much further than that. If
he is able to use a computer (not because of ability but because of
availability), he will use it to prepare his committee meetings,
budget plans for projects and so on.
|Modi & Happy|
I don't know about the altitude here, but it's quite elevated and
the temperature is mostly low. Although the sun hits hard, and warms
you up quite a bit. But as soon as the cold wind blows or you find
yourself out of the sun, you get cold again.
The well where we take our water from has been dug out by Michael
and his brother a couple of years back. They needed three days to dig
it. A bucket attached to a rope is thrown in and then retrieved full
of water. If your not careful about your water consumption you end up
carrying a lot of water buckets out of there.
Mariam, who is Pat's local counterpart lives in a tiny mud house
with mud floor. She cooks inside her house on a small fire. When she
wants to cook (or make pop-corn) she uses one of the sticks to make a
suitable spot for the pan which might otherwise fall in between the
stones. We sat there for a while one afternoon because she invited us
over. She's been a widow for a few years now, and is raising her four
children alone. She's also representing her sub-village of Simambwe
in the council. She guided us on one of our hikes around the hills
close to the village. Walking with her through the village allowed me
to get a few good shots of village life.
As Peace Corps counterparts Mariam and Michael both went to
Dar-es-Salaam with Tom and Pat and other volunteers. There they
participated in training that would help the American volunteers to
cope with daily life in the field (literally). Washing clothes,
making coals for the fire with cow dung, killing a chicken, etc. all
is part of their training.
I'm quite happy being able to visit the village over these few
days. I see it all from a different perspective than when I stay at
hostels or backpackers. Everything is more difficult and takes more
time to do. For example, washing clothes by hand. You have to soak
them first in soap-water, then wash the clothes, then rinse them off.
It's only the second time I wash my own clothes since I've left
Switzerland last year. I usually pay a small price for letting
someone else having the honor of doing it.
It is quite difficult to learn the language, but you have to know
a few things when you come here. Otherwise you'll never get by.
People don't usually speak English as they would in other countries
I've visited. But then, they don't have English as an official
language as do South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Here the official language is Kiswahili. But they also have local
languages, which makes it even harder to get by. Even the greeting
forms vary. When you encounter an elder person you would usually say
“Shikamo” and the elder would reply with “Marahaba”, which is
a form of showing respect. Doing that, kids would sometimes touch the
head of the elder. Otherwise a standard greeting form is “Habari”
which means “How are you?”. It's usually answered by a “Salama”
(not salami) or “Nzuri” to say “I'm fine”. In local language
they use another form where both actors simply use the same word for
the greeting. The rest of the language is spoken like Master Yoda
would speak. Put the noun before the verb and then the rest of the
sentence. But careful, when you think you understand something, well
you probably only have a small fraction of the language. For example,
the pronouns change if you use it without anything, or with a verb.
Words have different prefixes according to what the sentence is. It
is a quite complicated language to learn. When I hear Pat & Tom
struggle with the language, I am quite impressed because they seem to
understand quite a lot and they can make themselves understood in
return. They have been here for about half a year now.
One day Tom made some cornbread. He made one for Michael's family
and one for us. In the evening Mariam came to the house with another
lady from the village. They had planned to be here around noon for
the English lesson, but their town meeting took a lot longer than
scheduled. Tom gave the two ladies some cornbread and Mariam loved it
and was excited about it.
Going back home will be weird because I can get everything easily.
Here I get really excited about treats when I can get some.
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