Thursday, 29 November 2012

‘Breakfast’ at the Masui’s

Wednesday November 28th

 I woke as the fan started working again after over twenty four hours without electricity.  A glance at my phone told me it was 4:00 am but ‘strike while the iron is hot’, so I got up threw a bucket of water over my head and used the time to catch up with some of my Internet work. Vodacom speed seemed better as well so perhaps a lot of people in Tanga don’t get up at that time to surf.

Work done and my usual good breakfast inside me and it was time for the cycle to work and knock one more off the countdown of journeys up …….  As I pushed my bike along, once again I was torn between reporting my experiences accurately and invading people’s privacy. In the end I’ve come to a compromise.  Outside one of the house on the right as I walk, a house proud lady was using one of the hand brushes I’ve shown before to sweep dust and leaves away from the front of her property.  To have such pride when all the elements and environment seem against you speaks volumes.  I realised the problem even more when, on arriving at school, I printed a thank you card and covered it with a clean sheet of A4 paper to press down the fold.  As I pressed down and moved my hand I left a brown trail all across the white paper, and all I’d done since having my shower was cycle to work.  Below is a picture of her house that I took later in the day when she was not around.

The Boza house.  The red earth gets everywhere

After assembly, I started invigilating another examination but had to leave Mr Mmari to it at 10:20 as Mr Masui came to collect me for breakfast at his house.  He ushered me in and set a chair by the table and invited me to dine from the dishes there.  I didn’t know what to do.  There was soup, chicken, chapattis, fried bananas, orange halves, chai or coffee, and this after my usual big breakfast at the Y.M.  Before we could start Mrs Masui arrived and I stood to be introduced.  I was taken aback when, as I held my hand out to shake hers, she took my hand and curtsied.  I don’t know if it was my size, my whiteness or my age but for a second she was obviously  a little overcome and I quickly pointed out that I was just an old ‘Babu’ and not worth any fuss. 

As seems to be the norm here, Mr Masui has two cows, numerous goats and chickens, a banana tree in his back garden and a Pawpaw in his front. He also has a vegetable patch where he grows carrots, cabbage etc, so ‘all in all’, with a house provided by the school, he is very much self-sufficient.  He is also, like Mr Mmari, slowly building a house across the road in Boza village so is planning well for his future too.

Once again I came upon the Tanzanian wider family and struggled to get my head round it.  Soon after I sat down, a young girl who I had seen in Form II before they finished, brought a jug of water and a bowl and poured water over my hands to clean them.  She, it appears, is the daughter of Mr Masui’s sister and lives with him and his wife.  Then Happiness appeared and I asked if she wanted me or Mr Masui to which she replied that she was so happy that I was having breakfast at her house.  Another niece.  Then there was the wife of one of his son’s, who teaches in Moshi and her baby Debora (with emphasis on the ‘or’, pronounced like iron ore).  In another building he looks after the son of his deceased brother and his own youngest son.  It got very confusing.

Eventually, having taken a couple of baby shots, it was time to get back to my invigilation, so I left with a request from Mrs Masui, relayed  through her husband as she has no English, that I come again tomorrow.

Mrs Masui and Debora

Debora, Mr Masui's grand-daughter

Invigilation again in the afternoon, ‘Kiswahili’ this time and the first of the exam papers that I couldn’t actually read.  One thing that amused me was the way the register for examinations is taken.  A sheet is passed round the students with two columns ruled on the paper, one for their name and one for their signature.  As I saw them filling this in it was once again a case of ‘kids are kids the world over’ as I looked at the flowery signatures and scribbles that were produced.  It took me back to the signature that I designed when I was twelve, that still haunts me as it appears on so many banking and legal documents.  I felt like saying to them, “Keep it simple, you might be stuck with it.”

Back to the YMCA and surprisingly Mama Gladness decided to join me in my cooling off swim.  Like Vicky, sitting in knee deep water is about as far as she will go, but at least it was company with my swimming companion, Deo, on home leave.


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