Given access to daily life in the village!

Hi to all you kind supportive friends!

It is just so lovely and absurdly encouraging to hear from you all !!
So much to tell so little time.......communication governed by a generator AND....it won't even power a hairdryer.

Florian, a young man of 18 who works part time for the NGO (Non Governmental Agency, Susan) invited Jenny Peck, Anne and me to visit his home in the nearby village of IKANINGOMBE (NO COWS) We took Twylu (Tweeloo) with us. Jenny Peck and Geoff Knight are the on the scene NGO managers. Our NGO stole them from Peace Corps. Jenny is American and Geoff is Canadian.
They met at the university of Kansas. They are married and have one little 18 month old girl Twylu and another one on the way. When they return to the USA to give birth they have promised to visit Victoria in June----a fundraiser at the farm is in the works. Don't plan any holidays !!......fat wallets will be appreciated. Asante sana-thank-you!

So off we went Jenny, Florian, Twylu in her car seat, Ruth and Anne. Jenny is 5' 12", as she describes herself. She has a big red headed baby and she was dressed in pink chiffon! Our first stop was the basket weaving ladies. Cila, our Tanzanian hostess is HIV positive and when she got tested against her husbands wishes he threw her out. Cila has at least 4 children. She was desperate and approached Jenny for some help in an "outreach project". She wanted to make baskets in order to be self supporting. Basket weaving skills have been neglected due to the desperate need to work in the shambas to grow food. Planting, weeding, preparing the maize flour that sustains everyone, collecting water etc. ect. leaves little time for local arts. No electricity means African darkness by 7:00 P.M. unless you possess a smokey kerosene lamp. Nevertheless Cila began. Jenny says the first attempts achieved "pity purchases" from white vistors. Cila persevered. Now she is the leader of a group of HIV positive women that earn their livelihood this way. The baskets are sophisticated objects d'art now with intricate patterns and beautiful shapes. We sat in her tiny mud home that she proudly paid for and was carefully papered in local newspapers. Then the baskets were brought out one by one. Other ladies sat outside on the ground with grasses beside them working on the latest design. Girls in muddy rags, from 4 to 9 wielded enormous axe-like instruments weeding the maze in the nearby shambas. A wee babe was being nursed efficiently and then swaddled on her back as the mom continued intricate movements with her fingers. We were expected to bargain but just couldn't .......Anne and I came away with many gorgeous purchases.

Twylu crawled happily in the dirt an object of interest to all. Her bright red hair is irresistible. Pink chiffon assumed mud tones! A happy penned up pig snorted happily at the whole spectacle. Various chickens swerved and crowed through the lot of us. It is hard to believe it is 2011.

"On the road again" we continued travelling the narrow red roads to Florian's village. His village is lower down and we can see the giant green broccoli-like forest before us. The lushness is filled with banana trees laden with bright green plantain and tiny peach laden trees. All the children crunch away on the hard apricot sized fruit beaming with delight. As we disembark a group of about 12 rag clad children follow down the path to Florian's home. We are given many Karibus - welcome welcomes. The purpose of our visit is to discuss helping Florian's twin brother and sister to attend secondary school. School fees are high and there are the living situations to be discussed. All twins in Tanzania whether male or female are given the same names! The first born twin, usually the largest is KULWA. The second born is named DOTO. (I think Charlie and Jorja James might be interested in this information.) These twins are 14. The boy can live in a dormitory but girls are not allowed in the school dorm. For cost the family was considering putting Doto in a rented one room mud hut . She would be expected to study and prepare her own food and live alone. Florians' mother lost her husband to Aids and has 6 children. Jenny discussed how vulnerable Doto would be alone. It was decided the NGO could help and a "girl only" dormitory with meals provided would be found.

Then it turned out this desperately poor family insisted we stay for lunch. I was nervous. Sitting in the windowless dark mud house, observed with interest by family members including an elderly Bibi I tried not to rub my eyes. The open fire was in the next room and smoke filled the room. I sat politely on the bare bench and tried not to think about chiggers ensconced in the walls. Anne is much better at this. Outside family members peeled beans. Ugali, pumpkin leaves and beans were being served. Our hands (cutlery) were washed. A pitcher of warm water was poured over our hands and a basin caught the drips. Ugali is a glutinous white substance made by boiling maize flour and water. A portion is cut off and put in a little bowl with pumpkin leaves and spiced brown beans. You take a piece of ugali roll it in your fingers to make a small ball, press a hole in the middle and then scoop up cooked pumpkin leaves and spiced beans. Stunningly delicious considering ugali is sort of tasteless. People so poor happily shared so kindly and proudly! Twylu looked thoroughly African, pink chiffon black and she delightedly stuffed ugali in !!!

Only 13 minutes in generator time left an I want to recommend a wonderful novel, "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwamba. While reading recall that Canada under the Stephen Harper minority government cancelled all Canadian aid to Malawi.

More later, love to all.
Ruth