Tanzania: Liz in Bukoba: A Typical Day

 

Well, as anyone who has ever lived in Africa can tell you, the days here are very varied and interesting.Matthew and I were discussing how when he lived in New York for 2 years he became bored very quickly and couldn’t wait to get back to Africa for some more action!It is a different kind of excitement here: there is plenty of waiting around because little things take much longer to do, however the excitement happens all around you every day.I can see what he means by being bored in New York.There is plenty of action there but it is predictable.Here in Africa the days are never predictable and there is always something exciting happening.In response to an extremely popular question I will try and explain my environment here in Bukoba as well as daily life here to the best of my ability.

 

Each morning I jog from my apartment down the main street of Bukoba town down to the shore of Lake Victoria and around the lake. The climate here is ideal: each afternoon it reaches about 85 degrees (F) and has yet to dip below 75.

 

The locals eat Mtoke which is also know as a cooking banana.I know what you are all thinking, “plantains!” Well that is what I thought too, but could not have been more wrong. The skins of these bananas are bright green when they are ripe but they are not very sweet at all.Instead they have the consistency and flavor that is probably best compared to that of a potato.The Tanzanians cook them in water with spices and serve them with a few beans.Typically a huge bushel of them costs around 5 dollars and feeds a large family for a week.They eat their food off of one communal plate and with their hands.There is also an abundance offruit and veggies for me to eat, but typically the locals stick to Mtoke because it is cheap, readily available, high in energy and quite filling!

 

Raza’s wife Mama is an amazing cook and they have me over for lunch or dinner almost every day to ensure that I have at least one hot meal.They are both of Indian origin but both are Tazanian natives so the food is an amazingly delicious mix of Indian and local African.There are several types of bananas eaten here, a typically sweet one that is cooked like a sweet plantain similar to the Mexican and Cuban style as well as a medium size banana like in North America but a bit darker in color and finally the mini bananas that I love so much as well.There are also several types of oranges, mini and large all very sweet and yesterday when I went to Kagondu with some of the disabled children they were harvesting pineapples and they were sweeter than anything I have ever tasted: full of flavor with none of the sharp pineapple bitterness that I am used to.They were about 50 cents for 3 of them!I eat at least one passion fruit every morning, they are small and sweet and delicious and also come in several varieties, as well as the delicious tomatoes and gigantic avocados that I also eat daily. There are fish in the lake–tilapia to be exact–and chickens abound making eggs readily available.It is amazing to methe variety and quality of the food that they can prepare here considering that most people are cooking over charcoal and wood burning piles using one or two pots!As I mentioned every day here for me has been different and while I am not trying to achieve a regular schedule the rhythm of life is so much different here that it has taken some getting used to!

 

The mornings are usually spent taking care of personal matters, for example laundry (by hand and dried on a line), email (twice a week but over a connection as slow as molasses running uphill when it is working), going to the market to buy fruit or veggies (every two days because I have neither fridge nor Tupperware to preserve things in and my outdoor kitchen ensures that the bugs help themselves).During the daytime so far I have been doing different things based on Raza’s suggestions and I will later write about the goings-ons at IZAAS during a typical week. Basically I spend that time observing what goes on around the IZAAS medical project which has a rhythm to it, although it is chaotic, and takes up most of my day.At around 5 on week days I will head over to the orphan center and play some games with them, typically the boys chase the tennis ball that Matthew was kind enough to leave with me, while the girls hold my hand and touch my hair and work up the courage to smile at me and laugh with me.They are very shy girls and the boys are for the most part, crazy.They are so cute and I have become very attached to them all, especially the one whose houses I have visited.

 

Their circumstances are all very unique but for the most party they live with relatives in tiny and not child-proofed homes without electricity or running water.In all cases there were other children at home during the times of my visit who were of school age but not attending school due to lack of money and the necessity of working to provide income to feed the family.The orphans are supported financially by Raza and the IZASS project for school purposes but not all of the children attend his program.The smart and dedicated ones do.Tin roofs and mud walls are the norm and there are absolutely no frills or personal space.Most sleep two to a bedbut some have more, and there is not one situation that I have seen where the road that they travel on to get to these homes is not covered in garbage.Some good news is that they seem to all have mosquito nets over their beds due to a very successful educational campaign that occurred here a number of years ago.The other good news is that these children have Raza’s program to go to every weekday afternoon in order to have a positive influence and a clean safe and positive environment to learn in and to play in.They have been so receptive to me and every day that I do not come by the drop in center I hear about it from them and their teacher.Amazing how far the game of Pictionary can go!Because my Swahili is not very good and their English is about as proficient, Pictionary has become our favorite game by default.

 

Every few days I go up to Mugeza, where the disabled children’s’ school is and I also head over to the “deaf and dumb” school.With the exception of a handful, the disabled children were with their families until yesterday when they returned to the school, there was some kind of holiday, but that worked out quite well because I was able to establish a rapport with some of the girls making me seem like an old friend returning to hang out with them as opposed to a stranger coming to tell them what to do.For the remainder of my stay in Bukoba I will be heading up there daily in order to do physical activity with them based on their individual needs.Mostly it will be basic exercises for those who can and just playing and having fun rolling around in the grass.Although I have not helped the disabled children with their physical needs as much as I hoped that I could by working with them for a month, I have seen what goes on behind the scenes of IZAAS and have been working with Raza on a plan that hopefully will improve their lives for the future.

 

My evenings are very quiet, on the nights when I am not eating with Raza and Mama (they tend to eat quite late so I opt out of dinner more often than not) I am in my apartment by 8 or so in order to beat the malaria mosquitoes to the punch (I hear they love you more when you eat bananas so I think I would be in trouble if I didn’t!), then I write in my travel journal and plan out my blog articles and I spend some time reading under my mosquito net before I nod off.My apartment is part of the building that Raza grew up in and was left to him by his father.Also a great philanthropist, Mr.Fazal was a family man and built 4 large apartments in addition to the one that his family lived in growing up, all on top of the storefronts that he owned. At one point there were 22 people living in the apt. that Raza and Mama now occupy alone.

 

My personal pad is above the drop in center (medical and orphan, they are adjacent) and is quite huge.There are 4 large rooms all bigger than my current room on Eldridge Street and as wall a toilet room, outdoor kitchen, and a balcony.I am giving the impression of luxury and although it is spacious I promise I am not living like a typical Tanzanian but it is really more like the shell of an apartment.My first two weeks here I had serious difficulty sleeping, although I would read to try and get my mind off of the activities of the day, there was never enough distance from the activities of the day and the journaling for me to get my mind off things before sleep. I try to journal and plan my articles early in the evening now so that I can read and get into my books.It makes it easier to sleep: I find the need here so overwhelming that if I try to sleep thinking about the activities of the day and what is to come tomorrow, and try to work on my grand plan for my return, I cannot sleep there is too much going on in my head.I have read 3 books in my two weeks on the road, it is the only way.For those of you who are concerned, for the past few nights I have finally gotten some sleep, so I think my body has adjusted to the time zone and I have finally figured out a way to control my mind.It was hard to take in everything at first, but now that I have started to work on a plan for the future with Raza and narrowed my focus to what I can personally achieve to something tangible which is easier.

 

So that, in long, is what I have been doing on a daily basis here in Bukoba.There is alot of ‘hurry up and wait’ that goes on and makes the days frustrating because I am so goal oriented and I am only able to achieve half of my daily objectives in each 24-hour period, but I have been very active with no leisure time thus far.Although I don’t mind working 7 days a week for a short while it will be a hard pace to maintain so I intend on making up for it at the end of my trip.With Raza’s blessing and guidance I have begun planning for a safari (the Swahili word for “journey”) where I plan on seeing much more of beautiful Tanzania!I hope I have painted a vivid picture of my daily life here in Bukoba, surely a hard task as everyday seems completely different from the last.

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