Posted by: Claire Liew16 APR 2013
This is my new name, here in Tanzania. Claire was proving too difficult to pronounce so we have settled on a more exotic adaptation. I enjoy it when someone exasperates "Oh, Claaaara!" after I've said something inappropriate, yet again.
My integration into village life is moving along. We had chapattis home-delivered in the mornings which was lovely. Then the price of a chapatti rose 50% allegedly due to an increase in the cost of flour. After researching that no other chapatti vendors had raised their prices we decided to make a stand against wazungu rates and put an end to our regular delivery, a shame for all. But on the upside I am now getting maziwa freshi (fresh milk). Half the village was on the look-out for a cow for me. The first few leads I had came to a dead end when the cows' milk supply dried up. Then someone knew someone who knew a man who knew a cow in the next village. Three days a week a boy arrives at 6.30am in tatty clothes, home-made rubber sandals, and riding a bicycle too big for him. He fills a soda bottle with milk from a bucket strapped to the back for 20p. It smells of Fanta Pineapple and is diluted down with water but it's fresh. I used the whole bottle to make a hot chocolate yesterday. Even though it's 35 degrees, sometimes you miss treats from home. Eggs we buy by the tray from Dr Mmambale in Internal Medicine, roasted coroshos from Mama Joseph who lives in the village and sells cashews to help her look after the grandchild she adopted when the parents left, dried fish comes from the fish-man whenever he passes through the hospital, and sour-dough bread now and then from the Convent. Enough to the 5000. Occasionally, staff at the hospital ask whether I want a cleaner or cook. Some volunteers have employed people to help at home and whilst it's tempting and will provide somebody an extra income, I am keen to do as much as I can by myself and not encourage the notion of rich mazungu. Though, I am seriously considering finding someone to do my washing. It's a full day job - soaking, scrubbing, rinsing, wringing, drying. Can't wait for when the launderette opens in the village. I used to string the washing line up between the banana trees in the garden but I've started to dry clothes the Tanzanian way which is to lay them on the grass to dry in the sun . It's a tough life. James has given his first cake-baking masterclass. Mama Pepe who runs the mkahawa (cafe) where we have our lunch each day and Mtalika one of the laboratory staff came on Sunday to learn how to make mango, banana and coffee cakes. It was exactly like an episode from Masterchef minus the chefs whites and with more ants. A successful event not just for the quality of cake but also for the cross-cutting religious and gender awareness issues it involved; Mtalika being a Muslim male and Mama Pepe a devout Catholic. My role was photographer, pot-washer and ant-whisperer. Mama Pepe brought James and I half a chicken as a thank-you, which made a tasty (if a little tough) chicken curry. Hopefully it won't be long before Mama Pepe invites me for another cooking lesson at her home. The first time she taught me how to cook fish with a tomato and coconut sauce using a traditional Tanzanian jiko - a charcoal oven. If the temperature gets too high, you just remove some of the coals. People cook outside; it's too hot to cook indoors and besides, most homes don't have kitchens. Meals are a social occasion - everyone sits on a large mat and shares food from a communal plate, using hands to form balls of rice or ugali (stiff porridge) to dip in whatever sauce there is. The time came to finally eat the second Christmas Pudding and Ambrosia custard that came with me from home. I really wanted to give the leftovers to the askari who was outside in the dark. I was torn - do I offer the finest Waitrose pudding soaked in VSOP brandy to the hungry Muslim guard? In the end I woke him up from his (high-alert) slumber underneath the kitchen window and gave him the left over Ambrosia - surely something he had never tasted before and I'm more confident it was Halal.
It was International Women's Day on March 8th. I would have liked to have organised something in the village but there wasn't the time. I celebrated it by watching Bridget Jones' Diary then asking a man to come and dispose of a dead chipmunk in the garden because I was too afraid. Girl power.