Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Nyumbani is Your Nyumbani!

The homestay aspect of the training process made me nervous even before I found out how bad I am at learning to speak Swahili. I really was not sure what to think about eight weeks of living with complete strangers in a different country. I just chose not to think about it..... “after all, tomorrow is another day”

But as you guessed it, the day eventually came when my tomorrows ran out. This past Wednesday we left our safe haven in Dar es Salaam to drive five hours to Muheza where a PC Training Center is located. But do not think of a five hour driving distance as in the US! This road was nice but two lane so we did not actually drive that far from Dar. Remember those crazy drivers I mentioned? Our bus driver was passing everything in sight!! Thankfully, I was able to focus on the amazing scenery- even a monkey!

We are all divided among the several neighboring villages with the 4-5 person homestay groups I mentioned last post. I am in Lusanga “A” with three others. Two girls who will be health education volunteers from Boston and California. The other environment volunteer is a guy from Louisville so we’ve got some great Kentucky representation!

After a quick overview at the training center each group with all our luggage piled into a small van. Of my little group, I was the first one dropped off. We started on a decent road paved road. Then turned onto a nice yet narrow dirt road heading into the country. I am still feeling pretty good at this point. Then we turn on to a rutted dirt path surrounded by corn fields…..I start thinking what the h*ll am I doing??!! I seriously just started laughing at the craziness of the situation!

Then the house finally appears and all is good! It is a really pretty “estate” with three widowed and divorced sisters. The family owns the corn fields we had driven through and each sister has their own house where lots of their family members live as well. I am still figuring out who lives where.

I seriously lucked out with my living situation! My mama (we are suppose to totally integrate ourselves into the family) lives in the main house. My room is huge and- unbelievably- has its own choo!! Most homes have one that is outside and the volunteers have to share with the whole family so to have my own attached to my room is a huge luxury.

So we pull up to the house and all these people come out from everywhere to greet me! I catch bits and pieces as they are all talking in Swahili. My extent of the language at that point was to introduce myself. As they start serving me chai, I am arming myself with my note cards, English to Swahili dictionary, Swahili to English dictionary and photo albums. Then it quickly gets dark and I realized there is no electricity. I begin to think I am completely SOL cause it is too dark to read my aids. Then I realize their English is starting to get a lot better as my small extent of Swahili is leaving with the sun. Come to find out the sisters were taught English by a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s!

Once everyone went back to their homes, a few of us started on supper. I am proud to report that I was taught the correct way to stir beans! We sat down to eat and I found two big differences….no silverware and no drinks. The latter being the hardest for me by far. My mouth got so dry and I started having trouble getting it all down! African mamas make sure everyone at their tables eat a lot…and I mean a lot. Luckily, one of the older sisters read my mind and called for someone to bring me juice….the second surprise of the night was that it was icy cold juice!! Seriously the BEST juice ever, a lime and orange mixture, made even better by not having had anything that cold in almost two weeks!

With their small amount of English, we have been able to communicate better than expected, and they are a huge help in my own lessons. Another surprise came the second night when I got home from training, went to another sister’s home and found they have electricity, which explained the icy cold juice!

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