Thursday, December 11, 2008

December is Hot in Tanzania

December 11th – Not that the title has anything to with this blog, but it’s been a busy past two weeks here on the ground in Tanzania (notwithstanding the fact that it really is just really hot in Arusha right now). Starting at the end of last week where TFFT exhibited at the Traveler’s Philanthropy Conference hosted here in Arusha, there’s been a lot of busy work to be done (including having a banner made post haste and printing out some pictures of the kids to decorate our stall). While there were some very interesting people presenting – including Wangari Maathai who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, in part for her work founding the Green Belt Movement which plants trees to combat soil erosion – I can honestly say that a majority of the stalls were focused on selling kitsch to the visiting conference attendees. In one case, a Tanzanian man asked me if he could get a job with TFFT – though he hardly knew what we did. Then, when I informed him that there were currently no positions open here in TZ he seemed completely baffled, spelling out the name on our banner saying “This is ‘the Foundation for Tomorrow’, right? Well, what about my tomorrow? Aren’t you concerned with my tomorrow?!?” Mayhaps we should change the name of our foundation to ‘the Foundation for This Particular Guy’s Future’ (TFFTPGF).

Then, on the Sunday after the conference I was invited to attend a baptism ceremony for Emmy and Ndemno’s granddaughter Deborah, as well as for Omari – a worker at Matonyok who converted from Islam to Christianity. Technically, I was invited to the party after the actual ceremony – but it was quite the experience nonetheless. Imagine – a tent in the middle of the brush, Omari, Omari’s wife, and Deborah at the head table all dressed in their Sunday best. Then the Matonyok gang all done up in matching orange and white baseball shirts, singing and dancing all the while. Then Omari’s (though now called Emmanuel) extended family, occasionally ululating whenever someone took the podium to extol Emmanuel’s virtues. Let me tell you folks, Emmanuel’s grandmamma can really cut a rug even though she must be upwards of seventy years!

It was quite the experience and one which I can honestly say was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. Between the boldly colored dresses, the dancing, the singing, the cake – there was an almost palpable feeling of community to this occasion. One quick note about Tanzanian parties in case you ever find yourself attending one. Whenever there’s cake, the person for whom the cake is made is served last. In fact, the quest of honor is obliged to feed everyone else before he or she can even begin thinking of chowing down on some cake. So make sure to get your cake beforehand if someone throws you a party here in TZ. That’s all I have for this Thursday. Hope everyone’s looking forward to their respective holidays (though, yes I know that Ramadan has already past – BUT Eid al Adha has just taken place, so that counts).

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