I write this in one of the rural parts of Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. I am hot and sweaty. I have mosquito bites on the strangest parts of my feet that I cannot reach out and scratch. I do not need malaria. Not right now. Not like this.
I have literally gone for two days with no electricity. I have had to use a pit-latrine. The devil is a toilet that is a hole in the ground that you have to squat over. This “toilet” does not flush. You want to take a dump? You need to walk to the community tap, fill a bucket with water (so you know…you can use it to “flush”), walk back to the house, get tissue then walk back to the toilet. Now whilst you are doing this, everyone standing outside KNOWS you are going to take a shit. If you want privacy, there is none here. If you carry shame around with you over things such as taking a dump, you will have no use for it here. Believe me. I went for three days without going to do the do-do. The first time I really needed to use the toilet I waited until everyone was asleep. The second time it caught me un-aware and I found myself doing a quick-sprint to the tap with a bucket, back to the house for the toilet paper and into the pit-latrine to take a dump.
My second and most painful struggle has been the deprivation of technology. I cannot use my laptop because for some reason NO ONE around here seems to have the adapter I use! (why don’t I just buy one?? This WILL be explained). And even if I did, we have spent more days without electricity anyway *insert your strongest idea of a cuss word here*. I bought a phone-line some two days ago, however it is still not working because apparently in this goddamned country it takes that fucking long to register a phone line! Therefore, I cannot write. I cannot listen to my music. I cannot watch my movies. I cannot get in touch with the partner and tell him that I arrived safely, that the withdrawal symptoms from him are real or that the hickie he gave me days ago is still haunting my neck.
For those of you that know me personally know my struggle with smoking. In East Africa, generally, women that are smokers are associated with a lack of morals. Now in the less educated areas, such as where I’m writing from this ideology tends to put the women to sleep at night. They sit around taps washing clothes and around jikos (charcoal stoves) discussing how their daughters are better than so and so’s daughter who smokes forgetting that I am educated. Recently turned into a Masters student. Whereas theirs are selling vitumbuas (sp) in the streets.
Where I was going with my smoking struggles is that now I find myself having to hide my smoking from the public. Every night I pretend to go take a dump or a bath (once more using a bucket) I enclose myself in the community “pit-latrine” with all its stench and mujusis (funny colored house-lizards). Not only is it difficult to smoke in a stench filled toilet, but I can barely finish my smoke because no matter how late it is there is someone waiting to use the toilet.
It came to me today as I was taking a bath that maybe my parents are trying to teach me something here. something to do with humility i guess. The plan was I’d get here and find them already waiting for me. However for some reason I arrived on Friday, was almost suffocated by the heat and humidity and they were nowhere in sight. It is now Wednesday and I am still here. I am learning how life in the lower classes is like. I am sleeping in the living room of a one bedroomed house with no cooling system. I am bathing with soap that is meant for washing clothes. I cannot afford to buy anything because my parents neglected to give send me money. My savings account for some reason cannot be reached and not to mention the distance I had to walk to find an ATM.
But also, I am learning to be comfortable and make conversations with people who I’d never talk to before because we were socially not of the same class and not family. I’m understanding what it means to live in a community with other people. To share their struggles. The family living next door to us lives in a house that has no doors or windows. They have no electricity and I have never even seen them light a candle. The woman’s first born child has some form of mental disability. And yet this woman is up every morning, looking forward to the day. She greets me as if I’m her daughter. With my terrible Swahili we sit there and communicate. The other day she said to me “what are you most greatful for this year?” and I said, “I’m 21 and I’m a Masters student. I cannot ask for more.” When I returned the question to her she said, “I’m alive. My family is struggling but we are here.”
My uncle, the man whose family I’m living with is one of my most favorite people in the world. This man has known me since I was born. He was in his early teens when I was growing up and hence he is like a brother to me. He is not part of the privileged population but his family is the only one I have ever visited where I have seen such happiness. Such comfortability between husband and wife. Such playfulness. Literally him and his wife are so playful with each other they wrestle. I told him just the other day how much I admired the way his family is run (which is VERY different from the way his brother, my dad, ran it when we were kids). His response to me was, “Nyachiro, you see the life I live, the life I have. I am not rich. I do not own a house. I do not even have a job right now. But I have my wife and my daughter and that is the source of my happiness. Their happiness is all I have. Their happiness is what makes me rich.”
In my five days here I’ve learnt that money IS important. Money does take away some kinds of un-happiness. But it is how you value your family that will determine your wealth. I want money in my life because God knows,
and yes we have discussed it especially with the recent events, that I cannot afford to be poor. I have expensive tastes that need to be kept up with. I like nice things and for some reason I think I deserve nice things. But also if and when I get married, no matter how much money I have, I want a husband that will never forget what happiness is. I want a man that will pass this on to our children, a man that will teach them the importance of being happy. A partner that will not forget how much I love laughing and being silly. I do tend to have moments of childishness. I’m one of those people that never really grew up but learnt to behave in public.
in conclusion, i started this as a rant a few days ago. but as i wrote this in my journal over a space of a couple of days i started seeing the big picture. the good news is my mother arrives today ergo my life resumes.