It’s been a crazy two weeks with limited internet, new experiences, and newfound love for Ludilo village!
On Sunday, November 2nd, we packed almost everything we owned into a suitcase and our shower bucket and packed into two separate safari cars. As we exited Ruaha Catholic University’s campus, I prepared myself to leave behind the small town of Iringa that I had just spent two and a half months getting used too.
It took approximately three hours to reach the district of Mufindi, where our villages are located. We stopped at RDO, a nonprofit that began with the mission of helping farmers. Now their project focus also includes helping HIV orphans and access to water in the village. RDO is where we will spend our weekends to discuss our research or internships (as the other 6 students are completing internships and need-based assessments for the month) and where Justin and Paulo will be staying (near to us in case of any emergencies!).
After about thirty minutes, Paulo our coordinator said it was time for us to go. The first group was mine—Cat, Caroline, and I, the only three researchers this semester were driven to our village called Ludilo. It was just us, our driver Sarafino (the same person who took us on our safari) and a worker from RDO who knew where our houses were. Cat was first. When we arrived at her house, no one was there. We helped her unload her stuff from the car and suddenly a woman started running towards the house. Immediately we knew this was her homestay family, and other members of the family came and helped her take her belongings inside. We didn’t stay long and pretty soon Sarafino was saying bye and had us on our way to drop off Caroline. When we arrived at the next house, a group of kids crowded behind our car to watch the two wazungu exit. I helped Caroline carry her stuff in, mainly because I was not ready to separate from my roommate and because her mom was the only person at the house. After what felt like only two minutes, Sarafino said it was time for me to go. Ever heard of a hit and run? Well arriving at our homestays felt like a drop-and-run.
When we got to my house, I had my mom and sister help me take my belongings inside. They showed me my room, welcomed me home, and allowed me to settle in. The house was simple—it had three couches, a table with chairs for meals, a tv, and a total of four rooms. Our program directors did inform us that we would be staying with the wealthier 1% of the village, as we would need access to certain levels of sanitation regarding food and water, as well as electricity. I arrived in Tanzania at the beginning of this program with zero expectations, and I arrived in Ludilo with the same outlook. I was ready for anything, but to put my parents and other friends in America at ease: Tanzanian village life and where we are staying is nothing like how they stereotyped or pictured.
By that I mean, I have access to hot water and electricity. I have a comfortable bed and so far, my stay here has also been comfortable. The food is nothing out of the extraordinary; I have eaten boiled greens, rice, plain pasta, eggs, fish, pork, and beef. I have finally been introduced to ugali, which is a dish made of cornflour and water. It essentially takes the place of rice in a meal and people use their hands to eat it: we peel a small part of it apart, ball it up in our hands, and either dip in soup or sauce, then eat it with the rest of the meal. Personally, I like it, whereas most of my friends here do not. It is extremely filling though, and probably not the healthiest dish.
Our first week here consisted of getting acquainted with the town, accustomed to our family and home, and getting prepared for research. I’ve spent the last week and a half making adjustments to my research proposal to receive IRB approval (Institutional Review Board) which is a committee of professionals in the scientific or research fields who ensure that the methods proposed in my research are ethical and the procedures ensure the protection of subjects’ rights and confidentiality.
On Tuesday afternoon, my mom and her sister-in-law invited me to church. Cat and I went together and I had a very lovely time. The church service was two hours long, which is surprisingly shorter than most Sundays my home church, Tremont Church of God in South Carolina. They had an hour of song and dance and their routine was different but in the best way. I did notice at one point that one of the melodies sounded familiar but I couldn’t remember the worship song in English. Afterward, a woman preached on Matthew 5:38-48. I only understood a few words here and there, but as a Christian, I loved being able to experience a church service in a different country. It’s amazing how universal religion can be regardless of any language barrier.
One night of the first week here, I watched and attempted to help my mom cook ugali. I wasn’t very good at it, as some of the flour spilled over, but I enjoyed watching her flip the ugali once it was almost ready. This blog is already getting a bit long, so I’ll reserve the family introduction for the next blog!
Asante sana for reading!