Happy Saturdays

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Simple chores completed in a simple way, with a measure of happiness.

Submitted: October 19, 2016

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Submitted: October 19, 2016

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If I say the obvious, that Tanzanians, or more accurately, Africans are somewhat different to this antipodean of British descent, the connotations can be many, depending on your own particular background, but I don't mean any of those things.

Sometimes at Sanawari I saw events that reminded me of when I was a child, events that seems not to happen today due to those many lifestyle changes we have all witnessed over a lifetime. We, that’s collectively the more affluent countries, have lost that little something remembered as family life, community and togetherness. Perhaps that might sound a bit soppy but I make no apology.

Each Saturday, friends of Mama Baraka, or perhaps friends of her kids, would gather by the communal water tap close to our door to wash their clothes. Water throughout the village is generally not easily accessible but ‘our’ tap was reasonably reliable because there was a reservoir-cum-tank on a high stand where water was pumped from some water project. The only time we failed to have water was when there was a power cut. But there was never enough water to keep the tank full, so those nearest the tank, were the fortunate ones and the reason people used to come to ‘out’ tap collect their water. At the time I hadn’t figured that the tap was probably an illegal one because it was on private property, and not in a communal area. From time to time Emanuel would try to boot people off his property, but that was usually down to mood or booze and Mama Baraka had a more enlightened attitude.

Generally most of the clothing was light and the kangas (wraps) were made from a light cotton material. Most people wore second hand clothing, mtumba, from overseas, which was cheap to buy but still it was lighter material. Plastic basins were used to wash the clothes, but there were some who didn’t own one. We had bought a cheap plastic baby’s bath, for our own use, yes that is how we bathed. So those without basins borrowed our bath, which held twice the amount of water! Anyway once the clothes were washed, they were spread out on the large area of grass/lawn or over the bougainvillea hedge to dry. This is the time there would be chatter, gossip and hijinks making a dreary job to be fun. But they were together as a small community. When I wasn’t busy in the nursery, I joined in on the fights with Omo soap-suds!

Mothers conversed and if the kids weren’t listening, they were having their own fun playing and laughing on ‘our’ lawn. Sometime we would toss them a tennis ball or frisbee to add to the mix. After most had taken their dry washing home, Mama Baraka and her best friend, Mama Lillian would sit in the shade and sip on the local, muddy, mildly alcoholic, millet brew consumed from a shared Kibo vegetable oil pottle. They chatted and if they caught sight of me pottering in the nursery, they would call me over to partake. There were always dross, husks of millet on top of the brew and the trick was to gently blow them to the other side other pottle and then take a swig! Sometimes Mama Titi would join them. Everyone called her Mama Titi on account of her enormous boobs, which often flopped out of the low singlets she wore. But make no mistake, Mama Titi was intelligent and had many a story to tell of her life experiences. Likewise Mama Lillian had a thriving wholesale business of maize and beans, and she footed it rather well in what was essentially a male-dominated business. Her husband on the other hand sat back and accepted the food and booze her enterprise reaped.

During those summer days, the sun shone hot from a cloudless sky, a sky not clear blue, but hazy because the smoke from cooking fires. The Saturday wash was an excuse to sit in the shade of the large Casurina tree that grew on ‘our’ lawn. It was young Olotu’s job to cut the Kikuyu grass using the one-handed slasher, and he made a neat job of it. It was a colourful picture from our doorway.

As well as their washing, everyone brought with them a container to take home water. Some of the containers had the capacity that was almost as heavy as the kid carrying it! A number of kids used to ask for help to lift their bucket of water onto their head, which is the hardest part of the job. Once it is up there, it seems easy enough to carry – although in later life neck trouble can develop. Twisha, is the term to lift a container of water up onto the head of and individual, and kids used it as an excuse to come into the nursery to ask for my help. They didn’t really need me but it was a little ritual we carried out, a way to know each other. Boki was one of the more regular ones. She was scared of me at first, she was perhaps three years old and her mother insisted that she overcome her fear and greet me as ‘grandfather’ in the respectful Swahili way.  I suspect, that she liked to visit and have the attention of someone lifting her water container for her, which is why she came so regularly. Her father was a safari driver and we only saw him occasionally, but Boki was a likeable wee kid, so when little gifts of things like soft toys were sent to us, she was among the lucky ones.

Those sunny Saturdays were vibrant, industrious, fun and yet relaxing. Proving to me that people are people and most want to get on and enjoy life.  

 


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