Thursday, September 24, 2009

I go back to being a woman

"Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far. For someone who don't drive I've been all around the world. Some people say I've done alright for a girl." - Brand New Key Lyrics

September 8, 2009

It is time for Standard Seven's exams again, which for me is entirely different than it was last year. Last year I was shocked at being placed separate from the women and with the men, last year I didn't even know all my own teacher's names. This year I am told to go to the Mwalimu Mkuu's home, where I spend hours with the women slaving away over the fires to cook for our guests who facilitate the exams. Anna is brought to me and sleeps on my back while I cut tomatoes. When it is finally time for us, "Women" to serve out guests and the male teachers, Mama Lau tells me to go in with the washing bowl and wash their hand but to not forget to kneel in front of them and bow down before I do it. Being Brie, I plan on rebellimg amd not kneeling, but I watch the women for a momment and see how eagerly they serve the men and I wonder if there should be more ways of showing respect in American culture. Not just women to men and children to adults but everyone to everyone.

So I kneel on the floor an avert my eyes to our male guests and my male teachers, exactly as I have been shown, like I should be embaressed for being a woman. When I get to Mwalimu Mwalango, (one of my good friends who is about my age), He says, "You should be standing, African Queen." This causes a lot of laughter. Jen and Mary started calling me African Queen after this stupid song on the radio where that is the chourus and now the villagers have picked up on it along with the teachers. They also call me "Baby". which is a little more fitting because I am pretty helpless with out them.

A new person came to our village this week. He is a Tanzanian man about my age. He told me he is an extension officer working on our chai production. I instinctively feel a bit jealous. In one day he knows more than I have learned in a year, and being an attention seeking Aries, I am worried that this guy is going to steal my show. I should not have worried. A Tanzanian man, even a guest, doesn't hold a candle to a white woman for mystique. I still run the Image show. It is funny to me how possesive I am over Tanzania and it's people. I would love to have American visitors, but I worry that they will not be able to see the hidden beauty that this place embodies. In so many ways Tanzania is mine- my sanctuary, my fear, my success, my failure, my love and at the heart of it is Image Village. Today, I was homesick. (That is right, even after a year here, I still get homesick.) In so many ways I have set myself up in a contradiction of interests. I love Oregon, it will forever be my home. But when I was there I longed for africa, for the adventure, for the freedom, for the unknown. For the sun blazing through my window in the morning as the village comes to life. Totally alone, but never really alone. Conflicting thoughts- my whole life I have wanted to get here, but here is sometimes hard, here is far- where will I be happy? I am a walking contradiction- the girl who is refined enough to wear red fingernail polish, but careless enough that it is always chipped. A woman who wants someone to love and support her, but prides herself on her independance and sense of adventure. A person who wants to make the world a better place, but who has no idea where her place is in it. But I guess for now, I can just be satisfied to have the place of 'Miss Image' and somehow becoming Tanzanian royalty.

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