Flip Flops And African Mornings

Pattye Snyder Health Guide

    It will be incredibly hard to return to the fast-paced life in America. I absolutely love the peace of waking here after a chilly night and a softly quiet African morning.

    As I unwind from my mosquito netting (I don't know how I get that way) I look forward to my first cup of coffee, even though it's instant. I sit outside under the dining roof with no humans around, yet feeling the peace, and listening as our world awakens. Mourning doves cooing in the distance; the black-and-white "nun birds" searching for leftover scraps from the night before; tiny (unknown) colorful birds with very long tails sitting in their high perch in a tree nearby; the bright yellow Weaver birds "chatting" to each other on the electric line; the Muslim Call to Prayer; the pigs grunting across the road and our learning disabled (he can't crow right) rooster loudly calling all help to make an awesome way to start the day!!!

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    I haven't had "real" coffee since I've been here. Although it is still grown in this area, particularly on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the market makes it completely unprofitable for the poor farmers. So even though I live in a coffee growing area, we only receive instant!


    "Dala Dalas" or the Small, But Filled to Spilling, Bus

    I KNOW that I've mentioned Dala Dalas before, but haven't taken the time to describe them. The Dala Dala is a very colorful Tanzanian institution loosely described as a small bus, or local inexpensive transportation. Theoretically, each row across is to seat 2 to 4 people; however, according to "DD Law," each row will squeeze in a minimum of 6 or more people. Additional seating is provided by passengers' laps (definitely NOT your choice or decision). There are also always at least 3 or more people hanging out the open door, and more out the windows. There is NO SUCH THING as a full Dala Dala, and a ride on one in hot sweaty weather is truly an "experience"! (This brings a whole new image to the world's Open Door Policy, doesn't it!!!)


    New Pants and Thank You's for "Mama Pattye"

    Today, I had one of the most unique "teaching" experiences. Two Americans who have been working with me in the prison will be returning home this weekend, and wanted to give the boys we work with a treat (actually, we have 2 girls too, but I'll explain them later). The volunteers' initial idea was to buy a food treat such as cheeseburgers, fries, and a soda (African version) for each student. I knew, from past experience that this would be too much food for these guys and they would probably get sick. They finally decided to buy them "shoes" and large bars of soap. This wouldn't be too exciting for an American kid, but many of our kids had never owned shoes (of any type) or SOAP! You haven't lived until you've TRIED to trace the feet of 23 shoeless teenagers (and of course one guard who insisted she have new shoes too)!!


    In this setting, you quickly learn Hakuna Matata (no problems/no worries), so EVERYONE got new shoes. The shoes were a sturdy colorful version of the American flip flop, and everyone was thrilled! A tidbit of information---this is the most commonly worn and most practical shoe in this area of heavy mud, rocky roads, etc. Many of the kids refused to wear them the day they got them because it was raining, and they didn't want them to get muddy. The soap was also an incredible success and some insisted on borrowing the shoe wrappers from us so they could keep their soap wrapped up and clean, and hidden under their mattresses so they wouldn't get stolen!!!


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    By the way, we'd also received a donation of 3 pairs of pants, 1 shirt, and 4 pairs of socks. Noone wear socks around here so the kids divided them up and were very proud of the one new sock they were wearing! It was very hard to decide who would get each pair of pants (most of the guys only have one pair of pants and they are falling apart. We tried to choose guys whose pants were in the worse shape, but it was hard and, of course, impossible to find pants that would fit such bony, under-nourished boys! We finally put pants on 3 boys, and I hiked back to town later to buy 2 more pairs of used pants and a much-needed belt. One of the guys must be 16 or 17 and I've NEVER seen him smile. After his "new wardrobe", he couldn't quit that grin! He spent the rest of the morning sitting closely by me on one of our ratty benches outside. As he worked on his Math, he kept patting his pants leg, looking at me, and saying quietly "Thank you Mama Pati." I'll admit it was hard to keep from crying!


    I continue to love my work with teenage prisoners and know I'm where I need to be. Walking is the major form of transport around here but isn't very feasible for me since all roads are rocky, heavily rutted, and become wonderfully "charming" after rains when everything becomes treacherous and slippery.


    In SPITE of the walking challenges of the roads, little electricity, instant coffee, no school supplies, and NO pencil sharpener, I KNOW I'm where I need to be---I KNOW I'm where I want to be---I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE'S LIFE!!!!!


    Kwa heri
    Mama Matumai (Pattye)


Published On: July 23, 2008