Birthday Parties, Corporal Punishment and Maize Harvests
As I've mentioned before, I love cooking and I finally figured out a version of my brownies for Africa (much to the endearment of my fellow volunteers who are chocaholics and the amazement of native friends who had never tasted such a thing!).
This last week, our two administrators happened to have birthdays on the same day, so I was again asked to make this delicacy as a surprise. To my relief, money was donated this time to finance this project, so I again donned my apron, turned on the oven (of COURSE it doesn't have a thermostat), and started stirring.
Birthdays are seldom celebrated in Tanzania except at our compound. With 2 auspicious birthdays (both turned 50 - a rarity here), we had a major party. Primo, our chef, made a cake for each, and I made a double batch of my brownies. After singing and speeches, the celebrants fed each other a piece of my chocolate treat, then fed one to me as the baker, one to a CCS volunteer, one to a staff worker, and one to a local volunteer (all with lots of photos, best wishes, and cheers)!
On a far more distressing note, Tanzania still believes in corporal punishment -- a law that was enacted in 1936! We know that whenever one of our boys goes to court, a charge will be read, the judge decides the amount of beating the child will receive (our boys are from about 8 to 17 years old, at least the ones that know their ages). The boy is then stripped naked, hit the "proper" number of times with a leather strap (at LEAST 10 times), and then a mixture of chili peppers and salt is rubbed into the raw open wounds to cause more pain and permanent scarring. If the child screams or cries too loudly, the beating is increased, then the child is returned to his home; quite often the streets since many have no homes! By the way, these "hardened criminals" have done such horrid things as steal a loaf of bread or other food because they were starving! YES, I'm horrified with this behavior to put it mildly. It makes me sick at my stomach! YES, I've cried with the boys and often can only offer a quick hug. I also keep praying that somehow, someday, these cruel and inhumane laws will change!
On a far happier note, at the first of the summer, I was told that we had a great deal of land surrounding our prison, and we were welcome to teach the boys farming by producing vegetable gardens. I STILL have to remember that everything here functions on TFT (Tanzanian Flexible Time). Things happen WHEN they happen.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I showed up for work as usual in a long skirt, hiking shoes, and a top (Thank God the "fashion police" aren't around!). I was escorted to our maize fields behind the prison where we ALL spent the day harvesting maize. The stalks were first chopped down with a very sharp machete. We then piled all stalks in huge piles-took off the cobs-removed the husks and cleaned the ears. Later that week we broke all of the kernels off, and spread them in our "yard" to dry. When they are thoroughly dry, they will be placed in huge gunny sacks and sent to the miller to be ground into flour, hopefully for the guys!
Another success - the prison traditionally just burned the stalks, but at my pleading, we contacted a farmer who stacked them high and hauled them off for cattle food (even giving the prison a small amount of money). I'm sure the guys won't benefit from the money, but at least the stalks weren't wasted. I'm also pleased to announce that we have new successful gardens with okra, maize (crop #2), Chinese cabbage, white potatoes, and groundnuts (peanuts). We also cut another garden last week that will soon be ready for planting!!!
With less than 1 week before I return to the U.S., I find that I AM ready to go back to my world of refrigerated food, consistent electricity, a computer, a telephone, and my very own car! Although I do miss my family and friends, I honestly haven't missed TV, tight schedules, and the Illinois summer heat (it's been winter in Tanzania with cool nights and 60-70 degree days).
I KNOW I've been where I needed to be---------------I've been allowed the honor of helping change many young prisoners' lives----------------