A Herd of Goats, A Game of Tag

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • I retired from teaching a variety of levels of Special Education classes about 11 years ago.  I've now been teaching for a few weeks in a class of physically and mentally disabled teenagers in East Africa.  I've found that kids are pretty much the same all over the world regardless of the language they speak, or the challenges they face!


    In spite of incredible poverty, ragged school uniforms, little food, and having to take turns using our broken and well-worn pencils in our class, there is still incredible joy as a child begins to learn (even a tiny bit at a time)!  Yesterday, we were outside in the thick red dust of our playground, playing our version of tag, when a herd of goats was suddenly herded through our game.  Of course "my kids" simply spread out and continued playing around the herd, but I found it extremely funny!

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    At times, I tend to forget how much different my life is while I'm living in Africa.  I untangled from my mosquito net this morning (a daily ritual) and flicked on the bathroom light.  Of course there was no electricity --Hakuna!  I then TRIED to turn on the water in the bathroom sink, but no water either. Oh Well! Our kitchen is close by and outside (most of our life is outside), so I filled a bucket with water and returned to my room for a "luxurious" bucket shower before leaving for work.


    It is incredibly hot and dry here right now (daytime highs often in the upper 90s)-rain clouds often appear, but are seldom productive, and then the hot sun beats down again.  Bright yellow weaverbirds are loudly chattering beside me. I write as they strip off thin long pieces of sugar cane "grass" for their intricate nests.  Lizards stop to stare at me and then hurriedly continue on their errands.  Our colorful rooster struts about -- vainly hoping to find a hidden treat somewhere, and our cat continues his game of sneaking up and traumatizing tiny lizards.


    Our maize is starting to tassel, even our tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, peppers, and much more are producing heavily.  I've found that I'm not exactly skilled at hand washing my clothes (my goal is no longer to make them spotless, just less grimy than they were)! Much of our "groceries" are delivered in large plastic buckets gracefully balanced on the heads of ladies.  Produce and other items come in large wooden boxes on the back of bicycles or motorbikes.  I attempted (one time) to balance something on my head the way most workers do, but quickly decided to leave that to the experts.


    I love people watching all over the world.  In our village, I'm fascinated by the variety of goods for sale carried in huge flat baskets on their heads or shoulders. You frequently see raw eggs (no, not refrigerated), dried beans, all sorts of fruits and vegetables,  and sugar cane bits.  Of course there are also used shoes, socks, and clothing for sale almost everywhere as well as tiny stalls selling bars of laundry soap, bottles of Fanta, aluminum cooking pots and even coconuts.  There are even a few rickety wooden butcher stands with a few huge slabs of raw meat hanging on nails (no refrigeration here either)!


    People always seem "on the move," of course walking long distances to desired locations or risking life and limb by boarding a Dala Dala (a Tanzanian tradition).  These vehicles,  usually vans without doors and sometimes without windows, are inexpensive transport.There seems to be a "law" that NONE of these vehicles are ever considered "full," and people sit on each other's laps (without introduction of course).  If there's nowhere to sit, you simply hang out doorless openings or windows.  I only braved this once, and rapidly decided that, although walking is a challenge for me here, I'd have a better chance of surviving on foot!

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    This Thursday will be Thanksgiving in America (not an African tradition of course), but my third one in Africa.  It's fun to share some of our traditions with my Tanzanian family. Turkeys are sometimes available, but pumpkin has never been heard of.  I'd love to make some kind of pie (we seldom have sweets here because ingredients usually must be imported and are expensive).  When I asked about sweet potatoes, they said we have "sugar potatoes," but I found those are like the white potatoes we use for mashed!   I DO have a recipe I've adapted so I can make crescent rolls, and gravy for the potatoes will be easy.  We of course have a wide variety of fresh vegetables for a salad or for steamed dishes, but I'm sure that cranberries won't be available!  The best part of course is being with special new friends and my adopted African family!


    My knees are unfortunately NOT doing as well as we had hoped, probably in part because there is no such thing as a flat walking surface in this area, and the heat and humidity are now incredibly high!


    The Royal Jelly treatments appeared to be helping, but unfortunately, were very expensive (about $36 per week).  My other concern was that it was only temporary relief and when the regimen was stopped, the pain returned!  I haven't given up on the possibility of finding traditional natural treatments that are long-lasting for my osteoarthritis in Africa.  I find natural treatments very interesting, and was amazed to see a lady gently applying raw egg yolk to her young son's 3rd degree burns on his tummy from hot tea that had been spilled on him.  (Found out later that a small amount of honey is also added to the yolk, and this is a traditional burn remedy in Africa).


    My life continues in East Africa.  Lots of joys, lots of challenges and frustrations.  I continue to learn more about myself.  I've now made arrangements for a private safari to photograph part of the Wildebeest migration, a life-long dream.  The bonus is that my guide and friend is also a wild-life photographer and understands my passion for our upcoming adventure.  I'm also scheduled for another long safari in January to photograph an "explosion" of wildflowers following part of the rainy season.

    I hope all of our readers have a happy and healthy holiday season, and thank you all for your continued prayers and well-wishes!


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    Asante sana


    Mama Pati


Published On: November 24, 2009