Day Nine: Discover Corps Trip Continues
If you build it, they will come. If you plant it, they will harvest – about the same. Right?
The Longuo Primary School in Moshi, Tanzania was given use of a plot of land about two miles from the school. The children would help plant and harvest corn. The corn would be used in the staple dish called Ugali, a cornmeal mush mixture that is prepared and served daily to the students, sometimes with beans or vegetables added.
It was early September and the corn was dry on the stalk. That’s harvest time in Tanzania, not at all like our typical sweet corn on the cob that is picked when it’s juicy and moist.
The kids walked the two miles from school and entered the rows of corn. They were to break the corn off the stalks, stuff the cobs into bags and haul those heavy bags to a central area. There, the children dumped the ears into a huge pile. They then repeated the process, over and over. Mind you, this is difficult work and the youngsters quickly realized it was easier to find a buddy to help carry those heavy loads.
By afternoon’s end, a truck would transport the stash to the school. Later, the corn would be stripped off of the cob, dried in the sun, and ground into meal or flour.
The students appeared happy to see the now familiar faces of the Discover Corps group entering the cornfields. We watched and assisted for a short time, and I’ll admit, picking and hauling the corn takes some effort. I would not have enjoyed this labor of love near as much as these kids, but maybe for them it was like a snow day.
After a short while, we left to get back to work on our classroom renovation. Today was scheduled as a day for painting and scrubbing furniture. The men in my group would work on the ceiling project.
Progress was slow and stressful, needless to say, the building was not exactly level and our tools were not the best. Fortunately, a local construction worker appeared. The ceiling job would never have been finished without his staple gun speedy skills.
An hour and a half later, we all looked a sight. Paint was streaked on my pants and shirt. (I’d leave them in Tanzania, though I’m not sure anyone would want them.)
Just as we are winding down, the truck with all of the corn from the fields arrived. Now, the tired children (whom had walked back to school) needed to transfer the cobs into a storage room. We hung around taking photos. Amazingly, the kids were still smiling and seemingly having a good time. A hardy group, indeed. I wonder what grade-schoolers in the US would think? I’m pretty sure the parents would complain about child labor, but that’s not the case in Moshi.
After lunch and much needed showers, we ran errands in town and hit the internet cafe to catch up on news.
Mama D fixed a wonderful dinner and afterward, we headed back for a short visit with the kids in Tuleeni Orphanage. I was honestly tired and wanted to skip, but was convinced to go. Glad I did because little Happy (my favorite little girl) was looking for me.
The kids were thrilled with their new soccer balls and Peter got them right into a game. Some looked at the new books we brought. But soon, it grew dark and we needed to walk back.
A car was sent for one of our volunteers who was having trouble with her knees, and I (the next oldest) was also encouraged to take a ride home. Strange, the orphanage wasn’t that far, but the driver seemed to take a long circuitous route.
When I walked into our compound, everyone yelled, ” Surprise!” This was a surprise birthday party for me! While the date wasn’t my actual birthday, I had given this trip as a 65th birthday present to myself. Best gift ever and so much better than being depressed by life’s passage.
The party allowed us to indulge in our first American type dessert- cake and ice cream, a real treat. The two-tiered cake was homemade and a stunning beauty. Someone ignited a huge sparkler on the top that created quite a show. The Tanzanian staff all gathered to sing while I cut the cake- “Cutta, cutta cutta cake.”
The treat was absolutely delicious and only a little was leftover! I was wrapped in a piece of African fabric, a traditional gift for women. How generous and genuine; I felt loved in the company of people who had been strangers just a few days ago. I will always treasure the fabric and my extraordinary memories of a very special birthday in Africa. Heartfelt thanks to my Discover Corps group.