The following is a typical day for us as we learn the language here, though not every day is like this, many are:
It’s early Monday morning, my alarm goes off and a thought drifts through my sleepy head, “Rachelle, get up! Devotions and coffee are waiting.” I crack my eyes open and it is still dark. The night before had stretched on and on. I had been busy folding extra laundry I hadn’t had a chance to get to during the day, tiding up the house and listening to my Swahili recordings from class. My bed and fan feel too good and I drift back off to sleep. Soon after, I hear a Crash, Bang! I groan and turn over in bed, attempting to wrap my pillow around my head to block out the sounds of monkeys galloping over our corrugated tin roof. My eyes open and I see it’s now daylight. There is no sense prolonging the inevitable. I switch off my fan and gingerly step out of the mosquito netting which surrounds our bed.
A new week has begun. I am thankful Micah is still sleeping as I wrap a kanga around me and find a key to unlock the front door. Once outside a chorus of birds greets my ears as I hurry to the kitchen, dodging hungry mosquitoes which are still thick at this time in the morning. Our Kitchen is outside of our house, but is still close by, only a few steps away from the front door. I am often thankful for this since it keeps the majority of the ants in the kitchen and out of the main living area. I pull out yet another key to unlock the kitchen door and hesitantly open it peering inside. My imagination has been fully prepared to witness at that moment legions of ants marching along the window sills and up the walls, carrying every item of our food pantry away to some close location, unknown to me. But, this morning all I see as I open the door and switch on the light is a cockroach darting under the stove. I make a mental note to have Neil come later and dispose of the unwanted kitchen visitor with his salad tongs. While making oatmeal and coffee I become aware of the monkeys still jumping around on the roof above me. I go outside and strain my neck to catch a glimpse of them. Suddenly I became aware of a pair of eyes watching me. One of the younger male monkeys has noticed me watching him and he begins to climb down the roof towards me, poising himself as if to make a giant leap into the air. Suddenly I realize his intention to jump on me and I run screaming into the house. By now I am wide awake and return to the kitchen to finish breakfast. I bring it back inside the house to our kitchen table, which sits in a nice location along some windows where a morning breeze can be felt, and announce, “Breakfast is ready! Time to get up!” A sleepy Micah appears and gives me a big hug before hungrily tackling his breakfast. Once he is finished I pull out his new school uniform, a white collared button down shirt with blue pleated shorts. I present them to Micah who immediately looks at me in disbelief as if to say, “mom you expect me to wear this?” I can tell this is going to be a battle so turn the whole thing over to Neil. After Micah realized crying would do him no good he began negotiations, “So dad can I wear some normal shorts and a shirt over these?” he asks pointing to the school uniform as if the school uniform were some dead animal that he was expected to wear. But eventually dad won out and we emerged from our front gate with a glaring, but smartly dressed Micah.
We all walk through our gate and are excited to see our Bajaj is waiting for us. We greet our driver “Habari za asabuhi!” (Good morning) and cram into the small backseat with Micah on my lap. As we begin moving I look out the sides of the bajaj and can see people of all walks of life making their way along the street. Women carrying huge baskets full of vegetables on their way to the market and men dressed in suits on their way to work. The wind feels blessed as it whips around in the bajaj and frees strands of my hair out from under my tightly wrapped bun. Soon, the engine slows and we pull into Micah’s Preschool. We hop out and I grab Micah’s backpack. His teachers greet us and we stoop down to tell Micah goodbye. But he turns and buries his face in Neil’s shoulder. “Dad, don’t make me wear this!” He cries, motioning to the uniform. His friends nearby are wearing the uniform and once we point this out he decides the end of the world has not come and he runs over to the swings to join them. Neil and I jumped back into the bajaj, feeling relieved. We say “kwaheri!” (Goodbye) to Micah and continue in our bajaj to the office where our language classes take place.
Throughout the morning our teacher helps us learn various nouns, verbs, and then walks us through the process of using the words we know in sentences. We all begin to try and verbally sound out the words we have been listening to in the recordings the night before. Before long we are all laughing because we sound so funny, yet are encouraged because we are making progress.
After class, our minds are tired and the sun is hot. We eat lunch at the office where we take our classes and then ready ourselves for the walk to pick up Micah. The sun is hot at this time of day and the humidity is high. Before long we are all drenched with sweat and we look forward to ice water and naps once we get home. Once we reach the preschool I look down the path and see a little blonde boy with a huge beaming smile running full speed to greet me. “Mommy!” He squeals with delight and I catch him up in my arms. This is one of my most cherished moments each day and I shut my eyes and relish it, wishing it would last forever. Once we have collected Micah’s things we walk to the dahla dahla stand (bus stop) and wait for the bus. Soon our bus arrives and we jump on. There are several stops on the way to our destination and at each stop several people get on. Soon I am unable to move in any direction, completely surrounded by people pressing into me from all sides. It is hot in the bus and the smell of sweat mingled with perfume greets my nose. Soon enough the bus pulls to a stop in front of the road that leads to our house and we push through the other passengers and out the door. Some days the bus rides are relaxed and we are able to find seats, but some days they are like the description above. On our way down the dusty path devoid of shade that leads to our house we come to a duka (a small shop) that sells basic household items, food and drinks. We stop and greet the shop owner, “habari za mchana” (Good afternoon). The shop owner smiles and replies with a smile and then we ask, “Kuna miyai na soda baridi?” (Do you have eggs and cold soda?) She puts 5 eggs in a bag for us along with the fantas. She asks for Micah’s name and we tell her. She smiles again. She has a son around Micah’s age. After we pay her for everything we continue along on our walk. Soon outside our gate we pass by a woman selling mangos, coconut, pineapple and many other fruits. Her name is Mama Beatrice. She has a little girl around Micah’s age. We stop and buy produce from her and wish we could carry on more of a conversation with her. Someday we will.
Once we get back home I open the door to the kitchen to find what seem like hundreds of ants, the variety that likes to travel in swarms carrying their eggs, marching in a very orderly manner, out from a hole in the floor, up the sides of my counter, toward the place where I keep the plastic bags. I am sure they were having a grand time marching through my kitchen toward the resting place of their many sweet little eggs, but I was not as thrilled about the arrangement.
After Micah went down for his nap, I decided to wash some laundry. I walked over to the laundry basket and saw something moving. It was an ant, and it was on one of my shirts. Then I looked closer. What was one ant turned into ten ants, then 50, then 100! They were crawling along the pants and through the shirts and up the sides of the basket. I grabbed the basket and threw it outside. “Neil, come out here and look at this!” I yelled. He came out and saw the upset basket of laundry all over the porch with ants madly rushing about, upset that I had discovered their hiding place. We began slapping the clothes against the wall, trying to get the ants off of our laundry. Once we were done, I was tired, tired from the heat but mostly just tired of the ants. I knew that Africa was dominated by ants but I didn’t know that we had moved into their headquarters!
Once I’d gone inside to rest from all the chaos I grabbed the basket of clothes and walk the ten steps to our neighbor’s house. They live literally right next to us. Today I will get a break from hand washing because my friend has offered to wash my clothes in her washing machine. I am so thankful! I stop at her porch and yell, “hodi hodi!” Soon she appears and says “Karibu!” (Welcome). I slide my feet out of my flip flops and go inside. She puts my clothes in her machine and pushes start and presto! The machine begins. I am suddenly very thankful for washing machines. We return to the porch and sit in the open air, enjoying the evening breeze. Neil joins me and while Micah plays with their daughter, we sit and talk for a while, enjoying their company. We are so thankful for this family who has become our friends here in Tanzania.
Later, as the hot sun sinks below the horizon and the sound of Micah playing with his friends can be heard, I put the finishing touches on our rice and chicken dinner. We call Micah in and all sit around the table to catch up on the day’s events. Soon dinner will be finished, dishes cleaned, and the kitchen cleaned from any spills that might attract the ants. Neil helps me shower Micah, read to him, and put him to bed. Then we sit down together to listen to do some more language study before the night is up. Soon we will be in bed with the lights out, mosquito net tucked in securely around us, listening to the sounds of dogs barking. It has been another day and in eight hours another one will begin.