We anticipated the process of selecting a group name would be a little awkward, maybe met with quiet staring. While Tanzanian culture is loud and expressive in many ways, creative thinking is not encouraged from a young age. School children are taught to listen, copy and repeat but not to contribute thoughts of their own or really care about the content of what they are learning. For example, I am constantly greeted in English (the second language taught in schools) with “Good morning, teacher” and “Good morning, Sir”, irrespective of of the time of day and the fact that I am not a teacher and certainly not a sir. They learn the greetings but clearly never learn the meaning of the words themselves. Our meetings are held in a classroom and it seems that sometimes even our group of mothers and grandmothers reverts to their old student habits.
So Rachael and I prepared ourselves to feed a few key words….nutrition, children, fresh, vegetables….anything to extract a title more gripping than the names chosen by the rest of Tabora’s groups which include Water Committee, Celebration Committee, School Committee, Security Committee etc.
So we were more than impressed when Mama Elliot blurted out “Jitegemee”. Though the word was unknown to us, from the look on the other members faces and their nods of agreement, we knew it was a winner. We returned home and immediately went to the dictionary and found listed next to our group name “self-sufficiency”, a word we had been looking for to use in drafting our project goals, criteria, and mission for months. From the English side their was no word for self-sufficiency, while others– independent, self-reliant, sustainable– did not really capture what we were looking for. It was a good moment when our group came up with a name which expressed so perfectly the ideal which underlies all of our efforts in Tabora. We hope this name will motivate our group with a clear, shared purpose over the next few months.
In addition to the very important name selection, we took a group photo and a photo of each partner, Rachael and I included, in the future garden sites. We hope to continue to take photos each month to visually document our progress. Our first lesson on the basics of nutrition and garden health went better than expected. Like the body which needs a diversity of nutrients, a healthy garden needs a variety of plants-some provide shade (especially important in Africa), deep root systems to hold the soil, others replenish nitrogen, while groundcover prevents weed growth and water loss. Variety is the key and a focus of our project. Our group continues to impress and things are progressing quickly and spiritedly. More to come soon as we begin planting.