Ultimate Village Showdown! Pt 1

written 12/26

I have now been to three other villages and am starting to get a sense for the diversity and difference between the kinds of towns in the Korogwe District. Bombo, Magoma, and Lutindi have all amazed me. We also had our first wageni (visitors) to Tabora this week. On the 21st the PCs from Bombo Majimoto and Bungu spent the night at our house and got to tour around Tabora and meet some of our friends. Getting to hear their perspective on our lives was really fascinating. From all of these visits, it is incredibly clear how different each of the villages is and that they all have different benefits and drawbacks. Here is a list of the ways Tabora/ our house stacks up to the best and worst of this group of villages.

Bathrooms

We have two bathrooms, which is pretty great (Magoma also has two). The toilets are squat toilets that I believe just drain into a large pit dug under/ next to the house. We don’t put toilet paper down them because it clogs them and we flush them by pouring water into them. They are indoors, which I appreciate (not having to leave the house to shower is wonderful) and have had relatively few problems. I wish they were tiled and that the floor was not always full of dirt despite frequent cleanings and that so many bugs did not inhabit the corners, but I would say that we have one of the best bathroom situations of any PCs. Magoma’s pit has an outlet that lets the smell out, but the construction workers by their house often cover it, sending all of the smells from their bathroom pit into their house. Bombo has an outdoor bathroom and has to battle mosquitos during showers and a nest of bees that has taken up residence in the piping of their toilet. Compared to them our bathroom feels quite sanitary and safe.

Water

When I first arrived in Tabora I came to the conclusion that unprocessed water is just dirty and that drinking it just couldn’t be a pleasant experience. However, the universality of that has been disproved by Lutindi. Living high up in the mountains, they literally are able to drink from crystal-clear mountain streams. Their water is beautiful and I drank fully untreated water while there without any repercussions. Coming back to Tabora was such a disappointment afterwards- I was not excited to return to our brown, funny tasting water that requires treating or else makes us sick.
However, despite the fact that Bombo and Bungu agreed that our water is terrible, we did not get the short end of the stick by far. Magoma’s water often has a lot of mud in it, especially after it rains and can almost look like an orangey liquid chocolate. Without any of the deliciousness. They also have been suffering from a mysterious illness that hasn’t really been well explained and wasn’t going away. They visited the doctors a few times to try to figure out what was going on as they both were feeling physically horrible all of the time. A few weeks ago they began drinking only bottled water to see if that would solve their problem and their health improved drastically. Although the fact that they are now feeling better is wonderful, drinking bottled water here is very expensive and the fact that their water seems to be completely unpotable is horrible.

Availability of Water

Related to this, there is a wide variety of places that we get our water from. Some people (Bombo) have to go on daily journeys to fill their buckets and carry them back to their houses on their head. Our water is the most convenient as the bomba is literally seven steps away from our backdoor. I think the water sources are fairly evenly split between natural water outlets and water that is piped from a source (as ours is.) We are the only team that has to pay for our water, however, as the bombas in Tabora are installed privately and the water is charged for in order to recoup the costs. Magoma has rudimentary plumbing, so they are able to just get their water from their private tap. However, this is much less convenient than ours because they can only get water during certain hours of the day, during which they are often not in the house.
Although I love that we always have water available and all we have to do is refill our barrel inside when there is not a long line at the Bomba, there is part of me that wished we had to carry our own water. It would be more exhausting and take more time, but it would build exercise into our daily lives and my arms would get stronger (the children that get water outside of our house all have the most impressive upper arms).

Electricity

Tabora is devoid of electricity, as are most of the villages. Lutindi and Magoma have it, which mostly means that they don’t have to worry about their computer batteries dying. This also means that they can go to sleep much later than the other villages, because they can be productive much later than we can. I’ve read in abstract ways about the way that artificial lighting has changed our lifestyles, but it’s interesting to see the pretty clear example of how this works based on the disparate times that the PCs go to bed. I spend most of my evenings walking around with my phone in my hand of mouth, using the light on it to illuminate my cooking and reading.
The other big difference is that cold things are available in these villages in a way that they aren’t in Tabora. In Magoma they eat delicious frozen juice pops every day, which is a blessing in the current summer heat. Ashley and I dream of our trips to Korogwe and buying cold juice. Whenever it is really hot I cannot help of be jealous of Mama Tuna’s ice pops and the fact that a freezer could exist close to a PC’s house.
Related to the wedding, electricity also means that a village can be louder. We have people playing battery-powered radios all the time and the one TV in Tabora, which is run by a generator, plays every night, but other than that it is fairly difficult to project sound. We have heard that Magoma and can be incredibly loud at night though, due to the fact that people can play electronics at all hours of the day.

Internet

Internet in Tabora has mostly been a failure. Sam and Ana gave everyone modem sticks at the beginning of the year so that we can try to access the internet when we are not in range of our wireless in Korogwe. The sticks have never worked on my computer and, although Ashley has gotten hers to work, there is rarely signal to use in Tabora. This does not bother me as the sticks are fairly slow and often having slow internet can be worse than none. It does mean though, that I glom onto my computer when I get to Korogwe. Some teams have fairly good internet coverage and so do not have to save all emails/ blogposts for Krogowe, which is nice, but not a huge boon. Regardless of if the sticks work in our villages or not, when we are all in Korogwe and the internet is working (it goes out frequently with the electricity) we all sit in the same room and ignore each other as we get lost in our computer worlds. As soon as the electricity goes out the talking starts up and then it stops again when the power returns.

Landscape

Our villages run a fairly large spectrum of amount of rain and temperatures. Lutindi is lush and bright green and full of plants in every direction that you look. Marc and Chung go on a lot of hikes in the middle of the forest and are often in spots where there are enough trees and the landscape slopes enough that they can’t see very well more than 20 feet in any direction. Encountering a plant higher than your head is not unusual. When out of the trees they have great views across the plains and can see numerous cities from above and can watch the clouds and rain move over the landscape.
The two valley villages that I have seen are neither jungle, nor are they dry in the way that Tabora is. They bear a striking similarity to south-east Asian landscapes that are full of rice paddies and coconut trees. Both villages were filled with large amounts of very tall coconut palms that people climb up to retrieve the fruit. The residential parts do have some dusty red expanses of ground, but they also have many large trees and the coloring of the greens is bright. Living between mountains means that you can turn 180 degrees and look up at the rising landscape on all sides. Bombo has commented a few times that they are disconcerted by the fact that they have no sunrises or sunsets because all of their horizons are so high that the sun just rises behind the mountains and only becomes visible well after daylight has emerged.
Tabora is in the plains and thus, has a very different landscape. It is by far the driest village that I have been to (potentially only rivaled by Kwakiliga- I will find that out later this month when we go to visit). When I arrived I was surprised at how much green there it- the word ‘plains’ conjures up images of golden waves of grain and a flat landscape. It’s more like low shrub land in rolling foothills. The greens are abundant, but they are all light-grey greens. I did not realize how stark this contrast is until visiting the other villages and seeing verdant shades. We can see farther than anyone else can as we go about our daily lives- you can look out of Tabora and see the mountains or the foothills rolling off into the distance. The hills are large enough though that we cannot see any other towns. The power lines that run next to Tabora dominate the landscape and make it easy to tell, when you are far away, exactly where Tabora is. Our village is fairly compact and within the bounds of it the ground is mostly orange packed earth interrupted by large trees. From walking around inside of the town you can tell how dry things are.

This post has gotten quite long already, despite the fact that I have so many more comparisons to make. There will be a pt 2 coming later. Look forward to more details of our lives (including bugs and bratty children) that will fill you with jealousy.

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One Response to Ultimate Village Showdown! Pt 1

  1. I guess every place is different and the same for comparisons. Thanks for your descriptions. The comparisons are great. Makes me glad that I’m spoiled with good drinking water, nice bathrooms, and 24 hour a day electricity.

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