Written by Eliza
It’s so cloudy outside this morning you cannot even discern the smallest hint of sunshine let alone the giant mountain that looms in the distances just behind Tabora. Even in the first few hours of the morning, it is already a sticky humid day. The clouds are the dark stormy forbearing kind, giving off the appearance that at any moment the sky will open up and hurl raindrops at your head. But it doesn’t rain, at least not yet; it’s raining in the mountains, which is a sure sign that wet weather is headed our way. Last month was Eid but I vividly remember that it could not have been a more gloriously hot, sunny day for a sikuku (holiday).
I woke up having not slept well so feeling grumpy and tired I was unsure about what the day would hold. Everywhere across the world kids will stay up late when they don’t have to go to school the next day. Somewhere along the course of the day, without me even knowing, it my entire attitude shifted. We spent the day just visiting with people around Tabora and playing with the kids, it was also of course, as any good holiday ought to be, filled with good food, bad jokes, and amazing company. Everyone was in high spirits, little girls wearing their best frilly pastel dresses looking like they just stepped out of Toddlers and Tiaras, women in brightly colored, wildly patterned gowns that I could never pull off without looking like a small child playing dress up in her mothers clothing, and young men wearing their fancy leather shoes. A group of young boys drumming their way from house to house across Tabora mixed with children giggling served as the ambient music for the day. The sense of community never ceases to astound me.
All day people were calling out to us to come drink chai, eat tons of food, tell stories, and just rest. With everyone wanting to just share what they had and be together. We spent the day playing with the kids who lived around our house, listening to a drumming boy band, and eating frozen juice popsicles. After filling our stomachs past the brim with what seemed like at least 6 meals we called it a night, happy to have spent the day immersed in a new cultural experience.
While the holiday offered a brief occasion to shed all our worries for a few hours, the hardships of reality could not be forgotten. Just a day before Eid, we attended another funeral, but this time we had met the family and built up a relationship with them. While we had never met Babu Mwaliko, his wife, Bibi Mwaliko is a wonderful woman whose strong character, charisma, and hard-working enthusiasm reminds me of my own grandmother. So while we may have attended many funerals during our time so far in Tabora, this felt different, more personal. As we sat against the wall of a house, under the blazing afternoon sun, we tried to understand the funeral and grieving process here. The most noticeable difference is the clothing. We are used to funerals in America where it is respectful to wear black or dark colors. Here there is an explosion of colors as women wear bright and colorful kangas, one to cover their hair and upper body while a second covers their legs. The only person I saw wearing black was Bibi Mwaliko.
The entire atmosphere of the funeral was different from we were accustomed to. I have only ever been to somber reflective funerals, but this was less of a funeral and more of a remembrance of life. Men and women sat in separate groups and chatted about everything and anything. Laughter was not an uncommon sound and as the men began serving food, we could not help wonder what the reason for such events were. On the surface, it did not appear that anyone was grieving. While Bibi Mwaliko did seem more reserved than usual, she did not appear to be grieving. What we cannot know is how she was feeling inside. I have come to realize that personal emotions are one of the only things kept personal in Tanzania. Physical personal space is non-existent, so most of the time your personal space has to be internal.
The funeral seemed to be less about the actual grieving and more of a way for the community to show their support for the family. We talk a lot about networks in 2Seeds, with the basic understanding that a network is like a woven net and where each string connects with another one you see a link in the network. If one connection is broken, there is no telling how many connections are lost. The community here feels like a net as well. The people here support one another during times of hardship and struggles, and they celebrate the successes and good fortune together. Tuko pamoja.
As we are becoming more and more a part of the community in Tabora these events are beginning to have more of a personal impact. While we still felt confused during various points during the funeral, in a way it felt more personal than the other funerals we had attended. The same can be said for weddings! As you may remember, our first full day in Tabora we attended a wedding. Since then we have attended two more weddings, both of which were still just as confusing, but significantly less overwhelming as we had more of a connection. For the past few months our neighbors, the Moki family were preparing for their son’s, Shebani, wedding. As the day slowly crept closer and closer their excitement gradually increased, as did our own. We sat with Mama Moki in the shade of her house talking about what she was going to wear and what we should wear ourselves. When she told us that we should both wear madela, a full length, colorfully patterned gown with matching head scarf, we had to spend the next hour or so talking about where the best gowns were and how much they should cost.
So we came back from Korogwe armed with four madela between the both of us, a set of ceramic cups, and a beautiful kanga that read “Wawili Wanapendanao na leo ni harusi yao” (Two people love each other and today is their wedding). The party was held outside our house and the set up began early in the morning so we spent the day watching as a tent was constructed connecting the Moki house and our own with a tunnel of shade for chairs where the party would take place. The party was the talk of the town and everyone came out to be a part of it. We ended up sitting right up front with one of project partners and all of our neighbors. This time we did not feel out of place. We were going to the wedding of our friends. Our neighbors have become some of our closest friends in Tabora and we could not be happier to attend the party.
Traditional Tanzanian music blasted from large speakers that were perched right outside of my bedroom window and the DJ cut the music every few minutes to allow people to take turns sharing a greeting or reflection at the microphone. And then it was time to present gifts to the bride and groom. This involved a procession of people dancing in groups to the front of the tent to present their kangas to the newlyweds. Colorful fabrics waved in the air as the women formed a kanga line (no pun intended) and shared their excitement with one another and the families of the bridge and groom. We were also invited up to the front to present our gift and everyone cheered as we danced our way up to the front. Mama Tabia and several others joined us and showed us a few moves. The dancing did not stop after the presentation of the gifts, however. Immediately after the ceremony, the walls to the tent were taken down and kids flooded the open area to begin the next portion of the celebration. The music changed from traditional songs to popular music that everyone could sing and dance along to. We found our friends and they taught us new dance moves so we could dance well into the night! We called it quits around midnight, but the party kept going…until 10 the next morning!!! Did I mention the speakers were right outside my bedroom? Although it was hard to sleep that night, we felt excited by the energy of the community and we were happy to have been part of such a beautiful community event