I spent the weekend at Kishumundu Secondary School, in the little house they have built for mujungu *European* volunteers. It was a welcome relief to be on the mountain and James Kiware, the Headmaster, and Salome, the school secretary, went out of their way to make me feel at home. They kept referring to the volunteer house as MY home… and laughing.
I walked into a small house with cement floors and a wooden pantry that they had stocked with fresh vegetables, mango, banana and lots of coca cola…. they joke about coca cola being American wine. The house sits at the back of the school, overlooking a deep ravine that runs with water during the “big rains”. It’s completely dry now.
Salome and I spent a lot of time together, cooking and talking. All meals are prepared fresh as there is no refrigeration. It’s really very healthy, but also very time consuming. Salome comes from a poor family, not that she’s complaining! She is a self made woman and really is one of the most resourceful and happy people I’ve met…ever.
She credits God with every good thing in her life and has worked amazingly hard to educate herself. She brought out every certificate she has ever earned… for computer training, red cross training and volunteerism and secretarial school. She had never shown them to anyone before and I was so touched, because I knew I wasn’t being shown just certificates.
These papers represented the best… and hardest… parts of her life. In the face of cultural challenges faced by a woman and real poverty, she kept working and praying and hoping and working more. She is a single working woman in a culture that still has a foot steeped in very old female roles of near servitude. She serves as a kind and active role model for the young girls at Kishumundu Secondary School, encouraging them to “Study, study, study…stand on your own two feet… education is the only way out of poverty and the only way to protect your future”!
She also counsels them “Do NOT take a bride price from your husband to be, so that he does not think he has BOUGHT you!” In traditional families, the bride’s family is normally paid a gift of cattle or goats or something relative to the groom’s financial status. Salome is one of those people, unlikely at first glance, who is really breaking through barriers of old thinking and cutting a path of equality for women in Tanzania… one student at a time.
I walked, or should I say CLIMBED, to Salome’s church with her this morning. I couldn’t understand the service, since I only know maybe a dozen Swahili words, but prayers and music translate into one’s heart universally! At the end of the service, the minister asked me to tell the small congregation about our water project. So I talked and Salome translated. (Yes, Salome speaks EXCELLENT English… it was one of her certificates!)
The very old women, in particular, were so grateful and excited over water coming soon! One of them bought me an ARMLOAD of fresh spinach, as a way of saying thank you. I carried it down the mountain, hot and tired from the heat but happy in my heart, to share the gift with boarded students at Kishumundu School.