In many ways, our engineer was crazy and messed up. He was still doing the job, but we had to breathe down his neck to keep him working. Yesterday, on market day, he disappeared to go drink. The pressure on us was crazy to get this done, and Moshi forced him back to work, so he wasn’t happy. Lerian, Innovation: Africa’s project manager, had left to work on another project for them, so we stayed on-site to keep the engineer on task. I often brought my computer, and Moshi and I would sit under a tree near the borehole and record the narration for the infrastructure video. Then, I would spend a few hours editing while neighbours who were walking their goats stopped to say hello, school kids passed by saying my name in their singsong voices, and Juma shot targets with his slingshot while I warned him not to hurt and eat the birds. Then, together, we would look and laugh at the videos as they were developed.
One of the young girls here, Nasma, helped to keep me sane. She was silly, fun, and trying to teach me Swahili. It was easy to be around her. Her story was that of a poor girl with no mom or dad, like so many other children here. I was teaching her to look into people’s eyes properly (especially men) and to stand strong when she spoke. She was so smart, but this culture holds down women. I went to her house to greet her grandmother, and I told her that this girl was so smart, and that it was important for her to stay in school. When the men tried to talk over her, I didn’t let them. I made sure that she and the other girls were always by my side so that I could set an example of how it felt to be respected and actually heard (although I rarely understood a word anyone was saying). I told them they could (and deserved to) ask for more. Who knew if they even understood; it was hard to illustrate respect with a picture drawn in the sand.
After so many stressful days, we decided to take a break to visit the Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings, discovered by Dr. Mary Leaky. They’re located in a series of caves carved into the side of a hill looking out over the steppe and are more than 1500 years old. The kids studied them in school but few had actually seen them, including Moshi’s family. They were only an hour away, and Moshi brought visitors there are all the time, but I couldn’t believe his family had never been.
We packed the car with chips, cookies, ice cream, and soda as treats for the day. Moshi’s kids (Samia and Sajedia), his wife, Miriam, Baraka, Shadia, and Juma all dressed up for the little excursion. The kids dressed in their best clothes, but I had to send them back to put on proper shoes so that they could climb the side of a mountain. Shadia was in tears because she didn’t have runners, so we sent Juma to the market to get her some, and Miriam borrowed mine, which were two sizes too big for her feet. Despite our efforts to get them to change, the children refused and stayed in their nice dresses. It was still Ramadan, but an exception was made for everyone to break the fast, except for Moshi who stuck to it. We climbed to the top of the mountain to see these ancient rock painting while Juma, acting as our official guide, showed the kids pictures they had only seen in books. This time, Moshi was the tourist getting to see the paintings with his family.
In addition to all of the junk food, we kept stopping the car to pick different fruits from the trees (the names of which I forget), and the kids found wild berries to eat on the hike up the mountain. We gave the girls souvenir bracelets as a reminder of our adventure.
We ended the day after sundown at a nice restaurant where we ate fried chicken, french fries, and drank soda. With greasy fingers and a full belly, we went to bed tired and happy.
I think Allah would approve.