Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sunday stroll

To be honest, I never stroll! However, I thought I'd take you with me on a short walk I took this morning before lunch. The thunder was rumbling overhead and the air was heavy and oppressive, but though the sky was black over the mountains it was blue and sunny over town. I walked up the hill, through the woods to a point where I get a nice view of the mountain. Being the rainy season, everywhere is fresh and green and the scent of the eucalyptus trees fill the air. I didn't have my camera with me, but I captured a few snapshots on my phone of things I saw - the flowers and views were lovely, I saw beautiful butterflies too and also women returning from a busy morning of gathering wood jogging quickly down the path with huge bundles on their head that are probably heavier than their own body weight.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Back home

Settling back into life in Mbeya has been a rather bumpy ride, but now the way is smoothing out and life has fallen into some kind of pattern. This pattern involves a brisk and hilly walk to work from 7.45am – 8.15am (a good way to exercise and pray), a day in the office, a hot walk home and then a long evening that always seems to pass surprisingly quickly! If I’m home alone there’s food to be cooked, washing up to be done, correspondence to keep up with and people to Skype as well as ER to watch, music to write and listen to and books to read. Sometimes I have friends round – this week my landlady popped in for a bit, three Tanzanian colleagues came for a drink and cake one evening after work and another two a different evening. Today a Tanzanian friend is coming for lunch and tomorrow I’m going out for dinner with three missionary friends, so the weekend shouldn’t feel too lonely!

Thought I’d share a big cultural difference with you, one you may already be aware of but was brought home to me in a funny way this week. I was in the car with three Tanzanian colleagues (two men and a lady) and another missionary. The man in the middle put on his seat belt, which was rather loose on him, and said (loosely translated), “This belt is for Mama!” Mama is sitting in the front, and is somewhat on the large side. Can you imagine making a comment like that in England? What would the lady’s reaction be?!! However, they all considered it a perfectly acceptable joke, and if anything Mama took it as a complement. Here, when you describe people, you describe them by their size (the fat one, the tall one etc.) and to describe them as thin is something of an insult. My colleagues told me that if a lady is well rounded, people may even joke that she shouldn’t do hard work so that she doesn’t lose weight! As a nutritionist, I can’t say that fat is good, though it is better to be a bit overweight and fit than thin and unfit, however I wonder if our society can learn something from this attitude by becoming a little less obsessed with what we conceive as the perfect figure.