August 10: The mile or more from Ayalagaya School to Ufani School took longer to walk than usual this afternoon after Tumaini stepped on Marianne’s foot.
“She told me she was sorry,” Marianne said, “but she has a good sense of humor. She laughed while she was apologizing. She’s big, so it hurt.”
Right after lunch, Tumaini had hugged us when we bumped into her near the little hut where she and nine or ten other women take turns making fuel-efficient, smoke-reducing cooking stoves out of clay. Sifaeli Kaaya, the local farmer who supervises our construction projects and also translates for us, says that the women’s handmade stoves burn more wood and emit more smoke than do the StoveTec rocket stoves which Karimu (www.karimufoundation.org) supplied for two hundred village households last year. These village women are not trained engineers, of course.
However, their stoves represent a great advance over open fires and their business brings money to the local community, while helping to support the women’s own families. Tumaini and her friends make the stoves in two different sizes, with the smaller one costing three dollars and the bigger one five dollars.
Marianne had forgotten about the injury to her foot by the time our annual meeting with the teachers of Ufani School ended, late in the afternoon. The meeting went well and finished on a high note when we handed over $500 for purchase of a laptop and modem, having already agreed that the teachers would soon receive $260 to make a modest start on the community farm project.
We also discussed professional development for the teachers, which, in rural Tanzania, often means simply finishing a Bachelor’s Degree. Karimu had never contributed more than $1,000 to professional development in any previous year. But Ufani School’s steady upgrading and the dreams provoked by talk of the laptop have encouraged more of the teachers to take an optimistic view of the future. Five of the seven teachers want to take courses this year, so Karimu has set a goal of raising $1,500 to wire to them before October. That will cover three quarters of the total cost, with the teachers pledging to come up with the other twenty-five percent out of their own meager salaries.
We had also decided, earlier in the day, to make an immediate grant of $1,340 to the local public health clinic for purchase of a motorcycle. Before, the nurses had suggested a bajaji, a motorcycle with a sidecar attached, but in the end they decided that many of the dirt paths on which they would need to travel are too narrow for a bajaji.
Head Nurse Martina Hando has even had a change of heart about the motorcycle: she promises that she will learn how to operate it. Apparently, one of the more respected men in the village convinced her that she would not look foolish doing so as a mature woman, since her purpose would have nothing frivolous about it. (And perhaps, in time, she will come to enjoy riding, and to admit that she enjoys it.)
A day that had been interrupted by a crushed foot looked like it would end with a different kind of bodily harm when Justine Sokoitan taught our volunteers about the ways of his people, the Masai. Justine, who runs the simple but comfortable Integrated Agricultural Training Center where we stay, just ten minutes’ walk from Ufani School, is an example of a “city Masai”: he is monogamous and a Lutheran. On one night during every Karimu visit, however, he wears his tribal robes into the dining hall, where he talks about traditional Masai practices and beliefs and also dances with us.
The dancing is strenuous but easy to learn, since it amounts to little more than competitive vertical leaps. Justine is of medium height and on the heavy side. He had no chance of winning the jumping competition either this year or last, when one of our volunteers has been Londale Theus, a trim, six-foot-six recent graduate of California State University at Long Beach, where he played a year of basketball.
Although Justine is a favorite of our volunteers every year, tonight he was in an especially generous mood. He offered to use his Masai knife to circumcise our Welsh friend Sebastian, one of the Inspire Worldwide (http://www.inspire-worldwide.com) leaders who looks after the volunteers so that Marianne and I can focus on our planning meetings with the villagers.
After the dancing ended, Justine vanished from the dining hall. But he came back a few minutes later, dressed, as usual, in a T-shirt and blue jeans.
“I heard that some crazy Masai man came in here,” he deadpanned. “Do you know where he went?”
Incidentally, Sebastian did not accept Justine’s offer.