The morning sky is unusually clear today. The moon is setting like a smoke signal along the ridge, and Venus is completing her once-in-a-human-lifetime transit across the sun. I stayed up late reading; the heaviness of waking tempered by the generous coo of the wood doves and the enthused shrieking of the otherwise shy Coqui Francolin. The day stays sunny and cool; beautiful and not even particularly dusty.
I spent the morning in the program office pulling together an application for IRB approval. I thought that since I graduated I might be done with that, but since Andrew might be using my data for his Master’s Project, we need to go through it again.
After lunch we go exploring! Paolo drives me, Neo (short for Neovitus), Kelly, Shayo and Andrew all down to Loibor Siret. This district seat village lies along a flat part of the steppe. The earth is mottled fertile black and rich ochre, homes rise in walls of soil and roofs of thatch. Like tropical birds, the Maasai people move about their villages – the traditional shukas they wear are the deep purple of a ripe eggplant, blue like the mountains at sunset, scarlet like the macaw. The village itself is a series of quiet, low-slung buildings arranged around the town hall, marketplace and an open courtyard that holds (to my surprise) two pool tables. The girls giggle at us, the children wave, and others just stare – I see hostility in a few, curiosity in others, but for the most part they seem to just be looking for the sake of looking. So I look back.
We drop Kelly off at her Train the Trainer session, where she teaches a group of local people about how to educate villagers on condom use and HIV/AIDS prevention. Then we continue to the village center where Neo introduces Andrew, Shayo, and me to the village chairman, the district head, the village vice chairman, a nun who is starting the village’s only nursery school (it opens on the 16th!), and the head teacher.
Our main goal in going was to touch base with the different women who are in the women’s entrepreneurship program. I’ll be sure to do a blog post on that program when I’ve learned more about it. The women live in Loibor Siret and the subvillages of Kangala, Endepesi and Remangwa. Neo does all the talking in Swahili. My favorite is a woman named Mama (the Swahili equivalent to “Ma’am”, but less formal) Helena. She is extremely kind and everyone speaks of her with great respect. She scolded Neo for not calling before visiting, as she had nothing prepared for us, and then gifted us with a watermelon from her storeroom to make up for it.
Mama Helena is also the vice-president of a village council called Reto-o-Reto. This commission of leaders from the village was convened through the urging of APW and led through a strategic planning session by TNC. Reto-o-Reto will lead the village to tackle its biggest resource threats over the next five years. The initiatives deal with topics of water management, land conversion, rangeland management, wildlife protection, agricultural practices, education and poverty alleviation.
The task given to me is to help Reto-o-Reto with organizational development and to teach business skills to the women’s entrepreneurship group. One skill that I’ve been very grateful for is my ability to pivot (thank you, Fuqua!) and to design and implement with little guidance (thank you, summer in China!). There is a lot going on in any given day, and not necessarily in the established priority.
The day ends under a sky black as tar, with only the gem-like, lonely scatter of stars for company. There is no sign of the moon that rose so gloriously the night before, nor of the amber eyeshine of chirping bushbabies. Over a delicious dinner, Laly and Kelly tell funny stories of life in Tanzania. We laugh and laugh. Afterward I crawl into bed early, and fall asleep faster than I have in days.