Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Market Day at Lyulilo, Tanzania

When you are at Matema Beach, on the northern side of Lake Nyasa, you will surely hear about neighbouring villages, especially Lyulilo and Ikombe. During a visit to Matema Beach, August 2, we decided to go to Lyulilo. We heard that it was market day. To get to Lyulilo, you can walk on the beach, or you can hire a canoe, as we did, for about ten dollars.

We had a smooth canoe ride.

As the minutes passed, we saw Lyulilo coming closer and closer. In a few minutes, we began to see people on the shore.

Soon we arrived at our landing spot, infront of the building on the left. From behind the building we heard music.

We went there right away and saw a group of people dancing and singing religious songs.

After watching this performance for a while, we turned back, into the main street. It was crowded with people.

This was indeed, market day. Coming to a place like this and buying anything, even if just a dozen bananas, let alone hiring a canoe, you know you are contributing to the local economy.

Lyulilo is famous as a pottery market. The pots are made at Ikombe, further up the shore. We did not get to Ikombe, but I plan to travel there next year. It should be quite an experience watching the potters at work.

The soda bottles on the left contain various types of local brew.

As usual, the sight of a white person in these remote places never fails to attract onlookers, especially the little kids, who are curious, in their own innocent way.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Iringa Regional Library

This year, during a brief stay in Iringa, Tanzania, I walked by the Iringa Regional Library several times. Seeing this building brought back fond memories of my days as a student at Mkwawa High School, 1971-72, in this city. I used to come to this Library regularly, alone or with friends who were fellow Mkwawa students.

This year, I could not resist the urge to take a photo of this Library which meant so much to me in my student days. I recalled the many hours I spent reading in this Library, which was well stocked with different kinds of books and other publications, including the latest. I recalled one of the librarians, John Simbamwene, a famous novelist who wrote in Swahili and whom I adored. He was a most gentle person, very well dressed all the time. Talking with him was always inspiring.

There were bookstores as well, not far from the Library, on the same street, and I used to visit them. It was a great time to be a student in Tanzania. As students, we knew what we were doing, and we worked hard. The teachers were well trained, knowledgeable, and conscientious.

Mkwawa High School was one of the best high schools in the country. To enter Mkwawa, you needed to be an outstanding student. Although entry into the University of Dar es Salaam, the only university in the country at the time, was very competitive, half of my Mkwawa graduating class got in. Many of my classmates went on to become distinguished scientists, diplomats, writers, civil servants, professors and so on. I like to think that this Library, modest as it appears, played a role in our lives.

This year, I did not just walk past this Library. I went in and took a look. Then I had a chance to talk with the lady at the reception desk. She struck me as a person who genuinely loved the Library. When she learned that I am a professor in the USA, she asked me to help the library with books, especially in the field of English. I am always delighted to have such conversations with people who want to foster positive change in our country.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

American Students at Mlimani Primary School

On August 26, as part of the Lutheran Colleges Consortium for Tanzania (LCCT) program, we visited Mlimani Primary School at the University of Dar es Salaam.

The LCCT program has a longstanding association with Mlimani Primary School. Students from LCCT institutions who study at the University of Dar es Salaam get the chance to teach and interact with teachers and students at Mlimani.

The Mlimani program started in the early nineties. After watching the LCCT program for a number of years, Mama Shoonie Hartwig, founder of the program, talked with Heribertha Mbele, who had been a teacher at the Mlimani School, about the idea of LCCT students doing some volunteer work at the school. The teachers at the school welcomed the idea, and that is how the program started.

The American students mostly teach English, under the guidance of the teachers. The program has worked rather well. This year, the school principal told me how much the program has meant for the school children. Learning English from native speakers is a valuable opportunity. In addition, through interacting with the LCCT students, the school children get used to white people.

A teacher took us on a tour of the school, visiting classes and looking at the buildings and the surroundings.

The LCCT students, on their part, appreciate the opportunity to broaden their study-abroad experience through working at the school. This has been a notable addition the LCCT program.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Memories of Matema Beach

From the first time I learned about Matema Beach, while planning an academic trip, I wanted to go there. The few photos and travelers' reports I saw online inspired me, although they suggested that the journey to Matema Beach was not for the faint-hearted.

I finally got there in August this year. To my surprise, the journey was not rough. It did not take us up and down or round steep mountain slopes. The imposing and scenic mountains are in the distance, and sometimes quite close, but the road follows level ground all the way. It is best, however, to hire a vehicle as we did in Mbeya.

Seeing is believing. When you finally arrive at Matema Beach, you realize what a lovely place it is, the kind of place one wishes to visit again and again.

Having been told to make meal arrangements in advance, I did call the Lutheran Center two days before our arrival. They prepared exactly what we ordered, and the cooking was marvellous.

From the Lutheran Center main building to the lake shore, you pass this little gift shop. Here you can buy African fabrics, post-cards, and various souvenirs. You can also get drinks here.

Because our schedule was tight, we only spent some hours at Matema Beach. If we had more time, we could have easily stayed overnight. The Lutheran Center has accommodation facilities such as the one on the left.

Apart from hanging out on the beach, a great way to enjoy a stay at Matema Beach is to go on a canoe ride. On another day, I will write about our canoe trip from Matema Beach to the nearby village of Lyulilo, famous as a pottery market.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Ngugi Seminar

My Ngugi seminar is already underway, having started on September 9. On that day, I introduced myself, the course, and my teaching philosophy. Today I started with an overview of Africa, the cradle of the human race, language and story telling, concluding with the evolution of modern African writing. At the very end, I talked about Ngugi.

Our first text will be The River Between. Just thinking about this novel brings back memories of my days as a secondary school student in southern Tanzania, when we used to read this and other works by Ngugi, Chinua Achebe, David Rubadiri, Legson Kayira, and other African writers. We also read such writers as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Daniel Defoe. We had, thereby, a rich and varied context for appreciating African literature.

Now, many years later, I look forward to revisiting The River Between and other works by Ngugi.
I am particularly keen on Wizard of the Crow, which I have not read before, and equally keen on exploring the intersection of African literature and politics that Ngugi exemplies so well.