A 12-Mile Hike for Cookies

We love our new village, but it has a slight problem.

During our training in Dodoma, we could buy sodas, biscuti (cookies), and candies wherever we went at local corner stores.

Not so in our new home. We’ve only found four stores so far, and none of them sell cookies.

Let’s repeat that: NONE OF THEM SELL COOKIES!

As sugar-addicted Americans, this is a problem. Even worse? None of these stores sell shelf-stable margarine, so we can’t make our own cookies.

Obviously, solving this problem was our top priority during our first week as Peace Corps Volunteers.

A Tanzanian would ride a motorcycle taxi to the next village over to go shopping. We aren’t allowed to ride motorcycles because they crash frequently.

So we did the only reasonable thing and set off on a 6-mile hike in search of margarine.

Since Njombe is beautiful, exploring our surroundings made the hike go quickly.

Wildflowers border the road for most of the walk:

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Potato fields abounded:

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We tried not to stare into the dark heart of the lumber forest:

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As we approached town, schoolchildren followed us:

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In town, we bought fresh milk, two tubs of margarine, and basins for washing dishes and produce. We saw our VEO, the Village Executive Officer, eating lunch at the restaurant/milk store. He seemed impressed that we had walked so far.

However.

Tanzanians seem to have a low opinion of the physical abilities of Americans. We have been profusely complimented for:

  • washing our clothes
  • stirring porridge
  • scraping the flesh from a coconut husk
  • running for 20 minutes
  • and sweeping our bedrooms

So we aren’t sure if we were impressive by Tanzanian standards or just slacker foreigner standards.

On our way back, we ran into an elderly woman who tried to carry our backpack for us. Because we felt uncomfortable letting a 5-foot-tall, 70-year-old woman carry our groceries,  we distracted her by asking her how to turn Christina’s kitenge into a headwrap:

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Christopher directed this shot. His instructions: “Pretend you’re in a gospel video.”

We also met Ezekiel, a man with torn, dirty clothes. He remembered our names from the community meeting where we had introduced ourselves and invited us into his home for a much-needed rest. He insisted we take a bag of avocados and gave us a tour of his farm, which stretched from one major road across the valley to a second road. His livestock included pigs, which sell for more than the monthly minimum wage, and the most beautiful dairy cow we’d ever seen.

Ezekiel smiled uncertainly when Christina told the cow “umependeza!” (“you look nice/beautiful/good”) repeatedly. When we told him we had bought milk in the adjacent village, he laughed. Why did we walk all the way over there instead of just visiting him?

When we left, clutching our gift of avocados and promising to return when we needed more milk, it was clear we had misjudged Ezekiel. His torn attire, which we had initially mistaken for poverty, was simply practical. Why wear new clothing when you’ll be spending all day sweeping muck, harvesting rows of corn, and climbing avocado trees?

Overall, we don’t know how far we walked. Our neighbor said the village is an hour and half away (it’s more like three hours at a brisk American pace). Someone else told us it’s 9 kilometers, and a third person said it’s 6 kilometers. Google Maps doesn’t have either village in its data banks.

However far we went, it was worth it.

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Chocolate oatmeal peanut butter no bakes.

So, so worth it.

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