I don’t know if I mentioned this in my last post, but it’d be good to reiterate anyway: it is officially the dry season here in the Southern Highlands. One day, it just stopped raining, and it hasn’t started up again since. Abrupt, but I’m okay with that. I’m guessing I’ll tire of the dry season eventually. It gets quite dusty and windy. Plus, to generalize, because there are really only two long seasons here where I live – rains, or no rains – anyone from the Northeast of the US would tire of each season long before its end. I can remember growing up in the NE, feeling the impatience for the next season to arrive, especially when winter would linger in a dirty slushy tease. And then, who didn’t want autumn to arrive?…
It has been a melancholy morning this Saturday as I listen to slow and somewhat dark music, now on to my second cup of Earl Grey. But sometimes melancholy is a subtle form of happiness. That’s what it is for me at the moment. I am waiting for a friend to arrive to help me fix my bafu and choo – bathing room and toilet. Perhaps you remember from my entries about a year ago that I rather dislike my choo… It’s a very small hole to hit while perched atop two large blocks of cement. I’m going to try to work with my friend to fashion a more outhouse style choo. We’ll see. As for the bafu, it’s just a matter of redoing the floor so that it drains and is no longer an ideally cracked habitat for mushrooms to flourish. I hope he arrives at some point today so we can start workin.
I recently replanted my permagarden, and set up my drip irrigation kit. A fun activity, and it seems to be working well! I have yet to plant the whole thing, but so far I’ve planted more sweet corn from the states, kale, summer squash, green peppers, and ginger. I’ll probably also plant some spinach and other leafy greens to see if that works… A few of my tomato plants were still struggling to survive after I returned from travelling, so I saved them as best I could and have harvested four tomatoes thus far. Also, the one broccoli plant that struggled through the rains and lack of care during my travels is finally producing itself a tiny head! I wonder how long it’ll take to grow to a decent size (if it ever will – maybe I’ll just have to settle for one small bite of broccoli).
I have also been busy with my ECA (Environmental Conservation and Agriculture) Club at the primary and secondary schools. We’ve done two lessons these past two weeks: vertical gardening (hanging bottle gardens), and compost tea. The vertical gardens are very easy and pretty self-explanatory. We set up some nice beams to hang them from and put them close to the school’s water source to remind the students not to neglect their watering duties. I hope they work well! We planted mchicha (spinach) and mnavu (night shade) – some relatively resilient leafy greens to supplement their school lunches.
Compost tea is one of my favorite things. Wow, I sound like quite the agriculture nerd… I assure you, I’m not really. I don’t think I could ever be a farmer. I do enjoy small vegetable gardens, though. Anyway, to make compost tea, you take different organic materials and mix them into a gunia – a sack – any bag that air can pass through. Then you add some stones to weigh it down, tie it to a fimbo – a sturdy stick – and put it into a bucket of water (not totally full). You need to cover it, and to mix it once every day for two weeks by simply lifting the bag up and down in the bucket for aeration.
The nutrients slowly leave the organic material and remain in the water. For Nitrogen you can add dried fish, chicken manure, peanut shells, wheat meal, tea/coffee grounds, and leaves, ideally from leguminous plants or trees. For Phosphorous you can add fish waste, chicken manure, and banana, cucumber, and citrus skins. And then for Potassium you can add wood ash, leguminous plants, potato or other tuber waste, and banana, cucumber, and orange skins again.
After the two weeks, you can remove the giant tea bag you’ve made, and can use the “tea” to irrigate your garden. It’s very important to mix one cup tea to four cups regular water, as it can be a potent concoction. And then water into the soil, rather than getting the tea on the leaves of the plants. This process is known by some as “fertigation” – “ferti-“ for fertilizer, and “-gation” for irrigation.
Before getting busy with all these ECA lessons, I spent the weekend after our AIDS awareness bonanza back in Chris’s village for his going-away sherehe (celebration). It was quite the event, and quite obvious how much his villagers love him. They wrote songs for him, danced, the theater group that Chris led did a final performance, people gave him some gifts, there was abundant food, and to wrap up the day a giant truck full of people made it to the dam to swim (or to watch others swim) – Chris’s favorite activity. And even more wanawake (women) made it in this time!
I will miss going to hang out with Chris in his village, and the walk there and back. I suppose I can always enjoy the three hour journey to or from, but there’s slightly less incentive without a fellow volunteer at the other side. I’ll just have to visit some of Chris’s friends in the vil. Here are some pictures from the peaceful walk…
Next week I will be heading to town for LOTS of work on my computer and the internet, and then on to Iringa for a regional Peace Corps conference. It’ll be a fun weekend. After that, I’ll just have a few days back in the village before heading to Dar es Salaam to … drum roll … collect my parents! They’ll be here for 13 solid days. We’ll spend some time in my village, will go on a safari up North in Ngorongoro CA and Serengeti NP, and then will relax on Zanzibar for a few days. Wish us a safe journey! Hopefully all will go well. After that grand adventure, it’ll be mid-June, and then, well, then it will be mid-June… Oh time… And now, some final pictures.
A few skyscapes, taken at my house…
At work in the garden on a beautiful evening.
No caption needed.