Today was an ADVENTURE! We went to Kilimanjaro Animal Resuscitation Farm! I tried rosella juice for the first time (tangy yet sweet and refreshing.) I was close to a mongoose, beautiful birds I couldn’t even imagine existed including the secretary bird, a beautiful stork of some sort, and two other birds that look like old people. We saw a black bird that looks like a black eagle and owl with a mohawk, we saw a warthog we called Pumba, a bushpig, and beautiful horses, one horse bit my coat. We saw a donkey, I empathized with because I remember a quote I think from Zora Neale Houston, “Black women are the donkeys of the world.” I now beg to differ though, I understand. I saw rabbits, and a syke monkey, I met a baboon named Montel. I went on a real hike, I saw a waterfall for the first time in person, under a batcave, and a lizard that looked like an alligator called the monitor lizard. I tiptoed a large fallen tree bark as long as the one in the Jungle Book movie. A baby baboon attempted to groom my hair tied up on top of my head in a scarf, and the lunch meal, especially the pumpkin soup, was to die for. We met two girls on our trip, interning in Tanzania. An Australian woman named Hanna talked to us about gender disparity and witchdoctors. I wore the feathers of a guinea fowl like a queen today, and all was well. Today, I lived life to the fullest and I have pictures to prove it! Pictures of the memories I pray to God I won’t forget.
The past two days have been overwhelming and full of so many different emotions. I’m exhausted by how much I am feeling. So much love. So much of me using alot of my energy and coming out of my shell in order to play and make the children happy. I wonder how they see me? I wonder if they know they CAN in fact be like me? I don’t want to make any assumptions about how they feel. I know children feel naturally nervous but I wonder if they think I am some gifted being. I hope that I’m inspiration, instead of some idol impossible to reach. I hope that I am proof that each one of them matters and that each one of them can grow to be anything they want to be, and that I can give them the love they need to grow into loving, passionate, human beings. I know I’m not going to change the whole world overnight but at least I’ll make a difference. Being with these young girls helps me realize more and more that I want to be the embodiment of black female empowerment. I want to help produce more black female representation. I will use theatre to the best of my abilities to do that. I will use all the energy I have to give all that I got and MORE. I want to know MORE, I want to be able to DO more. Going on this trip again was even more of what I needed. God made this trip happen for a reason. This will help me grow for the rest of my life. This will prep me into senior year. There were more stories I heard told today, not just from Mama Lynn, but from people in my cast. We helped sand and paint windows at Mama Lynn’s today, while listening to music and dancing with Johnson and Agnes! It was such a great time. And honestly, it opened my eyes much more to seeing disabled people as more than just “disabled,” but who are equally needed the love and attention as everyone else…it made me wonder why I’m not like this at home. Also being surrounded by people in my cast like Hailey and Karina, who are absolutely loving selfless beautiful people. Also, playing with the children today forced me to break out of this shell, I get into when I’m in uncomfortable situations. It forced me to put myself aside, in order for the children to also put their nervousness aside. Dancing with them and finally getting them to open up as well as play games with them was soul-feeding. Seeing them happy, I feel inspired. Also, our rehearsal today went so well! We further discussed sexual corruption, which has clearly affected our cast. I hope that we can create a piece sharing the voices of these women who have experienced sexual corruption, in a way that keeps the audience thinking, and gets our audience talking. Only time will tell.
It is my first morning at Mama Lynn’s orphanage, in Moshi, near Mount Kilimanjaro. Our last days in Bagamoyo have definitely prepared me for the adventure to come. Wednesday, we had our last Dance and Mask workshop with elders followed by a lunch at Nashe’s again, and an informal interview on the corruption of witch doctors and woman’s rights in Tanzania. She was so nice and we learned so much about her. She was truly a phenomenal woman. I then found a magnificent painting for my mother of an abstract profile of an African woman. Afterwards, there was a playwriting workshop on the beach that was very informative, followed by a break on the beach, and a wonderful dinner with live music. The bonfire with a drum and my marimba, was the perfect way to end the last night in Bagamoyo. The next day was a 10 hour drive to Mama Lynn’s Light in Africa. I watched Lion King for the first time since I was a child, which was inception because we are in the country Lion King is loosely based. The night we arrived, we were welcomed with a warm delicious meal, and free STRONG WiFi. Mama Lynn told us a number of stories including the dream she had holding a dying baby that was a sign from God telling her to start an orphanage here in Tanzania. She left her family and came here willingly accepting children with severe disabilities and HIV/AIDS. She told us we were a miracle after over a year of no volunteers because of the spread of Ebola virus which didn’t even affect Tanzania…people just lump Africa into one country. She even told us the story of why she took all of her children out of the local government schools: corporal punishment, and her children being beaten because of Mama Lynn’s resistance. She also told us the story of a boy who was kicked out of his house, and very hungry, who waited five days outside of her gates to come in. Another, watched his mother get murdered by his father, another was told he wouldn’t survive and ended up living because of her. Another, was a girl, found tied up to a tree in a cage when they found her, and after Mama Lynn cared for her and potty-trained her, the mother came to the orphanage two years later, trying to take the child back. Later, they discovered that the grandmother and mother were going to sell her into sex trafficking. Mama Lynn teaches her children English, good work ethic, leading them to be educated successful citizens of their society. She never accepts bribes and she never asks for donations, she believes receives them by the grace of God. She’s passionate, full of love, and admirably crazy. Being in her presence and seeing what she does for these kids and adults, and even her dogs and animals, reminds me that with faith ANYTHING is possible. This is only the beginning and I look forward to the rest of my time here.
P.S. “You can’t hate someone whose story you know.” -Unknown
Today, we had another dance and music workshop with TaSuBa. We basically learned the traditional songs and dances for the preparation of marriage…so basically we learned how to twerk. Getting used to the different count rhythm and beat rhythm of African dance is weird because alot of our music is in counts of four but its helping me to develop my dancing ability while also letting go and having fun. We also had a mask workshop with the elderly from the village of Matemwe, and learned about mask spirits and traditional mask dance. The food today was amazing as always here in Bagamoyo, and I finally found a dashiki for my dad and a cool musical instrument for myself-the marimba. Today, we began our devising process by interviewing people in the town about government corruption, homeless children, and AIDS. We met a man in particular in the process of creating a 400 page comic book about a Tanzanian superhero who rids the country of corruption. It was awesome. Later, we each had to create a poem and a movement piece to go with it in groups of two. I created a piece about witchcraft/witchdoctors on the beach, and how many witchdoctors manipulate women in order to have sex with them. We did it in the middle of a beach bonfire in a ritualistic fashion. Other pieces created were also about witchcraft, and homeless children…this devising process seems to be going in a specific direction. We can only wait and see…
Yesterday was a brain overload full of fascinating discoveries, enjoyable art, and a total exploration of the senses. We have made it to the city of Bagamoyo, meaning “lay down your heart.” The coast of the city was the last place East African slaves saw before being shipped off to the Middle East. My ears were fed with the lyrics and melodies of the beautiful Swahili music and drums played by a woman shining with bright pink and blue. My touch was soothed by the Indian Ocean’s tides, a seashell that screamed my name, and sand that never wanted to be forgotten. My sight was entranced by the sun’s beautiful sister, the moon, that transformed from a large pink to a bright yellow, until it was just a small yet exquisite white moon, shining a spotlight above its waters. My sight caught the attention of the cool, local designed shirt I bought the love of my life, and the historical sites of the East African slave trade of the East. My taste was stimulated by the most delicious, African food. Sweet plantains and fresh calamari, prawn masala and fresh papaya. Doing the African Dance Workshop was so much fun and very communal, and freeing, and I see where hip hop dance originated. On the village tour of Bagamoyo, I discovered that Africa was composed of mostly matriarchal societies until the introduction of Islam and Christianity to the continent. The female leader by the name of Mwanamakuka of the Mwanamwezi tribe, in particular, was a queen I wish to learn more about. We also talked more about witchcraft, government corruption, sexual corruption, and gender disparity in Tanzania, which lead to a night of cast bonding and a truly fun time. I look forward to seeing what this journey leads to.
Today we visited Parapanda Theatre, the only successful theatre company in Tanzania, and had a Theatre for Development workshop lead by Dr. Mona, in which we did an exercise where we talked to the faculty and students and looked around the theatre department space, finding hypothetical solutions for their many real issues. It soon turned into us listing problems to the Head of the department which, one of the students during a previous interview claimed didn’t care enough or listened to them at all. Dr. Mona played us. But at the end of the day, I guess we had the privilege to come in and our words as one of the road managers, Jackson said, would go a long way. She was doing what she needed to do to get the Head of the department to finally take action. Afterwards, we went to lunch on the campus, and I tried ugali for the first time. I ate it with fresh cut mango and avocado, and it was by far the best avocado I’ve ever had. We returned to Parapanda for a Creative Technique Workshop but instead we received, a long drawn out slideshow of the history of Parapanda from one of the founders of the department. We all felt terribly for frequently falling asleep and not being engaged the whole time, and we realized that he probably put alot of effort into the presentation,yet it was not what we were expecting. One thing I did learn was that the passion of theatre can be so strong that it conquers all with hard work; however monetary needs and government corruption can truly stifle the growth of a nation. The arts are much more necessary than people know. It’s needed for survival, intellect, community and growth. It saddens me that Parapanda Theatre never reached sustainable success but it gives me hope that it hasn’t completely died. I guess inspiration doesn’t always come from success…
I sit in my canopy mosquito shielded bed as I listen to the digital-sounding bird of the African night. All else is quiet. My impossibly thick Marley twists sit neatly atop my head like a crown, balancing as if I was African royalty carrying the weight of the family’s necessities. I told myself I wouldn’t get in the beach today- an alluring 3D view that called my name… I refused to suffer the consequences. And I kept my promise. Instead, I couldn’t resist the pool. The water cool enough to soothe my sunburnt pores but warm enough to play like a child in the streets of a New York summer. The water was perfect. I had to get in. I had to swim. I had to splash. I’m three Kilimanjaro beers deep as we play Marco Polo in the shallow end. I use others as my shield…I still get caught twice. Who knew I could still have so much energy after I danced every drip of my sweat under the firelit moon to the beats of our ancestors now evolved into modern dancehall music. The arches of our feet calling through the earth, our kindred spirits…we dance in a circle, a ritualistic celebration. We are here together, under the burning moon. The sun is so bright that when it is no longer visible, the moon immediately makes its debut as if to say, “Did you miss me? I was never really gone.” Americans of every shade all attempt to mimic the dance moves of the Tanzanian performers we watched before dinner, while also adding our own spice. The spice of the potato salad was the perfect kick. Best potato salad I’ve ever had. One of the best days I’ve ever had. When I think of summer, I’ll think of this: carelessly dancing under the sun’s moon, various cultures blending into one, like a papito, the African people, the fruit, we Americans, the ice, and this land, our coconut shell. We spoke in two different languages with the same rhythmic tide. At the Dar es Salaam orphanage this morning, I was Simba, and we all Twende’d and we “Jina lango ni Daryl. Na wewe ni nani” and we were crocodiles, and fish, and took imaginary photos, and “tano”ed. At the KCC community center later on that day, they contoured their bodies, while also contouring our minds, and i got the COOLEST PANTS EVER. They look like a lion’s favorite gear. We talked about traditions and future endeavors through the past and present. I feel an overwhelming force of gratitude sweep me to a level pure contentment. I am here.