So Many Ways To Die!
by Karen Wiggins or Mama Africa
Here we are in one of the poorest places in the world, Bunda Tanzania, Africa. In my seminar, we listed all the reasons the ladies and their family members might need to go to the doctor. This gave us an idea of the health problems of their villages. Writing them on the board, we could refer back to them later when we might come up with a solution to prevent it or to cure it later as we continue our Sanitation and Hygiene class. Looking at all the problems here on the board, I am saddened again as I think of all people here try to overcome to try to have a happy healthy life: Cholera, H.I.V./ Aids, T.B. Infections, Malaria, and other parasites--the lists go on seemingly forever.
I was called out of the class to be informed that our security guard would not be in today. His baby girl was killed when a wall in his house fell on her. I screamed and cried, “That is not on the list.” The list is enough. Just because we have such a long list, we do not get exempted from accidents. Just ask Jenni Silas. Her husband (who in an effort to avoid someone in the road as he rode his bike) fell down and was hit by a bus before he could get up a year ago. She was sitting in our class and she remembered that as well.
Amos’s little girl was not named yet. They do not name the babies right away because, “They may not stay”. His other little girl, Sussi, is just a little older. His two sons were in my English Class two years ago. Now all Amos’ family were very sad. Even with so much death here, we do not stop grieving because we are used to it. Every death hurts.
I told the class I would have to go while they ate lunch. All of the women understood why I had to go. The whole of the neighbors stop and come when a neighbor dies. They sit in the yard on rocks, in the dirt, on a log, under a tree or just anywhere. So as they waited for the fish to be ready with the ugali (corn bread dough), I drove to Amos’ house to sit on one of those rocks near his collapsed home with the other friends.
Just imagine filling a yahtzee cup full of dried beans. Throw those out on a dried plot of dirt. That is how the neighborhood planning is here. The beans are the houses and the little bit of dirt are the yards in-between the houses. The road is not next to the houses so I walk past all the neighbors greeting them yet too sad to stop and talk. I go in what I believe is a neighbor’s house and hug Amos. His whole body just shook as I held him. Going into the bedroom of this house I see the small casket that we bought. Next to it was Amos’s wife. She was unable to talk or cry or look at me. She was in shock and she just shook. Next to her was a small blanket. Someone pulled it back and it was the baby that I did not want to see. Her face was like something from pictures from the earthquake in Haiti. She had to be dug out of bricks even though the bricks were just dried mud, they were heavy enough to kill her.
Looking at the death scene I was just amazed. Amos’s old fallen house had had a room fall in a month ago. It was just an ant hill mountain looking thing of devolved bricks now. We have had so much hard rain here that the water rushing by each house made of sun dried bricks, just started devolving like sand castles when the waves come in from the bottom until the top crashes down.
Then I sat outside, thinking of it all. As I look around, all the women tried to think of funny things to whisper about. Some called my name. “Mama Africa” I greeted them and went back to my thoughts. Paul (our worker that came with me) broke the rules and came to sit with me near the women and away from the men. He was explaining as if I did not know, how people here co-operate with each other. Thinking how wonderful that is with maybe 75 people here just being here for Amos and his wife, my thoughts were interrupted by crowds of people screaming, “Wiizi, Wiizi!” A train of people running, screaming and snaking thorough the houses and through the wake of people. They were following a young man who stole something. Some of the people at Amos’ even got up to chase. I pray that they will not kill the thief.
I had to get back to my seminar, but Amos understood. I gave him our car and driver to go to bury his youngest daughter. Taking the taxi back home, I know too well where I live. I live in Bunda Tanzania in East Africa near Lake Victoria.