Can I stand on my head?
Can I walk on my hands (not underwater to which the answer would be yes) but on dry land?
Do I sleep all day and work all night?
I need to ask myself these things as I waken to another day in Tanzania, these are my reality check questions and the answers (so far) have been a resounding no.
Yet I live in an upside down world.
A world where the customer care techniques exhibited daily by the street peddlers of Moshi extends to showing you the way to places, anticipating your preferred reading materials, caring about your day and perhaps most importantly, remembering your name whilst you are but one in a sea of white faces to them. Yet the bright, clean, almost western style stores sell goods with little or indeed no concept of customer care, where the lounging store people are more interested in their mobile phone than the customer trying to haul a 10 gallon bottle of water off the shelf into her cart.
Which ones are most likely to have completed their education?
The ones “good at the job” or the ones “in the job?
A world where having no family income except the meagre pittance earned cleaning the homes of those more fortunate than they, produces a family of lone mama, three, four or five children and yet a dinner table of rice or ugali, vegetables and amazing bean stews which you MUST share and MUST go back for more.
A world where the sharing of things such as food and clothes is not even regarded as generosity and is as much a part of life as is breathing.
A world where you (as in me, as in the white foreigner) must swallow her worry of literally taking food from the mouths of babes and eat heartily and enjoy. My enjoyment is all the thanks required at the many tables such as this that I have eaten at.
A world where the most skilled sales techniques that I have ever witnessed in my many years in that arena are displayed daily by the street peddlers. From the polite and respectful Eddy with his ever charming assumptive close through to King Yen of the famous one liner “Aah England, Land of the fish and chips” (click on the link to read this story) whose gentle persistence and patience always ends with a superbly executed take away. Yet the lucky college graduates serving food and drinks in the high spots of mzungu eateries will answer an enquiry as to whether there is (rarity of all times) Coke Zero with “No.” Nothing more, nothing less, just no, and then as soon as your last sip is taken from the glass it is whipped away, the table cleaned in front of you and the bill laid down before you have a chance to consider what delight comes next.
You get my drift I think on this sunny Sunday morning in Moshi Tanzania.
I live in an upside down world where education is not a child’s right, but rather a golden egg that one must climb the beanstalk and fight the ogres to achieve.
An upside down world where attainment of that education by no means guarantees a job but it does guarantee the possibility for consideration and once in that job the need for caring about fulfilling the role of that job seems to disappear.
An upside down world where the Mary’s, Matilda’s and all the single Mama’s struggling to climb that beanstalk for their kids have taught me the true meaning of generosity and it has nothing to do with money.
An upside down world where I long to increase the topsy turviness and long to approach the owners of the said clean, white, bright store and the mzungu eateries, where hoards of educated young people relax on their mobile phones and ask those owners to experiment with me. Swap two of the aforesaid paid staff with Eddie and King Yen for a week and let us each monitor the results of them all as they each struggle with the daily work of the other.
Who will perform best in that week?
I live in a crazy upside world but I love it.