“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

After the youngest daughter came home a few days ago with beautiful henna on her hands I complimented her on it and started asking about the art form and the cultural significance. I had discussed this before with an Indian teacher friend of mine in the States but wanted to see the similarities and differences here in Tanzania. Life and art and the fusion of the two fascinate me.

Their daughter’s friend does it for her and they often decorate their hands and feet for special occasions like weddings or other celebrations. The next day when she came home from school she told me her friend was coming over “bado” (later) to do my hands for the celebration of our new home. After about 2 hours of her diligent freehand work here is the result. She used henna dye, an old plastic bag and tape to make a tube, a razor blade (to cut the bag not me), and a pin from her head covering. Pretty amazing, huh? She actually did both my hands and both feet.

The best part was that Baba and Mama let me out of dish washing duty so not to mess up my beautiful henna šŸ™‚ I did also get to attend a wedding last night which was an amazing cultural experience so my henna fit right in (although my wardrobe did not except that their daughter fixed a head covering for me from one of my scarves. I now know I need to save some money to get a dress as the women wear incredibly colorful and elaborate dresses for weddings and I was a bit under dressed. Since I hope to attend more weddings in the near future and because I had about 5 minute warning that we were attending this wedding I am not counting on time to pick out a dress later I will venture out soon to find a suitable dress.) We said goodbye to the family today but they said the day we move into our home (they are still fixing a few things so we are staying with friends) they will come over to help clean and bring pilau for a celebration dinner to mark the occasion. It is a blessing to have made some friends here and they treated us like family while we were in their home. I have a lot to lean about hospitality. They also took me out shopping two mornings and helped us get a ton of stuff for our house at a non-Mzungu price. Baba kept yelling at the merchants saying in Kswahili “she is not Mzungu (white) she is my daughter.” It was so awesome to spend the time with them, see where they shop around the island, and of course our cheap selves love a great deal! We exchanged gifts today and we gave them a coffee mug (to keep their tea hot since they admired ours) and the framed photo I posted of the twins with their Mama and Mama F. They loved it and also gave us tons of veggies and fruits, some of these amazingly yummy peanut bars, and a jar of the home-made hot sauce. Mama also gave me a kanga that means blessing to you (a bit more appropriate then my enemy one). She also told me that after I master the recipes she already taught me that I must come back to learn more. We are really going to miss them but we exchanged numbers and as we told them “we know where you live so we will be back.” Sharing their everyday life with them was something I will never forget and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, be stretched, and grow, while we were there.

a few more pictures from the last week

Baba & Jason

Anni’s favorite mode or transport

Anni rides Baba’s vespa

  1. Anonymous says:

    Such pretty hands! You will have to send a picture of yourself all gussied up in your new dress-I am sure it will be ravishing :). So cool how your host family was so hospitable and helped you with getting stuff, I loved the story about Baba arguing with the vendor!

  2. Anonymous says:

    i love that, “she’s not white, she’s my daughter.” does mzunga mean white, really, or more western/american/european? I think it’s great that family affection is more important than race. a good lesson!your hands are beautiful, and i’m excited for your shopping. your story reminds me of something a friend of mine told me about living in senegal, that she was shocked to realize that a bra was sort of a fashion accessory, and that it should MATCH your outfit, and you should make sure that it SHOWED. love it! the world is a crazy wonderful place.love to you and all.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sarah- I actually looked Mzungu up today (once I finally located a Kswahili dictionary) and Mzungu means European but the interesting thing is that mzungu means either cleverness or an unusual thing. SO I guess no matter what definition you ue I am indeed mzungu šŸ™‚