25th October 2010
At 7am, AH and I go on a village walk with „Never“ who sometimes also calls homself „Neval“. And then of course he has an English name and a traditional African name that is linked to him coming from a small family. (I meet several locals who claim to come from small families. Wonder whether there is a link with HIV. „Never“ claims that 8% of the 4,000 villagers are currently infected.)
It takes about 45 mins to walk along a dirt track to the heart of the village.
The village seems relatively prosperous.
Each family has a plot of land to grow casava. Casava grows all year around here. The whole plant is used. The leaves are cooked like spinach, the stalk is replanted to grow the next plant and the root is soaked for 3 days, ground in huge mortars and then turned into a kind of porridge.
Chicken are truly free-range throughout the day, but at night they live in a wickerbasket on stilts. They get inside by walking up a tree trunk, which is afterwards removed. This harkens back to the time when hyenas would come for the chickens.
Fish is abundant too, so people have another source of protein.
Many of the houses are built of bricks, and there are a lot more building projects planned, judging by the amount of bricks that are piled up everywhere.
The villagers do their washing in the lake, but have waterpumps for clean drinking and cooking water, making the women's job that bit easier.
The women seem to be busy from dawn to dusk, whereas the men appear to have adopted a more relaxed lifestyle. They may just go out for a spot of fishing or tending the field early in the morning, later brew some banana beer or play the bao game.
There is an air of „Hakuna Matata“ („No worries.“), despite the obvious issues in the village.
The primary school caters for 1,500 pupils. They only have 10 teachers, so a class of 120 is considered small.
The younger children all sit on the floor in their neat white and blue uniforms. The classroom is packed.
The whole system can only work with discipline and respect for authority. (I thought some boys outside school had been bunking off, but am informed that they have been sent home because they were late for class. Now they are scared of punishment and want to hang around until their classmates finish school.)
There is 1 doctor in the local clinic and already around 100 people waiting to be seen, mainly women with their young children.
The only special provision in the maternity ward seem to be mosquito nets. Most villagers could probably not afford the US$7 to buy one.
A young mum, beamingly shows us her newborn son. Many women and babies still die in childbirth, so her joy may partly reflect the relief that they both survived.
Outside the clinic, another bunch of women waits for the children to be weighed. The scale hangs from the branch of a tree and the children (some are already about 2 or 3) are wrapped in a cloth and then hung on the scale.
We make our way back along the same dirt track. I am already exhausted, and it's just after 9.
Yet the women make it look so easy and natural to carry water canisters, food, washing or bricks on their heads in this flimmering heat. It's as if the loads are no more of a burden to them than the fancy oversized hats the ladies wear at Ascot.