Angels and Demons

One day last week, I heard beautiful singing emanating from one of the classrooms. It may have been the day when religious leaders come to the school to meet with the girls who are interested. The singing was so pretty it reminded me of angels and I started to get emotional about the fact I will be leaving Sega in a couple weeks (but not back home until end of May – more on that another time). Then on Sunday, the girls got to set up the stereo system so they could sing and dance to contemporary African tunes including bonga flava. Again, I love to listen to them and watch them dance.

Pilli dancing

Pilli boogies down

It’s tough to get photos in the big banda where they gather but I took a few and, while there, wiggled my own behind enough to make them laugh. I can’t seem to shake it the way some of them can but at least I’m not afraid to try.

Earlier last week, we had much excitement one night but of a different kind. I suddenly heard a lot of screaming and wondered what was going on. I thought maybe someone had seen a snake. It sounded as though the entire school of 150 girls was going crazy and it went on for quite awhile.

The next morning I found out that the girls had concluded one of them was possessed by demons and were running around screaming hysterically because of this. In this case, the girl in question is epileptic but other times it’s just someone acting crazy and falling on the ground. They did nothing to help the epileptic girl but instead made a huge scene and then left her to be cared for by the matron who is in charge at night. This behavior, strongly discouraged by the school, is apparently not uncommon in Tanzania, especially among girls. Despite trying to stamp it out by sending home any student who claims to be possessed, it continues. I call it the “demon of ignorance” because like many other beliefs people hold here, it is a byproduct of superstition and does nobody any good.

My bathroom at the hotel. No bucket baths here!

My bathroom at the hotel. No bucket baths here!

To shift topics ever so slightly, this past weekend, I decided to splurge and attend a fancy St. Patrick’s Day Ball for expats in Dar es Salaam. I’ve done ok living a nun-like existence with no hot water, showers, or various other comforts but it wears after awhile so now and then it helps to treat oneself.  The hotel Kilimanjaro in Dar, currently a Hyatt, gave us a special rate so I was tempted.

But before the evening got going, we had some excitement.  One of the other women attending from Morogoro, Pippy, a Canadian engineer who has been here with her family for two years, was pulled over by traffic police in Dar.  She ended up losing her temper and shouting at them, landing her in jail. She managed to get sprung after about 4 hours and made it to the event but this provided all of us with something to talk about, though it didn’t help get her into party mode.  Unlike Pippy, I had time to hang out by the pool for a couple hours in the afternoon and even use the air-conditioned gym (first time in Africa).

Me and Pippy

Me and Pippy

The event attracted about 250 people and was a lot of fun. Before the bands started to play, we were treated to Irish dancing by a group of Irish girls and teens and they were fantastic. The music and dancing are both so happy!

I wore a dress that Pippy had bought at the Saba Saba market in Morogoro where clothes, most of them used castoffs from the U.S., are strewn across tables and the ground in huge piles (read giant flea market). Pippy and Polly had gone shopping there to find appropriate attire for this event and Pippy bought five dresses for 1000 shillings (70 cents) each. You can’t try anything on so just have to hope. She found one she liked among the five and brought a couple others to Dar to see if I wanted to wear one. I chose the purple satin, too big for me so I looked like I was in a shiny potato sack but good enough, and away I went like Cinderella.

Julie (with gold gloves) and Polly

Julie (with gold gloves) and Polly

It was an evening drenched with champagne, wine, Guinness, and Irish whiskey. We danced until we dripped and then staggered to bed in the wee hours of the morning. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that so I was glad I went even though I may or may not be able to claim Irish ancestry. I think there was some on my mom’s side but couldn’t prove it.


5 thoughts on “Angels and Demons

  1. Good on you April for enjoying St Patricks day in style .You deserved it —-and the dress looks very Parisian and “haute couture” .

  2. April: glad to see your living it up! I agree with Ashok’s comments. You could wear a potatoe sack and look great!

  3. April,

    On Christmas Eve in 1980 my new bride Susan and I were at the 12,000 foot camp on our way up Kilimanjaro.

    I migrated to the porters cabin and spent one of the most enchanting evenings of my life listening to them sing African songs including Africanized Christmas carols around the fire in the middle of the circle.

    I can still hear the voices and the warmth of the fire.

    And am still aware of a depth of feeling beyond my present knowing.


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