So, I'm majorly behind on my blog posts (for various reasons). Sorry about that.
First off, it is COLD here! It's been cloudy, rainy, and cold, which is definitely not the picture I had in my head of equatorial Africa. My warmer clothes have definitely gotten a workout lately. We have to handwash and line-dry everything, which has been interesting when I'm constantly trying to wear the same clothes.
On Sunday (June 15), Alia, Michelle and I got our hair braided into a million tiny little braids at a hair salon in Arusha. Despite the fact that we had three women working on us (one working on each of us), it took from 9 AM to 1:30 PM (with no breaks) for them to finish. They tried to singe the ends of the braids to close them, but it didn't work on our hair. Then they tried tape, but that didn't work either. So in the end, all of us ended up with a million tiny little colorful rubber bands holding our braids. We look pretty ridiculous. It's been really nice not to have to wash my hair though, because later on Sunday evening we moved in with our homestay families.
My homestay mom is named Mama Mgaya, and I just call her "Mama" (as is custom here). She is probably the sweetest person I have ever met, and an amazing cook to boot. She runs a little restaurant under a tarp right outside her house. Each morning when I come downstairs around 7:15, breakfast (usually some combination of eggs, crepes, doughnuts, and bananas) and coffee are waiting for me on the table. When I return in the evening around 6, she makes me dinner and forces me to keep eating until my stomach is about to explode. I told her that everyone in America is going to be shocked when I return from Africa fatter than when I left (but seriously, it's going to happen). Her youngest son, who is 19, is in secondary school and still lives with her, and her sister arrived from Zanzibar last night. At the end of dinner last night I attemped to exclaim, "I'm full!" in Swahili ("Nimeshiba!"), but I managed to pick the wrong verb and instead exclaimed, "Nimechoka!" (I'm tired!). Mama and her sister were pretty amused by that. She keeps telling me, "I'm your mama now! You're my daughter! This is your home!" It's so sweet, and I really do feel at home and comfortable. There is running water but it's freezing cold, so I bathe at night with a bucket of hot water - that's why it's been nice to have my hair in braids, because obviously inside the house is just as cold as outside.
Here are the long-awaited (by some at least) pictures of the hair transformation: