Some of my favorite memories involve gathering at the table for 4’oclock Tea Time.There is something special about the soothing taste of honey lemon Chombe tea and the delicious fresh baked bread bought from the local bakery; but mostly, the best part of Tea Time is the company that joins at the table, or on the porch, or under a tree to share stories and laughter.
At Mtendere, there are 16 house mothers, and I am almost always tempted to plan my visits to each house mid afternoon so I can slip in just in time for Tea Time. Mama Ruth usually has a bowl of popcorn kept away to treat the kids as they trickle in from afternoon classes. Occasionally, Mama Kita has her little mbaula-stove smoking away as she boils some milk to make some creamy sweet tea. As you approach Mama Alice’s house, you could smell the savory aroma of roasted sweet potatoes and right next-door Mama Loveness will be tenderly fixing some slices of bread for her little ones. Across the campus, you could hear Mama Naomi ardently calling in her older boys as she fixes them a treat she had hidden away all day. You can find Mama Eunice showing off her amazing baking skills as she bakes her yeast scones outside in the sun while little gleaming eyes and watery mouths eagerly linger around her. Bless Mama Loyce; her Tea Time is very unpredictable. Mama Loyce has a handful of little energetic boys, and almost without fail, she will be trying to straighten them out while hollering at them to wash their grubby little hands and feet before they enter the house.
During this whole time, as school breaks off and the children walk back home or play on the grounds, laughter and joy fills the air. There is an open invitation in each house to sit down together, to discuss and digest the day while we commune together and happily fill our bellies.
Tea Time fills my soul; it slows me down, reconnects me to the heart matters, and reminds me how special and unique each person at Mtendere is.
By Christina Govati