What do you do with a Tanzanian baby tooth?

20170212_183858Earlier in the day, Salma had opened her mouth wide and wiggled one of her teeth with her finger.

“It’s going to fall out soon!” I exclaimed and she nodded excitedly.

Later, she was sitting beside me in prayer and suddenly started poking my arm vigorously. I looked over and the tiny white tooth was in her hand and she was smiling from ear to ear.

“Your tooth!” I said too loudly before covering my mouth and whispering, “It fell out.” She was so excited that she started tossing it from hand to hand playfully. Before too long, it had accidentally been launched forward under the dress of a smaller girl, who was sitting on the ground in front of her. Salma’s face dropped into fear and I stifled a laugh. The girl, being aware of what had just happened, lifted her dress off the ground, but it wasn’t there and instead the girl suddenly launched herself to her feet trying to shake the tooth off of her dress.

I cannot convey to you what happened next as I was at this point in the story, closing my eyes with my hand covering my face trying not to lose control of my laughter mid-prayer. Needless to say, the tooth was recovered and only caused a slight commotion – when I did finally open my eyes only a third of the room was looking at us.

Later I asked her what she would do with the tooth and she told me she’d throw it on the roof. I thought it must be a miscommunication, so I asked one of the older girls. This is the conversation that followed:

Jeff: What do little kids do when they lose a tooth?

Emma: They throw it on the roof.

Jeff: Why?

Emma: So they grow a new, bigger one.

Jeff: Well, that’s weird. In Canada and the USA, a fairy comes.

Emma: A fairy?

Jeff: Yeah. A fairy comes, takes the tooth, and leaves you money.

Emma: What does she do with the tooth?

Jeff: Hmmm… we don’t really ask those questions…
It was a funny little conversation. I thought it was strange to throw your baby tooth on the roof, but was quickly shown how strange our own customs are if you think about them even for a minute from an outsider’s perspective.

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