Thursday, 22 December 2011

Tis the season of improv

Christmas time!!!!!!!!!! I’m amidst the preparation of my first Katesh Christmas. And it’s wonderful. It’s included decorating Justin’s house, making stockings, wrapping presents, making cards, and finger painting the shape of a xmas tree and “Merry Christmas” on huge pieces of paper. Being from the “Second City” I’m accustomed to improvisation, but being in Tanzania for the holidays has taken that idea to a different level.
Being in Africa for Christmas was a bit intimidating to think about at first. Perhaps to understand how the idea would be incomprehendable you’d first have to know how we usually celebrate xmas in Libertyville. Since all of my extended family lives at least 13 hrs away via car ride (and usually more…), it’s almost always just the 5 of us. Which I actually have really come to appreciate and love. We have had a lot of time and freedom to celebrate the holidays how we wanted and as a result of that, we’ve shaped our own (what I’d consider) unique traditions that I love repeating. Some of them aren’t all that unique and have persisted since who knows when such are going to Christmas mass the night before and on the way home going completely out of the way and driving around random neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. We always have our favorite neighborhoods to visit and have watched how some houses have evolved or devolved their decorating techiniques. Then, after xmas mass and lights, we open our first present of the season, our own xmas ornament which my mom picks out each year. Sometimes we get lucky and she can’t decide between two really great ones and we’ll get two. We put them on the tree before bed and, when we were kids, would then leave out the plate of cookies and milk for Santa. One tradition that started quite recently due to my acquisition of the idea after reading some xmas magazine is that of the pickle ornament. I bought an ornament shaped like a pickle and you hide it on the tree and then xmas morning the first person to find the ornament gets the extra gift that I picked out. I loved doing that each year despite the fact that finding gender neutral gifts is quite challenging. Another tradition that I started as a pre-teen was that of hiding everyone’s presents (the one’s from me at least) and then giving them clues in order to find them. This usually took a good hour of our morning and I loved seeing people circling the house as they dashed from clue to clue. Recently, I’ve abandoned this tradition and my sister happily and, albeit, more successfully, picked it up, constructing riddles and clues with much more ingenuity than I ever could muster. She’d even adapt them to each person’s strengths, like my Dad’s would be math based since is a computer engineer and I guess that means that he’s good at logic puzzles. A completely correct assumption.
While contemplating how to celebrate xmas here, I did a lot of reflecting on my favorite xmas traditions, including the ones listed above. And, I came to realize that my favorite was the one upon waking xmas morning. Me and my brother (before Mish was old enough) would wake up before our parents, sneak down stairs, empty our stockings and scour the
So, all that being said, I was wondering how to substitute my usual Christmas doings with African equivalents so that it still felt like the holidays. I was, at first, going to go down south and be with a large portion of my friends in country. At IST I was still set on this idea but after being around all those people for so long and traveling so much, the thing that I realized would mean the most for me, was being somewhere that felt like home. And the place that I feel the most at home in Tanzania is Katesh. So, after my adventures in the East and South, I trekked back to Katesh and knocked on Justin’s door. He’s been really generous in letting me taking over his home for the holidays and decorate incessantly. I went back to my site for a half a day as well to drop off some stuff, pick up supplies and visit my neighbors. My closest neighbor came to say hello and had me over for tea and I caught up with her and her kids. They really do feel like family. When I told her that my birthday was after xmas, she said that I needed to come home then and she’d cook me my favorite dish, nyama choma, which is like roasted meat. It’s delish. And she makes it with fresh ginger and, oh, just heaven. Unfortunately, we were thinking of climbing Mt. Hanang the day before my birthday and then camping up there and waking up and seeing the sunset on my birthday. We’ll see how the weather pans out since it’s been raining a lot and it’s not the smartest to climb the mountain while it’s so muddy.
So, back to my adventures decorating. The girls that live by Justin have been over the last couple days and we’ve made a xmas tree drawing out of finger paint, a construction paper chain of red, green and white, a hand print wreath, a huge “Happy Holidays” drawing that they colored in with crayons, green and red balloons and, my favorite accomplishment thus far, hand sewn stockings. I went to two fundi’s (tailors) and got scraps from the suits and dresses that they’d made and pieced them together to make stockings and embroidered our names on the top in xmas colors. I also made wrapping paper by decorating some extra paper I’d found at my house and using it to wrap up presents for Lauren, Uma and Justin, the three people that I’ll be celebrating xmas with. Our plans for the holidays are as follows:

23rd: xmas dinner and small gift exchange at the missionaries in Katesh
24th: go to Lauren’s for a xmas eve dinner of tortellini and tomato sauce and sleep there (she lives like an hour dala ride away)
25th: breakfast at Lauren’s and then come back to katesh for lunch at Antonio’s with his family. Afterwards me and Justin will come home to make mulled wine, chocolate pudding and open presents. I can’t wait : ) Hopefully this will also include a phone call from my family from the States.
26th: relax
27th-28th: attempt to climb Mt. Hanang
So, alas, this is how my holiday season is progressing thus far and I couldn’t be happier. I hoping that we can decorate xmas cookies and finish some of the cards before we leave for Lauren’s on Saturday but we’ll see. Lots of love for the holiday season! <3

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

“It’s like I waited my whole life for this one night…and dance forever…”

Forever: Chris Brown

Sometimes all I want to do is just have a huge dance party either by myself or with everyone else. Doesn’t matter. I just want to burst out dancing. And sometimes I do. One of the things that I really do like about Tanzanians is their love of American pop music (that seems like a tradition that traverses continents) and the other day I met Justin’s previous counterpart before Antonio, who is actually Antonio’s little brother Benny. We sat in Justin’s lil living room and listened to the most recent pop songs and music videos and amidst the music, we’d burst out dancing as we did random tasks the rest of that day. I love how I don’t ever have to feel embarrassed to dance here and that they dance just as ridiculously as I do. One of my favorite moments from IST is the random dance party that me Hannah and Mar had in our house one night. We blared Justin Beiber and Lonely Island and Rihanna and went crazy. Sometimes I wonder why I feel so free here. Maybe it’s because sometimes the stress of living here gets to be more than I feel like thinking about. I don’t think that I’d cope as well without music. In fact I know that for a fact because after my Ipod got stolen, I went through a funk and really missed having it while running or traveling. There’s so many stimuli between other Tanzanians talking, Tanzanians talking TO you, random shouts of “mzungu” and other heckles and just the loud blaring of repetitively annoying gospel music that you just need to escape into your own thoughts. I’m so glad that I got a new Ipod. Thank you parents for sending it because it made me happier that I’d ever imagine. I feel whole again. Maybe its just the option of being able to escape from it all that is enough. Despite getting back my Ipod, I still haven’t picked up running again like I had been before and maybe I just don’t need it as much, maybe its because of the incessant rain, or maybe its just because I’ve found other things to relax me and make me happy. Like dancing.

“All you gotta do is watch me…look what I can do with my feet"

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

“In the streets our heads a lifting, as we lose our inhibitions”

K’naan – Wavin’ Flag
I arrived back in Katesh quite happily and safely a few days ago. I went on a wonderful journey to Dar and then Iringa after training. Dar was a busy fun-filled adventure of American food, ice cream, and lots of cool experiences. Iringa, in contrast, was a slow paced, relaxed voyage into a hillside town that offered an astonishing array of jewelry and random luxuries, like French press coffee and delivery pizza. Granted, the delivery was bike-delivery, just to clarify. So it was a bit cold. But still a wonderful concept. I stocked up on presents for my friends and family and mailed quite a few letters and one giant package home. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the Maasai women that made the jewelery I bought, the teenage boys that sold the little knick-knacks in the craft shops and miming my order at Neema’s Café, a restaurant and craft shop which employed deaf and disabled Tanzanians (and also one of my favorite places in Tanzania). Turns out, if you flirt enough with people, aside from getting lots of useless numbers (Tanzanians ALWAYS want your cell number…oye), you also can get some sweet advantages. Over that week I acquired gifts including a leather bracelet, a necklace that I still wear and, the most random I think, is a red bull that the guy next to me on the bus ride from Singida to Katesh insisted that I take. I felt especially bad accepting this one since Red Bull is a reasonably expensive luxury. In fact I have yet to have tried one in country. But, I realized mostly over the process of my journeys, that being personable gives you good advantages to getting your way and finding out information that you need. This may sound selfish but in a country when everyone is competing for attention and has little regard for others while traveling (they just shove everyone everywhere…) its nice to find methods that help you find your way around successfully.
I think that my biggest accomplishment from my travels were the fact that I felt more confident, one, with traveling alone and, two, with myself in Tanzania. I feel like I am getting good at judging who to trust and when and with what. And also as taking chances and talking to random people to figure out what I need because, you can’t really get anything that you need or want here on your own. And that means speaking the language, knowing the culture and just acting like yourself but always being aware that you in a foreign place. It’s a feeling that I didn’t realize that I’d experience but am adapting to none the less. I know that this well be an ongoing journey and I’m not going to suddenly and completely adapt to traveling and living here, but I’m figuring it out piece by piece, and that, alone, is exciting. Enough self exploration. Later!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

“And I’ll find strength in pain”

Song of the week: The Cave – Mumford and Sons
Today was our first full day in Dar. And it was amazing. I haven’t written in a while so lets do a brief catch up. I finished teaching. I had Thanksgiving in Katesh. I went to IST (inservice training) in Morogoro for a week and a half and it was wonderful (seeing people, not the actual training…that was pretty stupid). Yesterday we left Moro for Dar (the capital of Tanzania and biggest city aka most – America like city). Got in about 2:30, got some food and a checked into our rooms. In the midst of hanging out I felt so tired that I just went to bed (at like 8pm) and didn’t wake up until 8am. It was amazing. After a yummy breakfast of egg sandwiches, we headed to a crafts fair (called Makutano) on the peninsula (which is like the richer area in Dar). I needed some allergy meds so I stopped at the PC office and met with the Dr. real quick. While waiting for the dala to pass by afterwards, I was chilling by a little duka and started chatting with the lady there. They were eating papaya and offered me some so I ate a slice while waiting and we chatted about sharobaros and Tanzania. After I caught a dala, I got off at the Black tomato, the venue of the fair. It was 3,000Tsh cover to enter but had really wonderful upper class jewelry, paintings, clothes and miscellaneous things. I bought a few things on the cheaper side for presents before we headed out to Slipway, the outdoor mall on the very end of the peninsula, for food. It is also pricey pricey but nice and there’s an almost legit grocery store there. We loaded up on juice, cookies and mini warmed up pizzas before getting soft serve ice cream (in actual big cones!) and then browsing another crafts section. I chatted with this sweet old man who paints these little drawings daily and showed me how he did it. It was really cool. I can’t wait to show my parents all the cool things that you can see and buy here. We headed back towards Posta (downtown) and the hotel for a quick rest before peacing for the football game. I had literally a piece of paper with 3 things written on it (the name of the dala we needed to take, and the word for soccer stadium in Kiswahili) as we walked out the door of the hotel/hostel. We just asked around at the standi and on the dala and made it a half an hour later outside the stadium. I started chatting with a guy from Rwanda as we were entering and he showed us the entrance. We weren’t really sure how much it cost and had heard that it started at 4:00pm. The guy thought that it started then too but somehow it got moved to 3:30 because they were halfway through when we walked in. Even better, since it was the Tusker Cup and Tanzania lost in the Semi-finals, only Uganda and Rwanda were playing and basically the stadium was like a 1/12th full. It was sooo empty and because like no one was there, the match was free. We walked straight through the gate and up the steps. Some security guards tried to stop us and say that we had to pay to enter, but the Rwandan that I was with told me just to pass and that it really was free. The guards were just trying to milk some white people for a bit of cash. But we continued after like a minute of they pestering us and found seats like 6 rows up from the field. The game was 0-0 and it was at 40 min when we sat down. Before the end of the game, each team scored 2 goals, bringing it to extra time, where no one scored. Then it came to PK’s. It was so exciting. The actual soccer being played was college level at best but it was still exciting b/c the stadium was pretty evenly divided on who wanted who to win and the PK’s were really intense. I was cheering for Rwanda b/c of my newest friend but the other half of us wanted Uganda. Each team made 2 and missed 2 for the PK’s so it came down to the last shots. Uganda made theirs and Rwanda missed. Oh boy it was so great to be there in the stadium, under the lights, sitting on the edge of our seats as they shot. I loved it. This was the whole reason that we originally came to Dar so I’m glad that it actually happened. After the game, we headed back to Posta and went to one of the 2 Subways in Dar. Yep. Real live subway. The only real American chain that you can find here. I got a veggie footlong and it was DELISH! So wonderfully tasty with crisp veggies. I’d forgotten what that was like. Now, we are relaxing before going to Hookah on the rooftop of the Holiday Inn here. Sounds like the perfect end to a great day : )

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The land of two lunches and church-going livestock

This week was an exploration of being alone at site and getting to know my neighbors. And I’d rate it a success. Aside from my adventures running, I’ve been visiting my vill a lot. After a particularly long day at school last Friday, I swung by my favorite Mama there. I gave her this bracelet that I made and we chatted for a long time. I sat next to her while she sold fish, mangoes and onions and she cheered me up. It was great. Then, her friend, Mama Fatuma that runs the nearest mgahawa (lil café) made me her concoction of chipsi mayai minus the chipsi with mangoes, tomatoes, onions and even maandazi (the Tanzanian equivalent of a donut). It was delicious. I’d already filled up about an hour ago on rice and beans at my school, but in Tanzania, you always find room for more. I think I’ve forgotten what hunger feels like in this country. The dish was made just for me, but I shared it with all of them and she kept adding other food like rice and more beans.

Next day, after my long adventurous run, I went to do errands in town before the sun set and shops closed. I arrived at Kassedy’s duka to find him spending time with his wife (to say that he was helping her do work is an over statement…he was more just company and a source of snippy remarks. It’s highly amusing.) So, he invited me for a soda and I spent the next half hour watching the locals by lots of phone vouchers, cigarettes, peanuts and fish while he chatted about life at school and here and the fam and all the other wonderful topics that seem to materialize. Afterwards, I dropped off onion bread at Mama Fatuma’s to give to Mama Diana and brought some kerosene on my way home. Before I reached home though, I biked to the mkuu’s and found Mama Msami doing obscene amounts of dishes. I chatted about her day while Happy, her lil daughter, attempted to ride my bike and ended up just falling into a large basin. Then, continuing home, I came across Mama Tom and Baba Tom (my neighbors) . We joked about how snazzy their nephew, DC (a student of mine) looked in his shiny silk, bright pink shirt and then Mama told me that I looked like a sharobaro with my skirt so long. Ooooooh Tanzania. They invited me for dinner, but I’d already cooked some beans so I passed. Then, as doing my dishes, I discovered that they were cooking nyama choma (grilled meat). OMG yum. So Mama tom offered to bring some and within an hour, her two sons were knocking with a dish full of meat. Delicious! I munch while I taught their oldest, Titus, how to use facebook and got him started on an account. Facebook + nyama choma….what else could one need?

This morning I went to church for the first time in Tanzania. I went with Mama Tom after my early monrning run and its was really nice. So nice in fact that a goat wandered in to the church (the doors were wide open) and several old ladies in the back had to shoo him out. All I could think was…”only in Africa…” The service took about an hour and a half, although they started a half an hour late. Later, I went to their house for lunch and watched some of the Expendables with them and their 9 year old son, Malasa while he demo’d his karate moves. He could probably be the next Jackie Chan. It’s adorable. I spent the rest of the day chatting on the phone, munching on biscuti (like cookies), and watching (500) Days of Summer. Later, I went and had a soda at my other neighbors, Shafii and we chatted about life in Tanzania. He’s the nicest old man who owns a really nice house here and another one in Arusha. Basically, he’s like the grandpa that I never had to spoil me. And I love it. His cook is super sweet too and I love chatting. The rest of the night I spent chatting on the phone and now, finally, I’m attempting to write my Form 3’s final. As you can tell by my blogging, it’s going well. : )

“All you gotta to is watch me, look what I can do with my feet”

Song of my week: Forever- Chris Brown (if only I could run to this song)

This week has consisted thus far of returning to site early Tues morning and sorting out how to cover the last bits of material I want to teach before composing the final. After finishing teaching this week, I decided to dedicate my life to running. And run I did. Ever since getting my Ipod stolen, I’ve had wavering feelings about getting my butt out the door to run. And those feelings basically made me reevaluate why I liked running so much. With an Ipod in my ears, I can drown out the whole world: Tanzania, my thoughts, the state of my body…everything. And its glorious because all you want sometimes is just not to be present…especially when your day usually consists of having to be extra present in even just normal conversation just to follow what is being said. However, through losing my Ipod, I’ve found a new appreciation for this passion that I’ve cultivated ever since high school. After about the first thirty seconds of jogging, exercise become passion and I just feel so happy with myself. It’s not the music, the world, or some other purpose that I feel this but the mere and complete satisfaction that washses over my body as I feel my feet pound the dirt and my muscles work in rhythmic, repetitive motion. It’s glorious and wonderful. I feel so me and I didn’t appreciate it before because I could drown out reality with my music. But when it’s just me and ground, a new passion arises and I discovered that 1) I run better because I’m more in touch with my body 2) I realize more of my surroundings and appreciate them more 3) I like running better without music. Because running becomes just that…running. No bother with words, songs, other’s laments about life…it’s just me. A happy me. I love it. On Saturday, fueled by one too many banana pancakes, I ran for 1 hour and 20 minutes and discovered the nearest village, Mulbadaw, that I’d been hearing about since coming to site but had yet to visit. I felt so strong throughout the whole run and afterwards, ready to go again. The next morning, that’s what I did. I woke up early and all I could think of was getting out the door. So, at 7:15, I stepped into a cloudy awaking world and pounded out 4 more miles. Beautiful. I like the world better before it wakes up.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How to Be a Genius In Tanzania…

Today, as I was getting a lift home from school with my mkuu, we passed by the center of the village. I hadn’t visited Mama Diana/Mary recently (she was previously my tomato mama, but now that mango season has started, she’s currently my mango and onion mama….so, anyways….). After the usual greetings, she told me to say hi to her friend, Mama Fatuma, whom she’d introduced me to last week. I headed towards the nearest Mgahawa and found her sitting there eating something that resembled the Tanzanian equivalent of fast food, chipsi mayai (this literally translates into fries and eggs…which is really all that it is….). But, this concoction was missing the “chipsi” part (the fries) and instead included tomatoes, mangoes and onions. Thinking it entirely odd that she was eating fruit and vegetables in was is basically an omelet, I inquired. First, she insisted that I taste it, then made me finish the rest. OMG was it good. I have no idea why no one has ever thought of doing that before but, holy crap, delicious! I immediately texted Huong (One the one who’s party we just had in Singida) telling her that we needed to add this to the list of “Things to sell late at night next to a college campus.” Between all the fried foods that Tanzanians make, chipsi mayai and this…I don’t think that I’ll ever need to find a real job. Now if only we could think of a clever name….

It’s all in the way that you mix the two….

This past week, after staying at site for, oh, a whole 2 complete days, I went to Katesh on Friday and then Singida. We were throwing a “Welcome Back, Huong” party for, well, Huong. : ) She’d been in the states for a month after having all her stuff stolen during training made her a little more than wary of living alone at site. She returned happy, healthy and which a crap-ton of new stuff. Woot woot! (and of course, this is the week that I get my Ipod stolen….oh, it just figures….) So, we started out mini bar crawl on Friday when we all met up. It was me, her, Justin and people from Singida, Dodoma and Kili region. Oh, the awesomeness of it all! We all bonded super well and the night even consisted of me and Justin starting a dance party on what was initially an empty dance floor during the song “Waka waka.”
The next day, after waking up late, running errands and hitting up the safi dukas (the nicer shops…which actually just resembled gas station convenient stores but here…that’s high class), we decided to have a picnic on the rocks. Complete with fresh baked rolls from the bakery, we made sandwiches of avocado, cheese (OMG Cheese!) and tomatoes and then loaded up on chips, mangoes and popcorn. The hike out to the rocks that over look the lake in Singida is about an hour and its definitely worth it. We even got to watch a rain storm in the distance that completely passed us by. As we ate, sunbathed and danced to some American tunes blaring from the Ipod and speakers we brought, happiness emanated. It was glorious. What a great great day. And, to complete it all, we got a bit lost on the way home and ended up taking the long way around. But, that’s kinda expected.
That night ended with 2 scrumptious cakes baked by Alana and Mel and decorated by yours truly and then a huge poster that we all signed. As the electricity fluctuated in the bar that night, we burst into bouts of “Happy Birthday” to Huong (there’s no well-known “Welcome back” song…) and enjoyed the bongo flava music blaring in the background.
*In case you were wondering, this title refers to the two different lives that I’m leading. Between traveling and making Katesh my second home and then returning to site to teach, I feel like I’m in 2 different worlds. Sometimes the change is nice, but the hardest part is switching between the two. After I get to one place, I’m happy. But the transition, ergh, it just makes me want to stay. However, without all this constant travel and stimulation, I think that I’d just end up going crazy. You can only take so much of Tanzania for so long before you need other white people. Wazungu, ninawapenda.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tunaomba pipi!!! (or “Trick-or-treat” in Kiswahili)

First, before I forget, I wanted to let my Aunt Donna know that I got 2 more of her packages (that makes 4 total at site…thank you! Thank you!) and the latest one, for Halloween, arrived at the post office right on the day of Halloween. It was great! Thank you for all the candy and games for the kids. I can’t wait to play games and give them the prizes : ).
As for updates, I spent last week at site arranging my house and organizing all of my stuff. I was able to move into the big room (since Charlotte left) and clean everything. It was wonderful. I saw Charlotte off to Singida and helped her bring her stuff there. I also got money from the bank and meet up with people from my region that were visiting Singida as well. It was a lot of fun. Then, the next morning I caught the earliest bus back to Katesh and made it in my 8:30. Me and Justin ran some errands before catching the 10:50 coaster back to my vill. I was so happy to get back to site and reclaim what is now my house and also to drag Justin along with me. Between Justin visiting and Charlotte being there, I’ve only spent maybe a total of 3 days actually alone (away from other Americans) at site. So this coming week should be a good adjustment for me. Luckily, I have some wonderful neighbors and I really love the other teachers at my school, so I guess I really never should feel actually alone.
Anyways, back to cleaning and organizing. I spent all of Sunday and Monday throwing things out, dragging furniture to new places and mopping/scrubbing the walls and floors. It was tedious and exhausting, but totally worth it. Justin took over the dishes those days too…which was awesome. Esp. considering his disdain for washing dishes. By Tuesday I needed to return to teaching, but leaving the house was a good change of scene. I taught one class tues, one wed and combined my classes on thurs so that way I could leave site early. The missionaries in Katesh were having a Halloween dinner that I did NOT want to miss. American food and candy? Yes, please!
So, back to my week at site. I put most of the furniture in new places, just so that the house could feel like my own and stuck only my bed, easel and a small table in my new, big room. I also put the big floor mat that I bought in Singida there because I was to be able to do pilates in that room. After scrubbing the walls, Justin helped me hang up the mosquito net and I put pictures and my homemade calendar up. It looks like my own space now and I’m so happy.
We spent a lot of the week cooking delicious food, including lots of breads. One Monday we made paneer using milk that I bought from my neighbor and then naan to go with it. It was awesome! I don’t even think I’d have been that adventurous in the States. Next day we made onion bread to go with a soup of beans and veggies and then Wednesday, Justin’s bday, I cooked mango bread in the morning and, at night, a vegan chocolate cake with homemade, not so vegan, icing. It was delicious!!! I even got my neighbors in on it and we went over to her house so that they could all sing Justin “Happy Birthday.” It was great. Thursday came up so fast. We were planning on taking the afternoon bus back to Katesh but, I talked with one of my fellow teachers who was making a trip in, so we bummed a liftie off him. I went to school early that morning to teach, only to find that my class was taken over by the history teacher. Since I had errands to run in town, I did those while I was waiting and, while visiting the duka for flour and rice, I ran into Mr. Kassedy who offered the liftie. So, I rushed back to school, taught for a little over 2 periods (2 periods is my usual class length…) and then they drove me back to my house. Justin was awesome and had cleaned everything up and organized all the dishes so I just threw my clothes in a bag and dashed to the car. I also took my easel along because I wanted to get it altered in town (it wasn’t tall enough).
In Katesh, we visited the bank where Kassedy joked, again, about me marrying one of the bankers. His name is Adam and he’s a teller at the bank. He’s a real sweetheart, and actually speaks English, although we usually talk in Kiswahili. But, mr. Kassedy thinks its really funny to joke about us eloping. It all began on one trip to the bank with him and my mkuu when mr. kassedy asked Adam if he was married and, when he said no, said that he could marry me. I joked along with it, because getting annoyed at things like that in Tanzania would just make life a whole lot more stressful, but a few days later, when I was really sick at home, Adam called me because Kassedy had given him my phone number. It was nice and all, but I wasn’t too crazy about Kassedy just giving my number out. So, back to the bank, again Mr. Kassedy joked about us getting married, and so I said “twende sasa hivi” (let’s go right now) so they would know that I was joking, and told him that dawry was 20 cows (an expensive rpice in this country). I said when he got them, he could send them home to my father (yeah…get excited about that dad…) and then we’ll arrange the wedding. So, yep, that was where it ended and now I’m avoiding the bank until I HAVE to go there. Although I don’t have ot worry about getting ignored or bad service there now though, which is nice I guess. Well see how long this joke lasts.
After grabbing lunch at the awesome rice and beans place, me and Justin napped and chilled until we decided on kiti moto (fried pork…which is delicious!) for dinner that night. OMG so good. Parents, I can’t wait till you visit because we are going there for sure. The next morning, people came in early, staggered by one and twos, of which Justin from Singida (Justin Q) was the earliest. We grabbed chai and then trekked out to mnada (the bimonthly flea market) to look for Halloween costumes for that night. I already had gotten a Tanzanian primary school kid’s sweater made a few weeks back. The sweater that you see all the kids wearing is the colors of the TZ flag. So, we searched the clothing piles for other’s costumes (someone was a panda, another was batman, wear’s waldo and someone was even a corn stalk) and I bought a school skirt to match my sweater. It reminded we of being back in grade school with uniforms when I put it on. So, around 5 we headed up the hill to the missionaries house and were met by an incredibly welcoming family and a delicious spread of appetizers. There was even cheese dip….oh! the rarity! So we spent about 5 hours eating homemade pizza, veggies and dip and way too much candy, as well as the best cupcakes of my life. One of the most fun parts was playing with their kids, who were probably about 8, 6 and 3. They were super cute and constantly eating candy. They know Kiswahili, but their English is perfect, so it was great because it was like being back home with American kids. I miss babysitting.
We got invited back the next day to watch Game 7 of the World Series, that Steve, the dad, was taping. We partied that night, woke up late the next day and then went back to their house around 3 the next day and watched some great baseball, ate hotdogs and more cupcakes and hung out. It was so much fun. Later that night, we visited Antonio (Justin’s counterpart) at his duka and visited with him. Antonio is by far one of my favorite Tanzanians : ). The next day, Sunday, Me and justin did the usual Sunday lunch at Antonio and his wife, Belle’s house. I taught Belle how to cook banana bread, and Justin brought a chicken and we had another awesome (albeit Tanzanian) spread of chicken, chapatti, rice, beans (she cooks amazing beans!) and cassava. I was stuffed yet again (third day in a row…oye) and around 4 or 5 we waddled back home. After a attempt at napping…which always turns into Justin napping and me just writing letters or going on line, we passed out early. Monday, my last day in Katesh, consisited of staying in bed till 1pm (gotta love Tanzania sometimes), eating fried eggs and French toast and running the last of my errands. I was super proud of us because we even made it on a run before the sunset. Dinnner was kiti moto yet again (I’m addicted!) and popcorn followed. So. Much. Good. Food. Site was looming overhead but, aside from winging what bus I’d catch in the morning, I was actually looking forward to some alone time and continuing to organize my house.
I headed to the standi early this morning (at 5:45am) and chose between either the cheaper bus or the faster coaster (I was going to go with whatever one actually had a seat …I hate standing for more than 30 minutes) and turns out the coaster had one right up front. The coaster actually left right after 6am, which was awesome, and I spent the first half of the ride listening to my ipod while watching multiple Tanzanian bibi’s (grandmothers) shoved their way on to and off of the coaster (a coaster is a small bus). I even witnessed one bibi literally climb OVER a man in the seat next to me to get to the aisle. Tanzanians are not very adept at moving orderly and making room, so its like a jungle getting in and out of those things. So glad that I had a seat. About 20 minutes before my stop, the conductor and the guy next to me figured out that I spoke Kiswahili and so we chatted about what I was doing in Tanzania, where I was from and what I’d do when I got back the states. The conductor didn’t like the fact that I was living alone in Mulbadaw and offered to come live with me. Yeah. Right. I told him I’d manage. : )
So, now, off to teaching and then some chores around the house. Hopefully I can fit another run in. It’s good to be back at site, especially with all this candy in the top drawer of my desk. I feel so spoiled. Thank you missionaries and Aunt Donna!!! You rock.
Siku njema na upendo sana wa Afrika! (Have a good day and lots of love from Africa!)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Aunt Donna

I dedicate this post to my Aunt Donna…who has written me beautiful cards and sent me such charming packages. I got my second package from her today, while I was still recovering from being sick, and it made me so so so happy. It was such a nice surprise and she included the best assortment of goodies. I got candy and chocolate (yay!) and trail mix and pens and toothbrushes and even crayons. And then she wrote me a wonderful letter about how the fam is doing at home. I’m in the process of writing her back…I can’t wait to finish it. She is so wonderful that she deserves 10 letters to her one. She keeps telling me how inspiring I am and how much she loves me, but I don’t think that she realizes how inspired by her I am as well. I admire the way that she gives of her time, love and care without ever thinking of herself, especially when it comes to taking care of my grandma. I think that my mom would be lost without her since she is such a gentle, generous woman who my mom confides in. And, when it comes to me, I admire her constant persistence in sending me love and prayers. I pray for you too Aunt Donna! All my love - Steph

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

And back at site...

Yesterday went a lot better than the night before. I didn’t puke at all and my stomach just felt mildly nauseous. Sorry if that’s too many details. My neighbor stopped by and brought me over chai and dinner when she found out I was sick, which was great. I had to miss Charlotte’s going-away party but I don’t think that I really miss all that much since she said it was short and she got lots of presents. One of them wa a gorgeous shuka turned into a traditional Barabaq dress which was so cool because they are personally made and crazy authentic.

My Kiswahili kicked in quick when the doctor that I happened to be riding next to on the bus called me and then one of the kijana around town who frequently gives me lifties also called. Then my mkuu stopped by to pick up Charlotte and asked how I was doing. I had had a malaria test kit setn up from Katesh that day with one of the teachers, and they’d given it to him so he gave me that as well. The PCMO wanted to make sure that I didn’t have malaria just to be safe. It tested negative, which was great : ) so now I’m just going to rest tomorrow and see how I feel. Hopefully better since I want to go to Singida on Friday with Charlotte and all of them. She’s taking the only adapters to the outlets here with her to turkey, so I need to find new ones. And quick. Either the Swedish-->Tanzanian or American --> Tanzanian. But I need to do it fast b/c otherwise I’ll be charging all my stuff at my neighbors until I get back. Oye.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Maporomoko ya maji (Waterfall)

And the word for waterfall is.....maporomoko. Say that 10 times fast. And to a Tanzanian.

Yesterday ended a week of attempted teachign at my site, a small adventure in the village where I got multiple free lifties and a bunch of free tomatoes (my tomato selling mama loves me...) and then, of course, an excursion to Katesh.

The teaching as site was merely an attempt because the first class we just went over homeowrk for a good hour or so. And then, next class, I discovered that they'd sent about 2/3's of the students home because they hadn't paid their school fees. So we played a jeopardy type game that I made up somewhat impromtu-ly and then reviewed NECTA questions and ansswers.

After chai, I headed back home, packed and camped out on the side of the road for an hour hoping for a liftie to Katesh, but ended up just grabbing the 2pm bus that traveled past. Happy, the mkuu's daughter, kept me company as I waited.

In Katesh we chilled with Kristen, a PCV from Singida region who is COS-ing, then visited Antonio and his wife, Belle, in their duka (as usual). All this was intermixed with lots of phone calls to friends from my training group, so it made for a great time. Friday was a lazy lazy day that started with banana pancakes, combined with lots of painting of Justin's extra room (we painted the Tanzanian flag, Mt. Hanang, and the face of the Cat-in-the-Hat...Justin can take credit for the last one). The night ended with some really good chicken, a few beers and a very failed effort of getting all the paint off our bodies. Kerosene was our paint thinner so we still either have spots of paint randomly on our feet adn arms, or smell deliciously like kerosene. Oh, Africa, the things that you do to us! Or, lead us to do to ourselves.

Saturday was our adventure day. We took a 2hr bus ride to Dereda, a bigger town on the way to Babati. Duncan was supposed to meet us in his town on the way there, but somebody never ended up waking up on time. Oh well! The only reason that we were heading to this town was because Duncan had told Justin that there was a waterfall there and you could hike to it. So, upon arrival we realized that, well, not only did we not know where to go, but the word for waterfall in Kiswahili. Oh, the uncertanity of it all! :) So Justin pointed us in the direction of the mountains ahead and, after calling another PCV to look up the word for "waterfall" in Kiswahili (we tried asking what the word was by describing it, but they just kept saying the English word after we'd tell them. Urgh.) we asked for directions every 10 minutes or so until there were basically no people around. By that point we'd gotten to a substantial looking river, so we just kept following that and about 45 minutes later (it was like a 2hr hike) reached the most beautiful falls I've seen (Nigara is just too big to compare...). We swam for a really short bit b/c the water was as freezing as Lake Michigan in June but it was so worth it. There was bascially no path that last part so we had to look for little opening in the brush or just make our own. On multiple occasions, I used several tree branches to keep me from sliding back down. And my arms were actually sore from all the climbing of rocks when, at times, there was just no better way. Don't worry, Mom, I felt incredibly safe throughout the whoel thing and made sure to never truly lose my footing but, goodness, it was such a great hike!!! By the time we got down, we were STARVING so we grabbed rice and beans and then caught a bus home. My body was so dead from all that hiking and climbing that it felt so good to roll into bed and I ended up sleeping literally 13 hours that night.

Sunday, we went to another nice lunch at Antonio's house, had some wonderful food and, well, the best chapati that I've had in country. Then, we visited Anotonio at his duka and manned the counter while we ran some errands. I got a free lollipop out of it so I was happy. It's a good way to practice Kiswahili and get accustomed to the prices of things like sugar, flour, pens or yeast. Oh, my Kiswahili teacher would be so proud!

Monday Dana came to visit and I also discovered, via Justin's encouragement, that there was a 6am bus (which is really like 6:30am) out of Katesh so, since I wanted to spend more time with Dana and Justin and I didn't teach till later Tuesday, I decided to try that. Besides, my mkuu was supposed to give me a liftie home and he bailed somewhat last minute, and I really hate being rushed onto a bus. Traveling gets easier day by day but it still gives me butterflies. I'm sure after a year here, that'll change.

Unfortunately, my stomach isn't agreeing with, well, any food that I eat, so I'm actually staying home today to rest and sleep because I don't think that throwing up at school will do anyone much good. Also, today is Charlotte's going away party at school, so it's a shame that I have to miss that. But alas, more parties will materialize. First I just need to get well.

Kwaheri for now and all my love! <3

Friday, 7 October 2011

Furaha. Happiness.

I had a wonderful week at site again. I’m full-fledged teaching now and its been wonderful. I have 2 streams: Form 3 A (the science stream) and Form 3 B (the business stream). My A’s are incredibly quick. On the second class, I started teaching they just seemed bored so I asked them if I was going too slow and they said yes. Wow. Was not expecting that. Luckily, I could speed it up quite easily and then I gave them a homework assignment. Yep. They better not be bored anymore.
I feel incredibly lucky to be given the school, mkuu and students that I was. The school has a really good rate of students that pass the NECTA (their final examination…which is actually going on now), which is over 50%. My mkuu is SO mellow and generous. I only see him get mad in rare but justified situations and he’s been nothing less than incredibly patient and helpful with me. This week in fact, he sat me down and asked me how things were going and if I’d found a counterpart yet. Making time like this was really surprising since he’s incredibly busy. As for the students, they’ve been continually surprising me with how different things are here than in internship teaching. And so far it’s been all for the better. First, they pay so much better attention in class and listen much quicker (especially when I tell them to listen!) than I was expecting. I think that they are used to a pretty high level of discipline, especially from the volunteer before me. She’s a bit more serious than me. I came in with a game face, but since they’ve been so cooperative, I’ve been a lot more personable. Since I can have fun with them, class is a lot more fun. And the students love to laugh. It’s wonderful. Additionally, their English is better than I was expecting. I get so caught up in speaking Kiswahili and I forget that I NEED to use English when teaching because it will really benefit them . If there is a tough concept, I will try to explain it in both languages, or if I’m just getting blank blank stares with I ask a question. Additionally, I can already see numerous students who are very motivated and I can’t wait to get a chance to work more closely with them, if not this year, the next. I’d like to start some type of after school club as well. There are computers at our school too that no one uses except for the secretary and that’s another idea for the future…starting a computer lab class.

Another highlight of my week was passing through the village. If I walk directly home, it takes me about 30-40 minutes. This day it took me two hours because I walked through the vill instead of around it. I’ve gotten to know some of the mama’s there really well already and it’s just wonderful. Okay, lemme explain. An African “mama” is literally just that, a mother. She’s married and has kids. But she’s so much more. She sells things, either fruits/veggies, or baked goods like chapati and maandazi, or she runs a duka (lil shop). But, in addition to this, she is super helpful and friendly, especially to foreigners such as me : ), and she knows her way around the village incredibly well. And, most substantially, she LOVES to talk. Like so much. So, on my way home on I stopped at the hardware shop where I’ve been before. I met this mama there named Rosemary but when I returned again, her husband was running it. Luckily, that day, she had returned and she was especially happy to see me because she’d heard from her husband that I’d asked about her and remembered her name and she was SO happy. She was currently a bit sick, but recovering. So, we chatted it up and then I discovered that she had a daughter that was about my age and knew English really well. She went and fetched her daughter and I found out that she was studying business in Dodoma and had visited Norway for a month on a school trip. She invited me in but I said “Baadaye” (Later) and then bought some peanuts. They are 100/=Tsh for a lil scoop (which is like, oh, 5 cents) and I made sure to tell the mama how I like how she always give me extra big scoops but her husband just does little ones. She was so amused and said that she knew how to do good business. So cute. I continued on my way and ran into a piki driver that I know who is super nice. Eventually, I reached the main hub of my vill and I stopped in to greet one of the teacher’s wives who owns a duka there. She’d just returned from a trip and I gave her some banana bread that I’d baked. She invited me over to her house on Saturday which was super nice but I told me that I was going to Katesh. Then, I swung by the duka next door that is owned by my mkuu (headmaster) and where is son, who is either my age or slightly younger than me, works. This kid is hilarious. His name is Mgaya and he’s similar to all the vijana (Tanzanian version of a teenager) with his slang and swagger, but he is also incredibly nice and personable…not as cocky as most of them are…and he reminded me that I’d told him I’d help him with his English if he helps me with my Kiswahili. Since I didn’t have to be home for anything, I whipped out a pencil and paper and our first lesson was slang. It was awesome. While there, I kept hearing a rustling that I thought was a mouse or something but, when I finally asked, he showed me this beautiful little pet bird that he kept in this homemade cardboard cage. It was so cute. I asked if he was selling, and apparently not. : ) About a half an hour later, I left and passed by my mama that sells me tomatoes and onions. Her name is Mary and she’s SUPER sassy and I love it. I attempted to tell her how much I loved her attitude and she died laughing. It was so amusing. I gave her a loaf of the banana bread too. She looked quite pleased. Finally, I swung by the duka where I get eggs and the mama that runs it, I can’t remember her name unfortunately, wasn’t there at the moment, her daughter was. Her daughter is a doll and incredibly sweet. She went to get her mom and the mama came out with the biggest smile on her face. It was great. I asked her about her family and her day and her house and all those other greetings. Her teenage son was also there too acting like a lil obedient punk, it was cute. Last week, her and her husband, who is actually good friends with my mkuu, invited me over for lunch that Sat. Of course, I was in Katesh, so I couldn’t go, but I told her that the next weekend that I’m home, I will come. That family is so nice. So, after buying eggs and more tomatoes, I finally reached home. Good good day. It’s tiring but also super rewarding. It is days like these that I’m so happy to be at Mulbadaw and have these people around me.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sipping and cooking…

Currently I’m relaxing at home before heading to school today. I don’t teach until 12:30, so I decided to take the morning to get caught up on chores (I need to sweep this house!) and bake a bit. Baking is a bit of an enterprise here…at least from my standpoint…so it is usually a several hour undertaking. Today seemed perfect. As I write this, I’m sipping on some hot water that I added cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon too (I already had my morning cup of coffee) and intermittently finishing a nice long letter to my mother (love you mom!). My breakfast consisted of my favorite indulgence, biscuit (like little cookies/biscuits) with peanut butter. Yum! The peanut butter here makes me so happy because it is made from peanuts…and that’s it. What a novel idea! No additives…I think that is why my body feels so healthy. I love it. I’m currently on my second loaf of banana bread. I’m cooking these to give to my neighbors, who’ve been so helpful in the past month in helping me adjust to site and get some of the things that I need and…most frequently…give me lifties. Gotta love free transportation. Especially when they pick you up outside your door. So, I’m going to update my “wish list” and finish my version of tea and then do a butt ton of dishes. Sound wonderful? I think so… siku njema! (Have a great day!)

If its not a 5 inch wide spider…I’m not scared of it

I’m back at site after a wonderful weekend in Katesh (again…dunno when I’m going to find enough excuses to stay home for an entire week…) and it feels great. Last week, I battled off a nasty nasty huge spider for a good 3 hours while intermittently talking on the phone, dropping the phone screaming, deconstructing and then reconstructing my entire bed and, well, just trying to sleep. It was great. So far I’m only killed one huge one, but then again, I’ve only been back at site for one full day. I taught a bit, chilled with the teachers more, wandered home through the village and chatted up my mama’s that I love and finally cooked some beans and veggies while running, journaling and just organizing my life (some things never change…even in Tanzania).
While in Katesh, I initiated the making for 2 stools for my house and an easel (I’m dying to paint!). I’ve already bought little cans of oil paint and brushes, and am currently scoping out places to find a canvas to paint on. This would all never be possible without the help of my wonderful teachers. Mr. Kassedy gave me a lift to Katesh last weekend and then took me to chai and eventually we made it to the wood shop. After explaining for about 20 minutes what an easel is, we parted ways and I went to chill with my sitemate, Justin, for the rest of the weekend (Ah! English galore…so nice). Lauren, a PCV nearby was over too and we had a wonderful time just doing nothing (my fave!) before she ehaded back to site. Justin was pretty sick with a nasty headache so we took it easy and I chatted it up with Brie, one of my favorites all the down in Lindi for, oh, about 3 hours straight. The Zain plan (the cell plan we are all on so that we can talk free) kept kicking us off every hour…apparently it thinks that we talk too much. So next day, after more resting and a visit to the hospital, Justin recovered enough and we went to visit his counterpart, Antonio’s duka. Antonio is, well, basically completely awesome. He’s super friendly, personable, speaks English and Kiswahili (but we all usually use Kiswahili more), determined (from what I can gather he does a great job of helping Justin with his projects) and, most importantly, he smiles and laughs all the time. So fun! So we hung out there as we usually do, for hours on end, and I even got to chat with the parentals (miss you guys!) for a good 40 minutes. It was wonderful. Although I think that I thoroughly confused then when I handed Antonio the phone at the end of the conversation and he tried to tell them something. So funny : )
The next morning I returned home via bus which was only my 3rd bus ride back to site despite traveling a lot. I’m a liftie-hog I think. But, it was ironic b/c on my way to buy a ticket for my bus home (I hate sitting in the back so I wanted to sit near the front, in which case, you need to go like an hour early to the standi and get your ticket) I saw my mkuu (headmaster…he’s the one that I get a TON of lifties from). So I went to salimia (greet) him and see if maybe he had room. He said that his car was full because the two women in the back were very wide (he said fat but just writing that seems wrong). This is super Tanzania to comment on women’s weight without a thought or regret and in fact, them being fat is really just seen as a good thing. Except when I want a liftie. So I said no problem and then Mr. Kassedy, who was also there, started chatting it up except, when I told him I was going to buy a ticket b/c I wanted to sit in the front, he shuffled me away saying “Go now!” It was highly amusing. I got back to site at about 3 that day and was just about to do, idk, chores, dishes, unpack, organize, prepare lessons, cook…anything! And this neighbor’s wife, who’d just come in from Arusha, came over and let herself in our house and then, in the process of looking for Charlotte, checked out my room. Um, Excuse me?? I was a bit taken a back. No, a lot taken a back. I was really nice but it was pretty evident that she wasn’t going to leave. And she just sat there quietly too, which was awkward. So, when she saw me starting to cook, she took the beans from me to sort them and then proceeded to instruct me on how to cut tomatoes and onions. Um hmm. Yep. No cool. About a half an hour later she wandered into the neighbor’s garden, who happened to not be home, and took 3 eggplant. Okay, really? I asked Charlotte about this later. That just did not seem right. She said it wasn’t cool, even by Tanzanian standards, but when I asked the neighbor today, she said “hamna shida” (no worries). Goodness this culture is different.
Today was consumed by me waking up freezing. Brrr. Then drinking coffee so that I could ACTUALLY wake up. Then preparing my notes for lessons. Then, finally, walking to school which turned into walking and talking on the phone with Justin (in Pemba…not sitemate Justin) while discussing the minute facts of life like, what color bracelet I should make for him at IST. Then I taught another great class. I LOVE my students : ) and then, ate some maandazi, prepared lessons for Thursday, wrote mom a letter, joked with my teachers…oh, they love to hear my opinions on the food and just about everything here!...and then, after lunch, headed home at like 3. I caught up a bit with Hannah while heading home but then, when I reached the village, stopped to buy the veggies and greet the duka owners that I know. One particularly nice one invited me over for lunch on Saturday (IDK if I’ll go to Katesh again this weekend…I need to pick up my stools and such…) which was really nice. When I finally made it home (after greeting like 3 neighbors too…) I started the beans (which take like 3-4 hours to cook) and got ready to run. The run was short but nice and I came back to some yummy food and, eventually, a gentle rainfall, which made the air smell SO fresh. Tomorrow I don’t teach until 12 something so I’m going to stay home in the morning and cook banana bread for the neighbors and clean dishes and, perhaps go for a long run. Tutaona (we will see). The hardest part about coming back to site from Katesh: switching back from English to Kiswahili. I really don’tmind speaking Kiswahili…I learn something new every day and I feel really proud…but it’s like a switch in your brain that you forget to turn off. Even tying this blog there have been so many words that I’ve almost written in Kiswahili before stopping myself. Even when PCV’s talk to each other here, we insert Kiswahili words frequently. It just makes more sense. Okay, basi (enough). Good night and greetings from Mulbadaw!!!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

How I finished my day...

With a run, of course. But a very successful one at that. I didn't run incredibly far, fast or long, but I did have some killer tunes (thank you, Mish) and random run ins. At the top of the hill where I usually stop and stretch and watch the sunset till the last possible minute until I HAVE to leave to get home before dark, I ran into two herders and had a friendly conversation. So, I haven't forgotten all my Kiswahili. That was encouraging :) Then, on the way down, a young boy (who was also herding cattle) started racing me, and, despite my mad skills, was winning. Shocking, I know. But, while running, our conversation went like this:
Me: "You are winning! But I will run faster!"
Boy: "I can still win!"
We race...
Me: (after about 15 seconds) "Okay, I'm a little tired. You win."
(as we continue to jog together...)
Me: "What's your name?"
Boy: "Paschal"
Me: "Why are you so fast?"
Boy: "Because I (insert verb I don't know here...I'm assuming has something to do with herding...)with cows"
Me: "Oh, nice. How far will you run?"
Boy: "just until up there"
Me: "My name is Stephanie. I am a white person (doesn't quite translate into English well, huh?)"
Boy: (laughs) "Okay, I have to go back. Happy travels."
Me: "Thanks! Happy work! (also doesn't translate well...)"
Boy: "I'm sorry about your exercise. Have a good night!"
Me: "Thank you! You too!"
Boy: "Okay!"
The end. Gotta love the little things. I realized then that even if my site is horrid in all other aspects for the rest of my time here, I can still be happy because of running and moments like this. Also, I can spot at least 5 different live bugs crawling nearby me even as I write this. Well, off to shower!!!Night, night!

"Hear my thoughts in every note...this melody was meant for you"

Running song of the day: Stereo Heart - Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine

It's amazing how little I have to do to feel accomplished. I don't really think that I've done much today. Wrote a LOT of letters, emails, fbook wall posts, journal entries. Cooked lunch. And dinner. And had a cup of coffee. I set up the water to wash my laundry, but I still haven't done that yet. Bado. But at least I didn't nap today. I broke that cycle. It's amazing how much you can sleep when you aren't doing much. But I will go running. That's a definitely. And tomorrow I WILL buy things. Yep. That's a good accomplishment. Oh, and go to school. Also admirable. I don't really know what I'll do at school. Probably prepare lessons. And talk to a lot of teachers. Freedom is so freeing. And it makes me focus on things that I'm passionate about. Running. Painting. Reading. Writing. Talking to friends. It rocks. Americans should try this more. And eating healthy. I ate the best assortment of beans, rice, and veggies today. Granted I have coffee, but taht was a treat. And I don't think that I've even had such a low level of sugar cravings in my life. I have a pack of starbursts and mini m&m's that I haven't touched in like 2 weeks. And I don't think that I'll eat them today. Granted, I have other vices that I've been indulging in more like drinking beer or eating greasy foods, but its always when we are all hanging out together and its a social/availability thing. And then, I go back to being my myself and I just feel healthy. My body is thanking me. No breakouts, no tight muscles, no haedaches. It's amazing. Fresh food and a low stress lifestyle does wonders for the American body. This is a bot of an odd post but it's what's going through my head right now so, yep, there's that. :) Lots of love. Upendo nyingi.

Muda refu tangu kuandika

Long time since writing. Pole. I think that I have a lot of catching up to do. Alas! I hate catching up so I think that instead, I'll just write what I'm thinking of, or the wonderful memories that I've had over the last 2 weeks and go from there. Let's see. Where to begin? First, I belive that I wrote all about a great week spent at my school. No teaching yet, but just trying to get into the swing of things and sort out stuff with my, now clean, house. That is how I spent today too.
My mom, aunts and friends are amazing seeing as how I've gotten a barage of letters from them. It's been truly exciting opening each one. Mom, thank you SO much for you long letters (I know you are used to writing that must but I love love love the updates! even on little things) and especially the little surprises inside. I've never been mroe happy to see random pics, sticks of gum and string. Thank you! Aunt Donna has been one of my most avid correspondents and I love it! I feel like I get to talk to her more now that when I was in the States. Aunt Flo sent me a beautiful card while Mary and Cass wrote the most long letters about life, love and happiness. Miss you guys! AND, Cindy rocked my world when I found her package sitting in the Singida post box with my name on it. It was Christmas in Tazania. And I love it. So thank you everyone. <3

So today I debated getting out of bed but after so many days of waking up late and being on the road, I thought I could use a little bit more time to sort stuff out. I've been busily writing emails, postcards and letters all day, and still feel like I could do it for 2 more days. But, I'll be good and go to school tomorrow. It's frustrating when there are things to sort out with your house like plumbing issues or the fact that my room and the bath room both don't have electricity but the fundi (technicians) can only come during certain hours. I don't want to get into teaching and then have to miss classes for things like this. Adjusting to site gets tedious.

As for my adventures. I went to Singida for banking and then decided to visit a friends site. We spent almost 3 days there doing a bit of painting, running, and a lot of lounging and cooking. It rocked. We ate some wonderful food which we cooked ourselves and she even made her first loaf of banana bread. We rock. The running trails were great there with rolling hills and not too much dust (more sand...good calf workout). Our last day, we decided to go fetch another volunteer who was like a 2hr hike away, from her site and set off on a path that she'd only traveled once before. Luckily, via asking for directions and just basic instinct, we arrived just fine and, even more luckily, the other volunteer was home. She doesn't have electricity in her village and her phone was dead so we couldn't call her before and tell her we were coming. Such is life. So, we grabbed her things and traversed back, using reliable landmarks such as "the big big termite hill", "the baobob tree right next to the other big tree" and "the dried up riverbed" for landmarks. We made it home right at dusk came upon us. Success. That night, we played mind puzzles and listened to club music. I love life. : )

The next morning early we took a bus along with countless chickens, old grandmothers and other miscellanous villagers back into Singida, my banking town. Mel was basically used as a pillow for the entire ride but one girl crammed next to her while I jammed out to my music and became covered in dust next to the window. We made it to Alana's house in Singida fairly easily and stayed the night there. Me and Kiki ran around one of the lakes until about night fall and then we sought out a rice and beans place for dinner. We only got lost once. Score.

Waking at 5:45 to catch out 6:15 taxi, we traveled to Dodoma (only like a 3hr ride) where we found a guesti (thank you Kiki for being our guide there) and spent most of hte day shopping in the market. I bought a sweet khanga with a print from the 2010 FIFA world cup on it that I later had sewn for me in Katesh (my mkuu introduced me to this fundi named Juma who was really friendly). Also, I bought some beautiful shoes that I'd been wanting from one of the nicest vijana (young people) that I'd come across. No marriage proposals or anything! (I believe I'm up to 6 now...)
After our nice day of browsing and such, me and Kiki went for a run while Mel and Alana and Athena slept. Then, around 8, we met up for dinner and drinks. The waitress at the lil restaurant place where we had a really great time despite the fact that some drunk on the way out tried to get some of our attentions by grabbing our arms, which Kiki was NOT having and told him to "Toka!" ...or "Piss off" It worked. Along with the waitress scooting him out of the bar. That's not too uncommon here, you just have to be firm and speak strongly and you won't really have a problem. Especially because once another Tanzanian sees that you are being harassed they will step right in there to help you. It's really nice.

The next day, we traversed the city with our luggage strapped on to find this so called pool that you could use for 3,000Tsh/day and succeeded. And it was AMAZING! I felt like I was back in the US. We tanned (and sunburned) and went swimming and read and just did nothing for hours. So great. Eventually our PCV's met up with us and we had a huge group of people there before everyone headed back to the training center (VETA) that we were staying out for the next two days. We showered, ate good food that we didn't have to cook ourselves and met a lot of new people. That night we all hung out at the bar before going back to our gorgeous, single beds with electricity, TV's, hot showers, Western toilets, goodness, where do I stop? Was this heaven? We spent 2 full days learning a bit out filling out grants, what projects other volunteers in our regions were working on and just learning more about the process of being a PCV in the field. At night, we'd eat awesome (expensive) food and one night I had Indian AND Chinese. The next night (our last there) we all went to this pizza joint with mini golf and played with beer in hand. And the pizza was definitely some of the best that I've had since being in Italy. Yep, that good. Thin thin cripsy crust and real cheese. Heaven, right?

As teh seminar wrapped up, me and a few PCV's decided to take the long way home and head up north to see some rock paintings that were located in Kondoa, outside Kolo. We grabbed a bus at 12 that morning and made it 5 hrs later in Kondoa. Since you needed to get a 6am bus to Kolo, we got a guesti, found food and crashed pretty early. The next morn, bright and early, we were on our way to Kolo, where we grabbed chai (with some DELISH chapati) and got a guide to lead us to the rock paintings. It was a little over a 1.5 hr hike there and, while the hike was nice, the paintings were anticlimatic. There were several sites and they included drawings with a medium of clay and blood. So they were red looking, and according to the guide, 6,000 yrs old, although we were skeptical of this fact. The view was really pretty though so just being there was pretty wonderful. We headed back to Kondoa that afternoon were we napped, ate and chilled. Something awesome happened on the way back to the guesti that night too that quantifies a "you know you're in Tanz..."

You know you are in Tanzania when...
You are walking home with a group of white people from a bar at like 10pm and, as you cross a random intersection, an entire crowd at Tanzanians just start cheering for you all. No reason or purpose, just the fact that you exist and they can see you makes them happy and they continue this thunderous roar until you are eventually out of eyesight.

If that doesn't randomly boost your confidence, nothing will. It was awesome!

The next day we all traveled to Katesh to catch our buses home and end our brief adventure. But not before we hooked up a projector in Justin's house and made popcorn and watched Men In Black on the wall at 10pm. It was wonderful and cozy and everything that one needs sometimes in a foreign country. So, alas, I'm back at site and happy. But sad to see the end of my first big journey around my region.

As I was getting a lifti home with my mkuu the next day, I remembered why I really love my site. Jeniva, a teacher at my school and several other people I've met before and they were just so happy and laughing and it just made me feel lucky to be here, with there Tanzanians that like me and care about me and are so positive and, yeah, it was a nice return trip. And I also discovered that my mkuu does the same tongue purring sound as me when he talks which really made me laugh. Except I couldn't expalin any of that to them.

Life through a Daladala

One of the PCV's in my CBT wrote this and I thought it was a wonderful encapsulation of what riding a dala is like here. This is her work, not mine. Enjoy! : )


(first draft)

The dala dala experience is both a thrill ride at the carnival and that anxiety nightmare that ends a moment before the fiery crash.

The first time for me I half expected Rod Serling to appear hunkered down in the back seat and in that iconic, calm voice announce that I had just entered the Twilight Zone. But certainly it was me that was the one out of sync. For everyone else, it’s part of the essential daily routine, and yes there is a rhyme and reason to Tanzanian life, but you have to look hard sometimes. But for me on this first outing, wedged in among the hefty mamas and uniformed school kids and babies and long-legged teenage boys, I was convinced Rod was right – this experience was in some other dimension.

A dala dala is a jerry-rigged van with all the padding and extras (like part of the floor?) removed to cram in more fare-payers. If you’re standing, inevitably you are, your entire body is pressed up against the metal roof, making it impossible to actually see where you are going. A stout lady in vivid pink satin (is she headed to church?) sits primly next to my legs. She takes my bulging backpack – no words exchanged – just the way it’s done. Children get passed onto strangers’ laps. (An occasional unlucky stranger learns that TZ babies don’t always wear diapers.) No one moves or speaks, best not to upset the delicate order, but it is a ridiculous sight: like a picture of one of those old fraternity contests to see how many students you can stuff into a Volkswagen.

Hanging precariously off the side is the fare-taker, always a young hotshot about 18 or 19, rail thin, who acts as a kind of carnival barker – calling out, cajoling walkers --keep ‘em coming, there are no limits. One more squeezes in, and I stare, fascinated, at where all the appendages fit in. Ten bags of flour? Put it on the roof. It’s fascinating to watch him work. He can spot someone coming out of their house up a side road and through some unspoken language between him and the driver, the van begins to lumber backwards up the hill, plucking him up.

Tanzania is a country of small-scale entrepreneurs, and the dala dalas appear to be one of the success stories. Everybody uses them, unless you have the fare and daring to hail a piki piki (motorcycle). The piki piki guys all think they’re James Dean, even though they don’t know it. It’s all about volume here – dala dalas, ferries, buses. The more fares, the more money in your pocket. The result, unfortunately, is a lot of accidents, like the recent ferry capsizing on the way to Pemba. Apparently they didn’t learn a thing after the even more deadly Lake Victoria capsizing.

Adding to the carnival effect is the paint job. Tanzanians don’t get too excited about art, at least not the kind you put on your living room wall, but the dala dalas do display a creative side. Colors, slogans, you name it, even a “Barack Obama express,” gives each one its peculiar character. But something like “In God We Trust” is definitely a theme. Usually displayed on the back, as a kind of indirect warning, it sets the tone: “We’re hell-bent on getting down the road as fast as we can, but God will avert disaster (we hope).”

With my head crammed up against the roof, I know I was praying. Here there are no stop signs, street or traffic lights, or even a “Slow. Children Playing” sign. DD’s and every other wheeled contraption on the road are invited to join the games. Weaving left and right, like a dance, competing with the piki pikis, bicycles and the hapless walkers.

The last are down the scale of concern with dogs and chickens, I’m convinced. Pedestrians just get a beep-beep, their only warning to get out of the way. I learned to heed the minimal warning whenever I found myself walking that tightrope of space between the edge of the road, which apparently belongs to the bicycles, and a deep ravine that the annual rains carve out.

We hit a pothole at full power. I groan and curse under my breath. Thirty pairs of eyes tell me: hamna shida. Then we pull over. The kid has remembered my stop, and that he owes me 200 shillings (he’s a professional). I extricate my head and legs, one at a time. Next trip, maybe this will all seem normal. What better place to practice TZ’s particular kind of zen. Glowering at the guy as he packs one more soul in won’t get you there any faster.

I glanced back. There was Rod S., who now was holding two chickens.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Shule (School)

I had a really great week at site this week. It was a nice change for feeling like I was constantly struggling to find things to be excited about here. I wasn’t too keen on coming home after my adventures in Singida and such. But the day after I got back, I went to school for my first full day there. I didn’t want to start teaching yet since we are going on break next week and I have a meeting for PC in Dodoma the following week, so I just hung out with the teachers and studied some Kiswahili. I found random things to do like helping some of the teachers teach, shadowing others and proctor the Form 2 mock exams. It was a nice relaxing way to see how the school day progresses and to form relationships with the people that I’ll be surrounded by for the next 2 years. And I think that this really made all the difference in me being truly happy at site. I really liked all the teachers that I got to talk to. They were super welcoming and kind spirited. Two different ones paid for my chapatti at chai and another brought be these type of beans that I’d mentioned loving. I came home each day feeling so happy and productive (despite not teaching…). Also, a while back, I’d asked one of them about getting a couch made and they found out the price, which was really expensive. When I said that I couldn’t afford it, she said that I could use one of hers for the next two years. Yeah, that’s Tanzanians for you. The idea of community permeates their lives and, while its more time consuming to do simple tasks, like buying eggs, it’s a lot more wonderful to know that they have your back in any situation.

Another bonus of being at site this week was getting to know my neighbors. I talked to Mama Tom, the one right next door to me, a lot and she visited me to see how the house was coming along. It was really great and made me super happy. My first Tanzanian visitor! Sounds dorky, but, if I didn't revel in the little things, I'd have nothing.

Oh, and the super bonus part was going running 4 of the 5 days that I was here. I explored the path that I take even further and, every time, I always pause at the top of this little mound (Kilima) and just take in the view because it is super beautiful (in its own Manyara-esque way). There are just rolling hills and Mt. Hanang is always in the background and yesterday actually, I laid on my back on top of this water resevoir thing and watched the clouds pass by and it was awesome. The moon was even out, despite not being sunset yet, and I watched the colors fade from yellow to green to blue and it was really soothing. Because I'm a procrastinator, I don't run until the hour before sunset but it turns out that this is the perfect time because this when the sky is most beautiful. So great. Makes me super happy...if you couldn't tell. : )

This week I also went to Katesh to open that bank account and spent the entire day with my mkuu and second headmaster. It was long and tedious for lots of it, but also fun at times. I got to meet some more of their friends and even a fundi that told me he'd sew up the hem on a khanga for free if I brought it to him. Also, I was STARVING by the time that we ate lunch and my mkuu was super cool and ordered me like 2 servings of food (rice, beans and mchicha) of which I ate both. Yum.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tena! (Again)

You know that you are in Tanzania when...
You see a man in a bar wearing a life jacket...and when your friend inquires into the reason behind his attire, he says its for protection when riding his pikipiki (motorcycle) and, upon further interrogation, no, he does not plan to go swimming today.

You know you are in Tanzania when...
You wait 3 hours to get a bank account and the main reason behind the enlongated process is because the passport photos you brought them had the wrong color background. APPARENTLY blue is the only acceptable color for passport photos. Yep.

Song that made my day: "Coconut Tree" by Mohombi

So, I got back early this week from a long stint in Singida and then back in my region, Manyara, exploring the area, meeting a ton of PCV's and, of course, banking. Singida was great. I took a 2 hour, mostly standing, bus ride from Katesh to there in the morning and met up with all the former trainees in that area, Mel, Alana and Kiki and also met some from Singida as well. We stayed at a nice guesti (hostel) and explore the city a lot. You can buy EVERYTHING there. It was super wonderful. And its somewhat sandwiched between 2 lakes. I loved it. I'm definitely going to visit a LOT. I was super super happy to just be free to travel and see new things and familiar rocked. So we partied it up that night and then in morning went to chai, ran some errands and then headed to the bus standi to catch a bus back to Manyara.

There is some craziness going on with the buses here now (its not logical, of course) but because there was a bus accident somewhere nearby, the buses are limiting the number of standing passengers that they accept. So, they are only allowing standing passengers for the people who are going to far off places, like Arusha or Moshi. The logic is literally nonexistent but alas, they still were being sticklers, so we resorted to another method to go to Endasek (its like 30 minutes past Katesh). We hopped in a taxi and drove like 10 minutes away, past the police check point and waited for the bus there so that we could bored. Yep. Welcome to Tanzania! But it worked and we made it to Endasek just fine :) Hot and tired, but safe nonetheless.

So, we went to Endasek and saw Dana's gorgeous site right at the base of Mt. Hanang. It was a super good time with good music, lots of baked goods, strong drinks and dinner...I should actually say feast...prepared by a local mama. Super yummy. I haven't been that full in a while. The next day, we headed back to Katesh where about 6 of us stayed to enjoy hanging out for one more night. It was a great time and the next morning as I sat on the bus, I was sad to leave. Luckily (sarcasm intended), I didn't have to leave right away because although the bus conductor said that it was going to leave at 11...we left closer to 12. They were doing repairs on it up until like a half an hour before we left. I was not surprised at all. : ) And I made it home eventually and safely, which is all that matters.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Kwendelea... (To continue...)

You know you are in Tanzania when...
when you are passed by a man riding a bicycle with a live chicken head sticking out of the cardboard box on the back while you are walking to go see (and touch) a dead lion that is in the back of someone's car at the police station.

You know you are in Tanzania when... (this one is cute)
on your bus ride home, the driver actually gets out of his seat to let you out and then the entire bus says good bye to you (half in English) as the conductor waves enthusiatically and even before going 10 feet father, a group of children come over and offer to hold you bags for you and walk you home.

You know you are in Tanzania when...
you buy a soda at a little duka and they refuse to even let you walk across the street to drink it unless you put down a deposit of 1,000 Tsh so that they know you'll return the bottle.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

I just wanna daa-a-a-ance

Fav. song of my run: "Who's that chick" ...David Guetta, you rock my life.

Today was pretty mundane by mundane standards. But also awesomely relaxing. And by Tanzanian standards, I got a bit done. I woke up feeling super exhausted because for some reason, I dreamt (despite waking up multiple times during the dream) that I was somewhere and I had to pack all of my things. I think I was in an airport for a portion of it. I just remember an insanely long drawn out process of compacting all that I own into my suitcase. Perhaps its a metaphor for my life...

Philosophical questions aside, the day went as follows. Woke up tired (see paragraph one). Made French toast with sugar on top b/c...well, I have yet to find syrup in Tanzania. Also made instant coffee which I sipped while I ate the French toast and looked out my back door at my dirt pile of a yard and the pretty rolling hills beyond (oh, the tasks that I could undertake while here! ...aka gardening). So, after breakfast, I went back to bed. Yeah that's right. It was awesome, not going to lie. Although at first I did feel a little guilty. Guess I should've prefaced this by saying that today was a school holiday. So, I really didn't have any responsibility all day except to figure out when I needed to go to school tomorrow. So, I finished the movie that I feel asleep to last night (The Social Network...SO good. I could watch that first scene so many times). Then, after sufficiently running out of things to do on the internet, downloading a calendar (yeah, my desire for organization has not wavered in the slightest)and repairing my teddy bear (his arm was ripping) I went back into the kitchen to start on some chores. Spent like an hour doing dishes. I scrubbed some of the pots SO well because, well, they needed it. And I had, after all, splurged on cleaning supplies. Then I started on my laundry. But after putting the first batch in the bucket, I realized that they needed to soak for a while, so I went back to my room, put on some music, and started looking up words that I wanted to know in Kiswahili. Admist this bold adventure (note: sarcasm) I realized that I was hungry, so I attempted to made uji (like porridge) since I'd kinda run out of food. The bread I'd bought a few days ago was finally moldy. Uck. So, on my second try, I succeed (apparently you can't add the uji flour AFTER the water boils, only before. Huh.) Although I made way way too much and threw like 1/2 of it away because, well, that stuff is filling. So, 3pm rolled around, and I decided to finally start my laundry and also call my Mkuu. We decided on 7:30 to be picked up for school tomorrow and I also asked him about the plumber I'd asked to come (our bath tub doesn't drain all that quickly). He said he'd ask him today and then, half an hour later, called back and said he was coming right now. Woot! Although, Tanzanian time, this means in an hour or two. Which was perfect because I finished my laundry, hung it on the line and also, then, had time to look up the words that I thought I'd need to talk to the plumber (such as "to repair" "to be clogged" and "pipes"). The plumber came after about an hour and he was so great. He bascially spoke no English, but through my limited Kiswahili and his gestures, I think we understood each other. He was shocked at the state of the bathroom (good to know that I wasn't the only one...) and we he discovered that the toilet smelled because it didn't work properly, the shower head didnt work, there was a pipe missing from the sink in the bathroom and that the sink in the other room (the one that does work...) was attached to pipes wrapped in electrical take he just kept saying "shida kubwa" (big problem). lol. It was amusing. I told him my first priority was getting the tub to drain, which he said should be fine. I also really wanted that sink taken care of in the bath room becuase it looked sick and seemed like an easy fix (just add a pipe) and he said that he even had the parts at home to fix it. Then, he also said that he could send someone else over to look at the shelf the sink was fitted into because, well, its just falling apart. So, yeah, he was really helpful and seemed like he'd be pretty prompt about it all, so I was really satisfied when he left. I can't wait to have a somewhat acceptable bathroom! I also made a point to tell him that I had little money to spend on the project becuase I'm a volunteer, and he said that it shouldn't cost too much. But they always say that, so I'm going to verify that with the mkuu.
Anyways...the rest of the night I went on my longest run since being at site (I don't know distances here yet) and also cooked an awesome awesome fried rice with carrots and onions and eggs. Oh! So yummy. So now I pack for tomorrow because...
I'm going to visit Singida, my actual banking town (I have yet to open up an account in Katesh) tomorrow. I talked with the mkuu later tonight and told him that I want to go there tomorrow instead of school because we only have a half day and also I need money. Luckily, he has a meeting in Katesh tomorrow morning, so I can grab a ride with him to Katesh and then find a bus to Singida. I'm a bit nervous (as always when traveling a new route) but it should be great. I already told some PCV's that I'm coming so they can meet me at the bus standi and then they are having a party for lots of various reasons, so I can't wait :) Also, I really do need money. Then, on Saturday, I'll travel back to Manyara with 2 of those PCV's for a get together in my region with the people by me. I can't wait :)
So, kesho, baby, kesho. All my love. <3

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Statistics Tanzanian style

Number of times I’ve been asked if I liked black people: 4

Number of hot showers I’ve taken in-country (hotels included): 5

Number of times I’ve been asked to be someone’s “mpenzi”: 3-4

Number of marriage proposals: 0 (whew!)

Number of things that I’ve lost but have somehow managed to find again via other people’s efforts: 3

Number of times I’ve been called mzungu: Oye…don’t ask

Number of beer brands I’ve tried: 12 (The Kick, Kili, Safari, Seregeti, Tusker, Ndovu, Castle Light, Castle Milk Stout, Eagle Light, Eagle Dark, Tusker Lager, Red’s …although that may not count as beer)

Number of times I’ve eaten meat: 5 (sambusas at msimbazi, meat sandwich after our hike, a single bite at my host fam’s, Ramadan feast in Dar and kiti moto adventure in Katesh)

Number of days I’ve missed English: Um, how long have we been in country?

Number of times that I’ve tried to speak Kiswahili, failed, and regretted the attempt: 0

Number of full days I’ve been at my site: 5

Number of times I’ve been running at my site: 3

Number of days till I’m done with my service: 724

The Future Freaks Me Out

This title isn’t really completely true, just a reference to Motion City Soundtrack

Yesterday was definitely one of my favorite days/nights in Tanzania thus far. It wasn’t the most smooth, but definitely one of the most fun. I went into Katesh to meet up with 2 of the PCV’s that are closest to me at site, Duncan and Justin. Justin actually lives in Katesh, so we all crashed at his place which is really close to the center of town. So, I took my first bus from Mulbadaw into Katesh at like 8am. I hadn’t quite had the experience of actually flagging down an entire bus (I’ve done dalas before) for me, so Charlotte walked me to the “stop” (aka the edge of the road) and when we saw the bus coming past town, I crossed the street and flagged it down. As the bus muddled on through the dust and over the rocky, bumpy road, I wavered to the back and found a seat. Almost exactly an hour later, we arrived in Katesh. Finding Justin couldn’t have been easier (just look for the only white person) and we walked to his house, which was small but cozy and super welcoming. He’s had like 5 PCV’s come before him, so the place is really broken in, but it was still nice. He also has a dog, named Batman, who is the perfect balance of clingy, but not too clingy. And super sweet. So when Duncan rolled around, we went to grab Chai at this little place with super yummy, flaky chapatti. After that, we wandered around the safi duka, the Pick n Pay, then we went to my fundi to try to get my dress fitted better. Soon, though, since we had nothing else productive to do, we started bar hopping. It was so much fun just relaxing and swapping gossip on the experienced PCV’s and my class (of which, I will admit, I’m the resident gossip...(insert guilty smile here)) Between crazy travel stories to love connections, there was quite a lot to cover. And that doesn’t include the usual commentary on ridiculous run-ins with Tanzanias. Oh, misunderstandings are just a daily routine!
So, the rest of the day was spent alternating drinks with food and stops to visit dukas that Justin knows the owners of, including his counterpart. I even made an exception and had some of what they claim to be “the best kiti moto in country” Kiti moto is pork that cooked SO deliciously. I loved loved it. I don’t plan on eating meat regularly still, but I could fo sho not pass that up. So, after it was decently dark, and being borderline harassed/hit on at the last bar, we headed home (I love being out with guys because it cuts down on the harassment and heckling that you had to deal with. It’s so much more less stressful. So, around 11 we wandered home, watched the movie 21, polished off a tube of Pringles and passed out. So great. : )
I woke up around 10, which was the latest I’d slept in like two weeks. And it rocked. We grabbed some Chai again, watched House and spent about an hour searching for this jacket that I was convinced I’d lost the previous night. For some reason, I wasn’t too worried, because things that you lose here seem to have a way of coming back around to you. And, of course, when we returned home, Justin found it on the floor, under a poster that’d fallen down the night before. Winner winner chicken dinner. I caught the 1:30 bus home and, lucky for me, ran into one of my neighbors on the bus. He even helped me get off at the right stop (I was just going to wait until we got to the actual town of Mulbadaw, but our actual compound is located before that in a stop that you have to specially request). Since I got shoved to the back of the bus b/c I was one of the later ones to board, shoving my way past like 20 people that were standing in the aisle wasn’t too appealing, so I was going to wait to get off, but, no worries, because he helped me with that. So, getting home was nice, and I was dead tired. I relaxed, went for another nice run and then had some stir fry that charlotte cooked (delish!) and a lemon square, also of charlottes doing. So good! So, tomorrow is a day stocked full of chores, hopefully a run or two, and maybe a visit to the neighbors. Oye! I need to work on my Kiswahili!

Song that got me most pumped on my run: “Tonight” by Pitbull

To continue in the style of my last post...

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you are sitting at a bar being ignored by the waitress for a good 10 minutes even though she acknowledged you and even said hi already, and a vendor strolls in with 2 bundles of sneakers swinging from his arms and you aren’t in the least bit phased…but actually more amused as he wanders to your table and you pretend to be mildly interested.

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you see 2 cattle drinking water out of a random bucket in the middle of the bus stand.

You know you’re in Tanzania when… you are just walking around and some bibi (grandma) you pass by grabs your entire head, kisses both sides of your face and mumbles Kiswahili that vaguely resembles a blessing with extreme intensity and graciousness and then proceeds to hold your hand until you walk away.

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you are running, or doing any form of physical labor, even walking, and multiple people tell you “pole” which is “I’m sorry”. All you really want to do is ask “why?” but you know that they don’t really have a reason, they are just being polite. So you say “asante” back but in actuality, all you’re really thinking is “do I really look that tired???”

Monday, 29 August 2011

And today was…

A Success. Granted, by Tanzanian standards, but success none-the-less. What did I do? Well, let me tell you : ) Woke up early (darn I’m tired) to a nutritious breakfast of white bread, blue band butter and cinnamon (note the sarcasm…still haven’t lost that, thank goodness). My mkuu came hodi-ing around 7:30 to walk to town to drive to school, to meet the students and teachers. Notice the chain of events. Quite organized, one might say. So, the mkuu introduced me in the staff room this morning and then at parade to all the students. That was awkward…but unavoidable : ) The school is smaller than I thought, with enrollment of 402 students, and there are 12 permanent teachers, including me and lots of temporary ones. That’s a pretty decent class size. I was happy to hear it. After my brief stint at the school (I attempted to discover who’s teaching what but ran out of time) I went into town with the Mkuu, and 3 other teachers. We were supposed to greet and be introduced to the district heads, but off the 3 offices we went to, no one was in, so we went to the police station instead where I was introduced to chief of police. When we pulled up to the station I’d jokingly said “Am I in trouble?” and then, my mkuu proceeded to tell the chief of police about that towards the end of our meeting. Oh, did I blush! But that wasn’t as embarrassing as when, while waiting to talk to the chief, I was sitting on the edge of a bench with my mkuu and another man on the other end. But, somehow they decided simultaneously to stand up, leaving me perched on the edge and the bench tilted drastically in my direction. I jumped off, but not too soon as it made a loud thud then it returned to the ground. Worst part though? No one seemed as amused as me. Is it only American humor that would find that so funny? Oh, and it was only 11:00. Oye! : )

Afterwards, we went to a little café for chai and then shopping for things on this massive list I’d been creating since coming to site. I’d checked at the local duka (in Mulbadaw) yesterday, but was only able to get like 1/4 of what I needed, and in Katesh I found like another 1/2, but the last 1/4 I’ll need to go to Singida for…it’s like a hierarchy of towns. So, it was great wandering around though with those teachers, because they knew where to get everything and I didn’t feel like I’d get ripped off with the “mzungu” price. We saw the “pick and pay”, the soko (market)…which was phenomenally clean and well organized…I was shocked…, and the electronics store, a fundi (in this case I’m referring to a tailor) that Jeniva likes where I think I’ll take my dress tomorrow (its too wide), and the stendi where the buses stop, the “nail” salon, a chipsi joint, goodness, so much. I did also find this kitenge that I loved too…and I’d been searching for a while for a nice kitenge. They are everywhere so I’m being really really picky on the fabric. I have 2 years here, I think that I can afford to be.

So, I’ll skip anymore details here because we spent a lot of the rest of the day waiting around to drive back and then driving back to Mulbadaw (I got a lot of texting in at that point…). When I got home, despite being pooped, I went for an awesome run on that path charlotte showed me and it was just as pretty as I thought yesterday. You get the best view of the sunset and at the top of a little rolling hill, you can see the elevation of the surrounding areas. It’s beautiful, and it looks to “Afrikan” or at least what I picture Africa to look like before I came here. I kept trying to convince myself that “yes, this IS Africa and I’m actually here”…but I kinda failed. But, in case anyone was wondering, American music still does drastically improve the quality of a run, even here. It’s super awesome. Thank you Rihanna, TI and Akon. I owe you one.

Also…in case you don’t have fbook, here’s my most recent status that you may find amusing. This experience, along with the multitude past and to come, will be the reason that I will have an astounding amount of patience when I return to the US. So, here goes:
You know you're in Tanzania are waiting in a hair salon to get your nails done (yes, you read that right) and the 2 women next to you start peel and cutting vegetables (specifically mchicha) for lunch, but not before one of the stylists handed you her bag of used clothes to skim through and see if you'd want any. And after 45 minutes of waiting, you still didn't get your nails done. But you weren't surprised or disappointed, because, heck, this is Tanzania, sir.

Tanzanians also do this high pitch “ah!” sound in the middle of like every conversation, no, every sentence that they here and it sound like it should be a utterance of surprise, but it always comes at the most random, boring of parts. For example, today I was talking about going home to cook and I said in Kiswahili “I think that I will cook rice…” “Ah!” “…and beans and mchicha” (pause) because I don’t eat meat.” “Ah!” Now the second one was well placed, but the first…goodness knows why. It’s like a quick inhale of air and basically every time that I hear it, I have to fight the urge to mimic the sound in response (sometimes I give in and do it anyways…they never seem to notice).