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! : )

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT TANZANIA I LEARNED ON A DALA DALA

(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 people...it 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...
Singida-town!
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