Friday, 11 May 2012

“Find a happy place, find a happy place” (Finding Nemo)

So these past weeks have led me to a wonderful realization.  I’m so happy here!  Don’t worry family, not happy enough to never come home… But seriously, really, completely, whole-heartedly happy.  Yes, there are many moments and days that things go wrong, I get super annoyed or I just miss my American bed, but those are incredibly out-numbered by the times that I think, “Wow!  This is a beautiful, wonderful place to live and I’m so incredibly blessed to be given this chance.” These times occur when I’m biking to school (without a puncture in my tire), when I have random conversations in Kiswahili, when I visit my Tanzanian friends in town, when I’m laughing with my teachers so hard that my tummy hurts, when I’m teaching and the students ask me some question that makes me realize “they DO understand”, when I’m running my favorite path at sunset.  So so so many times.  And as that African sun slowly begins to creep behind the vast array of clouds, and the yellow-orange beams turn the sky shades of pink, purple and blue that I’ve never seen before, I count my blessings again and know that, just like no sunset is the same, no two places on Earth are the same.  This one place, my current home, happens to be the place that’s making me the happiest.  And I don’t long for American luxuries (as my teachers call it) or a white person to hang out with, I know that I’m happy here, in this moment and it is fulfilling enough to enjoy completely.  And the hope of exploring more places and finding again and again, other unique places that make me this happy, is overwhelmingly encouraging.  So I just smile to myself because, finally, I’ve learned to enjoy the moment.  And that moment is beautiful.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Majirani mazuri (Great neighbors)

Today I decided to take things slow.  I had a fundi (plumber) coming over in the afternoon and since I’d taught to much the last 3 days, I didn’t actually need to go to school.  After a morning of waking up late (7:00 instead of 6:30) I watched some Alias, fed Radi and went online for a smidge.  As I was making coffee and contemplating breakfast, I decided to refill my water tank (I’d been watering my garden a LOT and I didn’t want it to get too low).  I stepped outside to see my neighbor (Mama Tt) chatting in her front yard.  We waved hi and I went back inside to get started on some school work.  A half an hour later, the plumber came and knocked on my door.  He was in the area and Mama Tt had told him that I was still home.  Again, I love my neighbors.  So, I showed him the shower that was clogged and he spent about a half hour using a plunger to unclog it and then fashioning a rod out of a stick and sticking that down the pipe to clear it.  It seemed effective because when he left, it drained  lot better.  He said he’d come back around lunch to fix the sink and the toilet seat.  Oh! I love progress!

So, deciding upon pancakes, I went over to my neighbors across the way to buy some.  This was my first time actually visiting so, as a Tanzania would have it, she invited me in for some chai (tea) and gave me Makande (beans and corn), milk chai and some home cooked bread.  It was delish.  I’m so lucky!  We chatted about school, her kids, Tanzania in general and her home.  Later, as I went to leave, she gave me the half liter of milk and said “don’t worry about paying this time.  This one’s on me.”  Oh!  How I love Tanzanian generosity.  So, not only did I get some conversation and free milk, but now I don’t have to cook breakfast since I’m all full from the tea and bread.

Mwanzo hauhitaji kuharibu siku nzima

(The beginning needs not spoil the whole day)

Yesterday started off as a bad day.  I was a bit tired because the night before, the headmaster’s wife and  my neighbor, Mama Msami, came over to chat at like 8pm.  I loved talking with her but she didn’t leave until about 9:15 so I still had to lesson prep a bit and get ready for bed.  Then, after leaving my house that morning, about 2 minutes into my bike ride to school my bike tire went flat with a puncture.  Again.  Go figures.  If I don’t get a puncture at least once a week, it’s been a lucky week.  About 5 minutes later, I ran into about 4 of my Form 4 boys on their way to go grind corn for lunch.  So, they offered to help and took it to the fundi (bike shop worker) for me.  I continued on my way, making it to school in time for my second class of the day.  I taught the Form 4A’s the last of Genetics.  After break, I went into Form 4B’s, where we are still in the middle of Genetics, and made up for the class I missed that morning.  After our second break and some quick prep, I taught my last class of the day, Form 3 Reproduction.  This was our second class studying human reproduction and boy did they have questions.  Some of my favorites were these:

-          How big is the biggest penis?

-          If your penis is too long, can it actually pass the cervix?

-          How, if the penis can’t enter the cervix, can the mother birth a child out of the uterus past the  cervix? (This was a good question…)

And my absolute favorite which I found out later many of my teachers also believe is true…

-          When you have sex, and the sperm gets deposited in the vagina, does that make your hips widen/fatten because the sperm is protein?

After class, the students prepped the school grounds for the big soccer match on Friday and I chatted with my teachers.  They make me laugh so hard and I’ve started to become really good friends with one of the Form 6 leavers, Diana.  Her English is impeccable, but we only speak English if I don’t understand what she’s saying.  I love her sense of humor (Its so American) and I’ve lent her a good selection of my DVD’s to watch at home.  Her mother is also the mango/tomato mama that I visit in town all the town.  She is also hilarious, although she doesn’t speak English.

After school,  I passed by the hardware store (Dad, you are really going to be surprised when you see this…it’s a little like Ace Hardware…in the sense that they sell really random things completely unrelated  to hardware…) and asked about the paint I’d ordered.  They said it was in, so I grabbed a liter to finish up my doors and headed to my fundi (tailor) that is making my curtains and couch covers.  He still hadn’t finished yet with either, so tomorrow I’ll make another go around.  Back at home, I finally watered my garden (it’d been two days and those tomato plants were not looking happy), gave Radi some food, did dishes and asked my neighborhood kids to help me collect rocks for the garden.  Kids will be kids because about 15 minutes into the task, they wandered off to go play elsewhere despite being promised candy.  Oh well!  : ) As I went to say hi to Mama Tt she told me that the plumber I’d been asking about was at the neighbor’s house and I could just go over there to talk to him.  I found him with the help of Mlasa (Mama Tt’s kid) and two other little ones and also met a neighbor I’d yet to visit.  She invited me in and told me that she sells milk if I ever need it.   Then, after finding the fundi, he offered to look at the problems right now and came over and inspected my dying bathroom.  Agreeing to come back tomorrow around lunch, he went home for the day and I went on a nice run (watching my ever favorite African sunset on the way).  After coming home and showering, I was in the process of making dinner when Mama Tt knocked at the door, bring me some friend bananas and grilled meat for my dinner.  That woman can really be a life-saver!!  And, I think I’ve told her about 4 billion times how much I loved her grilled meat (It’s seriously amazing!).  I added it to the fried rice and grilled veggies I was making.  She also told me that she’d asked around about the charcoal I needed and told me the price they were selling it at.  Not too expensive, but still out of my price range for now.  She agreed that it the price seemed like it was going to go up, she’d buy some for me and I’d pay her back later since I was going to be traveling soon anyways. So, during dinner, I watched about 3 episodes of Alias while Radi vegged on my lap and passed out rather early.  Teaching and running make one tired!  Goodnight world!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Little life lessons...Masomo madogo ya maisha

Lessons I’ve learned in Tanzania thus far…aside from Kiswahili

Masomo yangu ambayo nimejifunza kwenye hapa sasa hivi…kando ya Kiswahili

1)       As mentioned previously, wine can be enjoyed alone.  And still tastes just as wonderful without cheese

2)      A day spent in bed is not a day wasted.  Rather, a chance to catch up on some much needed TV time, or thinking time, or just being alone time.  And it always goes by much faster than one might think.  I love my days alone.

3)      The wind picks up significantly before it rains.  Maybe that’s just here???

4)      Neighbors that will do anything for you…rock!  Whether that means bringing over lunch because you looked really busy with housework and didn’t have time to cook or sending their son to meet you at the bus stop because you have a LOT of stuff to tote home.  Or maybe just had a few extra carrots around that they wanted you to have.  Oh, you wanted examples that weren’t just from this week?  I have plenty of those too.  I love my neighbors.

5)      American’s are constantly stimulated.  We are so spoiled in America, not just by things and stuff and accessability, but also the possibility of having things to always keep your mind going.  It’s awesome.  And when you’re sitting quietly somewhere it seems like a huge waste of time.  Which is good and bad.  Sometimes we just need to appreciate the quiet.  And other times it’s nice to know that we feel pressure to make things reach culmination.  Go us!

6)      No matter what country you are in, children love to play, adults love to gossip, students love to do anything other than study, and people in government will abuse their positions.

7)      The basic necessities of any household are hammer, nails, tape and string…with this you…or maybe just I…can do anything.

8)      French music sounds better in the morning while sipping coffee

9)      Tanzanian’s hate flavorful food.

And…as for my lessons about myself:

1)      My motivation to do something is consistently swaying.  Sometimes I really care about teaching…other times I really don’t.  Sometimes I’m a neat freak.  Other times I’m not.  Unfortunately, here, not being a neat freak means finding a lot more bugs in your clothes.  And not caring about something…usually means that thing, whether buying milk or lighting the stove, will never get done.  Considering things take a bit more effort, a lack of motivation is magnifying…but still not daunting.  Just puts life in perspective.

2)      I could eat white rice everyday forever.

3)      I love reading dictionaries.  Like am addicted.  It takes me like 20 minutes to look up a new word because I keep getting distracted by all these words that I don’t know.  So nerdy.  But awesome.  Makes me much more excited about learning Kiswahili.

The end. : )

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Long time…no update. Sorry!

Let’s catch up:

1) Radi is doing great. He’s growing super fast and super well. All the food that my Aunt Donna has been sending him (thank you!) has been doing him good…and he loves it all. He still cuddles with me every night and I love coming home to see him. He’s my child, no doubt about that, and I love his company. He’s definitely the most spoiled cat around and the only one that my neighbors aren’t scared to pick up or play with. They always ask me if he bites me and it takes me so long to explain that yes, but only when he’s playing and he never bites hard.

2) I expanded my garden. I had mentioned to my neighbor last week that I wanted to make it bigger and add 3 more plots and when I came home from school that Monday, it was done!!! She’d hired the random guy that passes by here to expand the thorn fence and dig 3 more plots. That day we transplanted onions, eggplant and tomatoes. Then I added some plants of Chinese spinach, spinach and green peppers. Fingers crossed they grow!!! I’ve been rather vigilant about watering it, unlike my usual habit of neglecting the things that I love (aka…my cat Pepper, my fish…what’s his name?…enough? Okay…)

3) My newest obsessions on the food frontier are as follows:

a. Cookie dough eaten serving size. This is accomplished via taking 2-3 spoonfuls of the packaged dry dough that my parents send me, mixing it with a spoon of water/oil and mixing. Since, let’s face it, cookie dough is usually better than baked cookies (unless they are fresh out of the oven…but, oven? Tanzania? Those too words don’t mix…) the dough is the best after meal snack.

b. Wine, wine, wine. I recently that you can buy 5 liters of red wine for 38,000Tsh…which is, oh, about $23. And the wine tastes like the 8-10 dollar bottles that you can get at the grocery store. At the risk of sounding like an alcoholic, I’ve been enjoying a glass each night out of my beautiful wine glasses and I couldn’t be happier. I always thought that drinking aloen was crazy, but my nightly glass just makes me feel classy. It brings me back to my college wine and cheese nights. Wonderful!

c. Popcorn! I’ve been stocking up in Katesh and popping some every few days while watching a movie…or three. Delish! And the safflower oil my neighbor gave me makes it taste buttery without the butter. Double yum.

4) Last week my girls that I took to the girl’s conference taught their first peer education class. I could NOT have been more proud! They taught two sections, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health/family planning. They taught the girls of Form 1 and 2 and it went so well. The girls asked so many questions and the ones that taught, taught for over 2 hours! They went over the structure of the reproductive system, contraceptive methods, transmission of HIV/AIDS, and did a condom demonstration on soda bottles. I was like a beaming mother when they finished. This week I’m hoping that they can finish their sessions. And then onto the Form 3 and 4 girls! The boys have been complaining of being left out but, alas, they’ll get their chance. I might invite a health volunteer up to teach them sometime soon.

5) TURKEY!! I leave in a little over 3 weeks. Could I be more excited?? Nope! I’m staying with Holly Jones and her family and they are being so generous. They have a private driver that’ll be picking me up from the airport, a guesthouse that I’ll have all to myself to stay in and, this week I just found out that, because they’ll be flying for the weekend to Ephesus, I’ll be tagging along there too. OMGoodness, I could not be more lucky or blessed. I can’t wait for that adventure. I’m also just so happy to be able to see them all.

6) House renovations are underway! My house is a current disaster-but, alas! All shall be returned to its original place. I’m painting my bedroom, main room, trim, having lots of curtains made, a couch made and cushions covered, and my two favorite parts: a bulletin board and room divider. The bulletin board was a 4 days long struggle to get constructed in katesh. They used ceiling board for the backing and wood trim. The problem was the price, which I returned over 3 times just to negotiate the final price (I paid 12,000/=…or 5 dollars…not awful for custom made since no one in Tanzania uses these in their homes…) and then, at home, I spray painted the edge silver and tacked fabric for the backing. It looks wonderful…I’m so proud! As for the room divider…I had to get more creative. Since my house was Canadian built, there WERE sliding closet doors in all the rooms. Since my house is also super old and dilapidated, only 4 remain, 3 of which were not broken. So, I wrenched them all apart, painted them black (this is the stage that I’m now in…) and will reattach them with the hinges and nails I picked up in Katesh too (Parents…you’d be superty duper proud!). Therefore, I’ll have a screen-like room divider for my living room, eventually a couch and, goodness, I can’t wait!!!

This should be enough for now. All my love to those back home and thank you for all the wonderful packages and cards. Miss you all!!