Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wikiendi Pamoja na Familia Yangu (Weekend with my host family)

This weekend was my last weekend with my host family. Asha was just beginning her school holiday, so she went home with her parents Saturday morning. I saw her briefly and met her parents (my host mom’s sister and her husband) and her younger sister. She was happy to be going home, but I was sad not to spend the weekend with her.

Saturday was Monie’s birthday, though, and we had a lot of fun. Her mom had ordered a cake with Teletubbies on it and we had a party with some of the neighborhood kids. We watched movies, had cake and snacks, played with balloons and danced and danced and danced (and boy could those kids dance). The kids (and the big people) had a LOT of fun. They also learned how to use my camera and took turns taking pictures and then crowding around the camera looking at them. The 8 kids took well over 100 pictures! But it was well worth it – they had so much fun. When I downloaded the pictures from my camera today, there were even two pictures that Monie took of The Little Mermaid on the TV screen.

Today we went to Moshi and saw the house where my host mom grew up and then we went up into the Pare Mountains (which we passed on our way to Dar es Salaam) and saw where my host dad is from. It rained a little bit on our way up, so we didn't quite make it all the way up to the house on the dirt road, so we just climbed up the rest of the way. On the way home we stopped and bought a big bag of charcoal and some banana beer. I tried a little bit, since it’s a local specialty, but I did not like it at all.

After dinner, we took Monie, Bibi (Grandmother) and Glory home to Bibi’s house in town, where they all stay during the week. As I said goodbye, I couldn’t help crying. I have a really wonderful family here and I will miss them. We’ve had a great time together and got along very well very quickly.

My host mom is wonderful. As we talked about a lot of different things this weekend and as I watched her, I saw how generous she is with her time, love, wisdom and resources. From her, I’ve learned more about what it means to really love your neighbor and how to be genuinely generous. She is very wise, thoughtful and caring and I like her a lot. My grandmother’s great too. She works very hard, teaches her grandkids well and loves us all a lot. In our house, it’s all women, which has been really fun.

(I have pictures ready to post, but their on my computer and the wireless connection isn't working right now. When it comes back, I'll post them.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Siku ya pili huko Zanzibar

I'm sorry - I couldn't resist. I was writing my trip report in Swahili. This is about the second day. It's a first draft, so I apologize for any grammar mistakes!

Jumanne asubuhi, tulitembelea shamba la viungo. Nilifurahi nikinukia na nikionja viungo mbalimbali na kuona vipandwavyo. Mwisho wa kutembelea, mtoto mmoja alipanda mnazi kuangusha manazi. Sisi wengine walijaribu pia, lakini kupanda mnazi ni kugumu sana. Nilifurahia kuona njia ya kupata manazi lakini ninafiki ni afadhali angeenda shuleni badala ya kufanya kazi. Wanafunzi wengi walinunua viungo vingi. Niliinunulia familia yango ya Kenya viungo kwa zawadi.

Tuliporudi mjini, tulipata nafasi kula chakula cha mchana na kutembea mjini. Nilienda pamoja na Carley kununua chakula cha mitaani na kupeleleza. Tulienda hotelini ambako nilikuwa nimekula huko nilipotembelea Zanzibar kabla kununua sambusa. Halafu, tuliona mwanamume aliyeuza viazi vitamu vilivyokuwa vimechoma. Alitupa kiazi kimoja kuonja na baada ya kukionja, tuliamua kununua kingine. Halafu tukanunua ndizi na chunga sokini, tukanunua chapati na maji na tukala. Tulilipa shilingi elfu mbili mia nne tu kwa vyakula vyote, matunda na maji, lakini tulishiba kabisa na hatukuweza kumaliza vyakula vyote. Baada ya kumaliza kula, nilitaka kununua sketi na gaguro shimizi. Carley na mimi tulipotembea sokoni tukitafuta nguo hizo, wavulana waliocheza drafti walitualika kuchaze nao. Tulikubali na nilicheza na mvulana mmoja. Kwa sababu hatukujua kwa hakiki kwamba walicheza tuchezavyo Marekani, tuliomba maelezo ya kuchezavyo. Mchezo wa kwanza nilishinda sana. Halafu Carley na mimi tulicheza pamoja na Carley akacheza na mvulana mwingine. Tulipoanza kucheza, kulikuwa na watazamaji kama watano, lakini baada ya muda mfupi kabisa, kulikuwa na watazamaji kama ishirini waliokuwa wakiangalia wazungu (wasichana!) wakicheza drafti.

Jioni tulikwenda Bustani ya Forodhani ili tule chakula cha jioni. Nilifurahia sana kula huko, lakini nilipoanza kurudi hotelini pamoja na Lena na Emily, mwanamume mmoja alizungumza nami na aliniomba kutembea naye kwa sababu mume wangu yuko mbali. Nilikasirika sana na nilimwambia kwamba simi mtu anayefanya hivyo na alliondoka haraka.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Zanzibar part 1

So, I’m going to take some time to write about my time in Zanzibar. I’ve spent enough time working today, so now it’s time for a break – and time for me to do what I want to do for a little bit.

Well, Zanzibar was amazing. I was there four years ago, and I loved it then too. I was actually surprised how much I remembered my way around town and where certain things were. The streets in Stone Town are small and windy (one girl compared it to Venice sans canals) so it’s easy to get disoriented and lose your way. This time, though, I had a pretty good sense of where I was. After spending several days there in 2002 and 5 days this time, I feel like I know the old part of the city pretty well. It’s a nice feeling!

We left Dar EARLY Wednesday morning (we left the hotel at 6:30am. I guess it’s not that early – Dave leaves for the hospital every day at 5:45!) to catch the ferry to Zanzibar. We all stood up on the deck to watch the water, islands and dhows (small traditional sailboats) go by. I said something to one of my teachers in Swahili and a Tanzanian guy complimented me on my Swahili. The other Sarah and I started talking to him about where he lives (Dar) and his work (with street kids). We also talked about what real development is and the cultural differences between Tanzania and the U.S. I ended up talking to him for about an hour and a half. That’s really one of my favorite parts of being here – talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. That, and being able to distinguish myself from all the tourists.

We arrived at the port in Zanzibar to find that the U.S. government had arranged for three police officers to stay with us the whole time. The U.S. government considers the coast a potentially dangerous place to travel, but it’s really not. After lunch, we had a half hour on our own before a guided tour around the city.

As I was coming back to the hotel to meet for the tour, I came across a group of girls playing who looked like they were about 2 to 10 years old. I greeted them and asked what they were doing. They pointed to my bag and asked me to take a picture (I think they are accustomed to tourists!) so I took a picture of them and showed them all. That’s the great thing about a digital camera – you can show people the picture right away – people get to see their picture and you get to take their picture without feeling guilty! Then the girls asked me to take a picture of the donkey that was standing nearby, pulling a cart, so I did. When I showed them the picture, they started dancing and saying, “The donkey got his picture taken! The donkey got his picture taken!” They really thought that was hilarious. Then one of the girls leaned/jumped on me and so I picked her up and twirled her around. She giggled and the rest of the girls wanted me to do the same to them. It doesn’t matter where you go – kids are still kids and I love them! When I started to leave, one of the girls grabbed my finger and started to walk with me. Before I knew it, I had a girl on each finger. We walked around the corner and an old man asked me if they wer all my children, because Europeans usually only have 2. I told him they were just my friends and that I had met them 5 minutes ago around the corner. He helped me tell the girls to go back home and I managed to get back to the hotel without the girls going too far from home.

On the tour we saw lots of old buildings (old here being 100 to 150 years old). This was a bit tiring, as it was early afternoon (my sleepy time), we were walking slowly, and we were listening to lectures in Swahili, but it was also interesting to learn the history of places that I had seen before but didn’t know anything about. In the evening, we were on our own for dinner. Each day, they gave us a $24 meal allowance to buy lunch and dinner (or 30,000 Tanzania shillings). That gave us the freedom to eat wherever we want (and was about how much they’d been spending when we all went to eat together), but there are a lot of places to eat where you don’t need that much money. I think the first day I spent 10,000 shillings out of my 30,000. On Thursday, I spent about 5,000. If we decided to eat cheap food instead of expensive, the rest was ours to use for other things – it was a pretty nice deal. ☺

To be continued…

Zanzibar Bado

(Zanzibar not yet)

We arrived safely back in Arusha yesterday afternoon after having an amazing time in Zanzibar. I'm trying to find time to post about it, but we have a ton of work to do right now too. We only have this week and next left in the Swahili course, so we have two reports to write this week and a big exam, another report due next week and presentations of the first two reports.

So, pictures and an update are on their way, but not yet. Sorry!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Update from Dar

Here’s a quick update (hopefully, since I’m paying to use the internet this time!) on our trip so far to the coast. It’s a very nice part of the country – lots of palm trees and coastal architecture. It’s interesting how familiar it looks after only a few days at the coast, and that 4 years ago!

The trip here was LONG – I think I forgot how long 9 hours in a bus is! Along the way, we passed the Pare and Usambara mountain ranges. We also saw bags and bags of charcoal, which is made in the forests there, being sold on the roadside. We stopped and got 3 (big) bags for one of our teachers to take to her family.

On Sunday we went to Bagamoyo, up the coast a bit from Dar es Salaam, where we saw ruins from a 13th century settlement, including a mosque and graveyard. The buildings were built using coral – every now and then, you see a seashell in the wall. After a very yummy mostly Indian lunch and a short swim in the Indian Ocean, we also visited the first Catholic mission in mainland Tanzania. David Livingston’s body spent the night there on it’s way back to England after he died. There was a museum with historical information about the Swahili slave trade and the early missionaries. In addition, we saw a 150 year old Baobob tree that had swallowed a chain. One of the early missionary nurses used to come to work on a donkey, so she tied a chain around the tree (which the missionaries had planted) to tie up her donkey. Well, the tree started to grow and the chain was stuck. Now the tree is huge (meters in diameter), and only about a foot of the chain is left sticking out of the tree!

Yesterday was really fun. In the morning, we went to the National Museum, which we didn’t expect to be too exciting, but it had some interesting exhibits about evolution (with remains from Oldupai Gorge), the history of Tanzania before, during and after colonialism, cultural artifacts from various ethnic groups and biological items such as coral, sea shells, fish, pictures of animals, etc. The best part, though, was talking with a group of Muslim school girls who were also visiting the museum. They were all 4th grade students and they were as excited to see a group of American students as we were to see them. We talked about where they lived and went to school and we talked a little about America. Then we took a picture with them. At the same time that I was talking to half the girls outside, the other Sarah was talking to the other half inside. When they all came out, we explained that we were both named Sara and that our classmates call us Sarah Mrefu (tall Sarah) and Sarah Mfupi (short Sarah) – can you guess which one I am!? So then when we left, they yelled all the way until we reached the gate, “Goodbye Sarah Mrefu. Goodbye Sarah Mfupi.” I really wished I had my camera out to take a video of them. They were adorable and so excited.

In the afternoon, we had a few hours to explore Dar. We wandered around an older Indian section, where there are narrower streets and lots of shops. We tried coconut milk (or water) which I didn’t like very much. I’ve had some before that I liked, but not this one so much. We also went to the fish market where we bought some cool seashells. The guy invited us to look while one of the girls made a phone call, and he started pulling out “special” seashells and telling us about each one. Well, 3 out of 4 of us ended up buying some. I think I got the best deal, though. I was last to bargain, and I pulled out some of the African tricks I’ve learned. After the price the other girls got, I didn’t think he would take what I offered, but he did and I was quite pleased. We also talked to some fruit and vegetable vendors and a man selling spices. We talked about all the spices, smelled them in bags, got the swahili name, gave the english name and discussed how they are used in America and Tanzania. Then we went across the street where the fish are sold. We saw what we thought were big ones (one was blue and yellow striped!), but were told that if we came early, like at 6 am, we would see really big one, sharks even.

Speaking of sharks, here’s a funny story. In class last week, one of the girls asked if there were sharks at the beach, and put her hands over her head like an upside down V. The teacher said that one came last year and that no one was allowed to swim until it went away. Of course, the word for shark in Swahili is the same as the word for the Pope, and the v on her head looked to two of us like the pope’s hat, so we thought our teacher was saying that when the pope came last year, no one was allowed to swim until he left – like it was indecent or something. When I told my host family about this they cracked up, literally, for several minutes!

We had planned to walk back to the hotel along the beach, because it’s not far, but after two sellers told us, without us asking, not to go that we, we decided to take a taxi instead. We still drove by the ocean, but from within the safety of the car.

Today we went to the carver’s market to buy souvenirs and gifts. It’s a place that carvers both work and sell items. I was with another girl who was looking for several specific things, and I was able to help her bargain a little harder for several items. I wasn’t buying much because I don’t want to haul it around East Africa for the next six months. I’ll bring Dave back in February before we leave. The only problem with that is that there will be someone else to keep me in check and I won’t be able to buy all the things that I like! Anyway, I started a list of things I’d like to get later, as well as places around Dar and Zanzibar that we should go together when we pass through here then. I’m really looking forward to that!

We visited the University of Dar es Salaam, where my Swahili teacher at MSU went to school and taught for a while. It was a very pretty campus, with lots of trees. After that, we went to the Village Museum, where we had a “traditional” meal, which was a nice break from hotel buffets. It was actually a lot like the food I’m used to in East Africa. The museum has houses from 18 different tribes in Tanzania and we were able to see what they look like traditionally as well as the rationale for different building styles – one from the Southern highlands had think walls to protect its inhabitants from the cold. Another from the coast was thatch to allow a breeze. In one, the second wife was in the bigger house because the first had finished her family work. In another, the first wife had the big house. In one (rare) example, the house had two big rooms one on each side, for the two wives.

Once we got back to the hotel, I walked downtown by myself – about a mile – because no one else wanted to come. It was fun to be on my own and not with a big group, but I made sure to watch out very well!

Tomorrow morning we leave at 6:30 am to catch the ferry to Zanzibar. I think Zanzibar will be a lot of fun, especially since we have more free time to explore on our own. We also get to eat all our meals on our own. They are giving us a meal allowance and we will get lunch and dinner on our own. It gives us a chance to try different things and to get some good street food – samosas, maandazi, chapatis. It also lets us go to little family restaurants to get more traditional food – I’m really hoping for some chapatis. There’s also a really yummy open market in the local gardens where they sell lots of fresh fish, meats, grilled veggies and chapatis. I’ve been there before and it was a LOT of fun.

Well, I’d better go - the internet cafĂ© is about to close and I still need to upload this. Love you all! More to come from Zanzibar!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Update from Dave and Citadel of Faith Church

Hi everyone, I thought I would take this opportunity to let everyone know how I’m doing. Sarah asked me to make a post a long time ago, but I’m not nearly as prompt as she has been in keeping everyone up to date.

I’m still doing well in school. For the past two weeks I have been doing a surgery rotation at Garden City Hospital. I’m really enjoying it. There are 5 other people on the service (which is a lot) so there is less for me to do than I had expected. This past Monday I ‘scrubbed in’ for a hemicolectomy (took part of the patient’s colon out). I was able to get a good view of everything that was happening and helped out by holding retractors and cutting sutures. I also helped close the wound with staples at the end of the case. It might not sound fun to some of you, but I enjoyed it!

There have been some exciting things happening at the church, Citadel of Faith, which Sarah and I attend when we’re in Detroit. I’ll tell about one now. Our pastor has been led by the Spirit to put a stop to the drug trade in the neighborhood of the church. He brought some men of the church together last Friday night (a week ago) to do some ‘urban camping’ on a street corner which is known to have up to 40 people at any given time selling drugs. The urban campers met at the church at 10:00 at night with tents and lanterns and such for prayer. Then, they set out for the corner and set up the tents and just started hanging out. By the end of the night, there wasn’t anyone left selling on the corner. As the men walked back to the church to go home, they met a resident of the area who told them, “These guys have been on this corner selling drugs since about 1976 and no one has been able to make them leave. The police couldn’t do it, the mayor couldn’t do it, no one could. But you all did. Whatever it is that you got, keep bringing it! They scared of you!” What ‘they got’ is the awesome power of God on their side. Speaking of which, the power came that night because the women of the church gathered together across the greater Detroit area in two’s and three’s to pray over the men and that street corner. Another resident told the church on Sunday that there had been only one young man out on the corner selling on Saturday night.

Now, you’ll be wondering, won’t the sellers just come back next week? Well, they might, but the church went out last night as well… Again it was a successful night. They found out, however, that some of the sellers are going to try to blend in with Citadel the next time they come out. They’ll be bringing tents and everything themselves (they happened to notice the police don’t try to make the tent-dwellers move off). So, Citadel will be doing something different next week, making sure the area is not home to drug dealers, drunks, and others.

You also might be wondering, isn’t it a little bit dangerous? You would be right there, too. But, Pastor Carey has been doing a lot of teaching on that point, and one passage he taught from sticks out in my mind. It is a story of Elisha who, with his servant, are sought out by the king and surrounded by the king’s army in a small village.
“Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” … and the servant looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (see 2 Kings 6:8-22 for the whole story).

There are dangers out there for the church, but, I think when we are called by God to his work, he will put his angels around with horses and chariots of fire to protect us. Are those sellers really scared of some men with a tent and a lantern? No. But might they be afraid of some unseen power, the power of God and his chariots of fire? Certainly.

So, exciting times for the church and that neighborhood in Detroit. I guess the only downside of the whole ‘shut down the drug trade’ operation is that we’re probably driving down the drug prices as the sellers suddenly have increased supply of unsold goods!

If you want to hear any of Pastor Carey’s preaching, feel free to come down to the church (check for more info. Or, barring that, try for audio of some of his latest sermons.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Traveling this week

I don’t have too much to say today. I was able to talk to Dave this morning as he was on his way to the hospital (don’t tell Grandpa!) at about 5:45 am in Michigan – yikes! I certainly enjoyed it, though.

Our schoolwork is definitely picking up. We’re supposed to be finishing the Swahili books we’ve been reading and writing a draft of a book report. I decided to switch books late in the game, so I still have a bit of reading to do. We’re also finishing our community projects. Yesterday, Megan and I met with the director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, whose offices are right down the road, as well as one of the development studies students, who works with World Vision in Kenya. We enjoyed talking to both of them about their work and about how their faith and the faith of the organization impacts the work that they do. If we get a chance to talk to anyone else we will, but we’re ready now to start writing a short report in Swahili. Both of us are graduate students, so we initially envisioned a well planned and organized mini-research project, but we realized, fortunately, that the point was to use Swahili and to learn (in a short amount of time), not to do real research.

We’re leaving early tomorrow morning for Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. It will take about 9 hours by bus to get there. We’ll be in Dar for 3 days, then we’ll take the ferry to Zanzibar, where we’ll be for 5 days before flying home a week from Monday. It should be a lot of fun. I’ll update you later in the week.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Pictures Up

I managed to post another page of pictures. These are miscellaneous pictures of my trip so far and includes a picture of a batik - especially for Julie! You can find them at:

There is a tab on the same page that will give you safari pictures, in case you haven't seen them yet.

I tried to figure out how to put a link to the picture on the sidebar, but I can't find the right place in the code. Maybe Dave can give it a try. In the meantime, you can use the link above.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ups and Downs

Today has definitely been a day of ups and downs. Before I woke up this morning, I dreamed that I was at my uncle’s funeral, which was really cool because it felt like I got a chance to go, even though I’m not able to go for real (it’s actually about to start in 10 minutes), and I woke up thanking God for that opportunity. An interesting thing is that the things people were saying were in Swahili. I think in the dream, I thought it was Spanish, but the words that I remembered when I woke up were Swahili words. Anyway, it’s been a hard day knowing what’s going on at home. My teachers knew what was going on and some of the other students, and they were all very understanding, but I still cried in the middle of class and periodically throughout the day.

Today we were studying directions and means of traveling, and so we divided into groups and did a scavenger hunt. Each group wrote and placed clues for another group and then we all went looking. We sent the group to the house of one of our teachers (which is also the family that one of the girls in our group is living with) and hung instructions on the clothesline. The instructions told them to knock on the door and sing a song using three random words for the lady who cooks there. Then she gave them the next clue, which sent them to the library to find a particular book. The clue in the book sent them to the laundry where they were supposed to ask “Where are the animals?” The lady told them that they were the animals and told them to act like a cow. After acting like cows, she told them that the clue was in the sand (in the volleyball court nearby). We had rolled up the clue and partially buried it in the sand. That clue sent them to the security guard at the gate who asked them to answer two riddles. After answering the two riddles, they got the “treasure.” The funny thing is that all three groups decided to leave their “treasure” with the security guard at the gate. Fortunately, each of use had clues written on different colors of paper and we each had to do something different. Actually, it probably wouldn’t have mattered because the treasures were all the same – juice boxes (pineapple-passion fruit – yum!), chocolate bars and little sweet bananas (which, by the way, are REALLY, REALLY good). It was a lot of fun and it was a great way to practice giving and following directions.

Last night was also really cool. I had a good conversation with one of the guys in the group and was able to pray for him for some things that he’s dealing with right now.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m working on getting some more pictures up. I’ll post the link again when they’re up. Please keep praying for my family, and especially for my aunt and her kids and grandkids.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

An Offer of Marriage

Just a few things today. The center vehicle came to pick us all up from our host families this morning to go to school. I was picked up first at 7:45 and then we picked up 6 other students. It was interesting to see where all the other students live. Most of them are right in the middle of the town. It looked like a fun place to live.

In the afternoon, we had free time to work on our community projects. My partner, Megan, and I are working on successes and challenges of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and we decided to focus on faith-based NGOs. Today, we went into town to try to visit World Vision, a very large Christian NGO that works around the world. We had seen a sign for the World Vision office previously on our way into town and knew which road it was on, so we planned to follow the sign and try to find it ourselves. When we asked the driver to drop us off by that road, he asked where we wanted to go and told us that the World Vision office is actually a long way out of town. But, because it was in the direction that he was going to pick up some kids from school he was able to drop us off there. It turned out to be about 8 km (5 miles) from where we had originally asked to be dropped off. We could have walked it, but it would have taken a while and we probably would have turned back before we got there, wondering if we had actually gotten the right road.

While we were there, I asked about Fadhili - the girl that Dave and I sponsor - where she lives and whether it would be possible to visit. Then we asked if there was someone we could talk to about the work that World Vision does. It might be possible for me to visit Fadhili before I leave for Kenya. It’s a ways, but not too far – just a few hours away. The person in charge of client relations was going to email someone in the U.S. to see what we could do. They usually want to do a background check before you can go visit. We’ll see. I didn’t think about it until I was here already and saw the World Vision sign. Regarding the project, the policy is to have only one spokesperson for the organization (the national director for Tanzania), but he is away until Monday. We’ll be leaving Friday for Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, so we’ll see if we have time to go back after we return.

To get back to Arusha, we walked back to the main road and then caught a daladala (local minibus – just like a matatu in Kenya) back into town. At least if we decide to go back, we know where the office is, plus which daladala to take to get there. Technically, we’re not supposed to take daladalas (a rule of the University of Georgia), but they told us that we could if we didn’t have another option. Personally, I was glad to have a reason to take the daladala. It’s a fun way to travel and it’s nice to be just like everybody else.

While we were waiting for the bus from the center to come, we stood talking with the guys who sell batiks in the street and one offered to sell us a batik for a low price – for whatever we had. I told him that I only had 100 shillings (less than 10 cents). He asked me to give him at least enough for him to eat, and said that Tanzanian food is less expensive than American food. Assuming that he meant ugali (one of the local staples), I said that I could cook ugali for him instead, before realizing that it was, in effect, telling him that I would marry him. He rolled up his batiks and quickly agreed. The Kenyan who was with us laughed and laughed and asked if I knew what I had said. I did, but only after I had said it. I told the seller that I didn’t have a pot, or a cooking stick or a fire, so I couldn’t cook ugali there. Besides, I already had a husband and I cook ugali for him (which is true!) So we joked a little more about it and all had a good laugh.

On a more sober note, my uncle passed away on Saturday after some complications with cancer. We knew it was coming, but no quite so soon. He’s the first person in my Mom’s family that I knew well who has died since my grandpa died when I was really little, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to go to the funeral this week, but Dave is planning to go. Please pray for my family right now and especially his wife, kids and grandchildren.

Well, I guess that was more than just a few things. I apologize if my English sounds funny – I kept thinking in Swahili instead of English while I was trying to write.

Love you all,

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More from the Mzungu

This morning, I went to the Catholic Church with Glory, the other girl who lives at the house. I liked it better than the Lutheran church, but I still had a hard time concentrating on what was being said and sung. I definitely missed my church in Detroit this morning, and also started looking forward to the church in the village in Kenya. There were six students from our group at the church, which I wasn’t expecting.

After church, I helped cook lunch. In the afternoon, we went to the local market up the road where market day is Thursday and Sunday. We went to buy coconuts, but we spent a bit of time in the used clothing section. I think my mom likes clothes shopping! It was quite amusing because people were yelling out the items they were selling and the price, “dresses, skirts, dresses, skirts, 200, 200, 200.” It reminded me of being at a baseball game where sellers are yelling peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs and bud light.

Being in Usa River (the town where I’m, living), wazungu are definitely a novelty. When someone yells “mzungu” (white person) at me to get my attention, I’ve taken to answering “mwafrika,” (african) back. I’m not sure if it’s rude or not, but my host mom laughed when I did it and thought it was an appropriate response.

After dinner, we took Asha, Monie, Glory and my grandmother back to Arusha town where they all stay during the week. The girls go to school in Arusha, so it’s easier for them to get to school early in the morning from their grandmother’s house. It was nice to see where she lives and where the girls live during the week. She has a beautiful garden there.

After we got home, I went to finish up my homework for Monday and my host mom helped me with it. She started almost doing it for me until I told her I would do it myself. She watched to make sure I got everything right. When I mentioned that I was reading a book in Swahili and that I had picked on that was a little bit difficult, she said that we should sit down and read it together. I will definitely take her up on that as I really can’t understand the book without being chained to my dictionary.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fun with my host family

Today has been a really fun day. We left the center today to stay with our host families. Originally, we were supposed to stay just the weekend and then one other weekend in July, but the center was overbooked with students for an upcoming short course and so we will be staying with our host families all week. Next week we’ll be in Dar as Salaam and Zanzibar and then we’ll be back with our host families for another week.

Yesterday was the graduation ceremony for the 36 students in the Development Studies course (a BA course with students from around Africa – I’m actually very impressed with the goals, format and content of the course). I had a very nice time discussing development with these students and hearing about the work that they do. I have friends now in several parts of Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe that I will try to see if I can get a chance to visit in the next 7 months! After the graduation ceremony, I met Qorro’s brother who is a doctor. So, they suggested that we should come to their part of Tanzania where Dave could work in the hospital/clinic with him and I could work with Qorro on the community development side. I wish I had more time to ask them questions and to get into some deeper issues with them. The next group, however, has already arrived, so I will need to make an effort to get to know them and begin building the same kinds of relationships.

After dinner last night, there was a band playing and dancing to celebrate their graduation and also Labor Day , which meant that I got to bed WAY too late, but still had to get up early to finish packing before my host family came to get me. By about 8:00 tonight, I was pretty ready for bed!

So, back to today. My host family came to get me this morning and I have spent the rest of the day with them. My host dad (Ahmed Msangi) is a police officer and was recently transferred to another region, so I haven’t met him yet, but when he called this evening, I talked to him on the phone (in Swahili, of course) and he sounds really nice. He is also the cousin of one of my Swahili teachers here. My host mom (Umi) works for a safari company (or possibly a travel company) in public relations. They have one daughter, Monie, age 7. Her niece, Asha, age 6, also stays with them so that she can go to a better school here in Arusha. The girls both stay most of the week with their grandmother, who lives in Arusha, because it’s easier for them to get back and forth to school. Another woman is here that the girls call Auntie Ellie and Umi’s mother is here right now too. I’m planning to go to the Catholic church with her in the morning.

The family lives in a really nice house, has two cars and only one child of their own – totally different than my host family in Kenya. I think it’s good for me, though, to get beyond my idealized picture of village life in East Africa and to remember that not everyone lives the same way. It’s also a gradual transition from life in America to life in the village, which I think is good for me now because it gives me time to mentally prepare. I started out at the center, which was really nice. Then I moved to my host family’s house, which is still very nice, but also more African. Then I’ll go to the village. My transition back to America will probably be gradual like that too. Dave and I will probably be staying at a guest house while we’re in Malawi.

Once we got back to the house this morning, Monie and Asha turned on the TV and we watched part of a show in Swahili. Then they started pulling out tapes and we watched a little bit of the Teletubbies, part of The Little Mermaid and some Mr. Bean. Because they’re supposed to be helping me with Swahili, Monie would narrate in Swahili what was about to happen in the videos. It was really cute. After lunch, we went for a walk up the road a bit, mostly to get out of the house and also to see a little bit more. I was definitely an interest-catching mzungu (white person) again. I had gotten used to being in Arusha town and around the center where people aren’t really surprised to see wazungu (plural of mzungu) around, even those who speak Swahili. We’re far enough (a few kilometers) away from the center, though, that people aren’t used to seeing wazungu around, and especially not ones who speak Swahili. We stopped at a few shops to greet the women there and two of them gave the girls and me each a piece of gum.

A little later in the afternoon I went with Umi and her sister to a nearby (BIG) market to trade a pair of jeans that didn’t fit for something else. They also did some other shopping in the used clothes market. I actually saw some really nice things there at pretty good prices. I saw one shirt that still had its thrift store tag indicating a price of about $2. The price in the market was 200 shillings (about 16 cents). Being in the market with so many people doing their business was really fun. These are the kinds of places that I feel very comfortable because it’s totally real life. I wish I could post a picture, but I wasn’t comfortable taking my camera there.

When we first arrived, there was a group of young kinds (probably all less than 5 years old) in the back of a pickup truck in the market (don’t worry - the truck was parked). When they saw me coming towards them, I heard “mzungu” and I saw them jumping up and down. So I greeted all of them, shook their hands and talked to them. They were definitely surprised to see a mzungu who could speak Swahili, We also saw (and were almost deafened by) a truck driving through the market making announcements over a speaker system about public health clinics in Arusha). Before we left, we watched the prime minister drive by on his way into Arusha town and had some ice cream.

When we came back, I helped with preparations for dinner –grating coconut, chopping cabbage and peeling carrots. There is a special tool for grating coconuts: a small stool with a round metal attachment with small teeth kind of like a saw. You sit on the stool to hold it steady and then grind the flesh out of the coconut by rubbing it along the teeth (kind of like using a juicer to make fresh orange juice). I do have a few little cuts on my hand from when the coconut slipped and my hand hit the (sharp) teeth.

From the back of the house, where we were working, you can see the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro when the weather is clear. Today was clear and I was quite excited to be able to see it. Umi’s mom even went out to the yard to hold a branch out of the way so I could take a picture. It’s exciting to see the mountain (which we cannot see from That was exciting because Kilimanjaro is definitely quintessential Africa.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Algebra in Kiswahili

Today we went to a primary school down the road a bit and we each taught a class in Swahili (for 40 minutes). We visited the school yesterday and met some of the teachers and discussed with them what we might teach. After having taught 7th grade math in Kenya (in English), I thought it would be fun to try try teaching math in Swahili. I spent a few minutes with the 7th grade math teacher learning some VERY new vocabulary - exponents, raising a number to a power, simplifying, multiplying both sides by 10 to remove the decimal, simple fractions, mixed fractions, etc. As I was preparing the lesson, I started to think, "What in the world was I thinking when I agreed to teach about dividing variables with exponents in Swahili?" As I went to bed, I was still repeating over and over the word for saying "raised to the" like "a to the third," which I couldn't remember for the life of me. When I woke up this morning, though, the first thing that came into my mind was "kipeocha" and I remembered it the whole time I was teaching. The class actually went really well and I think they understood most of what I said. I was even able to explain how to approach a math problem - identifying what you're looking for, identifying what you're given, and then using what you know to find what you need! It felt a lot like teaching in Kenya., and I think I was able to teach better in Swahili because of having spent a lot of time at a school in Kenya. I knew the flow of teaching, plus the appropriate questions to ask to get responses from the students. It really was a lot of fun. I really do enjoy teaching.

During the students' break time, they asked me to come play a ball game with them - rede (2 syllables, like ray-day) - which I did. You have two people on the ends and one person in the middle. The two on the ends throw a small (pretty soft) ball back and forth trying to hit the person in the middle. They had me both in the middle and on the end. Then came the group versi0n. There are still two people on the end, but many people in the middle. Each time someone gets hit, they are out. But, if someone in the middle catches the ball, everyone else has to squat down and the last one to squat is out. This continues until there is only one person left. It took me a few tries to figure out what exactly was going on and when to squat, but the girls were very gracious and the ones on the end were trying to make me the last one out (I did understand them saying that in Swahili!). I also took a turn on the end throwing the ball. I learned the first version of the game when I was in Kenya and used to play with some neighbor girls and with the girls at the schol where I was teaching.

After the break, we had chai and snacks with the teachers and we presented the supplies we had brought (pens, pencils, books, paper, crayons, pencil sharpeners, etc) as well as a small monetary gift to the head teacher. This is the last week of the school holiday, so only the 4th and 7th graders were there, preparing for national exams coming up. Many of the teachers came, though, to meet with us today. There are 30 some teachers in the school. All but 3 are women.

After tea, we went back to the 4th and 7th grade classes to talk to the students a bit and to let them ask us questions. It was fun, but we had a little trouble understanding some of the questions. Before we left, we took a picture with the 7th grade students. I was trying to post a picture, but it's not working right now. I'll try to add one later.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Shifting Sands

When our teachers told us that we would visit Shifting Sands on our trip last weekend, we all thought, “What in the world is Shifting Sands?” Oh my gosh! It was amazing! Shifting Sands is exactly what it says. It is a big pile of sand that moves. The sand originated in a volcanic eruption and is magnetic. That’s right, if you stick a magnet in it, which the guide did, the sand sticks to the magnet! When it gets on your hands, it comes right off because the magnetic pull of the big pile is much stronger than what you are holding in your hand.

The sand is located right in the path of a strong wind that blows through a gap in the mountains and as the wind blows, the sand is blown, but because it’s magnetic, it all sticks together. So the sand just blows up one side of the pile and down the other. So over time, the whole pile of sand just keeps moving. There are markers every few years since the 1950’s showing where the sand was each year. It literally moves several meters every year! Most changes in nature are very gradual and you see them over thousands or millions of years, but this was so cool because we could literally watch it moving. They let us climb right to the top of the pile and watch the sand go over the top! Really cool!

Hurray for Toyotas and Husbands!

Before I left for Tanzania, my car (a 1994 Toyota Camry) was getting very close to 200,000 miles and I was a little bummed that it would hit 200,000 while I was gone. So, I asked Dave to take a picture of the odometer when it got to 200,000 miles. Being the WONDERFUL husband that he is (today is our 3rd anniversary, by the way), he drove around the block several times so that he would be in the parking lot and able to stop and take a picture when it hit 200,000. He told me that he thought about getting the camera set up in the car so he could just take it, but then realized that if he tried to take it while driving (besides being dangerous), the picture would be incriminating since it would show the speedometer too. I don’t think I would have thought of that!

Thanks to Chris and Melinda for selling us such a good car and to Tom and the guys for taking such good care of it along the way! Hopefully I’ll be able to witness 300,000 myself!

Monday, July 03, 2006

More about the Safari

Did you know that the swahili word "safari" really only means "journey"? For most Americans, it means a trip to Africa to see animals, but it can actually be any trip. So, here's more about my "safari" this weekend.

(See for pictures)

We left Friday morning from Arusha and stopped at a Masai Cultural Museum not too far out of town. It was really interesting to see and hear about traditional Masai culture without feeling super voyeristic. At the museum, there were also women from a coop selling jewelry and other items and I had a lot of fun looking at things and practicing my bargaining skills. I think I keep offereing prices that are too high becuase they are accepted immediately. I did manage to get a better price for that item after buying a few more things too (I ended up paying half as much as I originally offerend and 1/4 of what she originally asked). It was a good opportunity to practice Swahili and I know that by buying things from the coop, I was more directly impacting the women rather than middlemen who buy and sell the jewelry at high prices in touristy places.

It was very interesting to watch the landscape change as we drove. Arusha is very lush and green, but as soon as we got out of town, it was significantly dryer. Lots of Acacia trees and scrub brush - very much what people picture when they think of Africa. Between Arusha and Lake Manyara, we passed quite a few Masai villages and saw many Masai boys and young men herding cattle and goats. It is a very intriguing life and I've always wondered what it would be like to be a Masai and to see the world as a Masai.

By the time we got to Lake Manyara National Park, it was very green again, like Arusha, and had sections of deciduous forest. It's really amazing how quickly the landscape changes here. one guy in the group speculated that the farther south you go (which I interpreted as the closer you are to the equator) the more varied the landscape/climate is within a particular area. Can anyone else shed some light on this?

As we were almost to Manyara, we had to go around a cow that was lying in the middle of the road. Inside the park, there was a Zebra in the middle of the road. On the way to Ngorongoro, another car had to stop and wait for an elephant that was in the road. It sure helps you to remember that we are actually invading their space when we build roads to come see them.

We saw some interesting animals at Lake Manyara - giraffes (lots!), elephants, baboons (lots of those too), hippos. The Lake itself is a soda lake and changes size dramatically based on the season. The rainy season ended in May, so the lake is relatively small now. Lake Manyara is also right at the edge of the Rift Valley, so we had great views of the Rift Valley escarpment (the edge of the valley, which is VERY steep).

After Lake Manyara, we traveled to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge and several volcanoes (mostly extinct). At the western edge, it adjoins Serengeti National Park. The main road from Arusha and the rest of northeastern Tanzania to Lake Victoria and northwestern Tanzania passes through the conservation area, although not too many buses and vehicles choose that route because of the steep fees and BUMPY roads. The alternative is to fly or to go north via Kenya.

The crater itself was incredible. It is about 20 km across and is completely surrounded by the crater wall. It's almost like being in the valley beside a mountain except that mountain goes all the way around you. Because of the unbroken walls, the crater has its own little ecosystem. We saw a lot of wildebeest (including two that were almost breakfast for a lion), zebra and buffalo. We also saw flamingos, a variety of birds, warthogs, elephants, hyenas and a several kinds of antelope. We saw a pride of lions eating their prey. At the end of the day, we also saw a cheetah, which was really fun, partly because it's not one of the more common animals.

Throughout the day, we joked about seeing "wazungu" (the other tourists) and talking about them like we did all the other animals. I did see a few very interesting wazungu, though. As we were driving along, I happened to look behind us at another vehicle and was a little surprised that they guy driving the vehicle looked a little like a friend of mine who lives in Kenya. All at once, I did a double-take, realizing that the people in the vehicle behind us actually WERE my friends Travis and Lydia. I yelled, "Stop! Stop! Stop!" in Swahili while wildly waving my arms, afraid that they would pass by without see me. So, both cars stopped and we had a chance to talk for a few minutes (all in Swahili). The took a picture of me and I took a picture of them. My teacher told them where and when we were stopping for lunch, so they met us there. After they drove off, another girl was surprised that we had the whole conversation in Swahili, but assumed that we just always spoke Swahili to each other. Actually, we write emails in Swahili, but the last time I saw them in person, I hadn't really started studying it. So, it was a little wierd that they whole conversation was in Swahili, but fun too.

So, we met Travis and Lydia (and Lydia's parents, who live and work in Nairobi) for lunch and I got a chance to talk with them and catch up a bit. I was hoping to stop and see them on my way through Kenya in August, so this was a good opportunity to touch base with them! It was really a blessing to be able to see them and definitely a shock! We were both there only one day, and it happened to be the same day and I happened to see them. Of course, I don't think that anything just "happens," so I'm grateful to God for the chance to see them and the excitement of the surprise.

Well, that's probably enough for now. Maybe more tomorrow. I found out that Dave's home early today, so I'm going to give him a call before it's time for bed. I love Skype! I figured out how to set up and use it and now, imagine, I can call America from Tanzania for 2 cents a minute. Is that crazy or what!?

Love you all,

Safari to cool places

We just got back this evening from a trip to Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge (yes, this is the correct spelling - the first Europeans got the name wrong), and to see a Masai family. It was really a lot of fun and some interesting sights. I'll write more about it in the next day or two, but in the meantime I have posted some pictures here:

FYI, a few of the names listed in the pictures are Swahili. See if you can find them!