Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nita kuku mboka

It is hard to believe that only four short weeks ago I was in the same place - Kilimajaro International Airport.  The only difference is that then I was asking myself what I was doing in Africa all alone. I was also wondering if anyone would remember to pick me up!  Now I am wondering why on earth I am leaving 80 degree weather to go back to the middle of a Wisconsin winter.

Yesterday, Bree and I woke up early to greet the school children on the dirt road near our house. I had bubbles and stickers and candy I wanted to hand out to the kids.  The children were, for the most part, patient and willing to share. Despite the fact that they each only took two pieces of candy, all 200 pieces were gone in a matter of minutes. Word of the mzungu with pepe (sweets) spread quickly!

Ally and I spent the majority of the day getting his blog up and running for Good Hope Orphanage.  He has received some additional support ovee the past few weeks and is excited to share the construction progress with the donors. His blog is  I will add it to the list of links when I get home tomorrow.

I know I've said it before, but I want to thank everyone again for your blog comments, emails, and facebook posts.  You put countless smiles on my face while I was away.  I have a few more stories to share with all of you, but for my mother's sake I am waiting until she knows I am home safely to share them!  I hope you'll check back from time to time.  This is only the beginning.

For now,
Nita kuku mboka, Tanzania.    
I will miss you, Tanzania

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Oh my goat!"

First, thank you to everyone who took the time to follow the link in the last post and vote for KIWAKKUKI.  We are getting closer to the top ten!  $8300 would provide school fees for 83 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS this year.  After all that I have seen here in Tanzania, I am convinced that an opportunity to receive an education may be the only hope a child has of escaping a lifetime of poverty.

The end of January/beginning of Februrary is the start to a new school year here in Tanzania.  In December all of the kids took end of year exams and yesterday every internet cafĂ© in Moshi was filled with children looking up their exam scores.  The town was filled with anxious faces.  Those who pass their exams are eligible to go on to the next grade.  Those who do not pass must repeat the entire grade or drop out of school.  As you can imagine, yesterday was a very big day!

On Tuesday, Bree and I had the chance to go to Rombo, a small village nestled in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We traveled with 3 women from KIWAKKUKI and 3 volunteers from Norway.  As I shared previously, I had spent some time working in Boma Ngombe the week before safari so I had some idea what to expect.  For Bree, Lene, Camilla and Maggie, this was their first time into rural Tanzania.  Our morning started out an hour later than expected – no surprise there.  The first stop was to a small school.  We were greeted by about 25 extremely shy children and we handed out balloons and blankets to every child.  One boy in particular stood out to me.  He was always smiling and, somehow, he managed to end up with three balloons – every other child only had one.  As crazy as it may sound, I left with the feeling that that little boy has a bright future ahead of him.  If he can find a way to acquire three balloons, without taking them from any other child, I know he will find a way to succeed in life.

We stopped at 2 other schools and 2 homesteads in Rombo.  At one school, the children gathered together and sang a beautiful song for us.  I can’t wait to post the video for you to hear!  The sound is indescribable.  Both of the schools host clubs sponsored by KIWAKKUKI that educate children about their sexual health rights.  They also involve the children in sustainable development projects and teach them how to grow corn, raise animals and milk goats.  Our day in Rombo is now known as the “goat tour.”  The women at KIWAKKUKI were so proud of the goats they were able to give to the schools and the families we visited.  Everywhere we saw a goat we were instructed to go into the goat pen and take a picture!  At one point there were 10 of us crammed into a goat pen about 3 feet by 5 feet in size.  Needless to say, the goat was not too thrilled to have a throng of unwanted visitors in his home!

One of the biggest struggles that I have had here in Tanzania is that it is hard to find a way to lead change or make a difference in such a small amount of time.  Many of the volunteers I have met here struggle with the same issue.  It often feels as though we are on a “goat tour” while we are here.  Everyone wants to show us what they are doing, but no one is prepared to put us to work.  Many volunteers are specialists in their field and their skills are seldom used.  The only exception to this rule seems to be the medical placements. Our Tanzanian coordinators, Ally and Deo, spend a lot of time in the evening talking with us about how to better utilize new volunteers.  It will not change overnight, but we are seeing small changes and I am hopeful about the future.

Today was my last day at KIWAKKUKI.  Bree and I were able to write up and submit a grant proposal for a new children’s rights program this week.  Mama Kishe could not believe we were able to complete the grant application in 3 short days.  We couldn’t believe it had taken her 3 weeks to do what she had done!  Ah, the difference between Tanzanian time and Mzungu time.  All of the volunteers in the house joke, but some days it seems to equal the difference between the first and third world.

As you know, dinnertime is my favorite time in the house.  Not really because of the food…it’s all starting to taste the same now.  But the time we all spend around the table is always full of entertaining stories from the day.  Tuesday night, after sharing about our goat tour, Sumaia blurted out “Oh my goat!” We all got a good laugh.

It is hard to believe I only have two “dinnatime’s” left here in Tanzania.  Tonight we are having ugali, chapati (a flat bread), guacamole, potato wedges, and spaghetti.  Quite the combination of foods!  After dinner we are watching Michael Jackson videos together.  We started the DVD last night, but lost electricity earlier in the evening and the laptop battery died right as the Thriller video was about to start.  Fatouma and Sumaia were devastated!  We’ve been waiting all day to finish the movie.  It should be a great night.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Please Vote!

Hello friends.

Short post today.  I added some web links to the side bar of the blog.  Many of you have asked about KIWAKKUKI and Ally's orphanage in Arusha - Good Hope Orphanage.  Feel free to check out their websites.

There are 3 Norwegian girls working at KIWAKKUKI with me and Bree who entered a competition in Norway to earn funding for a cause.  From what I understand there are nearly 700 applicants, but KIWAKKUKI is currently in 20th place.  There are 3 grand prize winners who receive approximately $8300 USD.  If KIWAKKUKI can make it into the top 10, we have a great shot of being selected as a winner by the final jury.  The cause is quite unique compared to many of the other entrants.

I am including the directions Lene gave me to vote:
The page is in Norwegian but I do think it's easy to vote anyway. Just underneath the picture you will see that you can vote on facebook and on email. Just press the button and it will take you to next level. If you oress on facebook, it just gets registrated. If email, a new page will pop up and ask for you email address. Then it will send a link to your email that you have to press. Of course we wish that peolpe will vote both on facebook and on email.

If some one should have any problems, just ask them to email me, and I will type in what's nessassary. Ask them to mark it "competition"

Thanks in advance to everyone for your help!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hakuna Matata!

The house has never been this quiet.  We are all huddled around a 13" television in the living room watching the Lion King right now.  It's a pretty funny site - 10 people from age 4 to 64, from all over the globe, watching the Lion King in English, and smiling and laughing every time we hear a Swahili word or phrase!

Today was a pretty lazy day.  A bunch of us wandered into town this afternoon for an American/Italian lunch of brick oven pizza.  Ironically, Fatouma decided to make pizza for us tonight!  After boatloads of ugali over the past 3 weeks, none of us minded the pizza overload.

Tomorrow I start working at the home office of KIWAKKUKI in Moshi Town.  Bree and I will leave the house by 7am to make it to their Monday morning meeting.  With only 5 days left here in Tanzania, I am feeling like I have so much to do and not nearly enough time.  I have 3 main goals for my remaining week here in Moshi:

1 - My hope is that tomorrow I will be able to get some questions answered about the sources of funding for  KIWAKKUKI.  Fighting HIV/AIDS is the main priority of USAID (funded by the U.S. State Department) in Tanzania.  KIWAKKUKI is the largest HIV/AIDS non-profit organization in Tanzania and yet they do not receive any grant assistance from USAID.  I would like to gather enough information this week to more effectively inquire about future funding from USAID.

2 - Bree will be working with KIWAKKUKI for the next 3 months.  Last week was her first week and it was a bit disjointed.  She's a little unsure about what she will be doing for the next 3 months.  Throughout the week we are going to visit with different staff members to come up with a project that she can work on for the next 3 months.

3 - Ally is working hard on the continued construction of Good Hope Orphanage in Arusha.  If you remember from an earlier post, he and his mother started the orphanage and the work they are doing there is some of the best I have seen during my time here.  One of the other volunteers here in the house is currently raising funds to build an infirmary on the land and he plans to come back in 5 months to oversee construction and then run the infirmary for the local community and orphans for the first year.  I am working with them to get a blog up and running.  The purpose of the blog is to update donors on the progress made over the coming year.

In short, it will be a busy week.  When I first arrived in Tanzania a month seemed like a long time.  Now it feels as though it takes nearly a month to truly begin to understand where and how I can help.   Thankfully, I am surrounded by a group of great volunteers.  Everyone is committed to long-term improvement here in Tanzania and we are excited to continue to work together in the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Safari Part II

I found a new internet cafe this afternoon and for an extra 33 cents for the hour I have the luxury of sitting in an air conditioned-building with "guaranteed" electricity!  A great end to a relaxing afternoon in Moshi Town.

Tara, I read your comments aloud to Sarika, my tent-mate on the safari and she said she wanted to meet you.  When I asked why, she said it was because obviously you knew me as well as she does now!  Your interpretation of my thoughts and behavior was pretty much spot on.  Krissa, I hope to upload a few pictures tonight.  I got a great shot of the daladala today and would love to share it with all of you - the picture will tell the story all by itself.

Sarika and I were on safari with Iza and Peter, from Poland.  We met them the morning we left and liked them instantly.  They are loud, spontaneous and always laughing - or eating!  They had finished a 6-day climb up Kilimanjaro the day before our safari.  Impressive.  We also had a guide and a chef along for the journey, Anwar and Moses.  After seeing a butcher shop and the meat market here in Moshi the first day, I quickly became a Tanzanian vegetarian.  I will spare you the details.  Thankfully, Moses was willing to accommodate to my new diet restrictions.

I think I mentioned yesterday that our guide, Anwar, has been a safari guide for 20 years.  We were so fortunate to have him!  He could spot a lion a mile away.  Incredible.  Many of the guides rely on each other to radio when they spot an animal and then they race to a crowd of safari vehicles to catch a glimpse of a lion who is 300 yards away.  The Serengeti covers over 9000 square miles and Anwar knew every bit of it. While we didn't cover the whole thing, for the most part we never saw another safari vehicle.  It truly felt like we were in the middle of our own personal wilderness.  I am struggling to find the words to describe the landscape.  Much of the landscape is vast plains with grasses about knee high.  Throughout the plains there are sporadic rock formations that are left from a volcanic eruption years ago.  I expected that this would be where most of the lions would rest in the afternoon, but for the most part they would lie with their pack in the middle of the plains.  In places we could see so far that we could literally see the curvature of the earth.  It is incredible.

Each day we saw something new.  Monday, we saw our first lions at Lake Manyara - a mother, sister, and three somewhat grown cubs.  Tuesday, we saw our first male lions.  They were within 3 feet of our vehicle. Anwar was bold enough to "break the rules" and drove off the road to a pack of 12 lions lying in the tall grasses about 100 yards off the road.  Our safari truck was literally surround by lions!  Wednesday we saw our first leopards and Thursday, our last day in the Serengeti we saw the cheetahs.  Thursday morning we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the plains.  I am truly blessed to have witnessed it.  The sky was orange and red with just enough clouds to add dimension and color and the skyline was dotted with the black profiles of Acacia trees.  I can't wait to share the pictures with you.

Friday was our final day on safari and we went to the Ngorongoro Crater.  For those of you who have visited the Grand Canyon, the feeling you get standing on the edge of the crater rim is quite similar.  The view in front of me looked like a painting.  The center of the crater has a large lake, filled with pink flamingos, and herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra roam across the plains.  As we ascended into the crater Friday morning, we had no idea we were in for the best surprise of the safari!  Most of you know, sometimes I am slightly competitive.  After 4 days on safari, I desperately wanted to be the one to spot one of the Big 5 in the distance.  It was shortly after 6 am and we were watching some hippos out in the field, when I looked ahead and saw 2 large dots on the edge of the road.  I asked Anwar if they were hippos and I will never forget the smile on his face when he saw them...they were the rhinos!  The last of the Big 5 we had yet to see!  We sped ahead and watched them walked from one field to another and pass in front of our car.  It is hard to put into words how excited we were...even though the papa rhino was none too please to see us!  For a moment he actually reared up and began stomping toward our vehicle.  We decided not to press our luck, turned off the engine and just watched them cross the road about 15-20 feet in front of us.  For 5 minutes we watched as they wandered out back into a secluded area of the crater where they would rest for the remainder of the day.  We were the only visitors to see the rhinos that day and Anwar said that in 20 years he can literally count how many times he has seen them that close.  There are only 25 in the crater itself and, though there are about 60 in the Serengeti, they are currently being monitored in a section of the park where visitors are not allowed in order to encourage breeding.  I am still smiling as I think of the excitement we all felt that morning.

I am now back in Moshi and we have 3 new volunteers in the house, with another one arriving from Slovakia tomorrow.  One of the new volunteers, Bree, and I will be working with KIWAKUKKI again this week at their main office in Moshi.  I have so much more to share, but will save it for tomorrow.  My Kindle finally has wireless access at the house and I may try to blog every day this week if I have the time.  Many of the volunteers in the house are working on separate projects and each night at dinner we share our discoveries from the day with each other.  The combination of our mixed experiences and backgrounds, makes for quite the conversation.  We have Jason, the Texan paramedic, and Sophie, a nurse from London who spent the past 6 weeks in Uganda. Bree, a 19 year old from Idaho, who has no fear and is traveling alone for the first time for 5 months.  Christina, from Germany, Ming, from Malaysia, Mr. Bill, who I mentioned in my first blog, and our new volunteer from Slovakia.  Combine them with our 4 Tanzanian brothers and sisters and it makes for a loud, crowded dinner table!

Thanks for the football updates, encouraging words, and updates from home.  Naomi - I am so proud of you for getting your temps!  (That doesn't mean you'll be driving the Volvo, though! :))

It is hard to believe I only have a week left!  I'll "talk" to you soon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Safari Part 1

Wow. Where to begin? It is amazing how much can happen in 5 short days. I suppose I better get the bad news out of the way first: I arrived "home" to Moshi today and sadly discovered that the resident chicken familyis now only one adolescent chick. Remember how I mentioned early on that it can be difficult to get the facts here? Well, I am not sure if the mama chicken was found dead in the yard or if she was just butchered, but I do know she was on the dinner table last night. And the other two chicks? No one knows where they are.

This week I went on a five day/four night safari. It could not have been better. We started in Lake Manyara National Park, spent three days and two nighs in the Serengeti and then one day and night at Ngorongoro Crater. We saw all five of the Big 5! Pretty rare. We saw 44 lions and cubs, 3 leopards, 4 cheetahs hunting, 5 rhinos, and 100's of elephants!

I went on a tent safari and, while I know it isn't Wisconsin winter it was much colder than I expected. One of these days I'll learn stop expecting things. Our campsite in Serengeti was literally in the bush. It does not have any sort of protection around it to keep animals out.  Naturally, I woke up at 4am my first night there to the loud roar of lions and the cackling of hyenas.  I found myself thinking two things. The first was that no matter what - even if it cost a thousand dollars - I would sleep in a hotel the next night. The second was that the odds were in my favor that if a lion came to camp it would likely catch and kill someone else first. I stayed awake until 7:30a.m. breakfast, heart pounding, reviewing every last survival skill I knew.

Suffice it to say, I made it through all four nights in a tent and so did everyone ese at camp!

I have so much more to share, but I keep falling asleep. More tomorrow!        

Friday, January 14, 2011


Wow.  I can't believe how quickly this week flew by.  So many things have happened in only 5 short days!

This week I began my volunteer project at KIWAKUKKI, the HIV/AIDS community project for women here in Tanzania.  I will try to post the website here later so that you can get a better idea of what the project does.  From what I can understand (the translation is a bit tough at times), the organization serves over 5,200 women and children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS here in Tanzania.  It is the largest organization of its kind.  On Monday I spent the day walking through the town of Boma Ngombe with Mary, one of the Tanzanian volunteers.  We visited the homes of 5 women with HIV.  Unfortunately, only 2 of the women were home.  Mary's English is better than my Swahili, however, that is not saying much for either of us!  At the home visits I asked as many questions as I could and learned a bit about the lives and struggles of the women.  By the end of the day, I had walked at least 10 miles in the hot, hot, hot sun, and I was exhausted. 

To be honest, I am still trying to figure out how to process what I saw.  I had a lunch in my bag that I never stopped to eat.  No one I encountered had enough food to eat more than one small meal a day.  The women receive their anti-retrovirals (ARVs) free from the hospital each month and are instructed take the medication twice a day with food.  I have read some reports suggesting that it is often difficult to educate the people here about the importance of remembering to take the correct daily dosage.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that this did not seem to be the case here.  That being said, because the women are not able take the ARVs each food they are extremely prone to ulcers. 

At the first home I visited the woman asked me for approximately $100 USD to send her youngest daughter to school this year.  At the next home, I was asked to build a chicken coop.  I went home that evening unsure of how I could really make an impact in such a short time.  I still don't have it all figured out.  I suppose no one does which is why the problem still exists.  Mama Ruth, the women who started KIWAKUKKI, has built 8 orphanages and is currently sending roughly 200 kids to school with the support of sponsors.  It seemed like such a great number until I asked to see the waiting list of children in the orphanages who cannot attend public school because they don't have school fees.  There are over 1700 children from an area no greater than 50 sq km. who are waiting for support. Worse than that is the fact that if a child misses a year of school, he or she cannot come back the next year, regardless of the funds they may scrape together.  In a country where no one is in a rush to do anything, time is of the essence for these kids.

On a lighter note, yesterday I was able to buy some speakers for the house and we are now enjoying our free time listening to Michael Jackson and Shakira, while little Sumaia dances around the house.  Last night we even got to watch Step Up 2 and although Esther and Sumaia could not understand the English, they loved the dancing!  Sarika and I cooked an "American" dinner of Mac and Cheese and Chili for everyone.  It was a great night!

The dynamic of the house changes almost daily.  We've had two new volunteers arrive this week already.  Both are medical professionals - Jason, from Dallas, and Sophie, from London.  Our dinner table is always full - I can't wait to post pictures so that you can see everyone!  Oh, and before I forget, today was a big day in the house...we had a hot water heater installed!  Funny enough, by now I am so used to the cold water, I can't imagine I will even use it, but it's a nice luxury to have.

On Monday I leave for safari for 5 days.  The itinerary includes Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and, or course, the Serengeti.  For the first time this morning I began to really get excited about my plans for next week.  I feel so privileged to be able to experience all that I have seen so far and there is so much more to come!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A bit of this and that

Somehow, in a country where everything is slower than slow, I always feel rushed at the internet cafe.  Especially during the last post.  I had not thought about what I would write in my last blog and as I was running out of time, I was sure I was missing something.  I was.

I'll start with the dala dala.  Some of you heard me talk about the dala dala before I left the States.  It is the main mode of local transportation here in Tanzania.  Picture this: an old, rundown, VW-type bus, with vinyl covered bench seats from the 1950's, a sliding door that is only closed at "high" speeds, and 28 people crammed into a space suitable for 9.  All of this wouldn't be so bad, except the temperature on the dala dala is at least 90 degrees.  When you want to stop and get off, you hiss at the "doorman" who is busy hanging out the window looking for more passengers to cram on board.  It is truly a circus!

On Wednesday, when we went to Arusha we took the dala dala to the bus station here in Moshi where we transferred onto a "bus".  There is not a traditional bus schedule - instead, Ally has taught us to look for the "most reliable-looking" bus, negotiate a fare, and then hop on board.  At times, you can wait up to 30 minutes for the bus to fill up, before it leaves for Arusha.  And yes, although it is not quite as bad as the dala dala, we still sit 5 or 6 to three seats.  Our 40 mile trip took about 2 hours.

From what I gather, the government owes money to the electric company here in Tanzania.  As a result, the electricity goes out at different times every day for about 6 hours.  I tried to post Friday, but the electricity cut out and I lost my blog.  I am now sitting here, blogging on Ally's computer, while watching some sort of Tanzanian TV show - sort of like Cops meets America's Funniest Home Videos meets a soap opera.  As if that weren't bizarre enough, the chicken family is making its way across the living room into the kitchen pantry where it will settle in for the night!

Despite all of the craziness, I love Tanzania.  Fatouma, Sumaia (I spelled it wrong before), Esther, Ally and Deo have made this my home away from home.  There is so much laughter in the house!  We have become a chezi (crazy) Tanzanian family.

I have a new favorite Swahili phrase I learned this week.  It is the best way I can think to describe the mentality and attitude of the people here in Tanzania:
Usewe na wasi wasi - Breathe your worries away.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Judging by the adventures I have had already, it is hard to believe I have only been in Tanzania for 5 days.  I am back in the internet cafe again and running through the stories in my head trying to decide which to share.  First and foremost, I told many of you that I talked to God about the bugs and He was going to take care of it for me...well, He did!  I have not seen a single large bug yet!!  Not even any small ones to be honest.  A daddy long legs here and there, but that is all.  Although, to be honest, every once in a while a little lizard goes running along the bedroom or bathroom wall and it scares the life out of me - I'm always sure it is going to be some GINORMOUS Madagascar beetle or something.

While I'm on the subject of wildlife, Sarika, Elizabeth (my roommates) and I had two bushbabies in the tree outside our window two nights ago.  They are the loudest little buggers I have ever heard and kept us up for quite some time.  Bushbabies are like lemurs, and look like a cross between a monkey and a raccoon, I guess.  Although it was loud, it was a bit entertaining!  Unfortunately, today I found out that the neighbor killed one of them because he thought they were eating his chickens.  I'm thinking it wasn't them - bushbabies are vegetarians.

This week is my "cultural immersion" program.  Each day I am amazed at the amount of Swahili I am learning.  I know the common greetings and questions, can count to a million, tell the time, know all of the months days and years, can ask basic questions and am learning some more basic words so that I can get around town.  Ally, my teacher, is patient and speaks English quite well.

After language lessons each morning, we go on some sort of excursion.  I expected the "program" to be a bit more formal, but flexibility here is a must.  The girls and I now joke that whatever errand needs to be completed that day is my cultural immersion experience for the day!  While it wasn't what I expected (again!), I can't say I am disappointed.  Every excursion is a new adventure.  (A note to anyone who may decide to visit Africa some day - don't expect anything!)

I am running out of time and will wrap up soon, but I'd like to share a bit with you about the orphanages here.  Elizabeth and Sarika are working at an orphanage about 3 miles from our house.  It is run by some catholic sisters and privately supported.  On Tuesday I was able to go with the girls and Ally to the orphanage to speak with the head mother about some basic improvements that could be made to better care for the children.  Interestingly enough, this particular orphanage is quite well-off compared to others here in Tanzania, but they do not use what they are given.  Simple things like handsoap, diapers, milk and water are used only sparingly with the children.  For example, each day a child gets 2 tiny cups of milk (maybe 4 ounces) and a cup of water after each playtime.  We are not sure if it is a lack of education or time, but the dadas (sisters) do only the minimal amount needed for the children to get through the day.

In contrast, yesterday we went to Arusha to visit Ally's orphanage.  He and his mother started it about 5 years ago.  It is not government funded and we were unsure what we would find when we arrived.  The girls and I were greeted at the entrance by 12 smiling, excited children.  Each one of them went down the line and greeted us in English, telling their names and asking how we were.  I am smiling now just thinking of how proud they were to be able to speak with us.  Ally is doing amazing work.  He inherited what i would guess to be about 5 acres of land from his father.  It is across the road from the current orphanage which no bigger than 1000 square feet.  In the past five years he has erected a school building on the land which currently teaches grades 1 through 4.  Next year, he will expand to grade 5 and will continue to do so until the oldest child completes grade 7 (at which point they transfer to government boarding school).  The school is simple, but beautiful.  The building is a simple rectangular building with 4 classrooms.  The walls are covered with pictures, grammar lessons and learning tools.  There are long handmade wooden desks at which 3 or 4 children can sit and study.  The children study both English and Swahili in school. 

For the past year, Ally has been working on building a new orphanage for the children.  He has planned it out well and today the windows will finally be installed.  He and a few of his friends and relatives dug their own well and help on the construction whenever needed.  There is much to do still, but he is excited at the progress.  The children can't wait for their new home!

I met my first Maasai warrior yesterday.  He guards the school grounds and thought Elizabeth, Sarika and I were quite funny.  I have only seen a handful of mzungu (white people) around here, so I am sure we were somewhat of a spectacle...wish I could post pictures for you.

I will have to work on keeping my posts a bit shorter than this.  There is so much to share!  Thank you to everyone who has been following along and posting notes for me.  They are so much fun to read!!  I really do appreciate it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thank you, Thank you very much

I guess no matter how hard you try you can't avoid jet lag.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep at about midnight and now 5 hours later I am wide awake (thanks in part to the rooster) - we'll see how long that lasts!  Unfortunately my Kindle doesn't get internet reception at the house.  In order to save time at the Internet Cafe I will write out my posts whenever I get a chance and head down to the cafe to type them in when I can.  Thanks to everyone for your posts!  They brighten my day.

Nothing can really prepare you for your first day in rural Africa - or any third world country for that matter.  It's hard to explain, but it is not bad, just very different.  I arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport and wasn't even sure if anyone would be there to pick me up.  Our flights were delayed a couple of hours - for no real reason -  everybody just moves at their own pace around here....slowly.  As they say in Swahili "pole, pole".  Anyway, I had not received confirmation that I would be picked up at the airport, but hey, no worries.  I figured I would stop by a phone store at the airport, pick up a SIM card and make some calls.  Wrong.  The airport was really just an open air structure no bigger than a CVS.  No stores.  Thankfully, my bags were on the luggage belt waiting for me after I went through customs and, after a few moments of uncertainty, I found my driver, exchanged money and started on the road to Moshi.  Ally the driver (there is another Ally who is teaching me Swahili) and I had several laughs on our 40 minute ride.  He gave me a quick introduction to Swahili - When I say "thank you" (asante) you say "thank you very much" (asante sana).  At time it feels like I'm actually living in the middle of an old Elvis movie which made the saying all the more fitting.

I'm quickly learning that perception is everything here.  People don't really tell it like it is - they just tell it to you the way they'd like it to be.  For example, the "town" of Moshi that I'm staying in has either 250,000 or 1.2M people in it - depending on who you ask.  And yes, incase you were wondering, we do have hot/cold showers.  That is if I take a bucket of water to the stove, boil it and carry it into the bathroom to dump on myself, the walls, floor, toilet and anything else that may get splashed in my shower with no curtain.  Under normal circumstances this may seem less than ideal.  However, it wasn't until half way through my first "shower" that I realized the hand held shower head actually worked and the tiny stream of cold water coming out of the faucet comes out just a little bit faster through the shower head.  After the frustration of trying to shower with a bowl and a bucket for 5 minutes, this small discovery felt like a modern day miracle!

There are 11 of us living in this 7 bedroom house - depending on who you ask!  Fatouma - the house mom - her daughter, Somiya (she is maybe 3) and 14-yea old Esther.  We are told she is a friends daughter or a cousin.  Who knows?  There are 5 girls from the U.S. and 1 guy who I have yet to meet.  Then there are 2 or 3 other Tanzanians who come and go, depending on the day.  Sarika (NYC), Elizabeth (FL) and I share a room.  We are quickly becoming friends and i am sure I will have plenty of stories to share about them over the coming days.

It is now 6:04 am, the sun is rising, birds are chirping and the roosters are crowing.  I can hear the morning Muslim prayer chants in the distance.  The trees are blooming with beautiful red and purple flowers and it smells a bit like the smokey remnants of a campfire.  Good morning, Tanzania.