Monday, June 13, 2011


I've been back in Tanzania for about 3 days now.  In less than 72 hours I exceeded my maximum baggage weight allowance for the plane, managed to negotiate my way into the worst airplane food imaginable, ate my first (and what will be my only) burger in Tanzania, went camping out in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, slept on the ground - twice, and discovered termites in our house. 

Thankfully, I managed to talk my way out of the $200 overweight penalty, I didn't get sick from the burger (although it was closer to beef jerky than steak) and  now have a bed.  As for the airplane food, well, that was all my fault.  On my last flight to Tanzania, the meals were awful - "chicken or fish?"  This time, I thought I would beat the system so I called ahead to request vegetarian meals.  Little did I know in the world of Ethiopian Airlines vegetarian = vegan which meant I didn't get the brownie, mashed potatoes, croissant, yogurt or cheese omelet the guy next to me got.  Instead, I was blessed with soggy cabbage spring rolls, some sort of dry dairy free roll with margarine, and eggplant soaked in tomato sauce with rice.  Yummy, yummy!

Saturday night I went to the nearby town of Marangu and hiked up the foothills (aka: mountains!) to a campsite overlooking the valley and Kilimanjaro.  It was breathtaking.  There were 8 on the trip and we arrived shortly before nightfall.  There is a small village surrounding the campsite and one of the families from the village prepared a dinner of ugali (like stiff grits), beans, cooked cabbage, potatoes and stew for us.  We ate well and traded stories late into the night.  Unfortunately, thanks to the jetlag I woke up freezing at 3am and never fell back to sleep.  Around 5:30 I left the tent to spend some time reading (thanks Mrs. K. for the great book suggestion!) and watching the sunrise.  All in all, it was an incredible experience.  I am blessed to be back here.

For those of you who were following along on my last trip, I am in a different house in the same town of Moshi in Tanzania.  Our house mom, Fatuma, and her daughter, Sumaya, are living with us and it feels like my home away from home.  Fatuma takes such good care of us!  Jasen is here, as well as a woman named Margaret from New Zealand and a girl named Marian from Denmark.  We have room for two more volunteers in the house and I'll be screening applicants to fill up the space over the coming weeks.  While I can't say I am loving the fact that we only have a squat toilet, I am ecstatic about the fact that we have hot water for our showers.  That's Africa for you - you get a little, you give a little!

As I've said before, life moves at a little - o.k., a lot - slower pace here.  I thought maybe this time I would be more prepared for it, but it's only been 3 days and if I here "T.I.A." (This Is Africa) one more time, I may scream - or at the very least ban the use of that phrase from our house.  Unfortunately, it seems to be used more often as an excuse than an explanation.  I am thankful, however, to have met some great new friends here who are doing independent research or work with some smaller organizations that are making big differences in their communities.  Our conversations keep me encouraged and have sparked some ideas about what I will be able to accomplish here over the next year.

All in all, it is great to be back!  The transition has been easy and minus the Mac and Cheese I forgot to pack, I pretty much have everything I need here.  Thanks to everyone for sending me notes of encouragement and keeping me in your prayers!  You'll hear from me again soon!


  1. Becki, thanks for the updates and news about your trip so far. It sure sounds exciting! Do you have an adress so I could send you some Mac and Cheese? I am not sure I would do well with the squat toilet though. Have a good day. Love you, Aunt Liz

  2. So a few things to address. First of all, I am not at all surprised you talked your way out of the $200 overweight charge. You can bribe ANYONE with beef jerky over there, or so I have heard. They were probably also impressed that in your suitcase you packed enough candy to feed every child in Africa. I think that is why they had pity on you. (I will be using this same approach next time I fly anywhere FOR ANYTHING. "Please waive my fee. That candy and wine in the bag are for the spoiled children in Disney World". I think it'll work). On a more serious note: Termites and a squat toilet. I don't even know what to say except to offer a suggestion to two. I will fly there with Allen and pack a toilet (using the same excuse as you did to waive the fee) to install this and have him install plumbing for you, as well. And the termites: leave them alone. One morning you will wake up and your bed will have been eating while you were sleeping. Then you can request a new Serta pillow-top mattress that we can also pack and bring with us. We will just use your handy dandy vacuum sealer so your mattress fits in our bags.
    I am glad you enjoyed the camping trip. I can't wait to see pictures of all of that. It must be truly amazing to feel so far removed from technology and enjoy the beauty of God's creation. You being there added to his painting that morning. As you begin this journey (for the second time) I know you will be like that sunrise for so many people. The promise of something so much bigger and better to to come. An opportunity to expand their horizon. What an amazing way to be reminded that you have a full days worth of sunlight to accomplish as much as you can on African time. So, come to think of it, I am probably accomplishing more than you are right now. ;)I am tempted to adopt the T.I.A. phrase when I get overwhelmed. "Julia, you can cry all you want, but it is going to be a minute before I make you lunch. This is Africa."
    The girls miss you, but I am reading your blog to them. They are excited to see what will be next. Hopefully the termites will stay away from your laptop so you can continue posting. We can't wait to read it, but we would understand if we have to wait awhile because as they say in Swahili "Nini kufanya kitu hivi sasa, wakati wanaweza kusubiri hadi baada ya muda wa chai?"

  3. Aunt Liz, I am trying to figure out an address to give you - these things apparently take time here, but I will find one. In about 2 weeks I would likely climb Kilimanjaro for a box of Mac and Cheese, so I will figure out an address one way or another!

    Tara, candy here in Swahili is "pipi". Little Sumaya got an Airhead the first day here. The next day she asked for another one first thing in the morning. I told her to wait until after dinner. That night, after dinner, she pulled on my dress and said very quietly, "You said after dinner pipi." I did - so I gave her one. Now every night she says the same thing to me. Yesterday I finally told her I didn't say that yesterday - I caught on to her game and she wasn't too happy about it! Oh my gosh - I am about to bust out laughing - as I am writing this Sumaya just came up to me with a 50 schilling coin that she has been holding onto since I got here. She wants me to take her down to the corner hut - I said "Why?" Guess what she said? "PIPI!" As you suggested, I told ehr she can wait - I am drinking chai. In short, your assumptions are correct - bring plenty of candy and you will be able to bribe your way into - or out of - anything here! As for the toilet - there is indoor plumbing. The hole in the ground actually flushes. So why on earth could we not have installed a throne on top of it????