Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another Hot Day on the Daladala...

...When I got on, there were no open seats and already there were a few people standing. I squeezed my way on, trying (as always) not to look like a complete idiot-foreigner with my big sunglasses, hiking backpack, and increasingly blonde hair. After a few minutes down the road, more people continued to crowd on the already packed, sweltering bus. Somehow, there seems to always be room for a few more passengers. Traffic was at a complete stand-still; there was absolutely no breeze. Our journey was just beginning… I dreadfully realized that I would have to endure this situation for at least an hour more. Other sweaty bodies pressed up against me, and I started to feel really dizzy, light-headed, and claustrophobic. My body starting sweating profusely, desperately trying to pick up any movement of air to cool off my over-heating body. But there was no luck—my vision went all starry and I couldn’t see anything. I almost collapsed right then and there, but I knew that blacking-out just wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. I managed to take control of my panic, and inhaled and exhaled a few slow, deep breaths. I awkwardly managed to take off my heavy backpack, pushed my body through a few others’, and propped as much of my weight as possible against the back of a seat (good thing daladala etiquette allows you to push and shove other people out of the way to fight for your own space!). I kept my eyes closed for a very long time and continued breathing slowly; my light-headedness receded. The daladala starting picking up speed and finally my drenched skin provided me with its inherent purpose: personal air-conditioning. I knew I was going to survive another day on my notorious daladala commute…

Monday, November 30, 2009

MCC Retreat

Here are a few picts from our recent MCC retreat in Pangani....

The place that we stayed was awesome--right on the beach and all the rooms were completely open. Here's a shot of the main lobby (taken at my favorite time of night, twilight):

We took a couple small boats way out to this sandbar island where we snorkeled amongst the coral reef
We also trolled on the way home, but unfortunately the only fish we "caught" was already dead and Brian (my fellow SALTer) grabbed it out of the water with his bare hands

The place that we stayed is involved with some conservation work for sea turtles. They relocate nests from the sand bar and bring them back to the safer shores of the main land. We were fortunate enough to witness a few tiny turtles break free from their nest and struggle their way into the Indian Ocean. In 30 years, these turtles (if they survive) will come back to the exact spot they hatched and lay their own eggs. It was pretty epic!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I really love mangoes. I was in India for my birthday two summers ago visiting my Aunt Dora, and she bought me all the different varieties of mangoes so that I could try each kind. I made sure that on my birthday I ate as many mangoes as possible because they just don’t taste the same when they are ripened in a box then bought from a grocery store in the US. Lucky for me, Dar has lots of mangoes and it is starting to feel like my birthday everyday because I am eating so many!

I’ve even made a new friend named David who picks out 2 of the best mangoes for me then cuts them in such a way that I can eat them on the spot. That’s all I’ve been wanting and my co-workers are starting to wonder why I am eating so many mangoes… But I’ll probably keep eating them until I get sick.

Mango trees are all over Tanzania. I like searching for them along the road during long bus rides or my daily daladala commute. The best ones to spot are really tall and broad with tons of fruit. As one of my former friends once said to me, imagine if we could talk to old, big trees—think of all the history they have seen and gone through! I think that mango trees have always been my favorite because in 2nd grade I wrote a report about them… did you know that the mango tree gives fruit 3 times in 2 years and different parts of the tree fruit at different times, which is why one part of a tree can have fruit while the other parts don’t? (I actually don’t remember that from 2nd grade—someone recently explained this to me)

I don’t know how long mango season will last here, so I will continue to gorge myself… it’s hard not to when they cost less than 40¢!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A True Tanzanian Experience...

This weekend I had a true Tanzanian experience, but unfortunately it was not a good experience at all: I was mugged and had my cell phone and some money taken from me.

My cousin, Stephen, who is from New Zealand but has been living in Uganda for half a year came to Dar to see me for the weekend. I met him downtown Dar after work on Friday and we went out to a place right near Posta for dinner (I ate pizza!!). After dinner (like 8pm) we decide to walk around a bit. Stephen was saying that he really misses seeing the ocean in Uganda, so we walked towards the water, then continued to walk along the street that ran parallel to the water. We kept walking, lost in our conversation when suddenly 4 guys (they couldn’t have been older than me) ran out at us from the dark… My instinct was to run away, so I did—away from Stephen and the other 3 predators. But one guy ran after me and grabbed at my pouch that I was clutching in my hands. He tried to take it from me, but I wasn’t giving it to him—I was pleading with him in broken Swahili (and I’m pretty sure I threw some Spanish in there too)… he started biting at my wrists because I wasn’t giving it to him. He kept on biting me, pretty hard, until finally I figured that it wasn’t worth it. He took my pouch and ran off, and stupidly I ran after him (I don’t know what I would have done though if I actually caught up to him!) but one of the other guys stopped me and told me it was okay. But obviously it wasn’t okay, so I tried pleading with him too, calling him my brother and that I know Swahili and that I really need my cell phone but they can take the money. He said sorry than ran off. At that point I realized that I ran away from Stephen and I had no idea where he was or if he was okay (he already wasn’t feeling good because he had malaria and the 36+ hr bus ride from Kampala didn’t help). I called out his name, and he responded so I ran to meet him—he was fine. After seeing that we were both okay, we ran to the nearest building with a night guard and yelled for help. Our first try, there was no one at the station so we ran to the next building. This time someone was there so we asked them to get us a taxi and I tried to explain what had happened… I told them where we were staying and they said it was close. One of the guards starting walking with us, then pointed down a street (another dark one) and said we should just walk straight and our hotel was just down the road. What help they were! So we started walking, but saw a taxi and decided we better do that instead of walking, even if it was close.

Once we got back to where we were staying, we had a chance to hear each other’s sides of the story. The three guys that went at Stephen had machetes, so he was not resistant at all and they proceeded to take his wallet and his cell phone. Luckily, they dropped his wallet after taking the money so they didn’t get his credit cards (but he had just taken out quite a bit of money from the ATM). I guess they were poking him with their machetes, having one against his neck and the others against his pockets and shirt. But thankfully they didn’t actually puncture him—just ripped his shirt a little. It sounded like his attackers were very fast, just taking his money and phone and running off back into the dark. He feels really bad that he couldn’t do anything more—but it probably didn’t help that I ran away from him!

Since they ended up taking my whole pouch (my favorite blue, India wallet) they got some of my money (like $40), my cell phone, my USB drive, and a copy of my passport (hopefully they’ll feel bad when they look at my picture!). It’s funny because usually whenever I travel and go out somewhere, I never keep all my money in one place and definitely don’t carry that much with me. But in this case, I had with me all the money I brought for the weekend…

And actually, Stephen and I shouldn’t have been walking out at night by ourselves, but especially the place where we were. It’s almost funny because I looked in my guide book later that night and it says to avoid walking along the water where we were at all times (even during broad day light). It was really stupid, and we both realize now that we definitely should not have been where we were! It’s just a bummer that we had to learn that in such a dramatic fashion. But it could have been so much worse—they had machetes and there were 4 of them and only three of us (a small girl and a guy sick with malaria!)—so I am very thankful for the fact that they only wanted our money and not to hurt us, well besides biting my wrists (who does that??)

It was scary at the time and right after, but now I am not feeling traumatized, just upset about having my stuff taken from me. (And I feel worse knowing that my parents and boyfriend are even more worried about me know!) But I guess this was a good lesson for me to realize that I am not invincible and not everyone is going to be my friend. It also helps me see that sometimes I need to be cautious and I really can’t defend myself in situation like this one. It’s also good to know that it’s okay to not be too brave.

I thank everyone for their concern, and especially their continued prayers and thoughts. I promise to be safe!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Here are a few small snap shots:

This is the Indian Ocean--an accessible view only a few miles from my house.

This is the Start of Salasala, the area where I am living.
I walk past this view everyday--families that work in the quarry mining Tanzanite, a type of rock, live here.

This is the road that I walk down everyday...

...that leads to my house!

And here is Veronica, working in the church office!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh, Tanzania...

I wrote this on Saturday when I was feeling homesick: “I think I am realizing how very far away from home I am! I was just looking through a Washington book that I bought for $3 at ½ Priced Books that I intended to give as a gift to my host family, but haven’t yet. I am secretly glad I didn’t give it to them because looking through it helps me to remember how beautiful WA is. The book isn’t that high quality or anything, but it is filled with great pictures of the mountains, forests and cities that I have grown up in and love. There are times when I love everything about life here in Tz, but then I also have days like today where I really miss everything about Seattle. It has been raining very hard all morning, except the rain here still brings hot, humid air—nothing like the cold Seattle rain that happens this time of year. If I were in Seattle today, I would put on jeans, tennis shoes, and a sweater, pull on my black raincoat, and take my iPod, a book, and a crossword puzzle to a CafĂ© Fiore and drink an Americano… (I mean I would do that if I weren’t out hiking…)

Well, since I am obviously very far from all that, I am finding myself doing things that probably would not be happening to me in Seattle: I woke up at 8am to the sound of my host sister moping the hallway outside my room; my bedroom door was wide open. I was very hot and sweaty upon waking even though I was sleeping in a t-shirt with no covers. So, I decided to go and cool off by showing—with cold water out of the bucket, or course. I felt hungry because I did not have dinner last night, so I crawled out from under my blue mosquito net and went out to the dining room to see what I could find—tea and plain white bread, as usual. After eating something, I came back into my room and decided to reorganize my things a little. This didn’t occupy me for very long since my few belongings that I brought with me are still all in the bags that they came in. Around 1pm my host sister who is 12 came into my room and announced that lunch was ready (yes, it STILL feels very strange to have a 12 year old take care of me…). We ate ugali (a thick, pasty, white, starchy substance always served for lunch) and some meat made with a tomato sauce. After eating, I washed the ugali and sauce off my hands (ugali is always eaten with your right hand—you grab a chunk of it, roll it into a ball, then use it to grab the other food, in this case meat) then went off to decide how to spend the rest of my Saturday here in Salasala, Tanzania…”

...But it seems like just when I am missing home a lot, I experience events that make me appreciate the very fact that I am far from home…

For example, yesterday on my way to work in the daladala, two young girls were talking about my hair, and how they wanted to touch it (I was secretly listening to them). They started to touch my tiny ponytail and then proceeded to giggling. I just looked up at them and smiled, which made them laugh even more. Throughout the rest of my bus ride, they kept taking turns grabbing my hair when they thought I wouldn’t notice.

Everyday for lunch, I go to this little canteen and buy a plate of fresh fruit—papaya, banana, cucumber, and watermelon. Louis, the guy who prepares my plate of fruit is always very excited when I come. Actually, all the people that work there always greet me happily “Dada (sister) Rachel!” Today when I went to pay Louis for my fruit (less than 40¢) he proceeded to tell me how much he loves me and wants me to marry him. He was quite disappointed when I told him I already had a boyfriend in the US. But then he said that’s okay—he’ll still love me and give me fruit everyday.

Then after work (we left early because there was no electricity) I boarded the daladala and was lucky enough to have snagged a seat. The sun was shinning warmly on me and since I had just eaten lunch, I started to drift off to sleep (yes, I really can sleep anywhere!). But, I was rudely awoken by the bus halting, pulling over and people rushing out yelling “moto!” (fire)! So, I followed suit and quickly disembarked. With everyone off the bus, the konda and driver did some tinking around inside and got rid of the smoke then told everyone to get back inside. I was a little skeptical, but everyone else got back on so I did too. It took a few tries to get the engine started again, but eventually it did and we were off on the road again, this time with no smoke. The bus was sputtering a bit so the driver pulled into a gas station (yes, daladala’s frequently make a pit stop with all the passengers on board) filled up and again we continued. After going a few minutes, the engine caught on fire AGAIN so we all had to evacuate hastily once more! This time, no one bothered to wait around, so I had to find another daladala to take me the remainder of the way… It’s ironic almost because I was just thinking the other day how I’ve never broken down on one of my trips to/from work (it’s not unusual to see broken down daladalas on the side of the road with passengers stranded).

When I got home, I found my host sisters busy in the kitchen. Rebekah was sifting the bugs and sand out of the rice and Rehema was preparing the beans. They both looked busy, so I asked if I could help (when the power goes out it is usually by 6:30pm, so lately we have been trying to cook everything before then). I was handed a basket filled with dagaa (little dried fish, sort of like sardines but a little bigger) and Rehema showed me how to snap the heads off then put the dried, silver fish bodies into the pot. So, I proceeded to break off little fish heads for 45 minutes…not something I would have necessarily preferred to be doing since a) dagaa smells like fish (no surprise there and b) I knew that I would be eating these in a little bit. But actually, the way dagaa is prepared tastes pretty good—lots of tomato, coconut milk, and of course lots of salt and oil.

After I was done beheading the dagaa, my tasks were done in the kitchen so I went jogging up to the top of the Salasala hill. I always receive some sorts of funny comments and reactions, but today a few things in particular made me laugh. I ran past a few women who were carrying what looked like pretty heavy loads of something on their heads. They seemed impressed as I jogged past them (really I was impressed with them—I don’t think I could balance something on my head while walking!) making noises and saying “hongera, hongera! (congratulations). Then, when I was almost back home, coming down the bumpy dirt road that leads to my house, there was a group of men gathered around a pothole that they had just filled. As I approached, one man quickly pushed everyone out of the way in order to make a lane for me to run through, between everyone. It was quite awkward, as everyone stopped their work and starting yelling faster, faster and clapping, cheering me on, but was also really funny.

It always seems like when I am feeling the most homesick is when I begin to take note of all the small things—scary, funny, unusual—and it helps me appreciate the chance that I have to live here in Tanzania and have encounters like these that will make good stories to tell for the rest of my life!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Here is my hair cut.

Here is a picture of my hair cut... I don't think it's been this short since I was a little kid and wanted to be just like my older brothers!!

This is one of the mango trees just outside my house.

There are TONS of mango trees all over the Dar area, so I am very excited for them to be ripe :) We also have lots of passion fruit trees (well, they're more like little bushes) that are almost ready for picking!

This is a picture of some land that is over in Kigamboni, the peninsula just across from Dar:

We had to take a ferry to get over there. Kigamboni is a very poor part of Tanzania, so the Mennonite church is trying to start some agricultural projects over there to help along side with the local community. We had a meeting on Thursday with some MCC people from Canada who approve project proposals to tell them about our intentions with the Kigamboni area. Unfortunately, they said that our project wasn't going to receive funding, but they told us to rethink it and resubmit a proposal. So that's what I will be doing for the next two weeks...

This past week I also visited Nyantira, another area that the Mennonite church is working in. There are already a few established projects in the area to help orphans and vulnerable children, providing them with money for school fees and encouraging them to continue their education. There is also a group of women who have a revolving credit fund, called VICOBA, (Village Community Bank). They are hoping to finish construction on a health center and water well to provide community members with clean water and local health care (people have to travel a long ways to get any kind of medical help) and also to get electricity (but once again, the project has been haulted because of a lack of funding).

Yesterday, we to Nyantira again and helped clear some rubble from the construction site and planted a few mango trees. Here is a picture of the intended health center:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I cut my hair.

This morning started off just like a normal Saturday here in Tanzania, but as the day progressed, I managed to take part in a few new and unusual events…

Rehema and I slept in until about 9:45 since we were up until almost 2 the night before for a youth-group type praise and worship. I got dressed, drank some sweet tea, and ate a few chapattis (not like Indian ones—these ones are mostly eggs and not whole wheat flour). Then, Rehema announced that we were going out—she would take me to a good salon that could cut my hair.

So when we got to the salon, my hopes were high—there were pictures of wazungus on the walls with flowing, stylish hair. I told the receptionist that I wanted a hair cut. All the workers kind of glanced at each other, then one of the men got up and told me to come with him. I sat in the barber chair, had an apron placed on me, then watched the hair dresser take my hair out of its braid. I showed him where I wanted it cut, just at my shoulders. Now usually the next step is to wash the customer’s hair or at least wet it… but nope—he just went right at it. Chop. Chop. Except he must have thought that when I said shoulder’s I actually meant earlobe! He obviously had never touched mzungu hair before because he kind of awkwardly grabbed it, and randomly chopped it here and there (and the scissors he was using didn’t look like a hair scissors, it looked more like a little kids safety scissors!) I couldn’t really do anything once he started, but once he was like ok? I kind of examined and tried to direct him how to cut it to make it look a little less awful… So yeah, now my hair is ridiculously short. (I tried to post a pict but Internet is too slow today...)

My hair way really long—when I looked on the floor after it was all chopped off, it looked like a little fur-ball animal. It was very sad to see it lying there very dead and gone. At least the good news is that thankfully hair always grows back. I just wish it were like one of those dolls whose hair you could cut and then magically pull it right back out…

Despite the tragedy at the hair salon, the rest of the day ended up to be a lot of fun. Next, Rehema took me to the beach! We went to this hotel/resort that was very nice. Just to get in, we had to pay 6000 Tsh. We took part in the hotel’s amazing lunch buffet and both ate until we literally could eat no more. There was even dessert—cake and chocolate mousse! This was very exciting as I have not had any dessert-ish things since I’ve been here. And I got to eat something that wasn’t just rice, beans, and meat! It was definitely a treat.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting our full belly’s on the beach and beside the hotel’s pool. We kind of came unplanned, but next time we are going to bring out swimming gear—I promised Rehema I would give her swimming lessons since she doesn’t know how. It was nice to have an extravagant afternoon, and to learn that the beach is less than 5 miles away from where I’m staying!

After we got home I went jogging, which has become a habit of mine to do in the evenings once it cools down a bit. The route I’ve been doing climbs up a couple hills, and when I get to the top I can look back to the East at the Indian Ocean. It’s quite nice, and I always have something or someone interesting meet me. Sometimes I meet herds of goats (my favorite), many times I can hear children laughing at me and yelling mzungu as I go by, sometimes people like to imitate me and start running with me (I just give them a thumbs up), a few times I’ve stopped to have conversations (even with Masai) and one time I even helped save a stranded chick that was running away into the road! I have really been enjoying running here. And I need to keep running up hills if I am going to climb Kili in Dec with my family!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hakuna Umeme

Yesterday, after my two+ hour commute into town, I arrived at the church to find that there was no electricity (hakuna umeme). Without electricity, we can’t use computers, and without computers, we can’t really do our work. Right now my team and I (we are officially the Economic Development Team) are formulating an analysis of an environmental project. We almost finished our work the day before, but yesterday we couldn’t finish it because all the work was saved on my computer… we brainstormed on paper what else needed to be done, then I ended up just going back home because we weren’t doing anything.

Coincidentally, I started to read the Tanzania Daily News and one of the cover stories was about electricity in Tanzania. Right now, the monopoly, state-owned Tanesco (Tanzania Electric Supply Company) is the sole provider of electricity. There have been large drops in water levels at the hydroelectric dams that provide a majority of power for Tanzania because of the recent drought and long dry spell that much of East Africa is currently experiencing.

There have already started to be frequent blackouts throughout Tanzania (when I was in Arusha, the power went out at 9:30pm pretty much every night) and Tanesco is planning to start a 14-hour power ration. 14 hours—That’s more than half the day!

Tanzania’s economy has just started to recover from months of recession, but it is expected that if power shortages continue, industrial production will contract and send Tanzania’s economy back into a slump. Sporadic power supply effects large scale, medium, and small businesses, but small entrepreneurs will most likely suffer the most because they cannot afford to buy generators.

I can easily see how this is going to be shida kubwa (a big problem). For example, many people sell cold drinks off the street to daladala riders and people passing by—a very good business because who doesn’t want a cold refreshment when it’s so hot outside?? But without electricity, there is no way to refrigerate the drinks, and no one will want to buy hot soda.

Also just from my experience at work and not being able to use the computer means that we can't complete our project. Shida kubwa.

There are some discussions taking place as to whether or not Tanzania should liberalize it’s power so that multiple private companies can be suppliers. Also, alternative sources of power are being taken into consideration. The article that I read mentioned coal as a possible alternative, which would be a relatively easy fix since there are several large coal mines in this country. But I don’t think that coal is the best option because of the negative effects on the environment. Maybe they should could consider wind or solar? In Dar at least, it seems to always be windy and there is definitely a lot of sun…

There is power now this morning, but I just hope that we really don’t start having 14 hours/ blackouts!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Public Transportation

Public transportation in Dar is probably going to be one of the only things that I won’t miss about Tanzania. Riding in a daladala is never comfortable, never a nice, smooth ride, and most definitely never the same experience as the day before. More than anything, though, daladalas in Dar are not cut out for people, such as Americans, who enjoy their personal space.

Today, for example, I boarded a daladala in the morning and was very pleased because I actually got a seat. Just when I thought I might actually have a nice, two-hour ride into town, a chubby old women decided that leaning over my seat was the best place for her. Now, you have to understand that a daladala is also never too full—one more person can always be squeezed in somewhere, somehow. This morning, the particular daladala that I was in was testing it’s maximum capacity. This meant that everyone had to squeeze, even the people in seats. So, I got to enjoy a sweaty old lady and her giggly fat and bouncing boobs in my face the whole way to town (and I really am not exaggerating at all).

When I try to imagine a situation like this happening on a Seattle bus, I can’t help but to laugh. Americans are all about their personal space and keeping it completely to themselves and if anyone gets to close to you, especially in a public place like a bus, it is super awkward. Well, I’m afraid that while I am here in Dar, taking part in public transportation twice a day for 2 hours each way, I will have to forget about wanting any personal space. Maybe when I get back to Seattle I’ll be conformed to the Tanzania way of life and just be awkward…

Riding daladalas for almost 4 hours everyday is quite exhausting, but I realize that I am gaining an insight to a part of life in Tanzania that not many westerners experience (I actually have still yet to see another mzungu on a daladala and I’m certain that the average adventure tourist hardly ever gets on a daladala… even though daladalas are an adventure of their own!) I get to take part in my own cultural adventure, and for that I am thankful even with fat strangers unwelcomingly invading my personal space.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Helafu Dar...

I’ve been on long bus rides in foreign countries before, but never by myself. But now that status has changed because I traveled solo from Arusha all the way to Dar—about an 8-hour trip. I got on the bus not really knowing where I was going, who was meeting me (if anyone) and what I would be doing upon arrival. It was all very exciting,. The bus ride itself was fine. The roads to Dar are thankfully very nice and we didn’t make too many stops along the way to pick up stray people. I managed to sleep a little, watched the pretty mountainous landscapes out my window, and listened to over 150 songs on my iPod. About half way, we stopped for lunch and a much-needed bathroom (the bus never really stops—except it did once, and if you had to pee you literally just had to go right outside the bus… I just didn’t drink much). When we arrived at the bus station it was about 5pm, and the pastor who I thought was supposed to meet me was nowhere to be seen. So, I took my bag and waited off to the side (but I didn’t really know what/ who to wait for). I was fending away taxi drivers when one man approached me and asked if someone was meeting me. I said yes, thinking he was just another taxi driver, but then he said (in English), “Oh, I thought maybe you were Rachel Warren.” Ends up that he was my new host dad! So I hopped in the car and headed out towards my new, temporary house.

In my mind I was imagining what the house was going to be like—here I was riding in a fairly nice car and my host dad was speaking perfect English. I was starting to think that my new house was going to be really nice… but I soon found otherwise. We turned off the main road down a bumpy dirt road, into banana plants and other trees (mango, avocado, papaya) and stopped outside of a modest, white, cement house. “We’ve arrived” my host dad announced. We walked inside, and I was shown my room—I’d be sharing it. Then I was shown the bathroom—western style toilet, but no running water: bucket showers. OK, I thought, this was not was I was imagining in the car ride here; not at all! I was very overwhelmed the first evening. I couldn’t really believe that I was going to be staying here for almost a year. I honestly felt like I would start crying any second (which, for me is a big deal because I don’t really cry).

But after being here for a few days, I am no longer feeling overwhelmed. Now, I am feeling much better because I know that I will be able to cope with whatever comes my way. I realized after that first initial evening that this experience is not about being comfortable and experiencing ‘normal.’ I am here to learn about other people and how they live. Yeah, it’s going to be challenging, but I know that as time goes on I will become more used to the way of life here. I am excited to be at that point because right now I still feel very out of place…

My host family is very nice and has made me feel welcomed. I am sharing a room with Rehema, who is about my age and is a doctor at a Catholic hospital. She is also speaks English and seems very excited to show me around and include me in her activities. Rebekah, who is 12, is their niece and helps out around the house. She doesn't speak much English but is learning in school. She's very cute and tries to speak English to me while I speak Swahili to her. They have another daughter (also named Rachel and is 23!) who is studying in California. I've taken her spot in the house--and actually the door to my room says "Rachel's room"!

Yesterday my host dad showed me the way to the church where I will be working from here on out. Today, I came by myself. Getting to and from the church is going to be an adventure in itself! First, I have to hop on the back of a pikipiki (motorcycle) to get to the main road. Then, I get to cram onto a dalala for more than an hour to get into town. The good news is that it will cost me less than $2 to get to/ from work!

Speaking of work… I am sitting in my office right now doing absolutely nothing. I did the same thing yesterday, too. I’m still completely clueless about what I’m actually supposed to be doing. I keep asking, but everyone is telling me to just sit and relax and use the internet. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out what they want me to do here! Supposedly, I am to work with two others that are a part of the economic development program here at the church. Currently there are a few projects already enacted, and several more in the making. They are projects dealing with HIV/AIDS, orphans, and income generation. That’s all I know so far…

I am trying to post some pictures from Arusha on my Facebook page, so hopefully that will work.

Oh, and there are lots of peacocks outside the office right now!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Address

Hello family and friends! I know you are all eager to send me thousands of pages of handwritten letters and many pounds of treats, so here is my mailing address for Dar:

Kanisa la Menonite Tanzania

Eastern Diocese

P.O. Box 5566

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hamna Shida

It's hard to believe that it was exactly one month ago that I left Seattle! I have been keeping busy with my Swahili classes during the day and then trying to retain all that I've learned in the evenings. But besides studying, I haven't been up to much else.

This past weekend however, I visited a farm right by Kilmanjaro, about two hours away from where I am staying. On the drive there we passed by hundreds of zebras! We stated at the farm the whole weekend, trying to gain a sense about what farming is like here in Tanzania since most of the MCC projects here have to do with the environment and agriculture. Farming here is a whole lot more complex than I'd ever imagined! To help out, we planted a whole bunch of seeds in their green house and washed dishes the whole weekend. There were a couple of other guests staying there that were about to climb Kilimanjaro, so I talked with them and their guide just in case :)

In about two weeks I will head down to Dar es Salaam to start my work with the church. I met with my "boss" the other week and he gave me a bit more information about what Ill be doing. Initially, it looks like I'll be helping with a reforestation project just outside the city. Then after that, I am going to be working in the office and helping to plan new projects and over see other projects that are already in place. It sounds like I will be helping with some income generation projects that are already set up, which I am really excited about. I told him that I will probably be of more help dealing with microfiance type projects rather than agricultural things, but whatever I end up doing sounds like it will be a great experience. I will be working in a team with two other recent graduates (I think one is from India and the other is from Tz) so it will be nice that I won't be completely solo in whatever I end up doing.

Internet continues to be the slowest thing imaginable, but hopefully once I'm in Dar I'll be able to blog more regularly and post some pictures!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pole Pole Pole

Habari za jioni!

So I have discovered that internet in Tanzania is VERY slow. But, I made it safely here on Sunday night to Arusha, which is in the northern part of Tanzania. I will be here for the first month, living with the two other SALTers to learn Swahili. We're staying a ways north of Arusha right by Mt. Meru (which I want to climb! It's about 14,000 ft I think). Unfortunately, we're staying in a house by ourselves that is kind of in a secluded Christian complex, so hopefully we will have some opportunity to explore a bit.

We started our Kiswahili classes on Wednesday, and I already feel like we have learned a lot! Our teacher is very young and enthusiastic and is at our house every day (week day) for 6 hours. It's pretty intense, but I am expecting to learn lots.

I don't have any new pictures yet, but I wanted to let everyone know that I made it here safely!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's a long way to Harrisburg

I made it to Akron, Pennsylvania! It was tough leaving Seattle, especially since my parents and my boyfriend came to see me off… we were definitely more than a little sad.

My flights all went smoothly. Luckily I am talented at sleeping anywhere, so I slept for most of the duration of my flights. I only had a small layover in Chicago, where the three of us from Seattle met up with several other SALTers. But A few MCC representatives were waiting for us when we arrived in Harrisburg (it was a long way to Harrisburg…) and helped load about 15 of us and all our luggage into vans to take us to MCC headquarters in Akron.

The MCC complex here is so nice! We are technically just at the “Welcoming Headquarters” where volunteers go through for training before shipping out to their assignments. There are 4 different houses/dorms that are all themed of different continents. I am in the Africa House Jand rooming with the other girl who is also going to Tanzania. She’ll be in a different city than me, but I just found out that me and her and the other guy going to Tanzania will all be in Arusha (northern Tanzania, near Kili!) for the first month for language training.

It’s been interesting talking to other volunteers here because there are also IVEP (International Volunteer Exchange Program) young adults here from all over the world. There are several from eastern Africa that I’ve been talking to, and they have been preemptively teaching me little bits of Kiswahili. Jambo.

Today we didn’t have many things scheduled so there was lots of free time to do things like organize a game of ultimate Frisbee and walk around to explore Akron. I even saw an Amish couple ride by in a horse and buggy! And I walked to an Indian food store and bought a samosa.The Indian man who runs the shop is actually from Kenya and he made us a special cup of complimentary chai masala and called us his children.

The rest of the week sounds like it will be pretty busy and a lot more scheduled. Well, nime choka (I’m tired). I took a few pictures around the campus here, they’re posted below.

MCC Welcoming Campus. Akron, PA

Americas House (Left) Africa House (Right)

Fellow SALTers and IVEPers

On a walk to explore Akron, right after a crazy rain/lightening storm

My home for a week

My room, decorated with items from Ten Thousand Villages

Monday, July 6, 2009

Support Letter

I’m going to Tanzania in just a little over a month!  Here is a copy of a letter that I sent out:


Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                 


            I just graduated from Seattle Pacific University, where I have spent the past four years of my life working towards my B.A. in Economics. So what am I going to do next?  As you may already know, I have decided to follow the trend in my family and volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee through their one-year SALT (Serving And Learning Together) program.  Although I originally had my heart set on going back to Central America, none of the assignments there seemed fitting for me.  Instead, I am excited to be going to Tanzania to volunteer for the Kigamboni Green Hope Project in Dar es Salaam.  It’s kind of cool to think that collectively with my two older brothers we will have covered three different continents for MCC! (To learn more about MCC please visit their website:

            The Kigamboni Green Hope Project was started under the Youth of Tanzania Mennonite Church as an Integrated Environmental Pilot Project to improve the Tanzania Mennonite church & the local communities' abilities in resource development and management. The project’s emphasis is on managing natural resources and conserving the environment in order to address the local economic and development needs.  I am not entirely sure of what my duties entail, but I will be the “technical advisor” that reviews/edits new projects, helps with project implementation and capacity building, as well as working towards strengthening the local church and government partnership.  My project description also mentioned that it would be useful for me to have experience with microfinance, so I am hoping that microfinance operations will also be involved somehow.

            Although I have some experience in living in another culture for an extended period of time, I know that this is an opportunity unlike any other.  I will most likely be confronted with challenging situations, and it will for sure be hard for me to leave my favorite emerald city of Seattle for a year.  However, I realize that SALT offers me a unique chance to be adventurous and explore life outside of my familiar comforts.  I hope that I will be able to make an impact by helping with the Green Hope Project, but I also appreciate the fact that this experience will be a time of great personal learning and growing as well. 

            As my family, friends, and church community, I would really appreciate it if you would keep me in your minds and hearts while I am in Tanzania.  Knowing that I have such a loving and supportive group that is thinking of me will be very encouraging for me while I am away.  I plan on keeping a blog ( that I will hopefully be able to update frequently to keep everyone posted on my happenings.  Since I am going to be living in Dar Es Salaam, the largest industrial city, it will probably be relatively easy to access the internet.  I will also update my local mailing address once I know it, because snail mail is still always fun to get.

            I wish that prayers and communication were enough to sustain my trip, but unfortunately I am also required to raise money to help pay for my service term ($4,300). I hope that fundraising will not only help me gather financial support, but also will build a community of spiritual, moral, and prayer support.  If you would like to support me financially in any way, I would greatly appreciate it! Donations are accepted online at (under “designation” write “Rachel Warren SALT#626177”) or checks can be sent with the attached green form (please also designate “Rachel Warren SALT#626177”).  All funds raised go directly to MCC where I have an account with them, and are tax deductible.  Once again, I would like to express my gratitude for any contributions.

            Thank you for taking your time to read this letter!  If you would like to hear more information about my service with MCC, please feel free to contact me (Facebook, Blogspot, email, phone—I have it all!).  And if you would like to continue to hear about my time in Tanzania, let me know and I’ll be sure to keep you on email lists, etc.



Rachel Warren

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Remember that one time I was going to blog? Oh yeah, I forgot that I wanted to do that... but it's been a really long time since my last post!  But now that I am graduated and have nothing better to do, I'll have some free time.  And I will start posting more about my upcoming trip to Tanzania.  For now, here is a picture from graduation with my besties :) 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Looks like I will be doing my year of SALT in Tanzania!! (Click on the map above to learn more about the country).  

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blood and Glass

Last week, tragedy struck again in the basement of the Green House.  This time it was not to notorious drain, but rather the shower door…


I was upstairs doing homework, and Christye was downstairs showering.  I hear this load crash, then what I take out to be laughing.  But then I realize it is not laughing at all—it’s whimpering!  So I go charging downstairs yelling out if everything is okay.   “It’s not, come in here.” She replies.  I open the bathroom door and poor Christye is standing up on the edge of the tub: there is shattered glass everywhere, and she is standing amidst a pool of blood dripping from her feet down the tubs edge.  It literally looked like a scene from a horror movie!! 

She ended up not being hurt too badly, just shaken up from the glass door falling on her feet, causing it to shatter.  We had glass and blood in the bathroom for about a week, but that’s all cleaned up now and we’re having the door replaced, hopefully soon…

Friday, February 20, 2009

I drank too much coffee

Yes—I should be sleeping right now.  But, I wanted to study for my test tomorrow, so I made a pot of coffee.  And I think I drank too much because now I am not tired.  While I was sipping my coffee and reviewing my notes about Machiavelli, I started to think about all the steps that had to be taken to get all this caffeine into my bloodstream… I was reminded of my time that I spent on Finca Santa Elana, and how just a few months ago I was holding ripe coffee beans, fresh of the bushes, in my hand:


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Missing Central America

It's been a little over two months since I have been back from my time in Central America and for some reason today I have been thinking a lot about how much I miss it...
This is a picture I took at sunset in Antigua, Guatemala.  Guatemala was by far the most beautiful country I visited and was full of awesome volcanoes and old buildings.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What Happens After College?

I am graduating from Seattle Pacific university (my soon to be "alma matter") this June.  It seems like the question on the tips of everyones' tongues these days is "what are you gonna do after college?"  Most of my peers that I have talked to hate this question--we all want to be done with school but are scared/ skeptical about the unknown that will come when we no longer are attending college.  I too am a little scared and nervous about what next year will look like, but I my fears are slightly different: I know what I am doing, I just don't know where.

Ever since I started at SPU, I knew that after graduation I was going to do a year or voluntary service through Mennonite Central Committee.  My church, Seattle Mennonite Church offers a scholarship to college students who go to an approved Christian institution and in return are committed to complete a year of service.  By choosing to go to SPU, my church has helped pay some of my tuition--so know I am entitled to complete a year of service.  Both my older brothers accepted this same scholarship and did their year of service with MCC.  Being the little sister, I too followed their footsteps and will be doing the same thing that they did: volunteering with SALT (Serving And Learning Together)--a one year program through MCC that is for young adults.

My application is already sent in, and I just completed the secondary round of interview question.  Now, i just have to wait to see where MCC places me.  My hope is that I'll end up going back to Central America.  I also really hope that I'll be doing an assignment that pertains somehow to what I am most interested in: economic development, specifically micro-financing. But, we'll see.  I am excited, anxious, and a bit nervous to find out what I'll be doing next year, but I am thankful that I at least have something planned...      

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I love goats.  
I also really like ocelots.  
One of my biggest regrets from my time in Costa Rica is that I didn't see one.
On Halloween last year, two baby ocelots were born at the Woodland Park Zoo, and I really want to go see them because they are so cute!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Winter Hike #3 for the year: Lake Pratt/ Granite Mtn

On Sunday the 26th of January, Sarah--my best adventure buddy, Diva--my trusty chocolate lab, and Father Jon--my dad, and I ventured out past North Bend on I-90 and hiked up towards Lake Pratt, right near Granite Mountain.  We decided to use snowshoes on the way up, which I still find slightly awkward to walk in, and I somehow always manage to get blisties on my feet when I use them.  Anyways, the hike was very pretty--lots of pretty frozen waterfalls and the trail was very flat (nothing like Mailbox Peak!)   
Here is a picture of my best hiking buddy and me
Below is the view from the lookout point where we stopped, about three miles from the trailhead.  I'm pretty sure the frozen lake is Talapus Lake.

It made a nice stopping point for lunch, where we enjoyed some chai that Father Jon carried up for us.  It's always such a treat hiking with my dad because he always carries tea up for us!
We decided not to use our snowshoes coming down... which may have been a mistake because the trail was rock-hard ice.  But, I turned on my mountain goat super power and managed not to slip and slide too much (I think that's why I love goats so much--they can seriously trek on any terrain/ any surface! I might have to do a future post on mountain goats because they really are my favorite animal!).  

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Study Bowl 43!

Who do you want to win the Superbowl? 
Personally, I don't really care... but I am rooting for Arizona simply because they are the underdogs and the Steelers are a bunch of cheaters! I'll probably just study during the Bowl so that I can watch the hour special of The Office afterwards :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Economics: it's what I do

Since I'm majoring in Economics here at SPU, I always enjoy listening to real economists and learning from them.  On Wednesday I had the chance to hear Paul Krugman, an economist and columnist for the NY Times, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics last year for some of his theories and predictions on international trade.  He also made predictions about our current economic crisis based on what happened in SE Asia in the late ‘90s.  It was interesting to hear a real economist’s perspective on our situation right now, but also slightly discouraging because pretty much no matter what happens, we’re all in trouble!  Even with the new stimulus (which surprisingly isn’t nearly enough money) our economy will take quite a while to rebound.  If you want to hear from Krugman, check out his Times column.   I am looking forward to reading The Return of Depression Economics, his new book, to learn more about what’s in store for our country…    

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Notorious Drain

Today was going to be a good day—I was going to sleep in, catch up on my reading, study for my test, work and shower all before my 6:00pm class, which was the only scheduled thing on my agenda for today.  However, at 8:00am I am woken from a deep sleep to Hanna calling out “Rachel!! It’s flooding!!”  So I jump out of bed and go to assess the inevitable drain under out basement staircase.  Sure enough, a little water was seeping out of the drain, but nothing too extreme, and after a few suspenseful minutes the water starts to return back down to its home.  Regardless, Hanna and I move things out of destruction’s path.  A couple hours later I return to discover that the water decided to come back for a visit—this time in full force.  Water was pooling under the stairs and making its way into Hanna’s room and the bathroom.  This event, as we were casually warned by our landlord and experienced last winter season, happens at least once every year… what a treat!  So, we call our landlord, Virginia, who recommends a plumber, but end up having to call Roto-Rooter because her recommended plumber was unavailable right away.  Within the hour, a plumber arrives, and Ashley and I are the lucky ones that get to receive him (we’re often times the ones that deal with all the creepy plumbers/ handy men that come to the Green House).  His name was Bal, or something of that effect, and (as Ashley noticed right away) the fly on his pants was down, and he seemed a little unhappy about helping our situation.  So, we show him the flood, and he proceeds to figure out what to do with his van that was filled with all the needed equipment.  I think he was really confused, or maybe he was stalling, but it literally took him 45 minutes to park his van… red flag number one!  Anyways, he gets to work eventually, huffing and puffing, and $450 and many questions later, fixes our notorious drain.  I had to head off to class before he was even gone (he had been at our house for almost 3 hours!), and I did not have time to accomplish many of the things that I hoped to get done today.  But, tomorrow is another (hopefully more dry) day!

Mr. Morales

Two Christmases ago, I traveled south to Bolivia to visit my older brother who was working there.  It’s a beautiful country—very diverse, both socially and geographically.  I always find it interesting to hear news about Bolivia, and today I read an article on BBC about Evo Morales’ plans for his country.  In case you don’t know, Bolivia is a poor (one of the poorest in Latin America) land-locked country in the center of South America.  Two-thirds of its population consists of indigenous people who mostly live in the barren, rural altiplano and are farmers, miners, and artisans.  There is a minority of elites who traditionally have controlled the political and economic sectors, causing a discrepancy between the native Indians and the Spanish elites.  But in 2006, Evo Morales was elected as the first Aymara Indian president for Bolivia.  Finally, the Indian majority had a chance to be heard in their own country. 

Although the US (well, at least the Bush administration) doesn’t like Mr. Morales (this is probably because he is a socialist, opposes free trade, and often sides with Castro and Chavez) I think what he is trying to accomplish for his country is a good thing.  For example, he is redistributing the land so that the elite minority doesn’t control all the best (most fertile and gas-rich) land. Right now, Bolivia is in the process of voting on a new referendum that will give more power and voice to the indigenous majority—the results for new constitution are still being processed, but I hope that Mr. Morales can succeed in creating equality in his country with the new constitution!  To read more about this, check out the article on BBC. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This One is for Ashley

After much pressure and influence from my besties (the girls I live with) I have decided to start blogging.  Last semester I was studying abroad in Central America and I tried to keep a regular blog about my experiences, but that proved unsuccessful and I only blogged a handful of times in four months.  Needless to say, I am now starting this new blog.  But what will I blog about?  I don’t really know yet… but probably everything from my hiking treks to what I am studying in my classes.  Let’s see if I can be cool like my other house mates/ former house mates and blog on a regular basis…

To start things off, here are a few pictures from two weeks ago when I went hiking on Mailbox Peak with my favorite adventure buddy, dad, and Diva (my dog)