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.