Sunday, August 22, 2010

25 Things

I have been home for almost a month now, and haven't blogged at all since I was in Tanzania. My transition back into America has actually been very smooth. I was a little overwhelmed at first by everything, but all the excitement of returning has helped ease the reverse culture shock. There are little things that I miss a lot about living in Dodoma (like Leah and Leisha and HUGE avocados) but it also is really good to be back in Washington, being close to my friends and family and within easy access of the mountains. I just climbed Eldorado with my brother and boyfriend on Saturday, the picture below is my brother climbing to the summit:

I'm trying to figure out what comes next for me... My dear friend Blaze, who is an amazingly creative artist and has an awesome blog, recently posted about the 25 things she wants to do before she turns 25, and challenged me and her other closest friends to do the same. I have only about 10 months until I turn 25, which is kind of crazy, but I love making lists and maybe thinking of 25 things to do within the next 10 months will help me to think about what I want to do...

In no particular order:

1. Find a place to live in Seattle

2. Buy a bike

3. Take the GRE

4. Find a grad school program that I fancy and apply to it

5. Find an internship that is relevant to my career interests

6.Climb Mt. Baker, Mt. St. Helens, and Glacier (I hope at the least)

7. Acquire my own ice axe and crampons

8. Run the Seattle Half Marathon in November with Chris, Jamie, Christye, Brooke, and anyone else I forgot

9. Get within 5 feet of a mountain goat

10. Subscribe to a scholarly magazine, such as The Economist

11. Go to Bend (I hear it’s pretty cool…)

12. Learn how to bake a good pie

13. Learn how to drive a manual

14. Learn how to cook my mom’s most delicious Indian foods

15. Take the train to Portland to see Danny and Alison

16. Play the Bean Game (aka Bonanza) with Ben and Sarah, maybe even with the extended version

17. Compete in Fall, Winter, and Spring ultimate Frisbee leagues

18. Send a package to Leah and Leisha in Dodoma (hopefully SOON)

19. Make a picture album of my year in Tanzania

20. Share with my congregation about volunteering with Mennonite Central Committee

21. Join a small group/ get more involved at Seattle Mennonite

22. Get in contact with a few special friends from high school (it’s LONG over due…)

23. Visit Sarah and Blaze in Colorado and hike some 14ers with my best hiking buddy

24. Plan a trip to go to Cambodia to see Auntie Dora

25. Have a Thanksgiving meal in the U.S. of A. with my family for the first time in 2 years

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodbye, Dodoma

A few months ago before I moved assignments from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, I never thought that I would be sad when it came time for me to leave Tanzania. But now that the time has come to say goodbye to Dodoma, I am starting to realize how much of an impact my time here has had on me.

Today after our daily morning devotions, everyone decided to thank me and say nice things about me and how much they are going to miss me... I was really touched, and may or may not have started to cry (I was not expecting this, and once Leah started crying she made me cry). I know that I am going to miss Dodoma a lot, and I am very thankful for each and every person that I have grown close with. These past few months have taught me a lot and I feel very blessed for this amazing opportunity not only to serve others, but more importantly for all that I have learned from others.

Friday is the day that the income generation group meets at the church, and this afternoon they had a surprise for me: they sang me a song and presented me with a khanga (traditional african fabric) which they wrapped around me, and then they each said goodbye and hugged me. It was very special.

With all that said, I am also unbelievably excited about returning home to Seattle. I fly out from Kenya on Wednesday and then will be in Akron, PA for a few days of debriefing with the other SALTers. I will be arriving in Seattle on the 27th... and I am so excited to see everyone it's not even funny!

How is it possible that I can feel so sad about leaving one place, but at the same time feel ready and excited to be in another place?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I’ve never considered myself a teacher, and I definitely do not enjoy speaking in front of people, so when I was asked to teach a business seminar at the church I was a little nervous. But I knew that I it would be a good opportunity to teach others and a good learning experience for me as well, so I agreed.

On Thursday last week 70 people came to the church to learn more about small business and entrepreneurship. I prepared a lesson for everyone based on what I learned from interviewing them over the past few months. After opening with a Bible study about counting the costs and making good plans, I taught about various aspects of marketing and business. I’m definitely no expert on these topics, but with my background in economics, the microcredit summit I attended in Nairobi, and personal experiences I was able to pull together a few things to talk about. I also invited a few other staff members to help me teach about accounting and creative business practices.

Afterwards I realized that I had nothing to worry about—everything went smoothly and all the participants seemed very appreciative. The participants were clients from the home based care program, parents of the orphans and vulnerable children program, and parents of the child survivor program, all of which are programs run out of KMT (the Mennonite church) Dodoma.

Form my interviews with the clients, I have learned that the majority of the people who have taken a loan from the church have failed to pay it back. This is a common problem when a faith based institution hands out money—people assume that it is charity and don’t need to pay anything back. Many of the loan clients didn’t realize that they were actually expected to pay back the money that was given to them. Another problem was that many people ended up not even using the loan for their business, but used it for immediate needs instead, such as food or medicine.

It is a challenge, especially for a church, to just give out loans and expect everyone to be successful in using their loan and be able to pay it back. Instead, I think it works better when people work through community groups. In Tanzania, there are VICOBAs, village community banks, where groups meet weekly to save together and take individual loans from each other. This method is simple and has proven to work well worldwide.

The Mennonite church here in Dodoma has tried to start a VICOBA group, but it has faced a lot of challenges. So the director of Grace and Healing Ministries of KMT thought it would be a good idea if we took a few members of our VICOBA group on a little ‘field trip’ to go and learn from a successful VICOBA just outside of Dodoma. I thought this sounded like a great idea, and I thought it would be interesting to see how this sort of group works here in Tanzania. So I made a budget for out trip, calculating the mileage at 150km round trip—not too far.

…Only, we didn’t realize that we’d have to travel 150km and three hours one way! Five of us, plus the driver crammed into a little pick up truck and drove 77km east of Dodoma on a nice, paved road and then another 70-some km North on a very bumpy gravel road. Before we left, I was told that it would take 2 hours to get there, we’d have 2 hours to meet and share ideas, and then another 2 hours to get back by 6pm. Well, T.I.A.: we didn’t leave until noon, it took at least three hours to get there, and we had to leave after only meeting for 45 minutes so that we didn’t get back super late! It was actually pretty funny—we weren’t sure exactly how far we had to travel on the gravel road, so whenever we would pull over and ask someone how much further we had to go they kept saying ‘mbali sana’ (a long ways) or ‘badaa ya kupanda mlima’ (after you climb up the mountain). That happened about four times before we finally reached our destination. But, like many things here, it ended up being fun just because it was so ridiculous. And even though we were there for a short time, the members of our VICOBA group said they learned a lot to share with their other members and maybe even try to start another group.

This weekend all the other MCC volunteers are coming to Dodoma for team meetings. (I helped convince everyone to come to Dodoma instead of going to Arusha…) And on the 4th we are going to celebrate America’s independence with a BBQ! I’m planning on making guacamole and mango salsa…

I only have two and a half more weeks here in Dodoma!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I think I have finally been able to post a few pictures! It’s taken over an hour to load them, but I wanted to be able to at least share a few visuals to go along with some of my stories. Time is flying by—I can hardly believe that I only have a little over a month left!

This is what a lot of Dodoma looks like

This past week one of our friends, Martin, had a birthday but no one has ever thrown him a birthday party. Leah, Leisha and I decided to show him what an American birthday party is like. (We were also celebrating my birthday which is next week, but since I have had a memorable party practically every 23 years of my life, I decided that it was more important to make sure it was his party, not mine). We made tons of delicious food, including guacamole and mango salsa, eggplant stir-fry, and even Thai coconut curry! Since we don’t have an oven, we had our friend Tiffanee (the other MCC volunteer) make a cake. It was a lot of fun, especially since our friend was so appreciative. I think he’ll be demanding a birthday party from here on out!

Mango salsa, homemade chips, and guacamole. We went with a Mexican team to honor the first World Cup game...

My main task here at work has been interviewing people who have taken out loans to gather information about their current situation. It has involved lots of walking around to nearby villages, home visiting, and meeting with groups of people. The other day my translator, another service worker from the church and I ventured out to find a client near the church. But, when we got to her house, no one was home. We did find lots of pigs though—about 50, including dozens of piglets! I enjoyed taking pictures of them, but one of the big mama pigs kept sticking her snout at my camera…

The pigs, my new friends. Not quite as cute as goats, though!

Last week I interviewed several people during a monthly food distribution at one of the smaller Mennonite churches on the outskirts of town. It’s nice having a translator because he can do most of the talking while I get to do other things, like take pictures and hold cute babies. This baby below that I am holding is named Thomas. At the time he was not only sick with malaria, but also had just fallen off a table a few days earlier… I almost took him home with me, but decided that his mom might not be willing to answer my questions about her loan if I did that.

Me and Thomas

Hopefully by the end of next week I will have most of my research done and then will be able to compile some reports for the church. I just learned that they also want me to conduct a seminar about making business plans and bookkeeping... two things I am not qualified to teach about, but we'll see how that goes!

Although I am really loving living here in Dodoma, I am starting to really get excited about coming back to Seattle. But I have no idea what I will do when I get back. Any suggestions?

Oh, and congratulations to all of you who are graduating--to all my cousins and Chris! Hongera sana :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Last week I left the simple Tanzanian life that I am familiar with, of rice and beans and cold bucket showers, to get a glimpse of the opposite—the side that the extravagant tourist experiences when embarking on a game viewing safari. My aunt Dora from Cambodia had to come to Arusha for meetings, and decided to treat me and my cousin Stephen (volunteering in Uganda came) to a 6-day safari. We spent the first night in Lake Manyara, the next two nights in Ngorongoro Crater, and the last two nights in the Serengeti. Over the course of our journey, we saw not only the Big Five, but many, many more animals. Thousands of zebras and wildebeests, hundreds of antelope, and dozens of lions crossed our path. We were even lucky enough to spot two leopards and four cheetahs.

Seeing all these different animals was amazing, especially with the scenic surroundings, however just as equally we enjoyed people watching. We saw the old retired groups, equipped in safari suits complete with matching khaki pants and shirt, with too many pockets (and yes, there is such a thing as a ‘safari suit’—I saw it listed as a potential item on the laundry list!). Often times instead of looking for animals, we would look for clusters of Land Cruisers stopped because it meant that the other tourists were looking at something good. Sometimes when we were stopped looking at animals, we would take pictures of the other tourists, just for fun. My favorite group was an older man and women whose skin was burnt red from the African sun, the man wasn’t wearing a shirt and the women was hardly wearing a shirt. They both had mangled hair, and truly looked as if they were ‘living life in the African bush’ (or at least that’s the look they were trying to portray). People are just as interesting as wild animals sometimes!

Having daily hot showers and three big meals a day was just as exciting as watching for wild animals. I’m pretty sure we stayed in some of the nicest hotels and resorts that Tanzania has to offer—some of the hotels were even nicer than places in the States. It was a bit of a shock for my cousin and I transitioning to the tourist life, but we enjoyed every minute and my aunt made sure to spoil us!

Now I am back in Dodoma and back to work. I was actually really excited to come back to Dodoma, which I think is a sign that I am in the right place here (I sort of used to dread having to come back to Dar after being away). I am currently in the process of conducting a survey for the people who have taken loans from the church. I have already talked to about 20 people, and plan to talk to around 50 total. I am hoping that after getting a general idea about the situation of the clients who have been lent money, I will be able to help the church to realize a more efficient and sustainable program. I only have 7 more weeks here (!) but I think in this short amount of time I’ll be able to help improve their lending program.

I can’t believe it’s already June… Leah and Leisha, my housemates, are planning a birthday party for me and one of our Tanzanian friends for next weekend. And, in the beginning of July we're having a MCC team meeting here in Dodoma and are going to have a 4th of July party, so I have a feeling these last few weeks are going to fly by!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I have been in Dodoma now for over a week, and I have decided that this is a much nicer place to live and work than in Dar es Salaam. The climate here is actually pleasant—it is cool at night and in the mornings, and even during the day when it is sunny it is not too hot. It also helps that it is not humid at all. I no longer have to commute 2 hours on daladala to get to work, instead I only have a five minutes walk. (This also means that I can sleep in a bit and take time to enjoy my mornings). Since I live so close to the church, I also don’t have to worry about leaving work before 4pm to get home before dark because it is safe here, especially since I have people to walk home with. I also am really enjoying living with Leah and Leisha, two Americans who are also volunteering here at the church. I like living with them not only because we play games and watch movies together, but also because we can relate with each others’ situations. I forgot how beneficial it is to be able to debrief and reflect on a day verbally with someone else. At the church here in Dodoma, there is a real sense of community and everyone is very dedicated to their work. I’ve only been here a little over a week, but I already feel like a part of this community. I think the hardest thing for me living in Dar was not the hot climate or the daily 4 hour commute, but rather the fact that I was often on my own and had one to really talk with or just hang out with. I’ve really appreciated how welcoming everyone here in Dar has been to me. (And I guess it’s cool that my new housemates like guacamole and playing Dutch Blitz!)

MCC decided to move my assignment to Dodoma because although there was lots of potential to be involved in Dar, I wasn’t actually doing as much as I had hoped. Now that I am here in Dodoma, I have a specific assignment that hopefully can be accomplished in the remainder of my time. Throughout the past few years, the church has loaned small amounts of money to about 60 people. However, after loaning out the money, no one has really done a follow up on what has been done with the loans, and most people haven’t bothered to pay back their loans. In January earlier this year, the church hosted a training session about how to start a microenterprise with the hopes that the people who have taken loans would benefit from the extra training. Once again, not much analysis has been done to see if this training session was beneficial. So, my task is to find out what all these people who have taken a loan and received training have been up to, to see if they used the loan for income generating activities, and if further training is needed or wanted. I have already made a survey and had it translated into Swahili, so my next step is to go out and visit with the borrowers. I will be working with a volunteer from Kenya who will help me translate, and sometimes various social workers from the church who know where everyone lives. I am hoping that after I do this analysis, someone else from the church here will be able to continue evaluating this program so that it won’t just be a one time thing.

So far, I have been very impressed with the church’s outreach programs. They are partnered with Compassion International, which sponsors 350 kids (soon to be more) and Lahash, which sponsors 75 kids (soon to be 100). MCC has funded various projects in the past, and continues to partner with the church. Besides me, there is another family here who is doing a three year term with MCC. The church also has an extensive home based care program that offers palliative care services to people suffering from HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. There are a few social workers and counselors that regularly meet with desperate people and check up on the sponsored children. It has been very encouraging to witness the extent of this church’s outreach to the local community.

(I haven't had the chance to take many photos, but I will upload some soon!)

Friday, April 30, 2010

I May Be An Elitist

I’ve always seen myself as an adventurer, as someone who thrives on new and exciting experiences. Traveling to foreign countries and living in unfamiliar places engenders a certain enthusiasm within me that only bolsters my curiosity about the world. This interest undeniably comes from my family’s history and my upbringing. However, it seems that the farther I travel, the more sure I become that I truly belong in the Pacific NW. I am sure that this too has to do with the fact that I was raised to love and appreciate all the wonders that the NW has to offer.

Living here in Tanzania certainly has been anything but dull, but I don’t feel at home here. Mostly, I miss the mountains—being able to wake up before sunrise to quickly hike on the slopes of the I-90 corridor and make it back in time for class. I miss the crisp, cool morning air and running up Queen Anne on the Crown to behold Mt. Rainier towering in the distance behind the cityscape. I miss going to Discovery Park and to watch the sunset over the Sound behind the Olympics. I miss spending whole weekends backpacking, completely isolated from other people and being surrounded only by nature. I even miss the mundane, like driving down I-5 and viewing the Olympics off to the west and the Cascades to the East. Seattle really is an incomparable city, and I feel lucky enough to be able to call this Emerald City my home.

So what spurred all this nostalgia? It’s partly due to the fact that my dad, brothers and boyfriend are always recalling to me their recent outings in the mountains. But this time, my inspiration comes from the Dirtbag Diaries. Being trapped in Dar es Salaam with absolutely no mountains in sight and practically no outdoor activities, this podcast has been a comfort for me—listening to stories of other people who have a passion for the great outdoors. The most recent podcast was about an Orgoneon who moved to D.C. for an amazing job opportunity at National Geographic. But after a few months of living away from the PacNW, she got homesick for the mountains and moved back to Bend. Upon leaving, her boss professed, “People who found their footing in the Pacific NW are elitists, they are forever ruined for all other places; no where else can satisfy them; they have a surreal vision of what home is and what home means.” This rings true for me: no other place, no matter how exotic, will be able to measure up to the NW on my ruler. My infatuation for visiting new countries and my love for the NW will forever hold a dissonance. However, my fervidness to be within easy access of the mountains corroborates the fact that the Pacific NW is indeed my home.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nairobi: check. Next stop: Dodoma!

My visit to Nairobi, and news about moving to Dodoma

I am back in Dar after spending almost a week in Nairobi and a few days in Arusha. Nairobi was cold, and as my bus got closer and closer to the coast upon returning to Dar, I was shocked at how hot Dar was—I didn’t think I would have forgotten in only a week! I had a great time in Nairobi attending the Africa and Middle East Microfinance Summit. For 4 days, I attended lectures, seminars, and workshops starting in the mornings and lasting until the evenings. I learned a ton, and afterwards I was completely exhausted. There were lots of laudable people there—not only Muhammad Yunus, but also the president of Kenya, the Queen of Spain, the Princess of the Netherlands, the former president of Peru, the VP of The Gambia and the heads/ CEOs of basically all the big microfinance institutions. There were over 1500 delegates from about different 80 countries! I don’t know how to say this, but it was kind of a big deal. Oh, and I met Prof. Yunus and got a picture with him!

I was only a little excited...

Professor Yunus
I watched a screening of his new film "To Catch A Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America." I don't think it will be out in the States until September, but I highly recommend it!

This is me standing in front of Kenyatta International Conference Center

The four days of the conference flew by because we were so busy everyday. When I got to Arusha on Sunday afternoon (we came back on a more reliable bus and I reached Arusha after only 5 hours) I was thankful that I had time to just relax and recuperate. The best way to do this, of course, was to find myself some ice coffee—that actually had ice! I spent the rest of the day finishing my book and drinking coffee in a coffee shop.

That evening, I got a call from my MCC reps. I was in Arusha to meet with them, but they weren’t going to make it back to Arusha until late in the week so we had to have our meeting on the phone. I learned that they had just been in Dodoma, and the other MCC family who is working there wants me to come and join them to help with a project. They have tried to start a savings/loan program with a group of women from the church, but have failed. They want me to come and do some data collection about the situation—about the clients and their businesses—to see what can be improved to make the program successful. I am very excited about this, because I might actually be able to apply some of my newly acquired knowledge about micrfiance! I also just found out that I will be living in a house with two other volunteers from the states, I will have my own room, I’ll be living a simple 7-minute walk from the church, I get a bike if I want, and we do out own cooking! Sounds pretty good to me. I’ll be moving on May 1st

(Note: if you want to send me anything by mail, please don’t use my Dar address anymore. You can use the Arusha address that is on my prayer card, or hopefully I’ll find out a mailing address for Dodoma soon)

Monday, April 5, 2010


What did you do this Easter Weekend?

Sunday morning I woke up to sound of dumping rain and my host dad asking me if I was ready to go to church. I jumped out of bed, quickly ironed my clothes before putting them on, and dashed from the house to the car, trying not to get too wet. We weren’t going to our usual church this morning in Tegeta. Instead, everyone from our church was going to the sister congregation on the other side of Tegeta, which I had not been to before. We turned off the main road and started off down a bumpy, muddy, pothole-filled road (typical for TZ). When we arrived, I hardly realized it because this was no church at all—it was a half-constructed cement structure with tarps strung up to make a shelter in the front. Was this the Goba church, I wondered? I knew it had to be because there were plastic chairs already lined up, the speakers were being wired to the electric keyboard (a must for churches here) and a pulpit was placed in the front. It was still raining, but not as hard. I took a seat and waited for everything to start… I’ve started to learn that nothing and no one runs on time here, and waiting is always expected. Eventually, more people arrived and took their seats, and the choir arrived all wearing matching t-shirts. The service started, and lasted for 4 hours. The choir sang and danced, we read numerous passages from the gospel, a sermon was given, and we even sang some familiar Easter hymns (all in Swahili, of course). It was unlike any Mennonite Easter service I have attended, yet I couldn’t help but compare it my church at home—here we were, singing traditional Mennonite hymns outside while it was raining! Back in Seattle, we always start Easter Sunday with a ‘sunrise’ service at Matthews beach, and it’s often raining. Except here in Tanzania there were chickens running through the service, not Canadian geese…and after church we ate ugali, not mashed potatoes.

The Tegeta chior singing and dancing in unison

I had no work on Friday or Monday, so I had some free time this weekend. I watched the whole Lord of the Rings series back-to-back and did origami while I watched.

I made all these paper cranes with less than a sheet of origami paper J.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This past week was busy, but that is a good thing! I’ve been talking with my supervisor here, and Maguy, the MCC rep for TZ, came to Dar to assess my situation and also to check out one of the projects, the OVC program in Nyantira, in order to set up the criteria for funding from MCC Global Family.

Before Maguy came, Migire, my ‘supervisor’, came into the office and we had a talk. I told him flat out that I am not really doing anything because it’s hard to just come into an office and “plan projects” for the Diocese. There is nothing really substantial for me to be doing in the office other than secretarial/ computer things for the others at the church. I’m not really being put to use. He agreed, and said that we are going to change the situation before Maguy comes so that I could have something to report about to her. I thought that was a good idea. We decided that since Isack and I can’t do much good for the Diocese just sitting in the office here in Upanga, we need to learn about the other congregations. We formulated an action plan to do a feasibility study/ survey of the whole Eastern Diocese by visiting each different congregation. Then, once we learn about what each specific area wants and needs, then we can better help them to plan economic and development projects.

I feel good about this plan—doing a feasibility study is what I have been suggesting since I’ve been here. The first and main project that I helped plan in the first few months I was here ended up failing because I had no idea about the situation of the area and we went ahead and planned a project without even talking to that specific community first. We had a great project planned to promote agricultural activities among youth, but when we introduced the project to the area none of the youth wanted to participate because they already had a business driving motorcycles. If we would have done a feasibility study first, we would have known this.

Development assistance can’t work well when you try to impose a plan on the people receiving assistance. It needs to come from the individuals themselves. It’s really just basic supply and demand—if there is no demand, there shouldn’t be any supply or else it will go to waste. On the other hand, if there is a demand for something, an appropriate supply can be provided and put to use. Not working from the bottom up is the main reason why foreign aid has largely failed because donors set criteria that they see fit, rather than finding out what each specific area needs and wants. I’m reading “The White Man’s Burden” by William Easterly right now and he interesting explains this failure of foreign aid.

On Friday when Maguy came, we met and talked about what my options are for the remainder of my time here. As things are right now, I have not really had much to do on a day to day basis (or even weekly basis). So we decided that MCC could send me to other areas for a few weeks at a time to do random assignments or check out other projects, or here in Dar I could continue to help Isack and work the new project that we have planned. After I go to Nairobi for the micro-credit conference, it’s also possible that I could go to other areas to see if I could somehow help start micro-credit programs. So, as of right now, nothing specifically is changing for me, but I think that I will find myself being more busy for the next 4 months.

On Saturday, we well went to Nyantira so that Maguy could survey the OVC program there. MCC has agreed to support a three year program that will help about 50 orphans and vulnerable children through helping to pay and provide for school expenses, including school fees, uniforms, books, pens, etc. It also will support a Saturday program that has been running for a while where the kids come and have some class sessions, are given a meal, soap, and play games. When we came on Saturday, we played some games with the kids, handed out some treats, listened to them introduce themselves in English, and ate a meal with them. Right now, the evangelist at the church has been running the program mostly out of his own pocket (which is very small). His wife and a few other women are in charge of the meal and watching some of the younger kids. These women also go into the community to find OVC and promote them to come to the Saturday program.

These are some of the kids, happy after eating lunch and curious about mzungu with camera

This is a picture of the evangelist and the women who run the OVC program

We started our feasibility study and visited our first congregation on Sunday. Migire sat Isack and I in the very front row and gave a special introduction for us explaining that we are the Economic and Planning Department for the Diocese and made us sound all important and official. We each introduced ourselves, and as usual people were surprised that mzungu can speak Swahili kidogo! After a three+ hour service, we met with a small group of people to talk about what their current projects at the church are and what ideas they have. They already have a choir for the youth, and a women’s group that does palliative care, but they said that both of those programs could be improved. They also had a few ideas for other projects, such as starting a fish farm or used book store. It’s going to be a challenge visiting every church and trying to help every area… I am worried that when we come, people will automatically assume that we have money to help them and will expect fast results, both of which I’m afraid are not true. I know KMT doesn’t have money, and I really don’t see fast results happening. I just hope we aren’t a disappointment, and can actually be effective in helping them realize their demands and plan development projects.

Sometimes I get tired about only blogging only about myself, so on a completely different note I have some family updates: My oldest brother, Danny, just completed his Masters!! My other brother and his wife just celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary! My mom just got back from Haiti visiting my cousin with her two sisters, all 4 of them are nurses (I’m the only female on that side of the family that isn’t a nurse, actually…). My cousin is working at an orphanage for babies, so my aunts and mom spent a few weeks helping take care of some of the babies. My dad just arrived in Uganda, so we’ll be neighbors for a few weeks (unfortunately his assignment leaves no room for him to fly to see his daughter…). And, I just found out that my aunt Dora, who is now working for CDC in Cambodia, is coming to Tanzania in May so I will get to see her then! These are all very exciting updates—I am so very proud of each and everyone in my family and I love them and miss them lots :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Been a While!

Sorry it has been so long since my last update. This is due mainly to the fact that I have not been up to much lately and the Internet here continues to be spotty.

The other week I was in Arusha with the other MCC team-members for meetings and a little break from our positions. It was so great to reconnect with familiar faces and be able to spend a few days not sweating continuously! I made good use of my free time there by drinking iced coffee, eating ice cream and buying ripped DVDs where each disc has about 15 different movies. I figure that will keep me entertained for a while, even if some of the movies are terrible quality or have Chinese subtitles… One night I even made brownies (thanks to my wonderful mom who sent the mix) with Cara, which was such a treat!

The meetings that we had together went well, and it really helped me to reflect on what I am doing here. To be honest these past few months have been really hard on me, mostly because I haven’t really been involved with much at work. It’s been difficult reasoning why I should travel such a long distance every day when I end up doing nothing significant at work… I’m afraid that I have lost a lot of motivation and have been questioning the significance of my service.

I talked with the MCC staff a little about my challenges and how I feel like I am not contributing much, so they are going to re-evaluate my position. I might end up relocating somewhere for last months, or if I stay here in Dar they are going to make sure that I have something to keep busy with. I’m not sure what this will lead to, but I’ll be sure to update more when I find out.

I think I am realizing that serving for only one year I will not be able to “change the world” like Phil Dog (SPU’s President) inspired all of us SPU students to do (I think I am definitely “engaging the culture” though). I am seeing that my time here will end up changing me more than anyone/ anything else, and this has been hard for me to admit since I came here to “serve others.” As challenging as it is to live and work here, I know I will be grateful for the experiences I am having but it will be a lot easier to fully respect this afterwards! Thanks everyone, for your support and encouragement:)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Activities Update

This Saturday, I went with my coworkers to check on some of the church’s projects. We went to the Mennonite church in Segerea first, where we received funding for a project called Women and Water for Life. The funding is helping to pay for the drilling of a borehole so that the community can have access to clean, safe water. The plan is to have a group of women from the church be in charge of the water and sell it to their community.

We went next to the Mennonite church in Nyantira where there is a running program for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) on Saturdays. We peeked in their classroom, where the children are learning elementary skills as well as life skills.

They also receive a meal if they attend the classes. We hope to be able to provide these kids with school materials (uniforms, notebooks, etc) so that they can go to school on a regular basis. During their break, we watched the boys play futbol while the girls busied themselves with a jump rope.

Last June, a revolving loan program started for the women who are taking care of the OVC called VICOBA (Village Community Bank). This way, the women can take small loans in order to help them make an income, either by starting a business or improve an income generating activity that they already are involved in. They have weekly meetings on Tuesdays, so I hope to go to one of them so that I can learn more about this program.

In other news, my host dad hit a motorcycle and knocked two guys off it on Sunday. Luckily they weren’t hurt too bad—just some scraped knees and elbows, and of course a commotion. Drivers here are insane and the roads are crazy, but I still think India’s roads are worse. (Especially when you are riding in a speeding bus high up on a mountain-pass road in the fog with big construction trucks going to opposite way…)

The little dog at my house thinks I am it’s best friend because I feed it as much as possible (usually secretly, because my host family doesn’t feed the dogs—they just give scraps) and sometimes I purposely take a piece of meat that has a lot of fat on it so I can give it to the puppy. Everyday when I leave or come from the house, it gets so excited to see me. It even sneaks into the house when the door is left open and tries to come find me in my room! Except sometimes when it gets excited it pees, which isn’t so cute.

The avocado tree in the front of the house is starting to bear fruit, so hopefully I’ll get to eat those soon. Unfortunately I think that mango season is nearing its end because the trees are starting to look emptier. But I will continue eating as many mangoes as possible, and drinking cold, fresh juice made from mangoes in our own yard everyday from a metal cup.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back to Work

The New Year has started off pretty well so far here in Dar (is it really 2010 already?!). Although, I mist admit, it has been hard to transition back into work, daily daladala commutes, and life with my Tanzanian family after having so much fun with all my visitors from home. And it doesn’t help that I think I have had fleas (I keep getting lots of itchy bites and seeing little black, jumpy bugs). But they’re mostly gone now, I think, because the kitten that gave them to me died…

I think my work with the church is going to start changing because we have a new supervisor. This will be a good thing for our project planning team, because lately we have been completely unproductive and at a lost as to what to do. I am hoping that with this new supervisor, we will receive more guidance. We have many projects that require a lot of work, including constructing a girls’ school, proving palliative care services, establishing a health center, and digging bore holes to provide a water source. My tasks are mostly on the planning side, writing proposals and such. Thus far, the one project that I put most my effort into (hoping to provide income generating activities through agriculture for youth) has pretty much fallen through, which is a little disappointing. But I have high hopes that with our new leadership we’ll be able to move some of the other projects along. The church is also wanting someone to come and teach English (they asked me… but I don’t know how I feel about it), so if you know of anyone that wants to come volunteer in Tanzania let me know!

There is one new thing that I am very excited about: In April, I am going to Nairobi, Kenya to attend the Regional Microcredit Summit! For those of you that know me well probably already know that throughout college I grew increasingly interested in microcredit and what it can do to benefit communities—especially women and their children. At this summit, I will get to listen to lots of famous speakers (including Muhammad Yunus) and learn about what is new in the realm of microcredit, and more specifically what is working/ not working in the regions of East Africa and the Middle East. It should be a great learning experience and I hope that I can gain some insightful information that will help me down the line. My coworker, Isack is also coming with me.

Fun fact about Tanzania: no matter what the occasion or event, it is always appropriate to burst into song and dance that can last for an extended period of time. That’s why events can go on and on and on. For example, last weekend, Veronica (my other coworker) and I went to this women’s empowerment session, and at random times the speaker would shout out ‘can women do it or can’t they?’ And the crowd in response would say ‘yes women can!’ And of course, there was a DJ who played music at every possible transition, which in turn caused everyone to get excited and start dancing. Often when the DJ started playing a song, everyone would get out of their seats and dance up to the front. One time that this happened, Vero and I joined the other women and we all started dancing around in a circle at the front of the venue. A few women that were good at dancing were in the middle of the circle, doing crazy dance moves. One of the woman in the middle decided that I should also be in the middle of the circle, so she pulled me in and I tried my hardest not to look like a mzungu who can’t dance (which I definitely am, especially compared to these amazing African dancers!). I‘m pretty sure I made a fool of my self, but it was really funny and at least I made everyone laugh.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

It has been a while since my last post, but that is only because I have been busy the last month entertaining and having fun with all of my visitors! First, Chris came, shortly followed by my whole family, and then finally Sarah J., one of my best friends joined my family. I’ve spent the last month discovering some of things that Tanzania is famous for: its national parks, its beaches, and its mountains. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing family and friends. Being so far away from everyone has really made me appreciate how much I love everyone that is supporting me back home!

Together with my family and Sarah (unfortunately Chris couldn’t join us) we attempted to hike up the tallest peak in Africa—Mt. Kilimanjaro. I call it a hike and not a climb, because it really was quite luxurious and nothing like my usual mountain experiences. We slept in huts, were served all our meals (including morning tea brought to us in bed!), and had most of our things carried for us by porters (I think we had 27 people cater to us, including cooks, guides, and porters!). Also, we were forced to walk at the pace set by our guides, which was extremely pole pole (very slow). Whenever one of us tried to pick up the pace a little, our guides would insist that we walk slowly to conserve our energy because we were on a serious mountain. Even though our guides gave strange advice sometimes, we really enjoyed walking with them. They chanted Kuche Kuche (our team name) as we walked past other groups to let them know that our team was VIP.

We spent three days leisurely trekking up to the base of the mountain, and on the fourth day we reached Kibo (the high base camp) in the afternoon and continued up to the summit that night. Unfortunately, it was here at Kibo that some of us from our group fell sick with “the plague” as we called it. Benny and Sarah were throwing up uncontrollably… our guides insisted that it was altitude sickness, but we know that it was either food poisoning or from bad water. They were too weak to even think about moving, so they couldn’t leave with us when it was time to go at 11pm that night (which is too bad, because they for sure would have raced up the mountain ahead of us if they weren’t sick!). As we stepped outside our hut ready to start for the summit, my mom started throwing up too! But, she still wanted to try for the top (what a stud!) so we started climbing. After a few minutes, though, she still felt awful so had to turn around. So, it was now up to Sarah J, Danny, Alison, my dad and I to represent the others and make it to the top.

As we climbed up and up in the dark, our guides serenaded us with songs in Swahili, all about us safely reaching Uhuru, the summit. Sure enough, after several hours of moving pole pole up the mountain, the rest of us all reached the top (but I won’t mention who made it up first…). It was amazing being on the top at 5895 meters, my new highest point! I just wish that the others who were sick could have been there with us.

We got back to Moshi on Christmas Eve, and the next day for Christmas we went to Arusha National Park for a one day safari. We saw tons of animals, but mostly lots of giraffes and Colobus monkeys.

My favorite was Bambi, a tiny little dik-dik (a small antelope). The next few days before my family had to leave, we went to spend some time to relax on the east coast. It was hard to say goodbye to my family, especially after we had such a good time and they all spoiled me with lots of treats! Sarah J. stayed a few days after my family, so I got to show her my work and what living with my host family is like. She left early this morning, so now I have to get used to being all on my own again!

Even though it’s going to be hard to adjust again after such a nice break, I feel refreshed, encouraged, and am looking forward to new opportunities at my work and continuing with my service term. (For some more recent pictures, check out my Facebook album).