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).