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.