Archive for March, 2004


St. Patrick’s Day in Dar

Ok, so there’s really no such thing.  But I did explain the concept to the staff here, and even made one of them a card.  The discussion led to their awareness that I am Catholic, and one, Augustine, spent most of lunchtime trying to convince Kristina and I that we needed to go to church in order to get to heaven.  Had a pretty interesting conversation actually, and I told him  that if I made it to heaven I would be sure to let Mungu (God) know that I did it w/Augustine’s help.  He replied that that would help him get credits there.  True Catholic thinking.  🙂
There are actually many Catholics here, which is so interesting that in theory I share this in common with the Tanzanians I am meeting.  The Country is ~45% Christian/45% Muslim. 
Switching gears:
Often I feel like there are ants crawling on me.  And there often are.  Have I shared this already?  Lately I’ve been waking up to discover I am covered in little red bites.  My legs were devastated after a night out on Saturday.  It’s a recent phenomenon, the level of bites, and they are not from mosquitos.  It’s not so pretty.
We had an amazing day at the beach on Sunday for Kristina’s 29th.  About 10 of us assembled, primarily American women, and drank beer and wine and leafed through Vogues and Peoples etc. while our rafikis (friends) Bjorn and Pedro grilled fish for us.  Bjorn had a video camera and he got some excellent material, incl. Kristina and I singing Britney Spear’s Lucky in his car on the way.  I am crossing my fingers he makes us copies as he’s promised. 
I also am in the process of getting some pictures up on the ‘net, finally!  I will let you know when they’re available.  I am a pretty terrible photographer, even w/the digital camera, so hopefully you’ll be able to deal w/the fuzziness of some.
Swahili lessons are progressing smoothly.  I am really enjoying picking up the language, albeit slowly (pole pole).  It’s an interesting language in its maximization of a few words and letters to express multiple similar concepts.  For example, ndege = bird AND plane AND someone attempting to fly.  Nzuri is practically the only adjective they have, meaning good.  You use it for just about everything.  And Ku added to the beginning of a verb changes it to the infinitive tense and is also used to mean “to you”.  (I went to visit you = Nilikukwenda kutembelea.)  To communicate you largely attach prefixes to verbs so a word with initially 6 letters (kwenda) becomes 12 letters.  And they are often k,m,w,i,n.  It’s relatively easy to grasp once you get the rules down pat.
Kristina and I are going to a Muslim wedding ceremony tonight for the sister – Saphia – of a woman we recently met here.  (Introduced via a friend of a friend)  We went to her bridal shower on sat night and were the only 2 white women among ~70 Tanzanians.  People were decked out and K and I were wearing simple linen numbers and looking very plain.  We joined the dancing – we basically walk/mildly groove in a circle around 1+ women in the middle gyrating their butts.  I was pulled into the middle at one point and managed to keep up, but I could feel the flush in my face from mortification.  The women seemed to enjoy this mzungu’s best efforts.  So the wedding is the religious ceremony that officially makes this couple married according to Islamic guidelines.  The fiance lives in Boston, so his brother is standing in for him.  Saphia flies to the US next week for another ceremony with her fiance.  I have borrowed the requisite garb (salwar kameez) for tonight and am relieved to finally blend.  😉
So just wanted to share the updates.  Not too much else to tell.  It’s raining here more often.  It smells great and cools the city down so it’s refreshing.

Tanzania, in 500 words or less…

Tanzania is good.  Definitely an experience.  A learning curve in everything.  Mostly there is a small ex-pat community to socialize w/.  Whites – primarily British and German w/very few Americans – and then the rare East Asian, Hispanic, or foreign-born South Asian.  The African population here is ethnic African and ethnic Indian.  Tanzanians are either Christian or Muslim.  Missing my Chinese, Korean and Jewish peeps!! ;)  We live on the ocean and that’s pretty phat – lots of beach and sailing.  I’m a bronzed goddess, obviously.  :)  It’s ridiculously hot and humid here.  Locals and ex-pats are fairly segregated, with rare exception.  That’s kind of weird, and it makes the ex-pat community feel even smaller and more incestuous.  Essentially everyone is hooking up w.everyone else. 
Labor is SUPER cheap here – <$5 for a manicure/pedicure done in your home.  Beverages and food are also really really cheap.  We have a car but it breaks down a ton, and our apt is nice.  We have a roofdeck.  We share it w/a German woman named Natalie who is 24 and cute and cheerful.  Food is ok, stomach having a tough time adjusting.  We have no tv or internet in our apt, and I am stuck w/Kristina’s country-leaning cds.  We have started playing scrabble.  We drink a lot.  I take yoga.  I take swahili lessons.  Don’t love too much downtime w/o the comforts of home.  Streets are not all paved, and it can be very bumpy getting around.  There are no streetlights and few road rules enforced.  It feels really free here, if life-threatening, esp. at night.  Everyone drives drunk.  I m working a bit and the day is from 8-430.  Hate getting up so early, but awesome being home at 5pm. 
I miss you and friends and family and home, but also feel I could get into it here.  3 months is a weird period to be here, cuz as you get acclimated it is suddenly time to leave.

Swahili for the Classroom

(Context, posted 4/13/06: I sent this to my aunt, who runs a kindergarten in MA.  I think it’s useful for anyone reading my old posts from TZ.)


All syllables are pronounced in Swahili, and the emphasis is always on the 2nd to last syllable.  Vowel sounds are: Ah (A), Ay (E), Ee (I), Oh (O), Oo (U). 

A teacher is a mwalimu (Mwah – LEE – moo).  To learn = sijifunza (see-jee-FOON-za).  To teach = fundisha (foon-DEE-shah).  A school is shule (Shoo-lay).  Children are watoto (wah-toe-toe).  1 child is mtoto (m-toe-toe).

Here is 1 – 10:

1          moja            (mo-jah)

2          mbili            (m-beel-ee)

3          tatu            (tah-too)

4          nne            (n-nay)

5          tano            (tah-no)

6          sita            (see-tah)

7          saba            (sah-bah)

8          nane            (nah-nay)

9          tisa            (tee-sah)

10        kumi            (koo-mee)



Day to day in Dar

Have sent some fun stories about adventures here in TZ.  Wanted to now share some general observations on life here, esp. now that I am settling in to a day to day life.  Another mealtime read for you all.

The first is with regards to waiting.  Think about the last time you stood in line at the post office, the DMV, the airport, etc.  A hassle, right?  One you can expect on certain errands.  Here, waiting is built in to almost every transaction you experience.  Typically waiting is attributed to a glitch in the system, which includes someone not showing up for a scheduled appointment.  For example, trying to hike Mt. Meru, turns out our guide tried to rip off the Parks Dept.  3 hours later, we set off on our hike.  Waiting as he haggled and squirmed and ultimately paid his debt (with an advance from 3 very restless Americans).  The ultimate example is one I’ve shared w/some of you already, when Kristina’s car broke down picking me up from the airport and we spent the 1st 2 hours I was here hanging out at the garage, waiting for her mechanic to arrive.  It is almost impossible to abide by deadlines or schedules, as cars break down, offices close for lunch, traffic backs up, people are no-shows, planes are sent off w/o you, etc.  It seems bureaucracy exists for bureacracy’s sake.  As a German friend and K surmised, during colonialism we taught them a whole bunch of processes w/o explaining why, and we are now at the mercy of this interminable legacy.  What I wonder is how Tanzanians entertain themselves during these waiting periods.  There’s so much sitting around; I assume the imagination here is an active one, ultimately fueling the “entrepreneurship� you see over and over again.

Entrepreneurship is one of my favorite aspects of being here.  Too often it surfaces as a scam, which is unfortunate, but the excuses always circle back to people trying to make a dollar for themselves.  Our safari was organized by an independent “guide� and led by a different freelance guide; both seeking to build a business for themselves, with the former relying on fraud, and the latter assuming that his experience driving for tour companies would make up for his contestable knowledge on the animal population and his obvious disinterest in and lack of experience with setting up camp.  My favorite vendors thus far at the cd guys, who sell pirated cds on the street.  You stop at 1, and suddenly 6 surround you.  No need to look through their selection, cuz they start pulling them out one after another for your review.  Norah Jones, 50 Cent, Celine Dion, Grammy Hits, etc.  Trying to understand your musical preferences.   How they group musiki in their head I have no idea, because my preference for Justin Timberlake to  them indicates I also want  DMX or Metal Hits collections.  No matter who has supplied the cds, you negotiate w/all of them, and pay 1 of them.  I understand they share their profits.  A cooperative.  J  (FYI: a cd is ~$3.) 

On the other hand, one of my least favorite things here is the scarcity of paper towels.  For some reason napkins and toilet paper are readily available, but cloth towels have not given way to paper towels.  In some public bathrooms, you can find air dryers, but generally the experience is one shared cloth towel and one shared bar of soap.  No thanks.  My daily experience is one of dripping hands and no-water antibacterial lotion.  I’m noticing that the trend is to carry some sort of personal bandana equivalent.  This I need to get on right away.

Another image for you: that of a puppy w/it’s head hanging out the window.  For those of you with motion sickness, beware.  Suffocating heat, unpaved roads and ocean trips do not a settled stomach make.  Most often in the car, you can find me with my head turned toward the window, which is always rolled all the way down.  The plus side is this is the best hair dryer around.  But I do feel like a dog, with my head lolling about for fresh air.

Something I noticed earlier this week at our staff meeting – no lefties.  When you are taught to write here, you are taught to write w/your right hand.  I was the lone lefty at the table.  Sad for me, esp. since a local paper, The African, published a story yesterday it attributed to the Washington Post (on-line version) saying US Congress was sponsoring an amendment to criminalize being left-handed (to accompany the gay marriage amendment).  The article sounded like an Onion piece, but K and I couldn’t find it there or in the Post.  Worrisome, what the world is learning about us. 

I learned something hideous about my office last night.  We are fed everyday, and I noticed it’s always a vegetarian lunch.  Turns out we work in a “vegetarian office.�  What the hell is that?!?  Our Exec Dir is a vegetarian, and thus we’re not allowed to have meat here.   For all of you who thought your boss was a pain in the ass, step aside.  Just wait til she finds me serving up sausages at our next staff meeting (which at least happens outside under a thatched roof w/a nice breeze passing through).  This is ridiculous.

On a slightly different note, the other thing I notice about my life here is the lack of desire for alone time.  To me, solitude has always been of utmost importance.  Here, w/o much music, no tv, no internet at home, the company of others is your best distraction/entertainment.  Alone time is voluntarily minimized, as it quickly turns lonely.  I never thought I could spend so much consecutive time w/others.  Another positive lesson for me.  I am not alone in this sentiment; we are all seeking each other’s company as much as possible.

I think that’s it for now.  Life continues pleasantly.  Meals are always steaming hot here, as food is cooked to order (while you wait).  Drinks are cheap (5 litres of water ~$.60; beers are $2), sunsets over water or landscape are frequent, dinners with friends are routine, and work ends at 430pm.  I take a yoga class tonight at a local gym, and we go dancing tonight down the street from our home.  Uh oh!  Power is out again.

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