This is a rant

27 March 2012

I met with KEDA (in the form of one person, the secretary) today, in the usual frustrating, scattered kind of meeting I have with him. “Where have you been?” he says, as if I’m the one who’s been out of touch. “At my dining room table trying to make up work to do for you,” I want to say, “You’re supposed to be managing me, not the other way around.” Sigh. Here’s another good one: “Let me explain to you why we can’t do anything without donor funding,” he says. “People here are poor.” (Well, that’s essentially what he says). Me: “No way, you mean this is a poor country? And all along I thought people lived in mud huts and only ate one meal a day because they liked it. Thanks for clearing that up. If only I had chosen to live with real Tanzanians I would have know that.” Ok I didn’t say that, but I thought it with intensity. But then, this relationship didn’t get off to a good start when they allowed me to spend thousands of dollars to come here knowing their program really didn’t exist and then they want my unconditional help. Did I mention, ‘sigh’?

Thanks for listening.


Time to plant

17 March 2012

It’s gotten really hot again and hasn’t rained in a while. After it rained a few times a couple of weeks ago, people started planting their maize. All the land around my house is for maize. People come from other villages as day laborers to help; mostly women but a few men. The fields were tilled by tractor; a few people own tractors and the rest pay them to plow. The rest is done by hand. They measure out the rows, drop the seed by hand, and cover it with dirt with their feet as they go along.  It’s hot, slow work, but when they get on the dala dala to go home in the afternoon, they’re really a good-natured bunch. I’m looking forward to seeing how different the landscape is.

I’ve hit a wall food-wise. I’m getting mighty tired of the same food over and over. But there’s really not a huge variety at the market, and between budget constraints and lack of refridgeration, I’m really very limited as far as supermarket food goes. I went to Aleem’s, the ex-pat focused supermarket yesterday and the only things I could figure out to buy were a jar of olives and a small bottle of olive oil. I did then have a good little salad with a lovely sesame roll from the bread shop, but still. I don’t know what to do. Stop complaining? Or is there actually something I can do?

A Saturday

9 March

Today I went swimming at the YMCA for the first time. They have a huge pool with a covered lounge area where you can relax with a drink and snack. It’s right on the road, but shielded from it by the YMCA building itself on one side and an empty grassy space on the other, so it’s very peaceful.

Then Amanda and I went out to visit a children’s village a little ways outside town. It’s in a beautiful location; surrounded by open space , forest in the distance and Kili looming over. They currently are home to 41 children, who are divided into four homes, each of which has a house mother. The staff houses I saw were reeeally nice, nicer than many American homes. They even have washing and drying machines!

Their director is interested in agriculture and they have a garden, a small banana farm, and a maize farm, but they don’t have anyone in charge of it, and the director is of course busy with other things. So I might spend some time helping out with that. It’s probably a good hour away from my house, but it would be nice to get my hands dirty and grow some food.

To market, to market

7 March 2012

Today was market day. I always go to the market with Mama Dora on Wednesdays and Saturday, when they have the big market a few villages away. I really enjoy it. One of us pays the bus fare for both of us one way, and the other person pays it the other way. Her presence prevents people from trying to charge me a special price, ahem, and she sometimes explains to people that I don’t like being called ‘mzungu‘ which means white person, that they could just call me ‘dada’ (sister) or something. I’m pretty sure today she told someone I could just as well call them ‘Tanzanian’. I’m also pretty sure someone came back with something like, ‘well a tomato looks like a tomato so we call it a tomato’ which I guess is a legitimate point, but anyway. The butcher we go to is nice; he’s kind – no cheeky tone to his voice when he talks to me, like some people have, just plain friendly. The women in the market have their wares spread out in little piles on the ground on a cloth or tarp.

My haul from the market.

There are many people selling the same things – it’s a big market because there are a lot of sellers, not necessarily because there is much variety. There are clothes and shoes and cooking instruments as well as food. Some people bring umbrellas to shade them from the sun, and some people are set up under tarps held taught with rope. Mama Dora is very particular when selecting her fruits and vegetables, and if I pick out some she doesn’t think are good enough, she makes me put them back and picks some out for me herself. She carries her things on her head in a basket, which she balances without using her hands. We have a soda at a little cafe before going home. The women greet each other often in KiChagga, the local language. You hear it used for greetings occasionally in other places, but at the market it’s particularly common for some reason. I only know how to say one greeting and ‘thank you’ but people get a real kick out of it.

So, that’s market day. Below is a picture of my favorite food of the ones I can cook, rice with meat and vegetables (Chinese greens).


4 March 2012

Ever since the rains started, every day is like a new episode of Bugs! in or near my house. Each evening I wait to see which bugs will accompany the mosquitoes in invading the house, dumbly drawn by the light.  Mostly, the ones that come inside aren’t too scary. However, there have been some interesting ones outside. Refer to pictures below. Also, this morning, I saw one that could have been a snake (and boy, was I praying that is was), but alas it turned out to be a bug. It was probably 6-7 inches long, and perhaps the thickness of two of my fingers, and it had legs. Lots and lots and lots of legs. I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered yet…


20 Feb 2012

Epic rainstorm today! Lately, there has been more and more very localized rain in the area. But this was the first really significant rain, and significant it was! It poured. There was thunder. There was wind. It was a good soaking rain, and you could just feel the plants’ gratitude as the dry season starts to wane. And for me, the best thing was that the wind, which usually just blows hot hair at you, was quite chilly! Huge temperature drop – it was wonderful. Walking to town after that, the path that crosses the gully near here was washed away, and it will be interesting to see how the rainy season affects mobility. With so few paved roads, and such poor quality dirt ones, I imagine there are many people who are just rained in during the rainy season.

On the way home from town, I saw something that just made my day. There was a bus parked off the road that had a big wrap-around ‘ARSENAL’ (the English soccer team, you non-Brits). It started at the back and wrapped around to the side. I could only see the back, though, and knew it said ‘Arsenal’ from the color and style, but because only the back was facing the road, and the word disappeared around the side, the only part that was visible was ‘ARSE’.  Top Gear style!! It was all I could do to now burst out laughing like a crazy person on the daladala.

Where the white folk live

19 February 2012

I went to a flea market in Shanty Town today. Shanty Town is on the edge of Moshi, and it’s where the white folk live. The woman hosting it has a sculpture garden throughout her yard. I went with Amanda (my new friend, yay), and helped her sell her boyfriend’s jewelry. He’s Nicaraguan and is still in Nicaragua. He makes gorgeous jewelry and it was a hit. Nice day all in all. Not too hot. A little rain. Very nice people. Got some clothes very cheap (the only kind I can afford), including a dress in perfect condition for $1. Met some people, etc. Generally just a pleasant, social day. I had gone to Amanda’s apartment for brunch first. She lives right in town, in a nice apartment. I ate yoghurt, peanut butter, and cheese for the first time in over two months.  Mmmm, cheese. Mmmm, peanut butter!!!

I’ve been told that my fridge, still not fixed, needs several hours to become cold, so I’m trying it out. If I had a fridge, I could have all sorts of delights, like milk (!), bread (!), and meat that won’t possibly make me ill (I’ve been salting it, putting it in a plastic container, and finishing it the day after I buy it). And, if I feel like adding a little imported food to my diet, chocolate!

I had dinner with Mama Dora and the kids again, like last night. It’s good to eat with family. I think I will put some real effort into staying here for a while.

The family

14 February 2012

Let me tell you about Mama Dora’s family. Her husband is a daladala driver (daladalas are the minibuses that are the common form of public transport). He works every day from sun-up to at least nine at night, except he works a half day on Sunday. Like Mama Dora, he’s a happy, gentle person. Mama Dora stays home and does the cooking, cleaning, etc, plus cares for the livestock and the farm. They have three children of their own, and one adopted niece.

Dora is their oldest. She’s thirteen, I think, and in her last year of primary school, which the equivalent of our (American) 6th grade. Like her parents she’s quiet, gentle, and intelligent. She’s third or fourth in her class. She wants to learn better English, and whenever I’m at their house and she’s home, we do some studying together. She’s obviously suffering from a serious lack of quality instruction, because she wants to learn it, but is able to speak very little – I speak more Swahili than she speaks English. Her mother (and her) would like her to be able to go to boarding school and get a proper education, but of course that’s expensive. After that, Mama Dora wishes she could study in Europe or America, where there are jobs, and just opportunities in general that there just aren’t here, even for educated people, in Africa.

Mama Dora put it succinctly today when she said, “There are a lot of schools in Tanzania, but not a lot of eduction.”

Their next child is a boy, Kevin; I think he’s seven and in standard two, which is like first grade. I think he and Dora started school a year late; they seem a little old for their grade. Anyway, he has a tendency to come over and start playing with the light switches and lamps, and loves to play with the stapler. If you’d never seen one before, you would too!

Their youngest is a girl, Given, who’s full of crazy energy. Always dancing around, or making funny noises. Very animated. She’s five and is in half-day nursery school which might be like kindergarten. I like her; she’s funny. She just jabbers on to me, even though I obviously don’t know what she’s saying. She doesn’t mind. She just talks anyway. She likes to slap my hands and all sorts; she’s very physical too. Funny kid.

And then there’s the little abandoned girl they take care of too. She’s three, I think. Her father apparently takes up with various women, gets them pregnant, and then takes off. Her mother left when she was 9 months old. Her name is Diana, like the princess, but in Swahili pronounced like we would pronounce Deanna. She’s a beautiful small child who likes to do somersaults on the couch and is easy to make laugh (not that it’s hard to make a three year old laugh!) She’s lucky to have Mama Dora as a surrogate mother.

Anyway, they all like me, and I like them. Sometime they come to my house, sometimes I go to theirs. They’re my friends, and really, my family here.

Approaching rain

10 February 2012

A cool breeze! Usually in the afternoon breezes do very little to cool you down because they just blow hot air around. But this one, from rain, is a little cool.

When it rains here, at least at this time of year, you can smell it very strongly. It’s only rained a couple of times. It’s not raining here right now, but somewhere close. It’s a rain/dirt smell. There was some thunder too. It is so much cooler without the sun! But it will be back.
Yesterday I made a friend!! She was thinking of staying at the house but took an apartment in town instead. Oh well, we met up for lunch, and we have some fundamental things in common and are in a similar place in our lives, I think, and so, yeah, it was good. And she knows some people in town, so she’ll introduce me to them and I might even – can you believe it? – have a small social life. Yay! Not to belittle Mama Dora’s friendship, of course. I very much like spending time with here and count her as a friend and a sister.

I’m going to have to start turning the water off at night; last night was the third night in a row that the tank was gushing. It’s a monumental waste, here in the dry season, and it’s going to be very expensive. I had a serious ant invasion last night. The little ones were especially active all day, which I can live with, but some bigger ones came in and some of them are red-ish and just worry me, and they were increasing, so I had a little battle do with them, that unfortunately ended with me standing there whacking them all one at a time with my sandal. Poor things. And ick, pancake of squished ant on my sandal!