An old one: Everything else, summed up

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Here's a post I wrote when I returned but never posted. It gets you mostly through the safari:

I realized that by getting lost in my travels I didn't saw a word about the day camp graduation. It was a full day of pomp and circumstance, which meant that we had plays and simosas and songs and a PA system. The kids had a blast, and a few sets of parents showed up. The afternoon was filled with every single student wanting their picture taken with us. I have a great collection that i plan to send over to the school in an album. It was sad to leave them. I felt like if nothing else, the kids loved having us there, asking us questions, playing the games we taught them (stretching was still, oddly, their favorite), and trying to learn what they could from us. I know that the kids in my class will be well taken care of. their teacher, Miss Paul, kept as much of our flip charts and note cards and displays as she could to use while teaching in the upcoming year. I didn't like bumping down that long road, hitting my head on the ceiling, only one last time. But, I wasn't too sad, since I knew I was going to the coast.

In the interest of time, I'm not gonna go in to the rest of the trip in a lot of detail. And by time, I mean now that I'm back and have a wedding to finish planning, a job to go to, research to do and books to read for class, I'm losing that precious commodity quickly. I miss the days when most of your time was spent hanging around, deciding what to do next, or reading a good book. Rest assured, the rest of the trip to Pangani was beautiful, relaxing, and I almost got bored from all the doing nothing. I finished another book, and got a little too much sun. The bus ride back was a little worse in that we didn't stop at all in the 8 hours, but I prepared by not drinking or eating much. Amazingly, after being sure that I was going to make it through six weeks in Tanzania without seeing Kilimanjaro, even after hiking on Kilimanjaro, it peeked through the clouds just as we passed through Moshi. I shook Kyle awake and snapped a billion pictures.

Sam's first few days were spent overcoming the overwhelming feeling of being in a third world country. He never showed it, but every once in while I'd just check and see how he was feeling. It took him a little while to relax, as it did for all of us in the beginning. We hung out in Arusha, seeing the sites, eating good food, hanging out with Kyle and Dan, mostly. We stayed at a hotel, and at my mama's. We spent one day at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The first courtroom we saw had returned from their morning break and the defendant was feeling very tired and didn't want to continue for the afternoon. The magistrate granted his request and they adjourned for the day. In the second courtroom, we saw the beginning of questioning of a defendant, before they closed the courtroom to protect the gentlemen. It was amazing to watch. Here was a man accused of unknown atrocities in Rwanda in 1994. The lawyer had requested the whole session be closed, but the magistrate asked if she could do at least a few sessions for those of us who were watching. The guests sit behind a glass wall. There are monitors and cameras displaying the proceedings, and you can see through the glass as well. You wear headphones and can listen to the tribunal in English or French. The lawyer proceeded with her questioning, mostly clarifications of place and time, arguing with the defendant a little, and ending with the question "Is it not true that you, Sir, are a Hutu?!" He admitted he was indeed a Hutu, and then the courtroom was closed to the public. The tribunal brings a lot of income to Arusha. Everyone who is a part of it lives and spends money in Arusha, The Tribunal has been going on continuously since 1994 with "the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighboring States".

The next day we took off for safari. Sam and I, Kyle, Matt and Meghan who were at my school as well, and Drew. The six of us, a cook, and a driver took off in a Land Rover to Ngorongoro Crater and the Seregengeti. The first day we arrived at Ngorongoro, about 3 or 4 hours away, and dropped off the cook (Maliki) and all of our camping gear at the camp up on the rim of hte crater. The driver (Joshua) took us to meet an armed guide to do a walking tour still above the rim. We hiked for maybe two hours, through trees and rolling hills spotted with Maasai bomas and herds of cows. We wazungu were still a strange sight for the Maasai children, so when some of them spotted us, there was a group of ten or so screaming children running at else yelling "mzungu!" and bowing their heads for us to put our hands on them. They were absolutely filthy. Ashy bodies and crusty noses with tattered and muddy clothes. They seemed absolutely happy. I know that some street orphans from the cities sometimes come out and live with the Maasai on the plains, and they readily take them in, so they may be happy just o have family to live with, and food to eat. Regardless, they were having a good time talking to us: "Good morning! How are yoooouuuu!"

We got back to the camp, eventually, and the cook had popcorn and cookies waiting for us with tea, coffee and hot chocolate. There was an elephant just hanging out near the campsite, so we went and had a look, took some pictures. We settled in and waited for dinner, reading, playing cards, and other boring stuff. As the sun went down, it got cold. And I mean mzungu cold. St. Louis cold. It was probably in the low 40s or high 30s when we went to bed. I wore two pairs of pants, a shirt, a hoodie, a jacket, and a scarf to bed, and I still froze. That night, there was a zebra in the campsite. The next night, a water buffalo and hyenas, and the last night, and elephant. The elephant was maybe 20 feet max from our tents. We couldn't' go to sleep cause we were afraid that he'd step on us! We just watched him eat from the branches of this tree int eh middle of the campsite. He started walking closer to us at one point and we all moved backwards in a line, bumping into all of the people behind us, kind of scrambling over one another, but then he stopped and grabbed more leaves from another branch, breaking the whole branch off with his trunk and opening his huge mouth. We all turned on our headlamps and gazed into his maw. Dang. Big teeth and a giant tongue that you wouldn't want anywhere near you. Eventually he moved towards another tree away form the campsite and we felt safe enough to sleep. The second night, I woke up int he middle of the night to the sound of what seemed like a dozen or more hyenas whoop-whooping at each other. I freaked out a little, but knew they were hyenas and were probably not gonna bother us. At another point, I felt something pushing against the tent, at my feet, at my head...I shook Sam awake and said something's trying to get into the tent! and he said, yeah, the wind. Then I heard a growling sound and said wind my ass, what was that! and he said someone zipping their tent. so i tried to go back to sleep...I convinced myself that the tent was made of pretty durable canvas, and it looked like it could withstand some claws...But when we woke up there was animal poop all over, and Kyle had woke up and almost peed on a water buffalo in the bushes, so I'm not so sure it was just the wind that night.

Anyway, the day we woke up on the rim of the crater we drove to the Serengeti. It's about another 2 or 3 hours or so through Ngorongoro conservation area to the Serengeti National Park. Serengeti means "endless plain" in the Maasai language and man, is it ever. There are some photos of us where all you can see in the distance is the horizon. No bumps, no trees, no grass really, just an occasional gazelle, and then eventually a LOT of gazelle, until you start to see a green hill in the distance, which is the check in point for the park. We stopped there and had lunch, checking out some great pink and blue lizards and a beautiful blue and brown-chested bird that I later found out was the pigeon of Africa. It was annoying, and it wanted my lunch. Food on safari is cooked at the campsites by the cooks, and they also have box lunches if you are eating on the road. Box lunches are usually made of the following: a Blue Band (a cross between margarine and Crisco...delicious) and carrot sandwich on white bread, a vegetable samosa, a boiled egg, a chicken leg/wing, cookies or a muffin, and a chocolate wafer bar. Drinks are mango or orange juice boxes. Generally, a very good lunch, however evil for those of us with Celiac's disease. I did my best to explain my gluten allergy to the manager of the safari company to no avail. I could trade for lunch, my sandwich fr your egg, my cookies for your chicken leg, but not so much with all the other meals. So, I enjoyed having spaghetti and bread for the first time in over a year. Oh man, toast with butter is one of the best things in the world. The first morning I had severe stomach cramping. The next few days I had the kind of issues that aren't really too bad when you're on safari and don't have good access to toilets. By the time I go tot Zanzibar I was a mess. But, that didn't stop me from enjoying some delicious (oh my god, nectar of the heavens) pizza blanca in Zanizibar. I figured I mgiht as well, if I'm already suffering. But I digress...

We drove through the Serengeti every which way. I don't' know if we were north or south or east or what, but we saw everything. We saw a male lion, guarding his territory, and then, just next to him, another sleepy lion stood up and stretched and we all went ooooo.....and then, even better, yet another lion lifted his head to see what his brothers were doing. Man was it awesome. We took a bunch of pictures and moved on. Now picture the same, but with giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, (leopards and cheetahs apparently only sleep and only exist in trees), elephants, hopi, impala, gazelle, warthogs and wildebeests. We stirred a lioness from her sleep and she walked off her branch and passed us closely. Later we came across another lioness who had been in a recent fight. She had a gaping wound on her shoulder and a large flap of skin hanging off of her leg, red and bloody and swinging with her step. She walked right next to our truck. It was incredible. Going on safari is a lot of driving around, looking at stuff, scanning the trees and the horizon for something furry, telling the driver to stop, telling him to go again, letting him explain what the animals are doing and why, chasing other safari trucks who look like they've found something, getting hot, getting cold, having to pee in the middle of the plains...it's awesome. At one point, actually not a mile from where we saw the first male lions, we got a flat tire. It was great. I made up a song called "stuck in the Serengeti with a flat tire." Our driver went off to find help (there's one thing you don't see a lack of on safari and that's Land Rovers and Land Cruisers) but not before telling us not to venture far from the truck since we're in simba (lion) territory. A Land Cruiser tried to come to our rescue but the bolts on a Rover are too big for a Cruisers tools. We eventually got help and watched the guys change the tire. I held some bolts. Sam was in there trying to help, as always. No matter where we were, Sam was helping. The driver, Joshua, told him he works like a soldier. Sam doesn't know how to not work, even on vacation. Setting up tents, packing the car, whatever he can do. The driver and cook both began calling Kyle American soldier because he wears so much camo. And he has a buzzed head. He go that a lot in Arusha too. So we fixed the flat, Matt peed on that part of the Serengeti (he peed all over Africa) although we advised that it may not be a good idea to mark the simba territory. We moved on to the hippo pool, which smelled something awful. I mean, hippos stink. They're also huge. They kill more Tanzanians than any other animal. Apparantly a hippo is fast, even on the ground, and aggressive. It will attack people when they're walking form village to village and get in the hippos way.

Be patient...

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I'm trying to upload photos that illustrate each blog, so I have to re-post the blogs with them attached. And apparently you can only do 5 for each, so I'm trying to choose ones that correspond well. Below you see photos from Pangani: the view of the dhow from the shore at low tide, to which we had to walk, the sun shining on the low tide beach before we walked out, the dhow crew, Pepi the dhow at the sand island, and a view from the sun shelter on the sand island.

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me...

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...and I'm feeling good.

I'm sitting here, at my computer, at home. In St. Louis. Connecticut and Arkansas. Represent.

And it's weird.


I've washed Africa off my body, my hair, my clothes. Reluctantly. Okay, it's true, I REALLY enjoyed the long hot shower I took this morning, but I did think about how much water I was wasting for at least 30 seconds. Thankfully, Africa is here to stay in my mind, my heart, my everything. And in my cup of coffee. I brought back the world's greatest instant coffee: Africafe. It's awesome. I don't even drink coffee anymore, but I did a lot of things in Africa I don't do anymore. No worries, not THAT. Or that. Or that, either. But there's nothing like a cup of Africafe to jolt you into life every day.



I've unpacked, done laundry, sorted gifts, began going through email and the mound of real mail. I walked around the neighborhood, going to the bank, the health food store, Jay's international supermarket, picked up lunch at Bread Co. It's nice to have a "real" salad. Every time I need to say "excuse me" in my brain I say "samahani" and I have to think to say it in English. I stopped saying "thank you" back on the second plane ride home because I can't say that in English yet either, and "asante sana" could mean something totally different than thank you to the lady working at Jay's. I've loaded my photos on to the computer. They seem really boring to me, because I feel that very few of them actually captured what I was looking at at the moment. I'm actually really disappointed in them. Hopefully I can lock those images in my brain, burn them into my hippocampus and tell them to get comfortable cause I need them to stay. I think the photos will be neat to others, but I may need an objective eye to tell me which ones are interesting, cause pictures of the streets and the city and the shops all just look like normal stuff to me now.



And to those who asked, no I didn't lose any weight. So much for the Africa diet. Unfortunately an Afrikan mama would rather die than let you go home skinnier than the way you came. Not to mention the instinct to eat everything you can when you're served cause you're not really sure when you'll be eating again, like on safari. So it's the 8 week oh-god-i-hope-i-can-fit-into-my-wedding-dress diet for me now.



But regardless of the physical weight, I feel lighter. I have a different perspective. I realize the way I've been living has been crazy. It's barely living. It's the life of an insane person. I rush around through life like a tornado, trying to fit in everything I can while I'm still young. I think I'm getting old. I think I'll die young. I think I'll miss out on something if I don't do it all, and do it now. It's the same way I used to live in my previous life but without all of the self-destructive substances. But is that really true? Now it's work, school, degrees, papers, accomplishments, marriage, being better, the best... But it all does the same thing, right?



Before I get way too philosophical or introspective for a public forum, let me just say that I've done a lot of thinking. Sam gives me a hard time because it takes me so long and is so difficult for me to make decisions. He was teasing me while we were gone that I even keep questioning my decisions after I make them, so it's like I still haven't made a decision. I thought about it, and realized this: I spent the majority of the first 25 years of my life making really bad decisions, and I'm lucky I survived. So now when I make decisions, it's a big deal to me. I'm terrified of making a choice that will make me unhappy. That said, I also realize that few choices we make are irreversible. I know I'm in charge of the actions, but not the outcomes. I feel that I have a well-developed awareness of what I need and when I need to change something, and the ability to make those changes when necessary. Being in a calm (internally, at least) place for the last six weeks, away from the stresses of daily life as an American, I realize I need to take care of myself more. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. My health needs to come first. So I've been making some decisions. In due time we'll talk about those. Suffice it to say that things are going to be different. Subtly, but different none the less.



But you all don't come here to get inside my neuroses, you come to hear about Africa. So I'll continue where we left off, on the beautiful coastal village of Pangani...



I think the day we woke up in Pangani was June 30th, a Saturday. At 8:30 am we walked across the low tide, probably about 1/4 mile or so into the ocean to alight our trustworthy sea vessel: "Pepi" the dhow. There was a large group of us, Kyle and I, 3 Scottish medical students, 8 or 10 other college-aged American volunteers, 4 Germans/South Africans (which means I think the grandparents were German, but lived in Arusha, the daughter was somewhere in between, maybe a German living in South Africa, and her kid was all South African), and a couple of unknown origin who spoke fluent Swahili, and were so beautiful and gentle and had brought three young Tanzanian boys along. The children were from an orphanage in Moshi, but we never figured out whether they were a family now, or the couple simply worked there and brought the children for vacation. Regardless, it's a full ship. There are 2 crewman, effortlessly working the ropes and the pulleys and the sail, and the rest of us, just watching the water turn lighter and lighter shades of blue as we head out from the sandy grey waves near the shore, seeing the coconut trees and thatched roof huts slowly diminishing, little hash marks on the shoreline where people are trolling the beaches and tide pools for some sort of personal treasure, the horizon dotted here and there with the tiny triangles of other dhows, no doubt on far more noble missions than ours. But that's fine with me. We're going snorkeling.

The Tanzanian crewmen shout "Mambo!" and we all respond with a hearty "Poa!" The sun was hot, much hotter and direct than in partly-cloudy-all-the-time Arusha, but the breeze took the edge off. I didn't even sweat. The dhow is an amazing structure. Completely efficient and effective in its simplicity. There is a single mast made of the trunk of a former coconut tree, perhaps. A rope loops around the mast and is strung through a pulley, and there are two single ropes connecting the sail's boom (is that what it's called?) to the mast. (In my gurnal I have a lovely little line drawing here, but I think when I get the chance a photo will be much more illustrative.) We motor out for a while and then unfurl the sail which billows out proudly, ready to puff its way to India. Or Pemba, which is much much closer. After a while we stop and the crewmen jump in to see whether this is a good place to dive. We all get in, snorkels and flippers and all, but I can't see anything. The flippers are annoying and I can't get my mask on because the waves are too strong. So I just swim around for a bit in this amazingly warm but refreshingly clean blue bathwater. We get back in, sail on, and eventually approach the sand island where we'll be chilling out and having lunch. Just offshore is a good place to dive. We all go overboard and we look like a pod of strange fish, all buoyant butts and snorkel tops, flipping water up when we paddle about, looking at the coral, and the fish, and the beautiful sandy sea bottom.

When we get to the sand island, we make our way through the clear blue calm and collapse, in turn, flat on the sand, and just soak up the sun for a while. I flip, and stare at the horizon for a while. I needed this break. At least once every 15 minutes I am completely astounded that I am here. On a sand island. On a dhow. Snorkeling. In the Indian Ocean. In Africa. It's overwhelming, to say the least. How did I get this life? There's shade set up on the island for us light-skinned fish, and we sit under it and eat our lunches of sandwiches and chips mayai, which is basically an omelette with french fries, and the only gluten-free thing on the boxed lunch menu. The crewmen sleep soundly on their sides, lying close to the water on a spot of dry sand. They're incredible fit and muscular, as are most of the young men in Africa who do physical labor. They can't be more than 22 or 23. Ernest, who works in the restaurant, says he only likes working here so-so because he gets malaria about 4 times a year and he doesn't like that. No kidding. Who would? Malaria is the biggest infectious disease I see here. I know several Tanzanians just since I've been here who've gotten it. It really needs more attention and more money. But I'll save that rant for another post. The crewmen are up now, jogging laps around the island and doing pushups. I get in the water and Kyle and I decide to swim laps around the island, but the plan changes when we see something dark and suspicious in the water that we don't want to cross paths with. So we swim back and forth on one side of the island for a while, the waves carrying me one way, then turning on me when I go against them, crashing into my face and mouth and body. I get stung by a jellyfish and Kyle offers to pee on it. Uh, no thanks.

I'm tired of typing. I'm copying some of this from my journal, and I'm too verbose for my own liking, and for my wrists' liking. There's a lot more interesting stuff to write about. I thought Pangani was paradise until I got to Zanzibar...oh, momma. More to come.

More about paradise

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I just read an email from my dad in which he told me, while he understood my feelings, that I sound a bit paranoid about impending doom in my blog posts. While I don't necessarily truly think I'm going to die here, it's on my mind often, and I just happen to express it to you. So, don't' worry, the altitude hasn't done any permanent damage. I do, truly, breathe a sigh of relief every time I get off of public transport. I don't worry the slightest about being mugged, or violent crime, or being eaten by a lion, but if you have ever experienced transportation in a third world country, you understand. It is actually a leading cause of death in Tanzania. And you see burning bus wrecks on the news every night where 26 people have died, then you get into a crowded dalla-dalla and think that this could be it. But, just to reassure you all, I'm pretty sure I haven't lived through all the things in my life to die on a dalla-dalla in Africa. Although my friend said that actually, no one would remember that I died on a dalla dalla, just that I died in Africa helping people, and that was a pretty noble way to die. Great. There goes that reassurance. Kidding, kidding....these are the jokes, folks.

Anyway, I decided that GSC doesn't deserve my internet time until I get home, so here I am writing again. I'm trying to get something out before Sam comes down for breakfast.

So, Pangani...

After paying our cab driver an extra 2000 shilingi to get us to a reliable and safe bus, we settled in for our 7 hour bus ride. Since I can't read in cars cause it makes me sick, I mostly listened to my iPod and stared out the window. What an incredible, incredible view. We drove first through the North Pare mountains, and then the South Pare mountains, and then through the Usumbara mountains. The 7 hours actually flew by quite quickly. We only stopped once to use a bathroom, adn the bus' horns went off while I was still washing my hands, so it was a really quick stop. I had brought along some vitumbua (delicious rice pastries) and Nutella to eat along the way, but also took advantage of the vendors that display their wares at each bus stop. the bus probably stops 20 or more times on the way. SO every once in a while I'd buy an orange, already peeled, from a boy out the window, or a bottle of maji baridi. It was a nice ride. Our bus left Arusha at almost 10:30 am, and we arrived in Tanga, on the coast, around 5. I was thrilled as the bus headed south to feel the air getting warmer, to see the palm trees take over, and to know that soon I'd be on the Indian Ocean. When we got to the bus station in Tanga, it was another 10 minute battle to find a cab to take us the remaining 20 or 30 k to Peponi Beach Resort, which is just north of Pangani. The dalla-dallas had stopped running to Pangani already, and the swarm of cabbies were telling us 30-40000 shilingi for the ride. We got a guy to agree to 20000. I'm pretty sure he was just a guy with a car and a buddy. They drove around and got gas, then met up with some guys at a corner, argued with them for a minute (while we waited inside, and I asked "kuna shida?" is there a problem? But they finished their exchange and took a tire from the man's trunk and put it in ours. Hmm. Okay. About 20 minutes alter I knew why they did that. We drove down by far the worst road we have driven yet. It was hilarious. Our heads were actually hitting the ceiling, and I can' say how often we bottomed out. About an hour and a half later, around 7, we made it to Peponi.

Oh. My. God. Paradise. It was dark by then, but the moon was almost full so it seemed like dawn. Everything had a blue glow. We checked in, and ordered dinner from the restaurant. Outdoors, sand floor, thatched roof, wonderful. We checked into our banda. It was exactly what I was hoping for. I can't describe it really, without photos. It was paradise. That's it. We walked to the beach (maybe 50 meters from our banda) and just stared. There was the Indian Ocean, lit by the moon, a lone dhow undulating in the water just offshore. The tide was out, and it seemed like you could walk to India. It was amazing....

I have to check out of our hotel now, and I better make sure Sam is awake. I'll finish this later, possibly after I return home, but hopefully before. I've been trying to capture as much as I can in my gurnal (heh heh...) so I can write about it on the blog later. Kwaheri!
Below is my imitation of a Corona commercial, but with a pineapple Fanta, dhows at sand island, our banda from the path to the beach, the restaurant, and the view looking up.

I'm not dead, Sam's here, and 4th of July Afrikan style

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I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still alive, albeit barely, since I could have died a thousand times on the way to Pangani and back. It was quite an experience. And Pangani is probably the most incredible, beautiful place I've ever been. It was overwhelming, and otherwordly. It took me two days to realize it was real and then we were gone. There was no internet there (thankfully), so I had no access then. We returned Monday and in a rush I got a taxi to the airport shuttle, made it to the airport, and waited for Sam. I almost had a heart attack waiting for him because he was one of the last people through. I figured he had died in Amsterdam or gotten hurt and had no way of telling me, or they were going to come through calling my name, saying he was in a hospital somewhere, or they were going to bring him out on a stretcher, or he didn't make the plane...then I saw him walk through, in one piece, here, in Africa. Awesome. I was very excited. We've spent the last few days running around Arusha trying to take care of business before we leave here. Despite being completely wide-eyed and overwhelmed the first day, he's gotten used to it already. I know this because yesterday he brought up moving here for a while. My plan worked....

Oh yeah, 4th of July party last night was pretty lame. Some of the new crop of volunteers got drunk and started singing America the Beautiful, to which us old volunteers rolled our eyes and muttered, "amateurs." Our friend Gerald (Tanzanian) asked what our motto was for the 4th of July and someone told him "America, f**k yeah," so the poor guy was walking around saying that to everyone until he was told that he may not want to say it to the Brits, at least, or any random wazungu on the street. I proposed that we just burn trash int he gutter, because that's what they do here anyway, so no one would think anything of it, however strange it may be to have a bunch of white folks standing around a burning trash pile celebrating. Sam did at least light a napkin on fire and I threw it on the ground and we watched it burn while mimicking the sounds of fireworks. Exciting.

Today I have to do my exit interview for GSC, go to the craft market to pick up some gifts, make sure Sam has an Afrikan lunch and not a mzungu lunch, and that he gets noma choma (more on this later). We're also going to the Rwanda criminal tribunal today, which I'm very excited about. We stay at my mama's tonight, and she's making us ndizi stew. Tomorrow morning we leave on safari to Ngorogoro Crater and Serengeti until Monday. Tuesday morning we leave for Zanzibar. So, I'm not sure when I'll be able to write again. I'm thinking they don't have the internet in paradise, once again.

I made it to the internet yesterday, but spent 45 minutes trying to log onto the blog, and managed only to send one email to my mom letting her know Sam was here and we were alive. Plus, Sam's not so interested in sitting around while I write home. So I'm in the internet cafe in our swanky (for Africa) hotel, while he's still asleep. I'll do what I can. I need to fill out an online form for GSC (no, I have no idea why they would give us an online form when we have sporadic and unreliable internet access. Complaint number 865.) and then I hope to return and write more about bus rides, paradise under a full moon, snorkeling, jellyfish stings, card games, kitcha Africans, watching a goat get slaughtered, and much much more. I am REALLY not ready to leave...

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Well, I survived the bus rides, and the dalla dalla rides, and Kilimanjaro...barely. I have never had a day in my life where I imagined my death so frequently, and in so many ways. death and injury. I was tense for the first 45 minutes of the bus ride. i stupidly said to kyle, "at least we're not going that fast and not overtaking every car in sight" Not 5 minutes later the driver hit warp speed and started passing every car on the road. The bus sat two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other side, but there is also a fold down chair attached to every double seat so that you sit four across, with no aisle. A fire hazard nightmare. Plus other people stood as well. Oh, and the best part is that on several windows towards the back, including the window where i was sitting, there were spiderweb shaped cracks in the class that i imagine could only be made by a human head smashing into the window. They were just that size and height. reassuring, indeed. some time into the ride i accepted that we probably weren't going to die. When we arrived in Moshi alive, I was relieved. we checked into our hotel to drop off some stuff, and then headed to Mangaru for the gate to Kilimanjaro. we had to take a dalla dalla to mangaru, and I have to admit this was my first real dalla dalla ride. I walk everywhere, and take cabs home after dark, so i haven't had the need to ride the dalla dalla. It took us 53 minutes to travel maybe 30 kilometers, and we stopped probably 12 or 15 times along the way. i don't know if any of you are familiar with the dalla dalla, but it's basically a van with 16 seats. However, on our ride to Mangaru, i counted 29 people in the dalla dalla at one point. People will just sit on others' laps, stand up and squeeze in between the seats and the walls, and hand you a baby to hold. They bring their livestock on board as well. I thought i saw a guy put a goat in the hatchback, but he didn't. My friends have ridden with chickens. During the ride we were overtaking a car and ran another dalla dalla off the road onto the shoulder. It was pretty terrifying. then came a 10 minute taxi ride to the gate, and we fit 7 people in one taxi.

We arrived at the gate and i expected something much more exciting or a big deal than what I saw. there were bathrooms, a chalet where you registered and paid, and a shop. and about 3 dozen guides and porters waiting around to start climbs or be hired. The fee per day for an East African is 2000 shilingi, or about $1.60. For wazungu, the price per day is $60 USD. this is the case in all national parks in Tanzania. it's insane. But, it's how they make money. We started the climb around 12:30. we wanted to go all the way to the first hut site where people who are going to the summit camp the first night. the guide said it would be impossible to do that and return in the time we had. the park closes at 5. At first, I thought, this is no problem. not too steep, i feel good, I'm breathing fine (even thought I have a cold), hakuna matata. That lasted about an hour. then we hit the harder parts. steep inclines, rocky path and the guide and two of my friends were practically running up the mountain. granted, their legs are much longer and they're all about 10 years younger than me. And, i am admittedly in almost the worst shape of my life. But, I persevered. At one point i did start to get dizzy and I was breathing so heavy I started to hyperventilate. but i just stopped for a minute and chilled out. I kept imagining dying on the mountain and them having to get my body, or just passing out. I kept thinking it there were worse ways to die than climbing kili, but even then it should be closer to the summit at least. eventually, we made it to the Mandara huts. We went past the huts to a crater so we could get a good view. Here we climbed above the forest line and entered the desert altitude of Kili. it was bizarre. One minute we're walking through dense, beautiful humid rainforest and you can see your breath...the next we're walking amid cactus and sage and it's hot and sunny. it was a very cloudy day, as has been almost every day I've been here, so clouds draped the mountain and hid the peak from view. Throughout the walk, there were areas where we were walking through the clouds, and I'd look ahead and see them actually moving along the trail. it was incredible. i felt like i was in an Akira Kurosawa movie or a Can song. It was so dreamlike. We took some pictures at our high spot, which was about 2900 meters. good thing, cause they say if you have a cold not to go past 3000 meters. again, the clouds hid our view of everything, but it was well worth it. the time was almost 4 then, so we literally almost ran down the mountain. i kept imagining my ankle breaking, or falling and busting my face open on a rock. I did slip three or four times, as did others. it was hard on the knees, but we had much haraka the whole time. hurry hurry, chop chop. we did the entire ascent and descent in 5 hours and 10 minutes. our guide said that was a record for him, and he's been climbing Kili for years. so i don't feel bad about it being tough. another of our group got an altitude headache, and everyone felt like their hearts were beating out of their chests. it was similar to climbing st. Mary's glacier in Denver. You sweat the whole time. had we gone a bit slower it would have been much easier, but we didn't have time. by th time i was done my body felt like it did after doing the half marathon. my legs and groin and butt were tired. I wasn't sore the next day though (i sing hte praises of magnesium). we got back to the hotel , went to dinner and ate a lot of food, and then sat in the bar on our roof, relaxing, drinking pineapple fantas (well, that's what I did). the nexy mornign i had my first hot shower in weeks, and saw some tv in english while I was getting ready, which was exciting. martha stewart and tyra, no less.

I am out of time, but I'll try to get to the internet tomorrow to write more. i have more stories and definite strong feelings to share. i don't want to leave here. i love it.

T.G.I.F.

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I am so happy to see the weekend. I was telling Sam the other night that I feel like I live here. He couldn't understand how I would feel that way after to weeks, and it sounds strange, I'm sure, but I think it's because I work here. I get up every morning and have a job to go to. I have a family i live with, and I have to be home for dinner at a certain time. It feels like living, not visiting. And along with working every day comes looking forward to the weekends.



Tomorrow we're getting an early bus and heading to Moshi, where Kilimanjaro is. I'll be doing a day hike there, which is basically the same hike that one would do the first day of climbing Kili if they were doing the whole thing, but we'll likely come back down. We may spend the night on the mountain, but that's expensive, and you have to bring your own food and such, and we'd rather go back to the hotel that supposedly has a restaurant/bar on the roof and a forex bureau (not that I need one, but that's exciting) and just chill. I can't wait to sleep in on Sunday, which probably means I'll sleep until 7. and, I think the hotel will have a shower. Huzzah.



School has been better. There were a few instances where we discussed subjects that got them really excited. One of them being gender roles. Man did they get riled up about that. they also insisted that both men and women cook equally in Tanzania, which is, pardon my French, a load of crap. We had them put their heads down and raise their hand if a woman cooked their dinner the night before, and all but 6 raised their hand. Those 6 said they had both a woman and a man cook. None had a man cook. The boys also insisted that only men could be doctors. It was a great exercise, all in all, and really cool to see them finally get excited about something. the same happened today with two other subjects: talking about sex with your parents, which I had to teach, and I am far from the right person to teach this. I never really talked about sex with my parents, and I surely don't think kids in Tanzania would even dare. So I turned it into talking to their parents about what they've been learning at day camp, which is a roundabout way of talking about sex and HIV. i also talked about being assertive with their parents when it comes to certain situations, like parents trying to marry off their daughters for a dowry, female circumcision, or simply trying to keep their daughters at home to work instead of going to school, which were all good subjects to discuss. This turned into a discussion of what else can you be assertive with your parents about, and unfortunately several of the kids brought up that their parents are drunks and keep them from doing well in school, which was sad. Luckily, their teacher (who often sits int eh back of class and takes notes because she said she'll be teaching some of this in school) proposed solutions to the issue. The class also loved an exercise where they got to tell stories about their role models. Finally, the human knot game actually kept them so enthralled that they were late to lunch. I had never played this game, but apparently of you were ever a camp counselor, you know it.

I also tried sporting a khanga (I'm slowly learning how to spell everything correctly) in the traditional way today, just wrapped around my waist. It's ankle length, and I wore pants under it, but I was late to the office this morning cause I didn't realize you couldn't walk fast in a khanga. It all makes sense know why the Tanzanian women walk so slowly. It's not because they're carrying things on their heads (which is totally amazing to watch)...it's because they wear khangas. I did, however, have less flycathcers talk to me, except the few that told me I looked like mama mwafrika.

Pretty uneventful for the most part today. I lead art today, which basically means I sat in the room while kids did art. But, i fashioned myself some knitting needles out of pencils and knitted a fancy-looking wrist cuff for one of the counterparts, Patrick Paul. He loved it. I didn't tell him the yarn was really girly. he didn't care. he sauntered off wearing his jean jacket with the collar popped up and a red and black fluffy cuff on his wrist. Priceless.

We're having dinner/drinks for the last night of our lone Frenchman. I best git. Hope to write again after my Kili experience, which I'm sure will be totally incredible. That is if I survive the busride to Moshi. It seems like every night there is a bus crash on the news where you see a bus on fire. My baba strongly suggested we take a hired car, but that costs about $200, where the bus is 1500 shilingi. That's about $1.25. Here's hoping. I dont' want to die in Tanzania tomorrow! Sipendi kufa na Tanzania kesho!

Don't worry, I'm sure I won't...

Things I never thought I'd say...

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I was in the middle of writing that last post on Monday and there was a blackout at the hotel, so I wasn't able to finish it. I just went ahead and posted it and figured I'd move on.

Tuesday and today were indeed better at school. Yesterday i was sure i was going to kill someone before the day was over. But I didn't, and in fact, my evening ended very nicely. The kids were still jerks. African kids are just like American kids --- too cool for school. We had a guest speaker who was HIV+ come and talk yesterday, but it was not so good. in complete disregard for the ABCs of HIV prevention (abstinence, be faithful, correct and consistent condom use), he talked about how he carries condoms so when he meets a cute girl he's prepared...but he's married. he said you should be monogamous, but if you don't practice what you preach, then it makes you invalid as a source, right? I was proud that one of the kids in my class called him on it. We told GSC they ought to screen their speakers more thoroughly. Item number 263 on my complaints about GSC list. He also said that they way to stay healthy when you have HIV is to avoid drinking alcohol (okay, good), have less sex (okay, maybe) because you get rid of too much protein that you need when you are sick (okay, no, not at all), and don't work very hard (right). Thanks, Emanuel! great talk. at least he got a few good points across, but overall I give him a C-.
Yesterday afternoon, however, i went to the Shoprite, which is basically the wazungu supermarket, and bought food to make my family dinner. I made them burritos. Hilarious. First, flour tortillas were 11,900 shilingi, which is about $10. All in all, I spent 50,000 shilingi at the grocery store to feed my 7 host family members (mama, baba, kaka Meshack, kids Victor and Veronica, the housegirl Dora, and myself). Meshack loved the burritos and ate two of them. Mama looked disturbed. Although she told me she liked it through tight lips. she said it includes all of the food groups, which was true! I had tortillas, meat with taco seasoning, onions and tomatoes, which I cooked over charcoal since the power was out, green and red peppers, onions, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa. Mama took one look at the bowl of shredded cheese and said, "What is this?!" ah, it was great. not only were the burritos delicious (yes, I ate the flour tortillas...i figured one wouldn't hurt, and i had to demonstrate how to eat it!) and I was thrilled to eat Mexican food, but the whole situation brought me much happiness. Meshack took pictures of everyone eating. I'll be sure to share them later. My mama also picked up my skirts and bag i had made at the tailor from congas, and when I got to the bus this morning wearing one, one of the Tanzanian counterparts said i looked like a mwafrika. I said thank you very much, i was trying to fit in.

Today at school things were going better. we played Jeopardy to review everythign we have taught so far and it took two hours. They loved it. But my absolute favorite part of the day is this:

We usually eat lunch at Noon. It was about 12:10 and still the food hadn't arrived. Then one of the counterparts, Regina, came in and said we'd be eating at 12:30 and told us why...

I realized how many times I've joked at a restaurant when the food takes so long, "what, did they have to go out back and slaughter the cow themselves?"

Yes. Our lunch was delayed because the slaughter took too long. I love Africa. I'll never look at a goat the same again.

Second favorite thing I said today that I thought I'd never say is "Tomorrow I think we should grab some sugar cane and an avocado pit and teach the kids to play baseball."

T.I.A.

Kyle and I are usually in charge of music and drama, but music and drama kinda runs itself now that they're rehearsing plays and songs for graduation next week. So we offered to do sports today. You have to walk about 10 minutes to the nearby primary school to use their field. I played frisbee with a couple kids, and Kyle taught them how to play American football. All I know is that in a middle of a throw I hear from down the field "Gooooo...DEFENSE!" Unbelievable. and they loved it. So maybe baseball tomorrow. but you have to buy sugarcane cause you eat it here. It's perfect. Nothing like playing some American baseball and chewing on the bat when you're done. Fitting, don't you think?

I must say, I'm really getting used to this place. And everyone here thinks I'm 21. It's awesome. Arusha is growing on me, indeed. I'm afraid it won't be enough time to spend here. It takes two weeks just to get acclimated to the way things are. I love that i take a bath in a bucket and bargain for everything I buy. I think it's hilarious when I get my weekly Arden B. sale announcement emails as I sit here in my dusty tennis shoes and skirt made for 5000 shilingi. The thought of air conditioning makes me sad. everyone is sick here (and i am getting it) because it's soooo cold. It's 60 degrees in the morning but to Tanzanians it might was well be 6 below. They're freezing. My mama sits with coals by her feet to warm her when I'm wearing a t-shirt. She thinks we're all sick because of the weather. I know it's because her granddaughter coughs in my face without covering her mouth. Repeatedly and frequently. My baba was in bed all day yesterday with a fever. The whole house is sneezing. I think perhaps my greatest contribution to the public's health in Arusha, Tanzania is going to be teaching the Mboga family how to cough and sneeze into their elbow. What am I doing here? Saving lives, of course. :)

Boys can be virgins?!...and other great questions

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Today was tough. It was condom demonstration day at school. That went pretty well, but the kids are starting to act like jerks. I totally feel for high school teachers. You couldn't pay me enough to spend the time with them necessary to drill something into their hyperactive brains. Becca, you have my utmost admiration.



There are things that are simply lost in translation. Today we had the most difficult time thus far trying to explain things. Some of the problem is a cultural barrier, and some is a language barrier. I got very frustrated at one point and just about lost it. We are trying to teach the kids condom negotiation skills, so we gave out pieces of paper with sentences a partner might say to you if they didn't want to use a condom. For example, "condoms are too expensive" or "I love you, I wouldn't give you a disease," and we ask them to rehearse things they can say to the partner to get to the end goal of using condoms. All of them just kept parroting, "you should use a condom to protect yourself from STIs and HIV." I think three groups said this before we stopped the exercise and tried to explain again, in detail, what we want them to do. One of the problems is that here in Tanzania it seems they learn their lessons in school as memorization. There really aren't a lot of critical thinking skills built into the curriculum. The learn something, they are tested on the information, they repeat it. It isn't really internalized in the way we need these concepts to be. It's really frustrating!



Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

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The internet area of this hotel is at the front of the building, facing the street, with a large window view. There is something totally hilarious happening outside. There are some wazungu outside who are clearly new here. I'm guessing their first day in Arusha. Right at the entrance to the street are over a dozen flycatchers peddling their wares, all waiting to take a turn showing their goods to the table of wazungu. Clearly these people haven't figured out how to say "no" yet. my friends and i here just laughed. Amateurs. one week in Arusha and they you know how to avoid the flycatchers pretty well. Or at least you learn how to say nasty things in Swahili so that they leave you alone. in fact, if they realize you speak any Swahili at all, they'll usually back off a bit.

I have to apologize, but I think that typo-checking my posts has not been working completely, so sorry for the typos. Whaddya gonna do.

I am very happy to be sitting down. Today we did a hike that was INCREDIBLE. Not only was it one of the most difficult hikes I've ever done, but it was also the most worthwhile. The hike was through town up to the foothills of Mt. Meru, and to several waterfalls they have. The first incline was so steep that we had to pause to breathe every 5 minutes or so. It reminded me of when we climbed St. Mary's glacier in Denver last year, in snowshoes, in the dark. It was tough. It's hard to breathe. I think I'm definitely skipping Kilimanjaro, mostly because it costs an arm and a leg to climb, but also slightly because I may lose an arm, or a leg, or a lung. One of my friend's kaka is a porter on Kili and told us he could get us up and down in 4 days for $200. We assumed that meant that down would be in a body bag, cause you can't climb Kili that quickly. And, the park fees alone are more than $200, so we have no idea what he's talking about. The porters talk about just sitting down and having to watch people die. It's disturbing. Someday i'll do it, hopefully before the snow is gone. Anyway, back to the climb.

Once we reached the peak of the hill we were on, we looked down and saw where we were going. Down, then across a river, then up a hill just as tall as the one we were on. I, being a genius, brought absolutely nothing but the clothes on my back, a hat, and some water. Money and keys and whatnot in my pocket. I put my camera and phone in my friend's backpack, and I'm glad I did. One girl couldn't make it up with her stuff and one of the Tanzanian guides had to carry her bag for her. Everyone else who had bags seemed okay, but they're also 21 and I'm not. And one is an Ironman triathlete. Just to remind you, I'm not. We got to the river and Hussein, our guide, informed us that we'd be walking about 800 meters upstream to the waterfall, int he river. So we rolled up our pants and waded in. the water was freezing, which felt good at first from the sweaty climb. The river moved very quickly, so we didn't worry about parasites. here's hoping! I figure what's a trip to Africa without getting a parasitic disease, right? after much climbing and slipping and some falling and getting soaked (not me, luckily), we arrived at the waterfall. at first, you have to walk through an opening in these smooth, wet cliffs, and you can feel the spray from the waterfall, although it's still likely 150 feet away or more, and you can just see a bit of it. As you emerge from the other side of the opening, you see an astounding sight. the waterfall must have been 200 or 250 feet high, and the spray was drenching us in cold and salty water. I don't' know why it was salty. Maybe that was our sweat. Every second we stood there we were getting wetter and wetter and the wind coming off the water was chilling us to the bone, but we couldn't look away. we started to climb up the slick boulders to get behind the waterfall, but at one point I decided not to go on. I didn't want to die in Tanzania today (Sinakufa ni Tanzania leo!) Not like this. If I do, it should be "saving lives" at least. :) Two of the younger and clearly more stupid boys went on, and made it back alive. I took pictures. We were soaked and freezing and walked back downstream a bit to sit on the side of the river and eat our lunches. Then we made another insanely steep climb, through mud, grabbing vines for stability (I asked if we could just swing on some of them, but no dice) until we reached the top of the hill, and then started our decline on the other side. it was awesome. And it hurt. and we're filthy. I was standing outside of a market a little bit ago drinking a Fanta and eating some Cashews and a guy came and pointed at my boots and said "where did you get this?" so clearly, I even look filthy today. ah well. in Arusha that means you fit in. all the nicely dressed people are in church. the rest of us heathens are finding god in the waterfalls of Meru. Which is just fine with me.

yesterday we went on a day safari to Lake Manyara. Generally, it was pretty boring and mostly filled with baboons, which I'm sick of seeing, especially since I'm not too fond of monkeys anyway. They creep me out. Way too human. but, it was totally worth it for these two elephants who were feeding right next to us on the road. the even made some grumbling noises (I personally decided they were purring) and started heading for the trucks. everyone panicked for a second and the driver backed up. we were apparently just in their way. They wanted to go to the other side of the road to eat. I took video. I'mt aking video of everything now that i know i can do that on my camera. Hello, Africa, meet You Tube.

School has been a trip. The kids are smart, and they want to know everything. Friday I spent a lot of time answering questions about whether monkeys have AIDS and where it came from and who makes condoms. Monday we'll be filling a condom with water to prove that there aren't holes in them. That is a common myth. One kid suggested that to figure out if there are holes in them, someone should put one on and then rub pilipilihoho (hot chili peppers) on the condom, and if it hurts, the condom has holes. Okay! I then had to explain that condoms are designed to still let you feel things, so putting pilipilihoho on your penis, condom or not, is probably not a good idea.

Tanzania is better with music. Now that I've actually gotten some time to walk alone in the mornings, I can listen to my iPod shuffle on the way. it makes me laugh to think that i'm probably the only person in the entire country listening to Blonde Redhead, or Neko Case, or the Impressions. It also feels good because everything i love has a song, and listening to some of them keeps my heart connected. On the drive to Manyara yesterday, i had a lot of time to think. about my life, about what I'm doing here, about being American, about being white, about marriage and children and a PhD and work and what all of these things mean, and what they are worth, and why they are important. i thought about the dichotomous life of a musician-scientist, and how those two things are both important to me. And so is being a wife, and a mother, and friend. i thought about how honestly perfect my life is. I'm not sure i could begin to ask for anything more. if there is one thing that i know I will take from Tanzania, it's that nothing that ever happens in my life is a big deal. And those of you who really know me know that as a result of my life thus far, I already live by this philosophy anyway. so I expect to come back even more laid back, and more grounded in what is important, and knowing that there isn't much worth getting riled up about. ask a Tanzanian. ask the Masai who spend their entire lives shepherding their food, or the children who came down the mountain almost at a run, with gigantic bundles of sticks on their head that they would carry to market for the day, hoping to sell enough to buy the things they need. Running, mind you, down the same slope we were panting up at best. Life is different here, but it's the same. The things we need are different, but the goals are similar. Love, eat, live, pray. Wake up and do it again. Try to do your best. Everyone just wants to be okay.

School's in session...

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Ah, I love the smell of this hotel. It smells like the air that comes out of your dryer vent, which i used to sit next to outside of my house growing up, inhaling the hot air until the dryer shut off and the lifeline was gone. the smell of this place provides a nice juxtaposition to the smell of my armpits. seriously, i don't even understand how it works. somehow you are just transformed. it's not even that hot out.

i know i talk about smelling a lot, and Sam brought to my attention that i talk about using the toilet a lot. I'm sorry, I know it's true, but i told him that i think the bathrooms are the biggest cultural difference you have to deal with on a regular basis. he thought it was funny that the language wasn't first on that list. but lots of people speak English, and they love to practice it with you. i use my Swahili, they use their English. bathrooms are number one. but I'll try to stop talking about them. except to tell you how awful the one at school is. it's just an incubator for not-yet-matured flys. it's one of the worst. and i have to drink so much water because your mouth gets dry from the dust and exhaust, so there's no holding it through the school day. I'm used to it now. i think i could come back home and eat something out of my gutter. ok, maybe not.

i also know that i use "Africa" a lot, when i am in Tanzania, and not everything is going to be generalizable to all of the African continent. but many of the cultures are similar, and honestly, it just sounds better, for dramatic purposes. so forgive me. i get aggravated when people use Africa instead of naming a country, but sometimes it's appropriate. Like T.I.A.

So school has begun. the first day was a little slow-going. while many of the kids understand English, everything has to be translated. they love playing games, and we've got some good ones. they have a decent knowledge of HIV, but in some regards they are totally lacking. there are MANY myths that have to be dispelled. we had a lecture today on modes of transmission that turned into a very long question and answer session. i was astounded at some of the things they believed. apparently i am viewed as the resident scientist, so explanations of the immune system and many of the details on HIV transmission are deferred to me. i do my best, but I've sent Corrado an email of questions today so I know that I'm sharing the facts.

one of the ones that was most frustrating is that the belief that condoms aren't 100% effective. this is used as an excuse to not use them, and it's incredibly frustrating. We tell them that when used correctly, condoms are 97% effective. GSC recommended that we just say the other 3% is people not using them correctly, which makes no sense and is a lie, but they think is better to avoid confusion. Oh no. Not in our class. The kids are smart and they challenged that statement. I said I thought we needed to tell them the truth, that nothing is 100% effective, but i understand the hesitancy. but that's what we need to do. educate. lying to them is not only stupid and unethical, it also just increases the distrust in condoms and in the US. That's evaluation point number 83 on the Global Service Corps evaluation in my mind. I have a lot of suggestions to make.

One kid kept asking over and over about different situations of HIV transmission, and had taken up about 10 minutes himself, finally asking if you're a man having sex with a woman with HIV, but you're wearing a condom, but you have some open sores in the area around your penis...etc,e tc......I finally told him that he shouldn't be having sex with anyone if he has open sores or they have open sores because that probably means they have an STI. we're getting to those tomorrow. they want to go over every situation...if someone with HIV coughs their hand and then touches your eye.....if someone has sores ion their mouth and get blood on their toothbrush and then you use the toothbrush and you have sores....if a person with HIV bites you....it was endless. we addressed as many questions as we could, as well as we could. it was exhausting. but really great.

tomorrow I teach opportunistic infections and mother to child transmission, again cause I'm the science nerd. i think because I'm the oldest at our school they just think I'm the smartest. probably true. :)

i am soooo very happy about my homestay. my family is great. my baba (male head of the house) and i had several discussions last night about Castro, Cuba, and how much Vladimir Putin drinks. I didn't tell him that my nickname is Vladimir Gluten cause I didn't think it would translate well. just like when someone put a clay star on a rock today and said it was a rock star. not a one. tough crowd. my mama (female head) is great.she is a very forward-thinking woman, and had started an NGO for women's rights and for battered women. her two grandchildren, victor and veronica, live with us because their mother lives in Dar Es Salaam on her own and runs her own business. their mother was beaten by her husband, so she got a divorce. That is fairly unheard of in Tanzania, so I was quite impressed with the progressiveness of my host family. They're also Catholic, it seems, so that adds to the taboo, I suppose. My Mama and Baba own their home and all of the building surrounding a courtyard out back. it is broken into 8 apartments which they rent. they are very kind and generous people. my kaka (brother) came home yesterday adn greeted me in french, Spanish,and English. he's taking language courses so that he can be a guide on Kilimanjaro. He has climbed it 14 times as a porter. They are all really wonderful, and are honored to have n American. I'm honored to have a relaxed atmosphere. Yesterday I came home right after school and Mama took me to her neighbor who is a tailor. i'm having two skirts, a bag, and a headband made out of two congas and a piece of one kitanga, which are all cloths made here. my Mama really wants me to have a suit made, with r\trousers. you might be able to picture what that would be like, if you have any idea of the fabric I'm talking about. African women look great in these suits. I would look ridiculous. but we'll see. i bought a beautiful kitanga for 15000 shillings yesterday that i may have a blouse and skirt made of. no trousers. i would look like a peacock.

i should probably stop here. i have dinner tonight for the volunteers that are leaving after two weeks. i can't believe it's been two weeks already, and it also seems like months. Time does weird things in Africa. I can't even begin to explain it. I hope to get to teh internet tomorrow, otherwise I will be on safari to Lake Manyara on Saturday, and hiking an extreme climb at Mt. Meru on Sunday that other volunteers said is totally ass-kicking. I'm ready for a little more challenge. i ran after a friend yesterday and it felt really good, however my lungs were burning from the exhaust. i live on the highway, basically, so it's REALLY bad there. i went back inside and did a little boxing, sit ups and push ups. it was good. okay, my time is out so I'm going. imani!

Tanned, rested and ready...

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Habari za leo, rafiki?! All is well in Tanzania again. I have to say that I have read back a little of the last post and I sound a little crazy. i should eat before I write. Aw, who cares. If you know me you know I'm crazy anyway. It is just that I have to rush and write so quickly, so it comes out weird. My apologies. Pole sana.

Firstly, I was able to read the comments, finally, and I really appreciate them. I will probably not answer them individually because it will take so much time, but to those of you who want me to speak, I absolutely will. For those of you who have suggestions on organizations to help with micro-loans, I will be really happy to talk to you when I return. For those of you sending prayers, good thoughts, vibes, and whatnot, asante sana. Several people have also asked more about women's rights in Tanzania. One of the things that is often repeated by our Tanzanian counterparts is that the more education a woman has, the more likely she is able to say no. A single independent woman can say no much more easily than a wife, because she is contracted to her husband and if she refuses, the men assume she thinks he is unfaithful. We'll be talking about this in school this week with the kids. Our counterparts are all men and women in their early 20s who are almost all preparing to go to university, so they are well-educated already. I have some statistics I can share with you later. I'm sure I'll continue to write on this blog about the experience when I return so that I can share some of the things i have written and learned along the way, but don't write here.

Oh, Larissa, I love your photos of the dogs. They are beautiful! I'm jealous that you can barbeque at my house with my dogs while I'm gone, but I'm so happy they have a mom while I'm away! Thanks for putting those photos up. And I showed the picture of Stanley to some of my friends here.

And on that note, I DO have friends. Turns out the kids like me after all. The kids are alright....
They say I'm like wine, better with age, but I think we are all like cheese, just getting stinkier.

So, the rat situation has been resolved. My intuition was right. The homestay coordinator, Mama Frida, came with me to the homestay to gather my things. She wanted to see for herself because she couldn't understand how my place could have rats. She thought it couldn't be so bad, but figured if a grown woman was crying about it, she should check it out. Well, it turns out that my Mama had tricked Mama Frida by showing her her daughter's house instead of her own. Mama Frida was livid. She was very kind while I was there, and explained in Swahili that I was afraid of rats so I would need to go. When we got back into the car she expressed her horror. She said no one would ever be placed in a home like that. HSe requires that the homes be at least cement or brick, and almost all have electricity and running water. She was extremely apologetic. I was just happy it was resolved. She couldn't believe I had even stayed a night there. Hakuna matata, I told her. Whaddya gonna do.

I went to my new homestay and almost cried with joy when I walked in. It's directly on the Nairobi-Moshi highway, which is great, because it is right next to shops if I need water or cell phone minutes. It's next to a BP, even! There's a big, comfortable living room where we can sit together and watch the news (in Swahili) and I have my own room with my OWN bathroom! It's a squatter, but it's MY squatter, by golly! And it even flushes. It has a shower head, although the water is really cold. This morning I used the shower head to wash my hair, but washed my body using a bucket bath. That's what most people use. I also did my laundry this morning after soaking my clothes all night. You use the same space to use the bathroom, bathe, and wash your clothes. I'm starting to get used to it. Boy, won't everything be nice when I get home. I'm sure I'll never complain about my house ever again. At least for a few months. :)

A few friends and I had dinner the other night and started to talking about Africa. Those of you who know me well know that I romanticize everything. I know I do, and I've romanticized Africa for a long time. I thought that i would come here and everything would be slow and chill and I'd relax and get to regroup and reconnect and reground myself, take a break from the hectic life of school and work and wedding planning and enjoy myself. But I tell you, It's not like that. Tanzania, or at least Arusha, is not a place where you slow down. It's a city, bustling with activity. Here every day is about survival. For me, for many Arushans, for everyone, it seems. My friends agreed. I'm sure it's a generalization, but the three of us felt that way. I've started chewing my fingers again, even. Only a little, I promise. And perhaps it will slow down and be more comfortable after having been here a while. The volunteers who've been here 5 weeks or so seem to have settled in. I think that'll happen just as I'm leaving. We talked about why we are all here, and the various things we needed to get away from, look for, or forget. Everyone has a story. One friend and I had talked about how we initially thought we'd want to move here. Now we're not so sure! I'll have to rethink that in a few weeks. I'm sure the whole experience is different if you have a home. Your own home that is yours and yours alone. With a flush toilet you can sit on. It has been eye-opening, indeed. This will surely change me, but I'm not yet sure how.

Monday we went to our school. I am at the rural school in Nkoanrua (N-kwa-ROO-uh). It is a truly beautiful site. The walls are so colorful and the landscaping (plants in buckets wrapped in tinfoil, I mean) is really nice to look at. The classrooms are basically what you would expect. Chalkboards, wooden desks with metal bottoms, metal chairs, and cement floors. Which makes for a really loud and incredibly painful cacophony when everything is moving around. i can only imagine what it will be like when the kids get there tomorrow. We've been planning our lessons. One of the girls I am with is leaving next Tuesday, so I'm letting her do most of the teaching until then, but I'll do some. It's going to be a really good time. We have games and quizzes and all sorts of ways to teach about HIV, OIs, STIs, condom use, communication, relationships, assertiveness, peer pressure, and more. We address gender issues, taboo subjects, and just have fun. Myself and another volunteer named Kyle (who has 'musical inclination' via experience playing the saxophone) have been put in charge of music and drama every day. We have no idea what to do. Tanzanians love American hip-hop, so we figure we'll do a rap musical about AIDS. Sound good? We thought so too.

Today our bus got a flat on the road up to the school, which is all uphill, bumpy, and dirt. We walked the rest of the way up the hill, which took us 35 minutes. It was nice exercise for the morning. We found a 'smooth' road to go back on, which just means that your head doesn't hit the roof every 10 seconds.

Upon out return I went to the mzungo place and had a chocolate shake. It was a nice treat after this week of madness.

I have to go back to the old hostel now to find my Peace Corps Life Skills manual which I accidentally left there, so I know what I'm teaching tomorrow. Then I'll head home and study up until dinner, which they have around 8:00 or 8:30, and I think that's even for my benefit.
I may have my first dalla-dalla experience today, which is the public transport here, where you may find a person or a chicken (kuku) sitting on your lap. It's only 200 shilingi, which is about 15 cents.

Kwaheri!