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.



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...


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."


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


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.


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...


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...


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.


I am a fithy, sweaty beast, and it never gets better.


I've still not been able to read the comments. for some reason they take forever to load.

It's been a long weekend. I can't remember what day I wrote last. Friday was very intense for a variety of reasons. It was the first day I've cried. A lot.

We went to meet some of the home based care patients for Women in Action for Development (WIA), a group that GSC works with. There were maybe 25 women and 6 or 7 men there, all HIV positive. We sat together in a classroom and introduced ourselves to one another. We learned about what each of their occupations was, how they managed their HIV, and what their struggles were. they were so very happy to see us, and each one kept saying that we were welcome and that we should not forget them. we asked what we could do for them, and the resounding answer was that micro loans were the best thing they could receive. that way, both the women and the men can set up sustainable businesses like fruit stands or tailoring shops, and not need to rely upon handouts or otherwise. Some of them have small garden plots developed with the help of GSC's sustainable agriculture program. more on that later. After we talked and laughed with each other, they sang us a song in Swahili about how you should love people with HIV and not stigmatize them, and this was the first time i cried on Friday. I did take some video with my camera, so i hope to share it with you all sometime.

Forgive me if I sound a bit discombobulated. I'm really tired, hungry, and probably more than a bit dehydrated again.

It was a wonderful visit, and they asked us to come again before we go. i showed them pictures of my mchumba (fiance) and dogs, and one woman wanted to keep a picture of Chewy. Apparently in Swahili, Chewy means leopard. I don't know how to spell it though. I told them I would send them the pictures we took, and am very glad to have exchanged addresses. I hope to be able to continue relationships with these amazing women. every meeting is really amazing here, especially with women, because the Tanzanians have so much pride. everyone dresses beautifully, and greetings are incredibly important. it is very rude to speak to someone without having greeted them first.

Later in the afternoon we returned home to meet our homestay mamas. mine came running up to me and gave me a big hug. We chatted in broken English and broken Swahili (from me). Her daughter was also with her. I'm going to keep this short because I am so tired. Basically, we had a very long drive out to the end of one f the main roads, along a very bumpy dirt road, where the taxi kept bottoming out and mama kept repeating pole, pole (pole once is sorry, polepole is slowly). It seemed to be a subdivision of sorts we were entering, and some of the houses were huge and really nice and had electric fences on the tops of the walls. Interspersed between were some very ramshackle homes as well. We keep driving, and I keep hoping we are going to one fothe bigger gated homes. We pull up to a gate, which had some chipped stones and was a little ratty, so I thought, oh well, a little less nice, perhaps,but still gated, as most middle class homes are. oh no. we parked at the gate, but then we walked around to the side of the gate, and I saw my homestay. I have seen better shacks in The Deliverance. It was a literal shack, with wooden logs for walls with brown kraft-type paper stuffed between for insulation. the "wallpaper" inside was simply newspaper or other papers stapled to the logs inside. you couldn't see in the shack evening light because there are no windows. it was actually like a little shack compound, with a separate kitchen shack, another shack for one of the sons (the houseboy) and a teeny little outhouse. then there was some rusty metal nailed to a tree in a cube shape where you washed up. It took everything in me not to cry. I kept mumbling quite "asante"s as they showed me around, but it was really terrible. imagine the poorest person's home you've ever seen, and multiply it by 100, and picture it in Africa. It was bad.

I'm running out of time, so, long story short, I'm sitting in the kitchen shack with mama while she makes ugali for dinner, and I hear a racket of noise and squeals. "Rats!" she says, "we have lots of them!" Gulp. I can make it through the night, and I'll see the coordinator in the morning. I also had holes in my mosquito net, and one kept buzzing around my head, so i slept with a sheet over my head as well.

so saturday morning my mama and kaka (brother) had a friend drop me off a the GSC office. I was perfectly fine until they left, and someone asked how my homestay was, and I burst into tears. other people had hto showers, computers, electricity, running water. Not all, but some. But rats are a dealbreaker. Definite public health hazard, so I'm moving. I stay in the hostel again until we find a place for me. My stuff is at the homestay still, but we'll get it tomorrow. They said they have a litany of excuses for people changing homestays so no one gets offended. I have been on safari yesterday and today, so i camped out last night. i can't turn the italics off for some reason. sorry.

I'll have t write about the safari later. it was AWESOME. We saw several kinds of monkeys, giraffes galore, zebras, water buffalo, warthogs (so cute!), ditkis, and lots more. we went on a beautiful hike. Arusha National Park is incredibly diverse. I highly recommend it. I took pictures of the HCRL water bottle with giraffes and in front f Mt. Meru, just for fun. Kind of like the Amelie gnome, but an HCRL Nalgene. yes, I'm a dork.

There are a lot of things that happen here that we say "this is Africa" to. Just a moment ago a brass ban d in the back of a pickup rolled down the street playing. I think there was a wedding.

i muist go, but promise to write more soon. hope everyone is well. arusha is the place to be.

Observations and good vibrations


Thanks for all of the comments so far. Keep them coming! I wasn't able to load the ones from the last post after three minutes so I gave up. I haven't read them yet, but I like to see them. I have a LOT to write today so I'm going to try to do it in the next 35 minutes.

Firstly, I think I was a little premature on the judgments of people. I'm just feeling lonely and insecure. :) People are actually really nice, even the young ones. Especially the young ones! We're having a good time together. Fo shizzle. I'm already feeling much more comfortable in Arusha. It's not a constant anxiety as it has been so far. I'm starting to understand the layout of the city and feel comfortable getting around. that was not the case the other night, but more on that later. First, random observations:

Random Observation #1: Irony of all ironies, the word for bread in kiswahili is mkate. Oh, fortuna!

Random Observation #2: A Masaai (VERY traditional tribe in Tanzania) man dressed in the traditional red plaid garments, replete with staff, ear stretchers, beaded necklaces and sandals, standing on a street corner shakig his booty to whatever was on his iPod. Hilarious.

Random Observation #3: When I walk alone, sometimes I feel like "An American Girl in Arusha," grasping my shawl tightly around me as everyone stares and comments. You know what photo I'm talking about. I don't really wear a shawl.

Random Observation #4: For public health communication geeks only: One of the cell phone companies here has a poster around town that says "Spread the word, not the disease" with images of their cell phone and a condom. Pretty cool. They really need a media campaign here, but can't do it without the support of the government. I'll talk more about that someitme. If you get a chance and dont know about how Uganda's AIDS rates went down, look it up. Totally fascinating and awesome, and I hadn't learned about it until I was here.

#5: There are the neatest birds here. I dont know if they're magpies or ravens, but they're huge, and black with white chests and a white band around their necks. When they fly and caw they sound like geese. There were three in the yard this morning and Merry (my roommate the vet) pointed out that one of them has a droopy right wing which is broken. I think he lives in the compound since he can't fly. I like him.

#6: The traffic exhaust here is incredible. Black smoke shoots out of every tailpipe. Talk about black snot. It's really hard to breathe sometimes. Its gross. And speaking of gross (sorry colleagues), I used the pit latrine for the first time the other day, and I peed on my feet. Now I know the key is to squat lower. The bathrooms have spouts for water and buckets though to wash things down, so I was able to rinse them. I guess every woman's got to do it once!

#7: I forgot to mention the best part of the blackout the other night: the stars. I may have mentioned that Africa is dark? It's really dark. So pitch black that you cannot see a person in front of you. But if you look up at the sky, it's astounding. I've never seen so many stars. And, theyre different stars. I don't recognize any of them. Constellations, I mean.

Lastly, I had my first moment today while I was walking in the sewing district getting fabric, watching the seamstresses on the sidewalks pumping away at their pedals, with Tanzanian drums blasting out of someone's speakers, and dodging smokey dalla-dallas, of I'm in Africa. My heart pitter-pattered a little bit. It just felt right.

Dont' worry, I'll still come home.

I have a huge story about getting lost walking home after the last blog I posted and mozungo (white people) restaurants and David Bowie and eating a salad, but the last person here with me is finished and I don't want to walk over the bridge alone. Its getting dark.

I wish you all could be here with me. When I post next I will be moved in with my homestay family. I'm sure there will be more stories to tell.

Day 4...


Okay, I swear when I have longer than 12 minutes I'll try postin gsome photos. Probably not until the weekend.

So I mentioned that Africa is dark. REALLY dark. We had our first blackout last night. I thought it was kinda fun, busted out my headlamp and proudly wore it on my head like the dork I am. I am sure that the younger kids here think I'm a total loser. There are 5 of us who make up the over-30 club, and two of them are leaving in two weeks. I really wish I could talk to someone I know for a change. That is what I wish most. I've gotten to talk to Sam, which is like an oasis in this desert of dust and mud.

If I haven't said so, I love Tanzania. THe people here are very proud, very friendly, and are welcoming of volunteers. They are very formal and dress nicely all of the time. It is more casual here in the urban area, and I REALLY wish I would have brough tmore pants and tank tops. All the other Westerners wear them in Arusha, but not so much in the rural areas. There are a lot of flycatchers, which are men who walk alongside you on the street and try to sell them things. The words you use most here are "hapana, asante" which is no thanks. I also learned "Piss off" for good measure, and leave me alone now, which I haven't had to use yet, luckily. THere are extremely dirty street children who try to touch you and make a motion towards their mouths for food, but we were told by the locals that they are mostly on drugs and drinking, and do not give them money, no matter how bad you may feel. A friend took a picture of them and they posed like hip-hoppers.

The HIV orientation today was sobering. Transmission rates are so high here, and the usual time from infection to death is 2-3 years. SOme die in 6 months. THis is mostly becasue of poor nutrition (I'm sorry for typos, but there is not time to go back!), and infection with multiple viruses. There needs to be much education, mostly in the rural areas. WOmen cannot tell a man to use a condom. One of our Tanzanian counterparts actually said "It is impossible." They are also not allowed to deny sex from their husbands. There was a lot of stuff that people (even vounteers) did not know. iu was shocked. I didn't realize how good my knowledge of HIV was, and often had to explain things like resistance and mother-to-child prevention.

I have to go....only a few minutes left. I've eaten mostly beans and ugali, a maize paste, and beef and potatoes at home. And pineapple fanta, which is awesome.

More later....

Africa is dark and the internet is polepole sana (VERY slow)


Well, I'm here. I arrived last night around 10pm after an incredibly long 24 hours in airports and on planes. I've seen more movies in the last 24 hours than I have in weeks. Word to the wise: Don't watch The Namesake when you're leaving on a journey without your significant other.

My first impression as we were landing was how unbelievably dark it was outside the windows. There are very few lights seen from above, and that remains true for the highway as well. I was greeted by one of the GSC workers and met up with two other of the 23 or so volunteers here together. We rode back in a van, and along the highway were a lot of little shops and bars. They were all painted with lots of colors, and there were plenty of Celtel and Coca-Cola advertisements. It reminded me of all of the obnoxious ads for that cell phone company with Joan Cusack as the spokesperson. Where there is light, it's flourescent light outside the bars and gas stations. It pretty much looks exactly like you would expect from movies. It was cool but very damp, and it's still in the rainy season, so it's pretty muddy and drizzles throughout the day and night. That will stop in mid-June.

We arrived at the hostel, which is sort of like a compound, and run by the Catholic archdiocese. The accomodations are pretty minimal. A bed, a mosquito net, and a table. We had hot water for the shower, but I didn't realize it takes about 10 minutes for the heater to warm the water, and had a cold shower, with about 30 seconds of heat at the end. Now I know. I pretty much went to bed immediately, but woke up at 2:30am, and lay there, awake, until about 4:30, at which point I bit the bullet and took a sleeping pill. That knocked me out until 7:30, when my roommate woke up and I could hear everyone preparing in the kitchen. The two hours I was awake sucked. There are guard dogs that patrol the compound, and I tensed up each time they started barking. It was damp, the mosquito net had a habit of creeping onto my face, and I still have poison ivy. But I'm not complaining. :) Trust me, there are millions of people here worse off than that.

Breakfast was eggs and bread (which I can't eat), so I had eggs and coffee. Then we (myself, my roommate Merrywho is a veterinarian from Portland, and a few other volunteers) ventured into town, which is maybe a 1/4 mile from the hostel. You are immediately regaled with pleas for money, offers for safaris, and paintings that are lovely,but everyone has the same ones even though they all painted them themselves, of course. We were looking for a particular safari place, and learned from a painting-peddler and a safari-offerer that it had moved. So, they offered to walk us to the new place, and we felt okay about it. Thomas and Stefano were very nice and got us exactly where we needed to go, teaching us more Swahili along the way. The other nice thing about walking with Tanzanians is that other peddlers leave you alone, and our gentlemen guides shooed them away. We gave them a few dollars for helping us, and I told Thomas I'd buy a painting baadaya (later).

Our first venture into town I didn't bring anything but some money tucked in my shoe (I know it's gross, but whaddya gonna do) and a copy of my passport. Then I went back to the hostel and got my bag with a camera and some money and headed out again. Here I am, in an internet cafe, battling the totally pathetic connection.

I'm sorry that this is really boring, but nothing exciting has happened yet! Everyone at the hostel is really friendly, and they think seeing their picture on a digital camera screen is the absolute coolest thing ever. Clearly, with this connection I can't upload any photos. I hope to go to the fancy hotel sometime this week and use their broadband.

Tomorrow we start one week of orientation, from 9-6 daily. It should be pretty intense. Then we head out to our homestays in the nearby villages and go to the schools for the day camps. I'm excited. I asked Thomas if he thought so many volunteers here are good (nzuri) and he said yes, nzuri sana, because htey spend so much money. I asked him if he thought they did good as well, and he agreed that they are very good for hte community, because they bring ideas and things can change for the better. I was glad to hear this, because I continue to struggle with whether all of us white folk are really doing any good, or just making ourselves feel good. Thomas laughed at this and said that we do very much good. Ok, then. I feel a bit better.

I don't know if I will be able to access a computer during the day this week, and I'm not sure whether these cafes are open at night, so I may not get to post again until next weekend. We'll see. I promise it will be more interesting, and hope to have photos.

Also, the dalla-dallas here (buses) are amazing. I am so not ready to get on one. People drive completely insane here, and the dalla-dallas are overflowing with people. But for some places, it may be the only way to get there, or else pay high dollar for a taxi. This morning on the road in front of the hostel, an open-top Toyota Land Rover or something similar drove by, with about 8 football players in uniform hanging out the top yelling. I guess they won! It was such a funny sight.

It's also really muddy right now, although not the knee-deep mud I was warned about. Actually, all in all, everything is quite a bit nicer than I expected. So far, I'm pua (cool). I guess that's how you spell it. Thomas and Stefano taught us how to say "I'm cool as a banana." I already forgot it.

For those of you not blog-savvy (i.e., my family), you can subscribe to this blog and it will send you an email when I post. THat way you don't have to check it on your own.

Oh! I almost forgot. The case study that was accepted for publication by a journal called Cases in Public Health Communication and Marketing is up and running on the web. The site is www.casesjournal.org. You'll see on the first page that the case I wrote with my mentor/boss/professor, Matt Kreuter, won the $1000 prize for best case study that benefits the health of older adults, a prize sponsored by the AARP. Pretty cool. The editor who called and told me said that she wrote her editorial based on our case study, and that the journal would not have been the same without it. I couldn't see it from here, because it was too big to download, so tell me how it looks!

Good things just keep happening to me. I am so grateful to be here, and I owe much of it to all of you who donated to help cover the expenses. I know I'll leave a changed woman. I always just try to keep my mind and heart open, and don't have any expectations. That way, I'm never disappointed and often pleasantly surprised. I sure do love my life. I wish you all could be here with me. I miss Sam and the dogs the most. Apparently Chewy has had diarrhea since I left. Poor baby. I had better post this before I run out of time. I have 10 minutes left, but I bet it'll take 10 minutes to post. Guaheri, baadaya!