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.

5 Responses on " "

  1. Catherine says:

    Catherine Nolan here. I was gone on vacation, so I'm just catching up on your experiences in Tanzania. I love your reflections! Isn't it amazing to see ourselves reflected in another culture - in spite of the stress of all that's unfamiliar and uncomfortable - that just strips everything down to what's beautifully and commonly human? I defintely will be asking you to share your experiences with students next year - if you are able to do that. I know you'll have a lot to offer. Take care and keep your eyes and heart open.

    Hey, this is Theresa -- I am now reading both your blog in Tanzania and my little sister's blog from Moscow, and each truly offers unique perspective to life here in little ol' St. Lou. The connections you make in your observations resonate with humor and insight, and I really appreciate the fact that aside from being there to experience it personally, I've got the next best thing here. Thanks!

    katie says:

    Hi, darling, it's Katie. Your journey to the waterfall and your reflections after the trip were almost like a trip for me. I love how you're making my world bigger, as you usually do whether your in Africa or Affton. Stay well, keep moving so the parasites don't land. Love, Katie

    Maggie says:

    I am enjoying reading your blog. It sounds as if this is everything you were looking for. What a gratitude trip. Get a chance to go to a meeting? Miss you on Friday nights. Just remember to talk if you need to and pray. I've been busy with wedding stuff and its gettig busy. Talk to you soon, Love you, Maggie

    Mandy says:

    I'm sitting here in tears as i read your words, they resonate so much with my heart! I was really missing you today as i was having one of those insecure moments and needed to hear your voice shake me out of it. I couldn't sleep and thought i'd come read your blog as it had been awhile. It was like getting to talk to you and needing to hear exactly what you'd say! Anyway, I continue to admire your courage, strength, wisdom, and genuineness as you go through this journey and share it with us all. It sounds like in some ways it has already come full circle once. Love you....Mandy