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If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We are edging into the Long Rains, "Masika," normally from April through June or July. The other two seasons are "Vuli," the Short Rains in November and December, and two rounds of "Kiangazi," the dry season in August through October and again January through March. We've had heavy tropical rain in bursts of an hour or two at different times of day. The weather is cool and lovely, with clouds blocking the sun. The locals are wearing sweaters, and I've at least stopped sweating in my t-shirts.
The rain is bringing out all kinds of little creatures. The other evening, a large moth (about 5" across) was lying on the table on the restaurant porch. He had the most beautiful protective coloring in greens and browns, which would have rendered him invisible on tree bark, but left him highly visible on the red plaid Maasai cloth tablecloth. A huge black cricket was crawling around my back porch a couple of nights ago. I didn't hear him singing, though, so he must have found his way out. He was not quite as big as a Mormon cricket, and not as disgusting, although I really can't say why not! There was a sweet little leopard-spotted frog, about the size of a quarter, all hunched up in a corner of the front porch two nights ago. Last night, a good sized green and brown frog spent about an hour on the front porch with me. He hopped all around the edges of the porch, pouncing on bugs, very efficient. At one point, a gecko came down onto the porch floor, and the frog charged him (as much as you can charge in a series of hops), and the gecko yielded and ran back up the wall. As I walked out the compound gate in early afternoon, an 8-inch long yellow slug greeted me on the road. A large beetle crash-landed upside down on the restaurant terrace while I was having coffee this morning. When I flipped him right side up, he had striking bright yellow markings on his back. And just now, a skink is drying off in front of the geraniums outside my front door.

Last year when I was here, I bought a few pieces of Tanzanian fabrics in bright prints. I almost finished making myself a dress before I came back, but not quite. I brought it with me, and Fatina, the waitress here at Kundayo Apartments, helped me find a tailor nearby, who finished it for me for $1.79. He fixed the mistake I had made in trying to fit the top across  my shoulder blades and hemmed up everything. Actually, it took three of us. One of the maintenance men knew where the tailor lives, and Fatina could translate English to Swahili for me. We walked out to the main road, down a few storefronts, then through a small doorway to a courtyard and into someone's small cinderblock  house. The tailor, a man, had an old black Singer sewing machine set up in the window. He examined all the seams, and Fatina translated for me what I wanted. He told her that he could see that I knew how to sew, but that I had been working alone -- maybe in reference to the trouble I had fitting the back. He kept it for only a day and it looks great.

The moth's protective coloring isn't working...

My protective coloring is better with the orange walls at Kundayo,
but still not enough to really blend in.

I attended two English classes on Tuesday. In reverse of last year, the advanced class is very quiet, and several students in the beginning class speak willingly. The classes last 90 minutes. Most students come at least ten minutes late. The ones who come on time wait around outside until they see the teacher go into the room, also about ten minutes late (or more). He has to round them up and urge them into the classroom. The real latecomers drift in one at a time up to as much as an hour late. Each one knocks lightly on the door, sticks his head in, says, "Excuse me, teacher," then slips into the room, then says, "Good morning, class," then finds a seat. Every now and then a student's cell phone rings and they always leave the room and take the call. Every time, the teacher says, "Throw that thing away." But every now and then the teacher's cell phone rings and he always leaves the room and takes the call. Sometimes other teachers will knock and call out one of the students or the teacher. With about 20 minutes left in the beginning class, this happened and Mr. Solomon slipped out and just never came back. So I stood up and finished the class. Then I found him in his office filling out some paperwork!

I went for my Swahili lesson with him yesterday afternoon, which was hard! He's giving me lots of new words and long, convoluted sentences. About ten minutes before we were due to finish, two Tanzanian ladies knocked and came in. They are from a company here that sells nursery stock to Europe and their company is sending them to Mr. Solomon for English lessons. So he had me go to the board and show them personal pronouns. Then he rounded up five other students from the English classes and brought them in so we could all practice English and Swahili chatting with each other.

When I returned to Kundayo Apartments, the weather was so cool and nice I went for a walk to enjoy the chance to exercise without becoming drenched in sweat. I walked up through the neighborhood in the hills above us, heading toward Mt. Meru, to see if I could find a fabulous view. A little girl in her dark green school uniform was keeping pace with me, so I greeted her in Swahili. she immediately switched the conversation to English, and told me she is in Form 5 (I think that's the same as fifth grade). She spoke English very well, almost sounded British. I said, "Your English is very good." She told me, very seriously, "Yes, of course." We were having a nice chat, but then the rain started again, so I turned around and made for Kundayo. So I was drenched when I got home anyway, but rain water was a refreshing change from sweat.

There are many Maasai people in Arusha, some of whom wear western style clothes, but many of whom wear the traditional "shuka," or mostly red cloths draped around their shoulders and waists. Some carry herding sticks with them. These are the people Americans think of when we picture traditional tribal people out on the Serengeti. They are semi-nomadic, with a cattle-based economy. They live in "bomas," collections of small  mud huts with thatch roofs enclosed in circular thorn bush fences. They take the cattle out grazing during the day, then corral them inside the "boma" at night. When I see the Maasai here in town wearing their traditional clothes, I just want to stare and take it all in. They seem so exotic, and the clothes are so colorful. And every time, as I'm reminding myself not to stare at people, I see that the Maasai are staring really hard right at me, as I am so exotic here. This morning I stopped at an internet cafe with two computers, and a Maasai was at the next one. He wore traditional robes, secured with a wide leather belt. He had wide beaded bracelets on both wrists and both ankles. He was sending a few e-mails, then talked on his cell phone for a few minutes. He then holstered the cell phone on his belt, right behind the machete in its leather scabbard.

Waiting for the dala dala

Dala dala

Selling bread

Selling second-hand shoes

Barack Obama running for office with Mt. Meru in the background. This was here last year, too, when it was more timely, but I neglected to get a picture. Mt. Meru was almost visible today, the clouds usually hide it, so here's part of it!


  1. Barb, all your photos are stunning. Great lizard and moth, but where are the frog photos, missy??

  2. Hi Barbara! This was a great read. Especially since Im at work right now and I am waiting for engineers to get me drawings.
    I love the pictures of the bugs, I love the crawly things except if they are crawling on me. Hope all is well, and glad to read your feeling much better. My regards to Kaen.

  3. Cynthia, both nights when there were frogs on my porch, I said to myself, "Cynthia is going to ask me why I didn't take pictures of these frogs." But they would have been weird looking because of the need for flash, so I didn't do it even though I knew you would want to see them!

  4. Hey sis, you look great in that dress. Miss ya!

  5. Barbara - I am loving the photos and your stories! ~~ Carol Brown ~~