New Blog!

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, July 17, 2010

Heading Home for Now

The hardest thing about living abroad is leaving my family behind. And while I'm so far away, life goes on back at home. My mother, 89 years old, passed away yesterday. I had hoped to return home in time to visit with her, but did not make it. I'm going home tonight.

I expect to spend two or three months at home and then return to Tanzania. K2 will stay in Tanzania, where he's currently in the midst of the busy climbing season on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be my last post on this blog for the time being. When I make it back to Arusha, I'll probably blog again. Thank you all for reading my stories and commentary and for giving me so much encouragement, both in the writing and in the learning to live in Tanzania.

I  hope I can see some of you face to face while I'm back in the U.S.

Karibu tena (welcome again),
Kwaheri (good bye)

My mother (left) and her sister. I seldom saw either of them looking this serious.

My mother (right) with her sister and parents

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All the White Girls Got Cars

Yay! We bought a car! We've had it for about three weeks now. After an initial period of utter terror maneuvering through Arusha traffic, I'm feeling calmer. And it's wonderful to be more mobile. You can get around most of town on the daladalas, but it takes some effort and it's inconvenient for hauling groceries home or getting out of town. I've been feeling 16-years-old again, bathed in that heady freedom of going anywhere I want to without asking my parents for a ride (or, I guess in this case, taking the daladala). At 16, it was a 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix, dark green with a peeling black vinyl roof and bald tires. My older brother Bobby (now an auto mechanic) bought it for $95 and made it run. Then my father forced him to either sell it or let me and my younger brother drive it when he went Back East for a year. But I digress....

What other white girls got cars? My Scottish friend Anna and my Dutch friend Martina both bought cars within a few days of my purchase.

Our baby!

It's a 1992 Suzuki Escudo Nomade with 4WD. That's old, but Tanzania slaps such a steep tariff on imported cars that we couldn't even dream of buying a new car. This cost $6,500, and it was a bargain. One key point is that it's been in Tanzania for less than a year, and was imported from Japan. Time spent in Tanzania is more indicative of condition than total age, because the roads here are so hard on cars. This one seems to be in really good condition. I'm thinking Japan must have smooth roads. Also, Japan's small, so the previous owners couldn't drive all that far, anyway. The high ground clearance and 4WD make it much easier than a sedan  to drive in Arusha, even just out to my house! I see dozens of this car, even the same color, every day in Arusha. Anna and Martina bought the other two most popular cars: Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Hilux Surf (a medium sized pickup truck).

Although the top most popular car in Arusha has to be the white Toyota Corolla.

Two Arusha Icons: White Corolla and Mt. Meru

We're trying to sell K2's Corolla. He's certainly gotten good use from it over the last three years, but it needs repairs frequently. Every time we think we're done and ready to sell it, he drives it somewhere (because I took the Suzuki), and something else happens and we have to repair it again. It can be yours for only 4,000,000 T shillings! He generously offered to let me drive it several times, but I didn't feel safe with the prospect of a breakdown by myself. It's not as easy as just calling AAA! Also, it has a manual transmission and I figured I'd probably stall out every time I had to slow suddenly for the giant speed bumps on the main roads.

Now I'm able to be out after dark when I want to. I still try to be home early, but for some parts of town I can now venture out after dark. For example, what I'm calling "The Missing Tanzanian Boyfriends Dinner Club." Anna, Martina, and I have taken to meeting for dinner out about once a week. We enjoy the conversation so much that it's been taking three hours to eat dinner. There are many nice restaurants in Arusha that cater somewhat to European tastes, so we've been enjoying the food, too. All three of us have Tanzanian boyfriends whose work frequently takes them away from Arusha. K2 is starting a 9-day trek on Mt. Kilimanjaro as I sit here typing. Anna's boyfriend works for the Tanzania Wildlife Department out in the Serengeti. And Martina's Maasai boyfriend is south of here in a remote part of Maasai country. He took the new Hilux Surf, so it's parked in the boma every night, inside the thorn fence. Martina's driving the company car provided by the lodge where she works. It's kind of a cross between a Jeep and a golf cart, not nearly as cool as her new truck.

Also, I joined an outing of the newly established Twende (Let's Go) Hiking Club. A Dutch expatriate living here advertised by email for hikers, hired guides, and organized everything. It was fun to be out hiking again. Sixteen people showed up, some of whom knew each other, and some who did not. All were foreigners. Only the two guides were Tanzanian.

Twende Hiking Club. I'm in the back in the peach t-shirt. Anna's at back, far right. The donkey at farther right was not part of our group.

We hiked on July 4th. I was one of two Americans in the group, so nobody else noticed the holiday. Although I probably would have celebrated at home by going out hiking, too. The group was mostly Dutch and Australian. Anna (Scottish) and Melissa (Australian) enjoyed making mean jokes about Americans and how we behave. They prefaced it all by saying, "You're  not like that. We like you, but..." It was offered up all in good fun and they had me laughing. And most of what they said was true (hey, what's wrong with being a little bit loud? And sweat pants are comfortable!). But after all of that, when Anna asked me what exactly we commemorate with July 4th, I told her we're celebrating the date that we threw off the heavy yoke of British oppression.

The hike was easy, but I still almost died because I haven't been exercising since I got here, just drinking soda and eating fried foods. We walked on dirt roads through small farms at the base of Mt. Meru.

This spot made me think of walking through aspens in Logan Canyon in Utah

On the downhill side of the loop, we had views of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance.

Marigolds (the orange stripe in the middle ground) and Kilimanjaro (in the clouds there, you can see it!)

Marigolds and donkey

Zinnias (at the time I thought they were dahlias, but the picture looks more like zinnias). Tanzania exports lots of flowers to Europe.

Another request to "take my picture." Hey, I've been to Hanauma Bay--it's in Hawaii.

I was so excited that I have a car now that I volunteered to drive to the trailhead and invited more people to fill up the car so I could replicate my Utah experience of driving around with a load of friends to go hiking.

My carload of hikers: Anna, Toni, Raphaella, and Rebecca
Toni and Raphaella are Austrian university students earning social work credits with volunteer work here this summer. They are taking Swahili lessons with my teacher, Mr. Solomon. Rebecca is their German roommate. Toni's writing a blog about Tanzania, too, but she's writing in German, so I couldn't read it. Her pictures are nice, though.

This hike really brought home to me that I need to start exercising again. It was so easy and flat and I felt exhausted afterwards! Anna and I had just checked out a gym that's a favorite of expatriates. We were hesitating to join because it's expensive. Janneke, the Twende Club leader, told us about a cheaper gym and gave us vague directions (really, the only kind possible in Arusha). Anna and I each, separately, in our new cars, circled the area repeatedly over the course of three days until we spotted it. They offer evening classes three times a week. So far we've gone to step aerobics (Fridays) and tae bo (Mondays). Can't wait to see what's on Wednesdays! The classes end after dark, and it would not have been safe to go by public transport. So, again, with the new car!

Why is it leaning like that? Hey, wait a minute...

Oh, hell!

I went outside today to find a flat on the Suzuki. K2 left for a Kilimanjaro trek late yesterday, so I was on my own. I was lounging on the couch, pondering a solution. Maybe I could pay the Maasai gate attendant to change it? My Swahili wouldn't be sufficient, but sign language and the tire itself would probably communicate the problem well enough. But he doesn't have a car, and I wondered if he'd know how to change a tire? Maybe I should change the tire myself? Theoretically, I know how to do it, but I haven't actually done it in years. It's one of those things that I think I should be able to do, but really I can't.

Then, my cell phone rang and it was K2 from the base of the mountain, just checking in. I told him about the tire, not expecting he could help from a distance. But he came up with the same solution he often uses when he's in Arusha and the Corolla strands him. He called his cousin, Amua. Amua is about ten years younger than K2, so he's very respectful of K2 as an older relative. He's a good mechanic. He used to work as a conductor on a daladala, so he knows all the drivers, and has in the past showed up with a daladala to tow the Corolla. He's done many, many favors for us since I've been in Arusha! He doesn't speak English at all. An hour later, Amua arrived at my house. In the process of taking the flat tire off the car, his finger was pinched between the hub in the center of the wheel and the rim. He calmly, but with a funny tone in his voice, called me over. I tried my best to lift the front of the car just a bit, but I wasn't strong enough. Amua was becoming less calm, and told me, all in Swahili, to go get the Maasai to come and help. I only understood a third of the words, but the context made it clear. So I ran out the gate to find our guard sitting with his friend in a plastic chair in the cornfield across the road. I was jumping around, calling out in horrible Swahili, something kind of like, "Come and help my brother-in-law! Fast fast!" Not clearly stated, but again, the context got him to follow me back to my house. He tried, too, then told me, all in Swahili, to go bring his friend back. I repeated my performance and got his friend out of the cornfield, and picked up an extra guy who was passing by on the road. Both of them really had no idea what I wanted, but they could see it was something kind of bad. By the time we got back to the house, the Maasai had freed Amua, and they were both smiling and acting like nothing was really wrong, and telling the two other guys everything's OK now. Amua's finger was not too badly hurt. The nail was bruised, but nothing was broken or smashed. He brushed aside all my concern and apologies, smiled, and finished changing the tire. Then we drove to the nearest petrol station to repair the tire. It had a big puncture in it. Maybe something to do with the load of broken tile somebody dumped into the rainy season ruts in the road near my house and then covered with chunks of pumice? Amua dealt with the repair, quickly paid, and hustled me away before I could open my purse. I recognized this as the same tactic K2 uses in markets to make sure of getting the local price and not the mzungu price.

Amua wanted to take the daladala to his place, because he was uncertain if I could drive around town. I told him in Swahili that I could drive him to Kijenge (his neighborhood), hamnashida (no problem). My Swahili was bad, but he could understand me. So I drove him home and we had a fun conversation in Swahili, and he laughed at my jokes instead of my mistakes. What a nice guy!

This kind of favor is part of the web of favors and reciprocity and familial obligation that binds everybody up together here in Tanzania. I would guess that K2 helps Amua out sometimes with a bit of money or other favors. K2 has another younger cousin, David, who frequently does the same types of favors for  him, and will come running at a moment's notice. K2 helps him with school fees and by letting him stay at his place for weeks at a time. When students or other acquaintances have asked me to give them money and I've asked K2's advice, he tells me that if I can help, I should. My immediate reaction is to be annoyed, because in the U.S., we expect everybody to be independent and it's overstepping a boundary to ask for money or favors. But when it's someone here who I like, I'm beginning to understand that it means I've been welcomed into the web. And, being American, when K2 starts cobbling together solutions to problems that involve calling an acquaintance to come and help me, my initial reaction is to refuse because I feel like it's an imposition. K2 is puzzled by that reaction, and has commented on it a few times. I'm learning to accept the help, mostly because I need it! But also, because it's nice to be caught up in the same web with the Tanzanians. And today, it really worked to my advantage! Thank you, Amua!

One more picture, unrelated to anything I've written about in this post...but look how cute he is!

A small toad in my backyard. I just saw another one on my front step, taking advantage of the bugs lured in by the porch light.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Corrections and Updates

Looking back through my previous posts, I of course have found some mistakes and loose ends and just things that I have something more to say about. So, like the "Denver Post" and "Ogden Standard-Examiner," I'm running a corrections post. My first post, just before leaving Utah, was on February 24! It's hard to believe I've been here that long!

And starting with that post, "Off Again to Tanzania", I stated that the theme of my trip would be "adventures in immigration law." K2 and I planned to finish the second part of a fiance visa application for him and return together to the US in early June. We have since dropped the visa application, for a few reasons. I'm now planning to stay until at least early October, at which time we might apply for a visitor visa for K2. If he gets that visa, he'd have a chance to see America before deciding to move there. In the meantime, I don't miss the stress of visa applications and the US Embassy and I'm really enjoying staying here longer and learning about life in Tanzania. It's kind of like when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, but this time I have enough money for a comfortable house and I get to live in a bigger town with stores and restaurants.

In March, "Out and About", I wrote that when groping for Swahili words, I often called up Spanish words. That's still happening after more than 3 months of Swahili lessons, although much less than at first. However, a group of my English students at Jordan Institute are studying Spanish. They found out I can speak un poco de Espanol, and they love to engage me in Spanish conversation, usually just before or after I go for my Swahili lesson. My brain just locks up and I can barely even pull up English words!

In "Getting It Together", I wrote about the long rains or masika, and the weather at that time. I'd say we've moved on to one of two annual dry seasons, kiangazi. Everybody told me all through May how cold it would be in June. I thought, "Well, sure, cold for Tanzanians. At least it won't be too hot." But it has been really cold! Or maybe I've just been away from Utah too long. Every night and early morning I've been freezing. I dug out a travel alarm with a built-in thermometer and set it out on my porch early on a cold morning--but it said 62 F! And inside the house, where I also have been feeling chilly, it's 72 F! I think I'm becoming Tanzanian! But that is much cooler than I expected for equatorial Africa. I didn't bring enough warm clothes with me! It's been cloudy almost every day, with a chilly breeze. The last few days have finally been sunny with blue sky and a bit warmer, but not hot. Maybe only up to 80 F.

In the provocatively titled  "Washing My Panties in a Bucket", I posted a picture of a neighborhood internet cafe. I now have a wireless modem and am sitting at home typing this post. You load the modem with pre-paid vouchers in megabytes (25,000 T shillings, about $15, for 250 mb).  I still use the wireless connection at a restaurant downtown sometimes, because if I want to open a lot of pages, it works out to be cheaper.

Also, I advised readers to never go into a bank in a developing country and wove a long tale of woe about losing my ATM card at a bank here. I have since successfully gone to that same bank, taken money from the ATM, gone inside the bank and made a deposit, without waiting in line or having any problems. There are big crowds of customers lined up outside the banks' front doors in the morning, waiting for the banks to open so they can transact business before they go to work. But I did have one easy late morning transaction.

In "What Are My Tonsils Doing Back There?", I bragged about all my electronic gadgets and contrasted the easy communications to home with my Peace Corps days. I have since found that my Kindle's wireless reception works all over Arusha and I can directly download the "Denver Post" and books without even loading first to my laptop through the internet. A sad note about my Kindle: I dropped and broke it, which brought me to the verge of tears. replaced it, though, for free because it was considered normal wear and tear under the warranty. I had to pay a steep import tax to Tanzania and expensive shipping charges. But thank God I have my Kindle again! But I did lose the stylish leopard-print skin. The company that makes those ( ) won't ship to Tanzania.

I wrote about the bootleg tapes I'd bought in the Peace Corps, and how I've replaced all that with my i-Pod. Here in Tanzania, it turns out, you can get bootleg i-Pod downloads. K2's bought some Tanzanian music at little shops around town where they plug the i-Pod into a computer and charge by the song. Some of the tracks have the same errors and bad quality as those old bootleg cassettes.

On March 27,, I wrote about visiting a tailor. He was using a black Singer sewing machine with its own table and a foot treadle. I called it "old" because it looks like the really old ones, pre-dating my mom's sewing days. But since, I've seen these black machines for sale here and they're new. There are hundreds of tailors and seamstresses set up around town and almost all have the same black sewing machine.

In "Visits to Doctors and Friends", I described the motorcycle taxis that wait in packs all over Arusha. The other day, I got off the dala-dala near a pack of them. A young driver approached me, saying, "Let's go!" I told him, "Hapana, ni hatari!" ("No, it's dangerous!"). Another example of how men are the same all over the world: he was really delighted that a woman told him he's dangerous and didn't mind at all that he didn't get a fare.

In "Safari Njema", I described horrible biting flies in Tarangire National Park. It turns out those are the famous tsetse flies! But I didn't get sleeping sickness...or does that only affect cattle and horses? I remember reading that tsetse flies made it infeasible to keep horses in parts of East Africa. I haven't seen any horses since I've been here, although there are a few tour companies that offer horseback riding.

I promised to fill in the species names of a kingfisher and a few other birds and lizards in my blog and linked Snapfish photo albums. I was waiting for K2's field guide, which is still at his place, and for which I have now given up waiting! So it's just a kingfisher...

In "A Sunday Morning Walk, I speculated that waiters and store clerks always ask if you want your drinks cold or room temperature because many Tanzanians have unfilled cavities and their teeth are temperature sensitive. Another reason may be the cold weather. People here often feel cold and they don't like to add to it with a cold drink. But on the subject of dental problems--many people who grew up here in Arusha have big brown spots on the front surfaces of their teeth. It doesn't look like cavities, but more like the enamel's worn away. From what people say, it's specific to Arusha and most people think it has something to do with the water. I'm hoping it can't happen to me because of my childhood regimen of fluoride drops in milk (thanks, Mom!).

I posted "Immigration Laws and Good Manners" while my Canadian friend, Tera's parents were stranded in the Amsterdam airport on their way home from her Tanzanian wedding by Icelandic volcanic ash. They eventually made it home--after 5 days in the Amsterdam airport!

And a couple of additions to the list of names that sound funny to English speakers: I keep seeing "Godlove," even in my phone contacts, although I can't remember at all who he is. I rode with a very nice taxi driver one day named "Goodlove."

The haircut I wailed about in "Hannah, My Sister, I Feel Your Pain" actually turned out fine. My hair looks cute! It took 3 days to recover from the styling/straightening regime, though. I've been back to that saloon twice now for pedicures. It's the third place I tried. Each of the first two left me with an ingrown toenail, on different toes each time. The young guy doing pedicures at this saloon seems to do a better job. I'll know more in a week. I miss Jumi in North Ogden!! But as we used to say at law school after a particularly confusing class, "At least my hair looks good."

In "Really Settling In", I promised to discuss how I went from "tourist" to "resident" here in Tanzania. It's certainly easier here than in America! There are thousands of volunteers working with orphanages and NGO's here. The government has a category of visas for volunteers, which can run for up to two years and cost $120. My tourist visa expired on June 1, after a term of 90 days. I asked Mr. Solomon, the English teacher with whom I work and Mr. Shayo, the director of Jordan Institue, if I could volunteer with them for a whole year and if they would help me get a volunteer resident permit for a year. Mr. Shayo was wonderful! He wrote a letter sponsoring me and provided paperwork about Jordan Institute. He visited the immigration office several times and spoke with acquaintances of his there, and then accompanied me on a final visit where he got the employees to rush my application (which was good, because I had only three days left on my visa by that point). Jordan Institute even paid the fee (plus a bit extra for the "rush"). So now I am a resident until June 1, 2011. Before you ask, I don't have a definite plan to stay that long. Actually, I don't have any definite plan....

In "What a Shitty Day", I complained about "flycatchers," the shills in downtown Arusha who dog your heels (if you are a tourist) and try to sell you stuff. They are not bothering me as much anymore. Maybe they recognize me and know I'm living here. That would be nice because they are really annoying.

In "The Road to Njiro", I was quite critical of my snooty rich neighbors here in Njiro. I'm not retracting it all, but I have met a few nice neighbors since then. One day as I was walking to catch the dala-dala, a big white Land Rover pulled over and the big white man driving it offered me a ride into town. He was Padre Hans, a German priest who's been living in Africa for about 15 years, and runs a seminary in Njiro. We had a pleasant conversation in English, which I quite enjoyed. But from the moment that he said he was a Roman Catholic priest, my brain began a loop of a really bad joke K2 tells me from time to time. You know the joke (or one like it): a priest and a nun are riding in a car when it runs out of gas. And the joke goes downhill from there. The joke's not that funny, but I had a hard time not laughing because I was riding in a car with a priest. And when I phoned K2 to tell  him I'd been riding in a car with a priest, he burst out laughing and told me the stupid joke again. Another day, the Tanzanian man who lives in the enormous house next to our compound gave me a ride in his new, fancy SUV. He was really nice, too. He and his wife used to host Peace Corps volunteers in their home. And almost all of the not-rich neighbors I see when I'm walking around are quite friendly.

Many of you expressed concern for my friend Ally after I wrote about an attack on him in "Robbered" Ally was really pleased by all the concern from America. He continues to heal and he expects a  full recovery from his injuries. The last time I saw him, he seemed tired and admitted to some pain. But he's up and around and under doctor's orders to do some walking every day. It's customary to visit your friends when they're sick, so I've been up the hill past Jordan Institute to visit him at his brother's house twice. The second time I went with K2 and two other students. We stayed for two hours and watched the Algeria/ US World Cup game. It was fun, even though I don't like sports on TV. K2 was cheering for Algeria, but the rest of us cheered on the US to victory. I guess now I'll cheer for Ghana!

I mentioned my friend Anna and that I'd talked over the attack with her because I value her perspective. But let me correct a few mistakes about Anna. She is 25 years old, not 26 (although when you're that young, who even counts?). I'm hoping that I was mistaken when I said she knows everything about Tanzania. Because she told me that you have to iron every piece of laundry after drying it outside because mango flies will lay eggs on it, which will then transform into maggots under your skin. I'm really hoping she's wrong about that! She did say she doesn't iron everything, and after three years, has had no incidents of maggots. Lastly, I've been referring to her as my English friend. Actually, she's more Scottish. So she really laughed when I admitted to her that the first time I stayed at Kundayo Apartments (where she is the manager), I wondered why they had Scottish tartans for upholstery and tablecloths. Of course all that red plaid was not Scottish, but Maasai.

I told you more than you ever wanted to know about khangas in "Khanga" But let me tell you one more thing, anyway! K2 told me I left out one important use of khangas, which is to attract your husband. Also, I bought another one already. It's orange and it's so cute!

And let me just say that I feel bad, as if I'm ripping off my friends, when I publish a post with no photos. Sometimes I delay a post for a week or more because I'm waiting for a chance to take pictures (for example, an upcoming post to tell about the car I bought a week or so ago). Sometimes, there just aren't pictures to go with the post! Pole sana! (Sorry!).