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.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cousins--First and Second and Removed--Can't We All Just Ndugu?

One more pre-return-to-Tanzania post...

One of my favorite summer things in America: ROAD TRIP! I spent the last week driving from Utah to the Seattle area to visit with my cousins. Some first cousins. Some second cousins. Or they might be first cousins once removed. Maybe two third cousins? Some in-laws of cousins. Some old, dear friends of first cousins.

Front: My cousin Chris (left) and her sister-in-law, Sandi.
Back: Chris's husband, Jerry (left) and Jerry's brother, Al.
I'm designating Chris the biggest fan of my blog, because she emails me compliments after every post. And it's not just because we're related!

Chris and Jerry were spending a couple of weeks in their RV parked in Al and Sandi's yard. So when I wanted to visit Chris while I was back in America, Sandi and Al generously invited me to stay in their fabulous guest suite, even though they've met me only once before, sometime around 1986.  I'm also calling Sandi a fan of my blog, because she said reading it reminds her of the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency books, and that's quite a compliment. Thank you, Al and Sandi, for the wonderful hospitality! So maybe Al and Sandi are my cousins-in-law, because Al is Jerry's brother. But is Jerry my cousin or cousin-in-law? What with being married to Chris and all.... Jerry was so much fun that I refuse to consider that I might not be officially related to him at all.

Chris and Jerry drove me all around in "The Boat," a big old Buick with many 1980's luxury features that they borrowed from Chris's parents for their stay. We went out to Hood Canal so I could meet Mike and Sandi (a second Sandi). I'm also calling Mike a fan of my blog, because he emails me almost as often as Chris does and because he gets a bit impatient waiting for the next post if I go more than a week in between. I'm not actually related to Mike and Sandi. They are old friends of Chris and Jerry.

Mike, me, and the other Sandi

Mike (left) looking up Tanzania in the atlas. He'd already read the CIA web page about Tanzania. Nothing top-secret, just the one with general geographical information on various countries. Jerry (right) looking for my house in Arusha on Google Earth.

I brought khangas from Tanzania as gifts for all the female cousins. Mike's cat, Addie, picked out the blue one for Sandi. For more about khangas, see this post

 Addie looks cute, but she's a devil cat who loves only Mike. You can see her guarding him in the above picture as he's looking at the atlas. She would even keep the CIA guys away from him.

 Sandi is a brilliant craftswoman who's always making something new. Here, I'm admiring the found glassware which she and her partner Judy will re-purpose into gorgeous flowers to display in the garden. In the picture above, to the left of Addie, you can see a plant stand Sandi made. To see some of the completed flowers, visit their web site at .

Sandi also makes purses and totes from re-purposed fabrics, such as drapes, pillow covers, and upholstery. You can see these on her web site, too. Sandi and Mike gave me this beautiful one, along with homemade peanut brittle and zucchini bread to carry in it.

I also got to visit with Sheila and Lisa, Chris's daughters, and my Aunt Mary Ellen and Uncle Bill, whom I have not seen for way too long. It was so much fun to reconnect with family members. I felt so comforted, after losing my mother, just to be with them and laugh and talk and eat together.

Chris, me, and Sheila modeling the khangas.

 Skye, Sheila's daughter wanted to try it on, too. Sheila's my second cousin because she's the daughter of my first cousin. Or, maybe, she's my first cousin once removed? Which makes Skye my third cousin, or my first cousin twice removed? Anyway, on to big sister Lisa's house...

Lisa and me modeling the Tanzanian khangas in front of the Mexican-tiled fireplace under the aerial oblique photo of Tokyo. Lisa's very international. And she might be my second cousin.

Although I have no photographic evidence, I met Sheila and Lisa's husbands, too (I think it's because the girls were holding the cameras and we were so interested in the khanga selections). Also, Sheila's younger daughter, Reese, was so sleepy that she missed most of our visit. I hope she's tried on the khanga too, by now.

Although we didn't get any pictures of Bill, Lisa's highly entertaining husband, Chris and I were inspired by his web site, "Consumed," on which he is posting a photo of everything he eats for an entire year. Even his food pictures made me laugh out loud. Chris took this picture of me having a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich for lunch the next day.

"Mmmmm, bacon..."
They don't have good bacon in Tanzania. That "beef bacon" stuff is only one step above beef jerky. So I've been on a bit of a bacon frenzy since I came home.

If you want to see what Bill's been consuming for the past eight months, go to  , and click on "Consumed" at the bottom of the screen. I know, I think it's weird, too. But it made me laugh. And it made me go, "Hmmmm...." And it made me want to eat bacon. And while you're there, look at his other photos, too. So is Bill my second-cousin-in-law? Or maybe my first-cousin-once-and-a-half-removed?

There's a Swahili word, ndugu, that we should import to America. My Living Language study guide defines it as "sibling." When I asked Mr. Solomon, my Swahili teacher, about it, he told me it's much more inclusive than that. The "Swahili Practical Dictionary" defines it as  1) brother, sister, 2) cousin, 3) relative, and 4) comrade. That's nice. It's very reflective of the Tanzanian practice of considering all degrees of cousins and old friends to be just "cousins," or even brothers and sisters. I can call everyone I visited this week my ndugu. So no worries about whether the in-laws count as cousins and I can count Mike and Sandi, too, and I don't have to figure out how to count degrees of cousin-ness away from Chris. The fifth definition for ndugu is "incurable." So Bill's in there, too, one way or another!

Here's my pretty blonde cousin Chris (I think she got her looks from her Dad's Norwegian side of the family).

And here's how I felt after a few days hanging out with Chris--really tired and really happy. (I definitely got my looks from our mothers' Irish side of the family.)


  1. It was so great getting to visit with you. I hope to make it to Tanzania one day soon!

  2. You should definitely come to Tanzania! I know a great tour guide...

  3. We enjoyed every minute of your visit! Khangas, cats, waterfalls, and bacon, plus ndugus everywhere. And don't forget Milo! It was grand -- thank you!