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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wearing My Obama Khanga

I'm in Kauai, Hawaii right now. I am sad to report that I'll be returning home tonight.

I bought a khanga in Tanzania in 2008 that comemorates President Obama's election. (You can read more about khangas here. ) At home in Utah, I don't wear it out in public for fear of sparking an argument with my conservative neighbors. But I thought since Hawaii is Obama's home state and a khanga makes a great swim suit cover-up, I would take the opportunity to wear it. It's a big rectangle of printed cotton that wraps around your waist like a sarong or pareo. Like this...

After a snorkeling/whale watching trip on a Zodiac with Captain Tara, we found ourselves wandering through the botanical gardens in swimsuits with coverups. My friend M overheard a conversation between a mother and her young son, about six years old, when I passed by.

Son: "Mama, that lady had President Obama on her butt."

Mother: "Don't talk like that. He's our President."

Son: "But that lady had Obama on her butt."

Mother: "Shush! Don't be disrespectful of the President." Turning to the auntie: "What's he talking about?"

Auntie: "Look at her skirt. It has the President on it."

And let me say that I really do not want to precipitate any political discussion here. I just thought this was funny, and I found it so refreshing that at least one American still thinks it's important to respect our President.

Also, the owner of a jewelry booth in the outdoor market at the Spouting Horn State Park offered me a sales clerk job two days a week after we got to chatting. She'd chased me down saying, "Where'd you get that pareo? I have to have one!"

And here are a few pictures from the botanical garden.

And lastly, I'm sorry for the infrequent posts! I've been traveling a bit again, and also this online creative writing class is keeping me busy! I may do better with the blog in about two or three weeks. Thanks for staying tuned... Aloha!

Oh, and if you find in yourself in Kauai and want to snorkel or see whales, I highly recommend Captain Tara and Kauai Sea Riders. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Other F-Word

Life in Tanzania desensitized me to America's other F-word. Tanzanians use it all the time in a very light-hearted way. No shame. No character judgment. But for Americans, this word is taboo. I keep slipping and saying it. The listeners always cringe.

My latest slip? Last week I loaded my cross country skis into the Subaru and headed up to North Fork Park. In the summer it's a campground. In the winter, a local non-profit group, Ogden Nordic, grooms the roads for cross country skiing. When I arrived at the trail head, I discovered they'd made changes last winter while I was basking in the African sunshine. They've built a warming hut, added ski rentals, and changed the "suggested donation" to a user fee. I bought a season ticket. I'm not sure I'll ski enough times to break even over the daily fee (16 times!), but I wanted to support their efforts. As I was filling out the paper, one of the two gentlemen staffing the hut told me about ski lessons and workshop days. I've been wanting to learn how to skate-ski for a few years, so I said (in light-hearted Tanzanian fashion), "Can short, fat people skate?"

That's right. "Fat" is America's other F-word. Fat! Fat! Fat! (I occasionally use the original F-word, too, but we can talk about that another time.) One of my listeners turned away from me as if he hadn't heard. The other looked surprised for a moment, then said to the first, "Well, there's Marybeth." The first guy looked over his shoulder with an uncomfortable expression. I was just kidding, guys! I only brought it up because skating is very aerobic and most of the people you see doing it are long-legged and skinny. And I'm not.

Fat rises to the top of America's consciousness every New Year's Day. Many people resolve to lose weight. The gym gets really crowded. People eat cabbage soup every day for lunch. Or order hamburgers and eat the meat and leave the bun on the plate. And lick the grease off the fries, but leave the actual potatoes on the plate. Okay, I'm just kidding on that last one. I'm making fun of the Atkins diet. And the gym will be empty again by February.

My friend M (featured in a recent post about visiting the Giant Sequoias, and soon to be featured in posts about other national park visits) delights in taking unflattering photos of me when we travel together. Most are variations of my sweat-drenched head when I remove my hat after a strenuous hike. There was one in Costa Rica featuring chocolate smears around my mouth.

 Here's one she took in the sequoias. Nice!

And here's one she took in Arches National Park in October.

I'm not sure she intended this one to be unflattering. I think she was just placing me in the spectacular landscape. But when I saw it, my first reaction was horror at my fat ass. Especially since I just bought those hiking pants. That reaction means that I am settling back into the American mind set wherein "fat" is a dirty word.

But after a few minutes' reflection, I thought K2, being Tanzanian, might like this picture of me. So I emailed it to him. He replied with a nice compliment on how good I am looking here in America. This must be what they mean by "cultural relativity." Fat! Fat! Fat!