Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

African birthday was a great success. Despite the fact that I was recovering from a somewhat serious bout of stomach problems, I was well enough to enjoy the day. I spent the morning in bed and wandered up to the main house to fall asleep on the couch on the porch. Success!

I also managed to eat a full meal and enjoy some of the delicious cake that our wonderful kitchen staff made for me. It was beautifully decorated with my name on it, and not only did everyone sing Happy Birthday, but they also sang the Swahili "cut the cake" song that I love so much. The guys danced of course, and it was just a great night. Rounding out this lovely meal were some very appropriate gifts from my fellow volunteers. There was Little Wemba the carved twiga, some chocolate, an Obama/map of Africa Khanga, and an adorable card signed by everyone.

Later we headed off to Hillside so I could have my birthday club soda. I'm crazy I know!

Continuing with my extended birthday month, I will be leaving for Safari tomorrow morning (Thursday) after lunch. I will be gone all weekend, and I am soooo excited to see some simbas and twigas!

I will be taking tons of pictures and will be happy to share them when I return.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I knew it would probably happen at some point, but it doesn't make it any easier when it does happen. I got sick. Very sick. Luckily, I was home from Zanzibar and in the somewhat comfort of my room at CCS. I will not describe the details of this problem, but just know that it wasn't pretty.

The next morning I stood in the hallway waiting for someone to come out so I could relay a message to someone in charge. Madame Wemba was the first one down the hall. I told her my situation, and within a couple of hours, Didas came to my room with a silver tray of assorted drinks including 2 cokes and juice with fresh limes that he instructed me to squeeze into the juice. He said, "think of me like your mother." I found this incredibly funny, but so sweet. Throughout the day, various people came to check on the "sick dada" I felt very loved. They were all very concerned and wanted me to think about whether I should go to the hospital or not. I opted for not.

So here I am, on my birthday, in Tanzania, sick. Party plans have to be postponed for the moment because I am spending all of my energy trying to get better for the safari on Thursday.

Don't worry everyone I am feeling much better now, and the cipro worked like a charm. Until next time...

Weekend in Zanzibar

Friday July 23rd:

I don't remember much of my English lesson except for conversatio topic strips which they thought were hilarious. They always laugh when I introduce something new. This could be for many reasons one of which that they think I'm crazy. I just want to shake things up a bit. Nothing groundbreaking just a bit different. The lesson went on with some other things grammar included but I have to say my heart just wasn't in it. I was going to Zanzibar today!

After lunch we met up with Kennedy but soon realized that a few of us had forgotten things. Ben especially had a problem because his passport was locked in his room cabinet. Turned out that Andrew his roommate had the key, so Ben took off with one shoe on Ariel's bike "Fairy" and went in search of Andrew. Turns out again that the key was in Andrew's pants pocket on his bed at the summer house the whole time. There was also a small flip flop mishap, but all was good in the end and we got to the port safely.

The ferry ticket transaction was a bit questionable because we all had to sit in the van while Kennedy took our passports to "buy tickets." We speculated that many other things could have been going on and that we all may be stuck in Tanzania indefinitely. Finally after sitting in the sweltering van for much longer than we needed to we got in a "special line." It wasn't actually a line at all. We just got to go ahead of everyone waiting in line because we were with shady Kennedy. We ended up in first class too which was lucky because it was air conditioned and we got to watch old eposides of candid camera. The boat ride was not the most fun ever, very rocky, but two long hours later we were in ZANZIBAR (the original spice island and the hub of slave trade in East Africa).

I could go on for a long time about my excursion to Z-bar, but I have been sitting at the internet cafe for over an hour now and I am exhausted. Let me sum up the weekend like this. We stayed at a nice place called Sunset Bungalows right on the beach. The water was absolutely beautiful and bright blue with really old boats dotting the shore line. We ate pizza and burgers, and we had a fabulous time. Saturday night there was a full moon party which was something to experience. I can tell people about this at another time.

Sunday morning we woke up and headed over to Stone Town to do some shopping and see the sights. I bought a lovely tanzanite necklace and did my fastest jewelry transaction in history. I think I got a pretty good deal too! After a quick lunch and a race to the ferry it was time to go home. We ended up hitting a lot of traffic from Dar to Baga, so we spent a lot of time in the bus/van again. We also had to stop on the side of the road because we thought we hit something. Turned out it was a "rubber" as our driver called it. I'm thinking it was some sort of belt, but we kept moving. It was a really great weekend, and it is getting me really excited for safari next weekend.

Traditional Healer and then some

I am very sorry that I have not posted in about a week seeing as how it is now Tuesday the 27 (my birthday!) and I went to see the healer last Tuesday. Time really is flying. Let me backtrack.

The healer was not as exciting as I hoped he would be. We had to sit in a hot hut on hard benches or at least an hour while Zik translated while an old man fell asleep in a chair. Highlights of the talk included lots of powders that cured all sorts of ailments that I have never heard of. Apparently they just wander into the forest and find some plants and bark to grind up. One of those snazzy powders can cure 150 different things. Amazing. Not really. What I did enjoy though was the part about the witchdoctor putting or taking hexes off of people. When I told Douglas at placement where I had gone he just laughed and told me it was all fake and they they just do it for money. Oh well no potions for me!

Wednesday July 21st:

Today's English lesson went really well because I think I found a balence between what I want to do and what they are used to. We started with me using a map to describe location, and since they are totally fascinated by geography this went over very well. Then we spent some time with possessives which also went quite well considering it is grammar and I really dislike teaching grammar. Overall, it was a good couple of hours.

On the way home I saw several broken down trucks, but one was particularly funny because it was missing tires, up on blocks, and instead of cones or a hazard triangle or two to warn people, they were using branches with leaves to mark every couple of feet in front of and behind the truck. Also today in class we had a sheep vs. ship conversation. There is not much difference in sound for an English language learner then throw wool into the equation and we have massive confusion. But all was well because Lucas explained wool as what cows and goats have.

Today Douglas was also looking quite spiffy in shirt, tie, and pinstriped pants. This is not normal Tanzanian attire, but it turns out that he had to go to the land office to prove that he owned a piece of land because the government wanted to build something there. He needed to go trade his land for a new piece of land and pay the difference or something like that. The reason for the nice clothing was so he didn't have to wait in the office all day. Apparently it worked because he was back and really proud of himself before I left class. He explained corruption in the government and that you need to dress well in order to get welcomed into the office because they think you have money.

That night, I helped Robert and the chefs at CCS cook dinner. Of course I didn't do this by myself lots of other volunteers got in on the action too. We made chapati which was very time consuming but a lot of fun. I also peeled cucumbers which was also exciting. I opted not to peel the tomatoes with the knife for personal safety reasons.

Another side note, later that night while at Hillside there were bats in the hut type thing we were sitting under. Just another fun part of Baga.

Thursday July 22nd:

Placement went well with my computer lesson, and I got to leave early to work on some research. I wasn't very successful in finding other small handicraft groups around the world. I'm thinking that most of them don't have websites like that group I am currently working with, so if anyone knows of any groups I can network with that would be awesome.

After giving myself a guilt trip, I decided to skip my last Swahili lesson in order to do some things around town. My first stop was Ras'T's studio when I decided to commission a painting. He wasn't there, but Moyo was, so he will be working on my giant painting of a long list of things I wanted included. I even managed to get a twiga included :o) It's my new favorite animal. I then went over to Pili's shop at AMAP where I got my measurements taken so she could turn my Khanga's into a dress and a skirt that I can hopefully wear when I get home. I also found out the meanings of these lovely phrases. The red and black one means "live good to be good," and the purple one is something along the lines of "your work is going unnoticed." Being a teacher I know that phrase very well. They seemed to fit nicely. All of that should be done in about a week.

All of that was exhausting so Amber, Sheila, and I decided that it was time for a beverage so we headed to the New Millenium by the fish market. After going home and having a very enjoyable and actually somewhat warm shower we had a carb loaded dinner and it was off to Hillside for a show. The full Zawose family was performing. Apparently we just saw a few of them the week before. They definitely didn't disappoint. They were in full Khanga even the Obama one made an appearance. They love Obama here it is just too funny. Throughout the show they pulled us all up to dance. I ended up hopping around stage with a chubby kid for quite a while in an effort to keep my shoes on. I did manage to keep my shoes on, but I looked crazy (chizi) doing it. It ended up being a lot of fun, but I was pretty exhausted.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Computer lesson

Today was my second computer lesson, and I really enjoy these because it is so much fun to watch grown men get so excited about my laptop. Today we reviewed how to type, save, highlight, and spellcheck. Our new items were fonts including size and color. It is great how we all huddle together on a bench in front of the screen. There were 5 of us including me, so it is a challenge for everyone to see. The older gentleman from the other day even came back and asked to join my computer class on Thursday. Hooray more students.

I am in between placement and lunch now, and after lunch we have my favorite...Swahili lesson. I am really not a fan. After that though we are going to a traditional healer to do I don't know what, but it should be really interesting.

Stay tuned for my next post....I may come home with some sort of love potion or a cure for chicken mosquito bites :o)

Week 2 of Placement

I have already been here a full week, and I can't believe it. From here, I'm sure time will begin to accelerate. Monday morning, bright and early after breakfast, I took my daily hike down to Dar Rd. to Twisuka. No matter how late I leave I am always early. I can't quite figure things out. To my surprise though, Maria was back from her meetings. We had a very long and confusing conversation about all sorts of things including how much 15 meters of fabric costs and what exactly I am teaching. I honestly have no idea what I am teaching, but I'm making it work anyway. At least I think I am.

After going through a whole lesson on time with foam clocks that I found at the main house, I come to find out that they have no use for this lesson but they still want to learn about time. Improvising, I started writing out digital times on my sad excuse for a flip chart, and they seemed to respond much better. I don't actually have any idea though. After that mess, I pulled out the giant map I found at summer house and hung it on the wall. I figured that I could kill at least a half hour, but they were fascinated by everything. The rest of my time there took place in Swahili as Lucas explained to my students that the  Earth was in fact round. This was an amazing discovery for the day. He also talked about longitude, latitude, rotation, revolution, and the planets and their relationship to the sun. I was pretty much useless.

In the middle of all of this, an older man came in and asked me for financial advice because I was clearly rich. I tried to explain that this was not the case, and that in America I didn't actually make that much money. His response was that I did make more money than I needed because if you have enough to save then you are rich. So he wanted to know how he could become rich like me so that he could travel the world. Turns out that he owns a small book shop and he constantly reads about other places, but he knows he will never be able to see them. It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to just have the opportunity to do things.

After another lovely lunch, I went with Ben and Madame Wemba (Amber) to meet with Kennedy about our trip to Zanzibar this weekend and our Safari the following weekend. It is always a shady experience dealing with the infamous Kennedy because he finds the table away from everyone where they store the chairs at Hillside to talk. My only purpose is for moral support because Amber is great at asking all the questions. I just hope Kennedy can deliver.

On to my Batik lesson...
We all went to this children's art studio to learn. I was so excited though because I could finally make something here. I decided to draw a twiga (giraffe) with a border of giraffe spots. I was very excited about this as well. After the drawing on the fabric, we took hot wax and a pointy sponge and outlines our drawings. After it dries, it is a lot like the ty dying process except with just one color. I made my twiga orange, and again I am thrilled. I think this may be my new enrichment cluster. Hooray. I could also do some beading!

On the way home from batik lessons, Amber and I stopped by Monday Market. I kid you not when I tell you it is insanity. People are selling everything from school uniforms to transistor radios. I stopped to buy my first fabric called conga. It is the fabric that has a border and a saying. Women use these to make a statement without saying a word. I really have no idea what mine say, and they cost me 15,000 shillings which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 I think.

Dinner was a fab mac and cheese with avocado, and then it was off to Hillside again  for some lovely conversation. Goodnight!

Lazy Sunday

I woke up on Sunday planning to go to the beach and just lay in the sun, but it was sort of rainy and a bit cold. A bunch of us just spent the morning laying around on the porch, looking for a hornet's nest, journaling, or reading. We got to the point where we were counting down the minutes to lunch which is always exciting. They even ring a bell and we salivate just like Pavlov's puppies. We are very well conditioned. I eat sooooo much here and most of it is carbs, so I am in culinary heaven. If they had pizza, I may stay here forever. Just kidding mom.

Anyway, after a lazy lunch we were off to the beach to check out the sights, take a walk and end up at the Millenium Hotel for some expensive (by Baga standards) beverages. Sheila then recommended a rousing game of compliment circle which took the better part of our time there.

Not quite time for dinner, we all walked to Baga Point or mosquito heaven where there are large pools of stagnant water where really loud frogs live. Side note, do you know those wooden instruments of the frog with the wooden stick. When you pass the stick over the back of this wooden frog it makes a noise similar to this frog just in case anyone cared. Anyway, first taste of banana beer was had, kind of like something has been in the fridge for way too long then you have fermented bananas. While we were all sitting there, some children "borrowed" the bike gang's bikes. By bike gang, I mean Ariel and Andrew.

Then it was off to dinner for some more lovely carbs, and back to Hillside because there is really nothing else to do because it gets dark here around 6.

Do Chickens get Mosquito Bites?

Before I start the continuation of my last blog post, I must pose the question:

Do chickens get mosquito bites?

The reason why this question is so important to me is because I have been diligent with my bug spray with deet amounts that could kill a small animal and my mosquito net (which I have grown very fond of). Chickens, on the other hand run in standing, stagnant water with seemingly no problems at all. If anyone can find the answer to this puzzling question I would really appreciate it.

Another note of fun, I saw a man chase a goat all over the place today. So picture this: goat making very loud goat noise and running, stopping to look at man, and running again. Man very annoyed running after goat across the busiest road in town. Then there is me watching all of this happen and openly laughing while walking home from "work."

Ah you have to love a place like this!

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Weekend in Baga

 Friday Night:
There was a bit of drama surrounding the music festival, and I was only able to enjoy one night of it. I don't really have words to describe what I saw, but we entered as a Belgian band of twelve year olds were singing "I Love Rock and Roll." This soon moved on to the group of men in pj's but not just any pj's, these were flowered and mismatched and just wonderful to watch hopping around the stage. For a very small town, this was quite the venue. I took lots of video, and like everything else, I will post it all when I get home. After PJ's we had the happiest African in the world with a big smile on his face and playing the tambourine. The icing on the cake though was the man with the South African jazz band who came out wearing a rainbow clown wig, a kilt, puca shells around his ankles while jamming to the bongo drums. Classic! We nicknamed him Mr. Happy Toast for reasons that I don't have time to explain.

After listening to some diverse, yet awesome music, Lucas walked the white person parade back to CCS. 


I tried to hard to sleep in, but my body has really adapted to waking up at 7:30 for some reason, so I just stayed under my mosquito net for a while not wanting to wrestle with it unless I really had to.

Basically, the whole day consisted of walking around exploring the town and going back and forth to Summer house because I kept forgetting to pack things in my backpack. This is a daily ritual for me because just when I think I have everything for the day, I get to main house and realize that some critical thing like a bathingsuit is missing. This was what most of my Saturday looked like. That and walking back and forth to the bank not to get money but to show people where it was. Yes, I do know how to get somewhere here thanks to my English students who think I am an idiot. No, I take that back I don't know for sure if they think I am an idiot but I can infer.

Lunch was very interesting on Saturday because we  ventured off of CCS property and down the street to try some chips myiye (I have no idea how to spell that) Picture an omlette with fries in it, and you have my lunch. I am not sure yet exactly how I feel about it. I'll keep you posted.

That night we were all ready to go to the festival again, but we were sad to find out that we did not get an extention on our curfew and decided to go to Hillside for some beverages. It's so nice to bond with my tripmates. Then, we were in by 10 and I think I was sleeping by 10:15. It is completely exhausting here.

Ok internet time up......time to leave. More tomorrow about Sunday and Monday tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

I knew that posting every day wasn't going to happen, but that doesn't stop tons of things from happening and me forgetting all of them. I'll do my best to remember though. Every moment of every day is just a complete bombardment of sights, sounds, and smells that it can be completely overwhelming. Pictures just don't do this place justice, so in order to capture a moment, you need both the visual of a picture and the anecdotal description of the moment itself.

The Zawose family is a perfect example of this. We all hopped in the CCS dalla dallas and went to this compound to watch this family perform, and boy did they perform. They make all of their own instruments including drums which I bought one of. I did take video of them dancing, singing and playing their instruments, so eventually when I get home or if I am sitting in an airport with internet I will post it for you. It was amazing, and I just couldn't wipe the smile from my face. We sat on straw mats surrounded by children, dogs, and chickens. It was quite a sight! What struck me the most though was they everyone was so happy. They truly loved what they were doing. The women drumming with a giant drum between their legs, singing and dancing at the same time was pretty spectacular too. After the show, we had some chai and nuts, a tour of where they make their instruments, and we were back home in time for dinner.


Thursday morning I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do at my placement in the morning. All I kept hearing about though was this flash drive that they had to find and a brochure I had to make. Everything here is a bit vague, and I never really know quite what is going on. The phrase 'just go with it' has never been more useful.

Did I mention that I walk on my own to my placement saying "mambo," "shikamoo," and "jambo" to everyone I pass. The people here are super friendly, so everyone talks to you, especially the kids. They call white people "mzungu" and they will just yell at you from across the street. When you turn to look at them and wave, you see a group of smiling faces waving at you. I feel like a celebrity. I think I will be very sad to go home and not have anyone care that I am walking down the street. Although at TAESIS I am a bit of a celeb.

So it was a good thing I brought my laptop with me because I ended up giving a computer lesson. Picture this: a very small room with a dusty concrete floor, two long benches, a sewing bench for a desk, me in the middle with 4 people crowded around me learing how to use a computer for the first time. It was an amazing feeling to be able to teach a skill that I have known for a very long time. I had to step back and just appreciate the moment. That was what learning was all about. At the end of the session, we found the flash drive, and I now have the brochure to work on. Most of it is finished, but I will try to put some finishing touches on it. I also found a grant opportunity through another volunteer here, so I will be working on that in my spare time. Although I haven't had much of that lately. Just as I thought it was a great day, my fainting friend from the other day fainted again. This, of course, ended class. I am really worried about her and keep trying to plot how to get her to the hospital. Maybe that can be a small goal for me to work on while I'm here.

On my walk home, I ran into an interesting character carrying a mechete. Yes, I do mean the very large knife/sword type of instrument used to cut various things. Funny, if someone was doing that at home he would be arrested. Here, he was a very nice guy who I talked to for at least 5 minutes. T.I.A. I wasn't worried at all, but I just kept thinking about how rediculous it was. 

Because it was the first Thursday of my trip, it is sports and games day. This gave me a bit of anxiety because I am not much of a sportsman. Luckily there were a couple others who agreed with me, so we sat under a huge tree and chatted while the group and staff played a rousing game of football (soccer). Next came the chasing of the chicken. Apparently when the staff drove the van over they also brought a chicken in a box. The prize went to Ben though for being able to outsmart our feathered friend. There was also tug of war and a dancing circle to get to know each other better. It was so much fun singing and dancing with the staff and some local kids who tagged along. After a much needed cold shower (all the showers are cold), we were all off to a huge dinner at Hillside. The food was awesome. I even tried to eat goat, but I didn't get a good piece and couldn't get through the fat. Oh well, maybe next time. While I left Hillside fairly early, I ended up having quite a long conversation with Sheila. Then off to bed to get some sleep before another busy day.


In an effort to catch up, I am not being as detailed as I should. I am totally exhaused right now after being here for almost a full week. Placement this morning was really good. I am getting great satisfaction from being able to teach adults. They are just so eager to learn everything I have to say. They even asked me for homework over the weekend so they could practice and be ready for their lesson on Monday. I couldn't believe it.

After my walk home, some popcorn (daily afternoon snack), and a bit of conversation, I worked on making my clock. Today I learned that the concept of time is very different, so in an effort to explain things a bit better I had to fashion a clock out of some construction paper and a brass fastener. It is hideous, but it will do the job on Monday.

After lunch, I finally got to go to the beach. It has been so close all week, but I finally walked on the sand. It is absolutely beautiful. Over near the old German fort and the fish market, there are boats everywhere. The tide was out, so they were just kind of leaning in the sand. Brooke and I took a long walk all over the place and got to see the Millenium Hotel which is pretty posh and right on the water. That's where the white people go. As we walk around, we are now suprised when we see other white people. Too funny!

As tired as I am, I am excited because there is a huge music festival here this weekend and it starts tonight. More on that to come...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Real Work Begins

When I sit down at the computer in the small internet cafe (I use that term very loosely) my mind goes completely blank, and I don't remember what day it is, how long I have been here or what I did this morning. Each day has felt like about a week, not because I don't want to be here. It is quite the contrary. I really love it here, but rather because the days are so filled with new information, and I think my brain is reaching capacity.

I have taken lots of pictures and all sorts of video yesterday, and I am hoping to be able to post a couple pictures to the blog in the next couple of days, so keep looking.

Let me start with yesterday which was the 13th. It was the first day of placement, so I had to be at breakfast by 7:00 to be on the bus by 7:30. Now this is Tanzanian time, so we didn't actually leave until closer to 8. I am liking Tanzanian time especially in the morning. Then I was off to drop everyone off at their placements because mine was one of the last. I have to say I was a bit nervous because I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to be doing. Turns out it was just a day for introductions and a tour.

Things were going well, and my small group of adults was doing a great job at speaking English and I was learning a bit of Swahili myself. This all went horribly wrong when the one woman in the group who had said very little the whole morning suddenly stood up and said in perfect English, "Teacher, I don't feel well." She got about half way to the door , swayed a bit, and fell backwards. Luckily I was behind her to catch her. Being a fainter myself I know what it is like. While I panicked, everyone else was very calm. Lucas went out to call a pujaji (not sure of the spelling, but it is a motorbike that pulls a car for about 3 people. Meanwhile she was just laying on the concrete floor. So scary! Eventually her ride came and she was sent off to the hospital. Needless to say we were pretty much done for the day, so Lucas gave me a tour of their  art studio. I got to see a couple of guys painting some amazing art. I can't wait to buy some to take home with me. 

After lunch, we had another Swahili lesson which consisted more of repeat after me and what does this mean. The real fun came later when we went to see the Zawose Family.

They are a polygamous family of about 70 members who travel all around performing traditional Tanzanian music and dance. More on this later, but it is time for lunch.  :o)

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is Africa 2

If you have ever seen the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio, you will know the phrase T.I.A. (This is Africa). I have heard it here a few times so far. How true it is. Being here is like being in another world, a very friendly world where children walk up with huge smiles on their faces and shake your hand without fear. Where people have a positive outlook on life even though conditions may be horrible. This is Bagamoyo where I am calling home for the next four weeks.

Bagamoyo means lay down your heart. Originally, it meant that the slaves would lay down there heart here before being sold into the slave trade. Today though it is said that there is something special about this place where people do lay down their heart here and frequently come back. Every person who I have met here from outside of the country has said that they wish they could stay here longer. Who knows what will happen to me.

Today's breakfast started out with some crepe like pancakes and some other assorted things. Then we went on a bit of a scavenger hunt to find some places nearby to get our bearings. For most of you who know me quite well, I get lost all the time and I don't do well with directions. No streets have names and most of them are dirt. Buddy system for me is key especially since my room is not at the main house. With my scavenger hunt group, Brooke and Virginia, we had to find the only bank in town and the only pharmacy in town. We could all barely fit in the pharmacy. After doing a bit of research about what kind of meds to take when one gets malaria, we were back to the main house.

We then took a quick visit to the comissioner's office where we learned about all kinds of government stuff and were officially welcomed as volunteers. The jet lag was kicking in for most of us, so I don't really remember much of what was said except for the issue with the fire truck. So here is the story. Apparently Bagamoyo has a fire truck, but no one knows how to use it let alone start the thing. Because there is really no official trash collection, many people just burn it, so there are frequent fires (controlled of course) and it can be quite smoky in places. So the fire truck sits until they can get training in Dar es Salaam.

After a lively discussion about local snakes or lack of them thank goodness, we were off to our first Swahili lesson. It basically consisted of a group of us frantically writing translations for words and repeating after the teacher. I pretty much know nothing but when someone says Mambo!, you say Poa! It is really common to have tons of kids yelling this as you walk down the street. We are the wazungu, or white people. We are instructed to tell taxi drivers to take us to Mjengo Nyumba ya wazungu. Roughly translated "the house of white people." Love it!

After Swahili and a nice lunch and soda! (Cheryl, I remembered to take a picture of it for you) we got to meet the leaders of the projects that were were going to be volunteering with. I am at a place called Twisuka where there are all kinds of classes for different arts and handicrafts. I found out from Lucas and Maria that I am going to be teaching English three days a week, writing government proposals, helping to create a brochure, and anything else they can think of or I can think of to do. What I am really excited about though is learning all of the arts from them. Tomorrow I will be taking a batik drawing class (I think). I will be learning about painting and sculpture from poa! It sounds like a great position, so excited! I start tomorrow!

I was also able to figure out what I will be doing on the weekends with the group. This weekend we are going to hang out in town, but the following weekend is a trip to Zanzibar, and the weekend after that will be a 4 day Safari!! And I think we are even going to stay in those big tents with full plumbing of course. I made sure to ask about that. I am not in a hurry to have another "experience" like the last one.

That's about all for now. The internet cafe is right next door, so I should be able to get here every couple of days to provide you with all of my stories. Miss you all. Don't forget to post comments, I love to read them.

This is Africa

I had the afternoon off today, so I thought I would take some time to catch everyone up on what in the world I have been doing since I left New Jersey in quite a frenzy.

My plane rides were pretty uneventful, and I met a few fellow volunteers while I was at JFK, so I was never really traveling alone. When I got to the Tanzanian airport and cleared customs which wasn't much of a process at all, Didas was waiting for all of us to whisk us away to the CCS main house. I use the word whisk very lightly because we were in a small bus for what felt like hours and got to the house in the dark, had dinner, and went to bed. I am staying at the summer house with most of the other volunteers which is a bit of a walk down the dirt road and around the corner. I have to make sure to remember to turn where there are old tires on the roof of a house. Anyway, my roommate's name is Brooke, and she is a social worker from Maine. She has been to Africa before, so she has been super helpful.

The next day we had an orientation in the morning after breakfast and got to know each other a bit. I am traveling with a really great group of people from all over the world. There are a couple teachers, lawyers, and even an event planner of a variety of ages. We talked about expectations and concerns and learned a song which I can't remember. As I'm sitting here I am realizing that all of this happened yesterday, Sunday July 11th, but it feels like it happened a week ago.

Moving on, we all spent the afternoon visiting some sights around town including the Kaole Ruins, a house that was the resting point for slaves and slave traders before the trek to Zanzibar, and the Catholic museum. It was so much information to take in, and I kinda wish I was better about taking notes while I was there because I am having a hard time remembering anything I learned yesterday. But I did see some monkeys playing in the sand near a huge area of mangrove trees at the site of the ruins. It used to be the main port until all of the mangroves basically took over and made it impossible for boats to get in. That's the fun fact of the day...enjoy it. The Catholic museum was interesting because it had all kinds of things to look at including some carvings and information about slave trade, and there were even some examples of what some record books looked like. Oh and I also learned that the east African slaves were transported through Zanzibar to the middle east and India whereas west African slaves were transported to north and south America. West African slaves were allowed to reproduce and have families, but east African slaves were not which is why you do not see many Africans in the middle east and India. Amazing stuff. We finished up the excursion with a short trip to an outdoor market which was more like an art gallery. I think I am definitely going to bring some art home with me and maybe a carving of a hippo or many things made by such talented people.

Since it was the day of the finals of the world cup that just happened to be taking place on the same continent where I am currently residing, we just had to find a place to watch it. After dinner, a few of us walked over to an outside bar called Hillside where we enjoyed some Killamanjaro beers and some of the game. The highlight/ frightening moments of the night were the bathroom encounters. I use the term bathroom loosely because while there were sinks and running water and locking doors on the stalls, inside the stall was nothing more than a hole in the ground. YIKES!! There was no way I was going to be able to make this happen. So I went in the first time and got as far as locking the door. I came right out and thought that this was just not going to happen. Unfortunately, I had to face my fear several minutes later when I just could not wait any longer. Luckily, Sheila saved the day in true Mighty Mouse style and walked me through the process with encouraging words the whole time. It is an amazingly triumphant feeling though to survive and be somewhat successful at a task like that. Hooray for me. I didn't watch much of the game, but I got to know some of my tripmates quite a bit. It was just a beautiful night. The sky is so black here at night and you can see so many stars...unbelievable. So picture this, beer in hand, good friends, perfect temperature, outside under the stars, and world cup finals in the background. What a fantastic second night. It is only going to get better :o)

Made it to Tanzania

Well I did it, I'm finally here. There is so much to write about, but I am down to about 5 minutes before I have to go on an excursion with the group. Things are going really well, and everyone on the trip is awesome; we bonded instantly. I guess that is what a trip like this does to people. You become instant family. We have been going nonstop since I got off the plane which is a good thing I guess, but there has been no time to write about all of the amazing things I have already done. More on that later when I can get my thoughts straight...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adventures at the Embassy

While the title of my post may seem like my visit to the Embassy was a fun experience, but I did run into a couple problems. I'll start at the beginning...

I knew that the first thing that I had to do when I got to New Jersey was take a trip to New York City to visit the Tanzanian Embassy to get my visa. I can't get into Tanzania without it. So, my mom, dad (he was on his way to work) and my sister Kate hopped the train into downtown. We got there just as the office was opening, and everything seemed to go just fine. I had all my documents and the lady said that she would send my passport and visa out on Tuesday (this was Friday). Perfect, now I could relax.

Not really...In the meantime, my family had a 4th of July party, I went to Philly to see my sister's house, and took a trip to the Jersey Shore to see my grandparents. It was great to see everyone, but I was anxiously awaiting my passport to come in the mail and it was already Wednesday afternoon. There was no envelope to be found, so I went to the UPS website to track it thinking that it was in transit and it would be here shortly. NOPE! It hadn't even left the Embassy!

This was a huge problem. It was Wednesday night and I was leaving early Friday morning. The only thing I could do was hope that all my paperwork was completed but still at the embassy for me to pick up in person on Thursday.

I got up really early today after having nightmares about not getting my passport in time or finding it at the last minute after chasing down the UPS man. I called the embassy to find out that they were actually closed on Wednesday (I had a moment of panic though when I thought that Thursday was actually Wednesday and that I was out of time, but I got my days straight again).

I called and called until someone picked up the phone. After being put on hold for quite a while so they could "find" out the status, I was told that it was ready. I was a bit relieved that it was still there, but that started a new adventure. Cars, a bus, ferries, a taxi, and an embassy visit later, I had my passport, visa, and immunization card in my hands along with the very expensive envelope that I bought that never got used. Oh well, the important thing had been accomplished.

I spent the rest of today getting everything packed and doing some last minute shopping. Tomorrow morning at 6am starts the uncharted territory that is my summer this year. Wish me luck, and I'll post soon.