Monday, October 27, 2008

mainland madness

We spent the last week in the largest city in Tanzania; Dar Es Salaam. We attended a conference but also went out a day early to do some mainland shopping, eating, and general regrouping. I guess I did not realize how much I missed some "Western" things like sandwiches, air conditioning, and wearing pants until I got to experience them. I earned these special treats as the ferry ride over was horrid. It is about a 2 1/2 hour ride and the waves were so choppy that I started to feel sick about 1 hour in. After handing Anni off to Jason I proceeded to rotate puking in every bathroom on board for about 20 minutes. When I finally felt a bit better I made me way back to Jason and Annikah. As soon as I made eye contact with him I knew something was wrong. Annikah had just thrown up all over herself, him, our bags, everything. It was a mess. So off I went with Anni while Jason tried to clean himself up. We spent the last hour of the "scenic voyage from hell" on the deck trying to get fresh air with many locals; some of whom were also puking into plastic bags. Annikah and I filled her plastic travel potty with puke 4 times and poor Jason (rockstar award) emptied it for us each time. He felt like such an idiot walking through the boat with a potty-o-puke but he gallantly helped us out as we were just trying to cope until we reached land. After going through three outfits Annikah exited the ferry wearing only her Elmo chupis. It was a bit embarrassing exiting the boat with a naked child and covered in puke myself but we survived and I vowed that even if it means I can only leave the island once a year I will fly thank you very much! Annikah kept telling us "Annikah no like that boat, Annikah only like Grandma's boat" for the next few days.
Fortunately the ferry ride was no reflection on the rest of our time in Dar. It was a refreshing week with time spent with others working in Tanzania. The best part was hearing the awesome things going on throughout the country. We were really encouraged to stick it out through the rough adjustment period. I also did not have to cook or clean for a whole week and I got to go running each morning. One morning I was running when two fairly large dogs came tearing across a dirt road after me. I was fully aware that this pups probably had never had a vaccine in their lives and that the situation could get bad very quickly. Despite all my mileage in my life I could not outrun them and one bit down pretty hard on my calf. I shock him off quickly and ran like I have never run before. Luckily Cujo only broke the skin in one place and a doctor at our conference quickly examined my leg and said after a good washing I should be fine. I still have a big jaw shaped bruise but no foaming at the mouth for me so I think I am good. It was the first time in my life I was glad to have chunky calves :) Despite the puking and dog bite it was a fabulous week. Our friends Alex and Julie get mad props for showing us around Dar. Alex drove through the crazy traffic and drivers, Julie and I were heard screaming more than a few times as we drove through the city. We got our fill of pork, Subway(they have Subway in DAR- no turkey though but my chicken breast sub was excellent), and stocking up on supplies we cannot get on the island. Annikah, Julie, and I took a small plane home (it was crazy hot up in there but only 20 minutes!) and Jason and Alex hauled all the stuff on the cheaper ferry (thanks boys!). I was extremely grateful for the barf-free flight that also boasted some amazing views (see video).
A few highlights of our trip below:
our family at the conference center
We spotted a store named Chicago!!

Thank the Lord for Subway sandwiches...I ate that in about 30 seconds!

Jason & Alex enjoy a burger & ribs!!!

a playground in Dar

Look what we found in one of the mall stores....looks like in Africa they start decorating even earlier than the US!!

bacon & berries...Jason & Anni enjoy 2 things we cannot get on the island

on the plane puke boat for us!

Julie & Annikah enjoy the plane ride

weekend escape part 2

A few of weekends ago (I have been a slacker in posting mostly due to the Internet issues we have here-pole sana (sorry)) we had the opportunity to again visit our friend's place. They are in Kenya and graciously offered up their seaside home to anyone of us who wanted to get away for a day or two. We came up on a Saturday morning and left Sunday afternoon but it was so fabulous for a few reasons....A.) Although packing is not always fun I did not have to cook full meals as we ate out once and brought simple things like beans to reheat in our Sun Oven (thanks Dre & Jim- it rocks) B.) this is the view front the front yard...need I say more?
C.) we were able to spend time as a family, no people stopping by, no team meetings, just a day and a half to hang out and relax. We spent time in the ocean, I spent time in the sun reading, Annikah spent time digging for shells, and Jason got to swim a bit. On Saturday night we headed out to find a place to eat along the beachfront. Little did we know it would take us over an hour of walking and then over an hour of waiting for our food to actually get food but as I said before we are learning to be a ton more patient. I think once we ordered they sent someone out to get the veggies and other ingredients; seriously. Despite the marathon wait the people that were working at the restaurant were very nice and we did get to practice language a bit. Because we had to wait so long for the food we ended up walking back to their house well after sunset which was not the safest thing in the world but the view of the ocean and the sand with only the reflection of the moon was amazing. We were thankful for the reminder to slow down and experience life, even the "inconveniences" here teach us to just be, not to worry so much about doing. No complainants here...just look at these pictures....

as we walked along the beach we caught a bit of local football
Anni & Jason take a dip before lunch
Annikah chills on the cow skin chairs
finally Anni enjoys her samosas and pasta

Sunday, October 26, 2008

beach therapy

So after my day yesterday I was so excited that today we went to the beach for half the day with friends. Hunkering down in the grainy, hot sand and floating blissfully in the cool sea waves is equivalent to at least 3 hours of intense therapy. Ah, much, much better. It also helps that at least a few others mentioned how unbearably hot it was yesterday including some locals so that makes me feel a little better. Although I am sure it did not bring anyone else to tears (who me overly emotional? NO!) at least I felt vindicated that it indeed was wicked steamy and not that I am seriously losing my mind, although I never rule that out completely. After some fabulous rain last night it has cooled off tremendously and being seaside made life not only bearable but enjoyable again. We had a picnic lunch on the beach and even saw dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water. Amazing! Here are some pictures of our day.

self take

Saturday, October 25, 2008

too hot to function

Ok, so I just spent 20 minutes crying because it is hot. And Annikah is sick and crabby. And it is dusty and dirty. But mostly because it is hot. Like I want to run around with ice cubes in my bra hot. Like I already took 4 cold showers today hot (I did not work out at all, I just sweat sitting). I had great intentions of working on language today, cleaning the house after our week away, and planning school stuff for this week but it is just too hot to function. I never thought heat would affect me like this but I am cranky, exhausted, fed up. I sat down to check email and saw that it was 44 degrees today in Chicago. It was 96 degrees here inside our house. I really miss home. Today is full of culture shock and doubt. Full of fear that I can never really adjust to living here. I know this will pass but I also want to acknowledge where I am this moment and in this space. I am just too hot to function.
I will update soon about our fabulous trip to the mainland!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

in Dar

Just wanted to post a quick "we are alive & well" post as I have been quiet for more than a week (not like me to EVER be quiet :). We are on the mainland and Internet has been a challenge but we are well and enjoying time with many others working in Tanzania. We have loved the shopping, Jason & Anni have been enjoying pork, and I got to eat a Subway sandwich :) (pictures soon). Annikah and I got terribly sick of the ferry ride over so we will be flying back while Jason takes the puke boat as I not so fondly refer to it now tomorrow. More updates soon.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Mama is teacher"

I have been a bit quiet lately on the blog front because I have been crazy busy as I am teaching at a nursery school this month. Long story but here is the shortened version ...after being here for only a couple months I realized that if I really want to learn the language I need time to attend school, study, do the computer program and practice with a helper uninterrupted. Now, all mamas out there know we are the queens of multitasking, not only because we can accomplish a ton at once like replying to an email, returning a call, making a grocery list, entertaining a toddler, and cooking dinner simultaneously but mostly because we have no choice and stuff needs to get done. I have been trying to do just that with mixed results and most days I feel exhausted as I try to attend team meetings, practice language, build relationships, adjust to life here, and hang out with Annikah. Something just has to give if I am going to be able to be a full time and productive member of the team here. Because we are moving forward on the school (more to come but exciting news as we have the location and blueprints) I NEED to learn Kiswahili.

I started asking around to some other Mamas I have met and heard about this nursery school founded by a South African Mama so her daughter would have a place to interact and learn. I called her we hit it off immediately but the problem was that even though the price is ridiculously low compared to the states (it is non-for profit and only costs about 140 dollars US a month for five half days a week) we still could never afford that at our current salary. She asked a bit more about me and upon discovering I am a teacher and taught preschool stateside for a year all but begged me to help her out. She has hired a new teacher for the school but she will not be here full time until November and the current teacher had to quit because she is pregnant, sick, and heat is too much for her (I am not pregnant and it is too much for me most days so I have sympathy!). So they have been trying to cover the school with parents filling in and the result has been a lot of exhausted people and a bit of chaos for the kids. She offered to barter for my teaching help for this month; I would teach for the entire month and then Annikah could attend the school for 3 months full time or 6 months part time. She even threw in breakfast and lunch everyday at a really nice hotel for us to make it easier (no fast food here so having to cook 3 meals after teaching would not allow me much time for anything). After talking it over with Jason we decided we simply had to jump at the offer. Of course I wanted to help the school out after visiting and seeing the awesome potential and I am really excited about the opportunities Annikah has to interact with other kids from around the world (many of the kids are ex-pats from around the world (Italy, UK, India, Tanzania, Poland, Kenya, Mozambique) and then some local kids who are sponsored to attend). I teach in English but there are a few kids who only speak Kiswhaili and the helpers are all local people so it gives me a chance to practice language as well. Last week I had to explain why a child was in time out in Kiswahili I think I manged to say something like "no bite friend, wait here." Hopefully he understood, at least he stopped biting. I absolutely love one of the helpers named Mama Theresa who has 12 children of her own, she is so patient and loving and teaches the kids Kiswahili songs that I am trying to pick up. She has showed me the ropes and is so appreciative to have a teacher with her now.

I will only be teaching for this one month so I can focus on team stuff and language but for now I am loving being with the kids and feeling more like myself by teaching again. It is also pretty amazing that for our "active play time" we can hit the beach or explore the ancient ruins next door to the school. Annikah has loved all the new activities although she has had a few rough days adjusting to me being the teacher of so many other kids I think it is setting in now as a few days ago she came home and told Jason "Mama is teacher." I have started doing a circle time with the kids everyday where we count in English and Kiswahili, say our ABC's, and then my friend the monkey comes to talk with us (I am using a bath washrag puppet that we brought for Anni and his name is Mr. Kima, no worries I learned my lesson) and he tells us about the special letter of the day and tells us stories of his escapeds through the jungle. Annikah loves this silly washrag puppet so much that on Friday when he kissed the kids goodbye she started wailing. She is such an emotional wreck...wonder where she gets that? So for now I am the mama and the teacher. Here are some pictures of Annikah & her new rafikis:

Annikah & her new rafikis playing with some homemade play dough

snack time at school ...fresh tropical fruit

some of the kiddos showing off our home made
"gari mdogo" (small car)

inside the fort

exploring the ruins next to our school

Annikah searching the fort ruins for flowers and leaves to collect

Friday, October 10, 2008

the importance of vowels

Two instances in recent life that demonstrate this.

First last week I was feeling rotten because I had some weird stomach bug AGAIN that was kicking my butt for a few days. I managed the strength (ok, a bit dramatic but it helps with the story) and I was outside hanging laundry when a neighbor asked me how I was feeling to which I replied "nzuri kidogo kwa sababu tembo si nsuri" which I thought meant, "I am only ok (you never really say "not good" you only say a little good in Kiswahili which of course begs the question what do you say if everything just plain sucks...) because my stomach hurts (or is not good)" but when she responded by laughing and chatting with the Mama of our Mlinzi I realized I actually said "I am not well because my elephant is not well"

Tembo is elephant and tumbo is stomach. opps! I held my stomach so the meaning was clear but there was again some laughter at my expense.

The second time I switched vowels it was an innocent mistake with a rather raunchy outcome.

After returning from our fabulous trip to see the Colobus monkeys at the national park I blurted out to our Mlinzi and his wife "Lao, tunatazama kuma nyingi sana ndani miti "and I thought this meant "today we watched many monkeys in the trees" but after I uttered my sentence, that I might add I was pretty darn proud of, Mama laughed hysterically at me. Now, as readers of this blog know well she often cracks up at the antics of my Mzungu self but I did think it was rather odd how funny this seemed to her but alas not being able to clearly ask why it was so hilarious (or understand the answer) I figured it was no big deal. That was until today when I happened to be looking up a word in our Kiswahili dictionary (kuliko) when my eye wondered down the page and I saw the following entry for kuma.

Kuma:noun, vagina

Fabulous, so I actually announced with gusto "today we watched many vaginas in the trees."

A monkey is Kima not Kuma. Duly noted.

Now this is true in English as well, if you mean to say "shut the door" but switch just the u you say something quite different but really did I have to learn this my telling people I watched vaginas in the trees? My only consolation is that I caught it before I practiced my new sentence with the entire neighborhood. At least I can laugh at myself, right?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

when monkeys attack

said perpetrators of crimes against Annikah Joy
Last week we took the advice of some friends here and drove out to check out a national forest about an hour away. This forest is the only place on earth that Kirk's red colobus monkeys are native and as we learned on our walking tour there are about 2,500 total in the world with 1,000 being here! The species is endemic to Unnguja and has been isolated from other red colobus population for thousands of years. They are a protected species here and known locally as "kima punju" or poison monkeys as it was believed that animals that ate them would lose their fur, and trees and crops would die if the monkeys fed off them. They may also be called this because of their inability to digest sugars from ripe fruit. They have four chambered stomachs that can digest unripe and toxic fruit easily and they even eat charcoal. We were expecting to maybe catch a few glimpses of the monkeys high above us in the trees but as the video below shows we saw them up close and personal. We felt as though we were IN the cage at the zoo (I wish the video was a high quality but alas the Internet here does not allow for me to upload videos that are of any decent size but I hope you can get the idea). One of the monkeys even came down to say "hi" to Annikah and assaulted her by grabbing at her leg (while we realize of course monkeys can be very dangerous we had a guide with us and these monkeys are very used to people). Annikah was a bit terrified but after being held by us and thus restoring her faith that we would not allow the offending monkeys to raise her as one of their own she kept asking to "see monkeys again" the rest of our hike through the forest. We also walked down to a mangrove swamp that was beautiful. The mangrove roots are so strong you can stand and walk on them. It is amazing to get to see God's creation here, so vastly different from our normal but so rich in creativity and depth.

Anni in front of the amazing roots of a massive tree

Jason in front of the "local Viagra tree"

on our forest hike
Annikah & Papa walk along the bridge in the mangrove swamp
standing on the mangrove roots, those suckers are strong!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

an announcement of general public interest

Although Annikah occasionally is still having a few near misses I am pleased to announce she is of the chupi wearing crowd!! She even made it 2 hours in the car, and a whole morning in a national park (update to come) with no accidents, we were excited!!

She wanted to tell the world in her own words.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Eid festivities

Ramadan is over and there is mad partying going on here. The best way to describe the celebration is that it is similar to the hoopla surrounding Christmas stateside. After the month of fasting there is a four day Eid festival, parties, tons of eating, presents, and in general the people are a lot happier....they can eat now and that always makes me happy! We have been crazy busy as well with guests stopping over (I have been baking an arsenal of banana bread to be standing by in case someone comes over with a gift which has come in handy a few times). We have also been checking out the festivities because it is valuable for us to understand the culture and attend events like this, plus anywhere where there is food, loud music, and hundreds of people I am there!! We went to the Eid festival 3 days in a row because we were told that we had to attend and every time we we there we would run into people we knew from our neighborhood. We were always hearing "mama Anni?" being screamed from some direction and it was a blessing to realize that we are beginning to settle in and be known, something we so loved about living in Chicago. We also got to hang out with our team members that attended and explore together. It seems as though everyone goes to the celebration as it is packed. It is like a huge street fest in Chicago with food, music, and games. The games are not so much Bozo buckets as casino games for kids.

ring toss....very creative

gambling for tikes

Just to give you a glimpse of the festivities the first day of Eid was children's day and the kids can ask anyone for money or candy (luckily we had candy on hand). It is sort of like Halloween except the kids are all wearing brand new (if they can afford it) outfits. The girl's especially are dressed to the 9's in dresses and siblings usually have the same fabric for their outfits. The women also wear new clothes in bright fabrics and many have heena done. They sell tons of children's toys at the festival that we have never seen elsewhere here. We were able to find Annikah a plastic tea set for her new table. She has already had numerous chai parties with her friend. We also managed to be stealthy and stock up on a few Christmas presents that are now in hiding for her as well since we have never seen this many toys anywhere here and the prices were not bad. There was even an area set up with blow up bouncy castles and mini trampolines. It was 500 shillings for 5 minutes (about 40 cents) and Anni got to play 10 minutes each day, except the first day as in African style they had everything set out but no one knew when they would get power so nothing was blown up. Annikah LOVED jumping around and playing on the slides and we decided to let her go everyday as it will be a year before that is set up again. We also played a bit of food Russian roulette by trying various street vendor foods. With only one bad result (I will spare you the details but lets just say our stomach's are getting tougher living here) we overall loved it, especially the fresh sugar cane juice with lime. After dark it is so dark that it is difficult to see but we manged to find our car each night and drive out of the festival, trust me this was a miracle. It was awesome to get to experience the way another culture celebrates and although there are so many differences I am constantly amazed at how similar people are, whether we live in Tanzania or Chicago. To celebrate people eat, play, laugh, listen to music, and are surrounded by others. We really enjoyed being able to be a part of the festivities.

Jason and Anni search for some local food to try
Annikah sports her new sunglasses purchased for 30 cents,
she had to get a pair for her rafiki too!
tons of kids & toys

our cheesy photo booth picture..we had to get one...gotta love the background

the festival after dark
ice cream bars...YUM!
Anni loved her mango Popsicle
When we got home Annikah and her rafiki sported their matching shades!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

maji ni nzuri!

Maji means water and we love it around here, cold and plenty of it as it is really heating up. People that have lived her for a bit keep telling us "just wait until January" but we refuse to acknowledge that it can get any hotter. We prefer to remain ignorant and for now get as much time in the water as possible and pray that our systems get used to the heat. This week the high tide times are ideal (around 4pm in the afternoon- after Anni's nap, before dinner) so we are trying hard to make sure we get our language study, household stuff, and team agenda items done early in the day so as to get out to the beach at high tide. We had one day where we had to stick around the house the entire day because Jason and a friend built a screen door for our kitchen (at my request so I do not pass out when using the oven) and since it was crazy hot I decided we simply had to blow up Grammy's present of a baby pool. We loaned Anni's rafiki a swimsuit and the girls had a wicked fun time splashing around all morning. I literally had to drain the thing to get them out. I think if it really does get hotter my Mzungu butt might be hanging out in the baby pool too! Here is a video montage of the girls enjoying the pool. Forgive my constant Kiswahili practice, I take it whenever I can get it: