Posts tagged tanzania

Post from Tuesday night…

Today was awesome, but tiring. Did our first session of actually teaching and it was great! The students gave us good reviews, and it sure felt good to be doing what I came here to do. The school we’re teaching at is a vocational secondary school, so we’re working with late teen-early 20’s students, the highest-risk age group. The school teaches many vocational courses, including tailoring. I was so intrigued, I asked the headmistress to see the tailoring class, and told her that that is what I used to teach in the US. It was really neat to see my old career manifested in such a different country. Most sewing machines here are pedal-powered, as electricity is a real luxury. The cool thing about this, is that many tailors work on the (awning covered) sidewalks in front of their shops, so they can chat with their friends, and watch the world go by while they work, which is so much more pleasant than sitting in some stuffy room all day. The students, however, work in a classroom, and I was overjoyed to be able to greet them, and tell them I used to do the same sort of work, and teach it as well. I also told them how hard it is to find good patternmakers in Los Angeles, and wished them well in their careers. The headmistress said she has been desperately trying to find a volunteer to help teach tailoring, and would love it if I could teach sometime. I said I’d be happy to give her about 1 hour a week, to try and help, so we’ll see how it goes. It will be interesting to teach something so familiar with a translator, making it a whole new experience.

Then I did some shopping downtown, and discovered that blackouts are so common here that everyone has a generator! Many businesses were open, with noisy generators belching diesel fuel out front, making me long for the fresh country air that exists only a few steps away from downtown Arusha. Apparently some a-hole multinational (Bechtel, presumably) decided that hydroelectric is the best type of powerplant to build in a place that has no rain fall most of the year, so the dry season can mean months with no power. Why it’s spotty during these rainy days (this is the heart of the 2-month long rain season) is beyond me. I sure wish someone (BP, perhaps???) would bring affordable solar to the people here in Africa! Even natural gas is bought in canisters, there are no natural gas pipelines around to bring gas to people’s stoves! If hot water were as important to people who’ve done without for so long as it is to me, I’d consider buying a solar water heating system for the woman who owns the place where I’m living, but she needs a PV solar panel much more than she needs hot water. She’s concerned that when her current job ends in 2008 she won’t be able to afford the $32 p/month electric bill. I read in “Business in Africa” today that Lake Victoria has experienced a 45% decrease in water since Uganda built a dam to power a hydroelectric plant. But that’s impossible, so I’ll check the facts and get back to ya. I think what they meant is that 45% of the loss could be attributed to that dam, but did not specify just how much the water level had dropped.


Finally got some pix up! Had to switch to Snapfish cuz .mac is lame. Soooo…go here to view multiple albums:

Here’s some stuff I wrote last week, and hadn’t posted….

I have moved into my homestay, and could not have asked for a better match! Jacqueline and I are very like-minded. We’re both in our 30’s, and want to remain child-free, but want to get married primarily as a cure for loneliness. Her home is much nicer than the hostel, I have a private room with a comfy queen size bed. She is from Nairobi, and two of my college roommates were too, and we got along famously, so I have a good feeling about this. We live in a small compound that is gated and guarded by a Masaii man, 24/7. Jackline’s house is a 2b/2ba, and the main house is huge, but I haven’t had a tour of it yet. It was a huge relief, as we drove up a very bumpy dirt road (and that’s understated) past numerous shanties. Farida had told us that our homestays would have electricity and running water, and these places all looked like they had neither!


Today we went on Safari, to Lake Manyara. I had seen a show about the flamingoes of Lake Manyara, and was excited to see them live, although we couldn’t get very close to them at all, since we had to stay in the car at all times, except lunch, which was on a nice overlook with a spectacular view. On the drive we saw: Impalas, and learned about their mating practices; Monkeys, Baboons, Giraffes, Hippos, and a Dikidiki. We also saw a bunch of elephants, including one that was strolling up the road ahead of us, and when we approached, he turned around, as if to charge us. So Charles stopped the car, waited until the elephant was far enough ahead, then drove. He said they will usually only charge is we disobey them three times. We didn’t want to test the limits of an animal big enough to tip a landcruiser!


As a child, I was a very picky eater. Getting me to eat anything other than chocolate was always a terrible chore. So, like many American mothers, my mom would tell me, “Think of all the starving children in Africa!!!” As if guilt would work on me. It didn’t, but I have become very conscious of waste in my old age, especially here in Arusha where the starving children right outside the restaurant will fight over the leftovers we give them. It feels good to know I can finally leave some food on my plate without guilt, as there is always someone to give it to.

Today was labor day (International Worker’s Day) for the rest of the world (outside the US) and there was an excellent parade through the center of town. Didn’t take any pix, as adults just aren’t as cute as kids, and well, I was running late. It was fun walking in stride with the parade, though. Most shops are closed for the holiday, and I am growing weary of the lack of modern conveniences I have had all my life. So, today I’m a little cranky, but I’ll get over it. I might hit a meeting tonight, but will definitely go to one tomorrow night. I’ve been bucket showering the past 3 nights and line drying just doesn’t have the same effect in the rainy season. A bucket shower involves heating up some water on the stove, puring it into a large bucket, mixing it with cold water to temperature, then pouring it over your head with a smaller bucket. I’m not really enjoying it, and I sure hope the hot water spout is working when I get home, as I can’t keep this up. Friday night we’re going to a “Sending Off” party, which is like a bridal shower, then the next morning we’re off for Ngorongoro crater…

Culture shock?

Well, first of all, let me apologize for being retarded. I was so sure that I carefully recorded my phone number and sent it out, but no. I left out a zero. Sooooo for those of you who wish to call my cell in Tanzania, the real number is (no longer valid) from the US. It’s free for me to receive calls, and Arusha is 10 hours ahead of California.

Also, I had my dad mail me something I’d forgotten, not realizing that there’s no such thing as a mailman in Arusha. Everyone’s mail is delivered to the post office, and businesses/people with money have private PO boxes!!! So I will go there on Tuesday (tomorrow is Labor Day here) and see what’s up. I almost cried when I found out that after trying 3 banks in town, even waiting in line for a spell, and then taking a taxi out to Barclays (only a $2 ride, but still) to get money for my work permit (which the gov’t is now demanding GSC provide for all volunteers) I was supposed to pay it in US dollars!!!! Wow, so this is what they mean when they say that the USD is the standard currency for the world!! Holy Shamoly. So one of the GSC employees walked me over to a “Bureau de Change” which was actually a very small hardware store, which happened to stock some $$$ for exchanging as well. Any passer-by would not suspect it, so it was very amusing.

I had some posts pre-written, but because it’s Sunday, and the cafe where I can plug in my own computer is closed at 2, I’ll post those later. Today we went to church, it was an Anglican church that Sister (the title used for nurses, not just nuns)Margareth goes to. It was really fun, the singing was beautiful, and I was excited that I could tell when they were reciting the Nicene Creed, just by the cadence. Even though I have rejected my parent’s faith, it was nice to be there for them. We were asked to stand up and the preacher (who very closely resembles an ex-boyfriend of mine!) introduced us to the Parish. I read in a Kenyan paper that the CATHOLIC church actually admitted that the use of condoms is a far lesser sin than the travesty of living with HIV, and that they are considering allowing condom use for the prevention of HIV. I just about fell over. Man, if they change their view on condoms, I’ll take back every bad thing I ever said about Catholicism, and maybe even join a convent, just to express my gratitude for them finally waking up to the realities of modern life. Next Sunday, Margareth will take me to the church that does a “high church” ceremony, aptly named “Christ Church” (the name of the Anglican church I was raised in).

I’m pretty bummed that I can’t just wander the streets at night, especially alone. Mzungu (white people), especially with a purse or backpack, are common targets. I had been avoiding the Dala Dala (local busses, actually minivans) because they are very crowded and it is easy to be robbed on them. But Margareth and I were together, and I figured I’d be safe with her. They escorted me to the front seat, just the same, as I was the only Mzungu on the bus.

I am bummed that I’ll be missing Fontana and Sears Point AMA races, but hey, there are plenty of other distractions…


Arrived in Arusha after a very long but comfortable flight, next to a German woman who was on her way here to help with water treatment and delivery. The night before I was very trepidatious, wondering what it would be like, thinking of the stories I’d heard from others. There was a little drama at the airport, as one of my bags (luckily the one full of gifts, not necessities) had been left in Amsterdam by KLM. So after some paperwork, I joined my fellow volunteers and our two counterparts (escorts) for an exercise in creative packing. We stuffed 5 adults, and a boatload of luggage into a Rav4 for the 25 miles trip into town. We’re staying at this hostel at a Catholic school in a lovely part of town, and it’s easy to walk around town. The city center is tiny, crowded, dirty and busy, but so exciting. Street vendors are constantly trying to sell us things, and I have promised all of them that I will be happy to buy their merchandise later, since I will be here for a month.

The foliage in Arusha is stunning! I’m so glad I came at the tail end of the rainy season, it’s gorgeous here. My fellow volunteers and our local counterparts are all really nice. Right now we’re hanging out in the office of a Scottish Safari tour operator, who is nice enough to let me use his DSL. I am loving the people, and the extreme difference of the culture here. This week we are in training, learning some Swahili, and about to learn the program we’ll be teaching. I was under the impression it’d be like Planned Parenthood, teaching high-school kids, but it’s even better. What GSC does here is have us teach a carefully selected group of people from certain villages, who are then certified to teach the course to others, thus making it exponential education.

Frida, the boss, told us that there is also a lecture presented by a local healthy, HIV-positive woman who tells the trainees of her experiences. Luckily, HIV testing here is very cheap, the cost of a can of Red Bull even free for students! So the only thing keeping people from testing is fear and ignorance. Frida told us that the clinic has reported to her the number of people who came for testing after hearing our talks. So I’m happier than ever to be a part of this organization.

Tanzanian people are gorgeous, even if most of the men are shorter and younger than me. Some of these women make me wish I was a model scout, as they are devastatingly gorgeous. The street kids are interesting, and I’m glad that my counterpart Euphrasia (awesome name!) told me the story.Yes, there are many AIDS orphans here, but it is still possible for a kid to go to school without money or sponsorship, so the children who say they cannot afford their school fees are just making excuses. Most primary schools in Tanzania are boarding schools, to keep the critters out of trouble, and also to encourage inter-tribal interaction. Kids are usually sent to boarding schools far from home. Street children are often drug addicts, just like in “Darwin’s Nightmare,” so I want to find a way to help them find recovery, but the best I can do for now is tell them to go to school.

Darwin’s Nightmare

What a great film. I thought it was just going to be about Lake Victoria, but really it’s about all the people affected, both directly and indirectly, by the Nile Perch fishing industry in Mwanza, Tanzania. It was an excellent film to help prepare me for my trip, as Mwanza and Arusha are both large cities, with the sorts of problems large cities often have.

In other news, I’m going to try a new trick to rid me of the character flaw I refuse to let go of. Instead of being enraged by the fact that pretty much nobody in LA knows how to drive, I’ll just remind myself that being angry isn’t going to make them better drivers. All it does is make me hoarse. I calmly face all manner of atrocities going on in the world by simply focusing my energy on what I can do. If I can’t do anything about it, it’s not my problem and I need to ignore it. But if there is even a little bit I can do to help, well, I do that, instead of sitting around bitching about it. Serenity prayer in action, cutting through traffic like a hot knife through extra-crunchy peanut butter.