oh there's NO place like HOME for the holidays...


So happy. Last days in London were PHENOMENAL. Went to Phantom of the Opera, We Will Rock You, and sweet London places like the Tower of London, Oxford Street shopping and Hyde Park.

After a very long flight home next to a Spaniard and Italian, neither of which spoke very good English, I'm back at home in Sammamish, having a blast with the fam.

Assignment for you:


I have lots of minutes to use up (like that will be an issue...) and chances are good that if I sent you the link to this blog I'll want to talk to you. So call me. 801-735-7940. Asante.


have a few minutes...

First of all, mad props to Holiday Group and Wendycakes for hooking us up with the sweet room in London. (yes, I did just say mad props and no, i don't plan on saying it again) The hotel/timeshare is right off of Hyde Park, a couple minutes walk to a couple tubes and very close to shopping. We've got a kitchen, a nice hot shower (my personal favorite) and the nicest staff. Even the other guests are awesome. I was trying to get a hold of my friend Katie today so we could meet up tomorrow and some random guy from the lobby just let me use his phone. "I can afford it" he says. Okay. Good news for me.

Prague--- Czech ME Out!!
Prague was a dream. A frozen, chilly, snowy dream, but a dream nonetheless. We mostly stayed in all the touristy areas which was great because they were... dreamy! We wandered a lot soaking in a very medieval (no idea how to spell that word) atmosphere. Old Town Square had adorable stands selling trinkets, toys, sausage and hot alcohol. Poor stand workers, all bundled up in the freezing cold.

One night we went to this Mozart Ballet-Opera-Syphony thing at a big theater house. We bought the tickets from some guys in costumes, so you'd think it would have been in the big theater, but it turned out to be in the basement. It wasn't a bad show, just... not what we expected. The next day we went to the National Museum, which is housed in the hugest palace downtown. You can't avoid seeing the mansion so we thought the exhibition inside would be equally majestic. Turns out it was a lot of rocks, fossils and dead animals. Go figure.

The big palace made it all up though. It's one of those very European-Castle on the Hill-So grandeose and magnificent you can't even believe it's real places. It would have been nuts to live there, that's all I have to say. Totally nuts. The view was over the entire city and I took it in while warming myself up with some Turkish hot chocolate.

It didn't snow until the last day, about 15 minutes before we left for the airport. It was enough snow somehow still to delay our flight about 2 hours. I feel like I really know the Czech airport.

On 1st World Countries and Heat in General
The transition has been weird. I have to admit. Not hard really, just weird. Really very extremely weird. Here's some reasons why:

  • It's 0 degree celsius here. I went from 90 degrees to snow in a matter of hours. My body doesn't quite know what's going on, I can tell. I think my mind still tells me that I'm going to be roasting everywhere I go, and then it's a supershock when I'm not just not roasting or regular temperature, but freezing cold. Plus side: I found myself 2 winter coats, both of which I am enamored with.
  • Juice isn't juice. The hotel we stayed at in Prague (Hotel Clemintin btw, highly recommend it. Odd size blankets but lovely still) came with a full breakfast. The first day I had orange juice. It was delicious. The second morning I had this deep orangy-red juice. I sat there, rolling the juice around in my mouth - trying to decipher which fruit it was. Juice comes straight from fruit, right? and usually minutes befores it's served. I asked Christie what she thought and she gave me a funny look and said something to the effect of "It's probably some mango guava fruity mix" Right. Concentrate. Like not fresh squeezed.
  • Even non-fast food comes fast. Just about every menu in Tanzania has a note that says "food takes 45 minutes to be prepared and served." This was generally true. If you wanted to eat at 8, you got there by 6:45, because service is slow and food is slower. They must have been butchering, curing, flavoring and preparing because here, even though the service is still slow (I'm convinced it's because tips aren't so earned as they are at home) the food comes, and it comes fast. It's not bad.
  • $$$$ I'm surprised and astonished, as I'm sure you will be when I report that things in Africa are a heck of a lot cheaper than they are here. Even in Prague which was reportedly one of the cheapest European cities I felt like money was just burning through my pockets. I'm not quite sure what I spent it on, but it was spent, and fast.
  • I'm sick of exchange rates. I've gone from Tanzanian Shillings (roughly $1 = Tsh1000) to Kenyan Shillings ($1 = Ksh75) to Czech Korunys ($1 = about Kc25) and now to Pounds. I'm not sure what the conversion is here, but it's not good. I try to figure out what I'm spending and I don't know. I honestly don't know.
  • It's not real life, there's no real connection, I just... miss it. Tanzania in all honestly has become like home. I miss it like I'm homesick, I really do. I miss the ocean and the hot, muggy air. I miss Jenny and I watching OC, putting peanut butter on everything and collapsing into bed after a long day. and oh, I miss my kids. I never thought I'd ache for them, but I do. I wish I didn't. As cheezy and dramatic and cliche as it sounds, part of me will always be there. It's a part of me I don't feel right about leaving behind. I'm planning my trip back already. I can't go my whole life without another dalla dalla ride, I just can't. What's worse, not many people get it. I guess I'll just have to deal with that.

Well, there's much more of london to be seen. Hopefully lots more stories. I'm seeing We Will Rock You tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited. I LOVE QUEEN!


oh the weather outside is frightful....

BRRRR. Its cold out here, there must be some.... holiday.... cheer....

Loving every minute of Prague, but still really anxious to be home. I miss my bed!


Czech me out!

In prague, loving every minute. its freezing out but the christmas spirit is alive and well. the history here is amazing, the architecture is no joke breathtaking. i swear at least 15 times a day i grab christies arm and just near fall over looking up at these buildings. its unreal. were soaking in the atmosphere, eating up the history - and lots of keilbasa while we're at it- going through lots and lots of money, and of course meeting lots of cute, international... friends.


Kwa Heri Africa

trans. Goodbye Africa. Officially my last night in Kenya was last night. It was grand. Spent the evening at the White Sands Resort (super ritzy hotel on the North Coast) drinking sweet passion juice, dancing to bad 90's pop music, start gazing, watching the sun rise. What a send off!


Picha picha

I don't know how to make it right side up, but turn your head 90 degrees and see Shamsia and baby Sabrina, my hosts. I absolutely love them to peices.

Here I am at the orphanage, mauled by grimey hands. Can't get enough of my hair.
Here I am pitifully trying to dance like an African. I just don't have what it takes.

Last day on the job...

Said goodbye to all the kids today. I'm ready to go.
  • Danced with the big girls (This girl Dina, who is actually the Reverend's daughter is back from boarding school and she told me she'd heard that I dance well. Uh oh. She was super cool though. She reminds me of Denise from the Cosby Show after she goes to college. She's got the rasta braids, cool clothes, good advice for the younguns. I want to be her friend.)
  • Played "President or Lion" (aka Heads or Tails) with the little boys
  • Painted watery colored chalk onto the big boys faces (I know, what?)
  • Washed some dishes (actually I was in charge of the rinsing bucket)
  • The little girls played with my hair (they love my non-african "soft" hair. They love brushing it, can't figure out why it won't stay in braids without rubber bands)
  • Planned with the reverend (the guy in charge) how I'm going to build him a website. Sure, I can learn html during Christmas break...

Got it all covered. Man I love it here.


Maybe they're young, maybe they're smart, maybe they collect things like ashtrays and art

Little orphan Annie had it rough. After working at the orphanage I'm somehow more and more grateful for my family. Me and another volunteer were planning some Christmas activities for the kids (she'll be here for the big day, poor girl) and it is totally depressing to think that they don't get any Christmas spirit. We've planned all sorts of crazy fun holiday things like a nativity, advent calendar, arts and crafts, holiday piƱata and such.

I'll be honest I didn't like the kids here much at first. They weren't as cute as my Tanga kids, lets face it, my Tanga kids were hard to top. But these kids are still pretty sweet. I've become good friends with most of the teenage girls here. I figure being 15 at my house with 3 brothers was hard enough, being 15 with 35 other orphans must just suck. Absolutely no privacy. So we dance and chat, talk about boys. Normal 15-year-old girl stuff.

The littlest kids are afraid of me. They haven't seen too many with skin as white as mine before so they cry when they see me. My favorite kids is JJ. He's probably 7, he's always "home sick" from school, trying to jumprope but failing miserably. He likes to climb on my lap and cuddle. Ooh I want to bring him home with me! there's a USB drive on this computer so i'm gonna see if i can put a few pictures up. if not, you'll just have to wait a couple weeks and see them in person!!


Kompyuta Vibaya.

Bad Computer. I just typed up this really long and amazingly written update on life here and it all got deleted. So, I'm sick and tired of this computer and will give you a basic rundown. You'll have to fill in the gaps with my witty descriptions and anecdotes. In short:

-- I'm not MIA, it's just a hassle to get into town
-- Mombasa is kind of like NYC, with different "boroughs" - I live in Brooklyn
--To get to "Manhatten" I have to cross a little ferry
--The ferry line sucks. It's crowded, smelly, and people chew their peanuts loudly in your ear. Lots of pushing
--The ferry itself, not bad. Lots of fresh air if you're lucky enough to get a good spot. Otherwise it's armpit and sweat.
--Homestay rocks. I want to bring them home with me; mom, dad, baby Sabrina, food and all. Mahamri my new favorite carb meal.
--Two days off because Kenya's voting on changing their constitution and they were afraid of riots. Dang sick of African politics. Orange (No) Campaign wins by a landslide
--Orphanage is way fun when kids aren't at school. The girls braided my hair (painful and ugly, these braids aren't meant for mzungu hair) and try to teach me to dance (I suck. There's a pelvic, hip, stomach jiggle thing that they assure me I'm getting better at. I'm convinced there's no hope)
--Have a crush on Isaac one of the guys who helps at the orphanage. He cooks, he cleans, he minds the kids, best of all he's got the best body on the planet. Maybe I'll just stay here...
--Not missing Thanksgiving, I hate thanksgiving food anyway. I'll be happy filling up on chapati, mahamri and lots of beans.
--I'm sure I'm missing something. But this'll do. Less than a week I have to say Baadaye to Africa. Again, maybe I'll just stay here...



So I'm in Kenya, and even though the city I'm in is less than 4 hours from Tanga, it is entirely different. I've been here about 3 days and I've found my first impressions of just about everything have been off. So, here's a list of my first impressions and how I was wrong.

Mombasa the city
At first, very overwhelming. Especially after being in Tanga which is really more of a town than a city. Dala dalas are everywhere and its nuts. Lots and lots of cars. Big busy streets. 10 story skyscrapers! Confusing.

We spent most of Sunday walking around and I realized it's not all that confusing. Yes there are lots of cars who drive fast, but if you're quick, you can still cross the streets. And, they don't pack the daladala quite so tightly here. What's more, I sat next to a guy in a dala dala wearing... [dramatic pause] deoderant. I know. Unbelievable. It's like the don't like smelling like BO. I can't get my head around it.

Other Volunteers
Cat was with me in Tanga, so I know her. As for the other volunteers, they seemed nice enough, but kind of bland. I'd be fine never seeing any of them again.

After a day of hanging out, I think they're all way fun. Chris is from England and is hilarious. He kind reminds me of Josh Forman, but with a huge bushy beard and of course an accent. There are two irish girls (a mother daughter team) who are working with me on my project. Bernie, the mother, is just so Irish. She walks with sort of a frantic waddle. Deirdre is planning her wedding for next year, so that's always fun.

Very important. On the way to my house are these really crap apartments. All dirty and noisy. Oh jeez. My homestay mom seemed really awkward.

After spending a night with them, they're all so nice and welcoming! The food is great, their English is good and baby Sabrina is adorable!

I'm working at an orphanage and a primary school. At first the orphanage seemed like it was falling apart. The school was great.

After a couple days working at the orphanage, I'm impressed. They do a lot with what the have, which isn't much. As for the school, it's fine. I just miss my kids in Tanga so much! It's hard to compare. These kids are smart, but boring.

Okay, so there's more, but I'll have to finish later. I'm so out of time. It's all good though.


I've got the munchies.

I was leaving Chuda yesterday and I swear to you I smelled a summer BBQ. Burgers, hot dogs, maybe even potato salad! mmmm I miss food.

I stayed at a hotel last night. The nicest one in Tanga. I had a hot shower, bad tv and even cereal for breakfast! Oooh I miss cereal.

Jenny leaves today to go home. I'm super bummed she's leaving, but still pretty thrilled for my next three weeks. Looks like my cousin Christie might be joining me in Europe.

I'm all packed up and ready to go. I have so much crap! Jenny's bringing home a suitcase full of souveniers for me. Christmas presents mostly. Can't wait for Christmas!!


I only have one more night at Chuda

Chuda is the name of the neighborhood where my house is and I'll be sad to leave it. To summarize, here are a list of things I'll miss:

Things I'll miss about Chuda
  1. Fatuma, our housekeeper. She speaks pretty decent English and actually understands sarcasm. She makes a mean chapati and has a beautiful daughter, Zawena. Plus, she makes my bed.
  2. Rashidi, our old guard. Okay, he doesn't work for us anymore, but he was the most adorable little guard ever. I think he was about 25 but he looked about 14 and spoke like a 9-year-old. No idea what he'd do if we were actually robbed. Probably cry.
  3. The 6 kids down the road. They love us. They chase after us and shout across the fields, not in an annoying way. Absolutely adorable.
  4. Rainy days. Sure there were a few leaks in the house, but now that it's the rainy season and the rains are piling up, its much more fun to jump in the puddles outside or listen to it POUND down at 2 am.
  5. Roomies. Brits, Irish, Swedes, Australians, and a couple Americans. We're quite the bunch.
  6. The shop around the corner and the guy that runs it. We buy lots of chocolate buscuits, he knows our usual order.

Okay so now things that I will NOT miss

  1. The leaky roof. Now that it's the rainy season, we're accumulating more and more puddles...indoors.
  2. The bathrooms. The one in the hall has a light straight out of a horror movie. When you turn it on it flickers for a good 25 seconds before any steady light.
  3. Tiny kitchen. Impossible to cook.
  4. Bananas on toast for breakfast...every day
  5. Smelly refridgerator
  6. My room is a freaking toaster. Even with the fan I want to die. It's so hot.
  7. Mosquito net the sinks down at the end, tickling my feet.
  8. My bed is not long enough for me, and at 5'2" it shouldn't be a problem
  9. The half hour walk down the railroad tracks when its hot out (always)
  10. Everyone but the little kids who tracks us down to talk to us ("Hey. Hey. Hey!!!" I turn to look, "Hi Mzungu") Get a life.
  11. Showers. They're cold, they're sporadic, they're uncomfortable. No getting around that.

Needless to say, it won't be too hard to move on.


Kenya info, not that there's much time

This time it's homestay, so I'll be living with a local family.

Mr. John M. Kiambi
P.O. Box 1244 - 80100

++254 722703665
++254 721852844

Pretty dang exciting!

Random picture of my family 5 years ago

On my mom's company's website. I'm the second one in on the right... What a party


Whoa Bessie...

Just back from Zanzibar. I know I was planning to go to Mombasa, but I figure by the weekend I'll be living there, so why bother. Plus, I had some friends going there so, why not pop off to paradise for the weekend? Zanzibar is an absolute dream. Perfect beaches, great history, lots of cool things to do and see.

The town itself reminds me of a cross between an old, stately Mexican city and Venice. This is because while there are many main streets around Stone Town, most of the residential area is little alleyway streets. With carved doors, elaborate balconies and winding paths, it makes for a pretty picturesque neighborhood. At night, in the Forodhoni Gardens, there's a big street food fair where everyone in town comes and hangs out in a big park. I had some good chapati, some interesting Zanzibar style pizza and even Baracuda!! Besides being semi-stalked by a crazy old Nigerian refugee, it was a pretty nice night.

Because it's right on some very big trade routes, the culture in Zanzibar is a cross between African and Arabian. On the mainland, most of the Arabs and the Africans are pretty separate, but in Zanzibar its a fun mix. Beautiful African skin and exotic Arabian clothes and makeup.

Zanzibar is much more touristy than Tanga (it doesn't take much) so there was LOTS of shopping to do. Even some places that accept credit cards!! All this means I'm just near done with Christmas shopping, and a little more too...

Now that I'm back on the mainland, I have real things to worry about. Mohammed, the guy in charge here is basically a lying, cheating, dishonest man and everyone can't wait to get out of here. Jenny confronted him while we were gone and it got ugly. He threatened to call the police, she cried, it's really no good at all. Lara and Cat are gone on Wednesday, I'll probably head up to Mombasa at the end of the week, as soon as I can get in touch with the (much more stable) coordinator up there.

It's prety disheartening the whole thing. Mohammed closed down the school so now I don't even get to say goodbye to most of my students. After all my hard work, I deserve that. They deserve it. I think I'm going to storm the villages and track them down, just for pictures. I'll miss my kids lots and lots.


So, I know you thought I would be in Tanga forever, but...

So it's a long story, but I'm moving to Kenya for the last three weeks I'm here. I'm going to Zanzibar this weekend to celebrate the end of Ramadan, then I'll finish up my business here and catch the bus up to Mombasa next Sunday. It's absolutely crazy. I'm not sure what my placement will be there- either teaching AIDS orphans or primary school again- but I'm going for sure. Everything is still kind of up in the air right now, but I'm sure it will be sorted by the end of the weekend.

Nothing to with Africa, how cute is this boy!

Just got these pictures of my nephew, Rees. What a stud!! He's teething and everything!!


Tanga is a largely Muslim city and that means several things for us:
  1. Prayer calls. Every day, multiples times a day, we are blessed with the sound of a prayer in Arabic over a loud speaker. I don't know what the Muslim population has to be to get the prayer call hard-wired throughout the town, but whatever it is we have it. I'm not sure of the exact times of the prayer calls. Oh, except for the one at 5 am. It's my favorite. There's a mosque across the street. Lovely. Really its a competition between the Koran and the roosters to see who can make it more impossible for the mzungus to sleep in.
  2. Great fashion. In the Muslim faith, it is inappropriate to show one's head to the public. As a result, they have fashioned the kanga. The Kanga is a very versatile peice of fabric. They come in a variety of colors and patterns and each has its own saying on it. Some talk of God, others of death, others of vegetables. Unless you speak the langauge, it's really a toss-up which you get. In my experience (I own one kanga) it can be, but is not limited to be, used as: blanket, skirt, shirt, hat, dress, sunblock, dustblock, tissue, pillow and bugblock. The women here mostly use it as a dress, skirt, shirt, hat and baby sling. And, of course, a stylish modesty enforcer. They wrap it very tightly around their faces, drape it over their arms and wear it over other clothes too, as an extra layer. The men wear dresses too- a kanzu is what it is called I believe. It's like a coat in that you only wear it when travelling. It's long and white, and actually quite nice. They wear these fun little pillbox looking hats too. The guys at the bus station call them fashion hats, but I'm sure they have some other, much more appropriate Arabic name too. The cutest is the little boys in their kanzus and fashion hats.
  3. Great names. In my classes, I have lots of fun Arabic-inspired names. Two Ramadhanis- one is a pill, the other ugly but sweet. We have several Mohammeds, though the go by Mudi. "Legless Mudi" has no legs because he was thrown into a fire as part of some witch doctor ceremony. I would feel sorry for him but he is such a bully!! "Toothless Mudi" has no teeth, don't know why. He's a bully too, but I don't mind it as much because he's really smart and he helps the other kids to write. Little Mudi Bakari is just adorable. He's got a giggle that could melt Scrooge's heart. When we sing songs, I usually pick some volunteers to come help me at the front of the class. He always tries to sneak up because he loves singing and love attention. He's tiny.
  4. Ramadan. The Muslim holy month of fasting. It ends this week. In the holiday, every muslim fasts from sunup (about 6am) to sundown (about 6:30). This has been hard on the volunteers because so many things are closed during the day. Our break-time hut, groceries, the shop around the corner doesn't open until 7:30! Moreso, it's hard on the Muslims. Class sizes have dropped from fatigue, Fatuma, our housekeeper sleeps all day (not on beds, mind you- instead she sleeps across 3 chairs in the kitchen. no idea why), people are cranky and hungry! I can't blame them. One fast sunday a month is hard enough, and I usually cave and break early! Everyone is in good spirits this week though because Ramadan ends on... either thursday or friday. It's all based around the lunar cycle, so depending on the full moon. If it's Wednesday night, people eat on Thursday, if it's Thursday night they eat on Friday. Word on the street is that because of the confusion, everything closes both days and we get a 4 day weekend.

The muslims and christians get a long great here. I have many of both in my adult class and they're really good friends. Go figure.


How many days in the weeki? Seven Days.

First week back after vacation. Very hard. My adult class is going to be a struggle for me for this last month, I can tell. There's about 30 in the class. Most come pretty regularly, making you think they really want to learn English, and most of them actually have decent language skills, but they don't do JACK in class. You ask questions, they don't say anything. Lots of blank stares. I thought I might have been teaching above them, but afterwards it seems like they mostly understand. They just refuse to participate. Looks like it will be an hour of me desperately and hoarsely explaining boring things like grammar and vocabulary. There's no curriculum for the class so it's pretty up in the air. The best part about the class though, is seeing my students around town. Dula "works at a music shop" as he puts it. Really, he sells bootlegged music and DVDs from a shanty in town. Every time I pass its "Kemi!! How are you!?" In this funny high-pitched, nasal, sounds like he's high voice. They all seem to have that voice when they talk to us. I wonder if that's how they think we sound.

My two nursery classes are a bit better than my adult class. I walked into my morning class on monday- these are the 5 year olds, the smarter of my two classes, and was mauled with affection. I had been gone for a week and they missed me so much!! Mariam, my favorite jumped up into my arms, wrapped her legs around me and would NOT let go for a good 5 minutes. I love these kids. I love them!! They are so well-behaved most of the time and they actually learn! This week we've been going over words that start with letters A, B, and D. and they remember them! They come up with their own!! They are getting better at writing, and they almost understand the concept of numbers! Besides the fact that they can't tell the different between 13 and 14 (when they count to 15 they just say "fo-teen, fo-teen, fifiteen") they are wonderful. I'll miss all of them (except for maybe Rehema- that little pill!).

My second nursery class is a bit of a headache. It's right after break time- 10:30 to 12:30, so right during the mid-morning lull. You've been up since 6 so you're tired and it's almost lunchtime, so you're hungry. It doesn't help that the kids are rowdy and rarely listen. Some of them are actually pretty good, most go through waves. One day they'll be the star of the class, the next close to handicapped. Cristina, who at first showed great promise to be one of my smartest, suddenly can't seem to do anything but roll on her chair and giggle. On the other side, I really thought that both Augustino and Sumina would have to be moved to the disable class they wer so slow. Then suddenly this week they're so bright! Sumina faded by the end of the week, but Augustino has his shapes and colors down pat, and has perfect manners! My least favorite in this class is by far Rama (Rama Hassani, not Rama Nuru. Rama Nurus is ugly, but he at least tries). Rama is a bully, first of all, hitting kids when he's upset that he doesn't know. When we go around in turns to answer questions, he just gives me this raised eyebrow "what, you think you can make me?" look. And then he goes into time-out. Needless to say, he spends a lot of time in time-out. But still, if you get hime coloring, he's a pleasant kid, or at least shuts up for a while.

The best part of the day is song time. I've learned several totally awesome Swahili songs (complete with dance moves) and plenty mediocre pre-school songs, most of which the kids can't understand anyway. I taught all the kids, and teachers, popcorn popping on the apricot tree and its a hit. Other favorites: Frogs that go Shalalalala (the kid's favorite by far), Wind the bobbin up (a random song that I'm pretty sure is about sewing), If you're happy and you know it, I'm a little teapot (lots of hip action in this one), and Joni Joni (the most OBNOXIOUS SONG EVER. I refuse to sing it more than twice a week. It makes me sick just to think of it.) The three Swahili songs I know are: Mauwa Mazuri (good flower), Twainama (bow down), and Karuka (jump). It's a good time. Lots of giggling, and their voices are so dang cute!


bunches of pictures

Me visiting some students. That's Ester touching my head so lovingly.


The Jacalanda tree. Positively stunning! The landscape would be a muddled green and brown and suddenly POP! this flash of vivid purple. This photo doesn't do it justice.

The Baobab tree. Freaking huge!!

The Indian Ocean. Sunset from the place we go swim, Mkonge Hotel.

The Dhow from Peponi (see mid-september somewhere for account). This was on sand island.

Me sleeping at mama's hut at lunch. Hot stuff, I know. That's why I'm drinking so much water! I have a picture of mama soon.

Jenny, terrified on the daladala to Lushoto. (see a couple weeks ago for details)

okay, the real story

More pictures later, let me tell you about the safari.

Okay, so Arusha is where all the safaris are booked from. Before we left for Lushoto, we got some good recommendations (and some forced recommendations of course. If I go on a recommended safari, the recommender gets a kick-back. Everyone seems to know a brother or cousin or best friend - "very good, very nice man" - in the safari business, some reputable, some expensive, some swindlers.) In the end we took Mohammed's link. He's the coordinator here, and even though everyone think he's siphoning all the money to live a luxurious life while all the workers live on nothing, we figured if the safari guide he told us was a scoundrel, he'd get fired or something. Anyway, we called the guy from a payphone in Lushoto so he could pick us up from the bus station. The Arusha bus station is notoriously scary. Lots of people trying to get you into scams. We saw the chaos outside the bus and got terrified. As I was stepping down the steps (the steps on the busses are for some reason really really steep) I saw this man looking at me with my name on a sign. When I smiled at him with a "it's me, I'm so glad you're here to save me" smile, he grinned like a 10-year-old. Juseph, what a nice man.

We had a bit of a scare after we booked the safari and had to pay for it. You see my debit card was cancelled because I thought I lost the card. Wells Fargo (I HATE THEM) still hasn't sent the replacement to my home, and therefore I have no access to money. I brought some cash and some travellers checks, but not enough for the safari. After running around town trying different ways to pay, in the end I had my mom deposit all my money into Jenny's account.

After booking, we went to the hotel where they booked us. It was a little pricey for us ($20 a night!) but we had to stay there. It was a pretty sweet hotel. It had a little TV so I was glued to CNN for a good hour. Did you know there was a huge earthquake in Pakistan? Go figure. Also, we counted and the hot shower at this hotel was the 4th we had in 6 weeks. One the day we got to Tanzania in the capital, Two one weekend in Peponi (they were salt water though, if that counts) and the 4th that night. It was amazing! Except for that the water didn't drain very well so every few minutes you had to turn the shower off and wait. The 5th and 6th hot showers I've had ended up being at the campsite we stayed at during the safari one night and a bucket shower at the (much less pricey at $7 a night) hotel we stayed at upon our return. Oooh how I love hot showers!

Oh, I forgot to mention that while we were in Lushoto, my camera fell and landed on the lens. Yes, the camera I bought two days before I left specifically for my safari broke two days before the safari. Luckily, Arusha is such a tourist town that they expect things like this. So I dropped the camera off with a nice looking Indian fellow at a repair shop. He said it didn't look good, come back tomorrow. I'm leaving on safari tomorrow!! I cried. Well, come in early before you leave. If it's fixed you can take it, if not you can pick it up when you get back. Well crap. Luckily, my photo card fit into Jenny's digital camera so all wasn't lost. Good thing we're together about 24 hours a day!

So we woke up Tuesday morning, checked the camera shop (not ready, he said solemnly, but I think I can fix it). And headed out in our monster Land Cruiser. First stop, Lake Manyara.

I'm convinced that the Lion King was based from the area between Lake Manyara and Tarangire. I saw all the landmarks... except for Pride Rock. But of course that wouldn't be on the main road. Mufasa would want to keep it private!

Lake Manyara was very green and foresty. The guide books say that this is cool because even though you don't see masses of animals, it is much more striking because when you do see them, it is very personal as they jump out of trees and across the road. This is very true. We almost hit the giraffe. We had an upclose look at an elephant bathing party, we watched two lionesses amble around so close I could see them breath. The entire day was a string of "Holy crap!" and "gimme the camera.... quick... oh my gosh. oh my gosh." shreik! Maybe it was just because it was the first day and I was still trying to cope with the fact that I was actually there.

The campsite we stayed at was on this cliff. We had tents with cots in them almost right on the edge. Phenomenal view. Overlooking the pride land. I expected the food to be, well, camping food, but it was actually quite delicious. Our cook, Hamadi, made zuccini soup, rice and this yummy beef curry stuff. They even had hot chocolate mix on the table so I could drink while we were waiting!

Wednesday morning was FREEZING. I forgot what it felt like to be this cold. Tanga is so freaking hot that we didn't pack any warm clothes. I ended up wearing 3 shirts, my pants, my hat and a kanga (wrap/sarong thing) wrapped around me. We headed for the Ngorongoro crater and were completely fogged out. Our windshield wipers didn't work so we were driving about 3 miles an hour and every 10 minutes or so the driver (Absa. Nicest man ever) would water down the windshield so we could see. We slowly slowly made our way down the rim of the crater, and once we go there, it was completely blue skies. No idea how that worked out.

Ngorongoro was very cool, but for totally different reasons as Lake Manyara. Everything here was plains, so you could see animals all over the place. According to the guide books, the animals can't get out of the crater (too steep) and have their very own ecosystem within in. No migration, which is odd for these animals. There were SO many zebras and wildebeest. It was unreal. This is also where we saw the male lions, suspiciously eyeing a group of zebra looking to invade their water pond. You could sense here that, even though there were tons of safari cars pounding through the park, animal life went on as normal. I saw lots of little animals like hyena and flocks of flamingo. No rhino though, unfortunately.

That night at the camp, some traditional dancers came in and did some traditional Maasai dancing for all the campers. Lots of drums and bouncing. It was very cool. One guy looked like a black Quentin Bell, it was weird. Great music, very fun.

Our last day was Tarangire park. This was very different than the first two parks. This park, you could tell, was best seen right after the rainy season. It had lots of fields for grazing. It is now right before the rainy season, so most everything was dead. This meant we didn't see much grazing. It might have been cooler though, because there were lots of animals crowded near the water holes. The coolest by far was a stampede of wildebeest akin to that caused by the three hyenas in the Lion King. We were watching some elephants again (my favorites), giggling as they flopped in the water, when literally probably 300 wildebeest thundered down this hill and flooded the river. We got it on video!


Here is a lion.


I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts... diddly dee There they are standing in the road...

For Scottie. And his zebra-striped LoveSac. It's not the best picture ever, but you can see how close we are. There were zebras everywhere. Seriously everwhere. So many that by 2 hours in, they weren't even cool anymore.

For my Provo roomies. It looks like Rachel's monstrous car, but is amazing at off-roading (as it turns out, driving on the roads here is off-roading). Imagine cruising the 8 in this beast! The roof comes off! You coul cram so many people in here! We picked up a bunch of "hitch hiking" Belgians (Caroline, Carlos, and Guido... very Belgian names) in the middle of Ngorogoro crater. Caroline didn't shave her armpits, Guido was a fashion designer and Carlos kept giving creepy smiles. It was a party!

For dad, the only one who could recreate such a sight. The view from our campsite at sunrise. I wish the picture could actually convey the vastness. We were up on a cliff, overlooking Lake Manyara. Absolutely stunning.

For Kendall. Sorry to say, but this kicks my guatemalan giraffe/llama/camel thing's butt. The first day of safari was in this foresty type park. No more than 5 minutes into the day this giraffe just saunters on out of the trees right in front of our car! The driver slams on the brakes. The giraffe stands there a few moments. We, of course, freak out, grab the camera and jump up out of the sunroof, snapping pictures furiously. It looks at us, bored, and saunters across the road to eat from this tree. The giraffe is an unbelievably elegant animal. It walks (saunters) so gracefully, so poised. When they look at you, it's with this royal, "I so do not have time for you commoners" look and strolls on by.

For mom. "Never take a picture without people in it" she says. Don't worry, there a lots more with me in it. Luck you! The binoculars were a lifesaver. I know I look really cool with them at my eyes, so I thought you should see them.

For Kelsie. Dusty muzzle!! They really do walk in lines, like they're marching. Elephants were my favorite. There were lots of them around, especially at this park. They flip themselves with water and then dirt to keep cool. It's hilarious. The big elephants will sit up on these huge rocks and scratch and scratch and scratch their bums (kinda like Baloo in Jungle Book). The babies follow and try so hard to copy their dads, but end up just nuzzling the rocks. So cute! A parade of elephants came within an arms reach of me the very first day! Good thing it wasn't until after that I found out how dangerous they are.

For Gabe. HA!!! He's not even sleeping!! We were leisurly watching hippos in a pond spraying water to keep cool, they kept turning over on their backs and they looked so funny! I turned to tell Jenny something and saw this guy looking straight at me about 50 feet away. This shot is taken about 10 feet away. There were two of them sleeping and he just woke up. There was a water pond nearby that a bunch of zebras were eyeing (it's the dry season so everything's... dry) but were too afraid to come drink from. The lions could smell them.


Naaa Checkenyaaa va va vichi va va

No idea how the song goes, but where the Lion King starts, I just was. I'm pretty sure I found Pride Rock, as well as Timon and Pumba's home. It has been an awesome (and much needed) vacation this past week. I have millions and millions of pictures that I'm planning on posting on Sunday or so, so for now I'll keep it brief.

Friday was a national holiday (Nyerere Day). We just found out about it (as it seemed so did everyone else. Like national holidays are a surprise or something) the day before, so we mostly just relaxed and played.

Saturday, Jenny, Aiofe and I woke up early to catch the 6:30 bus to a little mountain village called Lushoto, about a 4 hour bus ride away. We all woke up late and almost didn't make it. Thank goodness nothing runs on time in this country. As it turns out, we didn't get on a bus but a daladala. This meant much less comfort. As I've mentioned before, daladalas have NO LIMIT to how many people they can cram on. On the last leg of the trip, the part that actually climbs up the mountain, there were no less than 13 people in the front row alone. Me, Aiofe and 3 other gentlemen were facing backwards on a makeshift bench. Facing forward- a girl about 11 (wearing an enormous down parka. NO idea why since it was about 95 degrees in the van) and a little handicapped boy who kept sucking on this gross orange juice packet. Then Jenny and a couple of other people. Then in the aisle, not a wide aisle mind you, they had a huge pack of flour and 4 people kneeling, crouching, or somehow balancing over the edge. Highlights of this lovely trip:
-When we make pitstops, swarms of young men sell everything from hard boiled eggs and biscuits to cell phone covers and muslim hats. they don't take no for an answer.
-The girl in the down parka pukes out the window.
-Jenny's reaction to everything is just hilarious. You must know that Jenny is extrememly concious of safety and admittedly paranoid about danger in any form. At one point a bigger man actually inched over and sat on her lap. She looked just appalled that he would even consider it an option. She went through a few minutes being angry at the situation. I have to admit she had the absolute worst seat on the entire bus. At one stop, as a few people piled on or off, she looked at me and said flatly, with just a hint of panic in her voice, "Kami. The door just fell off." Yes it's true. Somehow though, they hit it with a rock or something and it closed. Sort of. As we made our ascent up the hill, I was glad she couldn't see the cliffs I swear we drove a little too close to. About 45 minutes into the last leg of the trip, when the number of passengers peaked, she looked at me again, this time with no fear or anger but simple acceptance, "This just isn't safe anymore." I was crying I was laughing so hard. I had also had about 3 hours of sleep the night before.
-The bus ride, which should take just around 4 hours, took 5 1/2. Lucky us.

Jenny and I spent most of the rest of Saturday recuperating from the drive. The 5 other volunteers who had come had to get back to Tanga before the weekend was over but we were in no rush. We hadn't even booked our safari yet, so we had no definate plans.

Sunday, everyone else left but me and Jenny stayed and hiked around. We had (and bought) homemade cheeses and jams and saw some very cool (and terrifying views). Lushoto was a lovely little town. At one point we realized that the cell phone we bought the day before in Tanga didn't work at all. One lady not only tried about 10 things to make it work, but walked us around town trying to get us help. It turns out we were scammed by the guy that sold us the phone. I'm hoping to have a few angry words with him when we get back home. Our guide was also really awesome. He helped us with everything - buying a bus ticket for the next day, navigating the market, and even buying a kanga (sarong-type thing) that proved to be extremely useful in the next few days.

Okay, Thats at least the first part of the week. I don't think I have the mental strength to write anymore right now. Later this week, I'll write about what I'm sure you're most interested in - safari!!



6 weeks into my stay here in Tanga and it is finally time for a break! Tomorow we'll get on the bus and not come home until next Sunday!! During our free week, we're planning on going through Usambara Mountains, safari and who knows after that. It will be a welcome break.


One more?

Just in case you've lost sleep over my last news, I'm on the last day of my malaria meds and I'm feeling great. I bummed around all weekend. It was the strangest thing though. I was diagnosed on Friday and was given 3 (enormous!) pills to take that day then a bag of (equally huge) pills to take for the following 4 days. Major symptoms of malaria are basically major fatigue and mild headaches. I don't know what was in those first pills I took, though because I'm pretty sure I slept about 2 hours from Friday morning to Saturday night. I felt like I was hopped up on something, so exhausted but my brain going a mile a minute. I even laid out in the sun on Saturday (at the pool) and I still couldn't sleep. I now sympathize with anyone who can't sleep at night. It's a horrible feeling! I was staring out the window waiting for the roosters to crow (the roosters by my house, by the way, are HORRIBLE and LOUD and always make everyone cranky for the rude alarm clock). I was up all day, and when I say up, I mean up. Like people on drugs must be up. Or at least lots and lots of coffee. It all caught up with me on Saturday night though.. I went to bed about 9:30 and woke up the next day about 8:30. Let me just tell you something, 11 hours of sleep is WONDERFUL!

Other than my weird sleep patterns, the malaria hasn't really been all that bad. I apparently caught it early enough. The only real side effect I've dealt with is lots and lots of sweating. Even when I'm not in the sun, even when I'm not moving, even when I'm in a freezing cold shower. It's a horrible feeling, I promise. (If you happen to be male, reading this, and there's a chance I might date you some day, I made this part up. It's all a joke...) I'm really not normally a very sweaty person, which has made this all the more distressing.

Fast forward to Tuesday (today)and I'm feeling much better and, if you must know, drier. It's hotter than heck here right now and it seems to be getting hotter. You know it's bad when the wind, which is usually a blessed vacation from the heat, is just as stifling. The walk down the road takes longer and longer as we've shifted our walking to strolling and strolling to ambling. I quite enjoy a good amble. The new volunteers got here Sunday and we have to tell them to stop walking like Europeans and to start walking like Africans. Africans are great amblers. It's an art really, you can't get to excited about your destination or else you get carried away, causing you to speed up and overheat. Slowly but surely the walk home from town has gotten longer and longer, but much more comfortable, due to my perfecting of the African Amble.

The bus that usually picks us up for school at 7:30 broke last week (or so they say. Word on the street is that he wanted more money and Mohommed -the guy in charge- won't pay him anymore. oooh juicy gossip is so nice). Anyway, since there were only a few volunteers left last week Mohammed took us up to the school himself. Now,we have more, so they arranged for a daladala (minibus/taxi thing) to take us. This means we have to leave at 7am to get to town by 7:30 to catch the daladala. Yeah 30 minutes earlier every day! More importantly, it means we have to wait for the daladala to remember us in teh afternoon. Yesterday it came at 4 (its supposed to come at 3:15). Today, they were doing construction on our road (by road I mean dirt path and by construction I mean they blocked it off with branches and 4 men were digging a trench with pic axes) and it never came. This meant that we had to go out the the main road (an actual one) and catch a public daladala. Not that I have anything against riding with the locals, but its less than a pleasant experience, especially if you're going more than 5 minutes (we had about 20. You know when you're waiting for an elevator and one comes but its crammed, so you wait for the next one? It's like that, but instead of an elevator its a bus that should fit 12 people and instead of waiting you just cram tighter. I believe there were about 18 people in when we boarded, and there were 9 of us. Needless to say it was quite the experience. I had it easy though. It was only 20 minutes and I had Jenny on my lap. Aoife was on one once for at least an hour with her head dangerously close to someone's crotch, Megan had a 6 hour with a kid in convulsions and Stuart had one with a 200 poiund woman on his lap. One can only hope I"ll have such an experience.

Anyway, life is good. I'm coming home with an arsenal of crazy stories you'll never believe.


Malaria is the #1 cause of death in Africa after AIDS

and I have it. Woo hoo! Just came from the doctors office. It's official, I have Malaria 3. It goes up to 12 (that pretty much means you die). Don't worry about me though, malaria isn't a big deal if you catch it early enough (like I have) and get treatment (mine cost about USD $5!). Two other volunteers have it right now. James is just getting over malaria 2, which really wasn't bad, and Aoife still has malaria 5 which has been quite the hassle (puking, sweating, nasuea, etc). I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle. So far all it has mean for me is I'm more tired than usual and I have small headaches. We'll see how it all goes!


All in a Day's Work

I watched a man today as I was waiting for the bus. He spent a good 20 minutes meticulously perfecting the setup of his "shop." This shop is a 2' by 2' table with peanuts, buscuits, chips, and other snacks for sale at 10-50 cents apiece. His regular spot, about half way down Mkwakwani street brings him probably 30 sales a day. He stands about 4 feet from his top competitor, who happens to carry the exact same goods. Every day, he wakes up somewhere- I can't tell where he might live, whether in a house or a shack- kisses his wife goodbye and heads off to work. After a day at the "office" he carefully seals his goods in boxes, praying they don't get stale by tomorrow, and heads home, a handful of change to add to his life savings.

I think I might go by some peanuts.

Rockin around the Baobab Tree...

First of all, as promised, a quick run-down on the sweet concert I went to last weekend:

There were ads all over the place. In town all day there was a big truck/van/motorcycle brigade driving through Tanga to draw attention to the concert. It was at the Yacht Club - and featured one of Tanzania's hottest groups, fresh from Dar es Salaam.

So a bunch of the volunteers went. The posters, announcements and music brigade announced 9:00, so we went a little after. We were the early ones. There was some sweet Carribbean-sounding music playing but there was no one on stage. As everyone else ordered their drinks, I scoped out the crowd. First of all, it is an interesting experience to realize that you are the only white person in a crowd of hundreds. The men seemed to take the "occasion" of this hot concert as nothing too special. Most wore jeans and Sean Jean shirts (common around here, if only P. Diddy knew) although a few were dressed up really nicely- like pimps. The ladies on the other hand went ALL OUT. I honestly don't remember too many specific outfits, it was such a sight to behold.

There are two different kinds of "all out" I'm talking about here.
One: All out African-
These mostly mama mkubwas (big mama- a title always strived for) were decked out in the brightest kangas (like sarongs, the traditional wrap type thing they wear as skirts, shirts, scarves, wrapes, headdresses) I have ever seen. If they weren't wearing kangas they were wearing the second-best traditional dress which looks quite a bit like every dress from Beautifully Modest (aka, Mormon Prom Dresses) but with puffier sleeves (think 80's or Deb from Napoleon Dynamite). In similarly bright fabrics, these are the more western option for dressing up
Two: Oh baby! I'm Going All Out and want Everyone to Know It!
These stylish women cruised in with lots of neon colors, lots of sparkles and Lots of frills. Not to self for next time I come to Africa: bring a semi-skanky homecoming dress- I'd fit right in. My personal favorite was a meshy hot pink number that was one of those one-sleeved dresses. It had a high slit and TONS of frills. Forget about Tanga, lets talk about the red carpet!!

Another thing to keep in mind in picturing this crown is what the locals refer to as wawuwa. Every woman wants to be a a wawua, for only a wawuwa has a big ol booty that even J. Lo can't compete with. Yes, not even J. Lo. So cram that booty into a skin-tight dress, wiggle it a little and you've got yourself a wawuwa.

So it turns out the 'rockin' band ended up being an easy listening group with a Caribbean flavor. And sometimes they sounded like Waylon Jennings. Go figure. It was actually pretty good music and Jenny bought a CD. Unfortunately we left just as the dancing was getting started. Fearless women got up on the dance floor at first, shook it, until everyone seemed to pour in. They formed a conga-line looking thing, but there wasn't a lot of dance going on, mostly just walking. I was very confused to say the least.

Anyway, no way could I explain just how amazing the concert was. Everything I could have ever dreamed for, and more.


Concerts in Tanzania are... interesting

No time now, but picture this: lots of color, Big freakin booties and a semi-moving Conga line. You missed out.


"The SEEEERR! The SeeeeRR!"

How weird was that song? I felt like I was listening to some old musical. That guy with the Joseph Smith solo did have a pretty sweet voice though. Was it more than one guy? I can't tell.

What? you are thinking right now.... How could she have known?

Or, if you're not a member of the LDS church, you're thinking, What in blazes is she talking about?! Read on.

Well, I thought that General Conference was next week (isn't it supposed to be the closest weekend to the 6th? I'm fairly certain that the 8th is much closer to the 6th than the 2nd. But I digress.) but I found out from some emails that this is the blessed weekend where Mormons far and wide congregate to listen to our church's leaders. Most Latter-Day Saints congregate at chapels where huge satellite dishes beam in Gordon B and the rest of the crew. At home in Seattle, Saints sit at home in PJs eating caramel popcorn, digital cable and KBYU allowing for a much more comfortable dress code and menu. Down in Provo, Conference weekend is a nonstop party. Breaktime means BBQ time and Priesthood session equals Girls Night Out.

Here in East Africa, I took a taxi into town (not brave enough to walk into town in the dark) and begged for 2 hours at the last internet cafe open in town. They didn't first understand the concept of my headphones, but now I am successfully huddled in front of Computer Number Three (my least favorite because it freezes all the time), blissfully listening to Mo Tab and the most inspired men and women on the earth speak on examples, love and forgiveness. sigh Life is good.


Happy Anniversary to me.....

Happy One Month Anniversary of Leaving the United States to me!
Happy One Month Anniversary of Leaving the United States to me!
Happy One Month Anniversary of Leaving the United States to Kami!
Happy One Month Anniversary of Leaving the United States to me!

We bought some sparkling cider and we're getting trashed to celebrate one month of Africanitis. It's a special day.

3 of our best Africa friends are leaving this weekend and I'm totally bummed. Caroline left this morning for a weekend safari and she flies back to Ireland on Tuesday. I didn't even really get to say goodbye to her because she left in the middle of my morning class. Tim and Katie are leaving tomorrow morning for Dar, flying to South Africa and doing a month-long overland safari back here. We'll see them again in November and again when we go to London for a few days in December. They're from there and are planning us the BEST DAY EVER. Can't wait.

Looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend. I think we're going to move rooms tonight for more privacy. We'll probably hit the pool tomorrow. I don't even remember what it feels like to sleep in...


The only thing worse than being thousands of miles from home and hearing great news is being thousands of miles from home and hearing bad news.

Last night I found that Eric VanHouten passed away, after struggling with Leukemia all year. I recieved the call just as I was walking in the door from a volunteer dinner, lucky that I was home at the exact time my mom called to tell me the news. What an emotional time! It is so frustrating to want to call home but being unable.

I was lucky that Gabe, one of my closest friends and Eric's son, was home at the time I called, considering the time difference. My heart goes out to his wife and the entire VanHouten/Cappelletti family at this sad time and I ask you all to keep them (no matter how strange) in your prayers. Eric was an amazing man and a person I hold very dear. May God bless him.


My Little Peponi

Spent the weekend about a half hour south of Tanga. Holy crap. If you want to see paradise, Peponi is the place to go. We left Saturday morning, quite in a rush actually. Everyone else was catching the 9 am bus but Jenny and I had to go to the bank so we went to catch the 10 am bus. We were running a bit behind so we started running (yes, literally running) down the railroad tracks (our route to town). Let me remind you that there are two kinds of walking even. African walking which hardly walking at all, but more ambling or moseying. Then there is Mzungu walking, which is reasonably paced for most places, but miserable and insane in this heat and dirt. So we're running down the tracks and my bag comes open. We stop, zip it up, and keep going. About 5 minutes later i heard this "hello, my friend..." which I usually ignore because it is usually guys wanting to talk to you, but i looked over to see a guy, sweating, holding my towel. It had fallen out the back and he had chased us down the tracks to return it. Now thats friendliness! He of course proceeded to ask for my name and number, but I thanked him profusely and continued on my way.

The bus to Peponi was crammed. As it turns out, our friends were all also on the bus. They had boarded the bus at 9, but it had successfully made 2-3 trips around the corner and had waited there for some time. When a few people had gotten annoyed about this, the conductor shrugged and stated, "It's Africa." You can't argue with that.

Peponi in Swahili means Heaven and I'm convinced this is what heaven is like. It was a perfect temperature. A hot day with an Ocean breeze. And not just any breeze, an INDIAN OCEAN breeze. The Indian Ocean, in pictures is always shown as this deep bluish green. Who would have thought that the real thing could be more vivid?! After lounging around most of Saturday, eating amazing food and playing darts in the sandy-floored restaurant area, we left Saturday afternoon for a dhow (sailboatish) cruise to a private sand island. The water was, and I'm not kidding you, breathtaking every time youi looked at it. At certain times it was the epitome of Ocan Blue. Other times it took on a color so bright green it was almost Jade. The shallow parts were of course a bright Aquamarine. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. We snorkelled a bit (coral is beautiful!) and then relaxed on this island. The island itself is probably a litle smaller than a football field. The sand is soft and white and it is completely empty. No plants, grass, or really even rocks. Just a few crab holes and some beautiful shells. I came back with a handful of really gorgeous shells.

Sunday morning all of us (there were 13) divied up into teams and had an all-out no holds barred sand sculpture contest. My team went local creating a map of Tanzania, full with Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Ngorogoro Crater (complete with animals. I'm very proud of my hippo. This was my baby), Zanzibar (Katie's job- it had a spcial touch. One of the old volunteers apparently travelled to Zanzibar and is now engaged to a Rasta. Don't worry, they made it into the sculpture is as well.), a safari truck, the Olduvai Gorge (where they found the oldest human remains... we found a bone looking thing on the beach), an authentic village (complete with clothesline, huts and drop toilet), and our house (with our guard out front). The other team went the international route, constructing the Sphinx and pyramids, Buckingham Palace, and some other crap international landmarks. I'm sad so say that we lost, but only because we did not use much sand. We used grass, shells, and whatever else we could find instead.

We took a taxi back and I'm proud to say that I sat in the front seat (on the Left side of the car no less!) and made great friends with our taxi drive, Faridhi. My Swahili skills are limited, but getting better.

So now I'm back in T Town, several of our best friends are leaving this weekend, which we're bummed about, but we get some new volunteers this Sunday. All is well, All is well.


...To you and you, and you

Aoife (Eefa.... she's Irish) was singing that song from the Sound of Music last night and I still have it in my head. How exactly do you spell Alveidersein? Looks ok to me.

Today was a... frustrating day again. We had a meeting with the in-country coordinator, along with the Tanzanian NGO workers who are also working through the community center. They want to change EVERYTHING! and not necesarily in a good way. I need to digest a bit and maybe I'll calm down about it. It just seems so unnecessary to change all of the classes, everyone's schedules and double the workload, all for SIX STUDENTS! Deep breath. Deep breath. Don't worry, it will all be ok. Kieran, the coordinator, is very mindful of our needs and wishes at the school. Maybe I'm just missing the point. Maybe I'll understand tomorrow. Maybe.

So we started watching season two of the OC last night. Jenny brought a DVD player and season 1, I brought season 2. I'm not sure if anyone else is still watching OC (I'm missing season 3 dang it!!) but if anyone is worrying, we've got a fan club in Tanga. It started just with me and Jenny, then Aoife joined in (apparently she's addicted as well). Now Caroline, Katie, and new Jenny won't miss an episode. We thought the season one DVDs would last us a good month, but when you have to be in at dark (roughly 6 o'clock) and there's no radio or tv, there's only so much you can do. and the OC isn't a bad option. I miss my OC club at home though. It doesn't get better than bagels and milkshakes.

I'm realizing now how much I appreciate small semblances of home here. For example, I just spent an entire paragraph divulging my love for the OC. There are only a few things here that I can claim I have at home as well, and the OC is one of them. Internet is another, but that is spotty. We really do come here quite often. I'm lucky for that. Not much else is the same. Clothes are different (I found out today that black shirts and chalk do not make an attractive couple), as I've given over my jeans for hiker pants and Value Village skirts. Food is rarely similar, with chapati (i love it) and mince taking over for, well anything normal. Jennny and I are single-handedly keeping the shop around the corner in business buying chocolate bars -not very tasty ones. I have found a cookies (excuse me, Biscuits- the Brits would chastise me) that are the closes thing i can find to an oreo and i think i'll bring a case home with me. I've traded my shoes for Tevas and my comfortable down comforter for a sheet (no complaints here, anything bigger would be roasting!). The friends at home and school who I miss like crazy are now replaced (at least for the time being) by a lot of people who are great company and a lot of fun but don't share much of the same interests (besides Africa), values, or even the same accent.

No complaints at all for the things I've temporarily traded in. Make no mistake. I love my Tevas (so comfortable!) and my Oreo-ish cookies (at least when they aren't stale) and I've even grown to love the bug nets (It's like your own private princess room). But it is definately nice to have bits and peices of the old mixed in with all the fun new stuff. Phone calls from the family and emails from the friends (write away, friends, write away!!) are amazing. News (and gossip of course!) from your lives makes the routine of mine seem less routine. The OC may not be home to me, but it's close. My Book of Mormon and Harry Potter 6 are a blessed hideaway from the countless Swahili papers that I just cannot understand.

We're going to Puponi this weekend. It's a little beach town a couple hours away. I can't wait to finally enjoy the Indian Ocean. yes, that's right, I will be swimming in the INDIAN OCEAN!!!! Only a couple more oceans to go. I'm sure I'll have a full and exciting report next week. I'm still working on more pictures. My brothers are on the case.



That first picture is of me and Asya, one of the cutest kids in the class. She's a bit more advanced than the rest of the kids, and so well behaved too!! Well behaved kids are one in a million around here.

The second picture is from Ester's house in a little village called Amboni. They swarmed us.

The third picture is me singing 5 Little Speckled Frogs, a favorite with the little ones. To do the song, 5 little kids start on the table. Then teacher sings about how they sat on a speckled log, eating the most delicious grubs (I believe thats the motion I'm completing in this photo). One jumps into the pool (a kid is carried, spun and dropped on the floor), then there are 4 green speckled frogs (ONE TWO THREE FOUR!!) and so on. A tiring, but pleasantly time-consuming song. I think my arms are sore from it. I'm not made for that kind of lifting.

Today was finally a great day. We got a batch of new volunteers in this weekend, a couple Americans even. Just one is a teacher though. It has been a frustrating weekend to say the least. Kieran is the new in-country cordinator and i-to-i is trying to readjust some of the programs so they work more efficiently. This is a great thing, except for the fact that the volunteers have not yet been consulted or even told about changes until after they happen. Even better, the changes they make have little or no logic. For example, they took all the chairs out of Jenny's class, supposedly because they are 3 years old and don't need desks. The problem there is that when they sit on mats, they don't actually sit. They roll... and kick.. and punch.. and hit... and do just about everything but sit. Moreover, the afternoon adult class that meets in there (now me) has over 30 students in it! Where the heck are they supposed to sit!? Other problems include but are not limited to: Caronline's class of disabled children (already prone to running away) don't have a door to their class or even enough room to sit down, There are not enough teachers already, why are they creating another class?!

We're having a meeting tomorrow to work all these kinks out though, don't worry. If there's one thing I've learned here, its that everything runs slowly, just deal with it. Time means nothing.


Pictures from the Dark Continent

So, once again, big brother Brian comes to the rescue. Uploading a few pics for the Bam Adventures.

This one is of the Bam herself and her new boyfriend Ralph. They're getting pretty serious. I think he dropped the "L" bomb last weekend, (or at least thats the rumor).

Don't expect any wedding bells though, Kami is afraid of commitment.

Here's Kami's travel buddy trying to blend in. I know it's difficult to pick her out, she's third from the left in a yellow shirt.

The kid in the green definately represents the West Coast.

I think this is also Kami showing the kids how to rub her belly and pat her head simultaneously. (She hasn't started patting yet)

The kids in the back are actually conjoined quintuples. They have to stand on the table because there arent any desks that will fit all five of them.

I think that Ralph is here in the red and blue looking back.


5 little speckled frogs....

We got our lawn mowed today. Oh, and when I say lawn I mean the 15 x 15 patch of grass in the foyer at school and by mowed I mean an old woman in full dress spent an hour chopping it with a sickle. Chop chop chop.

School was good today. For once we had more than enough teachers so I went around to all the classes (there are 4) and helped out where needed. I spent most of my time in Jenny's class (the 3-year-olds) and came out with a headache. Those kids are little devils, I'm telling you. I've never shouted GO TO SLEEP!!!! so loud in my life (Kulala is actually what we say). As it turns out, when we say sleep, they think a number of other things: kick, punch, run around, twist and turn, sing, go to the bathroom... naptime is really quite a waste of time on these kids.

I start full time (i think) teaching the 4-5 year olds on Monday. Michael, their old teacher, is leaving tonight. I can't wait. These kids are stinkin cute!



We're go for pictures in 5...

Good news, I found an internet cafe with a hookup and I'm ready to show pictures!!

Today I stepped into Africa. Real Africa. Earlier this week a girl from the afternoon class named Ester invited me to come to her house. She's about 14. The school I teach at itself is not in Tanga (a fairly large city) it is just ouside. In the morning we teach Nursery school (ages 3-6) from 8-11:30, then we teachers have a break until 2 when we teach adult English. Anyway, we decided to go at 1:00 so we'd have some time (but not too much time before class) to visit.

We left for Kiomoni (where I assumed she lived) just after 1:00. As it turns out, Ester's house was actually about a village and half away. Lucky for me I was wearing my Tevas because it was quite the walk.

At first it was just a fairly well marked but ragged road lined but as we progressed on our journey to this unknown house, we were literally going through nothing but pathways, mud houses and trees. It was insane! Many of the houses are not much bigger than my bedroom. The way the houses are built is branches/sticks are put together as a frame and foundation and once the family can afford it, they fill the branches with this tough mud stuff. Every once in a while you see people who make it to the last stage, cementing the outside.

The walk through these villages wasn't scary or depressing, just surreal. This is their lives. Little children followed after us shouting "mzungu! mzungu!" Some children cried (presumably because of my awesome white skin). Others just stared.

When we got to the house they were SO hospitable! They had us take a seat, offered us food and drinks, everything! They just were so ecstatic that we were there. Unfortunately we had about 5 minutes to sit, "chat" (mostly them saying stuff and us not understanding) and take a picture and we had to be off back to school.

What a day.


"I deal with Welsh women. You don't scare me one dit!"

The title of this post comes from Matt, one of my favorite volunteers here. He's Welsh and proud of it (apparently the Welsh have a reputation much like Canadians and have to defend thmselves all the time). We had a going away dinner for the old in-country coordinator and I'm pretty sure matt had had a bit (or should i say dit) to drink. Some girls were hassling him about his Welshness and apparently, welsh women are tough. Anyway,
I was thinking about this little blog thing and I'm kicking myself for being so boring. Again, no pictures. I left my cord thing at home again. You can beat me up personally if you can catch me...

So to catch you up on what life is really like, I'll tell you a few stories. Now, please picture me telling this as if I'm really there. Lots of hand motions, facial expressions and sound effects. I'm making them here in the internet cafe too.

My favorite African moment of the week is when I got swarmed by a group of I'd say 13-year-old girls. I was sitting in the community center (there's an open roof on the inside, Margaret Mead style) waiting for class to start, talking very professionally with my volunteer colleagues (I believe we were discussing something offical like football -soccer-whatever it is called. We discuss it a lot. Brits are obsessed!) and two little girls came up and sat next to me. I said a couple hellos (4-5 is standard if you're being really polite) and went back to my conversation. Then a couple more sat behind me. After a few minues, 4 more sat to my right. I looked up and said a few more hellos. The ringleader of the troupe of uniformed girls motioned to the hair elastic on my wrist, so I gave it to her (I always keep a spare on hand in case of emergencies like this). Next thing I knew, she had taken out my ponytail and begun messing with my hair. It wasn't long before I had at least 8 to 10 little hands giving me cornrows. It was quite the look. They continued until class was about to start, excitedly talking about something in Swahili. The only thing I could catch was "Mzungu" (their word for white person) and I think the word for hair. When I took the braids out when I got home it was an even better look. The girls had only finished the top half of my hair so it was frizzy as all heck on top and a beautifully, greasy slick look on the bottom. That's fashion at its best.

This weekend was amazing. I've figured out that while the weeks are long here, the weekends feel really long too. This weekend we spent both days at the Mkonge hotel where there's a nice pool and "the nicest showers in town" As it turns out the nicest showers in town are just a little bit more pressurized cold drip than home in a cleaner bathroom, but the shower was welcome nonetheless. The hotel overlooks the Indian Ocean where Saturday night we watched the sunset (pure sky-blue clouds and a BLOOD RED sun. It was stunning). I didn't think I laid out that much, but after 2 days at Mkonge I look like I've spent 2 weeks in Mexico. I must be near the equator or something...

We took the daladala out to the hotel today, which was an interested experience altogether. A daladala looks quite a bit like a VW van, but they are totally pimped out. I think that Pimp my Ride needs to have a Tanga special where they pimp these thingss out. The one we came home in today was blasting some Tanzanian hip hop music (Bongo Flavor is what they call it) and was bright red. The guy who takes the money (tsh 200 = .20 cents to ride) was dancing up a storm and hanging out the window shouting the words to passersby. Oh, and it totally reeked of B.O. African BO is different than at home. And the stuff inside this Daladala was pungent.

Seattlites will be happy to know that I'm pretty sure that I love seafood already. Little prawns (by the way, does anyone know the difference between shrimp and prawns? Are they the same?) are really tasty. And Most of the fish is delicous as well. I've eaten seafood almost every time I've gone out to eat, except for last night when I had an omellete.

Some less exciting new for you, and more exciting for me is that I treated my mosquito net today. The house we live it in is actually quite nice. We have a gate with barbed wire, a guard (Rashid who is adorable) and a housekeeper (Fatuma who makes lots of really yummy food). There aren't many bugs at all. It took me days before I saw any mosquitoes, mostly because the mosquitoes are tiny. Anyway, I got lots of bites a few days ago (somehow, only on my feet) so I thought it would be a good idea to step the protection up a notch. Full reports next time on how effective this treatment was. I'm sure you're all riveted.

I know I keep saying it, but pictures next time.


One week here and I'm a natural

I've not been here a week yet and it's already oh so easy. The routine is just perfect.

I planned on uploading TONS of pictures today - I brought my camera and cords and everything - but it turns out Friday is the Muslim Sabbath and lots of places (including the nice internet cafe I go to) close for daily prayers. So I'm here at the crappy one. I'm gonna try to load some up, but it's fickle and hardly worth it.

Other than that, here's a brief rundown of the place, organized by sense:

First, Eyes:

Green: It is very green here. The DalaDala (bus sort of) up to school (about 15 minutes) reminds me a lot of my commute up to the Hyak. There's one part especially- in I-90 when the Freeway splits just before the summit and you can see the valley of evergreen trees between East and West. Here, there are places where its greenery as far as you can see (except for some huts). The big difference is the shade. Instead of the deep forest green its a much lighter shade. More yellowy. It's beautiful.

Black/Dark Brown: I think I'm used to seeing all black faces now. When I see another Mzungu (Swahili for "white person) they seem so out of place. Odd to think that I'm just as odd out as they are. Skin color ranges from light to dark (kinda like the Cosby show) but most everyone has the stereotypical African skin. It's beautiful skin. Very smooth. I just noticed today that there are a ton of Indians here. They are a lot lighter.

Brown. Where its not green, it is brown. It is very dusty, especially outside of downtown Tanga. The houses/huts/shacks are brown, their roofs are brown. I'm turning brown, not so much because of the sun but because I have an ever-present layer of dirt that the cold shower doesn't wash off.

Smiles. Everyone is so dang happy here. Always friendly, alwayssmiling. It'sso weird. (My space bar is having troubles, I'msick of correcting it)

Updates on other sensesand experiences later. Nowlets seeif I can get some pictures in.

This internet is much too slow for uploading pictures. I'll whet your appetite for Africa sights with this picture of Jenny and me inside the DalaDala. It's a bus-type van-type thing that we take to get to and from school. Today the seat in front of me squealed and broke, pinning me under it basically. The drivers like to pimp out their daladalas with names, paint and designs. They are hard-core.

CRAP. Broken link. Next time, I promise.


Holy crap! I'm in Africa

I'm here! I made it and I am already an African at heart. The flight(s) over were unbearably long - we left Friday morning and got in Sunday morning- but okay considering the length. British Airways is officially the best airline on the planet. Our meals were delicious (we got a beautiful and tasty tirimasu for dessert!! That's no Andes mint!) and on the way to London we got video games for free! The seats were all tricked out so they were more like recliners and we had about 10 movies to choose from. I mostly slept, or tried to. We got into London about 10:30 and had to leave again at 7:30 so we took the "Tube" into town and walked around. London is spectacular. I can't wait to go back and visit in December.

More importantly: AFRICA

We flew past Kilimanjaro at sunrise, probably the most beautiful one I've ever seen. I have pictures of all this, but I don't have my camera with me. I'll upload them later. I started giggling when I got off the plane because guess what? EVERYONE HERE IS BLACK!!!

Today we got oriented to our job which is teaching Nursery School in the morning and adults in the afternoon. The school is actually quite nice. More on that once I've actually started.

THe people I live with are great. They all have the cutest accents and they keep translating English terms for us because we've never heard of them (Did you knoww they call cookies biscuits and the Subway the Tube?) I'm sure I'll be talking like one soon enough (I can only hope)

I'm working on taking lots of pictures so hopefully I can update this often - at least once a week. I miss you (talking to my family here, if anyone else is reading this chances are I don't miss you) very much but don't worry, this is the best thing I ever could be doing and it is exactly where I need to be right now. Thank you for your support.



All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go......

I've got WAY too much stuff. I know I overpacked and I'll regret it later, but we're about to head to the airport and I'm just gonna have to DEAL WITH IT.

I don't know if you realized this, but I'M GOING TO AFRICA TODAY!!!


A new job.

I just recieved this email from the country coordinator:

Hi Ladies

Hope you are well

Just wanted to write briefly & tell you I am after moving you guys to a different teaching placement - hope you dont mind. We have a community centre in Kiomoni where many volunters are working, doing community development, building & conservation projects. Here we have a nursery, pre-school and class for disabled children, we will need teachers here to help teach these children - who range in ages from 4 - 8 years. This would be in the mornings, there are over 80 children at the centre. This would be VERY basic beginners English.

At the same centre teachers (you) will be teaching adults English, again quite basic in the afternoons. Adults are very keen to learn & is a very fulfilling polacement.

Also depending on how many volunteers we have to teach, we need someone to teach our soccer team English - this team consists of boys ranging in age from 14 - 14 years who are schol drop outs & are very keen to learn english. Hope these projects are of interest to you.

Any type of teaching aids you have would be well appreciated as resources are VERY limited. Also if each of you guys could fit in your bag / get your hands on a pair of football boots/ sneakers/ trainers/ these can totally be cheap 2nd hand shoes, the soccer players would be really pleased - as many play barefoot.

Mail if you guys have a question. Hoep information is clear.

Regards Jennyb

Besides the few spelling errors, I am THRILLED!!

I love kids, I love teaching and I love....soccer?

Ok, maybe I've never played soccer but it really can't be all that hard.

5 days to go!!


It's finally real...

Everything has become official. I got my placement last week, meaning I now know exactly where I'll be, who I'll be with and who/where I'll be teaching. In that order:

Where I'll be:
Chuda Hostel

There's 6 bedrooms, kitchen, common area and a couple bathrooms. Amenities include electricity(most of the time), running water and flushable toilets - woo-hoo!! Oh and one ceiling fan in the living room. I have a feeling its gonna be hot. At least a can shower in frigid water. (I'm picturing showers like the ones in the Amazon: painfully cold for the first minute, then you get numb)

My address:
PO Box 1021
Tanzania (remember this)

You're welcome to send letters, though I'm told the mail system isn't great. I love mail though, just so you know. Butterfingers or gifts are always appreciated, though you might want to get on sending them now so I'll get them before I leave.

Phone:++255 27 2644066

I'm not sure if the phone comes directly to me, but as many know, I just about live on my cell phone now so I might be going through telephone withdrawals.

Who I'll be with

1: Number one of course, my travelling companion, Jenny Spencer. We hadn't really talked since about 9th grade and she decided Tanzania and I were irresistable enough to drop school, work and a boyfriend to come join my on my adventures. I'll see if I can find a picture... although I'm sure you'll meet her soon. She might be supplying the digital camera for the trip.

2-6: I got names and emails of the 5 other people who I'll be living with in Tanga. Most of them are from the UK! One's name is Bertie, if that's not the cutest name ever. I haven't emailed any yet, but I'm sure we'll get along great...

Mohamed Yasin: No, he's not a terrorist just because his name is Mohamed. He's the guy who will *hopefully* be picking me up from the airport. I got an email from them saying basically "if you've been waitin for hours and no one shows up to get you, you might have to find your way to Tanga." Forget that it's a 5 hours bus ride in a foreign country, no big deal. We'll just cross our fingers that Mohamed will come through for us.

Anna Mronga & Paulo Jackson: My contacts at the school.

Who and Where I'll be Teaching

Kiomoni Secondary School
PO Box 2369

I'll be teaching Junior High and High School kids so hopefully they don't mind having a 20 year old teacher. We'll also be training the English teachers to speak better English.

Kiomoni is about 5 miles outside of Tanga. We'll probably bus there.

Sorry, no pictures this time.


Things I hate

...about preparing to leave for Tanzania:

1. The Tanzanian Embassy.
Completely useless in every way! Besides the form to print out and send in, the website offers no help. The phone numbers are *always* busy. I've tried over 50 times on each number with no help. Oh and the comment system online? The link doesn't even work.

2. Cleaning/Packing
No thanks. Can't it just be done by someone else?

3. Work.
It's a love/hate relationship. Since I know I'm leaving I kinda just want to be done but I really do have a hard time letting go of the reins. It's not a hard job, but its my job and no one can do it as well as me. I'll be ok giving up the 50 minute commute.

4. Being asked "So what do we need to do to get you ready for Africa?"
Every day by my Mom

5. Polio, Tetanus/Diptheria, Yellow Fever, Tyhpoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Meningococcal Meningitis.
One of you gave me a dead arm for 2 days.

6. Not being gone already!
I don't think this last month could be going any slower.


What?! You've never heard of Tanga?

Most people have either never heard of Tanzania or know little about it. So, I have compiled a rough guide so I don't have to see any more blank looks when I say I'm going to Tanzania. No more embarrassment.

Rough Guide to Tanga, Tanzania(my future home):


  • Located right near Kenyan border on the Indian Ocean

  • Or, for those of you who need the zoom out photo:


  • About 200,000 people (I picture Puerto Vallarta: port town, some richer lots of poor, dirty but livable... Tanga will probably have less resorts and no Mexicans)
  • The city is lined by mangroves on the coast

See, its kinda like PV


  • All the guide books describe Tanga as a city of "decaying decadence"
  • Was a booming port city, specializing in sisal (what they used to make rope from)
  • Economy collapsed around WWII because nylon ran the sisal farms out of business


  • African, Black, Adorable

I can't wait!


Testing.... Testing...

So as it turns out, I'm a webgeek. I tell people my brother convinced me to start a blog. If I remember right, he mentioned it in passing and I grabbed right on. It's okay though, I have embraced it. I think it's fun. Hopefully you will enjoy it as well. Let's just see if I can figure it out...