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!!!