Sunday, July 18, 2004


My Busy Social Life

I am back in Moshi for the foreseeable future.  At the request of Peace Corps, I traveled to Dar for an appointment with a doctor.  An 8 hour bus ride to see a doctor for 1 hour.  The trip was quite productive.  I got to see Spiderman 2 at the Dar Theatre.  Also, by an absolute miracle, I purchased the last available copy of Clinton's new book.  I have been searching all over Tanzania for this book.  Mission accomplished.  That book is already responsible for a lack of sleep the past few nights.
The trip back to Moshi was unpleasant to say the least.  There were no available seats on the bus I usually take (Scandinavia...well worth the 13,000 Tsh).  Rather than take a death trap from the regular bus stand, I proceeded to pay 4,000 more Tsh to get a seat on Royal Coach.  This bus supposedly had air conditioning and a toilet.  The 6 AM leave time was a little early, but I had to get back to Moshi. 
The 6 AM leave time turned out to be "Tanzanian" time.  After driving around Dar for  over 3 hours, we finally left the city limits at 9:30 AM.  At that point, the driver turned on the air conditioning.  Well...he tried to turn it on.  After 30 minutes on the side of the road, he gave up.  In the US, this would not be much of a problem.  People would open the windows.  Ahh...but here it is somehow different.  Tanzanians generally do not like the windows open on buses.  On a positive note, the toilet was operational.  This was a very good thing, considering my intestines had decided, yet again, to go on strike. 
After many hours of oppressive heat, we reached the weigh station at Himo (about 20 minutes outside of Moshi).  Before the bus drove on the scales, the driver let a passenger and her luggage off of the bus.  Apparently this was illegal, considering the chaos that ensued.  The weigh station personnel would not weigh the bus.  They started to argue with the driver.  The police were called in.  All this time, our bus was sitting on the scales.  A line of buses and trucks started to pile up in both directions.  The drivers of all these buses and trucks started to get irate with our bus driver.  Mobs of yelling people formed.  A Norwegian tourist took a picture of the scene.  This really angered the police, who started to yell at the tourist.  This whole fiasco went on for 2 hours.  The police finally had our bus move off the scales.  They told our driver that he would have to wait until they had weighed all the buses and trucks that had accumulated.  Realizing that it would be another 2 hours before my bus would be moving again, I quickly hitched a ride on another bus.  12 hours after I set out from Dar, I finally arrived back home in Moshi.
Yesterday, the neighbors invited me to a birthday party for their son, Gift (pronounced Gif--tee).  Not having a decent excuse to avoid it, I accepted the invitation.  My social life has come down to sitting with 5 year olds for 4 hours.  I did get a decent dinner out of the situation.  Ahh...what we endure to integrate into our communities.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Travel Log

My apologies that it has taken me so long to add this entry. Such is life here in Africa.

Since I last wrote, I have been on the road a lot. For the sake of organization, I will divide this entry into 5 parts:
1. IST
2. Dar Part I
3. The Wedding on Zanzibar
4. Dar Part II
5. Back Home

1. IST (In-Service Training)

This was the first leg of my great adventure. Peace Corps required all of us 1st year volunteers to travel to Morogoro for a week of training sessions. Morogoro is about a 9-hour bus ride from Moshi. At least the road is paved the entire route. Asphalt did not prevent crazy driving. We saw a bad wreck that included an overturned double petrol tanker. Aside from that and a mad sprint to the bushes, it was an enjoyable ride. (I learned that 2 cokes at 6 AM is not a wise idea before a bus ride.)

IST kicked off with "Prom". Yes...prom. Thanks to the wonderful used clothing markets in Tanzania, the ladies were able to acquire actual prom dresses. Some of them circa 1980s, but still prom dresses. I must say that my burgandy dress with 4-inch heels was quite classy. Even our PCVL (volunteer leader) Andrew got into the spirit by wearing a revealing blue dress. The photos are providing some wonderful blackmail material.

The training sessions ranged from being helpful to being a good cure for my insomnia. By far, the best aspect of IST was being able to talk with the other volunteers. It was good to exchange ideas about how to tackle different situations. Many of these group therapy sessions happened on the roof of the hostel at night with a crate of beer.

2. Dar Part I

After IST, many of us headed towards Dar. My business in Dar involved medical check-ups for some on-going issues. It is such a relief to have free health care and prescriptions. Peace Corps even provides us with free non-prescription supplies like mosquito lotion, sunscreen, vitamins, and condoms (for the romantically-inclined volunteers).

One of the highlights of this trip to Dar for me was being invited to lunch at Edith's house. Edith is one of our PCMOs (Peace Corps Medical Officer). She is one of the hardest working members of the Peace Corps staff. Also at the lunch was the bishop for the Anglican Church in Madagascar. It was an amazing cultural experience to have prayers in Swahili, French, English, and a tribal language from Madagascar. The food Edith cooked was incredible. It had been a long time since I had eaten that well.

3. The Wedding on Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a short 2-hour boat ride from Dar. The ferry I took was really nice. It even had a snack bar selling Cokes and Mars bars. It was luxury compared to some of the bus rides I have taken.

The wedding was held at a beach resort in Matemwe village. The bride's parents paid for hotel and food for 2 days for all the volunteers. They even included an open bar for the entire time. You can only imagine how happy all of this made the volunteers. Free food, lodging, and alcohol when you make less than $200 a month makes you feel like you have gone to heaven.

The festivities included a goat/cow ceremony the night before the wedding. The groom presented the father of the bride with some goats as her "bride price". He attempted to include a cow as well, but the animal was very uncooperative. After the ceremony, the eating began. Yes, it was in a volunteer's favorite form...BUFFET. After dinner, the guests gathered on the beach for a giant bonfire. The bride's parents brought Hershey bars, graham crackers, and marshmellows from the US so we could make smores.

The wedding ceremony was held the following day at sunset on the beach. The groom rode in on a donkey and the bride was carried in on a platform. The local villagers formed a drum circle. It was a very moving experience.

4. Dar Part II

After a late night of celebrating, it was time to head back to Dar. Unfortunately the ferry ride back was not as smooth as the ride there. You know it is going to be rough when they pass out plastic bags. I am proud to say that I was one of the very few people on-board that did not vomit.

After fulfilling my official duties in Dar with the medical office, I took a taxi back to the hotel. A large crowd was gathered outside the hotel entrance. When you see large crowds like that, they are usually beating a thief. I paid the taxi driver and started to make my way to the entrance. To my surprise, they were not engaged in Tanzanian justice. There were 2 Tanzanians with some very large snakes. They agreed to take a picture with the python wrapped around me. The crowd went crazy watching the white girl with the snake.

That night, I accomplished my main goal in see the new Harry Potter movie. Dar has the only movie theatre in Tanzania. It is quite nice by US standards. The movie was great and provided a nice end to my vacation.

5. Back home

I was happy to finally return home to Moshi. I missed my neighbors, the local bakery, and my hot shower. I was pleasantly surprised to find no sigh of the rat. The neighbors left poisoned food for it while I was away. I hope it is enjoying rodent heaven

I am back in Moshi for a few more days until I leave for vacation part II. I am traveling with another volunteer to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. We will get back just in time for the Peace Corps 4th of July party in Arusha. Nothing celebrates America better than Tanzanian beer.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


A Marching Band in Moshi

I was not planning on making an entry today until I encountered an odd site in town. I had just gotten off a daladala when I saw a group of people with musical instruments standing at the corner. They arranged themselves into rows and began to play (not half-bad I might add). The next suprise came when the group began to march down the middle of the road while playing. YES! A real live marching band in Moshi, complete with a band director up front with a backpack on his shoulder. It turns out that they are members of the local Lutheran church.

It was definitely a sentimental band moment for me. I had a difficult time holding back my tears as they marched past.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Drumming with the Children

Yesterday I decided it was time for some "retail therapy" (aka shopping). One of the shops at the market was selling drums. The shop keeper asked 10,000 Tsh for the drum I wanted. After some friendly arguing and joking, he agreed to 6,000 Tsh (about $6 USD).

Getting the drum home turned into an adventure. The daladala (bus) I got on at the market began to spew smoke and make loud noises. This led to all the Tanzanians pushing and shoving to get off the daladala. Everybody was afraid that it would explode. I asked the driver what was happening. While laughing, he replied "gari inahitaji mafuta" (the car needs oil). Realizing that it would be some time before this daladala would be moving, I joined the rest of the Tanzanians on the side of the road to wait for the next vehicle. After taking the next available daladala, I finally arrived at the college gates.

When I got off the daladala, I was greeted by a group of 20 primary school students. One of them was carrying a small bass drum. They saw the drum I was carrying and started cheering. This led to an impromptu jam session on the side of the road. I was playing my drum, the kid was playing his bass drum, and the rest of the children were dancing.

It was definitely one of those "Wow! I'm in Africa" moments.


The Finer Things in Life

Yesterday my quality of life in Tanzania took a huge step up. My hot water heater is finally operational. After many months of painfully cold showers, I am finally able to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of hot water. It was impossible to get completely clean when I was screaming in pain from the shock of ice cold water. As the outside temperatures dropped, I had take to singing musicals to keep my mind off of the torture I was enduring to stay clean. I am sure my neighbors greatly appreciated my stunning renditions of Oklahoma! and Phantom of the Opera.

The repair itself was a relatively simple matter. The fundi (repairman) fashioned 2 new fuses out of some wire to replace the non-functioning ones. In less than 30 minutes, my bathroom transformed from torture chamber to a haven of peace and relaxation. Granted the water is a little yellow coming from the hot water heater, but I overlook that to enjoy my new luxury.

Speaking of the finer things in life, the food selection at the market is getting better. Lately they have been selling mandarins. I am completely addicted to them. At 50 Tsh a piece, they are a tasty and relatively cheap snack. One of the vendors even had grapefruit last week. I am so thankful that I live in the buzzing metropolis that is Moshi, Tanzania.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


Chinese food, Chinese men, and a giant rat

And now, a moment of silence for the dearly departed Chinese buffet...

For y'all who were not aware, one of my favorite places to eat in all of Tanzania was Pagoda Chinese here in Moshi. Every Sunday they hosted an all-you-can-eat buffet for only 3500 Tsh (about $3.50). Absolutely amazing food prepared by a chef from China. It was generally the only day of the week I got to eat meat. I ate there EVERY Sunday from December until the middle of May.

On Friday, I was at the Moshi bus stand on my way to Marangu. I saw the Chinese chef in a bus and went over to say "hello". He got this sad look on his face and delivered the sobering news. Since the restaurant closed, he has taken a position with the Impala Hotel in Arusha (a big step-up for him in pay and status). I promised to visit him at the Impala in the near future. (Arusha is a short 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Moshi)

After absorbing the sad news, I hopped on a daladala (public bus) to Marangu. Marangu is the location of the entrance to Kilimanjaro National Park. Stacey (another PCV) and I had to visit the park office to book our school trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. After numerous greetings to officials and some waiting, we finally had the confirmation of our dates. I will be supervising the ultimate school field trip from November 14-19.

During one of the extended periods of waiting, 2 Chinese men came into the office. They started asking questions about booking a climb. Stacey and I had a difficult time containing our laughter when they realized that we did not work at the park office. We then proceeded to have a short conversation and discovered that they manage a chemical company in Dar. It was an interesting talk considering that they knew only a little English and no Swahili and we knew no Chinese. It involved a lot of gestures and laughing. We said our goodbyes and they left the office.

Stacey and I completed our business a short while later and left the park gate. We were trying to figure out a way to get back to Marangu town (5 km) when the Chinese guys appeared again. They started to get into a taxi. Stacey and I looked at each other and thought, "Why not?". We went over to the taxi and asked if we could ride along with them. They replied, "Yes. Chinese very kind". It turns out that they were taking the taxi all the way back to Moshi. They must have paid at least $35 each way. So instead of an hour on a full daladala, we got a comfortable taxi ride and some interesting conversation. Some of my favorite quotes:
1. "He wants an American wife."
2. "I am going to America to buy companion."
3. "Bill Gates could buy 5 Tanzania."
4. "Yao Ming. He tall like you."
5. "You don't have television? That very bad."

We exchanged email addresses. They want to take us out the next time we are in Dar.

And finally...the story about the giant rat.

For the past few months, I have had occasional run-ins with this rat. They have always been on the outdoor sink on my back balcony. On Monday night, the rat found a new place to relax.

A quick explanation of the structure of my windows. Every window has an immovable metal security grate. On the inside is a mosquito gauze pane that swings in. On the outside is the glass pane which swings out. One of the previous residents cut holes in some of the mosquito gauze, apparently so that they would not have to open the mosquito gauze pane in order to open and close the glass window. Yeah, it seems like a good move until you consider that mosquitos and other critters could enter via those holes.

Okay, let's return to the battle of Monday night...

It was about 11 pm when I went to my bedroom to sleep. The glass panes were open to allow some ventilation. I happened to glance up at the window as I was getting into bed. Sitting in the security grate was the giant rat (aka "Ya Little Bastard"). I faced a dilemma: How was I to get the rat to move so I could close the glass, while preventing it from entering the bedroom via the holes in the mosquito gauze? I took a battle posture...sandal in one hand and a can of bug spray in the other hand (this to be used in the event that the rat came inside). I threw the sandal hard against the window. The rat did not move. I had to throw the sandal 5 more times before the rat finally understood. At that point, it SLOWLY sauntered off the grate and disappeared along the side of the building. I am keeping the glass closed until I can repair the holes in the mosquito gauze.

To summarize...the rat has messed with the wrong female. If it appears again, it will likely become a dissection model for my biology classes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


May 18, 2004

Welcome to my online journal!

I am currently a member of the US Peace Corps. I have created this online journal so that I can share the adventures of my time in Tanzania.

Sit back and enjoy my tales of the "toughest job you'll ever love".

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