how do you spell Misungwi?

Monday, January 30, 2006

i am very happy and stupid

yeah, so turns out i had turned on the 'moderate comments' function on this thing, but didn't have a clue that meant I had to approve every one - so thanks to all who have been commenting for the last month or so!
have it worked out so that you can comment freely without being censored by me, that is until I start getting the obnoxious spam comments again..

I am VERY close to posting pictures on this thing ---- a new dimension to my observations, should be exciting, and I promise the first picture to be posted will be the cat eating a lizard (no barf pics)


Sunday, January 29, 2006

lizard butt

there is a lizard butt (well, i guess I should say 'tail'), sitting in the kitchen of my house.

I heard Lupe, my cat (named after a needy mother from my favorite soap opera, 'The Revenge', which, by the way, is definitely nearing a spectacular finale - Renaldo has died, Rodrigo is on the run, Isabella is finally softening up and Alejandro/Soledad are together again after a blessing from, and a miscarriage by, Carolina) making a commotion yesterday afternoon, in the empty, aka 'cat room' of my house.

I went in to investigate, and found her playing with a sizeable lizard (though, disappointingly, not one of the ones with a pink head and purple butt - those are my favorite). I took some video of it with my new camera (thanks Dad and Mom!), which i will attempt to post here in the near future (along with more pleasant pictures, like Zanzibar).

I wasn't sure if this was just a game or a meal, but it turned out to be the latter. This morning I woke up to found, joy of all joys, some barfed up lizard head in my doorway, and a big fat lizard butt in the middle of the kitchen ('leftovers'). For all the credit I usually give cats as the superior species to dogs, which I still strongly believe in, they can all be pretty freaking stupid sometimes. Then again, I know plenty of humans who drink themselves silly and barf all over the place too - guess stupidity knows no boundaries.

I still haven't mopped up the barf, am waiting to see if the stupidity extends to re-eating gross lizard remains she failed to properly digest the first time. Plus, I have no water. My guard was suposed to bring me some, but was at a funeral and so very late. The rains here in Tanzania were supposed to have started in December, continued Jan, paused in Feb, and then really pick up March through June. Well, it didn't rain in December, and after a few good downpours in early January (enough to get farmers out to their fields to plant), it has again cut out here in the Mwanza region, leaving things pretty dry, dusty, and hot.

The small-picture side of this is that I can't clean up my cat's vomit, I'm down to only one bath a day (using about 10 liters of water instead of my normal 15), and when I blow my nose my snot is a nice brownish/sandy color. The big-picture is that Tanzanian farmers are essentially 'good-luck' dependent, i.e. they plant water-intensive crops like maize (gotta have their maize porridge) but then have no means of irrigating in case the rains, as they have this year, decide to take a month off.

Some places along the Lake are a bit better, though this involves lots of time and labor hauling pails of water up to the farms. Which, by the way, is how most farming around this region is done: by hand. Plowing is done with a hoe - I've seen a small handful of people using cows to plow the fields, much more common is to see a whole family (5-year-old children included), each with hoes in hand, heading out early morning to dig up some dirt.

That said, they really get their shit done here. The Sukuma people in Mwanza region are apparently known for a strong work ethic, and what I guess I would call a stubbornness, in that they don't like to depend on food from other parts of the country, but like to be self-sustaining. But you can only work so hard when natural forces are working against you!

Long story short: waiting for guard to bring water, housegirl to clean puke, and mother nature to CUT THESE PEOPLE SOME FUCKING SLACK AND LET IT POUR ALREADY.

Friday, January 27, 2006

10 cent shit

I'm sorry, this is gross, but it has to be the first thing I write about, because it's so damn funny.

Not sure how I missed it for a whole year, but yesterday I was walking along one of the winding roads of downtown Mwanza, and came across a public bathroom with the following largely, clearly written on the front wall:


Basically, 'little one' is 50 shillings (nickel), 'big one' is 100 (dime). And in case 'little one' and 'big one' isn't clear enough for you, I could also say 'Number 1' and 'Number 2', or 'piss' and 'shit.'

So, for some reason or another, the first thought that popped into my head was 'why is the shit more expensive? I doubt there's toilet paper anyways [usually just water to splash-clean]'

Then, I thought, well, usually when you take a shit, you invariably take a piss. Now, is the 100 shilling 'shit' option an all-inclusive package, piss and shit combined, or is this like an ala carte thing where I would have to pay 100 for just the shit, and fork over an extra 50 for the piss. Because I would be pretty upset if it were the later - it kinda seems like they'd be forcing you into it, since I personally find it hard to NOT piss after going Number 2, and quite frankly I'm surprised anyone would pay 50 shillings to piss in a bathroom anyways, well at least men, since most men here just piss anywhere they feel like.

This is something that I will have to do a bit more research on. But just out of curiosity - since I'm white, I can just walk 5 minutes down the street and take a dump in the SAFI (clean) white-people hotel bathroom. There's toilet paper there, and fancy hand soap. They don't question me or anything, I just go, do my business, and leave. Doubt a Tanzanian could do the same.

Let's see, what's new. Secondary School students are back in class, though I haven't started going to teach yet. I will though, since the teachers set a whole period aside in the schedule for my lesson (for the WHOLE school - eeks- will take some coordination to pull this off). We had a two-day planning meeting for my AMREF work for the year, with all of the District Government big-potatoes. It's kind of interesting, they all seem quite fond and possessive of me, often in a parent-son type relationship (since they are all most definitely older than myself). Now if I can translate this relationship, which has taken me a whole year to slowly build and develop, into something that can actually help me get some kick-ass work done in the year up-coming, well then, that would be fantastic. Today I sat in on a meeting of counselors/testers from the few VCTs in Misungwi district (Voluntary Counseling and Testing centers). It was a pretty informative meeting, though I didn't have a ton to contribute, and they seem interested in involving me in their ongoing efforts to improve testing facilities and encourage more people to get tested - especially working with community drama groups to encourage people to visit their facilities.

That's all to report - well, not all, but I'm damned tired today and am looking forward to getting home and fixing me some guacamole with what - judging by looks, texture, and intution - I believe may be the best avocado I've ever purchased. It's huge, and was only 15 cents!

*I have gotten a request to write a bit more about transporation here in Tanzania, as well as agriculture/farming/rainy season. I will get to those in the next few entries.

**In the meantime, why isn't anyone making comments on this thing?! I'm not pathetic, but that doesn't mean I won't beg and grovel. The heading at the top of this page isn't that far from the truth, I basically do NOT speak English most days here, and you all would be very, very sad for me if you saw how excited I get seeing that I have even one comment!!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

the postman always begs twice....

I had a fun encounter on Wednesday at the post office in Mwanza, one that I'm sure would've made me lose my cool had I not just finished a fantastically relaxing and refreshing 2 week vacation...

I recieved a slip in my AMREF mailbox that said I had a package waiting for me at customs in the main Mwanza Post office - dated December 23rd. 'CHRISTMAS CANDY, HERE I COME!!!' was my first and only thought. So I went to pick it up - silly me - at about 1:15 in the afternoon.

Me: 'Hi, I'm here to pick up my package!'
Post Office Guy: 'The customs guy is at lunch. Sorry'
Me: 'Oh, so can someone else help me?'
POG: 'No, there's only one guy who can help you, and he is at lunch'
Me: 'So he just left, huh? When will he be back?'
POG: 'Actually, he hasn't been here all day, but I think he's at lunch now, he should be back soon.'
Me: 'Ummmm.... How do you know this if you haven't even seen him yet today?
POG: [no response]
Me: 'You see, I don't live in Mwanza town, so it's kind of an inconvenience for me to try to work around this dude's schedule. Maybe you can give him a call and see when he'll be back?'
POG: [calls the dude] 'He's at lunch. He'll be back at 2:30.'
Me: 'Ok, what time does he leave for the day?'
POG: '3pm'

So at this point, I went to have a great Indian lunch with the two other volunteers in the region, Andrew and Ryan, both of whom apparently have blogs [see links]. After stuffing my face with curries and parathas, I glanced at my watch to see - 3:05pm. GREAT. So I did something I pretty much NEVER do in Mwanza - hopped in a cab - and arrived at the Post Office at 3:10. Let's pick up the conversation again here:

Me: [pant, pant] 'Hi, I'm here to pick up my package from the customs dude'
POG: [extremely guilty look on his face] 'Um, he's not here'
Me: 'What?! But i've been sitting here for 15 minutes waiting for him, he shouldn't have left yet! [yes, I lied. what's your point?!]
POG: 'Oh, um...... actually, he didn't come back from lunch'
Me: [mischevous, 'i'm gonna be demanding and not culturally sensitive' grin on my face]
Ok, buddy, let me tell you something. I had to pay 1,500 shillings to come to Mwanza today, and will have to pay the same this evening to return. I just took a 1,000 shilling cab so I could rush my ass over here and greet our friend, the customs dude, so I can pick up a package that has been sitting at this post office for a month since you guys were too late or lazy to send me the slip telling me to pick it up. Either you give me 4,000 shillings to I can go through this whole charade again tomorrow, or call him and tell him to get the hell over here and give me my package'
POG: 'Ummmm......take it easy, give me a minute...'
[on phone to customs dude] 'Hey, there's this white guy here who was looking for you earlier, and he's pretty angry now. Come over here and do your job'

[10 minutes pass.... I sit on bench, smiling passively-aggressively at every PO employee I see]

Customs Dude: 'Ok, where's this impatient white guy at?'
Me: 'Here I am, how are you today sir?' [continuing with the passive-aggressiveness]
CD: 'Oh, you know Swahili. Oh. Ok, where is your package?'
Me: 'That's what I'd like to know'
CD: [goes to find the parcel in question, a large box from my Aunt labeled 'books and magazines'] 'Ok, let's see here..... so with the customs fees and tarriffs and everything, that'll be 24,000 shillings please'
Me: 'No.'
CD: 'No, you didn't understand. You have to pay fees depending on the value of the goods that have been sent to you'
Me: 'Ok, but the number you came up with was based on postage fees, not value declaration. The package is valueless, it's all old magazines' [another lie - not true Aunt Karen, it was a VERY valuable gift!!]
CD: 'Ummmmm......Oh. Ok. Well, let's open it up and take a look.'
Me: 'Is Tanzania still a democratic country? Or are all packages opened up these days?'
[POG got a real kick out of that last statement, much to the chagrin of CD]
CD: 'Fuck you, rich white guy' [well, at least that's what I assume he said to himself]
[opens package, begins looking through contents - magazines, Christmas candy, BEEF STICKS!! - sure he had NO CLUE about those, cocoa mixes, mechanical pencils, etc]
CD: 'Ok, so how much money do you have?'
Me: [SILENT, with 'give me a break' written all over my face]
CD: 'You have 5,000 shillings?'
Me: 'No. The holidays just passed, and you know how money is after the holidays' [BEST EXCUSE EVER, got it from about the million Tanzanians I've heard use it]
CD: 'Oh. So.....' [starts fiddling with one of the mechanical pencils, but shows no sign of giving up this discussion]
Me: 'Do you like pencils?'
CD: 'Is that what this is? Yes, I do.'
Me: 'Enough, take 3 pencils, go back to wherever you were, and let me get the hell on my way.'
CD: [NO hesitation] 'OK. Thanks. Have a nice day'
Me: 'Yeah, buddy, you too.'

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I love larium

the last few mornings have been pretty wild, but nothing like this morning.

you see, i've been going to sleep without turning my alarm clock on because, well, I just finished vacation and I'm not quite ready to start the whole waking-up-early-and-going-to-work-on-time thing, not just yet.

so now the sleep-lab geek in me comes out. as all in the sleep-profession know, most people get lots of deep, restful sleep in the early and middle parts of the night, while mornings are dominated by increasingly long bursts of REM sleep, the stage of sleep that produces dreams, interspersed with periods of lighter sleep. this REM sleep, based on my personal sleep history (which I know in WAY too much detail), typically comes for me in 30-60 minute intervals that start around midnight and increase in frequency up until waking time. well, let me tell you - with my alarm clock off i have gotten some pretty wicked-serious REM sleep, and when you combine that with my anti-malarial medications (most-common side effect = incredibly vivid dreams, bordering on nightmares), needless to say the results are freakin entertaining.

this morning's example (or the little I remember of it - i'd say I typically only comprehend about 20% of what I dream...):

it was the day of my wedding. so for those of you who know me, you know that this is a nightmare, not a dream. HA! i tried to get a look at the bride, but I didn't recognize her face. people were calling her Natalie, and people were calling me Chad (NO clue why, but still pretty sure it was me). she had buns in her hair though, a very unusual style for a bride on her wedding day, and thus I bring your attention to

REASON #1 - why I am convinced that I will marry Natalie Portman (aka Queen Amidala)

anyways, I can't be sure it was her though, since I spent most of the time staring at her body. no, this is not because i'm a pig, it's because her wedding dress was very unique. it was a standard white-flowy-fluffy-lacy-frilly-girly-yadayadayada dress, except for one unique feature - it had a HUGE red maple leaf plastered across her stomach. now, this really would make no sense, if it weren't for the fact that at my neighbor's house a few nights ago, we watched a bad imitation of WWE professional wrestling, and one of the wrestlers was a very proud Canadian who had the maple leaf on his coat, his speedoshorts, his shoes, and spraypainted in his hair. the wrestling was really bad, nowhere near the quality of Smackdown or Raw, but my neighbors loved it none-the-less.

so as i was staring and pondering the mystery of this national-pride wedding garment, it suddenly morphed from a bright red maple leaf into a bright blue star of david.

REASON #2 - I will marry Natalie Portman!! (she's Israeli)

ok, so i was staring at the morphing designs on my bride-to-be's stomach, and I guess somewhere in there we actually got married, exchanged vows, etc etc. I don't remember any of that stuff, probably a defense mechanism where I block out all the really scary stuff (VOWS!!). i should be glad, because if I had heard myself say 'I do' I probably would've woken up screaming and sweating, and the rest of the dream was pretty entertaining, I would've missed out.

so yeah, cut to reception. I, along with my still faceless bride, are now for some reason or other wearing standard PeaceCorps issue bicycle helmets.

REASON #3 - anyone see Garden State?!?!!!!! Natalie wears a helmet!!!! DONE DEAL.

and we are presiding over a buffet line that includes, again for some unknown reason, a ton of crappy Tanzanian food. one interesting selection - does anyone remember those little 'troll' dolls, with the really bright and fluffy hair?! Yeah, so those were in one of the hotpots, and I observed guests grabbing them by the hair and eating the bodies. Now, I was racking my brain for an explanation of where the hell this came up in my recent life, and decided it must have been when I was in Dar-es-Salaam and went out for pork with some friends from the University. Any PCV in Tanzania can tell you that the pork here is VERY tasty....and occasionally still a bit hairy.

I myself made a beeline for the porky-trolls, when I bumped over the large serving tray holding them with my incredibly large gut. I then saw my extremely fat landlord (wearing his Steve Urkel pants) pointing and laughing at me. Now, I assume this little mind-game is a result of the fact that everyone I saw in Morogoro (host family) told me I was getting fat and growing a belly. At that point, I began to rememer how once in Morogoro I knocked the sliding door off of a minivan bus I was riding when I tried to get off and hit it with my ass. Thus, in my dream, I managed to destroy my own wedding-buffet line with my enormous mid-section.

After cleaning myself up, we began chatting with the guests. There were many - other PCVs, college friends, people from high school I haven't seen in 6 years, family, and I assume Natalie's famous Hollywood friends (though I didn't see any of them with my own eyes, except for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie but I assumed they were there to celebrate my fantastic development work in Africa, and not just because of celebrity connections). They were all pretty shit-faced drunk though, so most were passed out sprawled across their tables, it kind of looked like some sort of mass carbon-monoxide poisoning or something. This I have since interpreted as my brain being starved of oxygen, because....

At this point, sadly, I woke up. Out of breath, face down in my pillow. After regaining my breath, I spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out what the hell I had just imagined.

How's that for a glimpse into my crazy, but still malaria-free for 1 year and 3 months, mind?!!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

guess who's back? back again?

First, and hopefully last, Eminem reference I will ever make on this blog. Especially since (no offense Dad, Mom, Grandparents, Aunts/Uncles, etc) most of the 'mature' readers probably have no clue what I'm talking about.

I am back in Misungwi after a record-breaking 2 weeks away from site. I have yet to venture out into the market/busstand/downtown area, I expect it will involve too many explanations of my absence and inquiries regarding gifts from Dar that it will be tough to handle, so I'm putting it off until this afternoon.

However, yesterday I hung out with the neighbors and one of my best friends, Deus, and after a few minutes of 'how's it been stranger' type banter, things were back to usual. Surprisingly, I got no comments on how my Kiswahili or Kisukuma has gotten worse, even though it definitely has after 2 weeks of almost exclusive English communication. As much as I was nervous about getting back, yesterday was just very nice and normal, something I haven't had for awhile. As to be expected on Saturdays, the electricity was out all day, so I mostly just sat around in non-awkward silence or in bits of interesting conversation with Deus. Dinner at Mama Leo's was rice and beans, something I dare say I had missed a little (though when I was in Morogoro I had coconut rice every day, something I will miss far more).

My last few days in Dar were really fantastic, fortunatley my last blog entry was not prophetic (thank goodness, as for at least one day in Dar I seemed to be calling things left and right - I had just finished talking about gross amounts of dripping sweat when my friends and I piled onto the hottest daladala ride I've had yet and, yes, had sweat dripping from our chins. Then 2 seconds later I started a discussion on personal space and having strangers' kids sitting in our laps, and - BOOM - i got stuck with an awfully fat but cute Tanzanian 2-year-old on my knees).

I spent one evening visiting a friend at the University of Dar es Salaam, and despite the brevity, it was a really great evening. I hung out with a group of about 5 well-dressed, well-educated, young and motivated Tanzanian sophomores, and had interesting discussions about elections, politics, cultures, music and movies, over beers and pork (man, I love pork). They had just finished exams, something I definitely do not miss fondly about my university experience, but I do miss the intellectual discussion and the plethora of things to do and see and talk about that exists in Dar.

After that, I went to the other extreme and took a trip back to rural, up-in-the-mountains Bigwa, site of my homestay experience over a year ago (shit, time flies). I think I've already mentioned one highlight of this excursion, the coconut rice, which went deliciously well with some spiced meat that we had to celebrate Eid el Hajj with my homestay brother and his Muslim wife. Another highlight was to get away from the hustle and bustle (and expenses!) of the big city.

But the main highlight was visiting the family (father, mother, and older brother - the little guys were gone when I was there). From a big-picture perspective, I don't know these folks all that well, and only spent two months with them when i've now been in country for over a year. But the fact that I stayed with them for my first two months, and that the basics of everything I know and depend on here I learned from them, has created some sort of sappy, weird bond that allowed us to instantly connect like relatives who hadn't seen each other for awhile. Really, really short relatives. I only spent 2 days there, but had a great time playing checkers, hiking in the beautiful Uluguru mountains up to what I call 'Banana city', eating tons of fresh mangoes, and just catching up about the past year. I especially enjoyed seeing my host brother, whom I helped out a bit with school - he is now studying in Dar in Form 5, which is like pre-college, upperlevel high school. He is far more proficient in English than a year ago, and just seems so motivated, excited, full of goals and aspirations, a very fun transformation to witness.

My last night in Dar had a great time with the 14 or so Education volunteers who are remaining - went to a nice sushi place, then out dancing til 4 in the morning. Tanzanian prostitutes are very nice and polite, but can get a tad annoying.

Enough Dar recap, I'm excited to get back to entries about regular, i.e. boring, life.

good times

These are lyrics to one of the most popular songs of the past year that I've been in Tanzania. The song is called 'Starehe', which means roughly 'good times', and is sung by Ferouz featuring Professor J.
Ferouz is ill, and discusses his condition with his doctor (Professor J). My translation is not very good, i'm doing it word for word instead of by more general meaning or context, but I think it still comes across. I hope to at some point post (though i have NO clue how) a wav. file or something so that everyone can get a chance to hear this - it has a very quick, catchy beat.
Makes you question the content of most American music, huh? At least, it makes me feel this way. And this after I just quoted a shitty Eminem song...


Here I am in my bed,
Good times have gotten me in trouble,
to recover again is just not possible
my friends, my relatives farewell
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Suwa Said Scot Jenta [other famous TZ singers] goodbye,
Bongo records and majani goodbye,
you won't see me again on this earth.

Now I regret to say your friend has met trouble,
the devil has succeeded to pull me in,
now I dont know who to blame,
between my own self and demons,
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Makongo and Jiteute goodbye,
MOA and Azania goodbye,

It's 1pm if I look at my watch
I've already left Jackie now i'm going to find Salama
At 6pm I have an appointment with 2 ladies,
not to mention Lillie whom I'm meeting at 8pm
Jane from Mikocheni, who is no longer on earth,
She would've been waiting for me by the rocks,
Amina and Semeni I will be meeting at Macheni
and every day I change up the order

This indeed was the course of my life,
loafing around the playing fields,
I saw nothing but fame and splendor
I partied with such haste and rashness,
I changed ladies like changing buses,
Going I got on this one, returning on that one,
I yearned to rule as king of all parties

Even to remember my God it was just a dream,
I was carried away by worldly life,
Turns out I was running from fire
and behavior of changing girlfriends I enjoyed
I especially liked my young well-dressed sistas

The bad part is that I didn't appreciate condoms,
since I knew it would reduce the pleasure of sex,
what do you know, I was losing a way
which I was advised could protect me.
The number of women was too large to count,
it reached a period where some of them I don't even remember
See? See this now?
What occured is that the sister of Bashiri,
I had already forgotten if we had been intimate,
when I saw her I seduced her again,
again for the second time.


Professor J:
Hey youth, why haven't you knocked on the door?
Get in line, one by one is how we do things here,
Remove your doubts, good cures don't come quickly,
Wait while the others are treated and you will follow

Doctor i've come to do a final evaluation
I believe this will be my last visit
symptoms show that I am affected (by AIDS)
but I've come to test only so that I can be sure
See, check it doctor how i've become emaciated
I am left just skin and bones
My body is dotted with sores and cuts,
don't say it these are all symptoms of Electricity (slang for HIV/AIDS)
symptoms of Electricity

Professor J:
Stop being afraid, even malaria can be like this,
you can lose weight from typhoid or TB,
if you are not open and honest you are endangering your life,
it's better to distinguish which is menacing you, huh?

Frequent fevers are constantly bothering me,
I vomit and have diarrhea 62 times a week
Look, how my hair has begun to fall out
My shoulders have risen you'd say they've popped out
I have it, I have it (slang for AIDS)
(Prof J) Wait for the test!
I have it, I have it
(Prof J) don't give up now!
I have it, I have it
Doctor don't be heartening,
it's like giving a toothless man a bone to gnaw on,
Here on earth I have no importance,
i'm supposed to say goodbye to earth, i have to do so
It's better i know now, so i can start shutting down

Professor J:
No! no, these are strange decisions
It's inexperience to kill yourself like this because,
illness is normal for humans, you should know this
It's better you relax and get answers from your bloodtest

Now what's going on, you see what am I waiting for?
Better I be early to rest in the cemetary

Professor J:
Good times you really enjoy but this has bad results,
Many have been ruined by promiscuity,
Tests show that it's true you are affected (AIDS),
I'm very sorry, to lose more national strength,
It's good to go to service/worship and to talk with your Creator,
Eat well, do exercise, rest your body,
If you follow these guidelines you can live positively with hope
By the way, you still have a place here, believe in yourself

God who created me, now I have already wronged him,
Even the soil of heaven is insulting me,
The angels of punishment await me with pleasure,
When I reach the afterlife who will greet me?


Monday, January 09, 2006

port of peace...and boredom

I am now entering my second week in Dar es Salaam, which I'm not sure I mentioned means 'Port of Peace'. But, as the title of the entry suggests, it's getting a little old.

Some highlights from the past week (excluding the dentist):

-movie theater!!! I miss Doc, I miss movies. We saw chronicles of Narnia, which was kind of corny, but it was just nice sitting in the theater (air conditioning!!) and taking in the whole movie experience.

-a very expensive (12 dollars! 2 days salary!!) but well worth it breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn here in Dar es Salaam. Included cold cereals, tons of fruits, pancakes, meat and eggs, crossaints and pastries, and even champagne!! Having Peace Corps Volunteers allowed into anything that is 'all-you-can-eat' is asking for trouble...

-an equally luxurious Thai dinner at another posh hotel. One of my fellow volunteers had his parents visiting, and they VERY graciously treated us all (close to 15 volunteers) to this fantastic dinner!! By the way, in case you didn't realize it yet Dad and Mom, you better be saving up for your visit, because my friends and I really like food. :-)

-lots of time spent at the American Club with my friends, which is basically like a fancy country club for American citizens (well, we get in free, anyone else has to pay to get in). Here we can swim in a pool for free, get some fantastic (but overpriced) food, just sit in air conditioning and watch TV, and rent any of a hundred or so movies available.

-a day at a nearby beach with some nice waves, walks, beaches, and beers (and a camel)

-walking around the main Dar es Salaam market (insanity). I really just can't describe it here, until you experience it you just can't imagine. TONS of people, TONS of food, TONS of stuff, noises, smells, sights, sounds, etc. On the way there we passed the main brewery for some fine Tanzanian beers and I tried to get us a tour/taste test, but we were turned down.

So for the next few days, I am hoping to touch base with a friend of mine who is at the University of Dar es Salaam, and get a view of campus and of college life here in Tanzania. This should be really fun, maybe even make me miss a bit the U of C.
Even more exciting, I want to pop in on my homestay family, who so wonderfully helped me during my first 2 months here in Tanzania, but have not seen since March.
And, of course, a few more stops at subways/ice cream places/etc to enjoy my last few days of metropolitan life...

Friday, January 06, 2006


....go out to Michelle, who, as the kids say these days, 'pimped my blog.'

coming soon: wish list, perhaps a map of Tanzania, and hopefully some sweet pictures.

yo, fools: make comments!

i want pain

or so I learned yesterday.

I am still here in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania (means Port of Peace), for what Peace Corps calls our Mid Service Conference (thats right, i'm halfway finished with my work here!).

For the first two days, the 12 remaining health education volunteers met to listen to some presentations by NGOs and other organizations working in Tanzania to improve coordination between us and them, and then exchanged successes and problems we have encountered in the past year - all the while bouncing around new ideas and having a good time eating AMERICAN food (sandwiches!) and catching up.

Then yesterday we started our medical check up, and for me that meant going to the dentist - an always enjoyable experience. Well, lets just say, I was sorely disappointed!!! From what I remember about my last trip to the dentist, I expected to have a kind looking dental hygenist really go to town scraping plaque off my teeth, brutally jabbing the jabber-pick into the tops of my molars to test for soft spots, cleaning and polishing with some gritty, badly-fake-flavored creams and whatnot, and then ending the whole shebang with a not-so-delicate flossing and scolding about improved dental hygiene.

What I got was far from it - the guy kinda just looked at my teeth with a mirror, did some very minor poking, and then a very light cleaning with what I eventually gathered to be some kind of elaborate, clinical-looking water pick. I figured out the water pick part when I started drooling uncontrolably all over myself, lets just say the saliva-sucker-upper thing (do these instruments have real names?) was not up to the task during my appointment.

No flossing, no poking, no scolding, nothing. It was not painful at all, and I have now learned that that is NOT what I expect, nor want, when I go to the dentist. I want blood, I want to cry. Yesterday I felt like I could've left a big chunk of my sub sandwich in my teeth and it might still have been there even after the appointment (went to Subway for lunch - sweet. not a huge fan of globalization, but if fast-food is coming to Tanzania, at least it's Subway and not McDonalds or Taco Bell).

And that was the best option here in Dar - it was at Aga Khan, which apparently is Canadian. Those softie Canadians. I hear the Swedes are brutal, and people actually WERE crying when they left - maybe i'll make a special request for my last appointment at their place.

Today is the last day of official Peace Corps business - then a few weekend days on the beach outside of dar, and will learn if i'm heading straight back to Mwanza or waiting in Dar for a few days until a PC vehicle gives me a lift up. Which reminds me, New Years on Zanzibar was fantastic. Well, a few problems with our first resort and beach (crabby owner, excessive seaweed), but then we moved up to the north side of the island and had a fantastic day of swimming, relaxing, drinking, and talking. It was a shock to see so many other non-Tanzanians, and I wouldn't have wanted to stay much longer, but it was a much needed and appreciated 3 day vacation.