how do you spell Misungwi?

Friday, October 27, 2006

During this past week, I...

... ate yet ANOTHER one of my papayas. oh so good. only 2 left now, then I move on to passion and bananas.

... crashed 2 big church revivals in town. it happens a lot, you hear loud music and see lots of people gathered around a rather spartan looking building, but the unmistakable signs [hands in the air, man on platform sweating profusely, most people just walking by] tell you that it's a churchy thing. well, these churchy things, i didn't 'crash' them, but mainly was there to make sure nothing incorrect was being said about AIDS, condoms, etc. I almost had to step in during one of them, which would've created quite a scene, but the preacher-guy [who was very angry, loud, and hoarse] changed the topic.

... i had a 15 minute conversation, at 10pm, with 2 masaai dudes who guard a resthouse near me. one of them, willy, has really good kiswahili, so we had a nice conversation about a variety of interesting, though not too complex or wordly, topics. the thing is, this entire conversation felt NORMAL, even though he has the big saggy earlobes, and wears traditional clothes, and carries a big stick and knife, and is what one sees in national geographic pictures. it was completely, totally mundane.

... celebrated Eid-al-Fitr with my muslim friends, many of whom [example a conductor of one of the daladalas], have noticeably lost weight after a month of fasting. I may not have been successfull in actually fasting along with them, but that doesn't mean I can't help eat the feasts they prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadhan. pilau, goat meat, salads, fruits, sodas, good times.

... also celebrated Eid by going to a disco and spending about 3 hours having drunken conversations [well, I was sober], with my neighbor the driver and my neighbor the electrician. Does this sound like something a 24 year old does or a 45 year old whose name is Jim? But to my credit my friends are my age, and we talk about fun youthful things [take a guess], and laughed quite a bit.

... ALSO celebrated Eid by making the tisk-tisk noise of shame and disgust at little children. you see, in the afternoon, before the 'grown-ups' disco, there was a kiddie disco. well some of these kiddies are pubescent and pre-pubescent young boys, and they have dirty mouths. really dirty mouths. i can only hope they don't do even a quarter of the stuff they say [i doubt they do, i seem to remember having a big mouth at some point too...]

... started exercising by bicycle since my foot hurts. not bad, only it's pretty hilly here. one day i got into a fun race with some of the bicycle taxi guys, i was coming up a hill and passed one of them, and he clearly decided 'oh no, this white guy is NOT going to just pass me up a hill like this' so he started hauling, and then we passed about 5 more guys and they all thought the same thing, so we ended up looking like some sort of rabid pack of wolves on bicycles [odd image] busting our asses up this hill, and then down, and then up again, all the way back to my house. in the end I won, though can't gloat too much because if you compare my Trek to their, um, "bicycles", i clearly had the advantage. oh, and i think i've said this before, but their legs really really do look like horse legs. all muscle, no fat. scary.

... reunited with an old friend, 'icy-hot' [due to foot pain]. oh, how I love thy aroma, and the shock it brings to other people's faces since any room I enter the strong, STRONG smell comes with me.

... had a good chuckle at the kiswahili/english mixtures i've heard, including: magrupu [groups], kutiki [to 'tick'], majonsi ['jones' aka to be sad], etc.

... attended the graduation at Missungwi Secondary school. It was a very nice celebration for the 72 students who had just recently finished their national exams [which, I must say, featured several questions on topics which i had taught them, most prominently - no pun intended- the male reproductive system]. When i arrived at the school, I was ushered into the principal's office with the 'special guests', the district commissioner and other big potatoes, even though I don't consider myself special at all since I go to the school on a regular basis. joys of being the lone foreigner. There, at about 10am, we were treated to sodas and liver. No, it was actually really really tasty! so I did my best to schmooze with these people for half an hour before we entered the large [unfinished] hall for the ceremony. In brief, the graduation featured lots of very nice songs performed by students, though many were excessively long, and all featured a separate song to usher the students up to the front, then the actual song, and then a 'leaving' song to be sung as, well, as they were leaving. A tad excessive. The graduating students presented a muslim chant-thing to thank their teachers and fellow students, and I was humbled and shocked and really happy [almost teary] when they referred to their 'American' teacher and all the students started hooting and clapping. A feel-good moment. Then there was a clever drama about the importance of education, the choir sung out the names of students to receive their certificates, thousands of pictures were taken, kilos upon kilos of bananas and rice and meat were consumed, and all-in-all a good time was had. I couldn't help thinking though, and i shared this with another volunteer who agreed, that I feel much more scared for these kids than I did even when I was graduating. It is a tough life here, and they are in for some hard times. But I do my best to encourage, and am thrilled to see several of them talking positively about their next steps.

... continued to enjoy myself, as my time here winds down. the next week has lots more in store, including a final lesson and party at the Teachers Training college on saturday night. parrrty!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Oooh, pictures! More of them!

This is clearly a sign that I am in Dar es Salaam, at the Peace Corps office, with fast computers. Because it only took 10 minutes and not 10 hours to upload these shots.


Top: Nutrition seminar for a PLWHA group. That is the group, and the other picture is of the FANTASTIC food we ate that day. We had tea, chapatti, eggs, and sweet potatoes for breakfast; yogurt mid-morning; lunch consisted of rice, pilau, potatoes, fish, meat, beans, spinach, tomato salad, a nice dish made of cassava leaves and peanuts called 'kisamvu', and fresh fruit; and then for an evening snack we had juice and peanuts. We were stuffed by the end of the day, but it was all for the sake of learning about balanced diets and food groups...

Bottom: A picture of Dominic and Deus, my two best friends, at the home of their parents. I wrote about it in a post called 'Ng'ombe' or 'COW.' In the photo, we were mocking the door to their shed where they store drying tobacco - a grass shed with a padlock on it. Right.

The last one is the back of the head of the daladala bike driver who took me on a one-hour+ ride to a nearby [well, relatively nearby] secondary school. It's a pretty wild ride, but this guy really did a good job of getting me there, quickly, and comfortably.


Ok, so as I said, I'm currently in Dar-es-Salaam. We call it Dar, which in English kind of sounds like a noise meaning 'duhhhh' but here it's a normal part of our vocabulary. Peace Corps flew me down here from Mwanza so that I could attend, as an official PCV 'delegate', a party that celebrates the 45th anniversary of Peace Corps. This was a fairly special event, since Tanzania [then Tanganyika as it had not yet united with Zanzibar] was one of the first countries to become involved with the Peace Corps.

It's nice to be in Dar, one last time before I come to, and leave from for good, the biggest city in the country. The party last night featured lots of special guests, including some of the volunteers from 40+ years ago, who were really fascinating to talk to and hear their thoughts on how the country has, and has not, changed. The party also featured a pretty fabulous buffet of delicious foods, salads, and desserts. And an open bar. Woo-hoo!

The trip has also given me a chance to take care of a bunch of admin stuff, forms to fill out etc etc, before coming back in December. I'm still in the process of looking for work as I apply for and then wait for graduate school [if you know of any good jobs, preferably not behind a desk, let me know please please i will thank you so much please please].

Dar is a bustling city, as evidenced by what can be described as a semi-brawl trying to fight for a spot on the daladala bus to get to the office this morning. And the nightlife is nice too, last night I went to a casino with one of my friends, where we managed to play blackjack for a good hour or so. In the last 10 minutes of that hour I had amazing luck and managed to walk away with about 50 bucks!

It's also a small world - yesterday I ran into, I mean just randomly bumped into, a really good friend from Missungwi. It was surreal, think random Stevens Point bumping-into in NYC.

I had some other stuff to write about in an entry, but it was about Missungwi, and despite seeing this guy I am still in big-city mode, so will wait to write about the nuances of village life until I actually return to it, which will be this evening when I get back on the plane and head home....

Monday, October 16, 2006


I forgot an interesting cultural observation in my last entry. Last week I kept feeling really tired in the early morning. I told this to one of my friends, Sam, at the Misungwi market, and he gave me the clearest, most logical, occam’s razoresque answer anyone could have given – obviously, he said, there are witches who are waking me up at night and taking me to farm in the fields without my being aware of it. That accounts for me being so tired when I wake up – I’ve been digging with a hoe all night! Of course I dismissed this as silly, but a LARGE portion of Tanzanians here believe in ‘uchawi’, which means something along the lines of witchcraft. Mostly doing bad things to other people, no ‘good’ witches. So I told him the following day about my sweating in the middle of the night. “See!! See!! I told you. You are getting your ass worked out in the fields, but you still don’t believe it!”


Speaking of scary people, fictional or otherwise. Well, the otherwise. There are always young men in Mwanza who do daily labor work – lifting heavy objects, carrying bags, selling bus tickets. Lots of manual labor. But there are a handful of guys who, it seems, specialize in loading and unloading corn and wheat flour from trucks into a few big wholesale stores that then sell these huge [100 kg? 80kg?] bags to smaller store owners. Well, these guys by the end of the day look pretty terrifying; if I were a kid who had never seen them before I would cry. They are, of course, really big and burly given the heavy, labor intensive work they do. But they are also covered, head to toe, in white flour. They don’t look Caucasian white, nor albino white. They look SCARY white, like they have been possessed by the Pillsbury doughboy or the Michelin man or something.


Mwanza is an interesting contrast in terms of activity and relaxation. Even with the street vendors gone, it is still very lively in the downtown and there are people everywhere. They seem to be pretty evenly mixed, however, in what they are doing. Half are REALLY working their assess off to make a little money. Like the flour guys, like the store employees, like the people inside the main market selling foods and fruits and the like, and like the bus stand guys trying to find potential travelers. Well, sometimes the bus stand guys. Because the other half of the people in the city seem to be asleep, literally. In between carloads, or bus departures, or when there just isn’t any work to do, or maybe just when they are TIRED, lots of people here sleep. Under a tree, on a bench, under a parked semi truck [seriously], anywhere where there is shade and a little breeze and no one who’s taken the spot yet. It’s sort of depressing sometimes, both in respect to the lack of employment opportunities, and the fact that it looks so tempting and nice and comfortable that I have a hard time preventing myself from going and sleeping too.


My good friend the carpenter, Sele, has about 10 young men who work with him at his workshop, sanding wood, building tables and chairs and stuff, and cutting hair in a small salon/hut next door to the carpentry stuff. I trained about 5 of these guys on condom usage so that they could sell condoms in the haircutting booth, since I noticed that these booths [and there are many of them] are a popular place for young men to 1) get their hair cut, which is frequently, and 2) hang out and, well, just hang out. So what better place to put condoms, somewhere they will feel free and comfortable to purchase them. Plus, they usually sit around the barbershop at around 4-7pm, which I presume is right before the time they all split up to go look for girls. So the main guy I trained on condom use – well, he ran away. Why run away? To avoid 30 years in jail. 30 years for what? For getting a primary school [grade 4] girl pregnant. Whoops. I’m 90% sure he knocked her up before our little lesson on condoms, and granted she started school late so she’s older [about 16-18] than everyone else in the school. But still. I try to advise these guys as often as I can, ok, if you must have sex, use a condom, and come on use some common sense, DON’T sleep with students! We’ll see if he is able to come back….


I am in Mwanza, and tomorrow am going to Dar for a celebration of the 45th anniversary of Peace Corps – no silver 50, but still not bad. It’ll be a nice few days away from Missungwi, a change of scenery, and then when I get back on Friday I’ll be ready to settle in for the last 6-7 weeks of my service here before I leave for good. Time is flying, emotions are increasingly mixed, but it’s feeling good to know that I’ll be moving on. Friday will be graduation for the form 4 students I work closely with at the secondary school, so that will help, I think, as some closure for myself too. It’ll be nice to see some other people moving on to bigger and better things too, not just me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No warning required

YIKES, who is that guy, and what is he doing?! Oh, it's me, i'm sweaty, but that can't stop me from being happy because i'm holding a papaya from a tree that I planted myself, with a seed from a nice fruit that I ate. And since taking this picture, I have eaten, along with my neighbors, the papaya in question. It was delicious, red, sweet, smooth, perfect. I wanted to show how big they can get, this one would probably sell for maybe 40-50 cents at the market [vs way expensive in the states, from what my mom tells me]


I’m in a better mood than I was when I wrote my last post. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t still believe most of what I wrote, or that it wasn’t accurate, but that I’ve consciously made an effort to put it aside and look for the positive, even when I’m faced with constant reminders of the not-so-nice sort.

Today I had a good chuckle, which I needed. Last night I felt hot and tired, and woke up in the middle of the night DRENCHED in sweat. It was really, really disgusting, it felt like I had just got out of a bath and hadn’t dried off. Except sweat, not water. I was too tired to take a bathe [not as easy here as just jumping in the shower, i.e. no running water] so I took off the sheet and put a towel down and was just about to fall asleep again when I heard a loud drumming. We are in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan, and the commotion I was hearing was a group of people who walk around at midnight and wake people up to remind them to eat again, since as soon as it hits 5am they have to fast until about 7pm. Important for them, but kind of annoying for me. But I was so tired it didn’t really matter anyways, I passed out after a few minutes.

This morning I woke up early and went running again. It was nice, my friend Alex whom I run with was sick yesterday and so I ran by myself, which is NOT nice. I was trying to explain this to someone, and they asked ‘oh, so you talk a lot and stuff while you run?’ and the answer, honestly, is no. After about the first 3 minutes, I’m huffing and puffing too much to talk. But just running with another person, especially someone who is a bit better than you, is very encouraging and pushes you to go faster, farther. And let me be honest, if I’m stuck doing something that’s exhausting [exercise] or boring [some classes, for example] or tedious [some work meetings, for example], I like knowing that I’m not the only poor soul being tortured, but that I have company.

So the laughing part – we had just gotten back from our run, about 40 minutes, and were stretching in the soccer field while greeting students passing by on their way to school [kind of embarrassing for me as their teacher, but oh well, I just greet them in English and they get nervous and embarrassed too and we’re all in the same boat]. We were stretching and we saw, for about the 5th day in a row, two young men working together to push a trolley loaded with pretty large bricks. We had spoken to them a few days ago, and discovered that they were hauling 3,000 bricks from our neighborhood up to a plot near the school [‘up’ being a key word here]. Each load they can carry 60 bricks, so do the math – 50 loads. They start at 4am and go until maybe 10am. One of the guys said they’ll probably finish tomorrow or the next day.

But today, I had a question for them. You see, they had challenged us after our run a few days back that what we were doing wasn’t really exercise, but that their work was real exercise. I agreed that they had very hard work, and just watching them you can see their muscles straining while pushing the trolley. However, yesterday I saw something which puzzled me – a young man pushing a trolley DOWN, from an area up near the school, to a plot in our neighborhood. He was having quite a difficult time, but mainly in trying to slow the card down so it wouldn’t get away from him. In other words, the young men we had been speaking to are busting their asses to take bricks up, and someone else is hauling bricks down. This struck me as very comical, stupid, and kind of sad. This morning I asked them why they don’t just trade bricks with the other guy, so that the bricks ‘up there’ get moved to the plot ‘up there’ and the ones in our neighborhood get moved to the plot nearby. They looked baffled at the logic of this, and finally answered that ‘well, some of the bricks differ in size’ which I guess was true, but still. At least, I guess, some people are getting a little bit of income and keeping themselves busy in the meantime – better having them do SOMETHING than just sitting around all day, right? Even if it means hauling bricks/crossing paths…

Yeah, the run was good this morning. Alex joked to me that my leg muscles are starting to develop, I joked back that they’ve always been there I just hadn’t been using them so much. Which I think is actually true. Yesterday I was too tired to ride my bike around after the run, so I spent the day hiring bike taxis. These bike taxi guys, whom I’ve written a little about before, have SUPER muscle legs. Yesterday one of these young men reminded me of the movie The Triplets of Belleville, which by the way is very good and you should see it, which parodies the Tour de France and shows the crazy bicycle guys and their skinny but very toned legs. Kind of freaks me out, looks to much like a horse or something, skinny ankles but huge thighs…

Other news/highlights:

Fresh juice is now available in Misungwi! Despite a plethora of great fruits, people here don’t seem to want to pay to drink fruit juice. Soda, they drink by the crates, but juice? No. But finally some people are starting to catch on, and one store now sells various fruit juices. Yesterday was pineapple/passion/banana mix. It was delicious. Apparently the guy who makes it has been doing pretty good business, so I expect I’ll be able to enjoy it for the rest of my time here.

My neighbor bought a new daladala car, so now he has two. I swear, every day there is another car that starts doing the Missungwi/Mwanza route. I wonder sometimes how they still do business, and whether the profit isn’t shrinking rather drastically. Actually, I suspect that may be part of the reason my neighbor DID buy a second car, because the profits off the first were lagging, so he figured he up his stake in the general all-car daily take. I offered to be the driver or conductor, but they laughed at me. I said I’d bring a TON of business, since everyone would want to ride in the white guy’s car, there would be a high level of amusement. Seriously, one of my good friends [Dominic’s brother] wanted to be the conductor, but I advised him against it – most drivers and conductors have not-so-great behavior, i.e. drink and especially women [every night, often someone different from yesterday]. But yeah, a new car on our street is certainly exciting news in a small town like this.

Form IV students are taking their exams. Already they’ve been asked a question on birth control, a topic I taught them, and today they take the biology test where I’m SURE there will be questions about HIV, STDs, reproductive system, or something along those lines. We’ll see if they were actually paying attention to anything I was saying…

I've been watching '24' with some Belgian girls who are in town doing research. It's a pretty good show, we're halfway into the 3rd season. I am greatly looking forward to January, a month I plan on devoting to three things: the couch, the fridge, and a Netflix subscription [hint hint welcome home present]

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Are you bothered by a persistent good mood, positive demeanor, cheery outlook on life? Maybe I can help!

As I stated in a previous blog entry, my emotions are pretty erratic these days, varying from fond sentimentality about my time here to harsh cynicism. For example, this past week my period at the Teachers Training college went very well, and all I could think was how great it was to work with such energentic, enthusiastic people - and all the better that their energy will hopefully go to helping thousands of young kids! Then the next day I heard a new rumor about one of the teachers I know sleeping with his students, and while visiting a guesthouse I saw a primary school teacher walking OUT of his room, in the middle of the day, followed closely by a secondary school girl [and once they left I went in to snoop, found no sign of condom usage - this girl clearly thinks she will not pass her exams and thus is free to get knocked up since she will be done in 3 weeks], and the more I asked people the more I gathered that many/most teachers sleep with many many students. And people know about it, and it's normal, though it's still considered unethical, it happens all the time. Hell, I heard [and of course this is all rumors and speculation which is a dangerous dangerous game] that there was a secondary school teacher who purposedly tried to get a student pregnant because he really like her - what can I say, it's sort of a complement here. It was all very disturbing.

I saw one of my coworkers again the other night at a bar, with his wife. I've seen them out together before, and have always been THRILLED when we bump into each other, because why the hell should a man NOT take out the woman he loves and is married to, to enjoy some drinks and music and relax together?!!?! It seems to happen so rarely here. But then within the past week I've seen back-alley [well there are no alleys here but you get the picture] conversations and heard a lot more stories, and have come to the conclusion that about 20% of married people here are actually faithful to their spouse. And it may be much lower. And if the husband has a job which is far away from his wife, it's almost a 100% guarantee that he's cheating. I used to try to trick myself by saying, well, ok, but not so-and-so, they don't do it. But no, almost everybody cheats and sleeps around. Well, this is cynical me talking, but this side of me can be pretty convincing.

Then there are the daladala conductors. I always knew they were a pretty rowdy bunch, but several of them have gotten used to me and we talk when we get free time, I give them advice, teach them about condoms, and give their heads the quarter-turn screw they need to get them on straight and live a decent life. But they become unscrewed again. Yesterday, I was coming back from a nearby village and one of the conductors was drunk as I've ever seen anyone be here. And he of course picked a fight with another one, traded some doosy insults, and started a fistfight that ended in blood all over the place, a car full of screaming children and mothers, a crowd of no-good young men [it was friday market day], and just an all-around not pleasant situation. Oh by the way, blood-inducing fist-fights may not seem a big deal in the states, but if you knew how many women these conductors sleep with, the last thing you would want is their blood on YOU. I'm sure several have HIV, statistically there are a total of around 20 so I would say 2-3 are positive. So there's that, plus they sleep with students too, and smoke a lot of pot, and just kind of seem to have given up on 'life' and are prepared to party until their death. Depressing.

And finally, everyone's favorite topic, AIDS. People die of AIDS here all the time, that's not new. And i've been working with several groups of PLWHA doing nutrition seminars to talk about balance diets, in order to prolong lives and improve the health of these people so they can take ARVs effectively and go about their daily work and lives. Again, not new. But this week for the first time I saw someone whom I've known since I arrived here, and who was a perfectly normal looking person, seemingly deteriorate into late-stage AIDS. He works in Misungwi town, and while he hasn't said anything, people suspect he has HIV since his first wife, second wife, and 2 children he has born by his third wife have all passed away. He's about 50 years old I'd say, short, and was a healthy body weight. Apparently he used to call himself 'mtombaji wa taifa', which is crude langauge for 'the national fucker' i.e. someone who has sex with a nation full of young women. Pleasant, no? I saw him yesterday, and he looks about 1/2 the man he used to be. If he was once 160 pounds, I would literally say he is now about 80. And all this weight loss has happened in the past 2 months, when he stopped coming to work because he was feeling ill. I almost cried when I saw him, but didn't. I cried a bit at home when I thought about his wives, his children, and all the other young women he's seduced.

One of my papayas, the biggest one on the tree, was stolen. Heads will roll if/when I catch the culprits, even if they are little kiddie heads, which I suspect they might be.


WOW, what a sad, sad entry today!! But i'm really not feeling that bad! I went running again this morning with Alex, and it was terrific - the past few days I've gotten an increasing number of the 'damn, you are sweaty!' comments, but today I barely even broke a sweat until after we returned!! And I just had a great lunch in Mwanza town. AND I ran into Jonathan, a young man who makes and sells greeting cards here in town. He was very sick for a while, and himself looks to have gotten skinny, but is still full of energy and was SO happy to hear the news that I found a store to sell his cards for him back home [and that we're giving him 4 times more than what he asks for on the street here!]. I will try to get some pictures of the cards he makes up on the blog, but in the meantime they will be sold somewhere in Stevens Point, my mom has more info on this. This kid [he is older than me but very small, poor diet, he was a street boy here in Mwanza] has got moderate talent but monumental determination and perserverance, and it's so rewarding to help him out.

Ok, so that's a little cheerier. I'll wrap it up on that, time to go back to Misungwi, but first search around for fruit, since there isn't any at the busstand anymore...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

the doctor is out

So one result of the move of all the street vendors in mwanza town is that the doctor is gone too - the guys who sold me apples and carrots are mostly moved from their former station, though yesterday I bumped into one of them who sold me some delicious apples [i've already eaten 4 of them]. He didn't call me doctor though, I think they only do it when I'm leaving the office and it looks more doctorly of me, not when i'm just walking around Mwanza like any old schlep.

Speaking of Mwanza, I recently got a chance to visit a part of town where a lot of people live but I'd never been, mostly because it is a collection of sort of scattered homes that go STEEPLY up into the rocky hills of the city. The area is called 'mabatini', which means 'at the corrogated steel roofing' I have no clue why. It was pretty interesting, parts of it reminded me of Russia [though not the Soviet housing blocks], but in the sense where a home can look like shit on the outside but be really nice inside.

I was lucky to have some young guys in town for the past month on vacation from their advanced high school studies. Tuesday i hung out with them until around 10pm, way late for me, just shooting the shit and hanging out. And talking about things that, while not rocket-science, were at least somehow thought provoking. It was nice, I miss that sort of stimulation sometimes, an earnest exchange of ideas about interesting and important topics. But now they're gone, so back to same old same old.

I'm still running. I go with Alex and his younger brother. Alex is an electrician who is still pretty young, and both of his parents have passed away, so he is the breadwinner for like 5 younger children. He works with his younger brother together to make some money. He has a stuttering problem, which I think may be psychological, and he likes kung-fu. Him and his brother are exercise fiends and they've been routinely kicking my ass, but I'm doing a decent job now at least trying to somehow keep up with them, and they're really fun to hang out with. He's also dating one of my students at the secondary school - i'm not thrilled about that, but at least I'm in a position to advise him about condom use and marriage and planning his goals/budgeting etc. Oh, and he's a good dresser so we're going shopping in Mwanza next week. Now any of you who know me know how much I hate shopping, but I haven't bought any new clothes for 2 years - yikes! and handwashing is damaging on the fabrics. So the time has come.... i might actually be loathing that more than our 6am runs.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


lots of things are changing lately.

Yesterday i was told 3 separate times that i'm getting fat, which is somehow true. That, combined with poor sleep and just general lethargy in the evenings [a few weeks ago I turned into my once-fat-now-fit father by sleeping on the couch for 2 hours before dinner] has produced another recent change - I'm running again. Albeit a bit late in the game since i only have 2 months left here, but I've started running with my friend Alex every morning at the butt-crack of dawn. It's going well, this fat man still remembers a thing or two and I get the job done, though people are never ashamed to point out WOW you were breathing hard GEEZ you were sweating a lot...

But in order to cut the fat a bit, I've also decided a change in diet is appropriate. I was eating, shall we say, a LOT. Breakfast alone was big bowl of chicken soup [entire chicken breast] 2 chappatis a glass of yogurt and a plate of fruit and sometimes a hard boiled egg. So now I want to try to eat NOT a lot. There are a few of my good muslim friends here in town who really want me to fast with them for a day, so I think next weekend I will give it a shot [I also plan on wearing my man-skirt, a 'kikoi' that muslim men all wear in zanzibar, so that I really go all out on this day. I asked if that would be offensive to the muslims in the community, people said hell no they'll be thrilled! sometimes political correctness in the states can go too far...]. Though I'm not sure how much fasting really helps in terms of weight loss. I went to my arab friends house, the one I wrote about a few weeks ago, for his last supper before returning to Oman for a few weeks. We broke the fast with tons of fruit, sodas, potatoes, and meat. I stuffed myself silly and then had to hire a bicycle to take me home, even though he lives maybe 5 minutes walk away...

I think my big problem is snacking. I snack a lot, fruits, sweets, pastries. That will probably be changing now too, especially when I go to Mwanza town. The place where I was accustomed to purchasing all my fruits and popcorn and etc is no more. You see, all over Mwanza town there were people who had set up informal huts to sell their wares, or they just brought a bucket and a stool and plopped themselves down everyday to do business, like at the main busstand [they call them machinga in Kiswahili]. They sold fruit, phone accessories, shirts, shorts, underwear [always fun to see people buy their underwear in a crowded bus stand or street] electronics, razors, cards, fancy gift bags - EVERYTHING. And now all these people have been kicked out of the downtown and moved to areas a bit outside of the city. So i'm a bit lost now, not sure where to buy some of my daily needs. Not to mention the city seems to have lost a bit of the oomph and life that it once had [though, i must admit, these street vendors did block sidewalks, make annoying calls and comments, and many were not honest businessmen and some downright pickpockets]. Not only is that not allowed, but the sale of charcoal for cooking has been banned. Which kinda sucks, since most people in the city use charcoal stoves. What this means is that any given night in Misungwi, which is on the main road from villages into Mwanza, if you pass around 9pm-4am you see guys pushing bicycles with HUGE loads of charcoal, walking over 50 kilometers into the city in the middle of the night [and making a FORTUNE when they sell it...]

other changes in brief:
  • one of my good friends was thrown in jail for getting piss drunk, threatening to kill his sister, and then trashing her restaurant. that sucks. i think he has a mental illness.
  • another of my good friends just had a baby. he is about 26 years old [my friend, not the baby] and his fiance returned from her studies at university in january to live with him. yes, that's right, if you do the math he got her pregnant within days after her return. dude, why not chill out and enjoy life without noisysmellyNEEDY kids around? oh well, not the culture here. baby's name = elvis
  • the second of my two close teacher friends has left Misungwi to go study in Mwanza at a Teachers college. So basically, the two teachers I was close to are gone. Which kind of sucks for me, but I'm very glad for them to get the opportunity to further their education, so i can't be that upset. Plus i see them every wednesday when I go there to do work. friends name = cash
  • there's a cute little boy at the Misungwi market named Dominic, but everyone calls him Domi. he's a rascal, and unlike most kids is completely unintimidated by me. he also got into a bad habit of asking me for money or candy before even greeting me. yesterday for the first time we had a nice 2 minute conversation [kiddie talk of course] without a single request. that's a change I can handle.

electricity on tuesday, how nice! tomorrow i will be in Mwanza and will write more...