Monday, March 31, 2008

Island Police

Unfortunately Lars and Kjersti “lost” a very expensive camera. One evening Kjersti asked Lars to bring the camera to dinner at one of the restaurants in Mtoni Marine where they were staying. Lars isn’t usually the shutterbug so he inadvertently forgot it at the table. By the time they realized the mistake, it was long gone. Lars reported it to the hotel management. They “looked” for it for a day and then told Lars he should report it to the Police. They sent Lars to the main police station in Stone Town about 4 miles away.

I missed all this action. But I offered to accompany Lars to the Police Station since my Swahili is better than his. So on Easter Sunday after church we had our taxi driver drop us at the main police station while the others went back to the hotel.

I am so thankful to have learned a few things, if not some Swahili. Handshakes and greetings will open doors and make friends of strangers. I have found that everyone is more inclined to be helpful even in business dealings if you first ask them how their day is going or how business is or how’s the fam. It’s sometimes amazing how a face will just light up because they don’t expect to be greeted by a mzungu. I think I usually get a better price in the market if I start by asking about the person before their product.

So this is how we started in the police station. Lars and I met a one officer outside who then took up into the station reception. There we greeted two gentlemen (watching tv) who told us to wait a bit and in a few minutes we were ushered into another man’s office. After greeting him and a third attempt to explain our problem this police officer switched into English and began to explain how hard it would be to help us. After all it is Easter Sunday. But moreover, this is not the right police station for Mtoni Marine. Technically we should go to another police station. The officer was kind enough to write the name down and we were back out on the street looking for a taxi. This was a bit more of a challenge to bargain for since we didn’t know exactly how far we were going or how rural it would be. I think we bargained for one price and the drive would stay and take us back to the hotel when we finished there.

Our next stop was the island version of Mayberry RFD. We walked in to a counter in front of us and off to the left a staircase up to what I assume were offices. We greeted the two young people behind the counter that looked as if we had disturbed their afternoon nap. Again I started with an explanation of problem in Swahili. The uninterested looks gave me a brief moment of insecurity about my language skills. That was quickly shattered when a voice from the shadows under the stairs asked in English, “Where was the camera taken from?” Lars and I glanced over, our eyes now adjusting from the brightness outside and there were two or three ‘prisoners’ peering through the bars of the holding cell. They were more than eager to assist in the investigation. Lars and I looked at each other and started laughing.

We lowered our voices and tried again to explain that all Lars needed at this point was a copy of a police report to turn into his insurance. One man visiting, who spoke English said he was a pilot and helped explain what we needed, another came and left on his small motorcycle. Eventually we got them to record the incident in their log book. And I asked to take a photo. They obliged. I hoped that would serve as Lars’ report. We were asked to wait a bit. They first said there was not authority present that could make the report – then it changed to we don’t have the right form to fill out.

If you come to Africa without patience you will get it if you stay for any length of time. I had no desire to spend my Easter Sunday afternoon at a Tanzanian police station, but I knew from years of living here, waiting is all part life. After some time the man with the motorcycle returned and explained that all the forms are at the airport (probably 10-12 miles from us) and that none of the police stations have the forms right now. There was some discussion about getting the report in the morning, as opposed to ‘right away’. But if we could put gas in the motorcycle he could get the forms we needed.

When corruption starts, I begin to lose patience. I kept asking Lars if he thought the photo I had taken was enough. He tried phoning Norway but everyone was in church still. Lars reasoned that he was a tourist this weekend and it might be okay to pay a little something in that case. But he wouldn’t do that as a missionary. I wasn’t about to tell him he couldn’t do that, but I told him I wouldn’t do it. Eventually the man requesting the ‘little something’ decided he should come with us to the hotel for further investigation. I told Lars, this is the best option. If something needed to be ‘paid’ let the hotel do.

In the end, Lars didn’t pay anything, and he got a police report the next morning. The hotel desk was not very happy with us. We don’t recommend this hotel.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Holiday with Norwegians

Lars and Kjersti from language school have two cute children: Simon and Leah. Early on they mentioned going to Zanzibar for Easter. Later they invited me to join them. It was after I made the decision that I learned there were two other Norwegian families going too. One was a family with four children ranging from 16 down to about 7. The other had two small children, 3 and 7 months. Both husbands are doctors and all three families are with an organization called Norwegian Lutheran Mission. The larger family is only out for two months and the doctor is a pediatric consultant for the mission in Norway. They younger couple work in a Norwegian hospital about 3 hours south of Arusha and have only been out since January of this year.

More that you care to know about the Norwegians. But I have to say they were very pleasant company. They worked hard to hold conversation in English for me. Lars was the best at it. And they loved to visit, so each night we’d come back after dinner, they’d put the kids to bed and we would have coffee, tea, dessert and conversation until at least 11 in the evening. Sitting listening to them made me think of anything remotely Norwegian I know. I thought of Sven and Ole jokes, only to find those are Swedish! And of lutefisk and lefse. I thought of people I know that have a Norwegian background. I remembered my current favorite movie: Sweetland. But most of it doesn’t transfer. They were wonderful company for a holiday on Zanzibar, and perhaps new friends

Swahili Anglican Pasaka (Easter)

I had heard there was a large church built on the site of the slave market. That was the place we wanted to go for Easter services. Oddly enough this very Muslim town didn’t seem to have any sources for finding services times. We even stopped there after dinner the night before and could only get out of the guard that the gates open to tourists at 8:00 AM.

We decided to shoot for 10:00. Nothing really starts on time certainly there would be more than one service on Easter Sunday. We arrived about 10:15 and were ushered up to the rear balcony of a long narrow church. To the newcomer or tourist the balcony would have appeared full when we got there. People shuffled their plastic chairs around, got more off the stack and eventually the five of us has seats. (Only some of the Norwegians decided to go.)

We arrived with the sermon in full force. I caught a few words, but was more distracted by my surroundings: huge vaulted ceilings with peeling paint, tall narrow stained glass windows, little girls in their Easter best fidgeting. I craned my neck to see the preacher in his bright orange Easter robes. I pulled out my Bible to find a likely passage he was preaching from. I read each resurrection account in the gospels. Following the sermon was the Anglican liturgy. Lars struggled through the visitor copy of the order of service book we were handed upon arrival and I had promised to return to an usher after the service. I was thankful that I had some understanding of the parts of the liturgy having grown up Episcopal. (And attending an Anglican service in English on Palm Sunday.) Turns out we hadn’t missed much of the service.

After the service I looked around the front and saw where the post had been for putting the person up for sale, right in front of the altar. The altar has a mosaic of Christ’s crucifixion. If you stop to think about what freedom Christ has bought for his children, it’s both powerful and profound. I am thankful that He is the God of the nations and brings freedom that is only found in Him.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Finding the Clove Hotel

Here are the directions sent to me by the hotel via email to find the place:

From the Port to Clove is about a ten minute walk.
- If you come out of the gate (at the port) you turn right.
- first street left (before House of Wonders)
- We are in Hurumzistreet
You can ask people. Everybody knows Clove Hotel.

Then bear in mind that most streets in Stone Town are so narrow that cars don’t drive on them, bikes, motorcycles and two-wheel pushcarts are the largest vehicles.

So I get out of the gates and ask a policeman if he knows where the Clove Hotel is. He thinks a moment and starts rambling on in Kiswahili. I catch a few words here and there.

I stop to say to Lars and Kjersti that I am not very sure I will find my hotel. The taxi they have hired is saying to me, “Just get in.” But I know their hotel is the opposite way of mine. I ask if he knows the place, he says he will take them first and then he’ll take me to mine. Stubborn Jan says she’ll find it on her own. (I wasn’t going 4 miles out of the way and back.)

I start wondering along looking for the “first street left” back and forth along the shorefront. I stop to take a couple of photos so I don’t look lost. But if I ask a taxi driver they will want to take me. I know it must be kind of close. I come to a big building that has a sign: museum. Is this the House of Wonders? I stop a couple boys, greet them, slap the wall and say in Swahili, “This is House of Wonders?” The boys look at me and at the sign and say something about it being a museum. I keep going.

Aha! Mabati, (corrugated tin) walling off construction on both sides of the road. The policeman I asked has said something about mabati. I get to the edge of the next big white building. Four or five men call “taxi”. I turn to an older man, greet him in the Tanzanian way for respecting and elder and launch into my Swahili again. “I think I can go on feet, I am looking for Clove Hotel.” This man smiles broadly and says carefully to walk to the end of this parking area, turn right and go straight. I’ll see it. I thank him and away I go. Not more than 10 or 12 yards up that street and I’m there.

Hot, relieved and pretty proud of myself.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Zanzibar Pictures

I spent a little time this morning downloading Zanzibar photos onto my photo site. As always I wish I could convey sound, smell and feel as well as the sites. Those posted today are from the first two days on the island. Enjoy the tour.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Henna Hands

On the spice tour we were shown henna which is used to decorate skin or temporarily die hair. An even more temporary is the ‘lipstick fruit’. That is a lovely brilliant orange-red that can be smeared off almost as easily as it goes on.

As a tourist, I was looking for a nice henna décor job on my hands. What you see is what I got. (The earlier photo showed both hands.) It’s not actually henna. I learned on the tour that if it’s the black and not amber orange color it’s just an ink.

I know from living in East Africa before that it’s usually done for big celebrations. Like a bride will spend hours getting her hands and feet decorated, while her attending party will do some on their hands too, but not as elaborate. This is not traditional African culture. This is Middle Eastern and Indian so some of the Swahili (coastal mixed tribes) have adopted it. Both times on the ferry I saw mysterious black veiled women with exquisite painted hands.

I couldn’t help wondering later when I was hanging out with people my own age is I am too old for this kind of fun. Oh well, I was on vacation, and I didn’t have to be back at work afterwards. I would have loved to draw the designs on someone else. So I bought some henna. You mix the powder with water and lemon juice to help it stay on longer. I’m sure I can find more in Nairobi if I get hooked on doing it.

Trip Overview - so you can slot all the stories into place

20 March - Arrived on Thursday evening: 2.5 hours to Dar, then 2.5 hours on ferry to Stone Town on Sea Bus Fast Ferries. (Hilarious.) Find Clove Hotel on foot, have a nice dinner at Kidude Café
21 March – Spice tour day, eat dinner at street market
22 March – explore Stone Town (shopping), Chinese food with the Norwegians, change to Mtoni Marine
23 March Easter! - Church at Anglican Church of Christ, site of former slave market. Police stations with Lars, dinner at an Italian place
24 March - back I go over sea and land

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spice Tour

I thought I would start here since it was requested and one of the highlights of the weekend.

We started out in the morning and I had booked for a whole day of activities. Of the day, the spice tour far exceeded my expectations. In our 14 passenger van were 3 Italians, 2 Swiss, 1 German, 4 Brits, 3 Americans and 3 Tanzanians. You do the math. (Okay, one Tanzanian was the driver.)

We arrived at a government experimental area. This allowed us to see several things growing in a relatively small area. I really wish I had been writing them all down. I think I got the photos mostly labeled right. And here again is where sight alone doesn’t do the tour justice. Our guide was outstanding. He know the names of the spices in every language represented and I am sure many more. Many of the spices we came upon he would hand us some crushed leaves and ask us to guess the spice. I wasn’t very good at that.

Did you know:

That nutmeg and mace come from the same seed; they are just two parts of it (Photo above is nutmeg - the red skin over the nut if mace - the white part is waist)
Vanilla beans grow in clumps
Arabica coffee is a stronger bean than most
Cocoa isn’t sweet but the soft flesh around the bean is and it’s edible (and very good)
Ginger, saffron and turmeric are all roots
Cinnamon is really a tree bark (and it refreshes itself)
Five different kinds of pepper come from one kind of 'corn'

We got to sample all these and more: lemon grass, jack fruit, star fruit, lipstick fruit, cloves, sweet grapefruit…I’m sure I’ve missed at least a half a dozen of the ones we saw.

At the end of the tour we were in a small ‘village’ and there were fresh spices to buy. I got a few select items: cinnamon, cumin seed, henna powder, cloves, saffron and a pilaf mixture that included cardamom and a citronella/coconut oil that is good for mosquito repellant and massage oil.

While walking around this circular tour, we were given a leaf cone to collect all our fresh spices in. The helper boys that followed us around were busy weaving purses, bracelets, rings, frogs, hats and neckties our of palm fronds to adorn us on the walk. Of course they were working for a tip at the end. I had a nice collection of palm-wear by the end.

I am sure my description lacks the exotic feel the morning had. But it far exceeded my expectations of the tour.

Typhoid Update

First: I'm still alive.

Second: I started on medication this evening and should start feeling better in a few days.

Three: It could be worse. Even though my ratio numbers came back high, I think I should be feeling a lot worse. I haven't had fever, chills or aches often associated with typhoid.

Fourth: For that and so much more I am praising God!

Fifth: Please keep me in your prayers. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Slight delay in the Zanzibar Series

Hello All -

I woke up sick this morning. Very sick. I am so thankful this didn't happen on the ferry from Zanzibar or any time in my travels. God is in control! I went to the clinic in town this afternoon for a couple of tests.

I have typhoid.

They are doing more tests to see how severe it is and will give me a prescription after that. I would appreciate your prayers. I feel a little better than this morning, but I am still not well.


Monday, March 24, 2008

International Exotic

I think I will write about Zanzibar in a series, since so many various things happened in such a short amount of time. And you would surely be bored with one long litany of all that took place. I probably won't even tell the stories in chronological order.

And I am calling it international exotic because I had interactions with people from the following (but not limited to) countries:
Sweden, England, Holland, Italy, Norway, Tanzania, Germany, Switzerland and Suriname.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Off to Exotic Lands

If studying Swahili isn’t enough for me as a swelter away in this thick humidity, I thought I would add a little to the dew point by spending a few days – not just at the coast, but out in the Indian Ocean.

I am going to Zanzibar.

I am joining the Norwegian family but decided to stay half the time at a different hotel from theirs because it’s less expensive and give me the option of looking around the largest town on the island. I tried to do some research before making the decision, but the only guide books in the library here at school are from 1990. (Sadly, that doesn’t sound like long ago but it is.) There was hardly more than a paragraph in each book. They warned women to not wear pants and that men would get a free hair cut if their hair was more than 5 centimeters long.

I have quizzed those I know that have been there more recently and it doesn’t sound anything like that anymore. As I mentioned, I am looking forward to the break. I really need it. I would appreciate prayers for travel mercies and that whatever is ailing my tummy will subside. We make an early start this morning and I won’t be taking my laptop with me.

How can I be gone for so many days? This is Easter break. March 20th is a national holiday because its Mohammed’s birthday and it just so happened to fall before Good Friday, also a national holiday here. Then Monday is Easter Monday, also a national holiday in this country. So it just worked out.

I hope to amble around Stone Town, take a spice tour and attend church at one built on the site of a former slave trade block. I will try to post as many photos as possible when I get back.

Have a blessed holiday.

Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed!

Walking up to Easter

I have just spend a few minutes reading for the season. This week in history is so very full of activity. The church calendar reduces it to Good Friday and Easter. Those days are great. I also enjoy getting into the details of the week because they are great reminders to my faith.

The Desiring God Blog is a great benefit. I especially liked this article about the intentionality of what Christ did for us. May is touch you as it has me or more so.

Today's Language Mistake

I am sure that I make all kinds of grammatical errors all the time in Swahili. There are things to remember that I always forget, like if the possessive agrees with the noun or did I get the right object infix stuck in that verb. But today was one of those classic mistakes that I will now always remember. My tutor today was still smirking to herself several sentences beyond my mistake in the practice.

Here’s what I was practicing, “Do you have a new map of the world?” The idea was to change the subject of you to me, us, him or her, them, you plural, etc. Anyway, the word for world is dumia. One time I accidentally said dania. Easy mistake, right, especially when I am trying to get my mouth around new words like ramani (map). The funny thing is that I know what dania is. It’s a common word from when I lived in Kenya before. It’s cilantro. I was asking for a map of cilantro!

It hit me just as funny. Maybe it loses something in translation.

I hit a snag

I finally got to a lesson in Swahili that had a bunch of unfamiliar words. The past few days I have been a little under the weather anyway, add to that that this isn't the absolute best learning style for me. But it could be worse. (Spoken like a true Minnesotan.) Today we came to a lesson in directions: as in north (kaskasini), south (kusini), east (mashariki) and west (magharibi). And this is in the direction of that, and so on. Other new words included the word for map, coast (I actually knew that one, tarmac, river, lake etc. And all this after a lesson in numbers that included a ton of math! Yuck!

I would say I am truly taxed and ready for the Easter break.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Election Year

I have been asked more than once by friendly shop keepers or taxi drivers, "Who do you think will be president, Hillary or Obama?" I try to explain it's not a race between the them and only one will get to run. But my Swahili isn't good enough to talk politics. I really don't think my English is either.


It's an expression of excitement in Swahili.

I finally figured out how to post pictures on my blog again. I hadn't realized they could be made smaller and thus easier to post. So I just went back and added a few I would have liked to put on certain posts. And now I'll be able to post a 'teaser' photo on future entries to get you over to the photo site. Kumbe!

Thanks for reading.

Longing to be settled

If you think about it, I have been in transition since last September. I rented out my house and moved over to a friend’s. A month later I quit my job to work on support raising full time. From mid September to mid February I lived in three different places. Then I left the Twin Cities spent a few days in Nairobi before traveling first to Dar es Salaam and then to Morogoro. Here I have one small room and only what fits in my carry-on to live for the three months. (It was my choice to take so little so I could handle getting around easily.) I’m not even one third through the time here and it’s hard to think of this place as home in any way.

I enjoy the people I am meeting. But I really feel very restless. I wish I could really settle down, put down roots. I wish language school were over. But I need to endure this transition too. I have to do these things before I can settle. It seems so challenging right now. I am taxed by the weather and wish it were different. To my advantage I am extroverted and fairly resourceful, making the most of every opportunity. I have met some very kind people here and hopefully some friendships will endure beyond these months here. I’m not sitting in my little room pining for friends elsewhere. (At least not all the time.)

It’s a good reminder that this world is not our home. So one can never fully settle anywhere here. But I so enjoy a place from which I can entertain guests and let down or crash whenever I need to rejuvenate.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cool is still cool even in hot Morogoro

I am at a good school in a land that speaks good Swahili. But no matter where you are in the world, whatever language you are speaking, it has slang. Swahili is no different. Since most of our language teachers are college age or maybe just a tiny bit older we have the advantage of learning not only safi (clean) Swahili but some of the current usage. Here’s a little lesson in proper greetings…

Hujambo? (literally: you have no thing –issue-?)
Sijambo. (I have no issue.)

This is the equivalent of saying hi as you pass someone. You will notice the word jambo in both. That’s the word thing. Often used alone as a tourist greeting in Kenya, but not proper Swahili. Here however, someone might greet you with mambo? This is the plural of jambo. The answer takes me back to my youth: poa. It means simply: cool. If it isn’t enough for people to say in so many words, I’m cool. I have since noticed that our Tanzanian friends around here will often comment on conversation with poa. In other words, as you would be telling them your plan for the evening they will comment, cool man, cool.

I guess even though some slang goes in and out of style some of the classic slang sticks in English so well it finally makes its way to East Africa too.

That’s enough Swahili for today, but trust me there is plenty more slang where that came from.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

checking the weather

The past few days I have been a little obsessed with the weather. Partly because yesterday I got dehydrated and felt ill in the evening. I'm better today. I just found a site that gives the weather here in Morogoro. Up until recently I could only find the weather in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the capitals of Kenya and Tanzania respectively. But this site gives hourly updates. As I write it’s about 3 in the afternoon, which is about 7 AM CST. The temp here right now is about 89 degrees with a dew point of 66 degrees. No wonder I feel hot and sticky all the time! Ugh. I know I shouldn’t complain, especially since it’s only in the 40’s back home. But you know what they say… it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! Ni joto sana!!! (It’s really hot!!!)

PS This got posted about an hour later because the electricity went out just as I was going to post.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Challenged by "my" Pastors...

Today I spent some more time at the home of Elisabeth. She let me use her sewing machine to make my bag. Today we started a project of making a light weight with long sleeves so I can keep from getting sunburned too many more times.

Yesterday when I went to town I was looking for some lining material, in the shop I spotted a very nice pair of scissors for sale. I thought of all the sewing that Elizabeth does and how dull her scissors were when I was using them on my bag. I asked the price. Only $3?! I’ll take them! It will be a very nice gift for her and she won’t have to suffer with her others that hardly cut. If I hadn’t established a relationship with Elizabeth and her family, I might begin to feel guilty for giving her something so extravagant.

How could a $3 gift be extravagant? Mixtures of thoughts fill my mind. I have made a friend in Elizabeth and she has graciously hosted me for several visits to her house to sew or discuss possible projects. She has sewn several things for others here in at the school. She even has made outfits for her fellow teachers. Besides the price being a little high in terms of the local economy I start to reflect on an article Pastor Erik (Bethlehem’s missions pastor) just sent me of an interview with an African pastor. The pastor interviewed was mine when I lived in Nairobi before. I call to mind his words about how Americans arrive with certain strengths that turn out to be disabilities when they are here.

Pastor Oscar (Nairobi Chapel) goes on to say that Americans are problem-solvers. (Indeed, I answer to that title.) We want to solve all kinds of problems that Africans don’t even realize they have. In fact, we don’t easily live with a problem. Okay, now I’m really convicted. Who did I buy the scissors for? Elizabeth didn’t even see the problem with her others. I wanted to use better scissors! Of course I could have bought them and kept them myself, but I did want to give. Further conviction comes when I think of how uncomfortable it is here. I mean, it’s not horrible, but a few improvements would make it all a lot easier! Some organizing bins in my closet and a bank of hooks on one wall and I could feel a lot better. As I call all this to mind I feel guilty for all that I have and all that I think about, even if I’m not acting on it.

I try to put it all in perspective. If I were here for a couple of weeks – to help, my thinking would be all wrong. I should only be here to listen and learn. But if I am here for a few months, I need to balance my problem-solving abilities with the relationships I am establishing here. It’s okay to give a practical gift to Elizabeth. I just need to remember not to keep doing things like that every day. I need to ask myself what my motivations are in any thing I do here. I need to continue to build relationships above all else.

Sister Paulette –

When you live overseas you meet people that you would never have imagined knowing…If you told me I would be fast friends with a nun from the Philippines, I never would have believed you.

Today we said good-bye to Sister Paulette. Last night a few of us took her out for a nice meal in town. Sister Paulette was terribly embarrassed just to accept the invitation but I know her well enough to know she was terrifically delighted with the prospect. Her “yes” to the idea was almost inaudible. She enjoyed her meal and the attention, I think.

Nuns have always held a certain mystery to me. They still do. But I have found that sister Paulette loves to giggle and laugh. She has to do her laundry like everyone else. And she is so gracious and others oriented. She makes a refreshing friend. Her kindness to everyone is delightful.

She left today for a week-long retreat at the Carmelite brothers near town and will board a bus for Arusha next Thursday. I hope to see her again either in Arusha or in Nairobi.

I made sure to get her cell phone number.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Do you sleep better in rainy season?

I told my teacher in Swahili that I had enough sleep but I was still tired. He replied, “It’s because the rains haven’t come yet.” This did not make sense on a couple of levels.

1.) It has been raining off and on since I’ve been here. I would say that we haven’t gone more than about 3 days without it raining at night at least.
2.) Why would it not raining (if they really haven’t come) make me tired?

Here’s his reasoning: the “little” rain we’ve had in the past three weeks is not really ‘the rains’. When the rainy season actually gets here it will cool down a bit. (I would like to see that happen but I’m skeptical.) I’m tired even when I have enough sleep because even the nights are hot, not to mention the days and it takes it out of us.

Hmm. We’ll see. I would like to have more energy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Bag

A while ago I mentioned that I had a design for a mboka - handbag. I have just posted a couple of pictures of it on my photo site. It turned out great even if the photos don't show it off. I've already figured out how to improve it. And I have ideas for more styles. However, I'm already on to clothes. Elizabeth, one of the language teachers is pictured there too. She and I are going to work on a light top with long sleeves to keep the sun off me. I have already got a little burnt twice.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sound Bites

As I said before, to me Africa is a feast for the senses. Sight is the easiest on to capture and share with you through photos. It’s also fairly easy to describe with words. Sounds are harder. There is such an amazing variety.

For example: the array of nature sounds as I lie in bed in the early morning are akin to that one of those Amazon Rainforest recordings might sound like. All kinds of unfamiliar bird calls and animal screeches but mixed with some known ones, like the hoot owl you can hear at the cabin; whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo…whoot, whoot. I can be all wrapped up in the vast variety of calls, thinking about how exotic is seems here when a big old bus or truck goes whizzing by on the main road from the seaport of Dar es Salaam to the capital of Dodoma and interrupts the serenity of the nature.

Singing is another sound bite I would like to capture for you. Actually a friend here did and I posted her video clip on my photo site. It gives a flavor of the Maasai village and what the church service sounds like. But singing in the Maasai village is very different from the singing of the students here in the Lutheran Junior Seminary (Secondary School). The Maasai have a bit of a nasal tone in their call and response style of singing. Here at the school the choirs are well practiced, they have strong melodic voices that still use the call and response style, but in Swahili instead of Maasai. The students have a real local drum. The Maasai girls pound their beat on an upturned plastic bucket.

The sounds in town are different. Loudspeakers from passing advertising vehicles demand your attention even if you can’t understand them. Musical horns of the daladalas beg you to ride them. Children test their English as the pass you, “good morning” in the middle of the afternoon. Dozens of ‘karibu’ greetings beckon you into their market stall. “Taxi, madam?” as you walk by men leaning on their cars. Voices of Morogoro include a variety of accents and broken English (or broken Swahili if it’s mine) and so much more.

In Swahili the word for ‘to feel’ and the word for ‘to hear’ are the same. It’s as if your ear feels the sounds. I have not exhausted the sounds of Morogoro, but perhaps I have given you a feel for them.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Maasai Pictures Posted

I have posted many photos of the day at the Maasai village on my photo site. Some of them were taken by Alana, the collage gal from Minnesota, she's the blond in some of the photos. The other gal with us is Sister Paulette from the Philippines. She wanted to be less conspicuous so she didn't wear her head covering. If you have pale skin there in no getting around being conspicuous. I will try to download a short film Alana took of the singing.

Tomorrow it's back to classes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Maasai Village

Kumbe! (Wow!) This was something. I think I said something on the way home to the effect of: I am so glad the Maasai know Jesus and are adding to their numbers all the time. However, I am also glad God hasn’t called me to live among the Maasai.

This area of Tanzania has many Maasai villages. The long-term missionary here, Herb Hafermann visits 4 villages per week. He oversees about 100 little churches that don’t have their own pastor. Whatever day of the week he arrives they have ‘church’. In Lutheran tradition, Pastor Herb arrives in his clerical collar, takes down the names of those wanting to be baptized, of course he visits with folks at well. Once the people have gathered and are ready Pastor Herb dons his white robe and stole. He and whatever pastors or evangelists have come with him or have arrived on bicycle process in and they do a whole service with baptism, communion, hymns and all. Now mind you it still has a very rural African flavor to it. For example, the choir is about a dozen 9-13-year-old girls. Most of their songs are not in the hymn book. They do traditional call and response songs using an upside down bucket for a drum. The sound of this group is distinctly Maasai, sort of high nasal short notes, sung in KiMaasai, not Kiswahili like the hymns and the rest of the service are. From start to finish the whole service takes about two hours. It finishes with the offering, which is a going forward to give what you have. If most give money, but if other items are given there is a quick auction held and it items sold to the highest bidder with the money then going to the offering. Pastor Herb usually buys whatever isn’t going to someone else and then gives it away again.

In this location there seemed to be plenty of green and quite a number of trees. Here the Maasai are no longer nomadic, but have settled under a government program that promises land rights. So they have built a large (in village terms) cement block church building there with big “windows” that allow for good ventilation. I remained comfortably out of the sun pretty much the entire day.

If you ask me what was the most difficult thing of the day I can tell you without hesitation – the flies. I guess I hadn’t thought about it ahead, but I suppose any people group that herds cattle, uses cattle dung for wall plaster and has a steady diet of milk and blood is going to have a lot of flies hanging around. After a while I began to feel dirty just from all the flies.

If you ask about the highlight of the day I am hard pressed to come up with one. I think African children must be the cutest thing on the world. When we first got there we had three little boys following us around. One was probably 10 or 12, but the other two were about 5 or 7. One of the smaller ones was very curious and shy at the same time. He stayed close to us in a wonder of the wazungu (actually 2 white people and a catholic nun from the Philippines. But I could get him to smile and turn away with his hand over his face just by raising my eyebrows or smiling at him. He was really fascinated by the camera, but shy of it too. Eventually I got a good short of him. With just these few boys around at the beginning it was very pleasant playing with them.

This village had a lot of women. Herb told me probably 50% of the women are widowed. You have to figure there are probably 2-3 wives per man anyway. I think only one adult man from the village come to the service. Whenever you have women though, you have babies on their backs. One woman came to greet us shortly after we arrive there and she had a very tiny baby on her back. She told us the child was born in January. I don’t think she could have told us what day, but I figured he was about 6 to 8 weeks old. As we were walking with her to see her house, we met some other ladies with small children in tow. When this mama took her baby off her back I gestured to hold him. She let me. The little one was so precious. The mama handed him off to another woman who immediate started breast feeding him. That confused me. But I guess these ladies just share everything. That’s a kind of community we in the west know nothing about.

Another highlight for me was entering a Maasai home. Alana, the college student who had gone with Pastor Herb many times in her two months out here said she has never been invited into a home before. Inside we tasted their favorite drink, smoky milk, poured from a decorated gourd. Later I noticed some ladies brought these gourds with them to give the children a drink during the service. That would be the equivalent of Cheerios and a sippy cup. The ladies would have poured each of us a full tin mug of their milk but we each felt a sip was enough. I would have liked to try to get a little deeper into the home than the front entry, but I didn’t want to seem rude. These co-wives were nice enough to invite us in.

One final highlight came at the end of the day as we were getting ready to go. All the children can’t help feeling your hair or skin that has hairs on it. I think it feels the same as theirs, but they still get a kick out of it. In the service I noticed only the older women (grandmas) wore the traditional Maasai beaded earrings and necklaces. My guess is they got a little dressed up for church. The other ladies probably have these things but were busy with their children so came as there were. Some ladies had legs or arms wrapped with brass, copper or tin bands. This seemed like it was not removable ‘jewelry’. So when I notice one little girl with earrings on I stopped her to admire them. Then I thought to take one of mine out for her to look at. Although hers were fairly plain for Maasai standards, mine were much more plain, ones I made myself some weeks before I left home. Before I knew it I was taking the other one off and offering to trade for hers. The girl’s mother (or one of the mothers) was there thinking it a great idea. But I hadn’t realized that her earrings were secured on with a couple of beads at the back and the wire turned up. The mama assisting had to undo the wires with her teeth. The girls fussed a bit and I kept saying in Swahili, “It’s okay, I don’t need them.” But the mama persisted, and soon I had a pair of simple Maasai earrings to sport home.

I was utterly exhausted at the end of the day. I hope to post photos tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


A few days ago I asked the director of the language school if there was something I could do to get more time practicing language. There are many secondary students around the campus who love nothing more than to speak English with the foreigners around here. However the director gave me an assignment to "find a friend" and ask them questions off this list. They were basic questions like: What is your name, where in TZ are you from, where do you live now, do you have a family, etc, etc. I took it upon myself to do this assignment in town and try to somehow make a friend (rafiki) there. To make it as hard as I could on myself I wanted to take the daladala (minivan, public transportation) both ways to town and back by myself. Additionally, I wrote a quick note to a friend so as to have one more thing to do in town - mail a letter.

I want you to know that when I got back to the Lutheran Junior Seminary I was very proud of myself for doing it all alone. During the couple of hours in town I didn't really 'make a friend'. But I accomplished a number of small projects, including finding the post office, and buying stamps all in Swahili.

I kept telling myself I can go home on the daladala, I don’t need to take a taxi. So I made my way to the place I thought the daladalas for our area start from. When I got to the open side door of the daladala there was a man (probably about 50-55) that gestured for me to take the seat opposite him just inside. But when I started to get in, he took the seat he offered and left me the 'better' seat he had. I thought him very kind for giving up his seat for me, though either would have been fine. We exchanged smiles of understanding and I thanked him in Swahili.

As is my custom now I use the time sitting on the daladala to study faces. This man's was quite easy to read. As more folks pushed into the van he would kindly smirk, I would catch the humor out of the corner of my eye and smile back at him. As I was sitting there (I think I waited only 15 minutes for it to "fill" before we left) I suddenly thought, I hope I'm on the right daladala. So I asked this man in Swahili, "Mzee, tuna enda Mikese?" He was pleased that I asked him and answered in the affirmative. But I still didn't have enough courage to strike up a conversation.

You or I would have counted the van quite full after maybe one or two more got on, but there was quite a fuss about the mgungu’s feet being in the way and they got pushed in farther so other’s could stand where my feet had been on the floor. I am not sure what was all said about me, but it didn’t all sound pleasant. I’ll learn how to tuck in better next time. In the end I would guess close to ten more squeezed in.

It's really odd, I thought as I sat there that one can sit so close to so many people and even be face to face and not really talk with them. I like my personal space, but I am glad that I do not have an issue with having it all invaded for a short daladala ride. If there were not stops between the seminary and town center it would take about 10 minutes. But once we got going it took about 25 minutes. I have yet to be on one that doesn't stop for gas (petrol). That makes me think they only put enough in for one trip.

So out from town over several speed bumps to the main road that leads to Dar, stopped at the petrol station, and folks get out and shift around some. Here's my chance, even though I have been sitting across from this man for 20 minutes already I say very quietly, "Mzee… Habari yako?" (Which basically means: Old man, how are you? "Old man" is a compliment in this culture and a term of respect - how's that for different?) He smiles again ever so pleased with the conversation and asks me how I am too. From there I quietly launched into the litany of questions for Him allowing him ask me all the same. The man sitting next to him now is also pleased to be listening to the mgungu speaking Swahili. It seems like only moments pass and he is realizing he's close to his stop. He had already told me we were one stop apart.

He told me as he got out that I was welcome to come and practice anytime. I know he meant it because hospitality is paramount here. I can't remember his name, though because it was an African name I hadn't heard before and I am not exactly sure what school he teaches at. But I was so pleased to have read him correctly. I was so pleased to have had so many successes by myself.

Here is the bonus - today I told the director and my tutor (for this week) the entire story in Swahili of everything I did yesterday in town. It was decided that I should have more of these kinds of field trips. What's in store for tomorrow- an all day trip to a Maasai village with Pastor Herb (long-term missionary here).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I need to get to bed but...

I stumbled on to Noel and Talitha Piper's blog of their trip to Kenya. They arrived on March first. I have added the link at the side for you to follow if you like. I enjoyed reading the whole thing tonight.

God willing I hope to give an update of today's adventures soon.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Morogoro is not a tourist town

I realized I could do with a few things I didn’t bring with me from Nairobi. For example, I didn’t bring a very good selection of earrings. Additionally, I borrowed a backpack from the Sorleys, but I really could use a handbag. These things should be no problem; I’m in Africa, the land of beautiful purses, and earrings. Well, maybe not. I found one stall in the local market that had earrings or handbags. Not a very big selection or great prices.

A couple of my friends had bags made out of the lovely Tanzania fabric here. So I set to work drawing up some of my own designs for a handbag. Having decided on one, I went to town to try to explain in Swahili what I wanted. I found some friendly tailors (husband and wife) that said they would make a sample - to make sure they were understanding me. But when I return it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, and the quality wasn’t so hot. Hmm, in the end I explained in Swahili with great emphasis, “Nita tenganewa mkoba. Na nita onyesha!” - I will make the bag and show you.

Then I was faced with how I would do that. I had been told that there was a teacher at the language school that makes beautiful outfits. She lives right there just off the other end of campus from us. So I asked her if I could come and sew with her. “You are welcome,” was her reply.

Today after class I grabbed my material and headed over to her house. I showed her my drawings and soon I was cutting out the pieces without a pattern. Eventually Elizabeth got into an animated description of how much she loves to sew, explaining how she can lose track of time or chase her family members away while she takes over the dining table. The time today passed quickly. I got a good start on it. I will post of photo of it when it’s finished.

I’m already thinking up another bag to make.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Internet Was Down, sort of...

Our Internet connection went off yesterday (Sunday) around 7 or 8 in the evening. Lars, our Norwegian is the Internet fundi (expert). He has been trying to correct the situation at the router or on the tower this evening (Monday). With a little help from Harald they looked into both locations. We knew we were getting something because the office Internet was still working across campus. But it’s all so very African. (Kama kawaida, there are some Swahili phrases I love - its normal.)

I missed Lars on the ladder at the router which looks to me like a bird house itself. But I got Harald up on the tower trying to explain to Chuma (language school director) that it might be good to have the real fundi (when he comes) clean out the box on the tower. (Read with a German accent:) “There is like a bird’s nest in here. It would be good to take everything out and clean and put it back in.” Since I was standing with all men I asked the question, "If it's working here, why fix it?" Both Europeans and Tanzanians laughed. I was accused of being too African (by the German).

While Lars was on the ladder the electricity went out. But when it came back on it still wasn’t working. Now 3 hours later it’s suddenly working. No telling when it will go down again. While it’s still up I will try to get the photos posted.
Please be patient if you are waiting for a reply from me or looking for another post.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Possible Faux Pas

I learned today from Sophia, the German gal that has been here for about 7 months that it's not appropriate to take pictures in any public places without asking permission. I shouldn't even take them of the fabrics in a shop, or click them out the window of a moving vehicle. Thankfully Kenyans are do not mind photos. The one in the shop is Doris, I asked her to make a bag out of pretty material for me. We'll see how it comes out.

Anyway, the photos of today's trip to town were rather limited. Mostly of Alana from Hastings, MN, Sophia and me. But at least you know I'm really here now. Can you make out the mountains behind us in one of the photos? I thought it would be good for you to see I'm here and hot.


Here's the photo link again:

The Students in my Little World -

Korean couple: Mr. Pil Soo and his wife Hey Suk. I think they will be working in Dar es Salaam. They have a vehicle here and only Pil Soo speaks English. So during main classes he translates from English into Korean for her.

Another Korean woman, Mi Hey who is with YWAM in Mombasa is here without her husband. She’s been in Mombasa for years – so she already knows quite a bit of Swahili, and is fairly good at English.

This morning we said good-bye to a Catholic nun from Kinshasa in the Congo. She’s already been working in Arusha for a few years so she has a good base of Swahili already. She left behind a couple of fellow Catholics.

There is a Father from Kerala in India will be working with a parish in the southern part of Tanzania.

Sister Paulette is originally from the Philippines. All the Catholic clergy are extraordinarily friendly, outgoing and very compassionate. The Sister that just left could always be heard laughing.

Germany is represented by two individuals: Sophia who is about 23 and looks after the small children of language students and of the Lutheran Junior Seminary Staff. She came from Bavaria on a one year volunteer basis. She is half way through her year. Her English is pretty good and she has picked up quite a bit of Swahili without studying it at all.

The other German is Harald. I would say he’s around 60. Both Germans are Lutheran. Harald is friendly and helpful with whatever you might need. He has a tentative position in Arusha starting in September. This is not his first time to live and work in Africa. But he’s never worked in a Swahili speaking country before. He’s incredibly kind, but to the point and somewhat businesslike. What you would expect in a German.

Tanzania was a German colony back in the day. So it’s not uncommon to find Germans here. Then add to that the fact that I am at a Lutheran Junior Seminary and there you have it.

But it wouldn’t be Lutheran if some Scandinavian country wasn’t represented here. Enter Lars and Kjersti and their two small children Lia and Simon. Lia is two and a half – in every way. Simon is probably four and a half or five. He fusses and cries often. It’s funny how that sounds the same in any language. Lars and Kjersti have a ton of stuff with them. They will be going to live in some remote village in central Tanzania after language school. Lars is handy with computers and they also have a vehicle. I may go to Zanzibar with them over Easter.

The Tate family of five from Ohio is Independent Baptist. They arrived about 4 weeks ago and are heading to Kitale in Western Kenya when they finish language school. Roger was an associate pastor before coming here. Julie home schools there three kids: Emily age 12, Amy age 7 and Josiah age 5. Right now home school is learning Swahili.

Finally the Wartburg student doing her term abroad is Alana Deutschmann from Hastings, Minnesota. This friendly 21-year-old is enjoying every minute of the “African Experience” She blogs long entries. Travels to the villages with a long-term missionary here and finds ways to do everything from getting to town to climbing the local ‘mountain’.

Two other wazungu (white people) that aren’t students are aforementioned missionary, Pastor Herb Hafermann. I had heard about him when I was at Lutheran Bible Institute all those many years ago. He’s around about half the time. Otherwise he’s out in the Maasai villages doing missionary stuff.

Mzee John has got to be in his 80’s. He’s from Ontario, Canada he says. But he has the most unique accent. Sometimes when he’s talking and I can’t see him I think I am hearing a cartoon character. I have discovered that he is originally from the Netherlands. I think he used to work out here. Now he just winters here. Talk about a snowbird going south!

All these folks are the people I interact with at meals and that live in rooms in the same area as I do. Needless to say all my mealtime and social conversations are in English, our most common language. But it makes for a colorful little united nations amongst the missionaries.