Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is buying used furniture at an auction being green or being materialistic? Or both?

I spent Wednesday this week checking out what was going on sale this week at the US Embassy/USAID auction. I went back with some new friends on Thursday to direct them to the very hard to find place down by the airport. But most of the items I was interested in were going up for sale on Friday. So, bless her heart, Tracy took me back on Friday. I managed to get a couch, two occasional chairs, a bookshelf, a “gentleman’s cabinet” and a rug. As if living in limbo and moving to another country weren’t stressful enough, try going to an auction!

I did survive, but I can’t help wondering if I would have been better off without any of this stuff. Well, I just put it out there. I really can’t think about it too much more or I will get overwhelmed again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's the Altitude!

Last weekend I did a little research on high altitude baking since I was trying muffins and banana bread. Tracy had been having some problems with her bread maker. I was able to do a couple of adjustments and turned out some great muffins and quick bread. Hopefully I left Trace with some good tips for her bread.

There are other interesting things about cooking at high altitude like water boils at a lower temperature. That has implications for killing water-born germs, and general cooking. I have learned it’s harder to get beans to cook through without a pressure cooker. (Thankfully I brought mine out.)

What I find interesting (and convenient) is that I have started to blame just about anything that doesn’t actually work right or well on the altitude. What? The toilet isn’t flushing properly, it must be the altitude. Feeling a little klutzy? It’s the thin air. Bad hair day, you guessed it; living at 7200 feet above sea level will do that to you.

Heck it must be true, my ears really do pop every time we drive down to Nairobi. I am still out of breath walking across campus here. (Though Craig assures me I will acclimate.) If you don’t really have jet-lag, altitude is the next best alternative.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

indigenous trees

I've been running around seeing several projects that Care of Creation has initiated. I have been reminded over and over again about the importance of planting indigenous trees. If God saw fit to plant certain species here than we should follow that example. The gum trees from Australia grow fast but they soak up available water tables. This picture shows some varieties that are native to Kenya.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cold, Tired & Happy

I arrived at Brackenhurst yesterday evening, late. I have made a radical change in temps and I am glad that I won’t be in the heat and humidity of Morogoro. However, I will miss many dear friends I’ve made there, both nationals and expatriates.

Tigoni town, where Brackenhurst is located is about 7200 feet above sea level; therefore the weather is much cooler than what most think of as African. The days get warm and sunny, but the nights and mornings are visible-breath weather.

I’m sure the coming days will be filled with orientation, vehicle purchasing and settling in. I will try to keep you posted on the happenings.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Most of The Students and Teachers

We attempted to take a group photo the other day. We have plans for giving a photo to each teacher. There are two new families from Switzerland and some folks that have already left. But you get the idea. I will miss them all and others not in this photo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Medium Sized Carrier Bag Full of Garbage

About half way through my time in Morogoro I realized that I wasn’t really producing much garbage. So I thought I would challenge myself to see how little I could really make. I still have about a week to go but this is basically it for the three months.

I do have a couple unfair advantages in the fight against waste. One, I haven’t been cooking for myself. If you cook for yourself regularly, I would guess your kitchen garbage fills up the fastest. Another advantage is that I have been using a public/community bathroom, so I guess that means I have produced a little more that is not collected here in the bag from my room. Finally, there is generally less packaging on everything here in East Africa, an easy way to limit waste.

As far as my personal consumer waste – this is it. I feel fairly good about that. I probably won’t do as well living in a whole house, cooking for myself. But at least I have set a benchmark for myself.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Further Ramblings on what is manly – at least in East Africa

Few things inspired the macho awe like the thought of a Maasai warrior. The Maasai man, aged 19-37 can run for miles if needed, lives happily outdoors for days at a time, kills any kind of animal that seems a threat from snake to lion using a handmade bow and arrow, knife and club. But this picture of masculinity also sports a fancy hair style, beaded jewelry and as my Maasai teacher described, “Skirti, kama mimi?” [A skirt like mine] Maasai men wear a one or two-piece lightweight clothe wrap, it’s even tucked up a little at the waist.

So the next time you ask yourself what is okay for your male persona, just consider it’s all culture and there is probably somewhere in the world that it is totally fine to wear that thing. Whatever it is an even if you might think it feminine.

As soon as I get a good photo of this picture of manliness I will post it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So inspired...

I made myself a couple of handbags out of local kitenge fabric and one of the male teachers got so interested that he asked me to make him one. I gave it to him two days ago and it has been the talk of the teachers. Today one of the other teachers had to borrow it and wear it all day. I noticed that while he was talking with a secondary student for about 20 minutes this afternoon, he too had to try it on.

Abraham Piper confessed that he likes bags too on his blog. So I thought I would let him and others know that it’s very macho here, even in this fancy fabric.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

No more apologies

In my home culture if I say, “I’m sorry” for things that hassle another or for some trouble you are involved with it sounds like I am taking responsibility for the mishap and I’m actually dysfunctional for apologizing.

In this culture it’s very different. One says the equivalent of “I’m sorry” which is “Pole” all the time. It’s just polite. When someone trips or stumbles as they are walking along in from of you, it’s nice to say, pole to them. If a friend explains they lost something; pole. If you come across someone with a lot of work to do you say, pole na kazi. It’s only polite.

I quickly acclimate to this and find that I am saying sorry all the time for things, even in English. I begin to think of it as being polite in any culture. And actually it is a little like saying, “I feel for you.” It’s not really an apology per se.

In Kenyan Swahili it’s fairly normal to use pole for both meanings, I feel for you and more of an excuse me or pardon me or I’m sorry (for bumping into you, etc.) Here in Tanzania, I have learned there is a better word for when you make the mistake as opposed to someone else making it. Samahani. I am fairly certain Kenyans know this word, it’s just easier to say pole for everything.

I was recently admonished by a friend not to apologize anymore when I ask for help with something or cause more work. But I think it’s more like a way to sympathize with the amount of work than say I am sorry for giving it to you. If I was really sorry I don't think I would ask. So I’m not really regretful when I say I am sorry. And don’t feel obligated to forgive me if I haven’t actually apologized.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Calming and contenting

In my vast experience here on earth, I have found that I function so much better when I have a creative outlet. It’s almost as if being creative is what I was made for, everything else seems peripheral sometimes. Because of this I have often sought jobs that require creativity so that I feel fulfilled. In times when I have had other sorts of jobs I have spent significant time on creative hobbies or projects. It’s not almost impossible to resist but incredibly satisfying when a friend asks, “Can you help me pick the pattern of tile for my kitchen?” Or “would you mind helping me redecorate my bathroom?” It almost makes me ecstatic to help another by solving aesthetic issues in a functional way.

In times when I have not had access to creative tools, I have felt depleted and have even started to decline in basic life functions. So you would think I would have learned by now not to travel anywhere without some tools of the trade. -- Not even to language school for a few months. Initially I didn’t think I would find any way to fulfill my drives for creativity, I forgot to even carry a drawing pad and pencil. Art supplies are often challenging to come by in Africa. If you do find them they are poor quality and high priced. And usually only found in a big city. Fortunately I have been able to find some outlets for this basic ‘need’ here in Morogoro.

I did manage to do a nice drawing of a baobab tree and make a few cards out of it. Admittedly half the ‘fun’ was trying to find cardstock and a place that prints it in town. I also made a friend, Elizabeth, to sew with. We had a great time doing some projects together before her machine blew in a thunderstorm. More recently I borrowed another missionary’s machine to make a couple of handbags made from kitenge – African material.

Quite honestly, being enabled to create like this has allowed me to flourish more than I otherwise would have. I don’t want to use the word survive, I certainly would have survived without being creative, but I would have been far more depleted.

Looking back over the past few months I can see that doing some creative things has helped me face some of the challenges like loneliness and isolation during this time of transition.