Friday, June 27, 2014

More about Maasi

The Maasi are the colorful tribe you see in the pictures and movies - holding a long stick, sometimes standing on one foot observing the herd. They are the only secluded tribe - to the point where everyone goes to the town to market on Saturday except the Maasi who all (and I mean ALL) come on Sunday. It is a great sight to see all the little towns overrun by those n native dress who live alone all week and long to trade and talk.

Maasi have retained their traditional religion, morals and practices without interference. That include a high rate of female mutilation, usually insisted on by the mother in law before marrying her son.

 Each community is made of a man and his wives - as many as can be sustained with very simple mud huts. The primary occupations is cattle raising, free range since there is no understanding of property boundaries. They eat only meat - no grain or vegetables.

Second to cattle is herding tourists. I always feel a little odd about going to "look at" people, but this is big money maker for the tribes, both in gifts to the chiefs and purchase of beaded goods. They seemed pleased to see the tour van pull in, and it apparently was not a surprise visit since the wares were out and displayed, the musicians and dancers ready. Adults wore shawls wrapped in various ways. kids tended to have school uniforms and Nikes peeking out from under the tribal robes. Apparently, though not by law, Maasi children are schooled in town. The gentleman who toured us and added up how much we owed in souvenirs certainly knew his way around a calculator.


A few reflections...

I am reminded again we can not refer to "Africa" as one unit with any credibility. Morocco, South Africa and Tanzania were entirely different experiences.

Tanzania has overcome it's tribal tradition. Most people can tell you what tribe they are biologically from, but except for the Massai, there is no way to tell in the day to day world.

Tanzania is, for the moment, not experiencing religious tension or dominance. The Muslim Zanzibar and coast coexist with the Christian center. In the area around Moshi, inter religious marriage are unremarkable.

Great strides had been made in accessible health care, but not as much in universal education.

In the area around Moshi, every scrap of land was used for corn or grazing. Even dirt yards supported chickens, gardens and beer hop drying enterprises. Goats grazed all the roadside grass. Shops were busy and industrious.

 Women are not yet in leadership roles, but are seeing the value of education and production. Conversely large goods are carried on women's heads.

People are friendly in response to overtures but not invasive, with the exception of the hustlers who are only in the tourist section. Children love to wave at vans and have no fear of visitors, but they do not beg.

Stores are minimally stocked but adequate. (How many toothpaste choices do WE really need?)

It was the best teaching I have experienced. The teachers did not see me as a sitter, but a learning opportunity for them as well.

Bonus: safari! Once in a lifetime.

I am grateful as always to my wonderful husband - and adults and kids alike loved the name "Bob" - always laughed and said "is that a real word?" - and for the opportunity not only to go but to come home.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Airport leftover

I wrote this as I layover in Amsterdam - just a week ago!

The first things I noticed on landing in Amsterdam from Tanzania was the t-shirts. (OK - the very first thing was the surgically clean fully functional working lock on the door ladies room stall) Suddenly people wearing GAP shirts and Micky Mouse products that looked like they had actually been there. It is an airport - no one is dressed up to fly anymore but everyone has on something unpatched, unripped. And the sandals are new new looking, not a pair of rubber flip flops anywhere.

So I am, in a jolt, deposited in a world of platform shoes, masses of college girls in matching team jerseys, high end watches to pick up duty free between flights, and where my clothes are no longer an oddity but on the conservative side of the norm. Not a donation bin ensemble in sight.

And choices - shops with cheese (which I now realize I have not had since I left the State), massage and spa treatments, restaurants with multiple sandwich choices and options. Not a single place serves the green leafy vegetable that has been at every meal in Tanzania.  The closest I have come to a translation is "wild greens" readily available beside any highway. Fried up with a little soy sauce...

McDonalds and Starbucks are here, of course.

I am remembering, as I always do, that I was only a visitor to the world of ironed underwear and Deet as makeup foundation. Three weeks is enough time to glimpse and glaze the surface, but I always know - and am grateful - that there is a hot shower waiting at home.

Now only hours away!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Remember that day trip?

Our aborted trip to the hot springs was reborn with a different company and assurance that this driver knew the way. Part of the "can do" American spirit motivated us to sign up again. Same insanity that makes folks climb Kilimanjaro...must be the altitude.

The trip proceeded as planned until the town where the SAME hitch hiker tried to climb in telling us "Big problem ahead but we will overcome!" Nooooo - we all yelled! We know this guy! We all suddenly took up 2 seats and claimed no room so the hitch hiker (who turned out to be the Town Chief/Liar) hopped on a motor cycle and "led" us on the path. After a while our driver determined that he was merely ahead of us on the road we were going to take anyway, but, savvy man, he knew if he let the Chief "lead" us he would have to pay for the service. Even if he took us the right way. Or not. So we pulled over - sure enough our :guide: came back, at which time the driver paid him NOT to lead us anymore. Chief howled we would get into Big Problem and only he could save us. Valiantly we forged on, his curses raining on us but the payment secure  in his pocket.

The hot spring - as it turned out - was more lukewarm and "rustic" would be the nicest slant to give it. The dressing room was a white plastic cloth tied to a couple of trees. But there was rope swing for the daring and many little nibbling fish who - legend had it - cleaned your feet of rough spots and callouses! The first 6-8 nibbles on one person were greeted by squeaks and other exclamations of rather unpleasant surprise so the rest of us kept moving.

Mission accomplished!

Every wonder where your Pretty Pony backpack went?

Men wear western shirts and slacks - cotton button down or knit type shirts. younger women wear western wear. Older women wear very sensible two piece garments with a wrap (kanga) that is combination skirt cove, shawl, baby carrier and base for carrying heavy items on the head. All are in good repair and were probably purchased for the person wearing them.

Children have school uniforms in various states of repair, but immaculately clean. Over them or on non-school days they have a variety of shirts and jackets and backpacks that were most certainly donations.

Recently seen:
Monroe Class of 2001 Reunion (including the names of class members on the back)
"Grandma loves me" in German
Wisconsin, Michigan, NYC hoodies
whatever American pop star was big in the previous decade
slogan of a Korean tech company
Huge eyed ponies, girls, cats, dogs and dragons

All umbrellas are souvenirs of golf tournaments from Scotland to Thailand to Australia.

The Garment District

One of the last days in Moshi - when we had even glutted out need for milkshakes! - we wandered into the area where the locals shop. Far from the tourists and most of the hawkers, there was street after street of tiny shops with displays of shoes on the outside and more indoors. Not a sidewalk sale - just business as usual in a sometimes hot climate. Interspersed were more tiny storefronts, each with sewing machine or 2 or 3 out on the sidewalk and a woman hard at work on the treadle and cloth. Here were the made to order dresses and kangas with Swahili message no one could decipher. When we asked, the shopkeeper would read back the Swahili - not a translation. This was the real business district of Moshi, and I am glad we found it.

Especially when the restaurant recommended by the locals - who never go out for African food - was right down the street. a unique combination: Indiaitalian - just like it looks. two menus - one with curry, one with pizza.

Friday, June 13, 2014

For a small country...

Originally written on the way here!

Amsterdam has a  large airport with signage only placed where they think it is needed. So you have to go to the gate you land at (E18) to the gate your flight was going to leave from (G9) to see that it has been changed to a new gate (F3). I passed the same oversized tulips 6 times, but only took pictures the first 3.

But it was a short layover after 7 1/2 hours and a nice break before the 8 more hours to Kilimanjaro.

I am not sure what day it is, but pretty sure it is time to eat again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An enterprising person....

...Could make a killing here selling insect repellant to the tourists. It is just not available here because the locals do not wear it. If they get malaria they treat it like a case of flu, get very effective treatment and carry on.  But for this mzungu who slather and spray the first 2 days and run out by day 7 of 21, it is a quest equal to climbing Kilimanjaro. As yet unattainable by any in our crowd. 

Moshi Groundcover

Some of the new volunteers are at a preschool in Fancy Moshi. Strongly constructed houses behind strong gates that servants open and close. Intentional trees, spaced evenly. The most noticeable thing is they have lawns! Grass - maintained grass.

 Where we live and teach, grass is for grazing and dirt is the primary low maintenance ground cover.

It is also the road construction material of choice on all but the most major highway. Asphalt has not reached even Fancy Moshi. In the wet season this is a nightmare and in this just post-rainy season there have been no orange cones put out to indicate repair. Every trip is a tooth jarring experience of I removed rocks and driving around places that were recently hippo sized mud holes.

Rocky Road ice cream will always mean Moshi to me!

Good bye our teachers

Today is the last of teaching - this has been probably the best most enjoyable teaching I have done. The teachers are appreciative and the children are 3-4-5, love songs and stories and are totally adorable. Plus in a Christian setting I have been able to use everything I know. 

At daily opening they sing a song that says "we love you so so much our teachers!" They may have no idea what the sounds mean but they are darn cute and it will stay with me a long time.

Then at the end they wave and say, "Good bye our teacher. Thank you teacher. We will meet you tomorrow." Only the grownups know next week is new teachers. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Rather amazingly there are about the same number of Muslims and Christians (and traditional religions) here who'd seem to not only exist together but intermarry! Part of that may be local - apparently the Muslims are in Zanzibar and along the coast. Here in the center, there are all denominations, Hindu Temple and a mosque, a few women with veils. But 2 of our directors are in Christian-Muslim marriages and it is a non issue.

In 2013 there was some interfaith trouble along the coast but the government pleaded with them to stop and they did. Since tourism is such a huge industry it would undermine a lot of businesses to have fighting.

I'll keep asking but it appears there are things more important the religious disputes here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day trip to .....

We had the world's greatest non experience today. Took 3 hours and we got nowhere.

We started out to go to the hot springs. We used a private driver rather than the tour company to save some money. The driver claimed he knew the way, he knew the way, he knew the way....but had to ask for directions 4 times before we really got suspicious. Finally some guy got into the car with us assuring us "There be some big problem ahead but we overcome!"  There were 13 of us - adding the hick hiker who knew things was 14. Several times he got out to direct us across small streams, crater sized pot holes in the dirt road and to consult with other drivers. Each time he assured us that was not yet the big problem.

The big problem turned out to be a patch of road into which a semi could have become mud logged. Nor driver not being the bravest cleverly drove around the edge where we got 1/2 way across and 2 wheels stuck. Really stuck.

This of course drew a crowd because it was a slow day in who knows where and no  one knew where the hot springs were anyway. A van of stuck mzungu was way more interesting. After about 20 people had weighed in on the problem they determined we needed to lighten the van - take out some people. Of course. We opened the door onto the water side. Ankle deep? Knee? Infested with??? Resourcefully people started to climb out the windows on the dry side. They determined the load was light enough before I had to do that.

Then a 4 wheel drive safari tour jeep came by and zipped through the mud easily. He stopped on the dry side and got out - came back and masterfully drove the van across the mud to the dry spot on the other side. At that point we told him to turn around, now have in less than 20 minutes to enjoy the hot springs. If indeed they did exist. On that road. 

He ferried us back followed by the group of jumpers who had gone overboard to help. Our driver took charge again - with the hitch hiker who rode not only back to his starting point but on to his house, then asked for money for getting us to the hot springs.

The real hoot was we had 4 new volunteers in tow and promised them a relaxing day at the springs. After a while we just promised to get home before our severely shaken bladders burst. When the driver missed the turn to our road, we stopped promising anything at all.

On the up upside there were numerous very rural children who waved and jumped around as we passed and will probably recount the adventures of the crazy mzungu at dinner.

Church Tanzania style

Whoosh - what a morning!

As we pulled into the school yard the church doors were open and the sound of fantastic music pouring out. It was the various choirs rehearsing. We had been told the service started at 10 am and ends at noon. We planned to be picked up at 12:30 and figured we'd just duck out.

The first hour was music - hymns, choir, kids choir. Majorly energizing. Not possible to sit down - hard to conserve energy for preaching. Clapping, swaying - very engaging and moving.

The second hour we got down to business - offering. Called "sacrifice."  Anyway 2 of them - one general and one for local concerns. We walked up to the drop box to put money in and then they got out a basket for round two. Plenty of music - impressive to see the little kids each drop in a few coins. Much more meaningful than direct deposit.

Then some prayers and someone came to me and asked if I was ready to preach.  I was. Since printers are in short supply I preached from the I Pad for the first time.

There was a terrific guy translating,and we finally hit on him reading off the I Pad with me - he really got into then a gesturing and bouncing with me.

A million years ago in my doctoral work we were required to take a multicultural preaching class - I happen to take African American preaching with a student of Jeremiah Wright, minus whatever Obama found offensive later. Needless to say I had not used those techniques again. Until now. But I remembered to increase intensity and repeat phrases and occasionally yell kumsifu bwana - praise The Lord - which always got an amen! Well once I got a hand held mike and a responsive crowd, there was no stopping! I have a video of the last 2 minutes where even the keyboard underscores a point. Quite a rush.

The service wrapped up quickly without another "sacrifice,"  and we were out at noon!

During the closing song we all walk outside and form a greeting lines. As each person completes the line he joins it until there is a huge circle for a final blessing. Very nice!

My whole CCS team came! It was very gracious of them and I appreciated it. Probably increased the "sacrifice," too.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Safari 3

If you have been to Animal kingdom at Disneyworld, there is a glorious tree in the center called the tree of life. Of course American come to Tanzania (being a little unclear on which country has IT) and want to see it. So the locals very tactfully explain that the Tree of life is not one special thing but a type of tree that grows all over the place. They live to be over 100 years old, shade humans and animals and hide them from predators, hold generations of birds in branches, and are generally a constant on the nomadic plain. When they die they rot form the inside out. When the center is hollow but nutrition still gets to the leaves, they are hollowed out for animal and human shelters.

The other important tree is here is the Acacia, that is the one with the flat top. We saw many with long dangling nests off the limbs. The story goes that in a particular species, the male bird builds a best to attract the email bird and convince her to mate with him. He builds the best he and take sheer there. If she likes it, great. If not, she moves on over the evolutionary millennia, the males discovered that rejecting the first nest was the end of the relationship so they began building two nests. If the first is rejected, the second May work. Maybe the ensuite jacuzzi was the tipping point.

Other fascinating animal mating in year wild: when a male ostrich is really to mate, his legs turn pink. Very straight forward.

Little fingers

Children merely recite numbers and count circles or line to do addition. They do not count on their fingers. Americans, of course, hold up fingers even to grown ups - "you should get 3 points from this sermon."  The only time grow ups use fingers is to communicate the price of something to a "mzungu" or non-African.

They children do hold up one finger to volunteer. And they yell "teecha me" in a way that makes it impossible to chose one since they are all so anxious!

The uniforms are dresses or pants and sweater in various combinations depending I suppose on how many older siblings/neighbors have worn it. Many are ripped, but they are all clean. Since everything must be ironed to get out the bugs, the overall impression is very tidy and formal even with the rips. Shoes are the full range from relatively intact to bits of laces and worn out Velcro for closures. But they all have something.

I hope many of them will be at Church tomorrow so I can see their families.

Things I miss

The list following Bob, the family and Potter the Cat:

Washer and dryer (see below)
The reading light on my bed
Ice cubes
Clean water from the tap
Dunkin Donuts coffee (surrounded by coffee plantations we drink instant)
Current news

Things I have had an abundance of: bugs (crawling, flying huge and invisible), bug spray, bug netting, ironing bugs out of clothes, bugs in the get the picture

Thursday, June 5, 2014


This part of Tanzania is very industrious. Virtually ever piece of land is planted with corn or sunflowers or open for cattle and goat grazing. Open space in front of stores and homes are spaces for drying hops for banana beer. The town has tons of "very annoying in your face" hawkers, but few beggars.

Women are still limited by family expectations to get a good bride price and produce children. The local directors has three daughters and her greatest hope for them is that they would become financially independent before marriage, but she admits they are already used to asking daddy for everything and not working for it.

Maize everywhere - oh, yeah, Kilimanjaro in the background...

Playground fads

Like preschoolers everywhere, imitation of the teacher is how they learn and imitation of each other is how they play. Last week it was "pull your sweater over your head for a hood" day followed closely by "find a stick and pretend it is a gun" day. Today they took their sweaters and wrapped around their faces to mask the lower half and - lacking suitable sticks - folded their handkerchiefs into triangles and held them like small revolvers. Everyone was on the same side and the bad guys hovering in the corn field never had a chance.

Meantime on the slide, attempt to break legs were at an all time high.

I have never heard a kid cry or seen one tattle or yell unfair or get angry. They just run and play, fall and shake it off.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


We had a demonstration of batik making today - many steps to make the lovely designs. Draw on cloth, paint on background, dry, apply hot wax to any area not to be black, cool, paint with black ink which is draw up into the fabric anywhere there is no wax so all the little lines fill in, dry, rub off all the wax, iron, touch up if needed, iron again. So I made this.

It's a tree.

Safari 2

The second day we were in more of a forested area, another park. Here the animals were not afraid of the road or cars at all. We frequently stopped for an elephant parade! We saw animals so close up and tons of giraffes. Zebras and wildebeest in huge packs. Plenty of food and water and nature in balance.

The parks are often the homes of only the Maasi, the very traditional tribe that retain many old ways, including eating nothing but meat. So they do not plant at all and can move about in range of the animals without disturbing them. They also marry as many wives as they can and live in tight communities with wood fires and no electricity.

At both parks we took pictures like crazy and no one said anything until we tried to get a photo of a Maasi with his cattle. He asked for money for taking his picture. Obviously feeding his cash cow.....

Reality imitates movies

Remember the snake scene from Indiana Jones' film? Endless Writhing intertwined chaos. 70 kids ages 3-7 on the same rug when the order is given "sleep." 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014



If you were in a country where the temperature was warm to hot, a few heavy rains, no breeze, and not much need for security, what kind of house would you construct? No need for insulation or storm doors, but whatever breeze is around.

As we drive past houses here I am stuck by how minimally sensible they are - rustic as they are to our  American eyes.  Mud or brick, window and doors to get the cross draft with windows and doors to close for the rain, one level. Bathrooms outside to keep them away from the kitchen and cooking. Wood stove for cooking since there are no gas lines. Water outside from a common pump because the community all goes there. I have seen few 2 story house anywhere except those built for group living. There are a few with gates and gardens of the better off, but it is still a variation of the simple structure. Because that is all that is needed.

What if we only built what we needed? On the other hand I have come to consider indoor plumbing a necessity...

Pentecost 2014

The local pastor has in invited me to preach This Sunday - it is Pentecost. Amazingly in school I took a class in African American preaching, at the time when Obama's pastor was still all the rage. Let's see what I remember. I did need to buy a new dress - the white ankle and calf offend the locals. How often do I get a new preaching dress?

I hope some of the kids in class come - I'd love to see their families.

The congregation was established by a Korean mission in 2004 that was assumed by aTanzanian pastor in 2007. They hope to expand the school to all the grades.


I am teaching whatever is assigned (art, science, maths, English, and Kiswahili) to ages 3-6. They sit amazingly in desks - not by any means "still" but usually in the area they stared in. No toys, no activity sheets, no crayons or paper. Just shared (and frequently chewed) pencils and Blue books for assignments. Chalk board, chalk - the remains of an old eraser. And humans.

Oral tradition is still the most important and our goal at this age is to lay some groundwork for English. So if they get the sounds, the meaning is nice but not necessary. It will come back. I can only hope "the cows in the barn go moo,moo,moo!" makes a lasting impression.

Outdoor play involves running and balls and running after balls and balls chasing while you run. You get the picture. Wildebeest and warthogs were a vacation!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Safari 1

It will take at least a week to report on everything I saw, much less reflect.  I will add pictures but you must believe - though I hardly can - that it was not Disney Animal Kingdom. The animals are in a space, but a very spacious space, a space that has always been theirs. There is abundant grass and they can find water they need. Lions eat zebras in the circle of life, but they balance out so they do not overpopulate.  No guards except for the people! Only tours are allowed in, only a certain number of jeeps per day.

OK with that said, it was another world. Friday we went to a Maasi village and I'll say more about that later.

Saturday we were in Norongoro Crater, a huge grassy area surrounded by mountains. Here are a picture - worth 1000 words or more!