Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bishop Stanway Primary School

This is the last weekend of our Christmas break, and I have been busy thinking about and preparing for my kids to return to school on Monday.  It’s funny how even a 5 week break, which seemed so long even a week ago, can seem too short when faced with the end.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m excited to see my kids again.  It’s only that I’m going to miss sleeping in!

Even with the planning I’ve been doing this week, I was able to take a trip to visit another school owned by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.  Bishop Stanway Primary School is an English Medium school situated on the outskirts of Dodoma.  It’s actually a good distance away from CAMS.  Being an English Medium school only means that the instruction is all done in English, rather than Swahili.  Most government schools in Tanzania teach in Swahili until secondary, when all instruction is done in English.  It is not however an international school such as CAMS, so all the staff and students are Tanzanian.  I was really excited to be able to visit to see what a Tanzanian school is like.

I also had a secondary motive for my visit.  The Foundation for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, along with the congregation in Big Piney are supporting the school through some scholarships and building grants.  Since I am a lot closer than they are, I was asked to stop in and check it out for them, which I was more than happy to do! 

As it turns out, Maria and I have a mutual connection to the school.  She is part of an organization in the UK that is also supporting a program at the school.  She was able to set up our visit, which was really helpful as she had actually been there before.  We realized once we got there how closely our respective organizations were working with each other without even knowing it. 

We first stopped in the dormitory area and were greeted by several kids who were on their lunch break.  They were very excited to meet us.  BSPS provides both day and boarding school.  There are 45 students who stay at the school full time.  Maria’s organization helps provide for children of pastors to stay at the school, so she was able to talk with them about how things were going.  Then, we got a tour of the dormitories. 

The 45 students stay in bunk beds in the 4 rooms.  Both of our organizations have helped here.  Originally, the students shared beds.  Now they each get their own bunk.  Mosquito netting has been provided, but there aren’t enough to go around.  Malaria has been a problem with some of the children, which is most likely due to this problem.  Interestingly, the mosquitoes that carry malaria are most likely to bite at night, which is why mosquito nets are one of the most effective preventative measures that are taken against the illness.  Mosquito nets are easy to find in Tanzania, so this shouldn’t be a problem for much longer!


All the food provided for the children is cooked outside over a wood fire.  This is very common in Tanzania.  The area where the food is prepared and cooked is a three walled structure with a roof.  To American eyes, it would look out of place as a place to prepare food, but it fits right in here in Tanzania!

After we finished at the dormitory area, we walked the short distance to the school.  The school buildings are set up so that there are two classrooms in each, with a small office area between the two.   
Part of the grant money supplied by the Foundation has paid for 100 desks and chairs for the school.  Two of the classrooms are being repaired and these desks are waiting for the floors to be finished before going in the classrooms.

Some of the children outside during break.  The building in the distance is the toilets.  New toilets are being planned which will be closer to the classrooms.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The New Normal

I have been in Tanzania for almost 6 months now.  In fact, my birthday at the end of the month will mark exactly 6 months in Dodoma!  I have noticed that in this time, some things that I thought were strange are starting to feel normal.  Things I never thought I’d get used to seem pretty ordinary now.  Here are a few examples so that you know what I mean

My water filter is the tan cylinder in the corner, next to the sink. 

Boiling water:

The water in Dodoma isn’t safe to drink right out of the tap.  This means that all the water I drink (and I drink a lot, especially when it’s hot out) has to either be purchased or boiled.  After I boil my water, I filter it to remove any sediment.  I like to always have a pot of boiled water ready to go in my filter so I will never run out.  At first, this seemed like a hassle and I missed my treated water.  Now, I don’t think twice about it.  It seems strange that I will ever go back to the old way!

You can see my water heater on the wall above the shower.

Cold water:

Shortly after I moved into my house in Wyoming, the water heater broke on a Sunday afternoon.  I had to take my dishes over to the church to wash them and bring all my shower things with me so I could take a warm shower.  The water heater was replaced the next day, with a tank that allowed a hot shower to be taken at the same time dishes could be done with hot water.  That all seems so silly now!  The only hot water I can get in my house is in the bathroom, and I have to turn on my water heater about a half hour before I want it to start.  The only way to get hot water for dishes is to boil it myself.  You know what?  Life still goes on!

Paying in cash:

The only time I ever use my debit card is once a month, to take out enough cash out of the ATM for the month.  Almost nowhere in Dodoma accepts plastic.  Even major purchases are done in cash.  Remember my safari in October?  All paid for with a stack of paper money.


Lots of 0’s:

Tanzanian Shillings come in coins and notes.  There are 50, 100, and 200 shilling coins as well as 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 notes.  The exchange rate for US Dollars ($) to Tanzanian Shillings(-/) is about 1:1,610.  This means that when I bought a box of granola bars for 3,500 -/ it would have cost me about $2.17 back home.  Something that would cost about $37 at home would cost 60,000 -/ here.  I never thought I’d be a millionaire until I came to Tanzania! 


Mosquito net:

It will be so strange when I go home to not crawl under my mosquito net and tuck the sides in before I go to bed.  I can tell you that it is really nice to be under it and hear the mosquitos buzzing OUTSIDE it while I fall asleep!


I walk everywhere in town, except on market days.  It may take me a half an hour to get somewhere in town, but that’s totally not a problem.


Home before dark:

It is not safe to be out at night.  No, this isn’t because of wild animals as one friend asked me.  If I am out with friends and we are at a restaurant until after dark, we get a taxi home, even if it is just down the street.  We don’t leave the compound after dark unless we are in a car.  Here, it’s just common sense.  

No, that think in the corner by the window isn't a microwave...

Cooking in a tiny oven:

My oven is the size of my microwave at home, and I don’t have a microwave here.  On top of the oven are two burners, one of which barely keeps things warm.  I’m not complaining.  I have found ways of making single dish meals.  My favorite one is a pasta dish complete with sauce.  The oven space has just enough room for a loaf of bread, so if I make more than one, I have to be creative about staggering the baking and mixing.  It’s a fun sort of challenge!


Baking my own bread:

I like to bake, but at home baking my own bread seemed like a pointless adventure.  I have come to appreciate it in a whole new way.  First of all, I’ve discovered that it isn’t as hard and time consuming as I first thought.  Sure, it takes a couple of hours from beginning to bread, but there are maybe 20 minutes of actual work involved.  Homemade bread tastes better that anything I can buy, even at home and it’s a process I’ve come to enjoy.


No fast food:

This is something that took me a while to get over.  Sure at times I wish someone would deliver a pizza to my front door or I could stop for a beef and potato burrito after school, but when I have a couple of large dishes made each week, leftovers are just as easy.

This weevil was found and photographed by Jenny Beckwith, a friend of mine.

This dude was hanging out in my shower.

These are found ALL OVER the place!

He just came out of a little swim in the pool, and is probably about 3 inches from head to sting!

The flies, oh the flies!


I have come to realize that there are really no bugs in Wyoming.  I’m pretty sure I find a new kind every day, or at least every week.  Especially now that the rains have started, bugs are everywhere. 


Standing out because of my skin:

It’s a strange feeling to be both targeted and privileged because of the color of my skin and the country from which my passport was issued.   Because I’m white, it is assumed that I have money.  This means that in a culture where prices for most things are relative, I am occasionally quoted a much higher price.  Once in the market, a friend and fellow American wished to purchase a mango, which is in season.  The vendor told her one mango would cost 3,000 shillings (about $1.86.) We walked away without a mango and visited our fruit seller friends near the shops we usually visit on market days.  They sold her the mango for the fair price of 500 shillings (roughly 30 cents.)  On the other hand, there are stories of whites going into businesses and getting bumped to the front of a very long line to be helped next.  I have also been offered chairs in businesses ahead of Tanzanian women.    

Power outages:

While I haven’t had a major one in Dodoma for a while, power outages are a normal thing.  Most of the time when they happen during the day or in the morning, don’t even notice them.  I hear about them from friends. 


Dairy products on a shelf:

One of the strangest things I remember from my first couple of weeks in Dodoma was buying dairy products.  Milk is stored in sealed containers on the shelves in supermarkets.  It doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it is opened.  The margarine everyone buys is also stored on the shelf, even after it is opened.  Blue Band is the least expensive and I’m sure the most unnatural margarine I have ever come across.


I teach in skirts.  I wear skirts to church.  I wear skirts when I am out in town.  I only have a couple of pairs of pants, which are reserved for weekends.  This is completely opposite of life as it was before. 


No Walmart:

I actually miss Walmart often.  If I want to buy cereal and bananas, I have to go to at least two different places.  The same is true for plates and shampoo.  I can’t get a hot meal and a package of Band-Aids in the same place. 


Crazy traffic:

Not only does traffic drive on the wrong side of the road, there also appear to be no traffic laws, other than wearing your seat belt in the front of the car.  Lanes are often suggestions.  I have even been in a car that was directed by police to drive on a sidewalk that was not blocked to pedestrians in order to avoid road construction.  Headlights are either used at full blast at night, or not at all.  Motorcycles weave in and out of traffic.  The “right of way” is given to whoever takes it.  I am happy to be a passenger instead of a driver!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Round, round, get around... I get around

I have been in Tanzania for almost 5 ½ months.  In this time, I have had the pleasure to do a little traveling around the country in various forms.  Whether it has been within a city or from one place to another, I have picked up a few tips.  For any of you planning on visiting me, or even just visiting Tanzania, here are some things that will make travelling a little less confusing.


Travel by airplane:

Other than when I first arrived, I have only been on one plane since I have been in Tanzania.  For the most part, the experience was similar to those I took in the US, with the exception to it being on the smallest airplane I’ve ever flown in.   Here are some tips.

·         When first flying into the country, be prepared to spend some quality time at the airport to get your visa. If you already have one, this won’t be a problem.  I had a short 45-minute wait, but have heard of people spending up to 2 hours.

·         If you are buying your visa in the country, be prepared with only new US dollars.  They wouldn’t accept anything older than 2009.

·         When flying on small airplanes from Dodoma (the capital,) be prepared for the most relaxed security I’ve ever seen in an airport.  Sure, our bags were screened, and the same requirements were ensured (only small amounts of liquids in carry-ons, nothing that can be seen as a weapon, etc.) but we sat for most of the pre-flight wait in a room by ourselves and had full access to our bags before they were screened from both sides of the security area.


Travel by taxi:

While the CAMS has a couple of cars that are available for staff use, it is not always possible to use them.  With only two vehicles, chances of them being free are good, but not ensured.  In the cases when they aren’t available, or when you are in a different city, traveling by taxi is often the best option, unless you are walking.  Here are some tips to help navigate the Tanzanian Taxi World. 


·         Be smart about your taxis.  There are numerous stories about taxi rides that turn into something you would watch on CSI.  Taxis can also be seen as targets for theft.  The US Embassy is continually coming out with warnings for US Citizens about crimes against taxi customers.  I have never had one of these experiences, but they remain nonetheless.

·         Don’t get into a taxi with people you don’t know, other than the driver of course.  Keep personal possessions that you don’t want taken on the inside of the taxi, away from doors and open windows.  Thieves have been known to reach into open windows to take anything from phones you are using to jewelry you are wearing.

·         If it is dark, take a taxi.  This rule is only broken if you have your own car or are riding in a friend’s car.

·         No matter what they say, taxi drivers don’t always know where they are taking you.  Make sure you know where you are going in case they get lost.  At least, you should have an address.

·         Negotiate the price before you get in, and feel free to barter it down.  If you think the price is too high and the driver doesn’t want to negotiate, find another driver to talk to.  It will almost always lead to the driver backing down and taking your price, as long as it’s not outrageous. 

After all, 5,000 shillings may not be the 7,000 they are asking for, but its 5,000 more than they would be getting if you don’t get in.

·         If you like the driver, get his number.  It’s always good to have a few numbers on hand for when you need one.


The Bus

I have had the pleasure (?) of riding the bus on a couple of occasions while in Tanzania.  The bus is a normal method of transportation in Tanzania.  It’s one of the things that locals do all the time and is a really inexpensive way to get around the country.  Every bus trip I’ve taken has been different.  There are a few pieces of advice that will help no matter what your trip is like.


·         Bring a Swahili speaker with you when you buy your ticket, and buy it a couple of days early.  Like I said, this is the way locals travel, so ticket offices are often staffed by locals with limited English.  Tourists aren’t often seen on busses.

·         Don’t be late for the bus.  Many things in Tanzania run on their own time frame, but the busses aren’t one of those things.  When they say they leave at 9:15, the bus pulls away at 9:15.  They don’t worry about filling all the seats once all the tickets have been filled.  They’ll just pick up more people on the way.

·         Be prepared for all sorts of luggage to make it on the bus.  I have ridden next to flat screen televisions, live chickens, bags of rice, and empty plastic buckets. 

·         Don’t assume that the number of seats on a bus equals the number of passengers.  There are frequently 3-4 people riding on the stairs inside the bus or sitting on the engine.  Although I haven’t been on a bus this full, at times there are so many people on a bus that during a stop at a weigh station, people are asked to crouch down so they can’t be seen in the windows.

·         Buy a seat in the front of the bus if you can.  I know it was cool in High School to ride in the back of the bus, away from the driver, but on an 8-hour crowded bus on (mostly paved) Tanzanian roads, this turns downright uncomfortable rather quickly.  Unless you like flying off your seat over bumps and landing on a complete stranger’s lap, sit in the front.

·         If the bus stops at a random location on the side of the road and all the men suddenly stand up and walk off the bus along with women with young children, don’t look out the windows.  This is a rest stop, even though you most likely can’t see any buildings.

·         Window seats are nice.  Even busses that are advertised as having air conditioning probably don’t.  It’s nice to have control of the air flow.



Daladalas are small busses, about the size of a VW Bus (in fact I’ve seen one that was a VW Bus) that have been re-arranged on the inside to fit 16 passenger seats and the driver.  I have gotten really comfortable with this method of transportation over the last couple of weeks.  While in Arusha, I have been on at least one daladala a day, with the exception of the two days we’ve spent at home.  As a result, I’ve picked up a few things.


·         Daladalas will stop for you, even if all the seats are full.

·         If you see one and want it to stop, put your hand out in front of you and wave it up and down.  If one comes by and you don’t want to get on it, just shake your head “no.”

·         There are 2 people that work on each one: the driver and a conductor.  The driver drives.  The conductor rides with his head (and sometimes half his body) out the window and shouts to people on the side of the road, seeing if they would like a ride to wherever the destination of that particular daladala is.  He also is the one that collects payment.

·         There is always enough room.  I have seen 5 people crammed in the 2 front seats next to the driver (three of them were children and one of those was less than a year old.)  This crowded-ness is helped by the fact that children ride for free, as long as they aren’t taking up their own seat. 

·         As with the busses, anything goes as far as baggage.  I have seen large bundles of sugar cane, bags of rice or flour, plastic buckets full of fruit and vegetables, large boxes, and even a couple of goats.  (We refused the goat daladala based on the idea that we wanted to have our shoelaces when we got off.)  If the item is too big for the inside, the open up the back and put it in the small space between the back row of seats and the back window.  (This is where the goats rode.)

·         The daladala isn’t full unless there are so many people you can’t close the door.

·         If you don’t want to get on one with no seats left, wait a little while.  Chances are you won’t wait 5 minutes before you see another one.

·         Conductors will fight over customers at a stand.  They don’t leave until they are full, or almost full.  The longer they wait the fewer trips they can make.  They want to fill up first.  Daladala stands are loud places.  Don’t be alarmed.



I have never ridden on a pikipiki (a motorcycle.)  I have come to realize that there really are no real traffic laws in Tanzania, at least where pikipikis are concerned.  It is common to see them swerving in and out of traffic, into oncoming lanes, and on sidewalks.  It doesn’t stop Tanzanians from using them.  Often, they are cheaper alternatives to taxis.  Here are some observations I’ve noticed as an innocent bystander.


·         As with many other vehicles I’ve described, any luggage goes.  I have seen televisions, desktop computers, couches, lawn mowers, bicycles, boards, long metal pieces, pipes, and even a goat on the back of a pikipiki.

·         Wear a helmet. 

·         Drivers will ask if you want a ride, even if there are clearly 3 people.  While this would be normal if you were, say, a mother with two small children, it is not so much when you are two adults with a small child.

·         Women in skirts often ride on the back side-saddle style.  They also barely hold on.  It scares me to watch them.  I cringe!


Well, I hope you now have a better understanding of how to travel around Tanzania.  I continue to learn every day. 


I also realized last week that I forgot to thank those of you who have made my December possible.   I am extremely grateful for the Kellers, LaRae Covert, Mary Kauwell, the Hagers, and Press Stephens and the Foundation for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's Week

Happy New Year!

Yuppers... That's Mt. Meru

I am thoroughly enjoying my Christmas Holiday from school.  As I said last week, I have traveled to Arusha with Maria and we have been staying at her dad’s house.  The view is AMAZING.  It is on a hill above a great little village full of very nice people.  When you picture an African village in the jungle, it probably looks a lot like the one in which I’m staying.  Photographs in small villages like this one are hard to get.  People are sensitive to them and you have to be careful, so I have not risked taking one.  We asked one woman if we could take a picture of her produce stall with a lantern lighting it up last night, and she said we could if we paid her first, which from what I understand is a normal reaction.

I have been able to take some pictures from the front veranda, although they don’t quite capture the beauty in the village itself. 

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance.

Snow in December!  Never thought I'd seen that in Tanzania.

Houses down the hill.

Up and to the side of the house.

Over the wall

I could get used to a view like this.

More houses in the village.

A couple of the local children.

More locals

Someone left the door open on the gate.

Out the back door.  The small tree on the far right is pomegranate. 

We have been keeping ourselves quite busy this week!  We have spent quite a bit of time in Arusha shopping and visiting a museum.  We have been swimming twice at different pools and I have met some new friends.  With all the travel around Arusha, I’m getting more confident about riding the Dalla Dallas (small city busses, which are about the size of a VW bus, but hold about 20 people, depending on how many people are willing to stand, and how many goats they’ve put on.)

On New Year’s Eve, Maria and I had a special treat.  We went to a movie!  An actual movie.  Complete with cushy seats, popcorn, and a can of Coke.  There is no theater in Dodoma, so we HAD to go see something here.  We were disappointed because The Hobbit is no longer showing, but we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty instead.  The movie theater in Arusha is located in a shopping center and felt very western.  There was a hair salon, ice cream shop, restaurant, and a grocery store with things a pretty big selection of things to choose from.  We went into the grocery store and picked up a couple of things for a New Year’s celebration.

Popcorn and a great time.  Yes, I realize that I'm a little pink... The result of a full day at a swimming pool, even with sunscreen with SPS 50.  I've always said that I don't tan... I turn pink.

When we returned home in the evening, we joined Maria’s Dad and sister on the front veranda.  There was a power cut on our section of the mountain, and it had most likely been going all day long.  We cooked up a few packets of noodles for dinner on their gas stove and ate them with an amazing view of the lights in the village and the surrounding valley.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to capture good pictures of barely lit landscapes in the dark, so you will have to take my word for it.  It was stunning.

After we enjoyed our noodles, we decided to begin our celebration a little early.  Maria and I had purchased some sparkling candles and a pre-packaged cake in the grocery store earlier.  We placed 4 of the candles in the cake and lit them on the veranda, then shared the cake between us.  Slowly, the other member of the house fell asleep waiting for midnight, leaving me about 45 minutes to sit and watch the stars by myself once they all nodded off.  It was a fantastic evening!  Then, at about 2 minutes to midnight I woke up Maria and her sister and we were able to watch the firework celebrations coming from all around the valley.  It was a great way to bring in the new year!


So far, the New Year has been great.  We’ve visited some of Maria’s friends and gone swimming.  Today, we got an extra special treat.  We visited Shanga River House just outside the city.  Shanga is the Kiswahili word for bead and is a company that started with one woman as a small side business selling beaded necklaces.  It has turned into an apparently thriving business that employs physically handicapped Tanzanians to create things to sell using recycled items.  They sell beaded jewelry, hand-blown glass items, clothing, artwork, small cut aluminum pieces, and other beautiful things.  Check out their website and see some of the fantastic things they make.

While at Shanga, we spent a little time lounging on some of the couches in the shade on the lawn.  There was a family of cheeky monkeys hanging out in the trees and causing trouble for the staff at the open air restaurant on the grounds.  We also met a chameleon hanging out on the tree and a praying mantis that decided to relax on the couch with me.  After a bit of a rest and some monkey watching, we went around to see them make some of the things they sell in their shop.  I got to see some men making some blown glass, weaving looms in action, necklaces and earrings and bracelets being created, and some cut aluminum being polished. 

Working with the hot glass. 
I could feel the heat from where I stood.
It sure was hot in there, I'm sure!
 I wonder what this beauty will turn into.
This loom held something already in progress.
Here they are winding on the threads in preparation for a new project.

We stopped by and chatted with the women who were making the necklaces.  They were deaf women, but it was easier to communicate with them than other Tanzanians have been.  Since I work in an English Medium school, with other English speaking teachers, my Kiswahili isn’t exactly fluent.  In fact, I still speak “kidogo sana!” (very little)  The cool thing about communicating with deaf Tanzanians is that Swahili Sign Language and American Sign Language share the finger spelling alphabet.  I may not know the individual signs, but as long as I have someone there to tell me the words, I can spell them, and speak with someone! 

Working on the loom. 
These are the women making the necklaces.  It was fun to communicate with my fingers. :)
Checking out the jewelry making. 


After checking out all of the fundis (artists,) we went inside to do a little shopping.  I got to see some really pretty Tanzanite, which I will never consciously be able to buy, only partially because of the cost.  The smallest and least expensive stone they had was $90 USD, and it wasn’t set in anything.  They had some Tanzanite set in white gold rings in the range of $10,000 USD.  It was sure pretty to look at, though!!  While I didn’t buy any of this, I did pick up a few mementos to bring home.  Overall, it was a pretty amazing day!

 Ok, these pictures aren't things I took home, but they are all things I saw there... so I took their pictures.

One more little note on a totally different subject.  The application deadline for next year’s YASC crew came up this week.  I wish all future YASCers the best of luck!  Whether you head into the great unknown or stay somewhere closer to home, you’ll be forever changed!