Sunday, April 30, 2006

well, i'm still in shinyanga, although netball has been over for quite a few days. They are putting together a soccer team from all of the netball teams, I went to "practice" the other day which consisted of the coach telling us the names of the positions and explaining who to mark. He then had us do passing lines, but because we were so bad at it, we ended up throwing the ball back in forth instead of kicking it. we'll see how the game goes, if it happens. I don't really know what is going on most of the time because not that many people speak english here and their swahili is too fast for me. Also, tomorrow Kikwete (president of TZ) is coming for the closing of the tournament, exciting stuff.
I was looking through my calender the other day and realized that my program ends in 18 days! Oh how the time has flown by. I guess that means I should start actually doing work! Anyway I hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

well i'll actually keep this one short. I am in shinyanga at a netball tournament, it's been really interesting so far. sincei stepped off the plane on the 21st, i have not seen another white person. So i'e been getting a lot of attention. the town itself isnt that interesting, real small and fairly poor. the team lost the first three games (i came late and missed those) and then we won our last 2. So we are moving on to the quarter-finals, which we play tomorrow. We are playing a teamthat is really good, they look like they have actually played sports before,and some can even run, which is more than some of my teammates can manage! so im' doing very well, despite all the mzungu attention, which is annoying for the most part. I am about to hand out a survey to all of the netball players for my independent study project, hope it all works out! okay, hope ya'll are well!

Monday, April 17, 2006

pictures from my arusha trip:

Well yesterday I went to netball practice and had planned to go use the internet later, but that just didn’t happen. Instead, I went to practice, at 7 in the morning, and nobody else showed up until 8. None of the women really wanted to play so we sat around for another hour and a half. Talk about a waste of a morning! Anyway then one of the women (Frida) invited me over to see her house, on the way we got distracted for about 4 hours, first at breakfast (chunks of goat meat), then to Kariakoo for Frida and another woman to buy things. Fun times and lots of fun calls of “hey mzungu!”, “hello sista”, and “jambo friendi”. After lunch at Frida’s (it being about 2 or 3 in the afternoon) we went to a local place called the Centre Point Bar for drinks Every once in a while a machinga (guy selling things) would come over selling anything from cashew nuts, to light fixtures, to enormous Titanic movie posters. One guy was actually selling bows and arrows, but he got chased off by some people who said it was dangerous selling weapons to drunk people. And occasionally a Maasai in traditional clothing, complete with machete and tire sandals would walk by. Then a guy wearing only long underwear with a stuffed belly walked by talking on a fake phone. With him were some acrobats who jumped through hoops, sat on nails and balanced multiple soda bottles on their faces. They didn’t stay too long, and after they left a guy came by selling pedicures. Frida decided to get one. The guy even did nail designs, he was pretty good at it too (probably practiced on himself, he did have quite nice, long painted nails). The best part of it all was that I didn’t have to move at all to see any of it! All in all, a pretty interesting night (or afternoon, I was home at about 7:30).

One thing I’m kind of embarrassed to admit is that I have begun watching Secreto De Amor, a soap opera from some Spanish speaking country. It’s all about Maria Clara and Carlos Raul who are in love, but Carlos married someone else (an evil woman named Barbara), and Maria Clara is now engaged to Barbara’s brother Lissandro (after giving birth to Carlos Raul’s child) and she just inherited a bunch of money from Barbara and Lissandro’s grandmother. The show was originally in Spanish so everything is badly dubbed into English. None of the voices fit the characters, they are either too high, too low, or just bad in general. But everyone here loves it, if you walk by the dorms during the show, you can actually hear people singing along with the them song (my little sister here also likes to sing the theme song all the time, which is just Secreto de Amor repeated over and over again). Even people who speak no English are addicted to it. It also plays about 15 times a day, so if you miss an episode, you can just watch it one of the 10 other times it shows.

In other news, I am not able to play in the netball tournament because I don’t work for the college. Too bad, it would have been fun, but I think I am still going to go sometime next week.

Anyway I think I have given you all enough to read (sorry, I am still trying to procrastinate and not do any of my work, and so I end up writing on this thing all the time!).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Well this is gonna be one helluva long blog entry, I’m warning you now. In fact, it’s going to be so long I think I’ll include a quick summary in the beginning for those of you with short attention spans. Also a tip for reading, it is split up into days so you can read one day at a time to make it more bearable.

Here’s the summary:
I just got back from my favorite trip so far. My group went up to Moshi and Arusha in northern Tanzania for a week and did pretty much the coolest things ever. Sunday: Lomwe secondary school, tour of local mountains with view of Kenya. Performance by secondary school students about HIV/AIDS, discussion about neo-colonialism. Visit to local ceramics co-op
Monday: Local waterfalls in Marangu, the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, local Chagga homestead, local market, Mbeke (local banana beer), blacksmith.
Tuesday: Women’s cheese and dairy co-ops, talk with young women from Machame secondary school about HIV/AIDS, demonstration of how to use a condom. Then drove to Arusha with great view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Visit to local witch doctor.
Wednesday: Went to Longido for a cultural tour of Maasai land. Toured around with two Maasai guides, saw a Maasai boma, saw giraffes from about 50 feet away. Visited a local women’s jewelry market.
Thursday: Visit to Lake Manyara National Park in the Rift Valley, lots of fun animals. Then a visit to a local orphanage type place started by an American woman.
Friday: Coolest day ever. All day visit to Ngorongoro Crater, highlights include seeing Black Rhino, ostriches, and getting attacked by a bird while eating lunch (and this is no laughing matter, it drew blood). In the evening we saw traditional dancing and acrobats. Then learned how to dance like Tanzanians.
Saturday: Returned to Arusha town, bummed around, ate delicious Ethiopian food.
Sunday: Got taken to local market where Maasai go by a new Maasai friend, then visited a Maasai cattle market.
And now it’s Monday and I’m back at home, went to netball and I cannot wait to eat a delicious home cooked meal!

Okay, so for those who cannot manage to read anymore, I hope you’re doing well and I’ll only like you a little bit less for not reading the rest of this.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when heading up North. My host-family raves about Arusha and the surrounding area, as does almost everyone else I have met. It did not disappoint. It is by far my favorite place in Tanzania, and not just because the weather is more agreeable. The drive up there, which took about 8 hours, was amazing. Everything was so green and lush and absolutely beautiful: tons of farms, local homes, and rolling hills and a few mountains. It almost brought tears to my eyes (on second thought that was probably from the strong wind coming through the open window. I don’t think there are speed limits, so the buses go as fast as possible and pass as many cars and trucks as they can, even if cars are coming in the opposite direction in which case they will swerve off the road to avoid getting run over. It’s a bit exciting and definitely terrifying). Anyway, the drive was spectacular, and a great way to relax, I spent most of the time staring out the window while listening to my ipod. Although I did get a new hairdo thanks to Natalie and Olivia (the directors kids). We arrived at the hotel around 5 in the evening and spent some time at the rooftop bar which was pretty sweet.

Sunday we woke up real early to visit Lomwe Secondary School and the surrounding area. We got a quick tour of the school farm which was pretty cool; they grow a lot of their own food and have a fish pond. They also grow two different kinds of banana; banana is one of the main staples in the North. After the tour we drove in our hardtop off road vehicles up the nearby mountain. After walking around the huge Celtel tower this amazing view appeared. It was of Lake Jipe which is on the Kenya/Tanzania border, and it was stunning. Just tons of wide open green space broken up by hills and lakes. It was amazing (I actually made a note in my journal to stop using this word because it got a little repetitive, just an early warning). On the other side of the mountain was a view of the town which was pretty cool. Farms were visible all over the place with rows and rows of green plants and red soil. To look over the town/village, we sat on a rock where villagers used to bring unwanted babies (those who were seen as bad luck, like twins for example). They would lay the babies down on this big rock ledge and leave them, the baby would eventually roll over the ledge and die.
After the baby ledge we went down to the school. A bunch of the students put on a performance about HIV/AIDS. I can’t say I understood it all because it was only in Kiswahili, but from what I got I thought it was pretty cool. HIV/AIDS is really viewed as a big deal here and prevention methods and knowledge about the disease is high (although it is questionable how much of that knowledge and the prevention methods are put in to use). The students also sang a little and did a little traditional dancing. Afterwards we had a discussion with some of the older students about neo-colonialism. It was a bit of a heavy topic and not conducive to group participation, but a lot of interesting comments came out. One of the students was particularly adamant that Tanzania needed to develop indigenous technology and the likes in order to gain its independence from foreign aid. There was also a strong resentment towards IMF. All in all it brought up some good questions about how non-Tanzanians can help reduce poverty and starvation, etc. We really didn’t get any good answers, most aid isn’t without strings attached. Nandera, the assistant director of the program (she is a lecturer at UDSM) brought up the idea that money should go straight to Tanzanians, not international aid orgs. because they end up spending half their money on themselves. It was pretty interesting overall. .

Monday, we walked around the village Materuni in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. We saw Kuringe Waterfalls which was kinda cool but really not all that amazing. There was a wooden statue of a woman on the top, and behind her in the distance is a cheetah. The story goes the woman got pregnant before marriage and was so ashamed went to jump off the waterfall, then she decided not to jump and turned around to walk back to shore. But a cheetah appeared, walking towards her and she accidentally backed off the cliff. It was all very pretty and quite rainy which isn’t all that surprising since it is the rainy season which at least keeps the temperature down.
We then headed to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and I though we were going to be able to hike up the mountain a bit, but it would have cost us $60 per person, so we just stood around and looked in the gift shop and watched as others started on their trek to the top. It was very pretty, lots of eucalyptus trees, but you couldn’t really see Kili.
Next it was off to a traditional Chagga homestead. The house is still in use by the family although they also have a more modern house next to it. In the traditional home the cows, goats and women sleep, it is very dark and smells a lot like cows. The cows ever leave the house, but the goats do. All the cooking is also done inside, so it is fairly smoky. Pretty interesting to see one of those still in use, there are still some around but not many. This one was about to be torn down when the tour company found it, and they help keep it up by brining paying tourists up to see it. Anyway, the walk to/from the homestead was amazing. It was all farms, mostly banana I think (I can’t really remember, all the days kind of blurred together), and there was a beautiful river as well. Everything was bright green and it was pretty cool to walk around. We then drove to the local market, which was pretty cool, and fairly typical of markets around here, selling pretty much everything from used radios to used clothes to bananas. One thing that I had never seen before was an auction for used clothes, which was going on in one corner. We then headed to a local blacksmith where they make a bunch of tools. A lot of machetes and hand hoes and stuff like that. They also made some bells and mini Maasai spears which were pretty cool. As we had been walking around we had been hearing about the pombe (local brew) in the area made from bananas, so we headed to a shop where they make it and sell it. It is made from banana wine and millet (called Mbeke), so it’s very thick and mealy. The taste is very sweet and I did not find it all that appealing. But it was fun to try drinking it from a traditional gourd thing. The locals found it pretty funny to see a bunch of wazungu trying the stuff.
In the afternoon/evening we headed back to the rooftop bar which provided an excellent view of everything. There aren’t any tall buildings really so we could see for miles. For a time, when the clouds cleared, there was a great view of Kilimanjaro. But every other direction was pretty amazing too. I kept trying to write in my journal but I would get distracted by all the twittering birds or the sunset or just the rolling green hills and farms.

Tuesday we visited a couple of women’s dairy co-ops. Local women, to help fight poverty and support local children have started various co-ops, and dairy is big in Arusha I guess. Local women bring milk and receive money from the co-op which processes some of the milk and makes cheese and butter to sell. The co-ops are often supported by foreigners. The first one was supported by some German group (I think) which had provided some of the machines. Although one of the machines was too expensive to use so it just sits there. The co-ops are pretty popular and most local women want to join them because they seem to be working.
We then visited Macahme Secondary school for girls. We got a little tour around and then went to have a discussion on HIV/AIDS. The girls had obviously been taught a lot of stuff about prevention and things like that, but some key lessons were definitely missing. At one point it became clear that not only did some of the girls (who were between 17-20 years old) not know how to use condoms, they didn’t even know where they go! I think it’s pretty useless to tell them that condoms help lower the risk of getting Aids without telling them how they actually work. Anyway that led to some in our group demonstrating proper condom use. It was pretty funny to watch, and the students were enthralled. It was definitely an interesting experience.
I think we then headed to a traditional healer, although it was questionable whether he should be called traditional healer or witch doctor. Most traditional healers I guess use roots and herbs to try and cure things, while he concocted potions and attached pieces of paper to birds (if the bird squawked that would mean it was calling the person home). He also wasn’t registered which healers technically have to be. It really wasn’t that exciting, but it was interesting watching him, and watching the group of people we had attracted.

Wednesday was when things really started getting cool. We went to Longido to tour around the Maasai land up there. We had two Maasai guides, a man and a woman, although the man didn’t wear traditional clothing. They took us on a walk through the goat slaughtering area, we were too late to see them actually slaughtering the goats, but they were skinning them when we walked by. We then headed up into the foothills. On the way we found a baboon skull and generally stared around in awe at the beautiful scenery. We headed towards the place where boys are taken to learn about Maasai culture. The area was bordered by a huge rock on one side and surrounded by thorns on the remaining sides to protect from cheetahs and lions. At this place men would consume up to 5 kilos of goat a day and talk about life. They would stay for about 3 weeks and eat about 6 goats. Only goats, nothing else. We then headed down to a Maasai boma. On the way down we saw 3 giraffes about 50 yards away. Being on foot made it seem more real than when viewing them from a car. In the car, it feels like a museum going from one exhibit to the next. But just seeing them while walking by was more real or something, I’m having trouble explaining it. It was as if the thought just struck me that the animals aren’t just there to be looked at, which I always new but never fully realized.
Anyway, we then headed to the boma which is still very much in use. Only women and children were there. We passed boys with herds of cows, goats, and donkeys on the way. The women were very welcoming, none of them spoke English, and a few of them did not even speak Kiswahili. Most were dressed in Maasai clothing, although one of the kids was wearing a ratty Mickey mouse shirt. The oldest of the women there took us into her boma. It was very different from the Chagga house, just as dark and smoky but more roomy. Cattle were also kept inside, but the boma was better divided into living/cooking area, sleeping area, and animal area. Maybe this was because the boma is still the only house this woman lives in, whereas the Chagga house was used in combination with another more modern house. It was cool seeing the boma up close, driving along the roads you can see a bunch of Maasai bomas, they seem to be all over the place, but they are usually a good distance from the road. It’s also pretty cool seeing how much the Maasai have maintained their own ways while surrounded by more “modern” stuff.

Thursday we headed to Lake Manyara National Park. The name comes from a plant known as Emanyara in the Maasai language, which Maasai use to cover their Bomas. It is known for tree climbing lions, but we didn’t see any of those. Almost immediately after entering the park, we saw an elephant about 15 feet away from the hardtops. Elephants are ridiculously enormous and it was fun seeing it that close. The one animal we saw the most of was the baboon. There were huge troops around, often just sitting on the road. It was fun driving though them, and just sitting around watching them do typical stuff such as picking each others fur, playing, eating, having sex, and fighting. I gotta say really young baby baboons are some of the ugliest creatures I have ever seen. We also saw a ton of birds, a few big ones, but mostly beautiful smaller birds. In the distance we could see thousands of flamingos migrating, but they were really too far away to see clearly. We also finally got to see hippos out of the water, also from quite a distance, but it was still pretty exciting. Once again the scenery was also absolutely amazing. The park is in the rift valley which is gorgeous. The steep walls are covered in trees and green. The lake in the middle was also pretty cool, covered in birds. On the way out we also saw Blue Monkeys, monkeys in general are really fun to watch jump around. I wish we had some at macalester instead of squirrels, they are much more entertaining I am going to try and put up pictures for you all to see, but I don’t know if it’ll work., but they would do a much better job showing you what everything was like.
After Manyara we headed to an orphanage which was interesting. It is a place run by an American woman, and it is set out in a small village that is practically impossible to get to. There are 17 kids in the orphanage, most are pretty little, the oldest is 14. It was interesting to see becaues the kids are raised in a very American environment right in the middle of this small village. they watch American movies and all but the house workers are American. Hopefully it will be a successful place, otherwise some of the kids may have a bit of trouble adjusting.

Friday was the best day of the trip. We visited Ngorongoro Crater which got its name from the noise a cow bell makes. Driving up to the crater everything was shrouded in fog. Visibility was pretty bad and it was raining a little bit too. Occasionally the villages and towns on the outside of the crater would appear, but never very clearly. The crater side was completely encased in fog, so we had no idea what it looked like until just before we were about to enter it. Inside the park, but outside the crater some Maasai still live. So the only visible manmade things (besides our cars) were Maasai bomas in the middle of vast grasslands. Then we actually got to the lip of the crater and things just kept getting better and better. Really, if you ever get a chance, you should visit this place, it is simply amazing. The lake, with little dots of flocks of birds perfectly reflected the mountains rising above it. The sky at this point had begun to clear, so there were huge puffy clouds with flecks of blue sky appearing here and there. The crater floor was mostly grassland, although in a few areas there were a number of trees (usually near the crater walls). The animals were too small to really see from that distance, but the landscape more than made up for that. We then began the descent into the crater, all of us standing up with our heads out of the car trying to look every direction at once while avoiding long thorny tree branches. We saw some huge hawks and other birds, many very colorful. The road was bumpy and steep, which made the trip all the more exciting. Once we got onto the floor of the crater we almost immediately saw a hyena in the middle of the road. It was sitting in a mud patch sleeping. We were about 10 feet away and he hardly even noticed. As we continued on, we saw herds of Thompson’s gazelles and wildebeests. There were so many wildebeests everywhere! Scattered here and there were ostriches, which I don’t think I had ever seen before. Not only are they extremely funny looking, but they are enormous! I couldn’t believe how big they were! Soon after that we saw a group of cars sitting in one particular spot, on coming closer we realized they were two cheetahs sitting about 100 feet away. It was so cool actually seeing them there, they too paid no mind to us, going about their normal business of lazing around in the grass.
A little bit later on, after passing more and more herds of wildebeest and gazelle, we saw, in the distance a couple black rhinos! The crater is on of the few places left in the world where black rhinos are found. They were kind of funny looking, very splotchy, and not really doing anything. There were also a ton of water buffalos, who are also a bit funny looking. Their horns look kind of like bad wigs. When we got closer to the water in the middle, we could see thousands of flamingos and other birds standing in the water. As we kept driving, I would occasionally glance up at the surrounding crater walls and again be amazed by how beautiful it all was. The rain clouds had blown over, so only a few big puffy clouds remained in the middle of bright blue sky. Again, words don’t do it justice, you’ll have to see the pictures. Continuing on, we also saw families of warthogs rolling around and playing in the mud. There were also quite a few families of zebras, which I think are still my favorite. We then continued on towards our lunch spot at a hippo pool. A little before getting there we saw a couple of lions, including a young male. They weren’t really doing much, but it’s pretty exciting seeing them.
When we drove around the bend, entering the hippo pool area, we were greeted by the site of about 15 of hardtops, and this was the low season! There were quite a few tourists around, and because of that, quite a few birds. A couple of us set up to eat lunch on top of the hardtops while gazing down at the hippo pool. The birds were definitely swooping in, looking for food. At one point, as I was taking a bite of my sandwich, a blue kite swooped down to try and take it. I managed to hang on to my bread, but either the birds talons or beak caught my nose, drawing a little bit a blood. After that I decided it would be best to finish my lunch inside of the car! It didn’t hurt that much, but it was moving pretty fast. After lunch, we stayed around for a little bit longer, the hippos were just lying in the water, nothing exciting, but it was nice to stretch my legs a bit after standing/sitting on the roof of the car all day. On the way out of the hippo pool we saw a few elephants, and a little further on saw a pack of lions resting. There were maybe 2-3 full-grown females, a few young ones, and a couple of cubs, one really young and tiny. Continuing on we didn’t see many more animals, most had wandered away from the road. Looking back behind us, there were storm clouds beginning to roll in over the valley, the clouds didn’t come in our direction, but we could hear the thunder booming in the distance.
We then drove out of the crater, which took a while getting up the steep roads. Looking back over it was pretty amazing, and we also drove by more baboons. After driving for about 45 minutes, we came to a scenic lookout point that provided a wonderful view of the whole crater. As our guides said, it was a good way to say goodbye to it. It really was stunning looking back over it. The green grass, trees, water, hills, clouds and blue sky were so bright and beautiful.
I felt like a little kid dreaming of the wild and seeing lions and cheetahs AND rhinos all together! I wish I could go back there and to other parks here, and you all should too! They really are quite amazing, which I think I’ve said maybe 15 times, but you all know I like to repeat myself when it comes to places I like. But seriously how many people can say they have seen all those animals?

That evening after dinner, we were treated with traditional dancing and some acrobats (including one guy who balanced some soda bottles on a stick about as thick as my thumb). It was fun seeing all that stuff. But the real fun came later on when Nandera tried to teach us all how to dance like Tanzanians, meaning no upper body movement, only a lot of shaking of the hips. It was hard, and tiring, but some of us managed to pick up a few things. Maybe I’ll demonstrate when I get home. It was real hard though, and tiring. My lower back was pretty sore the next day!

Saturday we left the Ribble family (the director’s family) and headed back to Arusha. I was a bit jealous of them because they were heading off to the Serengeti and Taranguire National Park. It was actually a bit sad leaving them there, I’m not going to see them for a week (and maybe three depending on if/when I leave for Shinyanga). It signified the end of a big part of the program. There are now only 5 weeks left until the end of the program (but not the end of the trip).
In Arusha on Saturday, we didn’t do much, ate some good Ethiopian food, but mostly rested and tried to digest the events of the week. On Sunday, some of us walked around with a Maasai guy that some of the guys in the group met. He took us to a local market outside of town where many Maasai buy their stuff (cloth, tire shoes, some jewelry, etc.) We actually got to see them making the tire shoes which was pretty cool. He then took us to a Maasai cattle market, which was pretty much all Maasai. Zach, a buy on the trip, really likes the Maasai culture and bought an outfit, a Maasai stick, and a panga (machete) as well as a belt, some necklaces and more. Later, he tried it all on and it was cool. He looked like a Maasai (except for the white skin and hair).

And that was the end of the trip. I came home Monday and have been trying to process the events of the past week. I am heading to Shinyanga soon, if it al works out. I went to netball yesterday and their may be a problem with me going to the tournament. I’ll find out tomorrow if I’ll be able to go. The team also sat around and discussed team issues, I guess there has been a little drama about captains and the like. Glad to see that that stuff never ends!

Sorry for the long blog entry, but I didn’t have email access for a helluva long time. Don’t worry, I don’t expect people to actually read all that I just wrote, it’s turning into a way for me to remember all that I have done while here.