WH Chronicle No. 1.23

Dec 19th, 2010

Packages from foreign lands have been arriving!  We place each one dutifully under the Christmas tree, after a curious shaking, of course.  We have incited a moratorium on opening presents until Christmas Day! 

I recently had a dream in which I am frantically racing to the toilet only to find the lid nailed down.  Subconsciously, I suppose I’m trying to process the different ‘issues’ that present themselves while living abroad.  This dream was slightly emotionally disturbing because there are times here that, to borrow Dave Barry’s phrase, ‘one wishes the toilet had a seat belt’.

But luckily, I have my Sunday afternoons of Chronicle therapy (and if there’s internet service, you even receive a Chronicle).  As I tell my silly stories, I envision your eager faces, awash in blue light from your computer screen, receiving the images and African tales from my own mosquito swatting lair-- half  a world away.   Thank you for inspiring me.

One of the faculty members at the University has a son getting married in a few weeks.  There are many congratulations, as weddings are of epic proportion in Tanzania.   One important ritual to which the  father of the groom must adhere, is to offer a ‘bride price’ to the future in-laws prior to the wedding.  Now this is not a rural village situation still dealing in cattle trade for wives, but urban, educated Tanzanians, who have traveled the globe.    When I told my European Music History class about the European tradition of dowries, they (mostly men) erupted in gleeful Swahili—discussing poetic justice, maybe? In Tanzanian rural culture, such as Maasai Land, the indication of success and prosperity is the number of cows and wives one owns.   The first Maasai wife is selected and purchased by the husband’s family.  When that wife tires of birthing children and tending basic survival she encourages the man to take on a new woman to ease the burden.

My students talk about ‘escaping’ Tanzania.  Who could blame them?  Almost anywhere they go there are significantly better wages, creature comforts, better health and safety, transportation, opportunities, less corruption, and maybe someone would pay them to take a wife (?).  But once the smartest and the brightest leave….Africa has a name for it, ‘brain drain’—another hurdle for many struggling countries.

So why would an American leave all of that to come here?  Was my brain drained? 

Sometimes I think that in the American scientific and capitalist path to conquer nature we like to pretend that we are not bound by the fragility of human flesh.    But enduring these expirations (and recognizing your own) can be a catalyst for spiritual maturity.  Many of the people here have this wisdom and peace about their lives.  Some might call it resignation or superstitious religion, but it stems from an effort to explain the unknowable and live through the unbearable.  It is as if Americans haven’t noticed what happens to their movie stars when they  are consuming all they desire…this ‘cosmic candy’ caused some serious cavities in their perspective and everyone else thinks they are immune to this malady. 

Another issue is that Africa is at the far end of the spectrum on collectivist societies when the U.S. is at the other end.  So this discussion of ‘brain drain’ bothers those who consider leaving—because of their ingrained feeling of responsibility.  Whereas, most westerners are more concerned about their rights rather than any societal obligations.  I can tell that the students already harbor some guilt about leaving their homes for University studies.  As Tanzanians mature they support their parents, but we gain independence in order to free our parents from the burden.  It’s very different.  Many of the students here send home their loan money to help their families, keeping just enough to maybe have one meal a day as long as no unexpected expenses arise.

Even from 10,000 miles away, I think I many have spawned the need for psychotherapy for a child other than my own.  Our little friend, Jamie, 10, saw a poster of me at a hockey game.  He coerced the chaperoning parent in to photographing him next to the poster and then proceeded to tell outlandish stories about PLUMP Pool parties, cannonball contests, bassoons, chickens, lizards, and Africa.  Then, when the chaperone was later admonishing Jamie’s parents  for letting their son’s imagination get the best of him, they added, ”Did he tell you she had West Nile, too?”    Bizarre world--glad to be doing my part.   

Jamie, the hero of our story. 

 Daryl and some campus kids playing the African game of Bau in the dirt. 
Sam's trying to get the kitten to 'use' their Bau board. 

For those of you with inquiring minds, Sam informed us that the milk from the momma cat doesn’t taste like anything.  Now is the time to tell your inquiries to stop. 
Nathan and Sam playing a variation of Jenga ( the Swahili word for 'build")

Tom just returned home, slightly traumatized by his climb of Mt. Meru.  It is claimed to be a more difficult ascent than Kilimanjaro.  He mentioned that the easy part was the stairs--only 4 hours of that part!  3 days up and one day down.  65km total.  His mountain report next week.
From above the clouds, the tip of Kilimanjaro illuminated.

 Monkeyville.  The monkeys were frolicking in our yard.  The know they are safe when we are in the house and then they have a good time peeking in our windows.  The kids can recognize and have named most of the clan.  This clip is especially for my dad, who always asks about the nature of our monkeys.   Here's a minute of silliness in Monkeyville.
 If you really like vervet videos, here's a 5 minute news clip on drunk monkeys.  Drunk Monkeys

The momma cat brought in a tasty morsel for her kittens.  It is an East African Highland Shrew.  Doesn't look too mean...
I wonder if it will change the flavor of her milk?

  An omission from last week’s Chronicle email delivery.  There was a video of Tom laughing manically while singing Christmas carols in the pool.  Though only 5 seconds, it clearly leaves one wondering about the stability of his mental condition.  You can see it at www.whaleherdienda.com

"Only in men's imaginations does a truth find an effective and undeniable existence.  Imagination, not invention,  is the supreme master of art as of life."  Joseph Conrad

Your poster child,

PS.  Merry Christmas!  I keep forgetting.  I even tried to fix the awry December date on my computer at one point, until I realized it really was December.  


WH Chronicle No. 1.22

Dec  13th, 2010

We put your tax dollars to good use this week as we snuck off to a lovely resort on the side of Mt Meru.   The kids sang Christmas carols while swimming in the pool.  We lounged on the veranda and marveled at the orange peak of Kilimanjaro during sunset.  After dinner we snuggled by the cozy fireplace to read stories and swat mosquitoes. We celebrated my 40th birthday and I’m elated about it.   I look forward to harvesting the seeds of wisdom sown in my 30’s.  I feel like I earned my age the hard way, but it’s possible to recover from that somewhat challenging decade. 
Tom's lightening up and finally enjoying himself.  I wonder if it's safe to leave the kids with him.

It seems like yesterday I was sobbing over my 30th birthday…bemoaning what most people would consider a well-endowed life.  A month later I was pregnant.  I took a pregnancy test in the Taco Bell bathroom, and then considered barricading myself in there for the next 9 months because I couldn’t quit crying.  Those of you who remember my condition are probably shuddering from the recollection of my emotional state (or lack thereof).  This was all exacerbated by a healthy dose of hormones and a good bit of fear, all pureed together in the blender of self-absorption.  Of course, that was just the appetizer for what my 30’s had to offer—each new challenge trumping its predecessor.   At least by birthday number 39, I was dreaming of celebrating the big 4-0 in Africa.  Ahhh…and such a sweet moment it was--unadulterated by Nutcrackers, Messiahs or SingAlongs! 

Only one realization tempted to spoil the event.  My children were so unusually well-behaved, friendly, fun, enjoyable, amenable to trying new experiences and foods, without fighting, crying, or complaining.  I basked in the enjoyment of their age and sweetness (and rarity of this near-perfect behavior). Daryl cooked and decorated a ‘surprise’ cake.  Sam was full of hugs and smiles.  Then, I realized that my next decade marker will contain a different set of treasures, but my children—still being the sweet little children of 9 and 6—will be wistfully missed.  So, I’m flush with the feeling of gratitude, and wholesome unworthiness, as I cannot imagine being bestowed with any greater fortunes than the present.

Sam lost his second tooth this week.  The next day he was hit in the head with a soccer ball during a student match between the divinity/music and law (who actually had uniforms).  The music/divinity students lost by only one point; their best record to date.  When Sam was beaned by the ball, the music students all gathered around to rub his head and hug on him.  The law students began passing out their business cards. 

Daryl’s been practicing her cake decorating.  Sam’s been practicing his stealthiness in eating cake decorations.

It’s been raining more.  The rains are so pleasant and have caused Mother Nature to begin reverting the world back to its natural state –of overgrown flora and fauna.   She’s also working on our car—inside and out.  Rainboots are recommended driving apparel  in our car during wet weather.
As we live and work in Tanzania, I’ve noticed a change in my perceptions of people’s physical appearances.  I no longer notice when people’s teeth are strikingly brown due to excessive fluoride in the mountain water.  I rarely note the people with facial brands, tribal scars, ear decorations, missing teeth (on purpose),  and other alterations.  Of course, maybe I have my U.S. college students, with a hardware store’s worth of facial adornments, to thank for this relatively seamless transition. 

Many thanks for all of the birthday wishes from all those with everlasting electricity and internet!  Your love made it around the world in practically no time at all…and it only took me two days to download it to our computer.  

“Last week the candle factory burned down.  Everyone just stood around and sang ‘Happy Birthday’.”  Stephen Wright

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“40 is not old, if you are a tree.”  Anonymous (G. Seekoi Yaw)

Fa la la la la laaa la la la la,
Colobus Monkey.  They look like 40 lb skunks sailing between treetops.

Africa-sized milltipede.  
Q.  Why the chicken cross the playground?  
A.  To get to the other slide. 


WH Chronicle No. 1.21

Dec 5, 2010

Christmas approaches but we have to remind ourselves because there’s still not a tinsel of evidence in the blazing  tropical heat of Tanzania.  Even if we had an old fashioned Christmas card, we could at least fan ourselves. There’s also that worrisome issue of Santa Claus and his eight tiny African Antelope?  Daryl and Sam keep asking very innocent and sweet questions like, “How the hell is he going to find us in Africa—especially if the electricity is out?” and, “What if he takes all of our loot to the wrong house—can we get it back?”    The concept of Santa actually sounds like a cruel joke in this developing country context, as most the children would be happy to get a full meal for Christmas, or maybe even an old pair of socks redeemed with bleach.   Daryl and Sam have yet to notice many of these differences, but I’ve requested that they not speak about Santa to their friends.  Oy… I hope it never rains on their delicate chalk painting of childhood innocence, but in every life …..  All I can say is, “Take an umbrella, it’s raining.”*

Westerners complain of rampant petty theft in Tanzania.   Historically, there is a significant difference in the cultural concept of possession.   In Africa, ownership has a looser interpretation and might be viewed more as ‘borrowing’.  Land purchase in Tanzania is not possible; the only option is a 99 year lease.  Material goods  could be considered on existential ‘loan’ and stealing is more akin to reallocating resources.  But with globalization the ideals and philosophies of modern and urban Tanzanians are now more in common with those of a westerner.   In fact, when donations are given for someone in need, they are commonly documented (no anonymity) in an effort to demonstrate honesty and transparency— I assume this is from the western emphasis.  The students here despise the corruption.
Honestly, if I lived on $2 a day and had 4 children to feed (gave birth to 4, 2 lived, and 2 are ‘adopted’ from distant family members deceased of AIDS), I might feel compelled to slip the small ipod belonging to my employer’s 9 year old child, which I found under their bed while cleaning, quietly into my pocket. So I find it remarkable when they don’t do this.

Reallocating resources also extends to boundless generosity.   I feel fairly confident that the western fable of the ant and grasshopper would appear morally bankrupt to most African cultures.  What kind of decency could find comfort in living while not offering assistance to one who might perish? And that is the way they live. They take in orphan kids and feed those that might be hungry tonight, not knowing from where tomorrow’s food will come.  I’ve seen this generosity and it makes me feel inadequate, demonstrating ample room for personal growth.

  Many of the adult students have families they have left at home in order to study at University.  They’ve commented that going to school and managing their dependants is like driving two buses at the same time.  The sacrifices they make to be at school are tremendous.  Some of the students have even lost children while being here, yet they have persevered in their studies.  I’m not sure I would have that fortitude.  I tell them this.  Perhaps their courage has abused me of some of my previous notions, but I can see that they will have the necessary strength to make very powerful and positive changes in their country.  I tell them this, too. 

The music students auditioned for their scholarship funds this week.  The presentations were incredible; imagine Tom and me judging ‘Tanzania’s Got Talent’.   The most fascinating, for me, were the traditional dances. One performance was a women’s dance for a newborn, performed in drag by the auditionee; another was a presentation and performance of the circumcision songs of the Masaai.  This is rite of passage at age 15 for the Masaai boys.  They have to demonstrate their bravery by not quivering or crying out while the procedure is completed.   They speak shockingly open about these traditions just as you and I might speak about our weddings.

Tom is beginning to look like a member of ZZTop.  Willie Nelson is now comparatively a jarhead.     He mentioned that his homesickness is getting better or maybe it's that he’s just getting numb. 

Our friends celebrated the confirmation of their children in the Lutheran church today.  This celebration is every bit as big as a wedding event.   Some of the confirments’s families hired a brass band to parade them home in a decorated car.  Goats were roasted, tents were hoisted, and I can still hear the parties out my office window, 7 hours after the service. 

At the end of today’s 3 hour church service they brought out a plastic grocery bag containing a well-behaved live chicken.  Someone had brought the hen for their offering and she was being auctioned off to the highest bidder.  We refrained from publicly revealing any of our idiosyncrasies, but considered putting the kittens in the basket for next week.

*Curious Savage, a play by John Patrick
Mrs. Savage: What's the matter, Fairy May?
Fairy: Nothing. It's just that no one has said they loved me this live-long day.
Mrs. Savage: Why yes, they have, Fairy.
Fairy: Oh, no they haven't. I've been waiting.
Mrs. Savage: I heard Florence say it at the dinner table.
Fairy: Did she?
Florence: Did I?
Mrs. Savage: She said, Don't eat too fast, Fairy.
Fairy: Was that saying she loved me?
Mrs. Savage: Of course. People say it when they say, "Take an umbrella, it's raining" - or "Hurry back" - or even "Watch out, you'll break your neck." There're hundreds of ways of wording it - you just have to listen for it, my dear."

"Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are still entangled with the desire for ownership."
-E.M. Forster

"Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.  It's ALL mine."  Daffy Duck in Ali Baba Bunny (1957)

Kissing Santa goodnight,

A bus on the highway.  Notice thru the cloud of smoke a picture of a turtle and "Pole Pole", which means 'slow'. 

Another bus--worthy of a photo. 


WH Chronicle No. 1.20

Nov 27, 2010

We arrived safely back home from our expedient trip to Dar es Salaam.  The AC in the car went out before we even exited the University gate, which was especially frustrating because we just had it repaired (the AC, not the gate).  The highway between Arusha and Dar es Salaam is a paved road, but if you drove on it with your eyes closed, you wouldn’t know this.  Which, by the way, is a common technique incorporated by many of the local drivers.  So we rattled down the road in our ‘hot tin box’ dodging goats, people, cars, buses, hand carts and craters the size of a small house—seriously.   Occasionally, one might notice a rusty old road sign like this one:

On the road to Dar es Salaam.

In Dar es Salaam, we took care of embassy business, sat in sweltering traffic, and hurried home.  It was tremendously hot, but I decided riding in the car was marginally better than riding in a bus with a goat in my lap.  By the time we arrived home, the kids were happy to see us.  Running to hug us they stopped dead in their tracks (cue: 'squealing brakes' noise) as soon as they whiffed our aroma.   Perhaps the goat would have been an improvement. 

Tom was sick this week.  He had a fever and a case of the shakes during the night.  All suspicious fevers mandate malaria testing.  Mentioning it to Tom, he looked over his glasses at me in his usual skeptical manner.  Our supervisor took him to the hospital where he was eventually tested for malaria, typhoid, and amoebas.  According to Tom, the hospital’s chichi factor, (though a new facility) could be characterized by the waiting room’s National Geographic magazines from 1980.  When he arrived home, he announced that all tests found him normal.  I quickly assured him that he was not, proof in the fact that he’s still married to me.  He also declared that he was never getting sick again.  But honestly, I feel an unequalled burden of guilt every time someone in our family sheds a tear or skins a knee.  In the back of my mind—am I the responsible lunatic dragging my family on a zealous journey?    I guess I’ll take that up with my therapist.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with 60+ other expats in the Arusha area.  We feasted on “Kuku Mmarekani”  or American Chicken, also known as, “Bata Mzingu”, meaning ‘crazy duck’.  The food was spectacular and the mingling produced some of the most interesting worldly stories I’ve ever heard.  
We worked most of Thanksgiving day, and it wasn’t until lunch that I remembered the holiday.  Without the seasons, holiday advertising or other annual orientations it’s virtually impossible to just guess the month.  Even the sun hides the passing of years by rising and setting the same time every day.  This equatorial stability is reflected in the Tanzanian time system as it numbers the 12 regular hours of daylight. ‘Hour 1’ is at 7am. 

 Mr. Twinkie is finally in full voice and has developed a melismatic crow.  Think--Janis Joplin does rooster impersonations.  One morning while jogging, I heard a rooster that offered consolation to Mr. Twinkie’s vocal short comings.  He sounded like James Brown without the band.   I’m not really a rooster crow connoisseur, but these jungle fowls’ gravely voices sure don’t offer pure voices and operatic crows.  Tom commented that it's nothing an ax can't cure. 

“Europeans, like some Americans, drive on the right side of the road, except in England, where they drive on both sides of the road; Italy, where they drive on the sidewalk; and France, where if necessary they will follow you right into the hotel lobby.”  Dave Barry

Applying extra deodorant,


WH Chronicle No. 1.19

Nov 20, 2010
The beautiful flowers, the tents, the music, the dancing, and all the finely dressed people of today’s graduation ceremonies are now delegated to a mere memory (well except for those Youtube clips).  We graduated, congratulated, orated, and celebrated for 5.5 hours.  The music department shares a sigh of relief after providing all the entertainment and technical support.   

“Entertainment?” you ask?  We sang, we danced, we drummed, we led the parade, we provided hymns, anthems, fanfares, and anything else dictated by the person holding the microphone. All of that without the aid of a French horn or bassoon!

Tom leading the brass processional. 

African Drumming--Call to Ceremony

That's in front of 2000 people. 

 I sigh with wonder as I observe the students here.   This week one music student’s brother passed away.   His roommate announced this sad news in class, at which point each of the students emptied their pockets of any spare change.  For most of them that meant forgoing lunch and dinner, and they don’t even eat breakfast.  I bring bananas to class as often as possible.  It’s not unusual for a student to go several days without food because funds are so tight.   

The students here also speak to me about the problems of Tanzania.  They desperately want to be part of what they refer to as “the global village”.  They worry about being seen as ‘backwards’ or as ‘living museum’.   They are passionate about music and education.  When they speak in such a heartfelt way about these issues, I respond that I can only point the way or spark the ideas, but the true change will rely on them.  They know and comment that ‘knowledge is power’, but I offer the gentle reminder that ‘with that power comes responsibility’ (I heard that line in a Spiderman movie once).  Perhaps that will help them be part of the solution they desire—as I have few answers, but plenty of encouragement.

Daryl was a big help today during graduation.  She was our official runner and videographer, but unfortunately she enthusiastically engaged the dirt with both of these ventures.  Her videos include more feet than faces, and her poor little hamburgered knees now harbor tiny Tanzanian pebbles.   Bandaids and Neosporin! 

Sam spent all 5.5 hours stomping termites and playing Uno with some local kids.  No common language needed for Uno.

Both kids are doing well with homeschool.  It offers a lot of freedom and they work diligently to conquer their tasks each day before launching into play time. 

We’re driving 10 hours to Dar es Salaam tomorrow in our new car.   Driving is such a seriously scary thing—but riding in a bus is not any safer.  It just helps to remind yourself that you’re not cosmically entitled to life and limb, or to that of those you love.  It’s all a gift to be cherished during the brief time it is available.  Then you take a deep breath, stomp the accelerator and ‘keepey lefty’. 

  The kids are staying in Arusha and are looking forward to their slumber party. 

Available for parties and Bar mitzvahs (not too many of those here),

He loves the rear view mirror and frequently tries to rip it off.  


WH Chronicle No. 1.18

Nov 14, 2010

We officially began classes!  Though many teachers from other departments are yet to be hired, the music department is well into the refrain, so to speak.

 My sweet students, most mature adults with families, are full of questions and awe.  Never having heard any of the western music examples I presented (Beethoven 5th, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, Also Sprach Zarathustra, La Traviata) they asked endless questions bringing forth even more unfamiliar terminology (what’s an orchestra?).  One student was so excited about the aria from La Traviata, that he wanted to know how to acquire the music. 

This is where the challenge begins:  There are NO music books to be purchased (for students or teachers), no staff paper, no sheet music, no CD’s, not even itunes is available to you if your computer is registered in East Africa.  All the education is strictly what the teacher writes on the chalk board for the students to memorize (assuming there’s a niblet of chalk available).  Few students have access to computers; even then, there may not be electricity or internet service.  Computer literacy is daunting to the students.  Regardless, I have emphasized that their budding computer skills will open a valuable portal to a vast amount of knowledge and information available on the net.   This simple tool could be revolutionary to the educational systems in developing countries.

It’s been nice to enjoy weekends as a family.  One of our favorite pastimes is to play what Sam calls “Pool Ships”.  It’s a slightly less static version of Winnie the Pooh’s “Pooh Sticks” because of Sam’s imaginary armory and battle engagement.  Basically, we drop sticks, guavas, mangoes, leaves, or whatever we want into the trickling stream, watch it disappear under the bridge, and then run to the other side to watch it reappear.  There’s something beautifully simple and wondrous about this activity; then Sam adds explosive noises from his various orifices. 
Sam watching for his "Pool Ship".

A variation: Daryl, with help, playing "Pool Ships".

I’ve been warned that our feral kids will be difficult to catch and tame when it’s time to return to the States.  I’m frequently ambushed as they hide in trees or around corners.  They spend much of the day pretending to be spies.  They come home at dark, but continue their rowdiness like they were still in the mulberry field chasing crows and monkeys.  We’ll need a tranq gun and some padded cages.
 Their occasional homesick conversations are about spending a week immersed in junk food and video games at the grandparents’ house.  Their eyes glaze over blissfully when reminiscing, while it has the complete opposite effect on me. 

The kittens are beginning to open their eyes and have become quite noisy when you take them away from their mother.    The baby chicks are sprouting little feathers from beneath their chickly fuzz.  They run faster and are becoming more difficult to catch.
Mr. Twinkie is finally starting to sing, but not like his proud rooster friends with well developed operatic crows--hosting tremolos, trills, melismas while warming up at midnight.  Instead, he has a meager little incantation like country-western yodeler plagued with chronic sinus infections.  I admire his perseverance with his permanent state of snot-encrustation.    

More bizarre events:  Two baby catfish came out of the neighbor’s kitchen sink faucet, one dead, and one alive.  I saw a bumble bee the size of a softball.  As it tried to maintain altitude, it sounded like a Cummins diesel engine.  We noticed two shy Colobus monkeys on campus.  One of them tried to pee on us.

We finally have wheels!  And with it comes a new phase of freedom, and financial endeavors.  Planning to pay for the vehicle with an online wire transfer, we realized the fallacy in the idea as soon as the internet and electricity went out.    My sweet dad had to break away from landlording our house in Austin long enough to ‘run by Western Union’ and wire us our own money.   Because the largest bill in Tanzania is only 10,000Tsh ($7) , we had to pay for the car with two, large, bricks worth of cash—the only thing missing was a brown paper bag or handcuffed spy briefcase.  We were happy to hand it over to the owner so that we weren’t the mugger bait.   

The car is a little 4x4 Suzuki.  Four wheel-drive is important because there’s basically only one paved road through the middle of Tanzania, and even it has speed bumps that are waist high.  The steering wheel is on the right side and one must ‘keepie leftie’ while driving.  We’re not sure where to park it, but I told Tom if there’s a tow truck anywhere in Tanzania, chances are it’s broken down with no hope of being towed to a repair shop.

The car was named "Sparky" by our little hood ornament.

You all are such amazing friends!  Everyone keeps asking what essential item from our former lives we still desperately need---within the padded envelope caveat, of course.    Tom is in bad need of a beard trimmer.  Daryl braids any uncovered hair within her reach; hence, Tom is working on a “Fu Man Chu” impersonation (a braided beard is a sign of Chinese royal dignity).   He’s also in need of some anti-depressants; not for Tanzania, but for football season.  Horns and Cowboys are just dreadful this year….this dilemma could make anyone living in a developing country feel better about their lives.

Looking up in trees with my mouth closed,

Sam and the baby chicks.

Flamboyant Tree


WH Chronicle No. 1.17

Nov 7th, 2010

Hard to believe that Africa is spinning on the globe just as fast as North America, but this week we may have sped a little faster in time and widened the gap in the Atlantic Ocean!

Sunday, Oct 31           
 Political elections, Halloween (for us only), and the stray cat that adopted us had 3 kittens in the hedge.  They now live in a box on our back porch so the stray dogs won’t eat them. 
Monday, Nov 1
 Downtown Arusha was flooded with people waiting for election results. 
Tuesday, Nov 2
 Downtown Arusha had many businesses closed due to people celebrating the acquisition of senate seats by the opposition party.  The police released the tear gas and water cannons on the crowd without warning.   We met with the University music students that were able to acquire travel arrangements during these hectic and unpredictable days.  Three baby chicks hatched.
Wednesday, Nov 3 
Music rehearsals began for graduation ceremonies.  The music department, all 30 of us, provides the singing, dancing, and instrumental music for the event celebrating the students who completed their studies last semester (July).
Thursday, Nov 4
More students arrived, more rehearsing.
Friday, Nov 5
They announced that the presidential incumbent (expectedly) won.  I attended my first faculty meeting.   The discussion was that enrollment for the University has doubled.  Many new teachers will have to be hired and to expect difficulties with class scheduling and room assignments.    Perhaps this will be worked out over the new few weeks, as classes begin on Monday.    Music classes, though already in order, will probably require schedule adjustment to accommodate the University core classes.

Over the weekend we attended our first Tanzanian birthday celebration.  Many Tanzanians do not have birth certificates (nor do they know their birthdates, or birth years) as most births are at home.  There are no snowy, picturesque Hallmark Calendars hanging from the doors to mark the days and special events. Of course, many home dwellings do not even have doors.  On this special occasion they have a ‘cake song’.  Cake is a very big deal, as it is a difficult thing to cook over three hot rocks in a pan that resembles a hubcap.   After the song, the guest of honor cuts the cake, and they hand each person a morsel on a toothpick (most Tanzanians do not have any eating utensils beyond a sharp knife).  The expectation is for one to cram the whole piece in his/her mouth at one time.  They chastised my children for not doing so and I gloat with the notion that it took me 3 years to break Sam of that very habit.  Oh, well…when in Rome.   

After the cake everyone sings while each attendant dances up to the honoree and offers a gift.  Examples of such gifts include: a bar of soap, three ball point pens, shoe polish, shampoo, 200 Tsh coin (15 cents), and a really nice gift: flip flops.   Then they parade each person to their home with more singing and dancing. 

We also attended our first campus church service.  This is a Lutheran University, so when in Luther…    Act like you’re in Lake Wobegon? (Remember, there are more Lutherans in Africa than in the states!)  The entire service was in rapid fire Swahili—I recognized “Amen”.  At the end of the service they auctioned the items that were placed in the offertory basket in lieu of money.  Today it was just eggs, but occasionally, I’ve heard  there are goats or cows in church.    

When we go to market to purchase our eggs and milk, we sometimes wonder what the locals are thinking.  They recognize us instantly and know our story.  They elbow  the person sitting next to them and begin talking about us.   We see them nodding, but what are they saying in Swahili, “Eee, there goes the neighborhood…”?

The students in the School of Music are quite remarkable.  University students are the ‘best of the best’ in Tanzania.  They dress in their finest Sunday church clothes to attend classes.   They all ‘thank God’ for the opportunity of education.  I will learn more personal stories as we progress, but one of the students had to walk 50km (each weekend) to complete his high school education.  It was the closest high school and there was no available transportation.   He walked at night when it was cooler, but had to be mindful of lions.   If one passes the tests to be admitted to high school, then the honor is so great that any sacrifice is secondary to the opportunity presented.  Another student sold one of the three family cows in order to afford University fees.   He still has two years of studies ahead of him….

When I was in the faculty meeting, there were several moments when my concentration lapsed (though it is in English, their accent requires close attention for understanding).  I was staring out the window at the purplely-orange sunset on Mt. Meru.  Time melted away and I was transported to a place where my current gaze became a mere distance memory of our time here.   I felt a nostalgic, yet melancholy, smile cross my face and I wondered….as I often do. 

Tom continues to endure.  Somehow baby kittens, baby chicks, goat milking, (cat milking), monkey chasing,  eternal spring, singing and dancing traditional African tunes, banana and papaya harvesting,  coaching brass ensemble, and other daily adventures don’t seem to distract him from missing football games (even though it’s a good year to miss them), and playing horn with the symphony.  The kids occasionally squeak out about missing Taco Cabana and grandparents (that order, sorry).   I’m happily missing the political headaches of home, though there are days here where cultural adjustment is completely exhausting.

Just a warning, I think the “Comment” section of the blog has not been reliable….or maybe that’s a symptom of wishful thinking.  But several of you have emailed us about comments we’ve never received.   So we will just continue to believe that most of you have been regularly offering  your humorous or insightful quips and we've continually failed to receive them.  

“Reach out for the joy and the sorrow.  Put them away in your mind. The mem’ries are the times that you borrow, to spend when you get to tomorrow.”  Times of Your Life, Paul Anka

Milking cats and nursing chicks,

Introducing (imagine 3 of each--chicks then kittens):  Fluffy, Dolly Madison, Sputnik, Bunnicula, Sharktooth, Milkshake

Kitten being rocked to sleep.
First two snapshots they were fighting...this is the promise of ice cream. The orchid cost $2 on the street.  

Cool chameleon we found.  He's been released back into the wild for the sake of Sam's nose. 

I know you all have been hungry for some action packed videos!  Maybe a lion kill, snake eating a hyena, rhino charging a tour bus, etc.  Well, here's one that even takes out the videographer (but he still managed to upload the video).
  Click Here!

After the attack:
We're not sure if Rooster is wearing protective armor or a restraint--but he looked good for Halloween!


WH Chronicle No. 1.16


Carved from the largest watermelon at the market.

Happy All-Hallows-Evening from your favorite crackers on the Dark Continent, were jovially dressing-up like a monster is one of the “Top Ten Ways to Get Yourself Beat-to-Death with a Broom”.

There is no sense of humor when it comes to demons, ghosts and witchcraftery in Africa! Hence, definitely no Halloween in Tanzania!

“And why is that?” You might ask.  With the population of Tanzania being a third Christians, and a third Muslims, that leaves a whole one third in a tribal catch-all category that really spice up the spiritual waters.

Just as we saw in Disney’s Pocahontas and Lion King, they practice animism and totemism by worshipping the spirits of the fires, ancestors, stars, and whatever else might be controlling good and bad fortunes.  Occasionally, deceased ancestors might get upset that you’ve ignored them and send an angry rhinoceros in your direction. 

One recently popular evil spirit was Popobawa (bat wings) from the Islamic island of Zanzibar.  The story originated in 1970 when an angry sheikh released a djinni to wreak havoc on his neighbors.  He lost control of his djinni (maybe the leash slipped) and it went even further to the dark side.   It is said that the story is an ‘articulated social memory of the horrors of slavery’.  Reciting or holding the Koran will save you from its evil clutches.  I’m not sure what the Christians should do... (it's not uncommon for some missionaries to believe in evil spirits and curses, and I avoid walking under ladders).

It is up to the tribal witch doctor to ward off the evil spirits and to heal his people.  Sounds romantic and makes one nostalgic for Pride Rock and Rafiki.  In the name of religious tolerance and good Halloween stories, why would anyone feel the need to alter a system of beliefs thousands of years old?

Of course, I had to ask. Here’s what one modern man from the proud Maasai traditions told me:
Once the Maasai depart from their ancient traditions and accept Christianity, they agree to certain modern concepts that help them assimilate into more global traditions. 
Here are some examples of how their lives change (though many retain their traditional dress):
  • They promise to take their sick children to the hospital and not the witch doctor.
  • They agree to stop circumcising the young girls.
  • They take care of the sick/elderly instead of casting them out to die (by hyena) for fear of contamination and subsequent mandatory destruction of the boma
  • They learn about and agree to monogamy with their current wives, and agree to not take any more new wives.
  • They agree to not ‘share’ their wives and daughters with their male friends in a gesture of hospitality.
  • They learn that stealing (many cultures have no possessive, everything belongs to the earth) is a sin and not to be revered.
  • They learn that killing and rape are a sin against God and not to be honored.
  • They learn the value of education and literacy and will send their children to school.
  • When baptized they receive new Christian names. 

And, hopefully, the whole love, cherish, kindness thing is thrown in as well.
Why the heck the new names?  I asked that, too.  Some of the children have the original charming names of ‘Problem’, ‘Last One’, ‘Brother’, ‘First Pain’, ‘Hunger’, ‘Drought’.   They are offered a new name as an upgrade, if they desire.  I'd like to suggest things like 'Punkinhead', but the translation might be messy.  

A well meaning person might also ask (as I did), “Well why don’t they just teach these nice behaviors and let them go on with their original religion?”  A nice Chagga man explained to me:

Our traditions, culture and religion are all intertwined.  In order to change our ways, we had to make a clean break and leave the old ways altogether.  But now, years later, the Christian ways have been incorporated into our tribes. The youth are reviving the healthy traditions of music, dance, drums, and art without the destructive behaviors being present.   

Destructive behaviors?  Brace yourself, this is the really scary part!
Tribal traditions of hospitality will frequently require women and girls to ‘lay’ with men from other tribes.   Severe physical abuse to women is premeditated in some tribes.  School children frequently suffer beatings for attending classes.    In this AIDS riddled country, monogamy might be a useful concept.

But destructive behaviors are not unique to tribal traditions.  They can be found anywhere, at anytime, and in any religion.  Conservative Islam is notorious for honor killings, and female circumcision—even when embedded in western culture. Hinduism has a history of the caste system and ‘sati’, the sacrificing of a widow.  And, of course, Christianity is not immune to abusive behaviors. Remember the Crusades and slavery?  Recently, there were Christians that were promoting the death penalty for homosexuality to the Ugandan President; Christian pastors in Nigeria accused over 1000 children of witchcraft which resulted in them being tortured and burned; and, in a recent poll, over 60% of the Christians in the U.S. obstinately refuse to assist children orphaned by HIV.  Let me be the first in line to buy these folks some new bracelets!!

Religious tolerance?   It's beautiful concept, but it should never trump human rights.  Maybe condemn behaviors, not philosophies; even though the two are intertwined, this route has created many valuable religious reformations throughout history.  

Regardless the specific solution, there are people here who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to helping those less fortunate.   They are awe inspiring and I bow down in a moment of ‘Wayne’s World Unworthiness’.   It is a real honor to see their legacy of prospering Tanzanians helping more Tanzanians. 

Which brings me back to dressing up for Halloween-- I had an inspiration:

Well, instead of Halloween, the American contingency did a "Living Museum"  tonight. We each dressed up as someone from the past and spoke about his/her significance.
L to R: Orville Wright, Rosa Parks, Blackbeard the Pirate, Cleopatra VII's Handmaiden, Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra IV
Not pictured: Wilbur Wright, Rosie the Riveter, Willie Nelson, Corrie ten Boom
Sam thought today was important not only because of Halloween, but we also finished our last jar of Nutella and the stray cat the occupies our door step had kittens.

Sad note:  Our neighbor's gardener was killed in a car wreck.  It's sad, and all too common, everyone nods in acceptance.  It's like living in a war zone--people lives are so close to death.  One of the teens in the village drank rat poison on purpose.  She was living in an unimaginable situation, and decided to take matters into her own hands.  Friends took her to the hospital, she's ok, and is now living with our supervisor's family.
Too many of these stories.  I'm constantly reminded of the beautiful story, "Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley.  Click on the link for a worthwhile synopsis.  I desire to be a 'thrower' until my demise.

From the Coop:
Mr. Twinkie is not well.  He's sneezing and coughing with a hoarse voice, and a snot-encrusted beak.  One morning we heard the most pitiful attempt at a crow, aborted mid-scream. It woke us both because it was so unusual and worrisome.  Little Debbie is still sitting, with Ms. Moonpie on top of her.  Next week is the big event!

 “The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes.”  Dave Barry

"There are no atheists in foxholes." American Proverb from WWII

For those of you watching scary movies tonight, let your overactive imaginations find solace in the fact that 2.6 million dollars of prize money to prove the paranormal has never paid out a cent.

Hoping Obama Care wards off the evil spirits,

Sammy the "Blues Man" with his new guitar.

Sam, Mr. Chicken, and Elmer prepared for their bedtime ritual plane flight.

The weird bird from 'Up' digging through the garbage for chocolate bars.
Our evening view of Mt. Meru, opposite of Kilimanjaro. 


WH Chronicle No. 1.15

Oct 25, 2010

Tom informed me that he is not cutting any hairs until our return home.  His beard is starting to curl.  When I mentioned this, he said, “I’m letting my freak flag fly free.”    One of the theology professors commented about Tom being an obvious musician because diligent practicing doesn’t allow time for haircuts.   My grandmother made a similar observation, but assumed Tom wasn't lacking in time, but rather funds.  She therefore, offered her services free of charge.  Tom declined.  But, in time, the lady who braided Daryl’s hair could be employed for Tom’s beard.   We’ll send photos.

Speaking of Tom’s good natured-ness, he admitted that he has quit counting down the days until we return since settling into a routine.  He wrestles the kids away from favorite pastimes like monkey wars, climbing mulberry trees, milking goats, chasing chickens, building forts in the banana trees, and so on…long enough to have them, ‘curse cursive’ and ‘repel the recorder’, maybe, ‘swear in Swahili’  (his words) for a mere hour each day.  They haven’t a clue of their fortune; but that, philosophically speaking, might be the bane of one's youth.

We've been taking Mr. Twinkie for walks—on a leash.    Yes,  I’m not sure if it’s weirder here or there, but we're just doing our part to "Keep Africa Weird".    It’s actually been easier walking a rooster than taking the cat for a scrape, as his resistance is more like flying a kite than dragging a rock.   
Mr. Chicken and Mr. Twinkie meet.  Notice Mr. Twinkie's leg leash.  

We’ve also found the world’s smartest spider in our house!! Seriously, it was rated #10 in the “World’s Most Intelligent Animals”.   It’s a version of the East African Jumping Spider (which love to feast on blood-engorged malarial mosquitoes).   The Portia Labiata—the white-mustached jumping spider found in Usa River, Arusha. 

Sam's shoe in the background.  He was disappointed about our  'catch and release' policy.
Tom's mustache isn't quite so full...yet!
 Also known as the White-Mustached Portia, they inhabit wastelands and secondary forests in Africa, Asia, and Australia. These spiders have demonstrated learning abilities in laboratory tests and have been labeled the smartest bugs in the world. They perform astoundingly well on numerous problem solving tasks. One of their principle skills is luring other spiders from their webs for food. To do this they will pluck out rhythms at the corner of a web to mimic a trapped bug or insect intruder.  If the Portia has encountered this type of spider before, then it will remember what rhythm pattern to use in order to achieve success. The Portia labiata has great eye sight and has been seen using incredible instinctive behavior. The spider uses a planned trial-and-error approach to hunting and shows a strong cognitive base. As the prey comes and goes, the spider will sit and wait for hours until it has a perfect moment to strike. Subsequently, plotting ahead and understanding that the meal will eventually return. These spiders have also shown signs of selective attention by identifying specific objects and prey over others. — toptenz.net for all 10 animals

For those of you who want to send us some loving treats from home: 
Hale Family
Makumira University College
PO Box 55
Usa River, Arusha, Tanzania
Remember no boxes, only padded envelopes!  It will take about 3 weeks, and run you about $6.00. 

 Things from home don’t seem too far away.  We had home made enchiladas a few night ago.  Beans and rice are a staple here, just as in TexMex land.  We have popcorn, though I had to learn how to cook it on a stove (actually an alternative to the microwave?).  All of you friends and family are kind to send us packages, emails, photos, and videos—we especially love those!  And, of course, Skype is an incredible remedy for long distance lovin’.   I chat with my dad every few days.  It affords us the ability to bicker about existentialism and politics, as if I lived only a few miles away.   I just hope I don’t have to sew up any chickens without him.  
 “Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly.  “Tis the prettiest little parlor that you ever did spy.”  Mary Howitt

“There was an old man with a beard, Who said:
‘It is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and wren
Have all built their nests in my beard.’”
Edward Lear

For the TOP TEN AMUSING BEARDS, click here.  2011 is the year for Tom.

Responsibly walking my chicken with a poop-bag in hand,