WH Chronicle No. 1.10

Sept 29, 2010
Now that I’m not busy trying to blow myself up making banana  bread (or Tanzanian Laser Hair Removal Technique--as one clever friend wrote), I’ll tell you a bit about our daily life and accommodations.

Relatively early, 7:30am or 8ish we emerge from our mosquito nets.  Tom starts water boiling for coffee and throws a few eggs into our singular skillet.  Everyone brushes their teeth with the pitcher of filtered water we leave in the bathroom. 

Usually, once a day, we need to make a trip to market.  This entails a short walk down a manicured path on campus to the pedestrian gate where we greet the guard in the booth and then exit.  Outside the gate, we walk down a rutted dirt road; turn left for produce, or right for milk and eggs.  Straight in front of the gate is a corn field.  For the milk and eggs, one knocks on a large metal gate that looks like the Tanzanian version of Wizard of Oz.  When the tiny door opens, you greet the person (making a request without greeting someone is very rude), make your request, hand them an empty mayo jar for milk or a plastic bag for eggs and then pay the standard amount.  This is a whooping 700 TSH (50 cents) for a litre of milk and 7000 TSH ($5) for 30 eggs.  They disappear behind the gate and return with your warm milk and eggs.  Perhaps, next time, I’ll request to see the Wizard.

If you turn to the left and walk 50m down the road, this is where you find the ladies displaying their produce (fruits and veggies, that is) on a few homemade shelves.  Fresh, oversized produce cost just pennies and since we cook everything from scratch, we go through a good bit of veggies daily.  There are also some small shops or dukas with bread, rice, beans, potato chips, Tanzanian sodas, cleaning supplies, maybe some European cookies.  Usually, there is someone along the road with a pan of hot coals making roasted corn for 100 TSH (7 cents).  Daryl and Sam now hoard Tshillings instead of quarters, so they can purchase a savory treat while on our outings. 

We are beginning to learn the names of the shop keepers. They greet us with warm smiles and a slathering of Swahili phrases to which we answer our few stock replies.  They appear to be very touched when Daryl and Sam greet them with traditional Tanzania greetings. 

While walking down the market street an American would be struck by the bizarre dichotomy of visual stimulation.  The flora and fauna are overtly more beautiful than most botanical gardens; yet, the structure of the houses and shops would indicate poverty trumping anything seen in Mexican border towns. 

Having been here before, I don’t see it as poverty, as much as, simple resourcefulness.  The lack of available building materials is an issue.  At our house, we have even resorted to reusing nails, plastic bags, and aluminum foil.  Every jar is washed and saved for a future storage device.  If you think about your own pioneering ancestors (flash back 75 years)—it presents a realistic picture.  

Another dichotomous issue is safety.  It was impressed on us that the kids are very safe roaming inside the gated campus.  During the day, they can go to market with the Stubbs children without any worries.  Yet, once it is dark, the world here makes a drastic change.  The shop keepers will fuss at Megan to hurry home if she is in the market as the sun is setting.   Night time inside the campus is still relatively safe, but they hire almost twice as many guards for the evening patrols. All of our windows and doors have iron grates on them.  The doors have iron grates containing not one, but TWO large pad locks.  If it is that safe, then why all the precautions?

Well, that brings me to the next topic—one which might create a little goose bump or two.
The Stubbs family is required (by their sponsor, the ELCA) to have a 1 hour and a 24 hour contingency plan.  WHAT?  An escape route, so to speak; with a survival bag packed.  They suggested that we have one, too.   Now, Tanzania has been peaceful since liberation (1961).  The people here are proud of this and still very committed to peace—probably more so than most Americans.  BUT that said, ALL societies are not nearly as stable as we like to pretend, and sand buried heads don't help.  My dad emphatically waxes about this issue in the U.S.   3 days without food and water and society will head south in a hurry—remember Katrina?   Currently in Tanzania, there are a few issues on which we need to stay attentive.  First, is a national election in October.  Most will vote for the incumbent because they want peace.  'Change' is not as revered here as it is in the States, as it has had an historically high price for Africans.   All Universities are closed until after the election.  They don’t want intellectuals assembling prior to the election making it easier to incite riots.  The other major concern was an event that happened last March at Kenyatta University, just across the border.  It surprised many people.  The University students objected to decisions (some quite questionable) made by the University administration. In doing so, they incited violent riots, which in turn, aggravated some zealous riot police, and 'situation ugly'.  One third of Kenyatta University was burned to the ground. 
Iron Door Grate with 2 Large Pad Locks

Well, those grates are looking pretty good.  Even though, you know me, and I’d probably be on the side of the students; but there's no wisdom in the eyes of an angry mob.  The Provost has a 6-strand barbed wire fence around his house.  I’m not sure this sends the best message, either. (Dad, you just keep worrying about Kilimanjaro erupting...otherwise, everything is fine.)

Back to the mundane--We’ve learn that the tap water here is better than most in Tanzania.  We are fairly high up the mountain and therefore it has had relatively few opportunities to be tainted with badness on its way down. BUT, we still run it through a Katadyne water filter before drinking it and brushing teeth.  Dishes are washed in tap water and air dryed; once dry, they are safe.  Safe from what?—belly ache bacteria and typhoid.  Vegetables need to be washed (scrubbed until their bleeding) in filtered water if eaten fresh, otherwise cook the squat out of them.

The tap water from the hot spigot is scalding—seriously, it will melt a cheap plastic container.  The upside is that hot showers are long and luxurious!

Our fresh milk must be boiled…we forgot to do this the first time, but everyone appears ok.   The look on our host’s faces indicated that we should not forget this in the future.

We have Mary Poppins weather--practically perfect in every way.  It hovers between 65 and 85 degrees with night time showers.  December is the warmest month and June and July are the coolest.

The kids haven’t noticed that anything being terribly different.  They just fight with each other and play like normal.  Daryl did notice that a lady in the market has a TV in her house, but no front door, just a curtain hanging across the threshold. 

Tom has busied himself by building kitchen cabinets and a counter top.  We had only a 2x3 area of counterspace until we moved a bookshelf from the bedroom to help with cooking space.  His cabinets are quite lovely and he is now working on a table.  As Tom was working on our front porch, a University carpenter noticed Tom using an electric drill--something he had never seen.   

Sometimes we think about those of our acquaintances who would thrive here.  Our generalist friends, those who can do a little bit of everything would flourish.  Lizzie would love it.  Lynn, the carpenter, would do great.  It might actually be a piece of heaven to my parents, who love the country and pine for the purity of pioneer life. 

Basic Darwinian Theory is that the generalist wins, the specialist loses.  THIS will be posted on my University office door.  It is an important concept for musicians, and one with which Julliard, Eastman and our entire music industry is struggling. 

We have contact information.  You can send us a padded envelope in just 3 weeks time for only $6.00.
Boxes have a lower arrival success rate and much higher price.  We also have phones.  For just 2 cents a minute, you can Skype our cell phone.  But since internet is slothily-slow here, Skype on our end is not reliable.  Email us if you want all the numbers and info!
A campus road--Jackarandas and a tall Norfolk Pine

Back home…
Tammy is in the process of creating a Halloween costume for Rooster.  This was sketched by her honey, Casey.  Casey is a real hero in our family because he introduced us to the website, “Stuff on My Cat dot com”.    He shows his love to Rooster regularly by adorning him with household items.   Extra points for the use of scotch tape on his feet and posting on youtube. 

Pattern/Blueprint of Rooster’s Halloween Costume
Maybe Rooster is pregnant?

Mzungu Mjinga:  Mzungu is the Swahili word for gringo.  It literally means, “crazy one who walks in circles”, but is now used exclusive for white people.  Mjinga is the Swahili term for ‘stupid’.  I’ve felt like using this phrase a few times in reference to myself, it is a bit redundant, but seemingly apropos. 

Proust wrote that the only true voyage is "not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes."

Tom said he didn't want anyone's eyeballs....

Wondering how to 'laser' my armpits,

PS I fixed the 'comment section'.  So go right ahead and leave something witty!  Or just email us.  We enjoy hearing from everyone!


WH Chronicle No. 1.09

Sept 27, 2010

Africa is a dangerous place.  
I managed to live through my first attempt at baking banana bread.  Here is what I learned from the harrowing experience:    One needs to locate the match BEFORE turning on the gas oven and lighting it.  In fact, that lesson still resonates each time my hairless arms seem to tremble with fear when lighting the oven.  Immediately after changing my underwear and fanning away the burnt hair smell from the kitchen, I courageously folded—the sugar and butter, that is.  But the butter needed softening, so I waved the glass cup of butter over the stove and it detonated—seriously-- leaving me holding nothing but the handle and a dumbfounded look on my hairless face.     …almost like in the cartoons…
Who needs a measuring cup?  It was metric anyway.  Then I moved on from butter to margarine (it’s soft).  I stirred everything in a soup bowl (no mixing bowl), put it into the woman-eating-oven, and stood back.   There’s no timer, or temperature gauge, just a door and a funny odor. 

While the fated banana bread was cooking, I went to the office to answer a few emails.  
I had my computer in my lap and was comfortably typing away.   I stretched out and suddenly found myself performing a cart wheel out of the chair.  One of the wheels collapsed and dumped me over backwards.  How neither I nor the computer was harmed is beyond my comprehension.  One must be ever vigilant when on African kitchen and office safaris. 
We had our first electrical outage.  We were told to expect them regularly.  We lit candles and Tom read us a story.  It was romantic, in a rustic kind of way.  Remember to ask me how I feel about power outages in 9 months.   Consolation--the oven will still work when the power is out.

We made fresh corn tortillas for dinner tonight.  I schlepped a 4lb bag of Masa Harina in a carry-on bag, much to the chagrin of my unpaid porter (Tom) and TSA Security Officers.  But everyone (except the TSA security guy) enjoyed homemade tortillas and tostadas with fresh guacamole.  The avocados are bigger than a softball (another scale issue).  There are a several avocado trees in our yard. 

One of the assignments that the University music students anticipate upon their return to school is teaching their peers a traditional song/dance from their tribe.   Desiring to make a good impression, Tom and I have been giving this some serious thought.  We are currently waffling between the Chicken Dance and the Cotton-eyed Joe.   And then the question of our tribe (which actually will be inquired)?  Are we ‘Dallas Cowboys’ or ‘Texas Longhorns’?    ‘Austin Ice Bats’ is out of the question. 

Mamma Mary chuckles at us.  It’s pretty obvious we’re on a steep learning curve.  She’s been very helpful, but we provide her with entertainment.  As she was trying to cook beans and rice for our lunch, she couldn’t find the beans.  When I showed her the bag, she laughed and said, ‘those are peanuts’.  Oiy… For Swahili class, she is very amused at Sam’s favorite words: chupi=underwear and mtaco=butt. 

We’ve decided that a wire mosquito net might keep Sam from wandering in to our bed each night. 

We are raising free-range kids here.  They have their run of the campus, but Sam won’t go anywhere without a bigger person because he’s scared of the monkeys. 

Daryl loves going over to the Stubb’s schoolroom each morning where Megan assists some 5th grade Tanzanian girls.  Armed with her books and anxious to leave, we have to remind Daryl that she cannot depart our house until 8:45am.  Of course, we also have to remind both Daryl and Sam to return home each day because they live with us and not the Stubbs family. 

This week in African Nature:
There’s one bird that sounds like a squeaky wheel, and another one that sounds like an electronic metronome.  Daryl suggested I practice my scales with the latter. 
I mentioned the noisy nights.  Imagine a Tarzan movie's jungle-noises with several time-impaired roosters thrown in for good measure.  These rooster jungle fowl feel compelled to keep up with the other wildlife and crow all night long. 

We noticed some prehistoric birds flying overhead.  They are no less imposing than a pterodactyl.  They nest outside our window.  Bigger than a turkey, they sound like a helicopter when they fly.


Army ants are vicious.  Although smaller than a Texas red ant, you don’t want them deciding that your house is in the way of their noble mission.  The only thing that can deter them is a can of “Doom” which smells the way it sounds.   The ants are not poisonous, but the soldiers have pincers on them that people use to stitch lacerations, similar to medical staples.  It can take pliers to remove them from your skin.

While working at the computer (upright this time), I heard a loud rumbling on the roof.  I looked out the window and saw Tom with the slingshot.  The herd of monkeys (including one with a baby) was raiding our mulberry tree and fighting over a papaya they stole from our garden.   I tried to “shoosh” one off the front porch.  He turned toward me, put his hands on his hips and indignantly stared me down.  It’s unnerving that he wouldn't scurry away like a cat.  I’ll share Sam’s sentiment and offer them more respect than most of the locals. 

Bananas are the world’s biggest herb—not a tree.    There are 77 varieties in Tanzania.  We have at least 25 stems (trees) in our yard, each producing 50-100 bananas.  We are having banana bread tonight for dessert—wish me luck.

Putting on the flame retardant vest,


PS  Please let me know you are out there…comment, inquire, or just make fun.


WH Chronicle No. 1.08

Ed, Debra and Hale family

Sept 22, 2010

We have safely arrived!!  And the details are difficult to assess at this point…

 But for those of you that have been anxiously awaiting, here’s a rundown of our adventure:

 Sept 11, 2010

10:30pm          Last note of our performance of Schumann 2, Beethoven Piano #4 with the Austin Symphony.

Sept 12
4:30am           Lug 16 bags out the front door to the curb.

4:45am          The front yard sprinklers automatically turn on and sprinkle us.  This made a lot of noise.

5:00am        Chunk all 16 wet bags into the blue Super Shuttle.  Wonder if the sprinkling made our bags heavier.

5:45am      Tip the shuttle driver. Check our 8 bags (400 lbs) at the curbside check-in. Tip the porter. Proceed to gate with our 8 bags (800lbs) of carry-on.  Dry out.

11:40am       Arrive at Washington, D.C.  Tip the porter.  Board the Super Shuttle and ride to the hotel.  Realize that Tom left his new water bottle on the plane.

12:40am       Tip the driver.  Realize that the hotel has an entire flight of stairs just to get to the front desk and the hotel has no porter to help (or to tip).

1:20pm        Get all of our bags to the front desk and check in…but our room’s not ready.  The clerk realizes that all of our bags take up the entire lobby—so our room is then ready.

Next 2 days         Walk, walk, walk.  Smithsonian’s Natural History, American History, Air and Space Museums, Carousel, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, Capitol, and eat at Subway (sandwiches) three times.
Right before our Subway sandwich dinner.
Right before our Subway sandwich lunch.

Sept 14
2:00pm             Lug all the suitcases down the hotel flight of stairs, load a Super Shuttle

3:00pm           Unload, tip driver.  Flag down porter, pull luggage to KLM stand. Tip porter.  Pray that all bags are under the weight limit of 23 kg (50.5lbs) now that they are dry. Then pray that we see the bags again as they each disappear on the conveyor belt.

Sept 15
7:30am             Arrive in Amsterdam.  Sit and wait as everyone is grumpy, jet-lagged and tired. Mr. Chicken, Sam's stuffed animal, saves the day with a song and dance.

11:00am          Depart for Dar es Salaam.  Have multiple pillow fights on the 11.5 hour flight.

10:30pm      Arrive at Dar es Salaam.  The KLM flight attendants all wish Mr. Chicken farewell.  Fill out our Visa papers, tip Porter. The wonderful Ed and  Debra escort us to the beach resort.

11pm          Tip Porter

Sept 16 (Daryl’s Bday!)
10:00am            Wake up, play on the beach, let Daryl rummage through the suitcase  that is riddled with little birthday “Squinkies” et al.

Next two days           Embassy visit, research clearance house visit, cell phone purchase, play on the beach. That's the Indian Ocean, kids!
Mbezi Beach

Hangin' out.

 Sept 19

9:00am               The amazing Randy Stubbs (my supervisor) escorts our family (and luggage) to Arusha.  This is a 10 hour car trip, if everything goes smoothly.

2:00pm              Lunch--the only stop (30 minutes) a place that resembles an outdoor Rudy's BBQ.  The kids experience their first Tanzanian public restroom --- this solves the break problem for the remainder of our trip and probably for future trips, as well. Think "hover".

7:30pm              Arrive at Makumira University (in Usa River). The Stubbs family feeds us the first of many wonderful meals. 

9:00pm                We walk over to see our new house (50m from Stubbs family) and Daryl begins to cry.  I think she is disappointed that the empty house doesn’t look like the beach resort.

10:00pm          We all sack out at the Stubbs' house until we can get mosquito nets,  sheets, towels, suitcases, kitchen wares, etc. set up in our empty house.

Sept 20
9:00am            We tour campus—it is really lovely. The Stubbs children now have two shadows named Daryl and Sam.  They milk the goat (Bella Voce), gather greens for her and baby (Mulberry).  Then the kids go to the market right outside campus to purchase bananas and eggs.

11:00am        All activity stops for “daily chai”.

2:00pm          Sam is chased by some bully monkeys.  Everyone thinks it’s kinda funny except for Sam (or Samweli, as he is now called).  Reggae, our gardener gets him a stick to carry while walking around campus.  Godfrey, a grounds keeper, was shooting monkeys with a homemade slingshot.  Samweli will need some slingshot tutelage.

10:00pm      Lights out at the Stubbs' house, hope we will be in our new house tomorrow.

Sept 21
9:00am           Drive to Arusha (50km) Shop, shop, shop— this is quite an adventure.  First the Metumba (used stuff ala Goodwill)—Select linens=5 minutes; Barter over the price=40 minutes.  Tanzanians LOVE the interaction of bartering.  It is considered 'building community' in their culture.  We brought Megan Stubbs (a.k.a. “motormouth”) with us.  She is 16 and amazingly fluent in Swahili.  I have no idea what she said, but all the local vendors gathered around and were laughing their mtacos (butts) off.  She was diligent about the appropriate price and had us depart the shop without the merchandise.  It was then that the vendor, carrying his own weight in our selected linens, began running down the road after our car.  He met her price and made his largest sale of the day.

10am      Shopright, Kitchen store—flatware, kitchen stuff, and home furnishings (pillows, flatware, mosquito nets).  The price at Target=$50; at Shopright=$150 Purchase produce at the local market—very cheap and yummy.  I experience my first passion fruit. It's very sweet but looks like frog eggs on the inside. Back to Usa River.

1:00pm          Lunch, and recovery from sensory overload.

2:00pm     Install nets, clean dishes (even this has a learning curve when using  potentially typhoid laden water), set up drinking water filter, arrange beds,  wash sheets—hang them up to dry in the attic (so the mango flies can’t get to them, another story), unpack all 16 suitcases. 

7:00pm        Eat dinner with the Stubbs—they’ve now generously served us countless delicious meals.

8:00pm        Go 'camping' in our new house.

Sept 22                                 
4:00am           Tom has a case of the ‘splats’, but feels fine afterwards.

8:00am           We survived the night and managed to cook breakfast and have coffee.  We meet our house lady, Mama Mary.  She comes each day at noon to help with lunch, cleaning, and one hour of Swahili lessons for which we will pay her about $70 a month, a large sum.  She is wonderful with the kids, as are most of the ‘mamas’.  They smile and hug the children.

9:00am       Tom is a blur as he sets up house.  I’m in a daze.

2:30pm      Daris has a case of the ‘splats’ and tries to take a nap.

6:00pm     The first dinner at our house--grilled cheese sandwiches (peppermint tea for 'Mama Daryl'* as I'm referred to by the Tanzanians).  Then several games of Uno before bed.

Tom’s been ‘remodeling’ our new house by pulling nails from random places and reusing them in more essential ones.  I gave him a hug and told him that I couldn’t do any of this without him—he said he wouldn’t do this for just anyone.

The knife and multi-tool from Tammy and Bob have been invaluable.

The kids are in bed, all tucked into their mosquito nets.  It’s not crucial, yet, as it is not mosquito
 season, but good to get into the habit.  There’s a kitty meowing/begging for food at the
backdoor.  The sounds at night are unusual.  There are raucous insects, virulent cat fights, monkey
howls (like the ones you hear in '50's jungle movies), beeping birds, roosters who crow all night, and some other unsettling movements outside caused by unidentified animals.  Luckily, we live on campus and there are 12 guards patrolling that set my over-active imagination at ease.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures we’ve taken of the African scale issue—Texas ain’t got nothin’ on

That's a poinsettia (6ft) and an ivy (12" leaves) at our house.

A very large banana--"fingers of the elephant"--as big as his forearm.
Our view of Kilimanjaro.
What's a "Music Bank"?

Cross-eyed and bleary,


*Tanzanians consider having children as a high status to women.  One is referred to as "Mama" and then the name of your first born child.  There is an art to naming your children--as "Mama Beauty", employed by the Stubbs, knows well.  

PS Feel free to post questions--it'll be fun to explain all the stuff I don't know.


WH Chronicle No. 1.07

Sept 10, 2010

Only a few hours left “‘to talk us out of it” as my sweet dad says.  I’m excited about our adventures, but didn’t realize how much so, until we slipped into our regular routine of performing with the Austin Symphony this week.    I’m not in the mood for ‘regular routine’. 

Other than that, I’m minimizing my efforts in regards to contemplation and trying to reduce the amount of decision fatigue I encounter over the next few weeks. 

Tom spends most of his time weighing and reweighing the suitcases, flustered by our attempts at stuffing more things in while he's not looking.  

We’ve been enjoying some great meals with friends and family, with sweet goodbye wishes.  Truth be told, the moment I really dread is the goodbye to my folks.   Sympathizing with my dad’s sadness, makes me well up.  Even though we’ve done it several times, there are the additional waves of guilt for this time I am displacing their beloved grandchildren.  Perhaps they’ll forgive me. 

We have renters.  Epic story abbreviated: they changed their minds.  Hopefully, they will be happy and the house will treat them nicely or vise-versa.

Jamilly is back to being a full fledged teenager in her home country.  But she’s happy to claim that we “ruined her” in the eyes of her master race.  Even though she is ahead in her studies at school, she is not nearly as obedient and compliant as expected of a proper asian student.  She wore flip flops to school and was almost expelled.  Then she burped outloud in public…we’re hoping she’ll receive a stay of execution.

Big Red and Dr. Pepper are sharing a boyfriend!!   The local feed store tried to sell Tudder a rooster for $5.00.  She declined the offer, so they gave it to her for free.   We’ll call him
Mr. Pibb.  Mr. Pibb is missing all of his tail feathers.  

Did you know that the tongue of a giraffe can be as long as 45 cm?

Giraffes are 6 ft tall when they are born. The tallest animal on earth is the giraffe - its horn tops being up to 6 metres above ground level.

“Long you live and high you’ll fly and smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry and all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be.”  Pink Floyd

“The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.”   C.S. Lewis

We have a spare bedroom, extra bugspray, and we’re only an email away!!  Couch-surfing encouraged! 

Stuffing courage, humor, and goodwill into the last little hollows of our suitcase (--perhaps those should have gone in first?),


PS  For amusement, Kululu Airlines, a South African company


WH Chronicle No. 1.06

“Hmmmm….pasta maker?”
“Bread Machine?”
“Hair Dryer with Diffuser?”
“Shiatsu Massage Chair?”
“Lava Lamp?”
“Rolling dishwasher?”
“Antler chandelier?”
“Waffle iron?”
“You don’t like waffles.”
“But, we might have a waffle emergency!”
“50 Inch Plasma HD TV?”
“OK.  That about does it; now see if that bag weighs more than 50lbs.”

We’ve already sent 200lbs of books and music via diplomatic pouch.   And if we can fit all of our lives into 8 suitcases, then we’ll travel 8,933 miles without having to leave home! 

Tom celebrated his birthday this week.   At his early morning gig, boredom inspired him to create this little song: 
Happy Birthday to me!
I’m now 53.
My beard is all grey now,
And I sit down to pee.  

 Daryl is currently functioning as independently as a cuckleburr.    I had to pick her up from a sleepover at 2:45 am—after she awoke and couldn’t find her way to our bed.  Oiy….all those little kid bedtime rituals (“Mommm, I’m thirsty.  Mommm, there’s something in my closet.  Dadddd, I can’t go to sleep.”)  are going be extraordinarily fun while wrestling mosquito nets. 

Sam doesn’t give a flip, as long as he gets his way. 

Daryl’s birthday is coming up and we are trying to figure out what to get her that will fit in the luggage.  We’re thinking about a Target gift card.

Me, well, I’m waffling (not an emergency, yet) between excited, stressed, and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this.  It’s September 1st...eek….Reminds me of when I would happily register for summer band camp only to  beg my parents to let me stay home as we left the house.

At orientation they briefed us on the expected effect of culture shock.  Here’s a chart of what you will supposedly be witnessing via chronicles during our sojourn.
We will be adrift in a cultural sea. We’ve been instructed that we are ‘guests’ and should behave as such. So much for the chicken hats.  Any unsolicited advice, help, or guidance should be treated like Christmas fruitcake; don’t send it, unless it is requested (hopefully, Aunt Eunice is paying attention).

But, maybe a potential goal of our travel should be to remove the veil of cultural bias from our own personal values (assuming we have some)? 

So, what if cultural traditions are in conflict with one’s values?  Take bullfighting in Barcelona (recently banned in 2012 by the government of Catalonia).  Does one condemn the violent animal ballet or paint on a culturally sensitive smile, wave the white scarf and scream “Ole’” in  one's best American bravura?  Or better yet, do you reconcile the whole spectacle by realizing that the Spanish bull lives and dies in a more dignified manner than 10 million of his closest bovine friends; the ones that are conveyered to their factory death each year, all for the honor of becoming a Big Mac (special sauce, lettuce, cheese).  Perhaps abandoning all scruples is the best protection from hypocrisy.

Discerning injustices woven into the fabric of cultural traditions.  “Interesting,“ as Spock would say.  Of course, this is the famous reoccurring theme/conflict in Star Trek TNG series:  rectifying gross injustices vs following being loyal to the Prime Directive. 

Prime Directive:  Starfleet’s General Order #1 is the most prominent guiding principle.  The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of civilizations, consistent with the historical real world concept of Westphalian sovereignty. 

Honesty, I thought about the prime directive quite often the last time I was in Tanzania.

By The Way:
  • Shhhhhh….it’s a surprise!  Don’t tell the kids.   A chicken coop was built in our back yard!  We’ll purchase baby chicks upon arrival!  I can hardly contain myself!
  •  Bumper sticker of the week (spotted by Kathlene): “I know we’re in a handbasket, but where are we going?”
  •  Rooster finally receiving the respect he deserves (below).

  • The River Nile drains north-eastern Africa, and, at 6,650 km (4,132 miles), is the longest river in Africa and in the world. It is formed from the Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and the White Nile, which originates at Lake Victoria. 
  •  Pearls before swine—is that a reflection of the pig or the true utilitarian usefulness of a pearl?
  • Even though their necks can be 6-7 feet in length, Giraffe have the same number of vertabrae in their necks as humans.

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.”  Ernest Hemingway

“Animals on factory farms and slaughter houses are mutilated, drugged and abused in ways that are illegal for cats and dogs.  The problem is that farm animals are exempted from the Animal Welfare Act.  Therefore companies often act with impunity.”  Bruce Freidrich

And in honor of the upcoming football season:

“College football is a sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.”   Elbert Hubbard

Waving my muleta,