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.

Kathlene Ritch  – (September 27, 2010 at 6:04 PM)  

Maybe the monkeys could help in the kitchen? You know, lure them in there and then have them try out the oven before you!?!?
I vote for Tribe Cowboys (especially after the way the Longhorns played this past Saturday) and I think the Chicken Dance is more exciting. As long as none of the gestures translate into some sort of Swahili curse/offense? You know, like how the UT Chamber Singers sang the 'Eyes of Texas' in Rio and held up our 'horns,' only later being told that that meant "Your wife is cheating on you." Nice....
Missing you,

Anonymous –   – (September 27, 2010 at 7:17 PM)  


Thanks for the wonderful updates. You make me laugh and smile and feel for you all at the same time. I will pray for y'all!

Love, Jeanene

Anonymous –   – (September 27, 2010 at 8:13 PM)  

An adventure! Sounds like living in another country or something.

Mr. Tuba

tam  – (September 27, 2010 at 10:53 PM)  

Oye, my dear.
Sounds as if you missed out by not living a rustic life that would better prepare you for the one you're living there. Careful, honey, but you're probably gonna want to make more of that banana bread with all those banana trees abound.

Tell Sam (and yourself) to stand up to those blue-balled monkeys and take your papayas back! Maybe Tom needs to hold slingshot shooting practice sessions for the family.
(or settle for peanut snacks indoors, until they go away ;)
Oh, btw, I thought y'all were Texas Longhorns who dance the Cotton-eyed Joe, of course! So, I googled B.S. in Swahili for ya: ng'ombe kinyeshi.

Have fun!
bunch of hugs--tam

p.s. Rooster says Hi, and eating well, of course. he's still your hefty happy cat :)

Hedder Dobbins –   – (September 27, 2010 at 11:54 PM)  

Funny... I would've thought Sam would be one with the monkeys. Pictures of the kids are definitely needed, even if they require you to stay by your comp for 12 hours while they upload!

Nakupenda sana!

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