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!

Anonymous –   – (September 28, 2010 at 8:21 AM)  

Hi Tom and Daris,

I am really enjoying your messages. It sounds like returning to past times and a way of living much more planet friendly the way you re-use things. We can learn from that.

We are enjoying wonderfully cool weather here with nights in the upper 50s. Finally we can turn the AC off because days are only in the upper 80s. It is making Maggie the cat very frisky.

No ASO this week except preparing for next week's adventures of Symphonie Fantastique. I hope you are hearing from some of the players since I sent them your site.


tam  – (September 28, 2010 at 8:17 PM)  

Hey,I thought y'all were Texas Longhorns that
>>dance the Cotton-eyed Joe. So, I googled B.S. in Swahili, for ya: ng'ombe
>>kinyeshi ;) (It actually means bull crap, but close enough).

And, Rooster is a little more frisky in this cool weather we're having too...just needs his costume (that includes a cape, per Casey) to complete his look as he zips around the condo. :)

--love you guys, take care, tam

Anonymous –   – (September 30, 2010 at 8:52 PM)  

Hello, Herd. Lizzie and I have been loving the news! Keep it coming. It's fascinating to hear how some trivial things take on entirely new dimensions in this new life of your'n. That was probably a misapostrophication, but don't wrap my knuckles with a ruler.

Hugs and kisses.
Davie and Lizzie

Anonymous –   – (October 3, 2010 at 8:36 PM)  

It sounds like you, Tom and the kids are having an amazing time!! I hope the rest of the trip goes as well!

Sara McCallum

Lynn and Deb –   – (October 8, 2010 at 3:45 PM)  

Hi there WhaleHerd! Just now getting around to reading your blog and all I can say is "WOW!" Thanks for sharing your adventures with all of us. Deb and I look forward to reading every installment. All is well in Austin. Stevie plays a solo recital on Thursday night.....can't wait to hear him play. Miss you guys. More later.

Lynn and Deb

Post a Comment