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,


WH Chronicle No. 1.14

Oct 22, 2010

It’s drizzling this morning.  But unlike home, the rain offers a feeling of cautious optimism and graciousness.   Tanzanians are anxiously awaiting the start of the ‘short rains’ season.  Not just desiring a change from the daily perfect weather, but rather, they are hoping for the life-sustaining rains that prevent famine and despair.   The short rains usually occur during October and November, and the long rains occur during mid-March through the end of May.   Last year there was a drought which left millions of dead livestock littered across the savanna.  Many Maasai men committed suicide because they had forsaken their starving cows, family, as well as their own self-worth.  So, suffice it to say, we will not complain about getting muddy as we walk to class.

Recently, our family has spent our time as only the wealthiest in the world are allowed: reading, making music, studying, educating ourselves and answering emails.  As an urbanite, I frequently forget that food doesn’t really come from a grocery store.  Most here have to grow, harvest, slaughter, prepare, etc.,  all without electricity or any type of automated machinery.  By the time the day is done, there is little energy or kerosene left to commit to studying, writing, or creating art.   Once again, like a newborn being slapped on the bottom, I’m awakened to my many fortunes, provided only by accident of birth. Two-thirds of the world doesn’t use toilet paper (or ‘hockey tickets’, as Jerry calls it), and if they did, it probably wouldn’t be for its intended purpose.

Makumira School of Music is in the process of solving an interesting problem.  The director of the School of Music is NOT paid by the University, but rather, by the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).  This is a common practice in developing nations as most of the educational institutions (primary through higher education) rely on missionaries, NGO’s, and/or church funding to help fill teaching positions.    This seems to work well until the west has an economic downturn, in which a tremor there causes total collapse here. Our director’s position was terminated as of Nov 15th, leaving Tom and me as the sole experts in the School of Music.  Luckily, the director has more resolve than the average bear, and has resorted to fundraising, via U.S. Lutheran churches, to salvage his position.  In addition to creating the most viable University music program in Tanzania (complete with brand new recording studio), he now has to raise the money for his own salary.  Perhaps Tom and I should consider what it is worth to us to NOT be in charge, and that will be our first donation.

We received our first package from the states!!  It is really nothing short of a minor miracle when you consider how many people handled our delivery.  I picture numerous workers on campus carrying it around, shrugging their shoulders, until it got to our gardener; and then I’m surprised he knew our name.

 Mailed: Kerrville, TX,  U.S.A., Oct 1st
Arrived: Usa River, Tanzania, Oct 21
Cost: $5.39
Contents: Priceless 

The “5 Second Rule” (you know, how long you can leave food on the floor before you eat it) has to be amended here to the “2 Second Rule”.   Otherwise you will lose your tasty morsel to the vigilant army ant population. 

Tom’s  field report on Zanzibar:
I went, I saw, I came home (Daris is rolling her eyes). But, seriously, how do you mentally prepare for a visit to a place which existed only subconsciously as an exotic locale? What could I expect? Well, there was some of that; tropical climate, beautiful beaches, excellent snorkeling. 
Taking a dhow to Prison Island. No prison, but some huge tortoises!
185 year old specimen second in size to the Galapagos tortoises
Snorkelling with sea urchins. Note the yellow "eye"

What I did not expect was the deteriorating accommodations and structures, and the lack of tropical, touristy paradise, i.e. lack of  resorts with hot and cold running anything, servants plying you with drinks with little umbrellas, cute veggy and fruit stands with happy smiling Zanzibarbarians (sp?) selling spices and trinkets. No, the island is only slowly becoming aware of its potential as a tourist mecca. The tourist hotels are few and  expensive, and other lodging lack basic amenities.
Under the spreading Banyan tree. Ficus tree, to you and me.
Studded door to keep war elephants out. There have never been elephants on Zanzibar.

 The island is 98% Muslim so the ubiquitous calls to prayer reign from loud speakers across the island at 5am, but without noticeable response in any strict form.  This is curious, because slavery began hundreds of years ago when the Arabs arrived. The population had to convert or be sold into slavery. Many were exported to the middle east as slaves, or to work in the harems of the Sultanates, the women as concubines, and some men, minus their “parts”, as eunuchs.  It is interesting to note that Tanzanians do not have a concept of 'American slavery', as their reference is strictly to the middle east.   U.S. slave history originates from Liberia and western Africa.
Slavery officially ended in 1873 with Stanley Livingston's campaign to Cambridge and Oxford for British intervention.  The Anglican church purchased permission (500,000 pounds Sterling worth) to build a church on the site of the original slave market. The altar is located at the former site of the whipping post. The baptismal font is carved from the stone where the babies, who lessened the value of the women, were dispatched. The church also has the second largest pipe organ in Africa. In attendance are the 800 practicing Christians on an island of one million.
Actual chains from slave times. Anglican church grounds.

The food was everything imaginable from the seas: shrimp, lobster, octopus, squid, barracuda, shark, Tilapia, sea monster (Daris added that last one), etc.  All of it caught fresh daily. One popular eatery was an open air market next to the “Stone Town” harbor. Every evening around six about 30+ tables were set up so that the catch of the day could be shish-kabobbed, grilled, and served with mounds of “chips” (french fries), salad, and chapatti bread for the staggering sum of 7000 Tshillings, about $4.
Evening feast in the harbor gardens

Of course, Zanzibar is not complete without a tour of the spice plantations. I got the impression that the plantation we visited was more for tourist consumption than for export. I believe the export products are from government plantations. However, we saw cloves, coconuts, pepper, vanilla, coffee, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemons, oranges, paprika, sea monsters (Daris, again), etc. While still on the plant, in its vegetative state, it was not easily recognizable until our guide peeled, picked or demonstrated its hidden worth. And as natural as the spices, was the market at the end of the tour for purchasing samples.
British cannon used in only battle on Zanzibar. The war lasted 45 minutes, the British won.

I asked if cruise ships ever visited and was told yes, about once a month. I am guessing in time this will be a much sought after location, but the infrastructure has some way to go before the Western tourist will make it a must-see spot.
I think I could get a job as an electrician here.

This is your reporter in the wild, signing off.

"Thank you, Tom, for that informative report.  We look forward to more revealing reports about sea monsters from your future deployments.   Tune in next time for "Timbuktu, Home of the Desert Sea Monsters""   Only a 60 hour bus ride, away!

The kids continue to have 'monkey wars'.  I think the monkeys enjoy the engaging activity, judging by the fact that they come rattle our front door, as if asking the children to come play.  The kids recognize the different monkeys, no doubt, the monkey can do the same.  

We identified a nighttime sound and its origins: a bushbaby monkey.  They are a small, cute, and furry source of much nocturnal racket.  

The chickens are having 'brooding' issues.  Both hens are in 'setting mode', and they want to set on the single clutch, which happens to be a collection of eggs from BOTH hens.   The obvious answer would be to post a sign-up sheet for setting hours, but instead, they cram themselves into the small nest box at the same time.  Mr Twinkie is slightly envious of the 'together time', and sits quietly next to them.  He has yet to make any rooster noises though he has employed a fellow rooster to bugle outside our bedroom window at the ripening of dawn.  Perhaps the request was to hide his own inadequacies, or maybe, he doesn't like this rooster fellow and simply sees a way to accelerate his prideful demise.  

Days are different without any evening performance obligations looming; I had forgotten how varied our life and routine were as musicians (chaotic?).  We have a chamber/solo performance tonight at Arusha Community Church, which is basically the meeting place for wazungu (white folk).   It will be nice to meet more people.  

Waiting to hear more about Sigmund and Nessy,


WH Chronicle No. 1.13

Oct 17, 2010

Bon Voyage to Jerry, as he embarks on a 30 hour trek back to Lubbock, TX.    We are sad to see him leave, and I think Tom secretly (but not THAT secretly) wanted to go with him.  

We had such an incredible time on safari. Here are a few snap shots of the adventure:

Our tent is complete with four poster beds, bureau, flushing toilet and hot shower.  Big upgrade from the $1 tent we had at Ghost Ranch!

Lion armpit.  He was all but in the car with us....

Maasai Giraffe
Science fiction ain't got nothing on this bizarre creature!
 The Maasai are nomadic shepherds.
Large baobabs--older than the sequoias. Some might be older than the Pyramids of Giza.
Elephants ripped out a hole in this baobab. 
 Ngorongoro Crater Rim. 
Two Maasai ladies dressed up for the celebration.

While on safari, we noticed weaver bird nests littering the acacia trees and were amused by the guide book description: 
"It is fascinating to watch a male weaver work.  First, a nest site is chosen, usually at then end of a thin hanging branch, which is stripped of leaves to protect against snakes.  The weaver carries building materials back and forth to the site, blade by blade in its beak, using a few think strands to create the skeletal framework, then completing the structure by interweaving thinner blades.  Once complete, the nest is inspected by the female, who will tear it apart if the result is unsatisfactory."  

Tom didn't laugh as much as I did. 

Big News:  Little Debbie is brooding.  21 days and we should have some baby chicks.  

Lions, leopards and warthogs, oh, my...


WH Chronicle No. 1.12

Oct 9, 2010

Chicken escape:  Sam forgot to lock the coop door after hugging the chickens good morning.  When I noticed that they were all gone on safari, I envisioned all three chickens at the top of Kilimanjaro (clucking with little O2 masks).  My heart sank, I summoned our kind neighbor kids to assist in the Great Tanzanian Chicken Hunt.   The Search and Rescue Team found them 10 feet away from the coop; busy hunting bugs in our garden.  Cue up “Turkey in the Straw” music; now picture an old timey, homemade-movie of the kids trying to catch chickens (Tanzanian chickens-the fast ones).   Chickens are now safe, kids are tired,  and the garden will recover from the trampling.  THE END.

We completed our celebratory Masaai tradition of “Caki” in Sambasha village.  This involved a roasted goat decorated like nothing a westerner would enjoy seeing (or smelling).  Just a reminder of how far removed we are from our food source in the states.  This roasted goat was poised in a proudly prancing position complete with a grass fountain flowing from its teeth--definitely artwork worthy of a Masaai Four Seasons Hotel foyer.  The pastor offered each guest a tasty morsel, which we politely stowed in ziplock-lined pockets.  Daryl and Sam were very brave and accepted it (in their mouths) with no grimace.  The village was very gracious with gifts, food and showers of thanks to Jerry and his crew from Lubbock. Omega has been instrumental in Sambasha’s progress by enabling the eventual support of Compassion International.   What’s most interesting is that Omega’s mission is actually about investing in Americans and their world perspective via helping Tanzanians.  The fact that I’m writing you from Tanzania is proof of its success.  Jerry and his beautiful family have enriched many people on both sides of the globe.   After saying goodbye to our friends from Lubbock, Sam mentioned that those nice people are his new aunts and uncles.  Yes, they are sweet people.

Now that Jerry has completed his Omega duties, he is taking this Hale family on safari.  Don’t expect any fancy photos.  The lion would have to nap on our windshield in order for me to capture a blurry picture of the dashboard.  So just turn on Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” and pretend.

Our driver last week relayed an amusing story to me about black mambas.   This will be of special interest to my dad as he recently watched a documentary on these cuddlly snakes.  He has yet to shed the disabling affliction of the heebee-geebees.  Anyway, black mambas are very ‘springy’ and are notorious for attaching themselves to the cars that run over them.   One safari driver ran over the tail of this deadly snake.  It sprung all the way to the top of the safari van and INTO the open-topped vehicle.  Some of the people in the van actually survived.
 Great story, huh?  Everyone here tells those types of stories and then laughs at the listeners’ expressions.   I wish I could see your face.  

There is a saying here: “If they are here a year, they write a book; two years they write a blog; 5 years or more they write nothing.  If they are here a week, they write two books.”  I’m beginning to understand the wisdom of this saying.  There are things you see here which relate so poorly in our conventional wisdom back home.  I would have to develop writing skills superior to Steinbeck in order to properly paint and immerse one within the context of these events.   People here know the angst caused by these stories related to their loved ones who have little reference.   So, that raises the question, do I spare you the angst as I accrue wisdom?  Or do I brush off your emotional well being by justifying my observations as ‘describing the ocean while being only knee deep?’  

Here’s a trite example:
Outside of the Swahili language school there was a local man bludgeoning a cat to death with a brick.  Of the westerners, the ‘newbies’ were horrified; the old timers were thankful.  The cat was rabid and needed to be destroyed before a person, or worse, a child, was seriously injured.  There was no other easily available alternative for euthanasia-no animal control beyond that of a good Samaritan (?).

That story probably leaves country folk nodding, and city folk swallowing bile.

 Of course, there might be other reasons that people here omit stories, or delay the telling of them. Take for example, "When they were cutting back the overgrown bushes in your yard, they found two cobras." Or, "Your house help is HIV+, but it's really good that they let you know, because most people don't."  Maybe it's all in the timing.

Dala-dala and Die.
Ah…public transportation here makes an Indiana Jone’s taxi ride appear as docile as a retirement home outing.  The little buses, call dala-dalas, rarely have all 4 wheels on the ground as they zip in and out of traffic carrying no less than 30-40 people.  It is no doubt extraordinarily dangerous, but necessary if you want to buy cheese and butter.   Our sweet neighbor escorted me on my inaugural trip.  Seriously, think minivan; people hanging off the sides, door open, a few live chickens, the driver might be in training (and probably doesn’t have a license--for real) in order to recklessly dodge child pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, men pushing oversized banana wagons down the road,  and negotiate on-coming traffic while racing vehicles traveling the same direction.  It’s disappointing that I have no hope of exaggerating these circumstances.  On the return trip, a fist fight between conductors ignited over potential customers, i.e. us.   This event distracted me from the errant dala-dala trying to flatten another conductor standing next to us.  I noticed the side of a moving bus pushing us.  We dove into the nearest dala-dala, regardless of the destination.  From there we had a front row seat to a dirty fisticuff match involving two conductors in the parking lot and one driving a moving bus.  They were never after us, but the fight was definitely over us.  Somewhere during the dusty brawl, a gentleman shoved us for our own safety (probably out of the way of the oncoming bus).  I was never scared, but rather, very thankful that I didn’t have the children with me.    Now, I know.
At least black mambas don’t fist fight.

Off to see lions, giraffe, zebras, elephants in the wild!

“Scientists tell us that the fastest animal on earth, with a top speed of 120 feet per second, is a cow that has been dropped out of a helicopter.”   Dave Barry

Watching where I step--for reasons better than dog poo,


2 hours at the salon, 1,000Tsh (75 cents)

Pretty little flower at the Lutheran Hospital compound.


WH Chronicle No. 1.11

October 6, 2010

“Houston, we have chickens!!”  It’s a 'Big Feather Day" at Whaleherdienda as our herd (flock) just got a little featherier!

We purchased our fine-feathered (mostly) friends from some neighbors on campus.  While we were anxiously awaiting the adoption of our new pets, we found ourselves in a queue.  Several beautiful roosters were handed out the coop, legs then tied with twine from a handy banana stem (tree), and tossed into the back of a car.  Sam looked quizzically, as if that were a peculiar why to treat a pet.  The adults all laughed nervously at his innocence.  I gently (as possible) explained that ‘fresh’ chicken is the way people purchase McNuggets here in Tanzania. 

Of course, we carried our chickens carefully back to their newly constructed coop.   Tom mandated, “No roosters, they are too noisy, and the coop is near our bedroom.”  But it was explained to us that we had to have a rooster, so that our eggs are not “cold”, as they say in Tanzania.

So, Mr. Twinkie, Ms. Moonpie, and Little Debbie (and the lice they brought with them) have been successfully relocated into our care.  When we told our gardener their names, he was very sorry for them, and wished them better titles upon their baptism (common for Africans to receive 'Christian' names at the time of baptism).  I think that was a Tanzanian joke, but he flea-dipped them today, so maybe they have new names (like ‘Kuku na wali” i.e. 'chicken with rice')?

Mr. Twinkie is a young rooster who cowards in the nest boxes and screams like a little girl if you pet him.  Ms. Moonpie, has black iridescent feathers, but looks like, as Tom says, “she's been ridden hard and put up wet”, and Little Debbie is a lovely red hen with an pecky attitude (similar to Big Red).  We already have six eggs, but since we want to hatch little chicks, therefore making Mr. Twinkie worth the potential noise, we’re leaving them in the nest.  Though, we doubt that Mr. Twinkie has had anything to do with these future progeny beyond nervously cowering on the eggs.  

Tom said his first complete sentence in Kiswahili, “Naomba chupi safi.”  "I need clean underwear."  The entire Swahili speaking nation has not quit laughing at him.

This week, Tom went on a trip to Zanzibar with a group from Arcadia College.  He reports in with an occasional  text message indicating things such as:  long bus ride=butt hurts; ferry ride=nice.
More on his adventures next time. 

Oh, back to our daily routines.  After coffee, scrambled eggs, and toast with Nutella for the kids, we get hugs and they’re off to the Stubbs house.  Daryl is doing school there, but Sam has been running ferral with guidance from their son.  At some point, school will have to take precedent.  Shortly after their departure, we welcome our gardener, Reagan, and morning house lady, Mama Richard.  We discuss their errands and jobs, and then go about our own chores.  With the language barrier, the discussion of tasks can take some time, but not as as much time as the chores in which they engage:  mowing and maintaining the yard by hand (with a machete and homemade rake) or washing the dirty clothes in a wash basin and hanging them in the attic to dry*.

At 11:00am the country stops for “Chai”.   At our house, this sometimes consists of 6 or 7 people (our family, plus whoever is working around the house) sitting down at the table to have milky sweet tea and cookies.  This practice not optional.  Everywhere I’ve been in Tanzania it occurs with various degrees of formality.  Even the Universities take a 30 minute break between classes for chai.  I’m warming up to the custom.  I like my tea black, and they think this is as weird as my skin color. 

By the end of ‘chai’ Mama Mary, the young, modern (their words) lady who is in charge of the noon meal and Swahili instruction, arrives at our house.  The kids reluctantly embark on the Swahili lesson, at which point Tom and I make a speedy retreat.  If we are within earshot, the children are not cooperative—typical kids.   After a lunch of delicious Tanzanian cusine, Tom and I have Swahili lessons.  It seems slow and tedious, but luckily, the Tanzanians are thrilled when one attempts their language, and are happy to correct poor grammar and teach new words with smiles and laughter. 

The afternoons seem to disappear into activities and events.  By the evening, it is time to begin planning and  preparing for dinner.  As with most activities here, there is nothing easy or convenient.  Without pizza delivery and Taco Cabana as viable options, it leaves, ugh…cooking…from scratch…  Our fallback position is grilled cheese sandwiches with fresh fruit and avocados.  But otherwise, we face a short trip to the market (hoping they are stocked) and the concern of what possible creations I have the competency to cook.   Left-overs ease the stress.  But honestly, it is intimidating for me to look into the pantry at a tomato, potato and a bag of rice.  For the first time, I’ve felt an anxiousness about providing a meal for the family.  Of course, we still have the ability to call a cab (and wait an hour), ride into town (another hour) and eat at a restaurant (two hours).   I now pace myself, and know the necessity of saving reserve energy and resources for the evening meal.  The good news is that my kids are no longer picky eaters.  They don’t even ask what it is, they just try it, grimace, and swallow—something clicked and they ‘get it’.  Sam even eats the crust.

Finally, we have a family assembly line to clean the table, wash the dishes in a small basin and set them out on a drying rack.   The scraps go to the chickens.  I apply CPR  to the sink drain via a plunger in order for it to release the murky water. Then we fill up the Katadyne water filter so it can drip-purify the drinking water overnight. 

At this point, I have to weigh my remaining energy to manage showers for everyone, or just fuss enough to get the kids into pajamas and their teeth brushed.  Not to mention my own hygiene—always second to the kids’. 

Then, once in our bed with the kids, we play, “Mr. Chicken”.  This is where their stuffed-animal chicken asks them about their day.  They love this.  They reveal to him emotions that I'm always curious to hear.  At some point, they inevitably ask him to smell their feet, at which time he passes out and they administer CPR (no plunger).  After that, Mr. Chicken is worn out and we read a chapter of “Percy Jackson”.  Finally, when my eyes are barely open, I double tuck the mosquito net and hope that my nap is a good one. 

We’re still on vacation—imagine when we start work and school! But many of the chores described Tom handles much more gracefully than me.   And his return will be greatly cherished.

* Hanging the clothes to dry in the attic--Ok, drop whatever you are eating for the moment.  Mango flies, or the skin maggot fly:  these creatures commonly lay their eggs in moist places, such as human clothing hanging out to dry; then they burrow into human skin, until they are fat and happy little larvaes, at which point they make a dramatic exit via pusstuous boil.  The process can be accelerated by putting Vaseline on one’s skin which prevents larvae air intake.  It is avoided completely by ironing all clothing, underwear, and bed sheets, or hanging them in our hot attic.  Since this affliction is easily outlived, it is not considered a serious issue, but it definitely makes American pimples look like less of a nuisance. 

Jerry (Tom’s brother) and a crew from Lubbock are here in Arusha.  The kids and I have spent a few days with them in the little village of Sambasha.  It’s been very enjoyable getting off campus and seeing ‘real Tanzania’.    I had visited this small village two years ago and I find the progress they have made and the modernization ‘fascinating’ (as Spock would say). 

Though this community started with only a corral for a gathering area, the Compassion Int’l director for the country of Tanzania noticed that the pastor of this church was dedicated to education and progress.  As soon as the community could build a solid structure, and provide water, Compassion Int’l could offer services for people of Sambasha.  Currently they are constructing their 5th building, a secondary school.  There are 250 families that receive sponsored aid, which includes literacy education for the children and a guarantee that no one in that family will die of starvation (though, death from AIDS is rampant).  It's remarkable.

My first time to the Sambasha church service, I remember being mesmerized by the beauty of the a-capella choir.   But this time was different.  Now, the upscale community owns a generator, an electric synthesizer, amplifier, and large speakers, of which they were very proud (they go to 11 ½).   It is a very different church service, than the one I attended two years ago.   But I believe they are very happy to be joining the modern world.   It is easy for a visitor to pine for the ‘purity’ of their traditions, but who can begrudge the progress that is so desired.  We do not pine for horse drawn plows, dial telephones, party lines, or  (Lord, forbid) 8-track-tapes instead of itunes.

I notice my vocabulary changing slightly.  The English here is a conglomerate of English with Swahili references.  The people also speak casually of “God’s Will” and blessings. Rains and/or pests for crops are part of God’s will.  Bad car accidents are blamed on God’s will, even though the drivers are frightening (the most dangerous thing we do is ride in a car).  I automatically incorporated the word, "blessed" the other day--which made me reflect.  In the U.S. we have irrigation and pesticides, so it’s never ‘God’, but only bad luck or an important need that will be eventually satisfied by scientific advancement.  So here’s a question that arose in my ponderings:  For the amount of money annually spent on pet food in the U.S., ALL the world (developing countries) could have clean drinking water—so is it ‘God’s Will’ that they don’t?

As a student of the Enlightment Era—I say, “Of course, not.  It is ours--humanity.”

 More on religion in TZ later—it’s too early for any type of objective report—but then, that could be said about most of my opinions--at any point in time.

The saying about the Swahili language:  “Swahili was born in Tanzania, got sick in Kenya and died in Uganda.”  

When tourist ladies wear shorts and tank tops, Tanzanians comment that she forgot her clothes and went outside in her underwear.  

Drip, drip…
Happy to hear the sound of tomorrow's clean water,

Mr Chicken is not a finicky traveler, and he's certainly no longer white.

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