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,

Kathlene Ritch  – (October 25, 2010 at 12:03 AM)  

Ooh! Ooh!
I want a turtle!....pretty please!
And could you post your address, so that we can all bombard you with 'priceless' treasures from Texas?

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