WH Chronicle No. 1.18

Nov 14, 2010

We officially began classes!  Though many teachers from other departments are yet to be hired, the music department is well into the refrain, so to speak.

 My sweet students, most mature adults with families, are full of questions and awe.  Never having heard any of the western music examples I presented (Beethoven 5th, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, Also Sprach Zarathustra, La Traviata) they asked endless questions bringing forth even more unfamiliar terminology (what’s an orchestra?).  One student was so excited about the aria from La Traviata, that he wanted to know how to acquire the music. 

This is where the challenge begins:  There are NO music books to be purchased (for students or teachers), no staff paper, no sheet music, no CD’s, not even itunes is available to you if your computer is registered in East Africa.  All the education is strictly what the teacher writes on the chalk board for the students to memorize (assuming there’s a niblet of chalk available).  Few students have access to computers; even then, there may not be electricity or internet service.  Computer literacy is daunting to the students.  Regardless, I have emphasized that their budding computer skills will open a valuable portal to a vast amount of knowledge and information available on the net.   This simple tool could be revolutionary to the educational systems in developing countries.

It’s been nice to enjoy weekends as a family.  One of our favorite pastimes is to play what Sam calls “Pool Ships”.  It’s a slightly less static version of Winnie the Pooh’s “Pooh Sticks” because of Sam’s imaginary armory and battle engagement.  Basically, we drop sticks, guavas, mangoes, leaves, or whatever we want into the trickling stream, watch it disappear under the bridge, and then run to the other side to watch it reappear.  There’s something beautifully simple and wondrous about this activity; then Sam adds explosive noises from his various orifices. 
Sam watching for his "Pool Ship".

A variation: Daryl, with help, playing "Pool Ships".

I’ve been warned that our feral kids will be difficult to catch and tame when it’s time to return to the States.  I’m frequently ambushed as they hide in trees or around corners.  They spend much of the day pretending to be spies.  They come home at dark, but continue their rowdiness like they were still in the mulberry field chasing crows and monkeys.  We’ll need a tranq gun and some padded cages.
 Their occasional homesick conversations are about spending a week immersed in junk food and video games at the grandparents’ house.  Their eyes glaze over blissfully when reminiscing, while it has the complete opposite effect on me. 

The kittens are beginning to open their eyes and have become quite noisy when you take them away from their mother.    The baby chicks are sprouting little feathers from beneath their chickly fuzz.  They run faster and are becoming more difficult to catch.
Mr. Twinkie is finally starting to sing, but not like his proud rooster friends with well developed operatic crows--hosting tremolos, trills, melismas while warming up at midnight.  Instead, he has a meager little incantation like country-western yodeler plagued with chronic sinus infections.  I admire his perseverance with his permanent state of snot-encrustation.    

More bizarre events:  Two baby catfish came out of the neighbor’s kitchen sink faucet, one dead, and one alive.  I saw a bumble bee the size of a softball.  As it tried to maintain altitude, it sounded like a Cummins diesel engine.  We noticed two shy Colobus monkeys on campus.  One of them tried to pee on us.

We finally have wheels!  And with it comes a new phase of freedom, and financial endeavors.  Planning to pay for the vehicle with an online wire transfer, we realized the fallacy in the idea as soon as the internet and electricity went out.    My sweet dad had to break away from landlording our house in Austin long enough to ‘run by Western Union’ and wire us our own money.   Because the largest bill in Tanzania is only 10,000Tsh ($7) , we had to pay for the car with two, large, bricks worth of cash—the only thing missing was a brown paper bag or handcuffed spy briefcase.  We were happy to hand it over to the owner so that we weren’t the mugger bait.   

The car is a little 4x4 Suzuki.  Four wheel-drive is important because there’s basically only one paved road through the middle of Tanzania, and even it has speed bumps that are waist high.  The steering wheel is on the right side and one must ‘keepie leftie’ while driving.  We’re not sure where to park it, but I told Tom if there’s a tow truck anywhere in Tanzania, chances are it’s broken down with no hope of being towed to a repair shop.

The car was named "Sparky" by our little hood ornament.

You all are such amazing friends!  Everyone keeps asking what essential item from our former lives we still desperately need---within the padded envelope caveat, of course.    Tom is in bad need of a beard trimmer.  Daryl braids any uncovered hair within her reach; hence, Tom is working on a “Fu Man Chu” impersonation (a braided beard is a sign of Chinese royal dignity).   He’s also in need of some anti-depressants; not for Tanzania, but for football season.  Horns and Cowboys are just dreadful this year….this dilemma could make anyone living in a developing country feel better about their lives.

Looking up in trees with my mouth closed,

Sam and the baby chicks.

Flamboyant Tree

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