WH Chronicle No. 10.10

Oct 22,2011

Well,  with the lull in conversation, it might be time for me to stand up, awkwardly adjust my pants,  and apologetically tell you ‘this has been a whole lot a fun’.   We’ve shared stories despite 9000 miles, erratic electricity, and a pitiful African internet.  Hell,  we've practically held hands with you through modern technology while we were braving the exploding kitchen appliances and swimming through crocodile infested waters.    I'm glad you were there with us.

 But before we sign off--one last update on our way out the door:

We are at exactly T-Plus 9 weeks and counting.  Even though a bumpy re-entry for some of us --as we relayed in the past few Chronicles--things are going much more smoothly now.

 The dust has settled and the tears finally dried up for Sam AND his 2nd grade teachers.   Everyone involved has managed to create a more congenial situation.  Sam now presides over all of second grade as "Emperor" while employing the latest Star Wars technology and designating teachers (minions) to cannon fodder.    No wait…that was Sam’s vision of congenial—not to be confused with the actual solution which was not nearly as amusing or as dangerous for the teachers.

Daryl is going to the Taylor Swift concert with Hilde.

Hilde is enjoying her time in America as her transition appears to offer little challenge.  This week she is occupied with acquiring the appropriate attire for the Homecoming Dance.  When I saw her new dress I thought it was a fancy blouse.  Dresses are getting shorter or I'm getting older--or worse, both.  Last week she informed me that Norway has better Mexican food than Texas. 

Tom doesn’t complain.   You say, “Impossible!  Leaving a gig without bitchin’ about the conductor?  the trombones?  the VIOLINS?  IMPOSSIBLE!!!”   But it’s true—he’s happy to be back in a situation where he could easily bitch about the gig—but doesn’t.    I think this is out of fear that I will drag him back to Africa if he utters anything but contentment.

Me—I'm starting to return to my cheerful self.  My grieving, foot stopping and pity party have begun to subside. I'm even a bit relieved that I don't have to play 'teacher' for the former students that took care of me on my trip through TZ.  The ones that rubbed my back as my stomach turned inside out and helped conceal my backside when my skirt got caught in the train door.   They didn't ever have to carry me, but they would have.  They were my caretakers.  I know their life stories, their dreams, their hopes, their loves--lost and present.  Last thing I'd want to do is chastise a late paper from the ones that shared the tasty bits of a fish head with me.  If they had a tardy assignment it would probably be because they were taking food to their roommate in the hospital.  Oy...

I had a taste of my own medicine, too.   Our friend, Gary, was in a car wreck in Tanzania and all I could do was helplessly sit and read his blog from another hemisphere. He's doing just ok--I'm continuously concerned about his numb/tingly arm.  The last update I received from my spies was that this  self proclaimed "Iron Man" was forbidding the students from waiting on him and he types emails and  blogs with just one finger. 
Maybe this has ‘re-educated’ me to the joys of driving the kids around in our multi-airbag Volvo station wagon  complete with five point harnesses and crash helmets--on a road where I'd have to jump a 4 foot concrete barrier and a 6 foot deep bar ditch to ever have a chance at hitting a pedestrian (which is actually an endangered species in America).   Nonetheless, I’m happy to not be mowing anyone down.

While I don't miss the mad house driving,  I do really miss easily inspiring students. 
"Hey, everyone, this is a C major chord."  
"Ohhhhhhhh....Wowwww" the students stare in amazement.
"Now for my next trick--check out my sunburn." (Always a fascinating topic to Tanzanians)

Yeah...I can't really dazzle the American university students with my skin color.  I actually have to give it a little better effort.  But that's ok.

AND I miss the inspirational people.  The students and their lives--how the hell did they actually make it through that terrible system to the University?  I'm not sure I'd make it that far if I had come through the shitty misogynistic school system, had a few bouts of life-threatening malaria, had my mom and brother die when I was 10, and had my teachers use me as a sex toy in exchange for a good grade.  Yet--there they were sitting in front of me--exclaiming that they were as 'blessed' as Ritz Crackers on a communion plate.  That's inspirational.

Not forgetting all the expats in developing countries that have their cool, weird, stories, as well--I love it.  Their crazy sense of adventure--which, for Americans, is embodied by standing in line at Starbucks (opting out of the drive thru).  Oh well.  Sometimes I even take the large handicapped stall in the public restrooms when I'm in need some excitement.

But it's weird thinking that even though I can (and probably will) go back, it will never be the same.  Like trying to recreate that  one awesome time at summer camp--it might be better or worse, but always different.  

Although I might be recovering from this cultural vertigo for a while,  the improvement over time has been welcomed.  “I’m happy to be back,” even slipped from my lips the other day.

For those of you interested in tracking Gary, the Makumira students and the Stubbs family, check out the sites below.  Gary is also profiling the different music students (I wish I had thought of this).  His blog has an email sign up, so his new entries can appear in your in box.  

Turning the news and reporting at Makumira School of Music over to the professionals:

In addition to those electronic sources, Liz Tomorsky Knott started a non-profit to benefit the musicians of Tanzania after visiting us last year.  Right now she is in the middle of an instrument drive (donating unused instruments) for the music students at Makumira.   She will even reimburse the shipping cost if you decide to donate an instrument.  Check out her website for details and feel free to make a tax deductible donation.

Music for Tanzania   www.musicfortanzania.org 

For anyone wanting to keep track of the reality show at our house, you can now read Hilde's blog.   Just hit that Google translator button unless, of course, you are fluent in Norwegian. 

I’ll still be writing—but not so publicly—I have to admit since readership has grown it makes me a bit more shy about shouting my tainted opinions.   I also steal my own thunder when trying to share stories in person, especially now that I see all of you on a regular basis (most of you, anyway). But, don't worry, the Chronicle will fire up the presses again for any big news or African updates.

With a tug on my earlobe,
I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
blah blah other words here... before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, 'So long'.


Fun times as Fiesta Texas:



WH Chronicle No. 1.47

September 9, 2011

First, I need to sincerely thank all our loyal readers for indulging my perspective and kindly understanding our transitioning proclivities.   You have been very patient with me as I’ve been honest and expressive about termites, cultures, and monkeys.  Thanks for making the journey with us.  It’s been wonderful to have you reading over my shoulder. 

Since being home, everyone greets us with “Ahhh, we’re so happy that you’re back!”  I answer, “Thanks.” And, then, depending on how well they know me, they say, “You aren’t excited about being back, are you?”  At which point, I stare at the ground and apologetically shake my head.  

I briefly explain that Tanzanian teachers are often not dedicated to their profession.  Many are even abusive and the University system, when compared to western countries, is virtually ineffective.  So for Tom and I,  teaching in Tanzania and then leaving became the emotional equivalent of rescuing an abused puppy, instilling trust and confidence only to announce, “Golly gee, look at the time. Well, see ya later. “  then desert your most meaningful intentions. It feels very disingenuous.  Tom concurs.   It’s difficult to leave a beach full of starfish.

But even as I type today, Africa is becoming farther away.  I dislike admitting this, but the good news is that I’m finally starting to look forward rather than staring constantly in the rear view mirror.  That doesn’t mean that I’m fully adjusted, though.  Just ask the AT&T sales rep or even the one at T Mobile. 

After two weeks of befriending perverts surfing porn at the public library or sucking down frappacinos at the local Starbucks all for free internet—AT&T finally installed our home internet service, but it didn’t work.   While trying to explain this, my new AT&T phone overheated and shut down. My nonexistent patience melted into rage.  I authoritatively told them that they were not competent enough to even provide their services to a developing country.   Then our bill arrived…one could feed a developing country with that much money.   I went in person to the AT&*$%#@T store.   They refused to replace my faulty phone and then the sales rep encountered a very loud and colorful description of his company.  He nodded in agreement.  I blew the F-bomb no less than 3 times and I’m probably lucky I wasn’t arrested for disorderly conduct.  Did I mention that Sam was with me--witnessing this pinnacle of mature human behavior?

Which later lead me to T Mobile—proud to be ridding myself of AT&@#$T for better pricing and customer service.  I sign up only to find that they are charging me double the rates stated in the brochure.   I inquired about the discrepancy to hear, “Oh, yeah, they raised the price but haven’t printed new brochures yet.”  That was when I broke down into tears and sobbed like a hormonal teen inside the T Mobile store.   

Then there’s Austin Pest Control… When they offered a monthly “Rat-ridding” service, I sarcastically asked, “Do you do ‘Ghostbustin’ for a monthly fee, too?”  But because I don’t want to condemn Tom to chasing rats around in a dark attic with a broom—we now pay a monthly rat-ridding fee.  No Ghostbustin’ yet—maybe AT&T offers that service to their loyal customers.

The AT&T Sales rep, the T Mobile Sales rep, and the Austin Pest Control guy could all commiserate in wordless sympathy for Tom’s sake as he has to return home with this maniacal woman. 

I am like Don Quixote without a Sancho Panza.  Tom wisely just shakes his head and lets me fight.   Tom, more than anyone, predicted, endures and nurtures my re-entry adjustment.  Once again, he earns a gold medal. 

More lack of assimilation:   Sam is not happy either.  8 hours of sitting behind a desk scrawling epic novels with a fat pencil is not currently his greatest desire—but, in his eyes, appears to be his teacher’s desire for him.   He told us he worries about disappointing his teacher.  She told us that they are calling the ‘interventionist’.   Maybe that is between ‘executioner’ and ‘disappointionist’?  Tears and pleas flowed from the little guy.  Tom broke all the rules of the school (imagine alarms, lockdowns, SWAT teams) and walked inside the school to escort a hysterical Sam to his classroom in order to explain this trauma to the teacher.    Since Tom’s Wild West maverick episode—they added a TSA security station at the entrance of the school, and have also become more attentive to Sam.  He now looks forward to regular meetings with the school counselor along with the snacks and games that she provides.   When we questioned Sam about purpose of those meetings, he replied, “The counselor said it was because I don’t fit in.”   To which we responded, “Good job, Sam.  We’re proud of you.”

Daryl goes skating, swimming, and is angling to attend the Taylor Swift concert.  Personally, I’m not escorting her to any concert where people don’t wear wigs.  Dolly Parton, Hannah Montana—that’s different—I can sport a nice blond wig.  Taylor Swift?—wasn’t she my original inspiration to depart America?  No wait…maybe that was Lindsey Lohan or Miley Cyrus? Daryl still enjoys obsessing over things that her peers own and she doesn’t.  I guess we will have to stay longer next time.

Hilde is running in cross country at 6:30am each morning.  She is also hanging out with Jamilly’s old crowd from track.  It provided a spectacular conversation when they started telling Hilde of their dear friend from Kazakhstan.  Hilde also admitted that preparation for her year abroad included watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.

Rooster (the cat, not the chicken—Tom said no more chickens) has returned in his full glory-- all 18 lbs--with an educational pedigree, a G.E.D. (Gotta Eat Dinner).  Tammy and Casey were wonderful loving tutors who managed not to cry when saying, ‘goodbye’.

Reuniting with friends and family has been wonderful.  But I have to admit a slight buzz kill is suffered when we begin an exciting African story only to be thwarted by, “Oh, I remember reading about that in the Chronicle.”   Hmmm….next story…

Inquiring Minds Want to Know:
One of our astute Chronicle readers pointed out some loose story lines.

Baldy, the one-eyed chicken:  He became a mean little mofo. He stealthily waited by the back door in order to chase and attack the children.  He stalked the streets, charged me and would begin flogging or humping my legs (not sure which).   Had he been a less discriminating attacker, we might have kept him as a security chicken, but sadly, it was just our family he assaulted.  Baldy was relocated to a condo coop belonging to our gardener.  Much to Tom’s chagrin, I made the request that they don’t eat him, or at least wait until a high holy day.    Haven’t heard of his fate since then…

Kitties:  Well, “Cow”, the kitten factory, was also sent to live with the gardener.  We managed for find suitable homes for the many kittens she produced while mooching off our philanthropical tendencies.   But just a week before the family departed for America she showed up on our back porch after apparently having traversed at least 10 miles of traffic and wilderness to return.  Tom’s comment, “I guess she likes the food better here.”  So, Tom left money for the neighbor’s gardener to feed her until our friend, Gary, arrives in September.  Then she will be his problem.

Jenny and Sara, the Queen termites:  After Nathan busted up his piggy bank to purchase the two queen termites (a real delicacy), the boys created a termite palace for their royalty.  But little did they suspect their majesties demanding royal courts to serve their every need.  So, as with many of the tyrannical aristocrats in our history books, they suffered death by army ants. 

And one final comment from an inspired reader:
 I kept waiting to see a photo of one of those little monkeys swinging from tree to tree wearing a familiar blue [ASO] Building Blocks shirt.”

Sorry, we cut them up in order to celebrate the 4th of July.  Priorities….

Hi-Yo, Rocinante, Away!

And a Kitty video featuring the talents of the Biscuit Brothers and the music of the Wild Basin Winds:


WH Chronicle No. 1.46

August 21, 2011

We’re back!  Many of you have already seen us in Austin, but until now I haven’t been awake or lucid enough to create even a marginally coherent Chronicle.

Since our last chat from the heart of Tanzania, I’ve returned from an exquisite adventure while Tom and the kids have arrived safely home from Bear Valley, CA.
From our field reporter (or the man out standing in his field), Tom:

“The kids proved to be travel veterans enduring the 36 hour trip from Africa to Albuquerque. Daryl only threatened to get sick once when we were landing in Washington because she forgot to go to the bathroom on the 8 hour plane ride. Santa Fe was the perfect landing zone to reacclimatize to the United States.  Lots of love from Grandma and family, good Mexican food and comfortable beds in which to sleep made our reentry most pleasant.  Following this was a warm embrace from friends in Stockton, California, and then the Bear Valley Music Festival.  Playing in the festival reminded me about my questionable career choice and how difficult it can be—especially after a year off.  Getting back into shape for Shostakovich 5 was not an easy endeavor.   Luckily, a few Giant Burgers and hikes through the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains made everything worthwhile.“
Kinney Lakes

Rope Swing

Sam's back with his girlfriend.

Meet the competition for 'said' girlfriend.

 Back to Daris in the studio:

I missed Tom and the kids after we separated in July, but had a phenomenal adventure across Tanzania.  Even though I had been living in Tanzania for 10 months, I finally stepped out of our American bubble and experienced real Africa; first evident by the fact that I lived mostly without running water and electricity for the better part of a month.  I ate things that I didn’t know were edible and swam in places I didn’t know were infested with crocodiles.   But undeniably, it was an inspired voyage as our trip unfolded in an incredibly divine manner.  My travel partners and I witnessed so much on this pilgrimage that I’ll be chronicling the whole event in installments over the next few weeks.  Here are a few teasers pictures:
Simba Rock in Dodoma


Lake Tanganika

 The only small one that wasn't scared of my white skin.

Back stage before a performance of Wagogo traditional dance.

The caterers have arrived. 

Yes, it's true--no joke and a worthy cause.

Food court outside of the train.  The train was established in 1919 by the Germans and appears to not have been updated since that time.

Only half full at this point.  
Beautiful sunsets in western Tanzania. 

Tom trots around the house unpacking suitcases while whistling a little tune or humming a cheerful melody.  I receive random unexplained hugs and answer him with a mild grunt.  Tom drinks tap water for the fun of it and is in constant search of uninterrupted football. 
Me…well…it’s not such a pretty picture, as most of you readers (dear friends and loved ones) can imagine.  Tom spoke frequently of dreading my company upon reentry; and many of you even expressed concern over whether or not I’d even be on the homebound plane.  Then, of course, all are curious about how I’d fare while adjusting to our Americanisms again.   

Well, after all that traveling, my first groggy thought each morning is still about which village I’m awakening in--then I realize I’m at home (it was the lack of termites that gave it away), heave a big sigh, roll over, and try to dream about the mud hut where I’d rather be.  Most of the day, I’m either teary or hostile.  Maybe these are the predictable stages of grief; because leaving my post at Makumira was as fun as a funeral. Leaving those people, their passions, their extreme dedication and our combined sense of purpose makes my face shrivel up in not a pretty way.   Try to imagine being so passionate about your mission that payment (salary) is irrelevant and raising funds to continue your work is warmly embraced.  Communal endeavors and this altruistic sense of purpose are definitely not common American fare.

But now that I’m home, I sigh a lot and sniff sometimes.  Then I get pissed off about living in a consumer orgy.  It’s obscene really—and I doubt anyone would disagree with me.  Even myself, I think I’ve already been to Target twice in only 4 days of being home.  I want to respond, “Don’t mind me—I’m bored and I’m going to go masturbate with a credit card.”
I just feel shame for our country. We fight for our rights and ignore our obligations. The only consolation is that 2/3 of the world’s population doesn’t understand or know how pitifully we behave with our disposable income (something unfathomable to them).   Yes, we’ve forgotten about those who are hungry because we are interminably distracted by our own need for new (72” Flat screen HD) TV.     “You deserve it”—or so the advertisement states.   So what do my friends in Tanzania deserve?  To go hungry? 

And for those who will state, “There’s nothing I can do—I’m just one person”
Awake their imaginations.  Some of the most amazing progress in the history of our world was initiated by just one person.  In case they are not that one person—there’s a chance they could be the sponsor to that one person through the child sponsorship programs that are available online.
This is Rose.  She is my sponsored child since 2004.  She loves music and wants to go to University.  Her family lives on less than $1 a day.

And for those shaking their heads saying, “Daris needs to get over this.”
I’d like to suggest that that is the problem with us Americans.  We’ve all fallen asleep on our little island; our bellies are full and are minds are entertained.  We are properly distracted, obedient and complacent. 

So, with that all said, who wants to sit in on my ‘Introduction to Fine Arts’ class this fall?  I’ve been voted most likely to lose my shit at any time with all the entitled, hung-over, and indignant college students.

Driving in Tanzania has liberated me from driving on the right side of the road.  Anyone want to carpool?

Tom has a baby in Tanzania named after him. He wanted me to add that it wasn’t his baby, and that he is very honored by this gesture.   Tom is an amazing guy.  At Makumira he helped with brass ensemble, choir, men’s voice, music theory class, and private tutoring.  The students loved him—as do I.

Hilde (pronounced ‘Hilda’) is here.  She is from Norway and will be with us through May.  She’s a real sweetheart despite being a French horn player.

“You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.”  ~Eric Hoffer

“Be glad that  you're greedy; the national economy would collapse if you weren't.”  ~Mignon McLaughlin,The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other.  It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.  Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied... but written off as trash.  The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.”  ~John Berger

“The gap in our economy is between what we have and what we think we ought to have - and that is a moral problem, not an economic one.”  ~Paul Heyne

“What do I think of western civilization?  I think would be a very good idea.”  M. Gandhi 

Grumpy about clean, fresh towels,


WH Chronicle 1.45

August 2, 2011
Tom and kids are in California.   I’ve spoken with them only once since July 20th, though we've texted frequently.  Right before they left, we teased Tom about waiting at the airport days in advance of their flight.   Regardless of how early they arrived before their departure, they landed safely and happily in the U.S. with little hassles.  Sam shed a few tears over missing his buddy, Nathan.   When I asked Daryl, “Do you miss anything in Africa?”  She replied, “You!” and began crying.  But now they are surrounded with American comforts, friends, and families.
As for me, I’m missing them, too.    It will be wonderful to hug on them, again. 

I’m currently doing everything there is to do in Dodoma; including having a great time with Ed and Debra.   This is the last night before I step off into my deep country travels.  And, possibly the last Chronicle from Africa, as I’m not too sure about future access to items like running water, electricity, or even necessities like internet.  Toilet paper is a luxury long forgotten.

While writing the last Chronicle before our Makumira tour departure, I couldn’t have imagined the amazing experiences to be shared by our musicians.  We performed 8 concerts in 5 days—all with incredible receptions and responses.  We enjoyed ‘rock star’ status and I beamed with pride over my students and fellow colleagues.  Several times, in both Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, people continued to recognize a few of us as the “Makumira musicians”.  We were even asked judge a music competition (already in progress) while we were simply entering the music venue for a soda.   We politely declined the honor by claiming that we had dinner engagements at the U.S. Embassy.   This was actually true, but stating it made us snicker like school children.

My writing ability doesn’t yet offer justice to the experiences I had at Makumira.  I was always surrounded by love and music.  The last few days of the their company provided me with a volatile whirlwind of emotions.  Extreme happiness and joy laced with the bitterness of a looming goodbye.   All I could think was ‘had it not been so good, it wouldn’t be so painful’.   When it was time for their bus to leave me behind,  I waved a sniffley goodbye that quickly began melting into something messier. One of my sweet students pushed me inside the building while compassionately saying, “You don’t need to watch them leave.”  I appreciated it.  All of the students hated to see me cry.  Normally they were always chuckling at my jokes; so to see me in a less than cheerful state really bothered them.  They coached each other on the words to avoid when talking with me because it might trigger an undesired response.  The last night of the tour, two of the ladies even slept in bed with me.  I guess this would be really weird anywhere else in the world, but in Tanzania—it’s what you do.
Shortly after the departure of my Makumira family, my two admirable escorts (music students/ body guards/translators) took me on a bike ride around an artsy village on the coast, then to the beach, and then hired motorcycles to ride through the country to another beautiful beach where we lay in the sand staring at the stars.  It was a nice way to ease the pain.  
Since that time, we’ve been to music festivals, monuments, museums, public schools, universities, concerts, dinners, the national fair, on and on….  Tomorrow we ride a slow train across the country—sometimes this train makes it in a few days, but sometimes it doesn’t.   Either way is fine with me and that’s a good feeling.   My last obligation here is to board a flight to the U.S. on August 16th, just so Tom doesn’t have to come and get me.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”  ~Albert Einstein

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

A million miles away from it all,


WH Chronicle No. 1.44

July 17, 2011

We are submitting the last official Chronicle from Makumira University campus in Arusha, Tanzania.  In less than 12 hours, Daris departs for Dar es Salaam to perform with the music department then off touring Tanzania; while Tom and the kids travel to California (via Santa Fe) for the Bear Valley Music Festival.  The family will reunite August 17th in Austin, Texas, at which point you will receive a Chronicle update from the new (old?) headquarters. 

The last few days have been full of farewells and best wishes.  We are constantly stammering for the right words to describe our gratitude.  But even if I have any words—I can barely squeak them out via cracky voice and rhythmic sniffing.  As I continue to type, I jeopardize my computer warranty with water damage.

Dr. Suess says, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”  So I dust off the stoic smile I found in adulthood.  Luckily, I don’t need it often. 
And sometimes I try to convince myself that it really is the best time to depart…before the clock strikes midnight causing me to ride home atop a pumpkin.  

It has been an incredible honor to participate in a program that can produce such a powerful and meaningful change in people and a community; and to work with those who believe so strongly in their purpose that they are willing to forfeit any personal gain for the sake of their mission.   The students still remain an inspiration as their daily sacrifices for education are beyond any westerner’s imagination.   Teaching at Makumira has been an amazing experience. 

As we disband the troops and prepare for demobilization, Tom sums it up in an email to his mother preparing her for their visit:
Just watching the kids lately and figured I should preempt any reentry difficulties. We haven't started ladling the beans onto the floor [aka Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats], although that would be a logical next step. We are trying to curb their burping and other gaseous discharges, at least at the table. Napkins don't exist here and forks and spoons are always optional. You might think this would be a kid paradise, but a Miss Manners nightmare. We have mentioned that eating without disclosing the contents of one's mouth is preferable, as is waiting to wax poetic while shoving the third spoonful into one's mouth. I'm afraid Andy will want to relegate us to the back porch to eat and your choices of restaurants will downgrade to McDonalds et al.

I have little will to say, “Goodbye”, but rather enthusiasm for “See you later”.   I am anxious to follow or even participate in the continuation of our friends’ life journeys.    Peoples' lives in Tanzania are not pre-programmed as they frequently are in the US.  Every day is “Anything Can Happen Day”, which makes this departure feel distinctly like the end of only a chapter tucked inside a wonderfully epic novel.   

Lastly, we want you all back home to know that you are also a major part of our conflicting emotions as the excitement mounts for coming home and seeing everyone again!  We love you each dearly and hope you are looking forward to the long, creepy, smelly, hugs as much as we are!  I'll probably try to hold your hand while talking to you--just jerk it away if it's weird. 

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.  ~Garrison Keillor

Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would I'd never leave.  ~A.A. Milne

Packing my glass slippers,

 At the Knocker's house for a wonderful time.

Bassoon duets in Tanzania--at the Knocker's house--who'da thunk it?

Ndugu's house for sodas.


WH Chronicle No. 1.43

July 6, 2011

The hydro-electric plant  is now only offering power in 6 hour intervals.  Everyone shrugs and says, “…at least it’s not as bad as the time when Zanzibar went without any electricity for 6 months because a ship destroyed the underwater cables.”  True, I guess.   

8° C (46° F) this morning, on our last day of class.   With our big concert behind us, everyone is preparing for finals and now “there’s nothin’ left but the cryin’” as Tom says. 

But that’s not really true.  Our music department will be touring in Dar es Salaam after finals.  We will travel to the coastal city to showcase our African dance program at an International Symposium as well as performing additional shows.  So at least three weeks of busses, group dinners, rehearsals, and performances, before the goodbyes (and the crying) commence. 

 750 people wedged themselves into our 400-seat auditorium to watch, applaud, laugh, and cheer at our most recent concert.   A fire marshal’s nightmare—good thing they don’t have those here.   But despite the sardine seating (and standing) the audience expressed their delight at our group’s performance of half western music and half traditional African music.  I forgot how the Tanzanians giggle with glee when white people dance across the stage.  I wish I had remembered this before the panic set in thinking that my costume might be showing more lilly-whiteness than anyone should see.   But, thankfully, our wardrobe malfunctions have been limited to the exciting time when one male student’s shorts burst open during an energetic dance.  He waved  goodbye to the audience (no hands) and exited stage left…

 The Halls, a family of five from our neighborhood, and Jacque Henninger, a friend and music colleague from the University of Texas, are currently here with us in Tanzania.  I believe they traveled here just to see our concert, the Makumira School of Music , and of course, us;  but I am willing to concede that Tanzania might have additional allure.   During a casual conversation, we learned that everyone had received their pre-travel vaccinations at Austin Regional Travel Clinic.    That travel nurse must now assume anyone going to Tanzania is visiting Tom and Daris.  
Hall's and Hale's in Tanzania.  A grand total of 10 Austinites on the Makumira Campus that day. 

Jacque and Daris enjoying some loshoro. 

Daryl has been attending a few of my music history classes.  The students fawn over her, but I think she’s running a translating business on the side.  Later the same evening I realize she’s spending the night in the ladies' dorm—conveniently before their music history test. 
Add your own caption here...
She seemed rather proud and mentioned the numerous benefits of carrying a pillow in your pants.

The students were reminiscing about our first few classes together and reflecting all the progress they have made within the year.  The confided in me that they thought I was speaking in French during my first lecture.   I have since congratulated them on their improved English skills AND the hard-earned talent of actually understanding me.  I'm particularly pleased because they now laugh at my jokes. 

A recent karate class discussion consisted of information about how to stretch one’s limited food budget.   As the end of the academic year draws close, the students are short on money which frequently results in sharing their one meal a day with 3 or 4 roommates.   It was offered that a glass of milk could help one feel full and is an excellent way to supplement an avocado or banana which is easily found in trees around campus.  If you have the luxury of eating a plate of beans and rice, make sure you pick your teeth afterwards so that you feel like you ate meat.
Hong Kong Phooey and his side kick. 

Next year we’re hosting an exchange student from Norway that plays the French horn.    Just for the record I had stated an initial, “No” but then the rest of the family overruled my vote--which made me proud of them.    But, perhaps it is part of Tom’s ploy to keep me distracted upon our return.

Tom currently vacillates between the elation of returning home and the guilt for taking me back. 

There's no place like home.  

Obligatory photo of the famous Arusha clock tower.  Half way between Cape Town and Cairo. 

Flat tire and a helping hand from a stranger--both common events.

"As if you could kill time without injuring eternity."  ~Henry David Thoreau, "Economy," Walden, 1854

"It is not down in any map; true places never are."  ~Herman Melville

"And that's the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind."  ~Dave Barry

Still working to "Keep Africa Weird" with the help of our Austin friends,


WH Chronicle No. 1.42

June 25, 2011

There are times I hear expats say, “Oh, I don’t ever tell anyone back home—they’d never understand.”     Of course, after purging my diarrhea story in the last Chronicle, I thought better of this advice.

But the expats also say there are issues here that you all won’t perceive properly—because it is completely out of your context or you have little reference to the Tanzanian culture.    

Take for instance…circumcision…. (I’m not including any photos here, despite the potential audience appeal)

Now this fore(skin)boding event is considered an exciting rite of passage into manhood, complete with ceremonial songs, special foods and adult beverages (for those with the sharp knives).   The Tanzanians gush about this affair just as we would regale our wedding stories.  Even though it’s often casual conversation,   I’m still not completely comfortable with the discussion and often want to cross my legs when this topic comes up.   

But I notice my perceptions changing as I see a few glimpses of this culture and begin to understand why they would esteem such rituals.  Just as our military are ‘conditioned’ to an annihilation mindset, and then cautioned about ‘acting normal’ around civilians; I imagine that the men who kill lions on the Serengeti are prepared for this fierceness of nature by the traditions of their culture.  It amuses me as I continue to  discover my own preconceived notions just as if I were picking the lint from my trouser pockets.

We’re in the final stages of the semester and preparing for our big concert.  It is an exciting (read: exhausting) time with the highlight being our evening dance rehearsals for African Ensemble.  Tom drums while the kids and I dance through several hot and sweaty hours of  traditional Tanzanian music.  We laugh and joke as the leader screams, “Shake your body!”; “Second position!”; “With beauty!” over the loud pulsating drums.   The camaraderie is touching and the students work diligently to teach me—just returning the favor, I suppose. 

After vigorously dancing until 9pm or 10pm, the kids and I take a short nap and then roll out of bed for karate.  The fleeting hope of an afternoon nap enables this early morning ritual of limping to the bathroom and shaking out the body kinks before finding our way to the dojo.   After 90 minutes of Karate we are all ready to start the day and no longer pining for the comfy bedcovers, at least not until after lunch. 

After University is out, and finals are over, Tom and the kids depart for Bear Valley Music Festival via Grandmother Ritch’s house in Santa Fe.  I will travel around Tanzania to visit some of the students’ families.   Remember, most of the students are adults with children at home eagerly awaiting for their parent to return from University.   I am really excited about traveling and meeting these folks.  

  One student recommended that we take the train to his homeland.  His suggestion:
 “We definitely want to travel 2nd class on the train; because 3rd class is very crowded with no room.  In 2nd class it is fine because there are only 6 or so to a compartment.” he explained.
 “What about riding 1st class?” I inquired.
“Oh, you wouldn’t want to do that.   You would be in a compartment all by yourself and that would be very lonely.”  

Another student of ours commented on how he disliked riding the buses in Finland. 
“If you brush up against someone, they look at you.”   He remarked in a worrisome way.  

Tanzanians do not have a personal space bubble.  In fact, it is quite the opposite—similar to the backside of two magnets.  Tanzanians are attracted to personal contact.  I believe they enjoy brushing up against each other, sitting close together regardless of available space, pawing at each other, and even holding hands.  I like this, too.  So, when I get home I’ll welcome you all into my personal space bubble.   

I requested some photos of Laura’s children so I would not be shocked by their growth.  When I saw them I was more alarmed by how clean they were…    I glance over at my untamed children and become concerned about our re-entry.  Unless we audition for the musical Oliver, our personal hygiene will appear to have suffered a serious backslide—or maybe that’s a mudslide.  We will have to reacquaint ourselves with the unfamiliar smell of clean laundry.   It will take a few weeks to get the kids’ skin back to its original color.   But these things don’t really seem to matter here, because there are plenty of little kids with one flip-flop and a singular holey shirt that hasn’t resembled its original color in years.  Brand names, styles, color coordination, fashion, and body image issues are mostly non-existent compared to our homeland.    No pressure to keep up with the Jones’…

For those of you getting anxious about us coming home, we pulled out our first suitcase and packed some books and music.  Wait… shhh…I think I heard a few of you cheering.  August 18th will be lunch at Camino Real! 

From our cub reporter:
How is everybody? Are you fine? Are you sure you’re fine? Ok I know it’s almost time to come home and yes there will be some things that I am going to miss like my friends and all that stuff.
But I am really happy that I am going to see my friends back at home especially my grandparents. Oh and don’t forget the food like chips and queso and tacos and enchiladas and burritos. Ahhhhhhh! I’m making myself hungry for Mexican food! Ok enough of that talk.
I am so happy to be coming home. I only have to survive 27 more days! Anyway I will put the
mommy bear back on. Toodles!

Back to the studio:

“Don’t hit her milk; that hurts,” ~Karate instructor to two young girls sparring.  The word  ‘Milk’ is synonymous for ‘boobs’. 

If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.  ~Albert Einstein

What do nudists wear on casual Fridays?  ~Author Unknown

Reminiscing about the color white,

Cub Reporter and 'Shrewbert'

Shrewbert, the shrew, thinking of his "unfinished" business


WH Chronicle No. 1.41

June 17, 2011

I think about you all a lot. Sometimes I marvel at the beautiful skies and the huge moons and I wonder if you witness the same cosmic sensations on the other side of the world.   East Africa experienced a full lunar eclipse last Wednesday night.  We heard about it the next morning.   

Regarding sensations: I had VIOLENT diarrhea last week.   To borrow Dave Barry’s description, “the toilet needed a seatbelt “….and “NASA should have been notified for liftoff”.   I had just finished a recording session and barely made it to a safe zone before the explosion.  36 hours in bed.  And, since anything but snot is a symptom of malaria, I requested Tom to perform a home malaria test.  Now Tom is not a scientist, nor does he play one on TV, so he had to perform the test three times;  Three Bears style.   Ow!!  Not enough blood... OW!! Too much blood.... OWW!!!..just right.  It was negative and I'm back to normal.  This is the only sickness that I've had while being here; but  I can't help but wonder what rare tropical malady I would have contracted had I stayed home.

The students discovered that I was sick and made pilgrimages to our house.   They recited the advice we often give them, “drink plenty of fluids like water and juice”.  Then one student apologetically says, “I would buy you some juice, if I had any money.”    He can't even afford one $0.75 meal a day. 

Baldy found his way in through an open door to see me while sick.   He clucked in a sympathetic way, pecked the crap out of my hand and then proceeded to have hot and heavy chicken sex with a towel lying on the floor.   When he finished, he fluffed his feathers and proudly marched out, Tom shook his head and said, “That chicken ain’t right.” 

Apparently the wild dogs think this about Baldy, too.    We left the chicken coop door open and all the residents were devoured except for Baldy; the retarded chicken.   Perhaps he tried to mate with the dog and it ran off in self defense.    Since this event, Baldy has been attacking Sam and Daryl, so we decided to re-home him before he creates any mutant offspring.  His new caretakers promised not to make masala out of him, then laughed. 

A fellow Fulbrighter, studying chameleons in northeast Tanzania, ventured through our territory and bunked up at our house.   The kids still talk about the amazing nighttime adventure they had with him through the swamps of Makumira looking for creepy, crawly, scaly things to photograph.  When they arrived home 3 hours later they had a long list of creatures (genus, species) they encountered.  It was at least 2 years worth of biology all crammed into an exciting herpetological stroll. 
Photo from our cool science guy, Phillip Shirk.

Takes a special person to hide out in the wilderness and photograph these critters like supermodels. 

We put Gary on a plane home to settle his affairs before returning in September.   

So currently, no guests, no chickens, and only one cat….Daryl and Sam better mind their manners.

More seriously, our previous guests communicate to us often about how much they enjoyed Tanzania, the beauty of its culture, and how visiting here has changed their world view.  Of course, it is also an honor for us to show off our University life and introduce our friends to all the talented Tanzanian musicians.   

Speaking of talent: footage of the Collaborative Concert is now posted on a simple website for everyone to sample our efforts.   There are photos and audio files from this live concert. 
 Here’s the site:  

And if you remember my comment about emergency vehicles—well, I stand corrected.  You can clearly hear sirens during one piece, perhaps it is as Ian always warns me, “the intonation police are on their way.”

“People are very busy working in America.  Life is programmed.  There are no tea breaks.”  from a Tanzanian music student currently pursuing graduate work in the U.S. 

“I’m so poor I can’t even pay attention.” Ron Kittle, 1987

Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?” Benjamin Franklin

Shopping for soft toilet paper,