WH Chronicle Groundhog Day 2011


Feb 2, 2011   09:30:00am  (GMT +3 Nairobi)

Happy Groundhog Day!!
As I write, Punxsutawney Phil still has a few more hours of slumber before the festivities begin…

But here, Machupa Meerkat, Seer of Seared, Beige of Beiges, Procrastinator of all Procrastinators,  arose at  07:45:31 (GMT +3) from his mound in the middle of the Serengeti.  Before poking his head out of the hole, he looked both ways to avoid being eaten by a lion.  He emerged to an expected bright and sunny day, as all days tend to be.  He calmly predicted more of the same as he suddenly dodged the arrow whizzing by his head.  At that point, he angrily marched back to his personal trailer to have a smoke,  inspect his contract for stunt double clauses, and then finish memorizing the script for this week’s ‘Meerkat Manor’.  Soap opera stars and meteorologists—who would have guessed that we’d have papparazzied rodents on two different continents?   

Seems too premature for any deep GHD reflection on our time in Tanzania--so I'll just keep tip-toeing through the puddles.

Classes and student body activities are back to what appears to be normal.   Students wait for the promises and their money so they can buy food.  The law students held seminars on conflict mitigation and the judicial system.  The older students caution the younger ones against any radical actions resulting in expulsion.  One of our music students singlehandedly promoted peaceful discussions between administration and the student population.    However, his wife was not happy to see him on the evening news featured in a sea of irate students.    He’s my hero—a real leader of people and problem solver.  He can tap his 'inner preacher' to easily inspire a crowd, maybe a nice start to what could be a terrific biography.  See?  I told you my students are amazing.

While visiting with some of the European students after the riots, they mentioned the commotion was, “just like Texas”.  I smiled and nodded in agreement.      

We are hosting our first guests this week.  Our house lady wanted to wash all the curtains. Last time the curtains were washed, they all shrunk to 3/4 the size of the windows and now no amount of yanking can hide our indecency.  If we wash them again, we might be left with only fish net guarding our privacy.  So, I told her to wash the bedding instead--at least if that shrinks, we can have new curtains. 

We are safe in Tanzania; so, I'm glad we can 'breathe easy'.  "Breaking Wind in Malawi--Read the full story. 

More seriously, as the people in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries begin to question their authoritarian regimes, and as global leaders tighten their grip on civil liberties in the western world,  there is peaceful comfort in having a garden, chickens, and the strong sense of community that we've developed here in Tanzania.  Our lives will not change drastically if there is no electricity, internet, cell phone, grocery store, or gas for cars.  I suppose that when the infrastructure is so elementary, there is not far to fall, versus our home country being a towering 'house of cards', which could be subjected to any change of wind or government mind.

AND for our 2011 Groundhog Day Music Video.  Click here for the video.

"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."  ~Voltaire

‎"Let yourself be seen because while vulnerability is at the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness; it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging and love." Dr BrenĂ© Brown - Research Professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work

Wondering if they serve beans in Malawi prisons, 


WH Chronicle Special Report

Jan 25, 2011

I experienced Tear Gas for the first time today. 

Chronicle Special Report
Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, but we have breaking news.
This just in…(adjusting ear piece and squinting face in order to hear)…..protests on Makumira Campus. 

The students are now three months without their money from the Tanzanian Loan Board.   Hunger and fainting students have sparked protests Tuesday morning.    

Just as I was happy to have internet and finish up the most recent Chronicle, I noticed crowd noise from the office window.   The students were chanting and shouting, but it appeared isolated and everyone seemed relatively calm.

I jaunted off to lower campus to teach my classes.    All of my students were already in the classroom but definitely aware of the situation.  About 20 minutes into class, we heard the protest march getting louder and closer.
Students:  “Teacher, we must not stay here.”
Daris:  “Why?”
Students:  “Because if they see us studying, they will become mad, because we are not sharing their pain.   We must leave.  The situation is not good.”

So, I did like any good teacher during a riot and passed out their homework so we could depart.

After locking up the  classroom, we meandered upstairs to the fourth floor balcony to observe all the activity.  My students were translating the chants and phrases to me.  I asked if there were any references to ‘white people’.  They laughed and assured me that there is no danger unless you are in the middle of the protest when the riot police show up---or perhaps breach riot etiquette by staying in class.

The parade made their way through campus and headed for the main highway.  The students sat down on the highway in order to stop traffic in both directions.  No better way to ‘send the message’ and have the riot police summoned.  

As predicted, we heard gun shots from the highway.  The students explained it was ‘bombs’ to disperse the crowd---their name for tear gas.   Sure enough, we saw the the crowd running towards campus and big poofs of smoke by the highway.   We viewed the event from a prime location---until the smoke started wafting our direction.  Cough, sputter, choke…chuckle…

This is the fifth University in Tanzania where this has occurred.  The Loan Board states that they’ve sent the money, and the Universities claim they haven’t received it.   Regardless of who’s telling the truth, the students lose.

Two years ago, the students were denied admission to their final exams and the University administration indicated the fault of the ‘Loan Board’.   The students blockaded campus gates and physically removed the Bursar from his office.  They took him to the bank on a public bus and the problem was temporarily resolved. 

Some of our music students ran up the stairs to seek refuge in our observation deck or ‘sky box’.  They report the brutality of the riot police.  Civil disobedience in a developing country is dangerous business.   People are not merely arrested for peaceful blockades, and violent police are considered the norm.  Protesting is not for the faint of heart in Tanzania. 

People chuckle, shrug and move on.  It happens.  It’s usually not a big deal, but just a step for the people to obtain progress.

 It reminds me of my first Texas “Tornado Warning”.    I went running around inside the house to find a safe hiding place.   Then, after more warnings than I had energy for, I realized that one needs only to stay alert and pay attention.  That’s the way the people treat this situation.  The whole time there were people wandering around as if nothing was happening…just like Dorothy. 

Thank you for tuning in….more news when it happens.

“There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy, Wizard of OZ

Not clicking my heels yet,


WH Chronicle No. 1.26

Jan 22, 2011

It’s nice to have Tom back after his adventures, though the other day, I overheard the words “Mt. Kenya” waft from his monster-mountain-climbing lips.   I guess he’s angling for the trifecta of African peaks. 

Life continues to be an exciting adventure.  There’s a surprising amount of European culture here if you can find it.  A Macedonian violinist was on tour and hired our supervisor as her accompanist.  She was performing at the ‘Usa Opera House (Ooosa Ahpara Haus) which is a private mansion modeled exactly after “Tara” from Gone with the Wind.    In typically Tanzanian fashion, all the luxurious houses and resorts are tucked away behind shanties, shacks, and farms.  I diligently followed the directions to drive down cow paths and goat trails but still managed to become stuck in the middle of somebody’s corn field.  Slightly embarrassed and glad no one was watching, I looked up and noticed an army of farmers walking toward us--all of which were packing lethal garden hoes.  Regardless, my co-pilot and I were convulsing with laughter. The farmers were not amused.  I feigned enough seriousness to ask them, “Where’s the Opera house?”---in my best, but useless, English.    That’s when all remnants of composure dissipated into the mountain air.  The idiocy had escalated beyond all measure and we struggled to control our bodily functions while writhing in an abundance of giggles.  Meanwhile the farmers continued glaring.    I suppose the ineptness they where witnessing might have left them with the impression that we were possessed  and that any invitation to an ‘opera house’ should be avoided at all costs.

I read several years ago that ego is the source of all emotional pain, and that sentiment resonates with me.   I’m happy to report that my ego receives a  daily spanking. 

Spanked by speaking Swahili, teaching music, singing in choir, dancing, drumming, shopping, driving, navigating (or lack thereof).  Of course, sticking out like a florescent beacon tends to amplify any acuteness. 

Daris :  “Pencils at the ‘Ready!’” (class giggles).    “A recitative is musically heightened speech frequently employed in operas or oratorios in order to indicate the emotional state of the character.”
Student One:  “Madam, please repeat that slowly.  Can you write it on the board, please?”
Student Two:  “What is hootened?”
Daris:  “Can you repeat the question?”
Student Two: “What is musically hootened?”
Daris: “Ohhhh, Musically heightened?  It is….”
Student Three:  “What is an opera?”
Daris: “Opera is a union of music, drama, costumes and scenery; basically a staged production with singers, orchestra, chorus all in a dramatic setting.
Student Two:  “Yes, Madam.  What is drama and scenery?”
Et al.

So, it was obvious that they  needed to see examples of  western opera.  I bring a few Youtube clips and everyone gathers around my laptop. Orfeo, Don Giovanni, and then finish with a humorous, action-packed excerpt from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera (click here). 
 But first, to explain the children’s fairy tale.   My  excitedly cheerful rendition was met with horrified looks.  Hansel and Gretel was nothing less than a true story to them.  I vainly attempted to explain there’s nothing true about it, at least by the people who wrote it and watch it, but to no avail.  They are really confused by western preoccupation with the grisly stories their lives actually resemble.    

Daris:  “Ok, moving right along….(sigh)…  Vivaldi, the red-headed priest, wrote   hundreds of baroque solo concertos (safe ground, right?).  Take for instance… The Seasons…….(voice dwindling off as I realize there are no seasons here).  Ummmm…we’ll focus on the “Spring Concerto” since spring springs eternal and there’s no such thing a winter, fall and.... (trailing off...).”  
Shwwww….tough crowd.

Computer assistance:
Daris:  “Now, when you go to the computer lab, look for this browser icon and click on it.”
Student one: “Madam, what is a click?”
Daris: “Ummmm….the mouse has a button…..”
Student One:  “Madam, a mouse? (you can see where this one is going)..  Madam, (handing me a beautifully handwritten paper) but here is my paper.  How do I submit this to the website?”
Daris: “Ummmm…..”

Of course, within one year all the students are addicted to Facebook and Youtube just like the ones back home.  It’s impressive how far these students come in just 10 months of University study. 

Civil Unrest
The kids and I were shopping downtown when we saw people assembling and screaming over loud speakers.  Since Tanzania is generally peaceful, but only 7 seconds away from mob rule, we turned and proceeded briskly into a small alley with lots of little shops (i.e. hiding places).  The kids, oblivious to any circumstances, complained about being dragged away and about me squeezing their arms too tight.   Of course, they also complain when I yank them out from in front of busses. 
Tanzanians are tired of their ineffective government.  The opposition party usually protests peacefully, but if the riot police arrive—it’s a combustive reaction.    Luckily, nothing happened the day we were in town, but the week before three people were shot by police.  We avoid crowds. 

Concert Preparations:
"Ngoma" is the word for drumming and dancing, because you don’t have one without the other.   My quiet, demure students, clad in Sunday best, suddenly transform into wild dancers once the drums begin.  Even if I put on a grass skirt, it’s all I can do to keep up with them…and then I’m sore the next day ('spanked', again).  They perform ritual dances from their home ethnic groups, such as a harvest dance or a hunting celebration dance.  When we shyly asked one of the students if she had performed this in actual celebration—we might as well have asked, “Do you breathe air?”    They grow up dancing, singing, or even more living these songs.    Even so, I understand so little.  

I visited Tengeru market.  Think Christmas shopping mayhem crossed with street carnival, Goodwill Sale and then throw in a bunch of carnies, criers and pickpockets for good measure.   Only one attempt was made to empty my pockets of their contents and I shook my finger while yelling at the guy like he was a very bad dog.  Everyone around laughed. 
Toy Isle of Tengeru Market


More Shoes

Pillows, linens.




 Photos thanks to Gabby, who got yanked around and yelled at for taking photos.  We saw one pickpocket running from his victim.  Several people commented that if he is caught, he'll be beat to a pulp if he's lucky and hopefully escape the more gruesome punishments.   It was quite an adventure. My students applauded me when I told them I went to the market for the first time. 

On the opposite end of this philosophical  spectrum, we visited a very peaceful service at a Sikh Temple.  The music was beautiful, as were the ladies’ elegant Indian fashions.   The free breakfast afterwards was not bad either.  Sikhism appears to be one of the most inclusive, welcoming religions with no evangelism.  One works to escape anger, lust, greed, attachment and ego (does spanking count as escaping?) to achieve a union with god.    There are temples that offer 24 hour free food to anyone who is hungry.  For more on Sikhism click here. 

Daryl is in heaven:
Daryl and Betti
Betti used to be scared of Daryl (or anyone with white skin), but Betti's mom told Daryl to come daily to eliminate the baby's fear.   Seems to have worked.   

Random acts of music:  this is a real clip of Ghana postal workers cancelling stamps.  You'll hear (nothing to see) why Africa is so delicious for musicians.  Click here. 

"Egoism is the aesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity."  Coach Frank Leahy of Notre Dame
"Deny Self for Self's sake."  Benjamin Franklin
"Egoism is an alphabet full of one letter."  Scottish Proverb

Lulled into a false sense of competence and happy to be abused of my notions,


WH Chronicle No. 1.25

Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro, 6:00am

January 14, 2011

Alas, no internet during the regular Chronicle publishing period, and by the time the monkey broken lines were repaired, Tom had departed for Kilimanjaro.  He’s back, and now I turn this week’s edition over to him for tales of mountaineering peril and adventure.

The Accidental Mountaineer

I got a call the second week in December from a colleague asking if I was interested in climbing Mt. Meru. This is the mountain in our backyard which we can see most every day and looks fairly tame. So, why not? We make plans, check schedules, decide the three day hike will work for pocketbooks and time schedules and depart for Arusha National Park to hike to the top. 

Let the hiking begin!

First mistake: we read, and believed, the guidebook. Not only is it more expensive (the porter's union has finally taken a stand on the unbelievably poor pay wages, but neglected to tell anyone, except the park rangers), but what they consider a nice little hike to the crater became a twenty kilometer hike uphill into a wildlife park that scared even the armed guide who was with us. Now, part of the fault is ours. We demanded the  side trip to the crater which we thought would be a nice thirty minute addition. They tried to talk us out of it saying it was too far, needed four days, cost more, etc. No, we shouted, the guidebook says... Fine. They gave us our guide and sent us off. There were many beautiful parts: trees, waterfalls, monkeys, vistas. And we walked and walked and walked. Towards the end of the hike the guide told us he had never taken anybody on this particular hike before and mentioned we should hurry because it was time for the elephants and buffalo to wander back into the crater and he was concerned.
A friendly blue monkey
Yes, that is a HUGE Ficus tree
Nice place for a picnic
Luckily, we were close to the first hut where we spent the night. We did this trip on a shoestring budget which meant packing our own cooking gear and food. Of course, we did have a porter who rode in a truck up to this point. But the meal was just as good as anything the "tourists" were eating at a third the price. We didn't have the wait staff or linen napkins and candles, but we were just as sated.
The next morning treated us to what amounted to a four hour stairmaster workout. They had even cut stairs into the path. "1000 steps," our guide assured us. We were very happy to reach the next hut. This is called Saddle Hut as it sits on a ridge between big Meru and little Meru. Hikers are given the option of climbing little Meru, a 45 minute climb, in order to acclimatize. We opted to rest, knowing we had to rise at 12 midnight to begin the final ascent to the summit of big Meru.
There was a full moon. There was wind. There were clouds. We couldn't see a thing. Of course there were headlamps and flashlights, but when you climb across a rock face, you want all appendages clinging to something because a slip might mean a fall of several hundred miles, for all we knew.
The knife ridge we climbed across at two in the morning!

On a ridge below Rhino Point. How did the come up with that name?

And we climbed. And we hiked. After three hours we stopped for a breath. "Half way there," says the guide. "I quit," says I. "Twende," says the guide. "Bulls--t," says I. "Twende," says the guide. We twended.
Around another ridge. You can see the lamps of other hikers way ahead which could possibly be the stars in the sky. But, we know better. Another ridge. Another hour. I count the tiny half steps with every three beats of my heart and two breaths I take. 
Yes, there is a top to this thing. How do you get to it?

Another ridge. The sun is coming up. Kilimanjaro's lovely head presents itself above the floor of clouds. Beautiful. We are happy. Let's go home. "Twende." says the guide. "Kiss my ass," says I. "Twende," says the guide. We twended.
Sunrise, when we quit the second time
Resting place after two hours of climbing

Nobody said anything about the last hundred yards being a rock climbing trip. You can see the flag of Tanzania up above and you hold that in your mind as you dig deeper and deeper for that last bit of energy. To climb? No, to not fall to your death!
The summit is reached. A beautiful clear morning. You can see all over the world. We sign the book, take pictures, and start back. Six kilometers up, over a thousand kilometers of vertical in six and a half hours. We spend ten minutes up there.
Ash cone in crater below the peak

Socialist Peak. At the top of Mt. Meru

The descent. If you do this hike in four days, you stop at Saddle Hut and sleep to prepare yourself for the rest of the descent. No, we were too cheap. We didn't understand. So, after having hiked to the top of Meru, we now have to get to the starting gate by closing time, six o'clock. Twenty-three kilometers, all down hill. I managed to stumble into the parking lot at 5:45, but Sara, my climbing buddy, had muscle failure and they had to send a truck to collect her about half a mile from the lot. They did let us out of the park anyway.
During the hike Sara informs me she has put a deposit down on a Kilimanjaro hike for January 10th, three weeks away. "It's a student price of $850," she informs me. Wow, I could afford that. Count me in! After the Meru climb, I don't even want to look at a mountain, much less climb one. But, alas, selective memory kicks in and that sense of adventure (and price) wins out.
Climbing Kili.
We are much more prepared. A tour company has arranged everything. They will even pick me up at the door! They tell us we can rent any equipment we might need at the entrance of the park. I spend almost thirty minutes packing all the things I think I need. "Do you have sunscreen? asks Daris. Go find the sunscreen. "What about sunglasses? Where did I put those? "You'd better have some blister bandaids." What are those? Thank the Lord above that I am married to this woman or I would be dead now.
The van arrives at 8:30am Monday morning. We drive to Marangu, hence the name of this route is the Marangu route, or Coca-cola route as it is the most popular. It can be done in five or six days. We choose five. The sixth day is to aid in acclimatization since the peak is over 19,000 feet above sea level. We think we can compensate by taking altitude sickness medicine. Sara has a big bottle of it, I have 10 pills (no, we didn't ingest all of it--at least not on the first day).
We arrive at the park entrance around 11:00am and I am taken aback by the number of people waiting to start their hike. I rent poles and a balaclava (the head gear, not the Greek dessert), meet the guide, deposit our big bags with the porters and we are set to go.
Ready to hike
 The first day is a relatively easy three hours to Mandara Hut, seven kilometers. It is through rain forest and is cool and comfortable and quite lovely with waterfalls, birds, rivers and streams. Once we reach the hut we take a side hike of thirty minutes to see a small crater called Maundi Crater. Then back to the hut for supper and early to bed. The huts sleep four so you get a chance to meet many of the hikers, if you can speak their language. The first night was a man from Korea who was teaching in Tanzania and was hiking solo. That's as far as our common ground Swahili could get us.
The next morning we are up at seven and after a hearty breakfast, we hit the trail. They encourage us to eat a lot the first three days because you lose your appetite the higher you get. But there was still a ton of food and the porters practically ran up the mountain ahead of us carrying 30kg so they could set up by the time we got to the next hut.
The second day we entered the moors. Lots of heather and scrub brush. Long views all around. Occasional peaks of Kibo and her sister Mawenzi, the two peaks that comprise the volcano of Kilimanjaro. This is a five hour hike of 13 kilometers and takes us to Horombo Hut.
Beehive of activity at Horombo Hut. Kibo in the back
This is where the six day hikers will wait an extra day with a side hike up to Zebra rocks and the base of Mawenzi then on to Kibo Hut. We, of course, are not following this plan and get up on the third day to hike to Kibo Hut. At this point we have the option of going the longer route up to Zebra rocks, which we do. It adds about an hour and a half to the hike, but we think it was worth it.
Zebra rocks? Who names this stuff?
Once at Kibo Hut, you prepare for the final ascent which begins at midnight, just like on Meru. Why? Some say it is to see the sunrise, some say the weather is better. I say it is because if you could see what you were doing you would quit and go home.
Cold. It is cold. There is no heat. There is no water. You are sharing a room with nine other nervous people trying to sleep before rising at 11:00pm and hiking straight uphill to the highest point in Africa. Everyone is comparing notes on medication. "Half a pill?" "Twice a day?" "Did you take any steroids?" "Have you had any side effects?" Does enormous amounts of gas constitute a side effect? Whew"! One of the hikers gets a bloody nose. We all know about it. Please don't let it happen to me!
11:00pm the guides come to wake us up. Apparently, we go in shifts because only four of us get up and have our cup of tea and fruit; all we are given. It is very cold. Lights are turned on and we head off. The night before, our guide has approached us and told us there will be a second guide, just in case? They have been watching us all week, gauging our strength, our stamina, our speed. The catch phrase is "Pole pole." Slowly slowly. They say that elite athletes tend to fail because they try to go too fast. Smokers have a higher success rate. All the guides and porters smoke.
The first thirty minutes are pretty simple, then it gets steeper. You can see the headlamps ahead of you. We catch up to, and pass, the first set. Sara lags behind. Now I understand. Ezron, our guide, and I mush on. The next set of lights gets closer; a group of 15 Polish hikers. We pass them. Now a small cluster of four or five lights ahead and above us. We pass the 5000 meter marker. Just 700 more to go. Switchback after switchback. A brief pause to get my heart rate back in the two hundreds. Then twended. The last group of lights stopped for a break. We pass them. Now it is only us and darkness above. We trudge on. More switchbacks. There is a spot of slippery scree which I dread walking over again and again. Another pause for water. I have no idea how long or how far we have gone. At one point we stop so Ezron can have cigarette. He is feeling sleepy, he says. I fear I will have a heart attack. "Please don't let me die on this cold mountain."
A couple of years ago a man with no legs had pedaled a three wheeler bike a third of the way up this slope. He then died. There is a cross marking his passing.  
We now make it to the rocks and boulders. Still switchbacking, but over rocks. You can see the rim of the top, but it never seems to get closer. Kenya is visible to the north; Tanzania to the south. The stars are huge. Venus makes her entrance followed soon by Mars. There is a thunderstorm way to the south. We climb ever up, ever on. Ezron takes a break to go do his business behind some rocks. Geez, how much poop have I stepped in?
4:45am We reach Gilman's Point. This is the entrance on the eastern most edge of the crater. Once here you are assured of reaching Uhuru Peak, they say. I thought there would be picnic tables and port-a-potties and such, but no, just a bunch of rocks and trash, vomit, and poop (none of which belonged to me). Pause for five minutes and we are off. "Two more hours," says Ezron. "Great,"says me.
Crossing around the southern rim of the crater you walk across ice and snow and rocks and gravel. "Watch out, it's slippery. It is a long way down." Really? I can barely see my hand in front of my face. Halfway around we reach Stella Point which is the summit point for another route, the Machame or "whiskey" route. There are already people coming up. A Russian group of 10 or more and a smaller group of four Frenchmen. They are enjoying hot chai and biscuits. We pause and have a swig of...ice. The bottle is mostly frozen. It has been in my coat. We keep going. Just a little longer. The sky is getting lighter. We see our first glacier, then the second. We can see the top. At 6:00am, six hours after leaving camp, we reach Uhuru peak, the rooftop of Africa.
Ezron and I at the summit

Sunrise above Mawenzi, from Uhuru Peak

The Helms Glacier below Uhuru Peak

"We leave in five minutes," says Ezron when we arrive. I certainly understand, the place looks like Central Park in summer and getting more crowded by the minute! Not to mention it is probably -10 degrees. So a few quick snapshots including a great picture of me in warrior pose in front of the sign that Ezron took. Well, was supposed to have taken. Great guide, crappy photographer.
Sara at the top at 7:00. Imagine her with a mustache and goatee and it could be me!
Going down is cake. We pass everyone coming up shouting words of encouragement, high fiving some. There is a huge bottleneck at Gilman's Point. A sixty-five year old man has given up. "My hip joints just can't take it anymore." Everyone cheers a grandmother who finally reaches the point. We keep moving. You would think Ezron was on fire, the speed with which he ran down the mountain. Literally, ran. Jumping in the scree, straight down, no zigzagging. Felt almost like skiing. Took us two hours to get down.
Once back at the camp, I am given juice and told to rest, take a nap, until the others get back and we can pack up and go back down to Horombo Hut. Being the first one down, this gives me a three hour nap. We leave Kibo Hut at about 12:15 for the ten kilometer hike back to the hut. This time we go the shorter route and I am very glad we opted for the longer route going, because there just wasn't a lot of beauty on this hike. Very moonscape-ish. Arriving at Horombo around 3:00, we have a cup of tea, then wait until 5:00 for an early supper then into bed for a twelve hour rest.
Last day. Up at 7:00. Breakfast. Pack. Start down. It's amazing how quickly you want to walk when just days before you were trudging this same path with doubts and pains and anxieties. It goes quickly as you recall the whole experience. We arrive back at the entrance around 12:15. Exhausted. Elated. Ready for a shower.
Some side notes: Abramowitz, the Russian millionaire, brought a party of six hikers, hired two hundred porters, and did not summit. There was a "climb for cancer" which included 77 people and all their guides and porters. They say the average is about 85% success. I felt great the whole time. I don't know if it was the medication, preparedness, or ignorance, but I made it.  

"Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngaje Ngai', the House of God. Close to the western summit there is a dried and frozen carcas of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude." 
 Ernest Hemingway

"What I learned [from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro] was this: that I had defined myself as a person who didn't like heights or cold, a person who didn't like to be dirty, a person who didn't like physical exertion or discomfort. And here I had spent five days cold, dirty, and exhausted; I had lost twenty pounds; and I had had a wonderful experience.
I realized then that I had defined myself too narrowly.
...I had always secretly defined myself as a physically weak and somewhat sickly person. After climbing Kilimanjaro, I had to acknowledge that I was mentally and physically tough. I was forced to redefine myself. Climbing the mountain was the hardest thing I had ever done, physically, in my life, but I had done it (p. 168)."
Crichton, M. (1988). Travels. New York: Ballantine Books.

With nothing more to prove (today),

PS Ian, Daris told me that since I failed to get my photo with the Uhuru Peak sign I had to go back up with you.


WH Chronicle No. 1.24

Jan 1, 2011

Happy New Year! 

Since our last visit, there has been a significant gap in electricity, internet and communication.  So we'll have to get you caught up on our African activities.

Tom and I taught through Dec 22 which was the last day of internet service and reliable electricity as the campus closed down for the holidays.  Christmas morning, Daryl awoke at 4am, prodded Sammy out of bed, and spent the next 2 hours rousing their hibernating-bear parents.  We then engaged in a mail-opening extravaganza.   Thanks to our thoughtful friends and family,  Santa can breathe a sigh of relief for another year.  After a small nap, we hosted a lunch for the music students stranded here for lack of travel funds.  They were very grateful for the meal and loved our Mexican casserole.

The next day, our 15th wedding anniversary, we packed up the rattle trap (unsafe even in ‘Park’),  flipped off all the house light switches--just in case the power came on, and drove to the sleepy little beach town of Pangani (“Only 6 hours away!” Daryl exclamed).  Our banda on the beach was slightly reminiscent of Gilligan’s Island, complete with plumbing engineered by the Professor or maybe Gilligan. 

Pangani is considered by some historians to be the city of “Rhapta” referred to by 1st century Ptolemy, because of a reference to the islands and the Pangani River headwaters beginning at Mt. Kilimanjaro. 
Typical fishing boat. Fishermen are in the water "squidding."

Riding in a dhow to go snorkeling on the reef.

Birds at Maziwe Island--an island from the Far Side Cartoons, minus the palm tree.

Another typical fisherman's boat, without the clothes line.

Giant clam shell fossil--big enough to hold Sam and Daryl.

Baby seastar from a tidal pool.  

It's good to know a little Swahili and to have 200Tsh if you need to visit the restroom.
Crocodile we saw on a river boat cruise--he's the size of a hot dog bun.

Fresh coconut, anyone?

...notice the pinwheel made of coconut fronds.

Henna decorations.

Distant rocks formed, according to legend, by two women who were turned to stone for disobeying an ancient law forbidding ocean activities one day out of the year. She had to have her hair washed. One beach goer commented that he had been to the rocks and thought the legend might not be true. 

Small town on the highway...notice the guy on the bicycle.
Sausage Tree with 10lb 'sausages'.

Our time at the beach made me feel like I was lost in a youthful time of summer camp.  The kids were curious and adventurous enough to enjoy snorkeling, chasing crabs, dodging jellyfish and hunting giant clam fossils.  The fun we shared was intoxicating and I can’t help but think I'm living an unrequited existence while betrothed to a reality back home.    

Sam said he saw a jellyfish with its "testicles" hanging down. 

On the way home we were stopped by several policemen looking for ‘chai money’.  Tanzanians are rather compassionate and lenient toward the behavior of police and security guards.  We’ve heard them make  numerous comments about these workers’ poor wages and living conditions and are therefore deserving of ‘tips’ or naps while on duty.  

A joke that sums up the corruption in Tanzania:
The Tanzanian Minister of Roads visits a wealthy Highway Contractor in the states.  He was impressed with the opulent residence and inquired how he had accumulated so much.  The contractor pulled back the window drapes and said, "See that 6 lane highway?"  The Minister replied, "I only see 4 lanes."  And the contractor asserted, "Precisely!". 
A few years later the American contractor came to visit the Tanzanian Minister of Roads, who had amassed a significant amount of land, money, and a palace for his family.  When the contractor asked how the Minister did this, the Minister pulled back the drapes and said, "See that 12 lane highway?"  
At this point, anyone who's even been to Tanzania bursts out laughing, because the best roads are just two lanes, the worst roads make dry creek beds look preferable even to the goats.   

Tom still owes you a story about climbing Mt. Meru; but since his selective memory is better than most, he's already planned a trip to climb Kilimanjaro next week. Both tales will follow.  

For those of you keeping current, you have been regularly updated on Mr. Twinkie's vocal progress.  Well, he is now the loudest and most annoying rooster on campus.  We've about decided that when his plumage is in full bloom we should have him turned into a mantle piece.  Click here for a sample of his talents.

"A real friend is someone who takes a winter vacation on a sun-drenched beach and does not send a card." Farmer's Almanac 

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world."  Ada Louise Huxtable  

"A life without love is like a year without summer."  Swedish Proverb

Saving the sand from my crevices,

Spiny Orbweaver in our backyard.