WH Chronicle No. 1.29

Feb 27,2011

A warm breeze sways the canopy of banana leaves and reveals a contented blue sky with some fluffy clouds.  In the distance a baby cries, then stops.  I imagine Mama scooping him up while kissing his wet, chubby, brown cheek.   It’s a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Our Ipod sings, “Sonny Boy” by Tony Bennett competing gently with the Swahili hymns wafting from the chapel.  

No gigs tonight, no worries except what’s for supper.  Perhaps some Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili?—by virtue of Mikal and Tina.  We’ll share with the neighbors, as I’m starting to believe no gift is worth having unless it's shared.    Family dinners are the norm—it’s nice.    Of course, having been been deprived of this luxury for years (because evening engagements), my appreciation has been nurtured.   

We had a spectacular adventure hiking to a waterfall at the base of Mt. Meru yesterday.  The scenery of this area rivals Hawaii.   Even though a moderately strenuous hike, the kids marched the whole way without a single piggyback ride.  It was like graduating from the diaper stage all over again.  We went with our Tanzanian students and some American study abroad students.  The fatigued Americans commented that our kids inspired their last bit of stamina.   The Tanzanians all could have carried an American student without losing their breath.

My students still occasionally reveal a few details of their lives.  I’ve been told that they usually keep their troubles to themselves and we’ll only learn a tenth of what they endure.   Tom and I help pay hospital bills, cafeteria debts, and chip in for burial fees of family members.  Our gardener’s cow died.  We had even provided for ‘Nyeusi’s’ health-care prior to her demise.  We’ll help with a new cow, as that was the family’s only source of milk for their two little boys.
Because of all of this, Tom’s decided that he, alone, is the Gross National Product of Tanzania.   I reminded him that it’s true only on Tuesday nights, after beans and rice for lunch, when he’s the RGNBP (Really Gross Natural By-Product of Tanzania).  

One student, after being enticed by hot chai and cashews, began telling me a few details of his life.  He’s Maasai.  His mother, younger brother, younger sister, and her husband all still live in a dung hut with no electricity.  His older brother does the hard labor of a miner and has yet to be paid.  His father passed away a few years ago.   When our student began working as a primary teacher he had a life-threatening bout of malaria.  At that point he vowed to obtain a higher level of education in order to assist his family and open an English school for Maasai children.  His family sold their last cow for him to attend his first year of college here.   The guilt, reality, and hardships that our students suffer continue to be a real inspiration for us and a true testament to the human spirit.

As we come to the halfway point of our time here, it’s difficult for me to conceptualize the future after our departure from Tanzania.  I think Sam, Daryl, and Tom all have visions of returning to unlimited video games, junk food, Taco Cabana, football and beer;  resulting in endless happiness.  As for me, I feel as if I’m navigating at night with my headlamp pointed backwards.  But I guess I would prefer this to a clear view of my own hamster wheel.

As we prepare for our musicians friends to come concertize in Tanzania, I think I've secured affordable housing and transportation for everyone.
I wonder if they have room service.
How do you play trombone with a 35mph headwind?  Speed bumps?  

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“The future is an opaque mirror.  Anyone who tries to look into it sees nothing but the dim outlines of an old and worried face.”  ~Jim Bishop
"Diapers are like politicians.  They both need changing regularly for the same reason."

“If I don’t get a plate of nachos soon, I’m think I’m going to die.” Daryl Hale

Enabling the burnt chili,

Top portion of the 300 ft waterfall at base of Mt. Meru

The bottom of the waterfall.

A portion of the hike to the waterfall.

Tom and Sam on the cliff above the pool. 


WH Chronicle No. 1.28

Feb 20th, 2011

What rights?

When I typed the chronologically-preceding entry we had internet, but suspiciously could not access blogger, gmail or other various websites.  When I used a different IP address to approach these sites, I was attacked by a green screen stating, “Denied by CLEAROS”.   Evidently, the University had installed a content filter denying access to all web-based email, blogs and any search containing the words ‘proxy server’.   Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for the students even turnitin.com, the anti-plagiarism website to which they submit their assignments for my class, was blocked.  

I called Randy, my super-dupervisor, and he immediately began notifying the IT department.  It appears that they were trying to limit precious bandwidth and claimed that they didn’t think CLEAROS would affect anyone, but they will address the situation.   But how did they arrive at this grossly inappropriate assumption?  Do they think that if students are accessing the internet then they are only downloading pornography, or worse, American movies?   Is there no need for students to access email, regardless of the fact that the University sends notifications via email?  As Ian always says, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….”  But bandwidth conservation smells conveniently like a duck named ‘censorship’, which treaded through a puddle of incompetence along the way.   Randy was in a less irksome state and just reminded me that the music department could possibly be two decades ahead of the rest of the University.   It appears to more of an honest mistake than I had originally imagined.  But, I realize that as a U.S. citizen, I've definitely taken my right to 'free speech' for granted.  

"You can cage the singer, but not the song."  Harry Belafonte

Missy and Laura are now safely home.   It’s been reported that they enjoyed a trip of a lifetime, despite the travel snafus described below. 

We attended Mama Maasai’s Royal Wedding—glad we were here to take part in it.  Angelika and Erwin are quite an adorable couple. 
Erwin and Angelika of "Help for Maasai" fame.

Angelika's girls (originally orphans) with a wedding gift from a guest.
Tom beautifully playing horn for the happy couple.
He also composed a wonderful love song that Angelika sang to Erwin.

Maasai Choir at the wedding.
Ed, Debra, and Daris

Feb 18th, 2011

We’ve had an explosive week in Tanzania!

I made the mistake of announcing my surprise at accomplishing all of this week’s tightly scheduled functions.   Jinx.   Six  full days  of hosting embassy and personal guests through flights, drivers, school tours, safaris, concerts, rehearsals, hotels, orphanages,  all of which managed to flow smoothly despite the tight time tolerances—and in Tanzania that is just short of miraculous.   On the last day Laura asked about confirming her International KLM flight departing Tanzania and I responded, “There’s no need because they are like clockwork.  KLM arrives each evening unless the world implodes. “   Let me just say, it’s really stupid to tempt the fates with global implosion. 

So from Zanzibar we three ladies arrived in Dar es Salaam.  I flew to Arusha, leaving Laura and Missy at the Dar es Salaam airport, and marveled again at the flawless unfolding of the week’s events.   The next morning I awoke to a text message from the U.S. Embassy Warden warning about explosions in Dar es Salaam—near the airport—all flights were cancelled.   While wondering if Laura and Missy had departed, I received a text from Laura that appeared to be composed from the beak of a wet and angry hen.   All the KLM employees in Dar es Salaam were instructed to go home, but they somehow forgot to tell the 300 passengers sleeping on the tarmac that their flight was cancelled.  Missy was now sick and puking.   Oh, we spent endless hours on congested cell phone networks trying to confirm their flight home.   I flagellated myself with the thoughts, ‘I was the one that signed up for the hardships of a developing country—not them—they are just tourists.  Why must they endure this?’ 

Turns out that the explosions were from an old armory, i.e. bomb dump, that the TZ president stated was no longer in existence.   Surprise.  Unfortunately, the rusty bomb explosion killed over 20 (mostly military) and injured many more.   There were reports of people searching for missing children in the neighborhood.  

Well, as I’m typing this, Laura coherently texts me with a calm finger to state they have arrived in Amsterdam and are comfortably on their way home.  Missy is eating some crackers, soda and is feeling better.  I’m so glad.

While in Zanzibar (prior to implosion), Laura, Missy and I had a terrific time on the beach.  We also met up with a fellow Fulbrighter from Baltimore.  She is documenting cultish phenomena on the island that includes being diagnosed with spirits and then the treatment or management of those maladies via group hypnosis therapy which includes hallucinogenic incense and free drinks.   There are several groups on the island that meet on Wednesday nights.  They are all composed of women and gay men.   Now remember, the island is 98% Muslim where alcohol and homosexually are both forbidden (more like Southern Baptist than anyone would like to admit).  Our friend was diagnosed with a spirit by a fundi (an expert in anything, we have fundi plumbers, fundi car repair, etc), and therefore invited to participate, though she must hide her cameras as not to scare the spirits.  It is said that Zanzibar is nothing as it seems—Islam is merely a fa├žade on an island full of pagan partiers. 

Last night Makumira Music Department provided entertainment for 500 international coffee growers, all of whom were enjoying a plush convention in Arusha.  The posh evening materialized into a really nice gig for our students.  During the break we were treated to food and adult beverages.  Since most of our students are older the alcohol is not an issue, but when I inquired about the drinking age of Tanzania they all burst into laughter.  Perhaps they thought it should be illegal to impose a drinking age in Tanzania; as if it were impairing one’s ability to numb the pain of living with endless corruption.  I’m not sure the point of their humor, but they finally told me that there is not a drinking age here (though, I later learned it is 18).  I think Tanzania is still several decades away from ‘Nanny-statedom’.

Perhaps it was the ‘liquid courage’ speaking, but on the drive home several of our students erupted into obscure bushland fables of ladies leaving and people perishing.   Every other phrase was in either Swahili or Maasai followed by, “I don’t know the translation for that.”    Finally, one of them clarified in a ‘direct American’ dialect and stated, “We really don’t want you to leave.” 

Though flattered, I have to say I have multiple emotional reactions to such statements.  As they bicker over who carries my backpack and who gets the pictures of our kids, part of me recognizes the dangers or downsides of being highly esteemed.  I also see the urgency in fleeing before they realize we don’t shit ice cream. 

But what the students have never had is an advocate.   I only do what my teachers did for me but it is so contrary to most Tanzanians’ University experience.  I can remember how important it is to have people believe in you, especially at times when it’s difficult to believe in yourself.  Hopefully I can offer what they need, even though I always feel just shy of skills I need to do this. 

Confession:  We’re addicted to the Bop It toy that Betsy sent us.  I currently have the high score.
Good news:  Carolyn Kendrick will be staying with us for March and April, and Lizzie will be here for the month of May!!  It is such an honor to be personally introducing our wonderful acquaintances in Tanzania to our dear friends from home. 

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.  He inspires self-distrust.  He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him.  He will have no disciple.”  ~Amos Bronson Alcott

“When you love people and have the desire to make a profound, positive impact upon the world, then you will have accomplished a meaningful life.”  Sasha Azevedo

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth”.”  ~Dan Rather

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Looking for ice cream cones,

Photos from last week's concert:
Tom assisting the 'drum corp' for the traditional dances.

Sam participating in a traditional hunting dance.

Daryl impressively executing the ladies portion of the hunting dance.

Our new shirts.
The decorations for the concert hall were from our backyard.

Daris in a traditional harvest dance.
The entrance to the Assembly Hall (abbreviated Ass Hall) serving as the performance venue.
Notice the head shots of our students lining the entrance way.  That's a first for most of them. 

Two important performers.

Men's Choir
(Only 3 women in the School of Music)

Traditional marimba piece performed in the traditional dress.
They make and tune their own instruments.

Daryl in the children's choir next to one of our lady students.

The kids sporting their new mustaches.

Tom settling in...

Sam and his new pet, the giant African land snail.


Laura, Daris, Missy

Gig at Stiggy's (aka Stigbucks)

Laura and her first night in the 'net' and Hot Wheels covers.

Laura and Missy attending our concert.
Gig for 500 people at an international coffee convention.

Until we have internet again.....


WH Chronicle No. 1.27

Feb 10, 2011

Internet and electricity have become more elusive; it is linked to the yet-to-arrive-rains.  We puzzled over announcements about rolling blackouts and learned that the majority of the power is hydroelectric.    Tom suggested that the government enjoys toying with electricity and the internet ‘Kill Switch’ just for fun—ala Enron.  Regardless of the cause, the lack of internet has really lost its charm.

Late one night, Tom had to deliver one of our sweet students to the hospital. The young man seized up suddenly and had to have his crumpled body carried down the stairs by the concerned music students.    They all piled into the car to travel with him to the hospital.  Once admitted, there was a Swahili-cloaked discussion resulting in the selection of which colleague would stay overnight with the patient. The one who had no homework due won out.
 Tom was very quiet and had a worrisome expression when he returned home. 

The next day we learned it was cerebral malaria—a relapse of a previously poorly-treated case.
No warning signs, he just keeled over, eyes rolled back in his head, like a bug in one of those morbidly twisted RAID commercials.

Then the music students frenzied with another dilemma—how to take food to their fallen comrade. Hospitals don’t provide food and water; some don’t even provide sheets or beds for everyone.  Food is brought by family, and the music students (without two shillings to rub together), were wholly dedicated to tending their sick friend.  Their altruism is inspirational.

Once I finally figured out the situation, we provided some Tanzanian food (rice and beef pilau, fruit) for hospital transport.   I accompanied the students on their pilgrimage and was happy to see a clean hospital with friendly nun- nurses.   Our patient was struggling to sit up in his bed while enduring the terrible quinine treatment, but rapidly improving.   His roommate was also a fellow University student suffering through the malaria treatments.  However, this poor guy’s friends could only manage to bring him a single cup of chai for nourishment.   That evening I packed enough beans and rice to feed the entire hospital and staff.  Of all the burdens Tanzanians endure, I’m lucky to witness just these small glimpses…but it is still enough to crack open my heart and feel unworthy of the gifts I’ve received.

Laura and Missy have arrived here from the states.  Tom and I enjoy playing ‘tour guide’, though they have hired a certified professional for their week’s safari in the Serengeti.  They also coerced me into to traveling with them to Zanzibar next Monday.

I played bassoon duets!   Seriously, with another bassoon!  Hard to believe, but there’s actually another bassoonist in Tanzania and she lives a few miles from the University.   This nice British lady works for a safari company and is absolving her mid-life crisis through lessons in bassoon and tennis.    Makes me ponder the potential elements of my mid-life crisis ---not to be limited by the sky, of course…

Tom continues to endear himself to his father-in-law as well as the rest of our families.  They all sense he’s the only major insurance towards seeing their grandchildren again.   I love it here, and  am happy to admit I’ve stalled out in the’ honeymoon stage’ of our cultural excursion. 

As we prepare for our end of semester concert on Sunday, the music students work diligently to teach me the dances.    With the biggest grins, they comment, “You fix us in music theory.  We fix you in dancing.”   

Someone commented recently, “The sense of community is so beautiful here, how do we get back to that in the states?” 
My trite answer is “hardship,” as the dangers of prosperity have become more apparent  since our time here in Tanzania. 

“Midlife crisis is that moment when you realize that your children and your clothes are about the same age.” 
William D. Tammeus

“Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.” 
Ogden Nash

Dancing in my new kanga,