WH Chronicle No. 1.38

May 23, 2011

Speaking of termites….they taste like buttered toast…

Down the hatch...yummmm...this is good!  Fried termites are my favorite.

If you think of prawns, it makes the legs and wings seem less daunting.  
 We’re working on a recipe book…termite casserole, termite gumbo, termiteritas, etc…

We had a sad occasion this week.  One of our student’s fathers passed away.  He lived near Arusha so we all attended the funeral.   Funerals are quite different here.   We were told to arrive at 12:00pm, at which point the men, all dressed in suits, begin digging the 6 foot grave out behind the house.  The women prepare the food (that is expected to be provided by the grieving family) for the 750 attendees from the neighboring villages.  Included in this crowd are the professional mourners; people (usually women) that are paid to wail at a loud volume to demonstrate how cherished the deceased was to his community.    They wail at the sight of the casket, the body and all during the processional to the church that began around 2pm.  This was followed by everyone parading single-file through the church for the viewing of an open casket (no embalming and a week had passed; nuf said?).   For all to pay their last respects to the body is a lengthy process that takes place before the 3 hour service can begin.  We lost our resolve around 3pm and left before the service even started.   We offered the bereaved some financial assistance and returned back home to our business. 

Tenesco, the Tanzanian electric firm, announced that the entire country would spend a whole week without electricity due to grid repairs.   As you might know from Chronicle updates, the electricity is at best sporadic.   So surprisingly, when they announced a total blackout, they can’t even get that right—we’ve had power all week.    They screw up their screw ups.  I guess the worry would lie in an announcement stati  ‘new and improved’.  

As most of you know we are surrounded by our amusing artist friends.  Right now we have Gary and Liz here enjoying Tanzania and performing quintet concerts.  But on the other side of the pond we also have talented friends that should not be ignored--especially considering their art's subject matter is our beloved "Rooster".  

Casey's Creation:
Glad to know that you all are still hard at work without us around!!

"I believe talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it." Maya Angelou

"Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking."  Dave Barry



WH Chronicle No. 1.37

May 11, 2011

As we persist in navigating a foreign culture, I notice small changes in our behaviors and perspectives.  I find myself admiring the large, curvy behinds of women (every woman aspires to have a jiggling ‘watermelon’ butt) or even frequently holding on to someone’s hand in order to impart a kind word or show affection.   Daryl and Sam speak Swahili to the other kids and use Tanzanian gestures.   Tom now drives just as maniacally as any resident.  We’re all going to be slightly different when we return, and I’m not just talking about the smell. 

In the west, Sunshine represents ‘hope’ to our culture; but it’s really ‘the rains’ that embody this feeling in Africa.   Well, we’ve had a whole lotta hope lately.   Night after night of a constant drizzle interspersed with heavy downpours.  The weather is cooling down and we’re donning long sleeve shirts and sweaters.

Termites don’t like the rain—they migrate by growing wings, lighting in tasty new locations, shedding their wings, and then beginning their destruction—take for instance, our house.   In just two days they annihilated 5 of our ceiling panels leaving nothing but a sagging layer of paint between us and the attic. 


The nighttime downpour was relentless, setting into motion a small chain of unfortunate events:

The small leak in our roof
Caused the attic bucket to overflow
It crashed through the half-eaten ceiling
And termite poop fell like snow.

In my hair and on our bed
Drenching all in the dark of the night;
The electricity also happened to be out
Creating an utter and total blight.

 The kids told me you can eat termite poop
“It tastes like peanut butter!”-- they know.
So, without warm water for a shower
I decided to have breakfast to-go. 

Our house has been wonderfully full this week; full of workers replacing our ceiling, plus our sweet house guests.  The famous ‘Lizzy’ is here with us from Charleston.  We are also hosting a fellow Fulbrighter from Zanzibar who is doing a photo/video project on spirit possession: “Belief in the Invisible”.  To hear her tell the stories and explain her project halts everyone with fascination.    So, our house is normal—full of fantastic people sharing their lives with us. 

The next few weeks are dedicated to the research portion of our mission.   Eleven composers from East Africa have responded to my invitation and taken a stab at writing their music for western wind instruments.   We’ll have a woodwind quintet on campus for a week performing multiple collaborative concerts followed by a tour of the Serengeti.   Our house is beginning to vibrate with all the preparations and excitement. 

“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.”  ~Author Unknown

“Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites.” Unknown

Designing a new hair conditioner/breakfast food, "Gee, You Hair Tastes Like Termite Poop",

Sam lost something besides his marbles....
Lizzy and kids.
Susanna's here, too!
Tom's happy to have more family here!
Nathan and Sam with a friend.
Double horned chameleon that Sam spotted.


WH Chronicle No. 1.36

May 1, 2011

Ya know, there is a fine line between being considered 'amusing’ and a flat out freak show.  I think it’s safe to say we crossed that line this week. 

Now this story centers around our special-needs chicken, “Baldy”.  Baldy is a very nice first generation chicken from our hen house.  When she was a chick, she suffered a head injury (not Sam’s fault) resulting in blindness and the loss of skin on her head, hence the name.  We thought she was headed for that great coop in the sky—but the next morning she was chirping cheerfully.  She’s a testament to the true chicken spirit and has earned a special place in our hearts; and to Tom’s chagrin, in our house, too.  Baldy thinks she’s a house chicken and enters our open air house at will.  Unfortunately,  she poops at will, too.

On this particular day, the family is sitting down to lunch with our two employees, the neighbor kid, and a visiting pastor from Germany.    Enter Baldy stage left.  Right in through the front door, bumps blindly into the wall, and parades past the dining table.  Tom decides to take care of it.  Now, perhaps it was the presence of a guest, a spurt of testosterone, or just the aggravation of Baldy’s repeat offenses, but Tom does  not act the least bit congenial to Baldy.  He becomes a little heavy handed, or rather footed.  From under the dining table, I hear a loud squawk, lots of commotion, and see some feathers shoot out towards the kitchen.

 “Did you hurt that chicken?” I scream.

Baldy flees for safety to the pantry demonstrating a slight limp to everyone at the table (the Defense later claims that this is the plaintiff’s normal manner of movement) .

I’LL get the chicken!” I say, jumping up to protect the poor handicapped fowl from further injury.   Baldy makes it to the pantry, Tom’s in hot pursuit; I’m next , then we're followed by a bawling Sam.

“I’LL GET THAT CHICKEN.  I’LL GET THAT CHICKEN!  YOU GO SIT DOWN!  I’M GETTING IT!”  Tom is NOT calm.  He’s completely insane at this point—rivaling  Chevy Chase’s greatest moments in the National Lampoons Vacation movies.

Meanwhile Sam screams and hits Tom repeatedly in the butt for allegedly hurting his chicken.

I’LL get the chicken.  You are upsetting the children,“  I say at the common denominator volume level of loud.

But to no avail.  It appears to be Baldy’s last few moments on Earth (to be filmed in slo-mo for a dramatic re-enactment).  Tom stoops over and grabs her cowering, handicapped little body from the back of the pantry.  Her iridescent feathers reflect the red raging in Tom’s eyes.  At the moment one grimaces and averts their eyes, fearing the worst, Tom SMACKS his head on a pantry shelf.   His disoriented state caused him to inadvertently hand the chicken to me.  I immediately release Baldy out the front door to the safety of the African wilderness.  

Now I have to return to the table to ‘entertain’ our guests. 

I meet everyone’s wide eyes, and their faces expressed,  “I wish I hadn’t witnessed that.”  I casually comment on how good the food smells, which was the only thing said for the next 30 minutes.  Tom stayed in the pantry consoling a hysterical Sam.   The dust and feathers finally settle to the floor.

Perhaps that event, combined with the time a slightly charred squirrel rocketed out of our chimney and was chased across our dining table by Dizzy—during a dinner party, nonetheless--should enable us for some kind of award.   At least ‘News of the Weird’….

On more mundane matters, we all smell like hamsters—despite the shipments of American deodorant.   I’ve forgotten what clean clothes smell like…   Our laundry is hand-washed, is hung in the attic, and then mildews because of the rainy season.  Most of our clothes arrived  in a fresh, clean state, like us, but all have taken on an “African hue” since living here.   Soft, thirsty towels emmanating "Spring Showers" have been replaced by scratchy textiles reeking  "Hamper Rot".   The toilet has a slow leak.  For the first few months we kept barking at Sam to watch his aim.   As the leak has become less slow, we realized that it’s not Sam.  Nothing we do can keep our toilet from smelling like a Shell Station urinal without the cakes.  That my list of complaints.  Maybe all we need is a large can of Febreeze.

I think Ian was expertly contracted by family to ensure our timely arrival home.  He sent an evil video of the food at our favorite restaurant.   That’s a low blow.   I’ve gotten used to beans and rice and picking the goat hairs out of my teeth….but to tempt us with our beloved Mexican cuisine is an act worthy of  Screwtape.  Good job, Ian.

Though we already have a lunch date at this restaurant scheduled for our first day home, I’m not sure anyone is prepared to eat with us.  Recently, I surveyed our family dinner ritual to notice everyone’s elbows planted squarely on the table (at least we were at a table) and all conversing with a mouth-full of food.   At least, at that moment, Sam’s feet were not visible and the chickens were outside.   So, perhaps this is an improvement.   In Tanzania—no matter the dish—utensils are optional.   You’ll be happy to know that we haven’t forsaken our soup spoons, yet. 

Soup (term used loosely here) can be eaten out of a large coffee mug, which is the way we first (and hopefully last) experienced “Loshoro”.    This is a favorite dish amongst the Maasai.  Loshoro is a mixture of sour bananas, corn chunks and curdled milk stored in a hollowed out gourd and stirred by a charred stick.   “Wow, thank you.    That was the best loshoro I’ve ever had,” was I could squeak out while suppressing a gag reflex. 

Tom has secured all of our flights home.    Shed your sighs of relief. 

From National Lampoon's Summer Vacation:
 Well, I'll tell you something, this is no longer a vacation . . . it's a quest! It's a quest for fun! I'm gonna have fun, and you're gonna have fun! We're all gonna have so much fu**ing fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our Goddamn smiles! You'll be whistling Zip-a-dee-doo-da out of your a**holes! I've got to be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose!  ~Clark W. Griswald

“Edible, adj.:  Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.”  ~Ambrose Bierce

“Just blend in.”  ~Tom Hale, to the family while walking through a sea of Kenyans in downtown Nairobi.

Downloading the latest loshoro recipes,
Sam and Baldy.  Sam is demonstrating a new found talent with bubble gum.

Our dining room--as usual.