13 July 2009

HigHs and Lows...

Last week was…interesting.

On Monday, Roslyn and I went to KCMC hospital to help check in a patient from Shimbwe. We couldn't really do much because we aren't fluent in Swahili, but it was a great way to gain exposure to some of the problems in the health care system.

We met with our supervisor, Sarah, for lunch and she told us about plans for Tuesday. On Tuesday, we followed Sarah and Susie as they visited the homes of women to make sure they were going to their appointments to get screened for cervical cancer. On Wednesday, we waited for two hours in Shimbwe for a volunteer to take us on home visits. There must have been some miscommunication because he was in town the entire time. At 4pm, Roslyn and I went to a meeting in town for about an hour then headed home. On Friday, we walked up and down Shimbwe visiting the homes of more women. Overall, the week was incredibly exhausting.

On Saturday, I went shopping at a thrift market where there were many locals and headed to the weekly meeting at my professor’s house. At the meeting we had to discuss our highs and lows for the week. For some reason, I couldn’t think of any highs. But, in retrospect, I could have said that one of my highs was going to dinner with Jen and Ros’s host sisters Jackie and Glory and their house help, Uswili. Jen and Ros decided to take them out to dinner because Glory had to go back to boarding school at the end of the week. When I started to talk about my lows, I started to choke up a little. I was frustrated about not being more useful for Minjeni. All Ros and I had done in the last two weeks was write up a nutrition guide on hypertension and child nutrition. We were supposed to present the child nutrition guide at Baby Day at Shimbwe on Saturday, but we were told that we were not needed because there were enough volunteers.

My professor told me that I should learn a lesson from every experience. I know this, but it didn’t hit me at first. So, what have I learned so far from the NGO that I work with- there is a lack of structure and there are issues with sustainability. Foreigners come and take charge of the four departments, only to leave in less than a year or even a month. Our supervisor, Sarah, came to visit her friends in Kilimanjaro and fell upon an open position in the health department. Now, she is in charge of that department. She is a cool person, but I just wish she had something for us to do and knew what she was doing herself.

I think I only got frustrated because my time here is running out quickly and I want to be helpful in anyway possible.

The excitement I felt when I first came here is dissipating. And the last 2 weeks are going by very slowly. I have had too much time to think about my life (grad school, family, future endeavors, etc.) - it's quite overwhelming actually.

However, all my time has not gone to complete waste!
- I'm teaching myself Swahili.
- I'm reading President Obama's book Dreams from My Father.
- And preparing for my TA position in the fall :-).


1 week and 2 days to go….

07 July 2009

Internship: week 1.

Last Monday was the first day of my internship. Ros and I are interns for Minjeni, an NGO, which works in the rural village of Shimbwe on the slopes of Kili. We didn’t go up to Shimbwe on Monday. Instead, we stayed in town to work on our first assignment: a nutrition guide for hypertension.

On Tuesday, we went up to Shimbwe. We were on a dala dala for about 30 min and it got stuck in the mud when it tried to go up a hill. We were ill-prepared for our first day; it was raining and really cold (in the 30’s F). We walked for two hours to get to our first destination: a church on top of a hill. The “road” was very muddy and slippery. I am so glad that I wore my Tevas. The walk up was not horrible, but after 2 hrs I was really tired. Ros was gasping for air. Two interns for Minjeni are working on a project to teach the women of Shimbwe how to raise and take care of pigs. The reward: they get to keep the litter. When we reached the church we met 25 women who received more information about the pig project. The interns, one from England and the other from Sweden, had a translator tell the women about the project. The entire time, Ros and I were shivering. We could see our breaths and vapor rose from our shirts. We couldn’t help but laugh. After we left the church we went to visit the house of a woman with cervical cancer. Minjeni provided her with transport money to and from Dar to get free treatment. Sarah, our supervisor, was very glad to see that she was in better condition.

The first day in Shimbwe was incredibly stressful; it was very cold, we walked a long distance, and had to take beaten paths to get from one location to another while making a huge effort not to fall. In addition to that, Roslyn and I were falling from our Zanzibar high. Professor Stoltzfus was right about our return to Moshi from Zanzibar; she told us to be aware that we were going to have a taste of the good life, but we would return to the not-so-luxurious Moshi. On our last day in Zanzibar, I kept thinking that I was going back to NYC and had to constantly remind myself that that was not going to happen. However, I used the experiences from my first day in Shimbwe to prepare me for my next visit.

On Wednesday, we visited Minjeni’s office in Moshi. Our nutrition guide on hypertension was translated into Swahili by one of our co-workers and Roslyn and I wrote up a child nutrition guide for Baby Day at Shimbwe. We ran errands for Sarah- making copies of documents- and headed back to the office for a meeting. At the meeting we met the founder of Minjeni, Remana Aloni. She is also a nurse at Mawenzi Hospital. During the meeting she was updated on each of Minjeni’s four departments (health, economics, orphanage, and women). Ros and I work for Sarah in the Health Department. We were also introduced to many of the other volunteers- undergrad and grad students from the states, Europe, and Australia. After Remana heard updates from each department, we clapped three times.

Minjeni empowers the communities of Shimbwe in all of the aforementioned departments. The organization receives money from international donors. However, most of the money comes from membership fees. Much of the manpower comes from people who volunteer. So, I am really glad that I can be of service.

The hypertension seminar started at 11am Thursday morning. Many villagers came to get their blood pressure and BMIs checked. Ros and I also visited the Maternal and Child Health Clinic. I helped some of the mothers weigh their babies while Ros asked mothers about their infant feeding practices. Many of the babies we saw at the health clinic were very healthy and so one could assume that the mothers are receiving good care from the clinic. Only one baby was overweight. Around 1pm, we wrapped up the hypertension seminar and headed home. We decided to walk. The walk was scenic, but it took 2.5hrs to walk down 1800m.

Friday was a day to cook! We learned how to make Kiburu (a stew made with plantains and beans) and Kitololo (a stew made with spinach and flour) - two traditional Chagga dishes. Sarah took us down a treacherous hill to get to the hut of Susie, a volunteer for Minjeni. Susie’s hut is at least 6 feet by 6 feet, held together by dry mud and wood, and shielded from the rain by a piece of metal. There is only one bed for her and her two children, Forahi (which means happy in Swahili) and Erickson, and a small cooking space immediately behind the door. All of her cooking utensils and dishes are under her bed, and her apparel, shoes, and other household items hang from the walls of the hut. We helped Susie peel the plantains and sift through the beans for rocks. As the beans cooked, with the help of a translator, Susie told us her life story. Her mother and brother died before she finished primary school and a tumultuous marriage brought her back to Shimbwe from Dar.

I felt sorry about the unfortunate events that occurred in her life, but I didn’t feel sorry about her current situation; she is a member of an empowering organization, a great resource for information, and she appears (to me anyway) to be happy. Not too far from the hut was the foundation for her bigger and better home, which was funded by Minjeni. Then, I thought about how Susie’s life is a prime example of how living in a big home or having a lot of money doesn’t define success. Instead, success can be living in a state of happiness and enjoying life.

Before we ate our final products, we went to get water from a creek. Susie makes two trips every day to this creek. Getting to the creek is not a problem- it’s the return trip that is really strenuous. As I felt my thighs burn from the walk up hill, I commended her for doing this daily. The Kiburu and Kitololo were good and filling. We took group pictures and headed home. Forahi was very sad to see us go, but Ros and I told her that we would come back before we left Tanzania.

I love where I work; I feel like I am on a safari, but more importantly, I am being immersed in the Tanzanian culture. It’s so fascinating that the different settings of Shimbwe and Moshi Town are only less than 30 min apart. I go to work in the hills of Kili and come back to the paved streets of Moshi.

In the evening, the Cornell students and some volunteers from Minjeni went out to IndoItaliano. I had mutton curry off the Indian menu. This time it was cubed and very spicy =). After, Indo, we went to D’Chez for some ice cream, got to know some of the interns some more, and took a taxi home. Saturday night was incredible! We went to La Liga (a club in town). La Liga was crowded, but the music was great. There were strobe lights that make people with and without rhythm look even better on the dance floor. We danced for four hours straight!


I have more time to myself since I started my internship, but when I get home I am exhausted from hiking up and down Kilimanjaro. So, I eat dinner with the family and then go to sleep. If I’m not too tired, I write in my journal, read The End of Poverty, learn some Swahili, or watch Al Jazeera.

I miss my family (Mummy, Dempsey, Herby, and Ms. Lane), friends, and NYC (not really, but a little…).

Siku ninguine (another day)!

02 July 2009

Zanzibar is my Dar es Salaam (Haven of Peace)

Zanzibar the Majestic-

I have a lot to say so keep on if you can keep up! :-)


Fin de clase (End of class)!:

Class ended on Wednesday and it was the greatest feeling ever (not really, but it’s up there)! On Monday, my group members and I created our Power Point Presentation (PPT) for our case study, and proofread 36 pages of text. I was in charge of compiling our references, so I fine combed 5 pages to make sure they matched the citations in the text. At the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to go home and crash in my bed. The next day, three groups presented their case study PPTs. The subsequent discussions were very informing and interactive. It was evident that the students put a lot of effort into developing their case studies. On Wednesday, my group was the first to present. For some reason I was slightly nervous because we had finally reached the end and were presenting our work from the last 4 weeks. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. However, during the discussion, I was an active participant and the nerves slowly died down. After the final two presentations, we did the pasha pasha (heat). It’s a form of applause in Tanzania. You rub your hands as if you are trying to warm them up and then someone says “choma (light)” three times and you clap each time that’s said. We thanked the Cornell and KCMC professors and took a group picture in a garden in front of the compound.

Later in the day, we had an ice cream social at Deli Chez (we can’t get enough of this place). At D’Chez we sat at a long table on the roof under a red canopy. This time I ordered a banana split with 1 scoop of coffee and 2 scoops of cookies and cream. It was gone in two seconds…One of the KCMC students thanked Prof. Stoltzfus on behalf of all the TZ students. It was a very sweet moment. Then, for the next 30 min we went crazy taking pictures all over the roof. It was the last time that the KCMC and Cornell students would be with each other so we cherished the moment.

Before the sun set, I went to the Kindoroko with one of my classmates, Danielle, to meet another Cornell student volunteering in Arusha. We were there for about 20 min to play some catch up and then had to head home to get ready for our trip to Zanzibar.

When in Tanzania....go to Zanzibar (Zzb):

Before we departed for Tanzania 5 weeks ago, I thought we had 2 days off between the end of class and the beginning of our internships- leaving no time to go to Zanzibar. I was definitely mistaken; my professor told us during the first week that we had 4 days off, which changed everything. I decided that I would spend my 4 days in Zanzibar. I told Adey about my idea and she wanted to go to Dar es Salaam (the former capital, but still a bustling city). So, together, we came up with ZanziDar (1 night in Dar, 2 nights in Zzb). Fortunately, we live with the man who runs Moshi, Bwana Chuwa (aka B Chu). We told him about our plans early on and he helped us plan the trip.

As thedate drew near, we realized that there wouldn’t be enough time to spend one night in Dar; traveling from Moshi to Dar is about 8 hrs and from Dar to Zanzibar is 2hrs. So, we scratched a night in Dar from the trip and made it 3 nights in Zzb. And the fun begins…

Adey and I woke up at 5am on Thursday to get ready for our 7:30am departure on the Dar Express. We were driven in a private dala dala to the bus station. B Chu rode behind us and we said our goodbyes. Adey and I were given the contact information for the guide we would meet in Zanzibar. I had all the money for transport (roundtrip bus and ferry) and hotel accommodations while Adey had the money for our activities (city tour, trip to Prison Island, and day trip to the beach). And we were off!

All Aboard!:

The ride on the Dar Express was grrrreat! It was air-conditioned, we were given candy and drinks, the ride was very smooth and the attendant was extremely kind. I had the first seat on the bus and a perfect view of the road and the thought of going to Zanzibar was so surreal. With 8hrs ahead of me, I took pictures of the Pare (pronounced Pah-ray) Mountains on my left, read some of Jeffrey Sach’s The End of Poverty, and took short naps. We stopped twice: the first time was for a bathroom break in the brushes. That was interesting to say the least. I mean if you have to go, you have to go… The second time was at the halfway point in a town called Korogwe. There were restaurants, shops and music playing in the background. Our bus broke down, for about 20min. A tire was replaced and we were set to go.

We rolled into Dar around 3pm. Pamela, B Chu’s youngest daughter, met up with us in Dar and arranged our transport from the bus station to the harbor. The streets of Dar were crowded. It was interesting to see the metropolitan side of Tanzania. We got to the harbor about 30 min before our ferry left. I paid for our ferry tickets and said thank you and goodbye to Pamela.

I was so pumped as I boarded Super Seabus III (grandson of Super Seabus I)! Our seats were originally on the lower deck, but an attendant allowed us to sit on the upper deck. I am so glad he did, because I had so much fun on that ferry! I didn’t even sit in my seat. We stayed on the side rails taking pictures. None of us could believe that we were heading to Zanzibar and we couldn’t contain our excitement. I vaguely remember learning about Zanzibar, but I knew it was a majestic place. I envisioned a place like the setting in Dirty Dancing Havana Nights (which was actually filmed in Puerto Rico). But, I still called Zanzibar my little Cuba. After an hour and a half, we could see land in the near distance. I think I almost lost my mind (it was a good thing). We counted down as the sun set. It was a pretty awesome sight. As the ferry pulled into the harbor, I took pictures which looked exactly like the pictures in my Lonely Planet book.

[Important side note: One of the men’s track coaches, Coach Thompson, brought me Lonely Planet: Tanzania when he found out I was going to Moshi. This book has been my g-o-d! It’s incredibly helpful and I used it everyday in Zanzibar. I would be lost without it. So, thank you so much Coach Thompson!]

At 6pm, we met our guide, Iddi, at the harbor. After going through customs, we were taken to the Bandari Lodge. We were supposed to stay at Adam’s Inn, but there wasn't any running water so, Iddi changed our location last minute. We had a slight dilemma with the prices, because the switch was unexpected. However, after I called B Chu, we ironed out the problem and settled in just fine. The Bandari Lodge was the cutest hotel ever! It was more like a hostel, no frills, nothing fancy but I loved everything it had to offer. First we checked the bathroom, to make sure the water worked. There was only 1 bathroom for 11 people on our floor and it was a wet shower. We managed just fine and no one ever had to wait to use the bathroom. I shared a high ceiling room with Adey, our beds were on opposite sides with a round wooden table and two chairs in between, and a dresser and wall mirror were next to our beds. The beds had high posts and were covered with royal blue mosquito nets. When I looked out the window, I had a palm tree to my left and saw the street blending into the darkness on my right. I couldn’t wait to see Zanzibar during the day.

Many of us were hungry, so I consulted my Lonely Planet for a nice restaurant. We headed to the Old Fort, which was used by the Omani Arabs as a defense against the Portuguese. We sat underneath trees laced with Christmas lights and had good food (Hawaiian pizzas, Thai noodles, and sandwiches). As I waited for my food, I walked around with Ros and we saw the outdoor theatre, which looked more like a mini Roman Coliseum. We also visited the shops near the theatre and I was amazed at all the beautiful goods Zanzibar had to offer. The jewelry was different from the jewelry in Moshi and there was a variety of apparel. I put my excitement on hold for the next day. After we were done eating, we watched Confederation Cup match Brazil v. South Africa for about 10min and headed out. Seven of us headed to Mercury’s, named in honor of Queen’s lead vocalist Freddy Mercury, for some drinks. The restaurant was right on the water and our tables were lit up with lanterns. I was so happy! While we waited, I continued to watch the scoreless soccer match. After one hour, we headed back to the Bandari.

One busy day:

Friday was packed to capacity. The Bandari provided us with a free breakfast, which was great! I had tea, a small loaf of bread, jelly spread, and fruits. At 9am, we left the lodge for our first activity, the city tour. We met Iddi and our next guide outside of the Bandari. We walked down Darajani Street- the only street in Zanzibar with traffic lights, and two at that. There were men EVERYWHERE. I think we only saw maybe 5 women. Zanzibar is 95% Muslim. Many of the women we saw or didn’t see were hidden behind the veils of their bui-bui (cover alls). I made sure I didn’t wear shorts so as to not offend anyone. Soon we hit Darajani Market which was very lively. Vendors were selling everything from apples to scarves. Zanzibar used to be one of the spice capitals of the world. Although it’s not anymore the market still had a huge variety of spices to offer. I had never even heard of many of the spices I smelled. The stench of fish hit my nostrils as we turned the corner and walked into an open fish market. On the other side, vendors were selling so many goods under red canopies. It reminded me of a market place in Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules.

Somewhere along Darajani, we were passed onto another guide who was with a group of British tourists. We latched onto their group and began the city tour. Our first stop was St. Monica’s Hostel and the Old Slave Market. Before the Hostel was built, slaves were held in cells underground. We went into the basement and viewed the holding cells. The ceilings were extremely low and the space was really tight. Then we walked over to the Anglican Cathedral next door and visited the tombstone of Edward Steele, a missionary who translated the bible into Swahili and built the church. Outside we viewed the Slave Monuments. It was an incredible sight.

Then we walked through the inner streets of Stone Town. Women were sitting on steps talking to one another, children were running and playing games, and vendors were selling authentic artwork, jewelry, and apparel made in Zanzibar. Gizenga Street was where all the action was and I ended up buying a beautiful scarf. Dani, Adey and I lost the group, but we knew they were headed to the Africa House Hotel and we got there before they did. The hotel was gorgeous! If someone needs a suggestion for a honeymoon spot, they should go to Zanzibar and stay at the Africa House Hotel. The floor was made out of marble, there was a hookah lounge with comfy couches, cushions, and day beds, a well stacked bar, and this all led out onto the open balcony with a view of the shore. I fell in love with Zanzibar (sigh). Once our group arrived we just relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Then we went back to Gizenga.

At the end of Gizenga was our next destination, the Beit El-Ajaib (House of Wonders). It used to be the Sultan’s Palace, but is now a museum. The doors were made in India and are said to be the largest carved doors in East Africa. As soon as we walked in we saw an mtepe- a traditional Swahili sailing vessel made with out nails. I viewed exhibits on the dhow culture of the Indian Ocean, Swahili civilization and 19th century Zanzibar. The wooden steps, the tarnished floor, and the compelling atmosphere made me think that every museum in the world should be like this because you actually feel like you’ve taken a trip to the past.

It was around 12pm when we walked out of the museum. I flipped the pages of my Lonely Planet and asked, “Where should we go for lunch?” The answer: Buni’s CafĂ© located right on the beach with good and reasonably priced food. I order rice with beef curry. My beef curry came in a conch! After lunch, we headed to Prison Island for the tortoises!

We went in a small boat to get to Prison Island (Changuu Island). It was incredible; the Indian Ocean was aqua marine, the sun was shining ever so brightly, and we were all excited. We arrived in less than 30 min and couldn’t believe our eyes; there was a cliff on the other side and the sand was fine and white. We told our selves that we would go for a swim before we left. The tortoises we saw were huge! We fed and took pictures with them. Jen and I tried to pick one up, but of course they were too heavy. Before we headed for the beach, we went to the port where all the sick people arrived on the island. Prison Island didn’t hold prisoners it was used as a place to quarantine people with diseases and other contagious ailments. Once we were done taking pictures at the entry port, we went for a dip in the ocean. It was so much fun! We were sad we had to leave, but we were excited about heading to the beach the next day.

When we came back to shore, some of us headed back to the Bandari and others to Gizenga. We all met up at the Africa House Hotel for food. I didn’t eat anything at Africa because I wanted to try food at the fish market. It was there that we found out that Michael Jackson died from cardiac arrest. I received a text at 6am stating, “May the Lord rest Michael Jackson’s soul in peace” and didn’t know what had happened. But, 20min later Ms. Lane sent me a text stating, “Michael Jackson died today” and we were all shocked; MJ was the king of pop, his life was…interesting, and his death was very unexpected.

Our arrival in Zanzibar was perfect because the International Film Festival just started at the Old Fort. So for the event, the fish market is located in front of the Old Fort. Chefs were lined up all along the street and there was an array of seafood to taste: octopus, muscles, shrimp, shark, everything! I had white shark with chapati. The shark tasted just like chicken ;-). While Ros and I were in front of one table, we met this guy named Dylan. He is a Peace Corps volunteer from NY and has lived in Zanzibar for 20mo. We talked about why we were all in TZ and Zzb and what a great time we were having. Ros and I got the scoop about Zzb from Dylan-the best clubs, beaches, etc. It was great to have a local’s take on things and I was excited for the evening- club Boani.

Before we went to Boani, we went to Livingstones, named after missionary David Livingstone. The restaurant was located right on the beach and was packed: people were sitting on the steps and in the sand. There was a live band so some of us went inside to dance. I really felt like I was in Dirty Dancing Havana Nights (I love that movie by the way). Then Thriller and other MJ songs came on and everyone started dancing. You just had to be there!

Around 11pm, we took a taxi to Boani. The dance floor was on the large roof. So, we walked up the ramp and meandered our way through the crowd to the back near the swimming pool. It was interesting to see that a lot of the men here dancing with each other. They aren't homosexuals, they just enjoy the music and love to dance. The women didn't act differently than women in the states would. I just thought it was interesting that during the day, the women are very conservative and at night, it's a different story. Back to the fiesta- the music at Boani was amazing! We danced to all kinds of music. At some point we did the Macarena. At around 1:30am we decided to go home and it’s a good thing we did because this guy, who clearly had too much to drink, started to bother all the girls in the group. Specifically, he told the Black girls that we weren’t any better than him just because we were from America and he shoved some of us. Luckily, Eric (the only male in the program) was there with us. Within 10min our taxi driver came to pick us up. Oh what a great day!

Kendwa Rocks!:

Saturday was a day to shop and head to the beach. All the girls in the group hit up Gizenga. I purchased some more scarves; I haven’t seen a variety of scarves in Moshi and I couldn’t resist (well I could, but I didn’t want to). After two hours of shopping, we headed back to the Bandari to head to the beach. After thoroughly consulting Lonely P and talking to the locals, Kendwa beach was the best beach to go to. It was on the northern tip of the island and it was worth the hour to get there.

Kendwa is similar to a beach you would see in a traveler's magazine. It was breathtaking, clean, dotted with people…I was in paradise… First, we had lunch at the restaurant. I had a beef-filled chapati. Mmm mm good… When the sun came out to play we jumped in the water. The Indian Ocean was our new best friend- we just couldn’t be separated. We collected sea shells, floated on our backs, admired the sand, sun, and sky. My oh my…And before we knew it, we had to leave. On the ride back, we couldn’t stop talking about the beach and what we would do to go back.

Back at the Bandari, we freshened up and went to the fish market to get some dinner. It was very crowded because of the film festival at the Old Fort. For dinner I had fried octopus with lime. It was delicious! According to one of our guides, octopus is the local viagra. He said whenever people eat octopus, their calls will be answered during the night and they would be taken care of…interesting…! To cap our trip to Zanzibar we headed back to Mercury’s. There was a live band playing music by Enrique Iglesias, Michael Jackson, and East African musicians. We stood for a moment of silence and gave a toast to Michael Jackson. In addition, a small lantern was released into the night sky in his memory.

We danced in the restaurant and outside as it rained before we left. I had a blast! Once we got back to the Bandari, I packed a little then hit the sack.

It's so hard to say goodbye...to Zanzibar (tear) :(

On Sunday, we had to head out early for our 7:30am ferry. Paying for the hotel was a huge hassle because some people had to share beds last minute and paid in Shillings and USD. Adey and I were converting left and right to make sure the money was adding up. I was panicking because we were being rushed so we wouldn’t miss the ferry (I don’t know why because the harbor was only 2min away by foot). I am assuming we paid him the right amount because B Chu hasn’t told us that any money was missing from our stay and three of us counted and converted the money (Ros stepped in to help :-).

The ride on the ferry back to Dar was scary!! The small boat was cutting through the water at high speed and jumping through the air. I thought I wasn’t going to make it out alive. I have never been sea sick before and I felt like I was going to vomit. Women were screaming and couldn’t be calmed down by the attendants. People were vomiting left and right and we watched a bad television show. It was just horrible. The ride on the bus back to Moshi wasn’t any better. The driver kept stopping every 15min before we hit the man road to pick up stragglers and vendors. The bus was also speeding as well and only slowed down to drive over speed bumps. We were on one of the most dangerous roads in Tanzania- there aren't any lane lines, the speed limit is ignored (in town as well), and some buses don’t use headlights. When I saw that we weren’t going to get to Moshi before sunset I became worried. The ride home was scenic though; the Eastern Arc Mountains were on my left and the Pare and Usambara Mountains were on my right. To pass the time and ease our minds, we played games like telephone.

After being on the bus for 10hrs, we reached Moshi at around 9pm where B Chu picked us up at the bus station and brought everyone home. Then I watched the Confederation Cup final between Brazil and USA, which was awesome!

Coming back to Moshi after being in Zanzibar was very difficult. While I was on the beach I kept thinking that I was going to go back to New York City; I had the mentality that after a great vacation you head home, right? However, I had to remind myself that I had 4 weeks left in Moshi Town.


P.S. Zanzibar I love you!

29 June 2009

It's that unlimited kind of sense...

[Post from last week, didn't have time to put it up until now]

I just finished watching Chris Rock’s Never Scared with Adey. It was hilarious!!

What a week :-0 ! This past Saturday (20 June) marked one month in Kilimanjaro. My time here has been action packed and there is still a lot left to do.

Class work consumed a lot of my time this past week. My group members and I reviewed a lot of literature to write the stakeholder, policy issues, and policy options sections for our case study. We are so close to being done! On Friday morning, Peter (one of my group members) and I conducted our final interview for our stakeholders. Our interview was at 10am and we left at 9:15am because we were going to take a “short cut”. I wasn’t given the best directions and we ended up walking the long way. Peter and I didn’t mind walking, it was good exercise and I learned more about the health and education systems of Tanzania.

In the health system, in descending order, there are referral hospitals (like KCMC) which have more staff, specialists and high tech equipment, regional hospitals with more staff than the district, district hospitals which serve as referral hospitals in the district, health centers which issue prescriptions, STI services, repro and child health and refer difficult cases to the district, and dispensaries which deliver basic care (prescriptions to minor cases, refer difficult ones). Two of the main problems, among many, are that the referral hospitals receive too many patients from the district (the district skips the regional hospitals because the service at the regional hospital is the same if not worse) and there aren’t enough doctors. Peter told me that the number of doctors was decreasing because they weren’t getting paid enough (only 200, 000 T-Shillings (TSh)-which equals 154 USD/month). However, now the government has increased the pay to 650,000 Tsh (500 USD). So, more people are going to med school. There are only 4 med schools in Tanzania!. Peter was amazed when I told him there were around 300 med schools in the US which made me think that I should be happy about getting into med school period.

The education system is interesting as well. Children enter the school system at age seven. First they attend primary school for seven years (Standard 1 -7). They are taught in Swahili and learn some basic greetings in English in English class. After primary school, they attend secondary school (Form 1-4) where they are taught in English and have a Swahili class. If they earn good marks then they go on to Forms 5 and 6. After Standards 5 and 6, they take exams to get into university.

So, back to the interview…
We interviewed the program officer at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), an NGO in Tanzania. EGPAF has many PMTCT and CTC (Care and Treatment center for HIV/AIDS patients) programs that serve a large number of the population. We asked our interviewee about the population served, infant feeding practices observed, methods of deterring stigma about HIV, etc. The interview went really well; we learned more about EGPAF than we could from any reading.

Too much chakula (food):
Tuesday was Adey’s 21st birthday and we couldn’t do much to celebrate since the electricity went out. It went out on Wednesday as well.
So, on Thursday, we (Jen, Ros, Adey, and I) decided to go into town to celebrate. We visited the Taj Mahal again and ate food from the grill outside. One of the employees recognized us from our first time at the Taj, and suggested we try Zanzibari pizzas (meat, veggies and an egg placed in flour which is then fried). We ordered beef shish kabobs, Zanzibari pizzas (delicious!) and Passion fruit juice (a must have; it more than satisfies your thirst). After inhaling our food, we went to Deli Chez, an Indian restaurant, for ice cream. We ordered three scoops for a total of 2,000 TSh, which is better than one scoop for 1,000TSh at the Coffee Shop (tourist hot spot in town). I had one scoop of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee ice cream. I’ve never had coffee ice cream before, but it was so good! We were spared from an electricity outage (Maybe because on Tues and Wed it was out) and took a dala home.

On Friday, my classmates and I decided to go to the rooftop of the Kindoroko to just chill and get some drinks. After ordering, we took group pictures and watched the sun set. Six of us decided to go to Deli Chez for some dinner, and the other six went home. At Deli Chez, I ordered minced curry goat with white rice. While I was eating it, I wished I hadn’t ordered minced meat because it was more like soup, but I still enjoyed it. I ordered Sprite to drink and 3 scoops of coffee ice cream with chocolate syrup for dessert. As we were eating the electricity went, but the owners of D’Chez turned the generator on so we weren’t in the dark for too long. I called Bwana Chuwa to come and pick us up because the electricity was out and it was almost 9pm.

The next day, Adey, Ros, and I met up with Tfffany (another student from Cornell) who was volunteering for Cross Cultural Solutions in Boma, TZ. We had lunch with her and one of her friends at the Coffee Shop. I ordered my favorite, a crepe with eggs, bacon, and cheese. We talked about our work and plans for the remainder of our time in Tanzania. I love the Coffee Shop because the atmosphere is so laid-back and the garden setting is great. If the couches didn’t smell like cheese, I would take a nap there (LOL) - end quote Roslyn.

In the last two days, I spent over 10thou Tsh on food alone! (I need to control that…)

At 3pm we said our goodbyes and headed to our professor’s house for our weekly meeting. At the meetings we usually talk about the happenings from the past week of class, our home stays, anything and everything. It’s also a good time for us to relax and get delicious dessert (chocolate, zucchini, and pumpkin cakes). At around 5pm we headed home. Adey went to town to meet her aunt, her aunt’s sister in law and her co-worker who were visiting from their work place in Kenya.

She returned with many bags filled with Ethiopian food (Adey is Ethiopian). There were pots of chicken, rice, beef, injera (Ethiopian/Eritrean spongy unleavened bread), and much more. She was quite overwhelmed actually; she thought her aunt was just going to bring a pot of food. Her aunt told Mama Chuwa that she didn’t have to cook for the night. So, they heated up some food and we had rice with peas, eggs and beef, all wrapped in injera. The meat stews were so spicy! The spices were a bit tough on the stomach, but the dishes were amazing. The dinner was more like a celebration for Adey’s birthday; the entire thing was recorded, and many pictures were taken. It was great! Before Adey’s aunt and crew left for the evening, they gave us scarves made in Ethiopia. That was so kind of them.

On Sunday morning, they returned to say goodbye. We hugged, kissed, and took some more pictures. After they dropped me and Adey off at the classroom, they hit the road back to Kenya. Adey and I were in the classroom from 9am to 9pm working on our case studies. The final paper and Power Point were due on Wednesday so we had a lot to do!


I am excited for the upcoming week; class ends on Wednesday and I’m going to Zanzibar for 2 days and 3 nights!

Gotta go.. tu ta o nana baadaye (see you later)!

15 June 2009

I insist on living life to the fullest.

Currently, I’m watching Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on East African TV (EATV). Oh the good ‘ol days…


The end of the third week is here! It feels more like the end of three months, but the time here is going by very quickly. I am getting used to the more so daily routine of having tea and peanut butter sandwiches (sometimes fried eggs) for breakfast, going to class for six hours, coming home to watch the news and eat dinner, then going to bed. In the process, I am trying to absorb as much as I can about life in Tanzania.

The past week of class went really well. My group members and I interviewed stakeholders for our HIV and infant feeding case study.

On Tuesday, we interviewed an MPH grad student who just conducted research on HIV positive mothers in Moshi. We were supposed to meet him at 9am, but we didn’t meet up with him until 10:30. I am now fully aware of the concept of CPT (colored people time) that my friends always talk about (haha!). It’s no big deal though; I have no problem with people taking their time just as long as things get done. So, he took three of us to a small health clinic near town where I thought we would interview patients, instead we just sat in a room and interviewed him. We asked him about the differences in feeding practices he observed between rural and urban mothers, what he thought about national and local support for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs, and several other questions about infant feeding. I had a lap top with me so I typed almost everything he said. Then, the next day, we went to Uru Kyaseni, a rural health clinic located outside of MoTown on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and interviewed a midwife and pregnant mother. The ride to Uru was very bumpy as we went through narrow unpaved streets but, it was very scenic. All of our interviewees were very valuable resources for our assignment.

With a week and a half left to develop policy options and complete our project, I am very happy about my group’s work and look forward to our final presentation.

In strangers we trust? (Excerpt from reflection):

Last weekend, as I walked back from town with Roslyn, Adey and Jen, a man was walking behind us. He followed us from the roundabout off Double Rd. almost all the way to the corner of KCMC and Kilimanjaro Rd. I felt relatively safe because we were out in the open and in a group. However, in the back of my mind, I thought he might try to steal something from or grab one of us once he had the opportunity. So, Jen and I told Adey and Roslyn that we should take a break from walking with the hopes that the man would continue walking. Instead, he stopped as soon as we did. For half an hour, to no avail, we tried to figure out what he wanted and catch a dala dala the rest of the way home. Fortunately, two men driving toward town saw that we need help and told the man to leave us alone. So far in Kilimanjaro, I have not felt like I was “off balance”. Perhaps it is in the nature of this program or the home stay I was placed in, but I am comfortably on my tip toes and making the most of this unique experience.

Ni me shiba (I am full)!:

One of my classmates said, “I am never hungry in Africa!” and I laughed at her mainly because of the way she said it, but also because it’s true. I’ve heard stories from my classmates who sometimes receive two plates of food at dinner and either politely say no because they are full or eat it because they don’t want to be rude. Adey and I haven’t experienced this, but Mama is very subtle about getting us to eat more. Sometimes, after I’ve had a full plate of food, I will say “chakula kitamu sana (the food is delicious)”, but with a smile on her face she will slowly push a container of food towards me and then say “some more”. I’m not sure if that’s a question or not, but I laugh and say “sawa (okay)” as I take some more.

Bwana Chuwa explained to me that Mama makes food based on the number of people currently in the house. I assume that whatever is not eaten is used as compost since the food doesn’t last for long and cannot be reheated.

One of my classmates also pointed out to me that the meals at my home stay are very healthy. I didn’t realize that until I thought about it. Bwana Chuwa has diabetes and two weeks ago, when I first arrived, Mama was admitted to KCMC’s hospital because her blood pressure doubled. So, the meals at home reflect how aware and informed the family is about their health statuses. All of the meals I have had up are well balanced. I have never eaten so much cabbage, spinach, and cucumber (which are in rotation, haha) before. But, I’m happy to be eating healthy food with them.

Lost in translation:

So a couple of nights ago, Adey pointed out to me that Mama had a new hairstyle. Usually, she wears two pigtails, but that evening her hair was pulled back into a neat bun. I used this as an opportunity to compliment her in Swahili. During the Chaga tour, I learned how to say a female is beautiful, mbrembo. I went up to Mama and said this to her, as I turned to continue making tea, she slapped me on my shoulder. I asked her if I said something wrong and she said, “Mama, hapana (no) mbrembo”. I was pretty sure that the word meant beautiful. Adey and I asked Richard what the word meant, and he said that mbrembo shouldn’t be used for older women like Mama. According to Adey, I said Mama was “hot”. Then, everything made sense! I should’ve said mzuri which means the same thing but for older women.

I’ve learned that in Swahili certain words should be used with certain people, just like code switching in the states, but here I feel like it’s on another level. Whenever I greet someone older than me I have to say Shikamoo (a respectful greeting to the elderly) and if I’m with teenagers or young adults, I say mambo (what’s up?). If a young child is greeting me, he or she has to say Shikamoo to me. That makes me feel old! I don’t think of myself as being an elderly person to a seven year old, but that’s the way things work around here.

And another thing! Some of the words in Swahili differ by one letter and have completely different meanings. It goes unnoticed in English, but it’s extremely noticeable when learning another language and can make a big difference when someone is trying to understand what you’re saying. For example, mfugo (domestic animal) and mfuko (bag, pocket) or matango (cucumber) and matengo(basket).

Some more diffs:

I am convinced that every word in Swahili ends with a vowel. I am still searching for one that will prove me wrong. To be continued…

Men hold hands in public. It does not mean they are homosexuals; it’s just part of the culture. Oh and on that note, homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in many African countries and countries all over the world- end quote Adey.

The first day of the week is Saturday (Jumamosi).

More of a time difference, but TZ is 7hrs ahead of EST. I don’t think my mother remembers this; she called me at 3 in the morning. She asked me, “How are you, how is everything?” I said, “Mummy, I’m fine”. She thought I was catching a cold because I didn’t sound too well and I said, “No, I was just sleeping”. I told her it was 3 and her response, which made me laugh a little, was, “Oh, well it’s only 8 here”. She let me off the phone and I went back to sleep. Thanks mother…

It’s electric:

On Wednesday night as Adey and I were doing some work, the electricity unexpectedly went out. It was really late, but Mama gave us some candles and soon we went to bed. The electricity was out for almost twenty four hours when it came back on Thursday night. The last time I remember being without electricity for that long was during the blackout of ’06 in New York City (good times). Then, at dinner on Friday night, the electricity went out again. I asked Bwana Chuwa what was going on with the town’s electricity and what company was the supplier. He explained to me that the town’s electricity is powered by water. In the past, the Moshi Urban Water Company asked the residents to limit the electric output because the water reserves were low. However, now the reserves are full and sometimes over flow and he does not understand why the electricity goes out every Thursday night. Bwana lets go on a mission to find out!

My kind of Safari:

Fun fact: Safari is Kiswahili for trip. I didn’t know that when I came here; we use it so much, it’s practically English!

On Saturday, we went on a safari at Arusha National Park. It was so much fun!! We rode in open-roof vans and snapped pictures like our lives depended on it. Two of my friends and I sat on top of the roof and continuously braced ourselves for the rocky ride and the branches coming towards our faces. Our breaths were taken away when we saw the vast landscape of Tanzania. I was not able to take pictures because I was hanging on for dear life, but the image is definitely embedded in my mind. We also saw parts of Kilimanjaro’s neighbor, Mt. Meru. Clouds covered the peak of the mountain, but the sight at the base was plentiful. We saw blue, black and white, and tan Colobus monkeys, waterbuck antelopes, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, flamingos, and guinea fowl. In addition to the wild life, we saw Ngurdoto Crater. Reading about a crater does not compare to actually seeing one. It was a huge hole in the Earth! We also saw the Momella Lakes (big and small). At the end of the day we were totally spent!

I will try my best to sum up today (Sunday): Adey and I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with the family, we met older brother Venance, watched Next, Step Up, and are about to watch Dirty Dancing Havana Nights :-).


Almost done with class, then Zanzibar!

More on that later…

07 June 2009

2 weeks already!?...

The novelty of being in Tanzania has not worn off after being here for two weeks. I get giddy when I think Kilimanjaro will appear from behind the clouds, pumped for the joy rides in the dala dalas and excited about the potential goodies I might purchase in the boutiques.

In class we are working on developing the background information for our case study. This took up most of our class time last week. My group decided to do a case study on HIV positive mothers and infant feeding practices. So far, we have reviewed tons of literature and have two stakeholder interviews for the upcoming week. It's a lot of work, I'm tired, but I'm learning many things about HIV/AIDS issues in the Kilimanjaro Region through this project.

Some more samosas :-) :
As scheduled, on Thursday night, the electricity went out. However, Adey and I were occupied with making samosas. At dinner the day before, I asked Bwana Chuwa if we could have samosas for dinner sometime. He said, "Okay, tomorrow, I will have someone come over and teach the whole family how to make samosas". And boom! The deed was done- fast forward to the next day, his nephew was the chef for the evening. Adey and I helped chop and peel onions, potatoes, ginger, carrots and green peppers and mold the flour. We made about 30-something samosas by candle light and flashlight. With the samosas on the side, we had a big feast for dinner and we chowed down on the goods over Al Jazeera's replay of Obama's speech in Egypt (great speech by the way). We brought some samosas to class for tea time on Friday.

Cook out @ Anna T's:
On Friday night, the students decided to cook some Tanzanian dishes and KCMC student, Anna Temba was our host. We sat on a large blanket in her kitchen, outside her dorm, cutting veggies, rolling flour, and cleaning rice and meat. We made chipati (similar to a pancake, crepe, etc), pilau, salad, guacamole, and meat and veggie samosas (we love samosas). We had a great time and got rides home from the KCMC students.

As usual, the weekends here are very relaxing. At 10am (Sat), I went running with some of my classmates. That was the third time, during the week, I went running down the long roads of town. After that I went to town with Adey, and two other classmates, Roslyn and Jen, for food at the Taj Mahal restaurant. We laughed about our dala dala ride into town- we had to stand in uncomfortable positions in the dala and it was a very bumpy ride. After the meal, we decided to walk home.

Some sad news: the samosas we made on Thursday night were thrown out on Saturday. There is no microwave to heat up the food and according to Bwana Chuwa, they can only last for 48hrs under these conditions. Adey and I wish we had known this beforehand. Hopefully, they gave the samosas to the dogs...

Now, for today's news:
Went on another run today! I love the fact that I'm running while I am here; I won't feel guilty about not running and I'll be in shape when the season starts in August.

Currently, about to wrap up this post. I'm in the classroom checking my email and facebook, and emailing the draft of my group's background to our professor. Then, I will rush home to watch Federer upset Soderling in the French Open final (hopefully!).


I haven't experienced any discomfort while being here. Prior to leaving the states, I thought I would be living in a hut, taking bucket showers, and begging mosqitoes for mercy. But, oh contraire! I am comfortable, I feel safe, and I've taken bucket showers in the states so that wouldn't have been a problem. I am aware of my surroundings and always travel in a group. I think I will experience the most discomfort when I start my internship in a rural community up Kilimanjaro.

Kwa heri (bye) for now!

03 June 2009

It's Kili Time!

This is the first time I am blogging, so I am really excited to document the experience!

Currently, I am in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania. To be specific, I am in Moshi, which means “smoke” in Swahili. I am taking a class on policy dilemmas in global health and agriculture with Tanzanian medical students at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College (KCMC) for four weeks and will intern for an NGO for five weeks.

This journey wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my friends, my mentor, family, teachers and my Residence Hall Director (RHD). At one point during this past semester, I didn’t think this trip was going to be possible because I wasn’t sure if I could pay for the entire trip. I talked to one of my good friends at school and she told me to talk to our RHD, Mr. Glover. With his help I was able to find many resources for funding. I also want to thank the former Vice Provost of Cornell for her generosity, encouragement, and kindness and my mentor, Ms. Lane, for being a role model for the last four years, helping me prepare for the trip and just being a great person in general.


Monday was our first day of class for a 4-week course in collaboration with students and staff at KCMC. The Tanzanian students already knew who we were because they got to look at our bio sketches. So, now it was our chance to get to know them. All of them are fourth year medical students and are taking the course as an elective. They are very kind and actively participate in group discussions. Through our interactions I have learned about many cultural, social and political issues affecting the people in Tanzania.

The class is not like any other course I have taken at Cornell. It’s exceptionally interactive and hands-on. On the first day, we were placed into groups (a mix of CU and KCMC students) and had to come up with policy recommendations for our assigned case studies. In four days, after traveling for 21 hours, all the groups worked proficiently to produce great presentations. The professor said that she was very proud of our work considering the fact that we had experienced some serious jet lag and were working with new people in a different environment. I didn’t really think about how tired I felt and the fact that I didn’t know the capabilities and work ethics of my partners. All I knew is that we had to complete our work and we did a pretty good job. I learned so much about my case study with the help of my partners. I also learned more about TZ because our policy recommendations had to be implemented in a developing country and TZ was used as our reference. I look forward to the next three weeks of class.

Some notable differences b/n American and Tanzanian culture:

At 10:30am and 1:00pm it’s tea time!..like snack time in kindergarten. This is great since I need something to wake me up (class starts at 8:30am) and it’s different from a normal day at school or work. I usually have chai maziwa (milk tea) to drink and for food, so far I have had pilau (spiced rice with meat), samosa (= delicious!) or bread (it has a hint of sugar and it’s shaped like a croissant but it’s thicker).

The day starts at 6am which means that at 6am, it’s 12am and at 6pm its noon. The system depends on which language is being used. So, if someone is speaking in Swahili to me, then he/she uses that system- the day starts at 6am=12am. If the language is English, then English time is used. I haven’t used the former system yet, but I am using military time and I’ve adjusted to it pretty quickly since I started using it at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.

After secondary school (high school), the students go straight to university. I think some countries in Europe have the same system too. Why doesn’t the US do this?? I’d be in my 3rd year of med school right now…=/

In order for a man to ask a woman to be his wife, he has to get her family’s permission to be with her. Then her family will ask her if he is the one and if she says yes, then marriage is certain. After that, there is a big celebration with both families and people drink the local brew, mbege (banana beer). It tastes like light/medium beer. I arrived at my home stay just in time for the engagement party. At first, it was a bit overwhelming because it was too much at once for my first day there, but my host family is very kind and the welcome was very warm.

Home stay!:

My home stay family is great. Adey (my roommate) and I are staying with the Chuwas. Bwana (sir) Chuwa is the landlord of my professor’s house in TZ as well as several other houses and helped her find the other home stays for the program. He is also the owner of a tour company. Bwana Chuwa (I’ve gotten used to calling him that) is very involved in his community and is incredibly knowledgeable on the history of his town, country, and continent. Mama Chuwa is warm-hearted and is always working around the house. She speaks little English, but the Swahili that I’ve learned so far has helped me communicate with her. Bwana Chuwa and Mama Chuwa have seven children (2 in Norway, 1 in Czech Rep., 1 in Arusha, 1 in Dar, and 2 in Moshi- Monica and Richard). The engagement party was for Monica, she is a 4th year laboratory researcher at KCMC. She is like the older sister I never had. She’s very responsible and great to hang out with. Adey and I love her. Richard is a tour guide, he lives here intermittently- according to his dad he will disappear for about 3 weeks before he comes home. He’s cool though. There is also house help, Hadicha. She is here from the time Adey and I wake up until about 6pm. She helps with cooking, laundry and small errands around the house. She only speaks Swahili so when I talk to her I get to practice my Swahili skills.

For breakfast, Adey and I have tea and peanut butter sandwiches (Tanzanians mainly have tea for breakfast, sometimes with mandazi (fried dough), soup, or bread). For dinner, last week we had ugali (corn meal with the consistency of mashed potatoes) with meat and veggies on the side, fried ndizi (bananas), wali nyama (rice and meat), and fish from Lake Victoria. I have stepped up my vegetable intake: cabbage, carroti (carrots) and mchichi (spinach). Usually, at home and school, I don’t eat vegetables as much as I should, but here in Kili, I eat vegetables every day. ^_^

At dinner, we sit down with Bwana Chuwa, Mama Chuwa and sometimes Monica and Richard. Bwana Chuwa is given food first and after he says “Karibu (welcome)”, we start to eat. Dinner time is when we get to talk to Bwana Chuwa the most. We talk about what we did and learned at school, Tanzanian politics, President Obama- the Tanzanian President (Pres. Kikwete) met with Obama recently-, and the news that we watch while we eat. Adey and I also ask him many questions about issues in TZ and issues facing other African countries.

The days when I sat down with my family for dinner are long gone: my parents are divorced, my mother is always at work, and I’m gone for about 11 months during the year. So, I look forward to dinner.

After dinner, Adey and I either work on our school work, read, or watch the news. We usually fall asleep to the sounds of American music, the barking of the guard dogs, and the laughter and shouts of the locals at the nearby bars.

School’s out:

Adey and I go to school from 8:30am to 2pm. After class we might go to one of our friend’s houses to see what their home stay is like. A few or our classmates have bug infestations and funny stories to tell us in the morning as well as interesting bathroom “situations”. Some of our friends have squat toilets. I didn’t know what squat toilets were before I got here, so I think an explanation is needed. Squat toilet: literally a structured hole in the ground with a handle for flushing. Adey and I don’t have a squat toilet, we have a standard toilet. Also some of our friends have wet showers. Wet shower: a room containing the shower and toilet and the entire room gets wet when someone is taking a shower. So, there isn’t toilet paper in the room. Adey and I have a standing shower with a shower curtain. According to some of our classmates, we got lucky.

Adey and I do stay with one of the wealthier families in town, but there are some drawbacks. In our shower, cold water comes out of the faucet, but hot water comes out of the shower head. So, we came up with a system of collecting hot water from the shower head and mixing it with cold water from the faucet. It’s just time consuming, but we’re fine with it. Also, every Thursday the electricity goes out from 6 to 10pm. This really isn’t a drawback, instead it’s a method for the town to conserve energy. We didn’t know that on our first Thursday here, but I brought my flashlight with me (thanks Ms. Lane), we lit some candles that Monica gave us and we were fine. We went to sleep really early that night.

If we are not visiting home stays, we head to town in dala dalas (taxi cabs). The dala dalas are small reused vans with leather or cloth-covered seats and the only functioning parts are the wheels and of course the engine. The floor is almost nonexistent and the dala dala is never full. In the dalas, I am reminded that not everyone uses deodorant. But, at the speed at which the dalas cruise down the roads, the odor disperses. One time, our heads went through the roof of a dala dala because we had to stand. Speeding through Moshi, I snapped pictures of the townies, our ride in the dala, and Kilimanjaro in the distance- it was one of the best rides of my life.

Once we reach town, we shop! Our bargaining skills are improving quickly and we have made some great purchases: local hand-made bags, jewelry and artwork, dresses, and batiks (skirts). We are constantly hounded by men trying to sell us bracelets and banana-leaf artwork. Sometimes, they put us on a guilt trip: “you don’t support local artists!” There is no doubt that the work is beautiful, but we can’t please them all. If we’re not shopping, we are enjoying what Moshi has to offer us.


Moshi is a very small town located at the foot of Kilimanjaro. You can get from one end to the other in less than 30 min (walking or dala dala) and it only takes 10 min to get to and from town from where I live. The sidewalks in residential Moshi are next to nothing. Red soil demarcates street and “sidewalk”. Sometimes I am afraid that I might get hit by a car, whether I see the car coming or hear it from behind. But, I always make sure to stand on the right side of the road, so I can see the cars coming. The sidewalks in town are laced with venders cooking food, selling apparel and jewels, sewing skirts and dresses, and doing much more. There are also super markets that sell a variety of items, no different than those in the states. Near the Barclays (the bank where I am able to get $ from the ATM free of charge) there are friendly armed guards, who spend most of their time sitting and talking amongst themselves. People here are very welcoming and there seem to be no worries (Hakuna matata). However, my professor told me that there are serious consequences for acts such thievery….death (if someone yells out about something being stolen, then the thief might be killed by people in the streets).

Moshi’s soil is rich. The staple crop of Moshi, among many, is coffee (kahawa). I haven’t tried it yet, but it smells great. Another staple is bananas. They do everything with bananas here (fry them, make soup, beer-I’m sure there are other things)! The banana soup is gray and has meat in it. It’s very good.

Weekendi (weekend):

On Friday night, the CU and KCMC students went out for some Indian food at El Rancho restaurant. El Rancho makes it clear in their description that they do not serve Mexican food despite the name. We sat out on the veranda on a long table, the atmosphere was very relaxing, the food was delicioso (I had chicken buriani- chicken with red rice), the drinks were good and overall we had a great time.

On Saturday, we went on a Chaga tour. The Chaga tribe is one of 123 tribes in TZ and is most prevalent in Moshi. On our way there, the van got stuck in the mud, but with the help of the villagers, we reached our destination.

It’s located on one of the many slopes of Kilimanjaro in a town called Uru. It’s so beautiful, and entrenched with exotic flowers and wild life. Mike, Peter, and Dennis (Peter’s father) were our tour guides. On the tour Mike told us that his son was born on Election Day and that he named his son Obama (Needless to say, the Pres is huge in TZ). We visited the primary school that Peter attended when he was younger and talked to some students. The students thought that two of my friends and I were Tanzanian. One of the Tanzanian students at KCMC told me that the people here assume every Black person they see is Tanzanian. People also think that we are too proud to show that we know English. So, we told the students our ethnic backgrounds. I suppose it makes sense that they think that since they might have never left the country or heard of other countries with African Americans. After visiting the school, we stopped at a tree that was at least 100 years old that the Chaga used to heal goiters. To heal the ailment, the sick person had to sing a song and walk around the tree and tap the same spot four times. After a few days the person would be fine.

Then we went to see a 200 year old Chaga hut. It was built with twigs and branches, and the roof is made of banana leafs. Every year someone replaces the banana leaves. Inside the hut, the first thing you see is the father’s bed, across his bed cattle are kept behind a barricade. In the next compartment of the hut is the mother’s bed. The woman is also supposed to be near her kitchen, so next to her bed is the “kitchen (pots and pans, and logs for fire)”, floor space for the children who sleep on cow skin, and another barricade for condor (goats). On the second level of the hut, logs and bananas are stored (bananas, so they can get ripe). On our way to our final stop on the tour, the cave, we were shown how the Chaga use yucca leaves. They can be used as gifts after two friends argue, to mark territory, to signal when you are entering a farm with a different crop, and as writing material. Last but not least was the cave! The Chaga used the cave to hide from the Masai during civil war. We went into the cave and saw holes in the walls that were used as check points for intruders and barricades behind which the cattle were kept. The cave was 5km long. We didn’t go that far. It’s pretty amazing to know that people dug that far along the Earth for survival. Visiting the past of the Chagas was an incredibly enriching experience.

For the remainder of the evening, some friends and I had some drinks on the rooftop of the Kindoroko Hotel while we waited to see Kilimanjaro at sunset. All the clouds didn’t clear, but we were able to see the ice-capped peak, Kibo. I felt like I was on top of the world staring in awe at the “roof of Africa”. The size of the mountain is so surreal and captivating at the same time. People say, “Look, there’s the mountain”. I look at the base and think, “Wow, that’s beautiful”, but then they say, “No, it’s up there”. And when I look up above a row of clouds, I see the peak of the mountain and think “Oh, wow!!” It’s 5895m of greatness!

Sunday was a day to just CHILL! Bwana Chuwa told me that Sunday is the day for relaxation. All the shops in town are closed, no one goes to work, and people just relax. Adey and I slept in and relaxed for the day. Later, I went running with two of my classmates and hung out with some CU and KCMC students. We came back in time for our mini history lesson at dinner and then hit the sack.


There are various levels of socioeconomic status in Moshi. However, so far I get the sense that overall people seem to be generally happy.

So,…Until next time.