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.