Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last week we spent three nights in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) at the home of one of Tim's field assistant, Gabriel. The NCA is about 200 km west of Arusha between Lake Manyara and the Serengeti National parks and is within the Great Rift Valley. According to one website, the NCA is "composed mostly of volcanoes, mountains, craters, plains, lakes and forests and a variety of wildlife." That may all be true, but is so much more. As Gabriel would tell you, it is also home-- to roughly 66,000 Maasai.

Gabriel and his family (including Gabriel's wife and two children as well as his father, his 5 wives, and their [combined] roughly 40 children) live in the small village called Nainokanoka, home to roughly 3,000 people. There are so many things that I could say about our trip. I could talk about the village itself which, standing at 7800ft above sea level and situated among rolling "hills" just below the rim of one of the lesser known craters, Olmoti, had no paved roads, no electricity, and herds of goat roaming through the center of town; about the smell of the kerosene lantern that lit (and somewhat warmed) our bedroom at night; about watching Gabriel watching, with pride, his herd as they were milked or grazed; about morning chai (tea) which is made with black tea, half water half milk, masala spice, and LOADS of sugar (it is delicious!); or about the graciousness and generosity that was shown by Gabriel's wife (and whole family, actually) to the three of us during our stay with them.

I could talk about the quiet calm that I felt standing on the rim of Empakai Crater, where there is not a sign of civilization (save the road that brought us there); about Gabriel's three room house, and how the living room furniture- the couch, two wooden and one plastic chairs, coffee table, TV shelf and wall cabinet- nearly completely filled the room and partially blocked the doors into the two bedrooms where (in one) Gabriel and his wife and (in the other) Gabriel's two children, one nephew and one niece slept; or about the kitchen, a separate building entirely made from sticks and mud, the walls of which have been completely blackened by coal soot and which now serve as makeshift chalk boards for childrens' drawings.

Or I could talk about the children themselves who, although initially shy to the point of being scared of us (especially Eleanor), gradually warmed to our presence, and greeted us each morning with "shikamoo" as they bowed their head to meet our hand (elders touch children's heads and reply "marahaba" as a show of respect by both parties), shared their toys with Eleanor, laughed (hysterically) at Tim's amazing ability to create a wide range of sounds using just his hand and mouth, danced to his guitar jams, and posed (wild with excitement at times) for the camera.  

My thoughts and descriptions of each of these things could easily fill pages: their impressions are deep and lasting. 

Gabriel, on Olmoti Crater rim above Nainokanoka.

Hiking, under the shade of an umbrella.

Empakai Crater.

Eleanor enjoying the scenery...

..and the wind in her hair. 

Herding calves.

Practicing her herding skills.


 Ngorongoro highlands around Nainokanoka.

Highlands, take two.
With dad, and Ol Doinyo (Mount) Lengai (left).

Ol Doinyo Lengai.


Rickson, Gabriel's son.

In the kitchen doorway.
 Posing for the camera.

Boys will be boys...

...but Irene, believe it or not, was the most wild of the bunch.

Goofing around with buckets...

...and cars



The children under Gabriel's care (l to r): Irene, Rickson, Calvin, Freddie, and Glory

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Imagination not required

This past week we traveled to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the home of Tim's field assistant, Gabriel. Our preparations included finding gifts for Gabriel's family, his wife (Mama Maasai women are no longer called by their first names after they have kids, but rather become the mother of their first born), son (Rickson, aged 6), and daughter (Irene, aged 4).

Rickson was the easiest to shop for: a toy car would be just the ticket, Tim was sure (turns out he was SO right, but more on that later). For Mama Rickson we bought an umbrella, a gift that made Gabriel's eyes go wide when Tim suggested it as an option. For Irene, however, we struggled a little. Stickers or a sticker book? Cards? What about crayons? She already had some, Gabriel said, but how many? Were they good crayons; would she like ones that are higher quality? Does that really improve the coloring experience? And what about something to color on? Should be buy her a ream a plain paper? A small book of lined paper (which is all we could find)?

In the end we settled for colored pencils and the one coloring book we could find..."Copy Colour." Yes, that's really its name. I was a little appalled at the boo-, at the overt statement that there was a right way to proceed. Although are pages for coloring, imagination is not required.

Monday, April 19, 2010

what have you done with my husband?

Since arriving in Arusha, it's been interesting for me to note the considerable changes in our topics of conversation. Things that we would never talk about at home have become everyday discussions. Things like water: "Do we have it? Enough for the week?" "Do we have enough of Eleanor's water?" "Should we get some more just in case?" "You can get it for 75 shillings less per 1.5 L at Pick 'N Pay compared to Shoprite." Roads: "I think we live on the worst road in Arusha, have you seen the new crevasse near Jackie's house?" "Did you see that they added another speed hump on the Simeon road?" "This new traffic light has a different flow than the first one and it's screwing up the flow of traffic." "The road will probably be terrible after the rain last night, we better wait a few hours before going out."  And the whole of the class of insects: "Did you see the size of the moths flying in the kitchen tent last night? One of them dove right at my headlamp." "There were ants in the kitchen again today." "Have you heard the beetles and new hatching of flies around that tree in the front yard?" "Can we please open the car windows to see if we can get some of these flies to leave?" 

This afternoon, sitting in traffic, I heard Tim say to Gabriel "What kind of car is that, is that a Land Cruiser? It doesn't look like a Land cruiser." Gabriel replied that it was, in fact, the new Land Cruiser from Japan. "Wow," Tim said without a hint of sarchasm. "That's a good looking car. And look at those tires. Those are nice tires. Much better than the tires on this Duladula. Those are great tires." And after a short pause, "That's a good looking car."

I should not be surprise by Tim's response. As I said, some of the strangest topics have become regular dinner-time discussion. But this...this man gawking at an automobile in the turning lane...was not the person I married. When did he become interested in cars? And how does he know what a "good tire" looks like?

As Tim had this conersation with no one but himself, impressed over the size of the treads on the spare tires, I couldn't help but think "Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?"

Friday, April 16, 2010

When in Rome

Although you're just as likely to see women wearing jeans and a t-shirt, many women in Arusha wear the traditional kenga, a brightly colored, bold patterned cloth which is used for everything from a skirt to headwrap to a child-carrying sling. The Maasai have equally recognizable dress: red (and blue) shukas, brightly colored beads (necklaces, bracelets, anklets and earings), and, if you are a warrior, a club and/or herding stick and/or spear.

Some travelers and expats adopt traditional dress, or at least parts of it, wearing a kenga house dress or several strings of Maasai beads. Personally, I'm a little weary of assuming the native attire- mostly because it makes me feel like an impostor, like I'm trying too hard.

With Eleanor, however, it's different. She asks for her Maasai tire sandals regularly and I have no problem obliging her request.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

1 Tanzanian shilling = 0.000735 U.S. dollars

Tim's field assistant, Gabriel, was involved in a hit and run. He's fine. We can only assume that the other guy is fine-- since he was able to run. The research vehicle was not fine.

Tim and Gabriel spent no less than 10 hours at the police station, telling and retelling the story of the accident to no less than 3 different policemen. They traveled from the station to the site of the accident so that said policemen could make sketches. They bribed officers to help speed the process. They wrote letters (and included bribes) requesting copies of the "accident report", which was handed to them on wide-lined paper, handwritten in something akin to a crayon. They took pictures, and made copies of the pictures, of the damage to the vehicle. They purchases new parts, had the repairs made, and paid for the repairs out of pocket, collecting receipts along the way. The whole process took, approximately, 4 full days of work.

Then they went to the insurance company to file their claim.

Not two weeks prior to this accident, Tim renewed the car's comprehensive insurance at a cost of 700,000 Tsh. Repairs on the vehicle cost 450,000 Tsh. The insurance deductible was 400,000 Tsh, leaving 50,000 Tsh ($36.68) that Tim recovered for damages. Thus, given the exchange rate, Tim was paid roughly $4.36/hour for his efforts; and that's roughly 4 times what the house girl makes for full-time cleaning our landladies house and our apartment. How is anyone in this country meant to escape poverty that surrounds them when 1 Tanzanian shilling = 0.000735 U.S. dollars?


...the damage.

List of necessary items to file an insurance claim.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

boring blog posts

When I was in college I studies abroad in Syndey, Australia. In my 6 months there I didn't once visit the Syndey Opera House. Not once. I kept thinking "Oh, I have plenty of time. I'll get there one day," and then  before I knew it I was on the plane home. I think this is not an unusual phenomenon: you move somewhere "exotic" and it quickly becomes so familiar that such attractions, which visitors are so want of seeing, simply become part of your everyday.

I have been struggling with writing a post for several days now. I come to the computer often, open a new post window, sit down in the still of nap time with a cup of coffee, and stare at the blank screen. I wait patiently for the idea to materialize, but nothing comes. I think this is because, lately, we are just living. No visitors, no safaris, no wild animals or trips to the bush. No natural disasters or illnesses (knock wood) or accidents. We haven't even picked up our camera in weeks.

Now that she's feeling better, Eleanor is becoming more comfortable with Asina. Tim is continuing to make headway on his research agenda. I am continuing to make headway on mine. We go grocery shopping, we make coffee in the morning and dinner in the evening, we play in the yard, we read (the same) childrens' books over and over and over and over. We are just living. I suppose this is a good thing; we're feeling more comfortable here. Or are we just complacent, resigned to the status quo?

Either way, it makes for pretty boring blog posts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Illness has a new name

After a restless night's sleep, with Eleanor waking every hour, I awoke from a terrible nightmare at 8:30 am, shook Tim awake, we threw on the same clothes we were wearing the night before, and jumped into the car, just making it to the hospital for our 9:00 appointment with the pediatrician.

Getting to see the doctor is a considerable feat in and of itself. After checking in at window #1, you are sent to window #2 where you pay to see the doctor (this costs 10,000 Tsh, approximately $7.30 given today's exchange rate) and are then sent back to window #1 to return your chart to them so they can hand it to the nurses at the counter behind them who organize the list of waiting patients into some (unknown) kind of order. After seeing the doctor (which, unlike in the states, takes as long as you need to have all your questions and concerns answered- probably because (s)he is not being reimbursed for the number of patients he gets in and out the door), you are sent the the Pharmacy at window #3 where they check out what prescriptions you need, hand you a little scrap of paper on which a shilling amount is written, and send you back to window #2 where you wait in line (again), this time to pay for your prescription (each time being given a hand-written receipt), before being sent back to window #3 to pick up said prescription. All the while you are navigating through the masses of patients in the waiting room (where this all occurs...and today there were no empty seats), trying to stay cool and catch what little breeze comes through the open windows.

The doctor took one smell of Eleanor's diaper, and after hearing of Tim's symptoms (and learning of his ceasar salad meal from the afternoon before the symptoms appeared), promptly gave his diagnosis: giardia and food poisoning, for Eleanor and Tim respectively.

I must say that it's a relief to have an answer that is not "It's the weather", but it does not make having to force medicine down my daughter's throat any easier. Tim, too, is on the mend. I'm more than happy to say goodbye to our little bugs. There certainly are more important things that my family wants to get on helping dad with his dissertation research.

Goodbye giardia.

Goodbye food poisoning.

Hello dissertation research.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Welcome our fourth family member

Her name is Illness.

For those of you (and I flatter myself here) avid readers of this blog you'll know that I have not posted in a while. I was hoping that by not writing about what's been happening at the Duffey-Baird household I would not legitimate it, but it seems that I can no longer pretend Illness is not here to stay. So, I should introduce her to our family and friends.

For a week now Eleanor has been throwing up, had diarrhea, been generally sluggish and cranky and not her happy, smiley self. She has not eaten solid food in a week. Thankfully, she has not had a fever, and t his is what has saved my metal stability from totally breaking down. The staff have attributed her continued symptoms to teething and the weather. Okay. The doctor, through our text messages, as this is how we communicate most often with him, has attributed them to a virus. Okay. I just want my baby back.

Her throwing up started the day that Tim left for the bush- a planned five day, four night trip. That first 12 hours, when her symptoms were at their worst, I spend the night in the pitch black (we lost power, of course) trying to catch her puke in a bucket or blanket so that it didn't go all over the bed, which would have necessitated my sleeping in it. Over the course of the next several days her symptoms subsided somewhat (although they have not gone completely), but on the day that Tim returned from the bush I spent most of it in bed with severe nausea.

Then, last night, three days after is return home, Tim was struck with chills, cold-sweats, diarrhea and severe nausea. I wish that I was kidding. I'm not.

I'm trying not to feel like this is Africa eating us for dinner. I'm trying not to use it as an excuse to run home, screaming, to mom and dad for help. I'm trying, really hard, to find all the reasons that we are facing this challenge- all the reasons that we are going to grow and have far superior immune systems to our friends state-side. So far, I'm coming up empty...but I'm not giving up.

Grudgingly, and reluctantly, I'm welcoming Illness to the family.
- kjd