Sunday, May 30, 2010

cake walk

When Tim first visited Africa in 2000 he had the pleasure of experiencing malaria (twice), tick-bite fever, giardia, altitude sickness, and amoebic dysentery. Since coming to Tanzania in 2010, he has had malaria and food poisoning.

On Wednesday, one of Tim's students arrived in Arusha. He is here to learn what field work (in all its glory and...un-glory?) is all about. For 4 weeks he will follow Tim everywhere: he will experience grocery shopping and learn that getting everything requires a stop at four different stores; he will be there when Tim has to buy parts for the Suzuki and stand around with the mechanics while the car is being fixed; he will visit three different banks in an attempt to withdraw money; he will greet the askaris and house staff every morning coming to know them as familiar faces; and, most importantly, he will live at camp and observe field interviews with the Maasai.

On Thursday night Andrew (his real name is not used) excused himself from dinner a little early because he wasn't feeling well, "a little bit of an upset stomach..." he said. Since he's on malaria prophylaxis, and had not, to our knowledge, eaten anything "dangerous" we made sure he had some pepto and said goodnight.

That night I was awoken, at 1:30 am,  from a deep sleep by Tim- "Kiyah. We're going to the hospital." In the span of just 5 hours, Andrew had 13 bouts of diarrhea and had thrown up 4 times. At the hospital they had difficulty inserting the IV because his veins had collapsed from dehydration, and he fainted on their 4th or 5th attempt to get it into his hand. After one night and full day in the hospital, he was discharged and came home looking much better but "smelling like an old man (in his own words)."

All it took was two nights in Africa. Judith (our landlady) said it was a new record. Reflecting on Andrew and Tim's experiences, I couldn't help but be immensely grateful that Eleanor and I have, for the most part, escaped a similar fate (knock on wood). If I get through this year with the occasional loose stool, bloating, and weight gain that I've experienced so far I'll take it without complaint. Compared to a night in a Tanzanian hospital, those things are a cakewalk.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A family affair

We said goodbye to our first visitors this past Saturday. Terry and David (Tim's parents, for those who don't know them) were able to spend two incredible weeks with us, and we were sad, so sad, to see them go. Eleanor, especially, enjoyed having two more people around for the sole purpose of providing her with entertainment (in her opinion, at least, this is what we're all here for) and she's had to readjust to having just mom and dad around (boring).

I think the pictures provide all the description of our trip that's needed. Grammy and Grandpa Baird, thanks for an amazing visit.

Tarangire Safari Lodge and the Tarangire River.

Exploring the patio, as the only guests.


 ...and dinner after game driving.
Eleanor, Tarangire Safari Lodge.

Grammy Baird and elephants...a little too close?!

Eleanor and dad, Tarangire.

Grandpa Baird, Tarangire.

Tarangire, game driving.

Watching the elephants.

Baboons, Lake Manyara National Park.

Giraffe, Lake Manyara National Park.

Dad, Eleanor, and Lake Manyara from LM Serena Lodge.

Grammy and Grandpa Baird, Ngorongoro Crater rim.

On top of Ngorongoro Crater...

...and elephants inside.

Morning  mist on the crater rim.

Breakfast, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.

Streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Crocs in Zanzibar.

 Stone Town.

On foot safari in Stone Town.

For sale: tinga tinga paintings...

...and shoes.

Mtoni Palace.

Zanzibar door.

Beach near Mtoni Palace, Stone Town.

 Flying home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

hunter gatherer

Two of Eleanor's favorite past times include (1) getting dirty and (2) collecting things. Usually, she favors doing these two things together...and it seems that her motto is "the dirtier the better." Our yard provides a perfect place in which to accomplish these two goals, especially lately.

In addition to the several dozen coffee plants, with little beans perfect for little fingers, we have avocado, papaya, and guava trees, two tomatillo plants, squash vines, several flowering trees, canna lilies (and their seed pods), hibiscus flowers, and little white daisies. Each and everyday Eleanor makes the rounds to these plants, carefully selecting the best fruits and flowers, which she then scatters around the yard as she moves along.

Given her penchant for all things growing, we have added botanist to the long list of things we now think Eleanor may grow up to become. Also on the list, skydive instructor.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

observing the nurition transition

As someone who is interested in how diet, behavior, and environmental factors contribute to weight and weight gain, I often find myself looking at people (of all size, shapes, and ages) and wondering "I wonder what they ate for breakfast?" or "I wonder what they consider exercise?" I find myself doing this FAR less often here, with one exception.

Every Wednesday, Eleanor and I attend playgroup at the International School in Arusha. The woman that runs the preschool (for toddlers aged 3-5) opens her doors every week from 2:30-4:00: the padded mats and foam shapes are set out on the lawn under the guava trees, the swings are taken down, easels, smocks and paints set up, playdough and water stations prepared, toys spread through the (two-tiered) sandbox, and coffee and tea are set out for the adults. I love this playgroup. Love it.

It is probably not surprising that the vast majority of children that I see on a daily basis are thin or normal weight --the vast majority of the children come from families making close to pennies per day. There are exceptions to this rule, however, and three of them attend playgroup. These children, whose mothers are white Europeans and fathers are Black Tanzanian (I think that both of these women, with their husbands, run safari or travel companies), are fat. They are overweight, or technically "at risk of overweight" according to US national guidelines.

To me this is a blatant statement to the rest of the Tanzanian population of Arusha: "We are not like you. We have money. We can afford the finer things in food, lots of food." Now, to be fair it's not just these two women whose children are fat. Many of the kids I see exiting cars with blue (meaning the car belongs to someone who works for the Tribunal prosecuting the Rwandan genocide) or green (meaning the car belongs to a diplomat) license plates are also more likely to be overweight- or at least more rotund than the children of our village. I don't mean to suggest causation or even association; these are merely observations.

Although, I think my advisor would not be surprised at all-- I am merely observing the nutrition transition.
- kjd

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Waiting at the River

Two weeks ago, returning from Simanjiro, Gabriel and I had to wait at one of the bridges north of Lokisale.  Kiyah had sent me a text message the night before that Arusha was being clobbered by a storm.  She said it was in an incredible downpour with intimidating thunder and lightning.  I passed this news along to Gabriel and Isaya who remarked that it shouldn't affect our trip home the following day as the water will have passed through the riverbeds by the time we reach them. 
They were mistaken about this. 
Gabriel and I arrived at the flooded bridge around 11:30am.  By bridge I mean a concrete reinforced path in the shape of a U that lines the river bed and prevents erosion of the track.  There was one person sitting on the bank on our side of the river and two people crouched under a tree on the other side.  We pulled up to the bridge, parked, and turned off the engine.  We got out and surveyed the height and speed of the water.  You did not need to be an expert bush driver to know that it was not safe to cross.  It was a serious torrent.  You could have rafted the bridge for kicks.
I had heard a story recently of a land rover, full of people and gear that tried to cross a bridge during the strong flow following a rain event.   As they crossed, the water brushed them to the edge of the concrete and the tires slipped off.  The car flipped into the river and was carried downstream.  The people were lucky to get out and swim to shore and no one was seriously injured.  But all the gear was lost and the engine of the car needed to be totally rebuilt in addition to the considerable body work that it needed.  An incredible loss.  The following day the stream-bed was probably bone dry. 
So we sat, 50 ft. from the road that would take us home, for 4 hours, waiting for the water to subside.
 As time went by a small community of people piled up on each side of the river – largely segregated by gender as is customary.  I took a tally around 2:30pm and our number was over 130.  I was the lone whitey.  Probably ten or so vehicles on each side, mostly land rovers carrying 15 or so people each, some lories, a couple motorcycles, bikes - there were goats milling about as herd boys had come to see the gathering.  Mostly comprised of Maasai, as a group we were reasonably well armed with spears and short swords – if by some fantastical chance event our encampment had been engaged by some aggressive marauding band, we would have fared reasonably well.  As the shadows grew, people threw stones into the center of the flow to see how quickly downstream the splash would move.  Men took off their shoes, rolled up their pants and waded into the water to get a sense of how deep it was – poked at the water with their herd-sticks.  Women provided commentary which they seemed to distributed among themselves.  The sound of babbling voices and rushing water filled the air.  I fingered my guitar in the passenger seat to pass time and children came shyly but determined to the door of the land cruiser to take in me and my noise.  Gabriel and I snacked, talked, snacked, talked.  Got out of the car, walked around, got back in, tried to sleep.  It was like a delayed flight at an airport terminal, with people scattered, sitting, chatting, resolved to the situation – except we were sitting crowded into the shade beside a gushing train of water late afternoon on a beautiful sunny day.  Men placed stones on the bridge beside the water to measure it’s retreat.  On the other side of the bank, drivers invaded their storesof goods intended for villages further afield - pulled warm sodas from crates on their roofs and commerce commenced. 
At one point, a driver on the other side of the bank decided he was going to make a go for it.  He got into the car and fired it up, hurrying his passengers to the vehicle.  People on both sides of the bank perked and moved expectantly to the water’s edge to watch.  Loaded, he rolled to the water, paused… backed up as if to get a running start… then killed the engine.  Everyone groaned.  He stepped out of the car and seemed to explain to the mob that it was still too risky… seemingly uncomfortable with the attention he disappeared into the back of the crowd.  Perhaps an hour went by – maybe two.  Another young warrior hiked up his shuka and set off into the water towards the center of the bridge.  Nearly to the middle, the current piled on the upstream side of his legs soaking him above the knee, and he stopped.  A fall meant serious injury or even death – a likelihood confirmed even in Arusha with the aftermath of every major storm.  As the man headed back out of the river, Gabriel said, “I think we can go now.”  Shaken, I quickly scanned the crowd for deliberate movements, nodding heads, some indication that others we’re thinking the same thing.  Nothing.  People’s repose remained patient, fixed.  Gabriel turned the key and the sound of the engine called out to everyone – and yanked them from their distractions.  Without hesitation, Gabriel engaged the 4-wheel drive and put the vehicle into first.  But for the thundering sound of the engine as we charged toward the water – the scene was silent – I’m sure of it.  Even the birds stopped and took notice.  Huge tails of brown water, choked with the sediment of Mt Meru and its environs, were thrown up on either side of the car as we crashed into the belly of the current – and in a heartbeat – perhaps two – we were across.
Sound returned in the form of a great cheer as people threw their hands into the air and more than a few gregarious men bellowed out as if a goal had been scored.  For a moment, before everyone scurried to collect their things, to get to their seat, to get in line to cross the river, we were the center of everyone’s attention – like heroes.  I looked at Gabriel.  His face was expressionless.  “Holy shit, dude!” 
- tdb