Wednesday, June 30, 2010

kicking ass

I spend a lot of time writing about Eleanor, and Africa, and Eleanor in Africa. I spend far less time than I should- FAR LESS TIME- writing about my husband, Tim. Do you remember him? In case everyone forgot, Tim is the reason we find ourselves in Tanzania; he is here doing field work/data collection for his dissertation. And right now, he's kicking ass.

"What does it mean to be kicking ass at doing your field work?" It's a fair question, and one that until only recently I wouldn't have been able to answer myself. To start, he's doing his field work in Africa. I know you know this, but think about trying to conduct research under the same conditions I write about just living in. Today, for example, is a prep day for their trip to the field (leaving tomorrow morning). Tim has already left the house (9 am) and his day will go something like this: get a new car battery for our [personal] Suzuki (it died last night) then bring it back home and install it; go grocery shopping- which means planning and purchasing enough food to feed 7 people three meals a day for 4 and a half days (this includes planning for the right amount of fresh vegetables and packaged dried goods as well as planning for the timing of meat that will be consumed, i.e. what needs to be frozen, what needs to be cold, and when are there markets so that fresh meat can be purchased); buying car parts for the Land Cruiser which needs to be serviced today (this will involve at least two, but probably more, stops at different stores); finding an ATM with money so he can pay salaries; picking up his advisor from the airport (who is flying in from Dar es Salaam today); getting Gabriel once he arrives in Arusha so he can take the car to the mechanic to have it serviced, and then waiting while the car is serviced; putting all the food into the store room and making sure that everything is in order there; getting water (this means taking 5 or so huge jerrycans down the street to a woman who mans a hose running out of the ground, where these cans are filled with water used for cooking and cleaning at camp). Then he needs to come home, pack, and have dinner with two colleagues- both of whom dominate discussion so completely that I can guarantee Tim will say little more than a few sentences.Whew. And that's just what he has to do to GET out to camp.

Tim is responsible for 5 employees. He maintains a schedule and involves each of them in the creation of this schedule to make sure that they are comfortable with it. He keeps them fed, paid, and busy while at work. He maintains good rapport and keeps them laughing. He does not waste their time, asks that they do not waste his, and shows respect for their continued and considerable effort to helping to get his work done. These are no small feats; and aspects of field work that previous students have not been able to accomplish. He is exceedingly organized, detailed, and diligent- each and every day.

He has been asked to work on research proposals by two different colleagues, asked to serve as a handling editor for a top journal, and complimented (numerous times) by an advisor on the quality and novelty of his research questions, hypotheses, and the general direction that his research is headed. He successfully brought a UNC undergraduate to Arusha for a month and during that time managed to have some of his most productive trips to the field to date.

In addition to all of these things, he continues to be a fantastic husband and father, making sure that his family (and overly sensitive wife especially) are cared for, safe, healthy, and happy.He remains thoughtful to our (mine and Eleanor's) experiences in Arusha, both while he is here with us and while he is away. Plus, he gave me a gift certificate for an hour-long massage at a salon for Mother's Day. And that counts big.

In short, he is kicking ass. I could not do what he is doing- at least not with the grace and thoughtfulness with which he does it. I am immensely proud of him, and it's about time I shared that with everyone.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

more about food

Several of my early posts were about food- what I could get, what I couldn't; what I was longing for and what I'd newly discovered. I like cooking. I like experimenting with new recipes. I like writing about food. So why, I thought recently, am I not doing more of that?

A friend in Arusha recently turned me on to a new food/cooking blog, which has reinvigorated me with enthusiasm for cooking. I attribute this in large part to (a) the number of recipes that use lentils, which we get in great abundance here (lentils that I've never heard of and certainly never cooked with) and (b) the fact that, for the most part, I can get the necessary ingredients.

One recipe that first caught my eye was a Coconut Red Lentil Soup, which I've now made several times. The lentils and split peas are beautiful in their own right, and provide nice body and texture to the coconut curry base. I've taken to adding diced avocado as well as the suggested green onions and cilantro before serving; it adds a cooling balance to the spice and warmth of the soup. A few roasted seeds (sunflower or squash) might be nice too, for a little extra crunch (if you're into that kind of thing!).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Even in the bathtub

You may recall from our first visit to Simanjiro, seeing Eleanor in a black and white necklace. This was a gift from a Maasai woman who one morning came to the boma. When we visited Gabrielle's home in Nainokanoka, his sisters made Eleanor another beaded necklace; this one with much smaller red and blue beads. His sisters, lovingly, presented this necklace to Eleanor and tied it around her neck. For a minute she was okay, but shortly thereafter had a meltdown that resulted in me having to break the necklace with my teeth, sending little beads rolling across the concrete floor, in an effort to get it off of her. She was terrified.

I was mortified. I had just destroyed a beautiful handmade gift from Gabrielle's family. I collected as many of the seed beads as I could, placed them in a little plastic ear plug container from my bathroom kit and told Tim (then Gabrielle) the whole, sad, story. Gabrielle laughed and said "They'll fix it." Ad they did: when we left Nainokanoka we had a single strand of beads with a clasp.

Since then, the necklace has been sitting around the house, in the hopes that Eleanor would become familiar and comfortable with it, as she did the first Maasai jewelry she was given. And she sure has. She now wears both of these necklaces everyday and everywhere.

Even in the bathtub.
- kjd

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Wouldn't you know, on Tim's second Father's Day I did not manage to get one single photo of him with Eleanor. What kind of a mother/wife am I? What's worse is that we had a fantastic brunch with two other couples, with two other dads, and I didn't get a single photo of a father. Period. These girls are just too darn cute.

If it looks like our kids were trapped in a playpen of lavender bushes it's because they were. And it was one of the most relaxing lunches we've ever had.

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father's Day.
The lavender playpen.

"Hey Millie, check out my stomach."

Eleanor, Millie (on stomach), and Daniela.


Millie (left) and Eleanor.

"Look who I found!"

Doing their own things.

Eleanor and Millie, again.

Daniela and Eleanor. 


"Eleanor, shhhhhhh....."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

artistic tendencies

A sampling of work from our budding artist.

Her first photograph,

first crayon drawing, which decorates the fridge,

and (not first) patio chalk-art.

Monday, June 14, 2010


With a name like Kiyah, I've become habituated to mispronunciation. When selecting a name for our daughter, one of the things that Tim and I asked of each name under consideration was how else might it be pronounced?  Not that having your name mispronounced is a bad thing, per se, but we were aware that some names had greater potential for butchering than others.

When we came across "Eleanor" we thought we were in the clear. Seemed pretty straight forward to us, and although there have been some interesting accents placed on the name people generally don't struggle with it.

That is, until we came to here. Tell any Tanzanian, especially one that does not speak English, what Eleanor's name is, and you can see them tumbling the name around in their head, trying to reproduce the word...the very sounds that make it up. It's uncanny. I wish I could video tape it. People CANNOT pronounce her name. Tim observed that it's because they are unaccustomed to words that don't end in a vowel. Probably true... Sasa Tupo Arusha. Habari (za ashubuhi/ za leo/ za jioni/ yako/ nyumbani)? Baba, mama, dada, kaka. Asante. Asante sana. Karibu. Karibu tena. Pole.... Need I continue?

So, amongst the staff here, Eleanor is known as Eleanora. And I don't have any problem with that.
- kjd

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Goodbye ISM

Wednesday Tim left for a 6 night trip to the field. Eleanor and I didn't go, despite having talked about making at least part of the trip with him, because he departure happened to fall on the last weekly playgroup at the International School in Arusha. Our favorite weekly playgroup has come to an end.

I have talked about this playgroup before; it happens in the early learning classroom at the school. Each week the teacher and teaching assistants keep their doors open for an extra two hours, haul out the paints and easels, the play dough table, the water station and sand toys, and spread coffee and tea for the moms. The playgroup ends in a big circle, with everyone singing nursery rhymes like The Itsy-Bitsy Spider and If You're Happy and You Know It. I've said it once, and I'll say it again...Eleanor and I loved this playgroup.

I felt a little guilty not making the trip with Tim just because a playgroup was ending, but saying goodbye to this weekly activity was like saying good bye to a close friend- many friends actually- and I'm sure that there are several women and children I will see far less frequently now. And I know that there are many I will never see again. Already, our time here is ending. It's a curious, bitter-sweet and somber feeling.

Goodbye ISM.

 Eleanor watches a teaching assistant.

Kids at the water station...

...and on the playground.
 Nannies, moms and babies.

 Eleanor in the sandbox, her favorite place after the swings.

 Friends Lux (left) and Millie.

 Playing in the classroom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thank You Steffeys

Before leaving for our African adventure, my dear friend Liz invited Eleanor and I to stay at her parent's house in MA for a few days. Her parents, generous as ever, happily agreed. We had a wonderful visit with our dear friends the Steffeys, and this made leaving both easier and much more difficult- go figure. Before we drove out of their driveway, Mrs. Steffey presented Eleanor with a gift; one that I couldn't wait for her to grow into. That time has come, and we cherish it. It is my favorite article of Eleanor's clothing, and I love that it's finally cold enough for her to need it.

Each morning, Eleanor points to the sweater and asks to put it on before we go outside.

Thank you Steffeys.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

batteries not included

When I was pregnant with Eleanor I actually wrote a letter to my mother and mother-in-law outlining the things that we wanted for our "Little Chef." These things included (or excluded as the case may be) clothes that were NOT pink, organic soaps, shampoos and clothes, cloth and wooden rattles (not plastic), and nothing "Made in China." Of course it seems a little silly to me now, but what can I say. I was overly idealistic.

My little "wish list" has seemed especially indulgent and privileged since I arrived in Africa and bore witness to the children and their toys. These kids don't have organic stuffed animals and non-toxic earth friendly painted wooden blocks. But this does not mean they don't have toys.

Since there is no formal recycling, everything that can be is given new life; and childrens' toys are particularly well suited to this end. Last month children all over our village (we live in a village within the Arusha city limits) were running down the streets with pinwheels- made from plastic water bottles torn into 5 or 6 strips bent just so to catch the wind as they were held with one finger using the indent at the bottom of the bottle. I have seen every kind of automobile imaginable (from little race cars to big tankers) constructed from scrap wood, old plastic bottles and tin cans, nails and bottle caps. And these cars actually move- and move well.

By far one of the most ubiquitous is also one of the most simple, and after coveting the neighborhood kids' toy Eleanor finally has her own. Usually it's made using a large plastic top (which is easier to push, and turns more easily on its axle), but Godwin (the gardener) had to make due with what he had hiding behind the askari hut. Eleanor loves it.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Yes, that's butter, part 2

As proof that our daughter is not subsisting on butter alone, I submit the following images; those are beet stains, friends.

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Yes, that's butter

And no, she does not seem to discriminate. Salted or unsalted- she'll take it.
- kjd