Friday, January 22, 2010

The Outsiders

Our first week in Arusha it felt like every expatriate-looking muzungu we saw introduced themselves to us, offering a smile, a phone number, advice on shopping, a promise that we, too, will grow to love it here. To me, anyway, it also felt like these initial meetings held the promise of friendships: The "Oh, well welcome to Tanzania. We should get together, I'll call you's" have materialized nothing. I know it's only been a few weeks....but, come on, it's been a few weeks.

So in the end, what this does is leave me feeling like an outsider. We have not been living here for 30 years running a company or an orphanage or studying the mating behavior of lions; we have moved here for the next 30 years- we're just another set of students passing through; we are not Tanzanian. It's funny to me that the one place we could actually belong (if we paid the membership fee) is the most exclusive club in town (a place called TGT, complete with squash courts and ruby field).

So I'm settling into this feeling of being an outsider. It's likely to change, but for now I'm trying it on and thankful that at least I have my family. I'm just sorry that Tim left his sleeveless jean jacket at home.
- kjd

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I'm such a girl

I thought about starting this post with a dramatic story, building the tension and suspense to the last possible minute, but then decided that the climax of the post is worth just blurting out- so I'll cut right to the chase. Last night we had a rat in our apartment.

Yes, a rat.

While serving himself seconds of the soup which was simmering on the stove, he heard an empty plastic water bottle fall over and looked to his left to see a rat, scurrying across the counter. Stunned, mortified, and perhaps a little excited we looked at each other and asked the same question: "What do we do." I'm somewhat happy to report that neither of us had any idea (which means we've never had to deal with this before...thankfully). Turns out the answer to is get the askari (night guard). Called to duty, Ali appeared at our door armed and ready- with a stick.

Yes, a stick.

Following an exhaustive search of the kitchen (during which time the rat briefly ran- sharp little fang teeth barred, beady red eyes glistening with evil- STRAIGHT at me, at which point I promptly screamed, jumped out of my slippers, and ran away..I'm such a girl) the rat proceeded down the hall and into our bedroom. Sticks in hand (for Tim had one now too) Ali and Tim spent the next 25 minutes alternating between searching for and chasing the rat around the bedroom until Tim was able to scare it into Ali's (my new personal hero) foot.

Yes, his foot. And yes, that's blood.

When all was said and done, the kitchen  returned to order, and our clothes folded back on the shelves we were both overwhelmed with sadness-- "Do you think he (Ali) killed her (Sandra, the rat)?" I asked Tim. " I don't know," he said, his eyes a little moist. "And to think, she was only here because she was hungry. Poor thing."
- kjd





Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Data Mining

Dissertation field work is inevitably fraught with unexpected (and sometime unwelcomed) surprises. Last night, after rising from his afternoon (well, late evening) nap, Tim sat down to his computer only to learn that he couldn't see the screen. It had gone so dim that it was nearly black- visible only with specific lighting.

After uttering a few key curse (Tim) and soothing (Kiyah) words, we set to work scouring the internet (using my computer) for possible causes and potential fixes. After a couple of hours, having found only one that requires a repair and a part from the States, Tim moved everything he could from his hard drive to the external drive so that he can continue his work while he waits for the part to arrive.

Many people, desperate to complete their any way, shape or form possible....fall prey to poor scientific practices, particularly data mining. Usually it doesn't require a headlamp.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You're eating that?

Since my first (desperate?) post about our options for grocery shopping, we have found our way to some pretty good food. Still I find myself eating things that would not touch my lips at home: yesterday afternoon I ate a handful of Salt 'n Vinegar Pringles and some Oreo cookies.

"Yeah, so? What's the big deal?" you ask.

It's just that these are foods I would not typically eat. Not because there's something inherently wrong with them (although I don't tend to eat a lot of processed foods at home), there are just SO MANY other foods I would rather have than those. It seems that here, however (as was the case throughout our travels in South America), when hunger strikes I'll eat anything in sight.

At least I've also realized that you don't need a Kitchen Aid mixer, food processor, submersion blender, or All Clad cookware to make a decent, healthy meal. Last night: pasta salad with broccoli, green beans, roasted butternut squash and parsnips, diced onions, and a lemon-herb dressing.

Yeah, I'm eating that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

The notable thing about today was yesterday.

Tim: Do you want to go to Arusha National Park tomorrow?
Kiyah: Yes.

And today we went... and throughout I jockeyed the opposing notions that our day trip was ordinary and extraordinary - common and uncommon - something we never get to do...  and something we'll get to do often.  Kiyah and I craned our necks out the windows and up to the canopy of the heavy forest that blankets the slope of Meru eager, but not desperate,  to see the elusive black and white colobus monkey.  But there was no disappointment when it failed to materialize.  Perhaps we'll see it next time.

Eleanor was more interested in the breast that the beasts.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.  She was thrilled to sit in the front seat with Mom, free of the car seat and the back of our heads.  Together we trundled, happily down the road.

That's Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance- get a good look while the snows are still there.




And this is Mount Meru- the mountain we see from our apartment.



Friday, January 15, 2010

The remains of the day

The days seem to just fly by lately. Well sometimes. Some days I look at my watch and I can't believe that it's already time for dinner. Other days I look at my watch and I can't believe that it's only time for lunch. I suppose this was also true at home, but the passage of time is so much more palpable here, so much more meaningful. Tim and I both feel pressure to make the most of the time we do have: to use, enjoy, embrace, and engage at every opportunity, to seize every moment because they are quantifiably limited. For Tim, this is even more true, as there are great expectations for his dissertation research. Last night he said "it's already the middle of January" while expressing concern that he was going to run out of time to accomplish all that he hopes. This afternoon he said "We're only just starting our third week," when asked how we were settling in. One year is a long time to feel like you have a very short time.

In the remains of the day, however, when Eleanor's asleep, the dishes are done and the house is quiet we find time to steal away and correspond with family and friends, engage a good book (or an okay book that's related to research), or sip a glass of scotch and compare notes from the day and it's then that time seems to just stand still. And we are replenished.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie night: Take 1

Tim and I brought precious few movies with us on this trip, but after a long day we decided that tonight one of those needed to be watched.

We put Eleanor to bed a little early, popped popcorn, drank soda (well, Tim did), and ate apples smeared with Nutella while curled up in our two wooden arm chairs in front of the computer for our first Tanzania Movie Night. Our film choice was rather fitting; since the first time he watched this movie Tim wanted to be just like the main character...and this year he sort of is.

All in all, it was a big success.
-kjd, tdb

Monday, January 11, 2010

Organics, on steriods

I have been pretty careful about the foods that I give Eleanor. Like most parents I know, concern over genetically modified foods, the use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides, and unnatural or highly processed ingredients has meant that our children's (and Eleanor's) food has been relatively unadulterated.

On the plane from Amsterdam to Arusha I met a woman who offered to loan us a crib and, as quoted from her email, some "baby food jars." Having not long ago taken some empty jars from a friend to use as storage containers for the food I was making Eleanor, I took her up on the offer (since I had only two bowls with lids for food storage). Imagine my surprise, then, when she showed up with full jars of baby food, which I offered to pay for and which she promptly declined- so I simply thanked her.

When I finally got around to unpacking them this morning I was slightly embarrassed that I didn't do more than provide a meager verbal "Thank you" because I was floored by what I saw: not only was this baby food organic, suitable for vegetarians (depending on the flavor), free of added sugar or salt, gluten, milk proteins (depending on the flavor- as some had cheese), binding agents, or artificial additives, it was biodynamic. Yes,  you read that correctly.

When it comes to feeding your child healthy, and healthily grown, foods there's careful and then there's crazy. Although the food I received likely falls into the later category, I'm happily spooning away.


Look at what my dissertation research has done to me: as I sit here writing, staring out our bedroom window the the field next door, I can't help but see little bottles of coca-cola.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sarakasi Mama Afrika

Today was Eleanor's 10 month birthday- so we took her to the circus. Yes, the circus "Mama Afrika" was in town, complete with a big-top round tent and buttery popcorn. So we made the trip across town and through the rain to lay down our $15 and join the other 40 members of the audience for what turned out to be a spectacular show. It was a shame about the attendance because the tent looked equipped to handle about 400-500 and our applause, no matter how vigorous, never seemed to amount to much in the way of volume.

The show included gymnasts, magicians, clowns, jugglers, a contortionist, and a unicyclist. All were supremely talented, save perhaps the head clown who seemed more well suited for the djimbe. Attendance has been consistently low, or so we've heard from other ex-pats- and this may explain the performers' enthusiasm and apparent gratitude despite playing for only one row of viewers.

Including concessions, I can't see how the house brought in more than $500...half the cost of our used camera and lens. The show was two hours long and the performers had to set up and break down all of the equipment they used. They would finish their routine, take a bow, and run back stage as the lights dimmed only to reappear moments later under the cover of darkness to disassemble and remove their own props.

From the announcer's garbled declarations the performers were from Tanzania, mostly from Dar. I can't stress enough how enthusiastic they were. Certainly more so than the Tanzanian members of the audience, many of whom seemed curiously reluctant to smile or applaud. The tent itself was surrounded by the day's rain and rickety planks conveyed us from the ticket booth to the tent.

Eleanor, who seemed to be as impressed by the assemblage of chairs as she was by anything in the show, was a trooper for nearly two hours while mom and dad passed her back and forth. Kiyah pointed out that when Eleanor grabbed at chair backs and seats to support her various maneuverings, small finger prints would be left in the thick film of dust that had accumulated- a testament to the paucity of visitors and abundance of filth in the city air.

- tdb




Arusha is 8 hours ahead of the East Coast. Adjusting to the time difference has been a bit of a challenge for all of us: I can't seem to stay up past 8 pm, Tim can't seem to get to bed before 1 am, and Eleanor's sleeping has been all over the map.  Our first few days here she slept so much I was convinced she was sick; last night she was exhausted, but didn't go to bed until 9:30.

It has become increasingly clear to Tim and I that we need to get back into some routines with her: a nap in the morning and one after lunch, time outside EVERYDAY- to play in the grass, chase the dogs, explore the trees and flowers.

Her bedtime routine has historically been quite important and included (in this order) a bath, massage, and nursing to sleep. When we first arrived in Tanzania, her nightly cleaning needed to be a shower, taken with one of us. She's never really liked showers (which makes me question whether she is in fact our child) so trying to prevent her from swallowing the water while she's covered in soap (and thus as easy to hold onto as a wiggling fish) and trying desperately to escape the spray of the water was not fun for anyone. This part of her nighttime routine, however, is really the most important in signaling her that it is time for bed.

Her new bathtub should help.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Finding our way

When Tim and I moved to North Carolina our first shopping experience was at the Carrboro Plaza Food Lion. We had just moved from Portland, Maine where most of our shopping was done at the brand new Hannaford, with its expanded natural food section, entire row of bulk goods, and expansive produce section. Thinking Food Lion our only shopping option, my heart sank. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly acceptable food...but it was no Hannaford. Slowly, however, Tim and I discovered Harris Teeter, and then Whole Foods and Weaver St (our local Co-op), and then the Farmers' Market (ahhhhh).

Walking into Shoprite, a South African run grocery store in Arusha, was a lot like walking into Food Lion. I was deeply saddened by the state of our food shopping options. But, slowly, we've been introduced to Pick 'n Pay, Rushda's, Meat King (for, you guessed it, meat), Dolly's (for fresh bread), and Yoka's. Yoka, a dutch born ex-pat, owns a farm on the eastern slope of Mount Meru. Every Tuesday and Friday she brings fresh produce from the farm to her home in town. Meeting Yoka was like meeting Alex Hitt and Ken Dawson (two of my favorite NC farmers). I was giddy...and our bounty impressive.

We are finding our way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Just in time for 2010

After months of planning, and many good-byes, we parted ways from our parents, who stood waving outside the Boston airport security line--unpacked our two computers, removed our shoes and belts, emptied our pockets, warned the luggage screeners of the baby food and sippy cup of water, and then repacked all of these items-- and made our way to gate A15 two hours ahead of scheduled boarding only to learn (after an hour's delay) that our flight would not be leaving until the following day at 5pm- roughly 21 hours later than it was originally scheduled.

All 270 passengers then made their way (after retrieving their checked luggage, of course) to the airport Hilton where we were given rooms and meal and travel vouchers.

The following morning (after spending nearly an hour and a half in line to recheck our luggage and spending about $70 for an hour's worth of time at the aquarium) we returned to the airport, went back through security, and arrived at gate A15 two hours early to have the flight delayed another four hours. Through it all, we joked with the other passengers, heard stories of their lives and the things (or people) that were bringing them to Amsterdam (or their final destination), learned of their hidden talents, made new friends (especially Eleanor), and watched each others' luggage (and each others' children). I found it heartwarming to see the tenderness and goodness that being stranded in an airport brought out in people.

And despite all the delays (and needing to, literally, run from one gate to the next in Amsterdam) we made it from Boston to Arusha, Tanzania just two hours before midnight on December 31st, 2009.

Tanzania or bust.