Friday, December 28, 2012

An End to the Holidays

The holidays are over and we're immediately back to reality.

Painting on the 27th

We hope to get the painting done today so we can clean and move the furniture back in. We have someone coming to stay with us for a week starting Sunday and are also having a New Year's party on Monday. So we've got a deadline! Then we can jump back into the rest of holiday spirit. To keep that momentum going, here's a video of our Christmas sleigh ride to Musoma last week:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chris's Birthday

We had a great day yesterday for Chris's birthday, celebrating in a very different way. We are in Musoma for a brief pre-holiday visit and managed to coincide it with the annual shopping spree with the kids from Lisa's Pride. Taking 25 children living with HIV/AIDS shopping in the market was certainly an experience! We had a great time.

They each had 25,000 shillings (about $15 US) to spend as they wished. I was in a group with 4 girls ages about 12 years. They each bought brand new dresses with little coverups and used shoes. After the shopping we shared a meal and because it was Chris's birthday we brought a cake and sang happy birthday. What a great day!

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot (?) Like Christmas

I haven't made my usual assortment of cookies this year, but I've managed to get a few done.

Have you heard the Christmas story where dogs pull the sleigh? Totally true.
My cookie cutters are dogs, seals, fish and (of course) lions. So ask me someday to tell you about the Christmas and Hanukah stories that involve these animal. Have you heard about how the seals originally had the idea to light the lamps at Hanukah? Or how lions help to keep the elves regulated and working at a quick pace? True.

Mango Cookie
I had to use some mangos so tried out these cookies. Meh...

Christmas Staple-Mudballs
Old tried-and-true.

Singing (Badly) Christmas Carols
The annual Fortes Christmas party lived up to the hype. Open bar. Great food. Total Christmas ambiance. Wish we could fast-forward to next year's already.

Pretty Sweet Shindig
Chris approved.

I'd much rather think of all these Christmasy things than what our house looks like right now.

Living Room

Dinning room

Wood paneling removed (and sitting for 3 days waiting for someone to come collect it!) and cement cleaned up a bit. Next is to paint, though I can't imagine how many coats it'll need to actually absorb and look semi-clean. Fa la la la la la la la la.

Friday, December 14, 2012

And So It Begins

With all the bugs and such I've not had too much time to tackle these mangos. But I've gotten a good start.

Cutting up Mangos
And so it begins.

Pureeing Mango
Making puree.

What does Chris think about all this mango? "It's alright," he says.

I forgot to take a picture of this because I was so mangoed-up and sticky, but I also made this. I had to doctor it up a bit African-style (used pepitas instead of cashews, a chinese-type cabbage similar to bok choy, and green pepper instead of red). It was really good though. I'll definitely it make again. Maybe even tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Third World Problems... Again

I don't think that I've mentioned our recent bug problems on this space. Chris has talked about it on Facebook and he put up some pictures and a video, but I think I've been too busy being stressed about mangos. This is a reincarnation of the bugs that visited us back in October, which you might've heard about already. Long story-short, for a few days in October and then again this month, we've had termite-like bugs swarming out of our wood-paneled walls in the evenings. The bugs are relatively harmless (well, except that they eat through wood and have ruined the walls) but it's quite a nuisance and messy and destroying the house. In October the bugs came for 2 days and then that was it. So we didn't really do anything about it. This time it's going on 5 days and the number of bugs have been increasing each time. Last night we noticed that the bugs are flying out and then burrowing into the walls in another spot.

Here's what I'm talking about:

We've been trying to get the landlord to take care of the problem but as we saw the situation getting worse every night we decided to take action. Today we've had an exterminator spray the room and the perimeter of the house and this weekend we're having the paneling ripped out. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully this will be the end of our shida ya wadudu (bug problem)!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

International Human Rights Day

December 10th is International Human Rights Day. It also marks the end of a two week campaign called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which started on November 25th, International Day Against Violence Against Women.  This 16-day period was started as an international campaign by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue, strengthen local work on GBV around the globe, link local and international GBV work, and other key issues targeting local and international GBV work.

Before moving to Tanzania I worked as a community educator in the field of violence against women. Through this work I became very close to these issues and developed a passion for the field specific to human rights. Moving to Tanzania has enlightened me to the fact that the struggle toward social justice is the same all over the world. Our cultures may be vastly different, we may live drastically different lives and problems may be more dire in some locations, but ultimately the equality and social justice issues that people face are the same globally and a similar mindset that supports inequality in America is the same as in Tanzania. 

Everyday for the past five years I have been listening to people's stories about the atrocities they face: a woman who has been beaten all day by her husband and ran away leaving her 10-month-old child at home; a friend of a family who's child has been stolen and brought to another town to be sold across the border; a victim of violence who has been charged by the police in order to file a police report; a child who has been molested for decades by a trusted family member. All of these things are normal circumstances for people all over  the world. It breaks my heart every time and I still don't understand how we can live in a world where these things happen with such frequency. 

But what breaks my heart just as much are the apathy and doubt that the general public feels about such things. I can't tell you the number of times I've found myself in heated debates with people who think we are fighting for social justice by pushing down other people (i.e. that we are trying to take away rights from men) or who try to claim that someone deserved to be hurt because they were in that situation in the first place or who say that people need to be hit or humiliated so they know they are loved. It's these kind of false, hurtful claims that continue to allow violence to happen.

I don't have anything profound or thoughtful to say. I just didn't want the day to completely pass without calling attention to the issue of human rights and to challenge the few readers at this space to do their little part. It doesn't need to be anything big or profound that you do. If everyone corrected misstatements and misperceptions whenever they heard them, we would no longer live in a world that supports inequality. 

Doing something says something. But doing nothing also says something.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Wasn't Lying!


These are actually from a friend. This doesn't include what's growing on our tree. Keep the (cooking) suggestions coming.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Taking Suggestions

Winter means ripe mangos in Tanzania and our mango tree is just about to explode. I picked 6 mangos today (to add to the 5 or 6 we already had) and there seems to be no limit to the amount to what is left on the tree.

So, I'm trying to think of what to make to use up all this delicious goodness and I'm open to suggestions. I've thought about jam. Or pie. But somehow I'm just not satisfied with those. Any suggestions? Leave it in the comments (feel free to give recipes too).

Setting a Mood

We are trying to get in the holiday spirit here, so maybe putting up the tree will help. We're lucky that we inherited this tree from past MKLMers. I don't think there's anything cuter in the world. It even came with the tiniest ornaments. I love it more than it's reasonable to!

Sorting the lights
Sorting lights.

The cutest little ornaments
The cutest little ornaments.

Needing a warm place to cuddle up to
Burr. It's cold out!

christmas cuteness
So quaint. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

3rd World Problems

I don't think I'll ever again forget how lucky I am to come from a place where access to clean water is a given.

By the way, this water incident was just after another incident with the bugs crawling out of the walls. Theeeeeeyyyyy'rrrrre baaaaaack.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In Preparation for Christmas

Sparkly nails! It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Not Genetically Modified

I just counted 28 seeds in my little tangerine-type orange this morning. That's not counting the few I'm sure I swallowed, so let's round it up to an even 30.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Safari Pictures

I've been home sick today, which sucks. But it gave me the opportunity to finally upload some more pictures from our trip to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. Here's a quick sampling:

This is me getting up in the morning.

We saw tons of baby elephants.

Chris was pretty excited to visit Olduvai Gorge and hold this rock, which was used as one of the first human tools over 1.5 million years ago.

That's right. We saw some hot lion action.

The wildebeest migration was amazing! They were thousands of them dotting the landscape for as far as you could see.

It was so great to share this experience with my hubby and parents. It was fun to relax each night after a long, dusty day and have some cocktails. 

Click here to see all the pictures that I uploaded onto Flickr. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Typical Days in TZ

Went to language school this morning at 9:00 for our hour tutoring session. Waited 1/2 hour for the teacher to show up. She had had a crazy morning and forgot we had a session today so we just decided to reschedule. That's understandable, I guess since we've been off for 2 weeks.

Next, go to the ATM. First ATM not working. Wait in line for the second one and for whatever reason it's only giving out 1/2 of the normal maximum withdrawal allowance*. I didn't feel like going to another ATM so I take out the smaller amount, which it gives me in 5's instead of 10's. Hey, at least I'll have change when I need it.

From there I go to the Post Office. Oooh, I have a package! But I have to go to the main post office to pick it up, which is a pain but not unusual. I drive down there. It takes about 5 minutes for me to flag down a person to go to the back to get my box. After being gone a few minutes, the guy comes back out and tells me the woman who gives out the boxes isn't there right now. Can I wait 10 minutes? I tell him I'm already late for work but that I can wait 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I will leave (I wanted to be clear with him because 10 minutes can often mean 20 minutes here). Exactly 10 minutes passes and much to my astonishment, the woman actually arrives. She goes to the back, brings out my box and gets on her cell. I know this is a bad sign. Turns out I have to pay a customs fee** but the guy who collects that fee isn't here. Can I wait 20 minutes or do I want to come back tomorrow? The problem with coming back tomorrow is that I could have to wait at that point as well. So, I opt to wait today since I'm already there. I explain again that I will wait but I don't want to wait too long because I'm late for work and I work far away. The woman is very nice and understanding and while I sit and wait she incessantly calls the guy's phone, all the while making clucking sounds (I guess sympathizing with me). I wait 25 minutes, meanwhile another westerner come in and gets his package no problem. I go back up and ask why he could get his package but I can't. She explains that because there's a declared value on the customs form, I have to pay a fee. Can't I pay you, I ask her. No, she says, you have to pay the customs agent. Is he coming, I ask. Yes, he says he's on his way. We chat another minute or two about how hard it is to wait when you have to go somewhere. Finally, she calls him one more time, gets off the phone and says I can just pay her as long as I don't need a receipt.*** I say it doesn't matter to me, pay her, get my box and I'm on my way. (1 hour total in post office.)

While I'd been waiting in the PO, I texted my boss to say that I was going to be later than normal. By the time I get out, I've gotten a text from him that says he's the only one in the office today and he's leaving for a meeting, so I might as well just go home and he'll see me tomorrow.

I guess I could say I accomplished something today since I did, in fact get money and my mail. But somehow it just feels like a total waste of a day.

*This is a cash economy, so we go to the ATM a few times a month to get out the maximum amount with which we pay all of our bills.

**The lesson of this is if you declare a value on the outside of the box, we have to pay a fee of approximately 45% of the declared value!

***I would've thought she was bribing me except that she used the correct calculation and she put the money into the receipt book, which I'm assuming she'll store for later until the customs agent comes back. I may be naive on this assumption, but usually people are a little more obvious about wanting a bribe and they put it in their pocket so I'm hopefully on that one.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back to Life, Back to Reality

At the airport. It broke my heart to say goodbye.

My parents have come and gone and now my vacation's over. I'm not sure which was harder--saying goodbye to them when I left America almost a year ago or saying goodbye to them as they left Mwanza. It sucked both times, but this time I don't have the excitement of an impending adventure. Now it's just back to the new normal, which is hard even on a good day.

So I'll probably be a little mopey for the next few days. But I keep telling myself how awesome 2013 will be. First of all, it'll be way easier than this year * because we're already here and we're settled. That in itself was just terribly hard. Also, we have a ton of exciting events planned. We'll have 2  new missioners arriving in January. In June we'll be going to France for a wedding of one of Chris's oldest friends (and his sister and bro-in-law will join us). In July my other set of parents are coming to visit. In August I'm leading a group of American tourists on a visit to Tanzania. And around this time next year we're planning a visit to the States**. Plus I'm hoping to take more excursions around Tanzania.

So hopefully this trip with my parents was just the start of the fun stuff! Here's hoping.

*It has to be, right?
**This is very tentative and nothing has been set in stone yet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

Both Clive and Chris are satisfied with dinner.

Thanksgiving Festivities

Just sat watching Dark Shadows, drinking sangria and eating popcorn. Headed in a little while to share thanksgiving with the MKLM community this evening. Pretty nice holiday, I'd say.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clive Oven wishes everyone in the States and beyond a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More Pictures

Everyone was so warn out and took naps this afternoon so I had time to upload some pictures on Flickr. Click on the picture to go to the photo gallery.

Outside Kivulini's office

Picture from Family Visit

I have a confession to make: I've been posting more on Facebook over the past 2 weeks than I have on my blog. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't do that, but I just got an Iphone (THANKS, FAMILY!) and right now it's just easier to press a few buttons and a picture can go right up onto Facebook. Just like that.

But I don't want to ignore my blog, so here are some of the shots that I've been posting.

Mom's super happy with her bead haul
Mom bought some beads in town. She was really excited at how cheap they were!

Let sleeping lions lay
One group of lions out of the many groups we saw during our Serengeti trip last week. More picts of that to come!

We do the same thing in TZ that we do in US.
Downtime here is much like downtime in America for us computer-people.

When the light go out, you play game
We've had a lot of power and water outages this week. Mom and Jim have had many opportunities to experience the real ups and down of TZ life.

jim, gem and cert
Jim bought tanzanite today. It even came with its own certificate of authenticity.

jim and gem
Can you tell he's just a little excited.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ready for Visitors!

We've cleaned the house, finished the backyard, bought beer and wine and made a bunch of food. I think we're ready for our first visitors! My parents arrive tomorrow (narrowly escaping the snow) and we couldn't be more happy. We'll have a much-needed vacation into the Serengeti for a few days and will just enjoy catching up with family.

Who will be the next to come?? Maybe this guy will come back?

An unexpected guest. A hedgehog!

Smokey would like that.

 Smokey chilling in the yard

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Scene from Our Backyard this AM

View over our backyard, Nov 2012

Today's election day in the States. Get out there and participate in your democratic privilege.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Halloween

This year for Halloween I went as a drowned rat. It poured all day and it's no fun taking public transportation in that, plus walking to and from the bus stands; there's just no way not to get totally drenched. The people at work were so kind as to tell me that they didn't like my hair like that (wet and a total mess). So kind of them.

I also think I might've gotten herpes from the daladala I took into work. Yeah, a trick and treat, I guess.

Happy Halloween, all!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On a Positive Note

I feel bad that I've left that negative blog post up for so long. Plus, I've been really wallowing in self-pity for a while on these here internets, what with no water, no electricity, car accidents, etc. etc. So, I thought I'd be good to focus on some things that I'm thanksful* for.

Smokey's very happy when we work in the yard.
Let's just start with this guy. Well, girl actually. She's the sweetest. I wish we could have her in the house so she could sit by my feet all the time. But she wouldn't sit still and she'd bring flees in with her and it would be all kinds of disasters. So, outside she stays. But she sure is a sweetie!

I can't believe it, but it's LESS THAN 2 WEEKS TILL MY PARENTS COME! What!? I'm so excited, I can't even think about it. They'll be our first (of hopefully many**) victims visitors to come. We'll go on safari, which'll be amazing, and just relax and catch up. I can't wait for them to see the house and to meet Smokey! We're so lucky to have such a supportive network of family and friends and I appreciate so much that people are willing to spend the time and money to come see us.

We still don't have regular water but it's taught me what a valuable gift it is. I am so lucky to have access to clean-ish water and I am so happy when I they turn it on for a few hours at night and we can fill our buckets again. I don't want to jinx it, but we've had water AND power for the past two days, which means we've been able to take hot showers again. They're lovely and I'll never take them for granted again.

Since we've been living here I've had a young woman who helps out each week with washing the clothes by hand. About a month ago I asked her if she'd be willing to stay a little longer and clean the house. I cannot tell you what a huge help is it to me. She does such a wonderful, thorough job. And every time she comes, I want to give her a big hug. Instead, I pay her, which to her is probably better for her since she's an 18-year old who is struggling through school and trying to save money so she can help her sick mother. I guess my hugs can't help in that arena. But, seriously, I'm so grateful to have the help. Today I had to work and it was just a wonderful thing to come home to a clean house because I was exhausted and certainly in no mood to do it myself. And I appreciate that we have the ability to help her out with her family. So, yeah, it's a win-win, for sure!

We've made some headway on the yard. The veggies have been planted in the garden for a few weeks, but we've gotten no rain until this weekend. I hope that after a few more days like this, things'll be growing a bit better.

The garden with fence and some plants coming up

I've also done a little landscaping here and there.

Some landscaping in the back of the house.

A little garden by the front door

I put a bunch of pictures up on Flickr with the new progress. So stop by to see them if you're interested. Chris and a young guy who lives in the neighborhood are building the gazebo this weekend, so hopefully we'll be done with most of the major work soon.

*Originally this was a typo and I was going to fix it. But then I decided to leave it because it makes me sound like a Tanzanian speaking English. So I sound authentic.

**When are you coming?