Sunday, April 29, 2012

4 Months

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the 30th, which means that it’ll be 4 months to the day that we arrived in Tanzania. On the one hand, it feels like we’ve been here forever. But at the same time, America seems less far away now than it did 4 months ago. I think that’s probably because things are just now evening out and feeling quasi-normal. So, I figure that if things are less alien, then I’m feeling more at-home.

That’s not to say that we’ve moved in our home yet. We’re still squatting in a house of other missioners. But we hope to sign the rental agreement to our place in the next few days. Then we’ll slowly move in after that. We’ve actually already acquired a good amount of the most essential things we’ll need to survive in our house. Water filter, stove, fridge, plates and silverware, bed, water buckets, towels, sheets. The hubby and I spent 2 days in the big outdoor market last week, pricing things, bartering to lower the price, and eventually buying a bunch of this stuff. We were very proud of our successes because we’re not big on shopping in general, let alone in a place where we’re not fluent in the language, where you have to barter for pricing, and where people are yelling out to you to buy, buy, buy!

But still, it’s a lot harder here to move into a house than it is back in the States. There has to be a lot of things in place that we wouldn’t even think about otherwise. Here we have to have an evening guard hired. And we need to supply the guard with a flashlight, thermos of hot tea, and an outdoor chair. Then, we need to have padlocks for all the gates and doors, plus the gas canisters, and other things. We need the water filter hooked up. The stove and fridge also have to get hooked up because houses here don’t come with appliances. The fridge needs a special outlet called a “fridge guard” because we have power spikes here and it’ll fry the fridge without this outlet. Houses in Tanzania also don’t have kitchens with counters, so we need to order and have them made. These are just to name a few things. It’s all a really interesting process and I’m super glad that we’re not in a pinch and need to move in in a rush.

So, needless to say, four months along and things are moving “polepole” as we say here (slowly). But I’m grateful that it is, indeed, moving along. I’m also super grateful to all the MK folks here who have helped us in countless ways.

Here’s a quick snapshot of our future house. 
The house we plan to rent *

*And, as an fyi to those who are wondering, we won't be using that satellite dish. It was just on the house from the previous renter.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

9 Years

Today is Chris and my 9 year wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that we've been married that long, but at the same time, it feels like we've always been together. We've had quite a journey so far and I'm so glad to be on our current adventure together.

Happy Anniversary, babe.*

baldman giving me the engagement ring
Christmas a few years ago. Giving me his grandmother's engagement ring.

lake victoria at nassa outside mwanza
Our first trip to Africa together.

el yunque forest, pr
An anniversary vacation in Puerto Rico. 

before the social d concert (nice yuvula, waldie)
Anniversary trip to Myrtle Beach. Rocking out before a Social Distortion concert! 

rockin' couple!
Halloween a few years ago.

The party at Liz and Marion's.
At a friend's house in Musoma, Tanzania, just a few weeks ago.

*Too bad we got married so long ago that I don't actually have any electronic copies of pictures from our wedding.**

**UPDATE: My brother uploaded some of our pictures from our wedding, so here are a few shots:

Our wedding 4-26-03

Our wedding 4-26-03

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reflections on My First Week at Work

I started work on Wednesday of this week. Just like first weeks of work anywhere, my first week has been quite slow, consisting mostly of looking through material in the office and getting my bearings. I can't really say I've "learned" anything exactly and I'm still not quite sure how I'll make a contribution, but I'm confident that things will start unfolding in their own time.

Here are a few observations from my first week:

1) It's really difficult to understand context or gain any concept of what people are doing in the office when they're speaking in a language that I barely understand and within a cultural context that's completely different from my own. People come in and out of the office. I don't know who most of the people are and why they've come to the office. Do they work in the building? Are they seeking services? No clue. I also have no idea where my colleagues are going whenever they leave the office, which is constant throughout the day. Are they doing work stuff? If so, I would like to tag along to get an idea of the kind of work being done out in the field. Or, if not, is it just okay to pick up and leave the office to run errands or take care of personal business? I get the feeling that it's the latter of these two things, but there's no way to be certain without constantly asking someone "Where's so-and-so going?" And I know that can be annoying, plus, at some point I figure it's probably not even my business.

2) Time is structured very differently here. Things just move slowly. I may have a meeting on a given day, but I come into the office and the person I'm supposed to meet with isn't even in town, so the meeting gets put off to another day, only to be reschedule again and again into the future. This is not uncommon.

3) I am more comfortable when I have my own space. I was amazed at my good fortune when, on my second day of work I was given an office and a working computer! Up until that point any time I went into the office I sat in my colleague's office across the desk from her, which got really uncomfortable when we exhausted my Swahili vocabulary and had nothing else to talk about and no work to do.

4) It's extremely difficult here to do any work without resources. There's just no infrastructure in place to help out. From what I can gather, my office is currently working with limited or no funds. No money to put gas in the car to get out to the villages where programs are running. Heck, there's no car. No money to pay salaries for staff. Etc. We're really fortunate that we have pretty good computers, but there is no internet unless you personally shell out the cash for a portable modem (which plugs into your thumbdrive. It's how most people get internet here) and service. There is no land-line office phone. So when an intern came to me the other day and said she had nothing to do and was going home, I asked her if it was normal for there to be nothing to do. She said yes, they have no money so there's nothing to do.

I could go on and on, but I guess I'll stop here. I've got much to learn and I don't want to make too many sweeping generalizations yet. I will say that I've read a fair amount of the material that's in the Women's Desk office and it looks like we've done some good work in the past--started micro-enterprise and micro-lending opportunities for women, acquired wheelchairs and crutches for the disabled/handicapped children, trained village and local leaders on gender equality, etc. And there are some really cool national and regional organizations (many of which are faith-based) that have been working on gender equality issues in Eastern Africa for over the past two decades.

So, I have every hope that if we can get some funding we'll be able to become active again and accomplish a host of really great initiatives. I'm sure that will be on my list of job duties-to secure funding. But I've got a ways to go yet before I can really feel confident to do any work anyway, so until then I'll keep going in, practicing my 1st grade Kiswahili and trying to glean little bits and pieces as I'm able.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Best. Meal. Ever.

Since we've been in language school and staying as guests in other people's houses, I've not had much opportunity to cook for the past few months. And I loves me some cookin'. So tonight, the hubby and I had the run of the house and I broke loose. I made homemade tortillas, guacamole, and veggie fajitas.

That's what I'm talkin' about, folks!


My taste buds just needed some tortillas. It was my first attempt at homemade tortillas (and Chris helped!) and we were not disappointed. And I finished it off with a few spoonfuls of Nutella (birthday gift courtesy of the Rossers). Heck yeah.

Holy Week

It's been the better part of a week and I guess I should post something and start pushing my birthday posts further down the page before someone begins to think that I'm leaving them up there to get more attention. No, although I do like the attention, I've actually just been super busy here and I've not had much time for blogging.

On Thursday we finished our studies at language school, packed our bags and headed back to Mwanza, where we'll be living from here on out. Or at least the indefinite future. Although we're still far fluent in Swahili, we've got a great foundation and I'm super excited to start work next week. It's hard to imagine doing a 9-5 again because I've been out of it for so long. But we're supposed to ease back in for the first three months and focus a lot on specific language and vocabulary acquisition, as opposed to "accomplishing" anything.

We've not secured housing yet, so we are staying with fellow MKLMers until we can finalize that, but we've seen a house we like and hope to move in sometime this month.

Here's hoping everyone out there in cyber-land had a blessed Holy Week and has a Happy Easter. We'll be headed to 7AM Easter Sunday Mass in Swahili. We'll see how much of that I understand. Even on a good day the ratio of comprehension is relatively low!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Picts from my birthday

I already said I had an amazing birthday, but I didn't really say what I did.

The day before my birthday, the school gave me a cake.
Since we were not going to be at dinner at the language school on my actual birthday, we celebrated with cake and ice cream on the night before. Sweets are a rarity here* so we didn't want to deprive everyone (including ourselves) of the opportunity!

Liz and Marion threw a wonderful party for me at their house. We invited some folks from the MK community and the language school and had an excellent blow-out! They cooked delicious food, we sang songs, laughed, and a great time was had by all.

The dress my hubby bought me for my birthday.
I wore my new dress, courtesy of my thoughtful husband.

The party at Liz and Marion's. David & Fr. Mike
Mike made it in from the village, despite the rain.

The party at Liz and Marion's. The hostesses working hard.
Big thanks to Liz and Marion for their generosity and hard work!

The party at Liz and Marion's.
The cake was To. Die. For.

The party at Liz and Marion's.
And they even found chocolate ice cream! (It's not that common here.)

The party at Liz and Marion's. Nutella from the Rossers!
Everyone was so generous and gave me way more gifts than I expected (or deserved!).

The party at Liz and Marion's. We sang some songs.
We finished off the party with some goofy and fun songs.

My parents had a birthday part for me in absentia. So they got to eat cake & ice cream too!
My family couldn't make the party, so they had one in my stead at home and we Skyped together to celebrate. My parents made coffee ice cream and cupcakes!

The Waldie family band made a rare Skype-based appearance.

Thank you again, everyone, for helping to make my day super-special.

*Unless you have amazing family and friends who spend ridiculous amounts of money to send you packages that keep you well-stocked in sugary treats. ;)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Couldn't ask for more. At 34.

I'll tell you what, over the past few weeks I have been continually amazed and humbled at the kindness and generosity of friends and family at home and here in Tanzania. This weekend it reached its pinnacle with a fantastic birthday.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, messages and well-wishes. I seriously couldn't ask for a better life. I've imagined living in Africa since I was a little girl. But I never could have prepared for or imagined such a great community supporting me. There is no doubt that I am loved. And for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you.