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?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bureaucracy is not Just an American Thing

Okay, I admit it. I hit a tree with my car. Well, it wasn't my car exactly. It was the community car, which I drive almost exclusively at the moment. Anyways, it was a stupid mistake. I was backing out at work; the tree was in my blind-spot; I had a carload full of noisy people who were annoying me and making me late; and in my haste to get out of there and go home, I failed to see the ill-placed tree and swiped the side of the car. It's still drivable, but definitely something that should be fixed.

So after a few days I go into our insurance agent to see if they will cover the repairs. I learn to my surprise that they will and, even better, our insurance will not go up! BUT! I have to have a police report. So, on Monday I trek down to the police station to file said report. They ask me to come back the following day, understandable because their police commissioner just died last weekend and things were in a bit of chaos. So, I give my condolences and leave.

Next morning (Tuesday), I go back in. I talk to a few officers. No one seems to want to take the report. They say come back at 2:00 to talk to their boss. Fine, whatever. I kill a few hours, come back a little after 2:00. The boss is in. He listens to my story and starts to ask me a million questions, mostly centering on the fact that he can't verify that I have collision insurance. I'm still not really sure why that would matter because as far as I know you don't need car insurance to file a police report for an accident. But I humor them. I leave, go down the street to the insurance agent to get a printout of my insurance info. The agent gives it to me and confirms that the police are just giving me the runaround and that they do not need my insurance information. Back to police station. I've lost track of time now, but an hour or so later, several police officers later, much talking and debating, shuffling of paperwork, sighs from police officers, people laughing at and mocking me, I give a statement. A little before 4:00, Chris, who has kindly accompanied me along this process thus far, has to go to work so he leaves. A little after 4:00, I'm still being shuffled back and forth from one office to another. The main police officer can't get any of his employees to come out and do a visual inspection of my car. I find this unfathomable and I can't figure out why it was such a joke that everyone in the station was laughing at me and no one wanted to help me.* So, the head police guy escorts me outside, takes a look at my car, asks me about all the other dents and scrapes that I can't explain because it's an inherited car and I have no idea what happened to it prior to my using it. We go back inside and he begins to inform me that we have to go to "the scene of the accident," which is over 1/2 hour drive away, so that he can sketch what the scene looks like. At this point I completely lose it. I tell him under no terms am I driving him out to the scene where I hit A TREE! I suggest that I draw the map myself. He says, no they have to draw the map because I'm not a police officer. I finally convince him that if I explain the layout to the other police officer,  he can draw the scene. Reluctantly, he agrees. Fine. But the police officer wants to do it tomorrow. Again I get very animated and say that I am not coming back tomorrow. There is no reason why we cannot finish this today! He tries to explain that we can't finish it today and I try to explain that I'm not coming back tomorrow. He takes me back to the head PO and the head PO says that they can't finish the report today because it's after 4:00 and their secretary is gone for the day. She's the one who rights up the reports. That makes sense to me, so I say, fine, I'll come back tomorrow to pick up the report but I'm finishing my statement today, including the map of the scene. I am sent back to the original PO and he hands me a piece of paper, asking me to draw the scene. Didn't he just tell me I couldn't do that!? Whatever, I draw the scene, explain it to the police officer, confirm one more time from both OPs that I can pick up the report tomorrow (Wednesday). They say yes, around 11:00 or 12:00 and I get the regular POs phone number so I can call before I come in.

Wednesday rolls around. I go to work since I've barely been in there the past 2 days due to all this running around. At about 2:00 (giving the POs sufficient time to have everything ready) I text the PO. He actually calls me back (unheard of!) and says, yes, everything is ready, come down to the station. I confirm, "Can I come down now? It's there and ready?" "Yes," he says. He's not at the station, but the main PO is and I can get it from him. I leave work, drive down there, get to the office, the main PO is not there. They tell me come back later. I literally put my head on the desk on top of my folded arms and try to explain in broken Swahili that all I'm doing is picking up paperwork. It's not sitting in a file somewhere? No, they explain, it's in the main guy's office and he's in a meeting. They give me his phone number so I can call him later before I return. I go outside to my car and immediately text him. He texts back and say we can meet tomorrow.

Thursday I am busy with work and just can't stand the thought of going into the police station again, so I skip it.

Friday, I text the main PO in the morning and say I am coming in to pick up the statement. He says that's fine but not now, later. I text him later, he says not now, maybe in another hour. I text him an hour later and say I'm coming in. I go in, wait 15 minutes to speak to him. He actually gives me my police record. But he is giving an original. He needs me to make a copy to give to the insurance agent and bring back the original. "Right," I think. There ain't no way I'm coming back here. But, sure, I humor him. I think of giving him my 2 sense because during the time of my "interrogation" he kept asking why I didn't report the accident to the police when it happened. "THIS is why I didn't report it to the police!" I want to say. "There's no way I'd come in here unless I absolutely have to!" But I think better of it, wish him a good day and say nothing of my frustrations. I walk down to the insurance company, present my paperwork and the agent informs me that the police didn't give me the vehicle inspection report and they also mistyped the vehicle tag number on the report. Seriously!!?? I tell her under no uncertain terms am I going back there. She looked at the car and took pictures. She knows I had the accident, why do the police have to verify it? And clearly the mistake on the other report is just a typo. Can't she just cross it out and initial it?? She explains it's procedure. Yeah, yeah, I get that. I walk down to the police station. AGAIN. Find the main PO outside shooting the breeze with some other officer. He immediately starts talking in Swahili and giving me a hard time about speaking in English. He says I know Swahili, why am I not using it? I try to explain (in English) without crying or punching him in the gut that this procedure is frustrating enough. I'm not going to use my limited Swahili to try to communicate on something like this. They give me a hard time for another minute or two but I think it was getting obvious how angry I was getting, so the main PO takes me inside, another 10 minutes later I'm leaving with the completed and corrected paperwork.

Now, everything is in the hands of the insurance company. Who knows how long that'll take and what other hoops I will have to jump through, but the agent called me yesterday afternoon to say she forgot to get a copy of my drivers license and can I come in to give it to her. Luckily, I was able to save myself another trip into town and emailed it to her instead.

Sheesh. Who knew I would miss plain-old American bureaucracy?

*The insurance agent said she thought they were treating it like a joke because maybe they suspected I was drunk when it happened. Still, really classy to have everyone in the waiting area in hysterics over someone who comes in to get help. I can only imagine what it's like for a victim of a crime (a traumatized rape victim, for example) when they come in to "get help." What a humiliating and disempowering process.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

File this Under "Eff You, TZ"

Seriously, Tanzania? You're going to take our water away for 2 days (one of many other multiple-day periods of having no water)? Fine. Not happy about it, but we'll work through it.* But now you've taken away our electricity too? What the hell? I mean, this is certainly not the first time this has happened here. But I'm at the end of a shitty week. We've barely had water for 2 weeks. I wanna punch someone. Chris better watch out.

*Until our reserves run out, then we're effed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm Such an Over-Achiever

I just voted! You know what they say, "Get out early." Done and done!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

True Fact: In Africa if you plant basil you grow a toad

Do you see the visitor in our basil?

A toad!

Do you think if we ground him up with pine nuts and olive oil that he'd make a tasty pesto?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've Kinda Lost Count

But I'm pretty sure that within the past 24 hours we've had at least 12 avocados fall off the tree in our yard. That's not including the, on-average, 3 per day that have been falling for the past 1/2 week. It's raining avocados, y'all!

Monday, October 08, 2012

What a Difference a Year can Make

It occurred to me somewhat recently that it's been about a year since this whole adventure started. Granted, there was a lot of background work that started before a year ago. But we pulled up our stakes in South Carolina and started the orientation process in NY a year ago at the end of September, so it's a mile marker.

As I look back on the pictures from a year ago, pictures in our house in South Carolina, pictures from our farewell tour, even pictures from NY, and it seems like it was a lifetime ago. I wonder if a normal year feels like that. If I were still sitting in my house in SC, still working the same job, still hanging out with the same friends, would I still feel like a year is a lifetime? I can't say. But at this point, my "old life" seems like light-years away.

The past year has been full of highs and lows. We've finally fulfilled our dream of living in Africa, but it's been a tough adjustment. In some ways it's been way tougher than we ever could've anticipated and in other ways (ways we anticipated it being hard) it has been a breeze.  But I'm super proud of where we are right now (physically and emotionally) and I'm psyched to see what we'll be doing in another year.

Taken upon our arrival in NY

Taken just a few weeks ago.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Yard Project Weekend

Day 1 down of our weekend to get the garden closer actual garden. I'm pretty pleased with our progress.

We bought a car-load full of flowers. 19 flowers in all, including 2 hydrangea (which are Chris and my wedding plant) and a beautiful hibiscus, and it was around $30 US dollars. Most plants were less than a $1.50 each.

19 plants for less than $30USD, not too bad!


Our first plants purchased.

I dug out the mounds for where our veggies will go and soon these little guys will go in the ground.

These plants will soon be in the ground!
Basil, sage, zucchini, squash, shasta daisy ready to go in the ground.

These aren't burial mounds. Soon it will be our garden.
It kinda looks like we've got a bunch of dead bodies buried in the back. Maybe it'll deter any thieves that try to come in the yard again. (I doubt it.)

In other yard news, Chris got the clothesline up and running today. We had this built and then he put it in the ground earlier in the week. It's wiggled a little bit, which caused the lines to droop, but we'll fix that. This makes life so much easier because we were drying laundry in our garage and it took several days to dry and everything would smell moldy and musty afterwards.

The clothesline that my handy hubby did for me.
Yes, those are my underwear. I'm just putting it all out there for you guys. That's how devote I am to giving the real scoop about life in Africa.

In non-garden news: You can never predict how a day is going to go here in Tanzania. And one of our most regular (unpleasant) surprises revolve around constant water issues. Our water is constantly having periodic outages. On 3 separate occasions we have had busts in the main pipe leading to the house, all of which Chris has skillfully fixed.* And the faucets in the house constantly need to have the washer replaced because they just leak all the time. Today we couldn't get our kitchen sink to turn off. Thanks to the assistance of our neighbor, a fellow MKLMer, we got a new faucet which is really fancy (for here). I'm stoked!

So thankful for my new faucet! It's the liitle things that make me happy (or drive me crazy here-as in, a constantly running faucet!).

Let's see if we can keep this trajectory up and have some of our plants actually in the ground by the end of the day tomorrow.

*Do you see a theme emerging of how skillful my husband is becoming?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Twin Sisters/Coworkers

I really like the people I work with. I feel so lucky to have smart, funny, nice people to share my days with. Kadijah is a really good worker. She's just starting our her career and she is a single mother to a young son. She and I laugh all the time, especially because she's always stealing my pens at work. Kadijah did a great job of planning and facilitating an annual meeting this Thursday and Friday. On Thursday we both showed up in traditional cloths and she wanted to take a picture of us.


I said we looked like twins, but I don't think she was buying that story.

Me & Kadijah goofing off