Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Blessed Christmas!

                                                           ~by Fr. Polykarp Uehlein, OSB
The love that descended to Bethlehem is not

the easy sympathy of an avuncular God,

but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow,

floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon.

This love reveals sin and overcomes it.

It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity

that it scatters the proud,

humbles the mighty,

feeds the hungry,

and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53).

                                                                 ~ Charles Moore

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent in Magomeni, Mtwara

Inside our parish church there is this wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus. It's seven or eight feet tall. The base consists of a ring of people looking upward at them. I love the design and wish I could adequately convey in photos the verticalness of the statue when you are right in front of it, towering over you.

Below, just after a weekday morning service.

During the week we have been singing the following to start the Mass.
Njoo kwetu, Masiha
Njoo, Bwanda, utuopoe

Come to us, Messiah
Come, Lord, save us

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fantastical Insect

Does anyone know what kind of insect this is?? It was sitting on a window outside of our door. It looked like something imaginary made of flowers and leaves! –Earl

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

On this fourth Thursday of November (an ordinary workday in Tanzania) I jotted down a quick, random list of things for which I am thankful. -Earl

“We the People ...”
the sound of rain
showers (the kind you take)
quality time together
public schools and colleges
memories of backpacking trips
leafy shade trees
J.R.R. Tolkien
the Indian Ocean
fresh mangoes
Imago Dei
the Hippocrene Swahili-English Dictionary
the Golden Gate Bridge
friends who send dark chocolate
fish tacos
cool East African mornings
the color purple
chipsi mayai
Chinese calligraphy
being literate in English
affectionate sarcasm
Ada Lovelace (the first computer programmer)
an article on gratitude in the New York Times

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Cookie Now, or Two Cookies Later?

Yesterday afternoon all the employees of our school met to hear a presentation by someone from the National Social Security Fund, a program of the Tanzanian government. The fund is like social security in the U.S. together with medical insurance. Participation is voluntary, which is why we got a lengthy description and pitch for joining.

Aside from the fact that the speaker spoke in Swahili (but all of his slides were in English — go figure), the talk was just like something you might attend in the U.S. The concepts were all very familiar.

What was remarkable — and why I'm writing about this — is that the speaker made a lot of effort to persuade us of the prudence of making contributions into the system now so that they can enjoy good benefits later when they reach retirement age. This is a difficult sell in a society where it seems that just about everyone lives hand to mouth, even those who have some disposable income. I don't see much in the way of deferred gratification.

Why does this matter? Instead of investing their personal and collective resources into improving their future lives Tanzanians seem intent on present day consumption. I recently overheard a teacher say that people here are consuming more than they are producing and that's why their currency has been weakening so much. In any case, this is an ingredient for on-going dependence on outsiders to fund their development, who may or may not continue to do so.

Some of our educated colleagues have some awareness of this. But the attitude of spending what you've got is widespread. So I found this talk about the NSSF program, given by a Tanzanian government employee who seems to really believe in it, to be very heartening. -Earl

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Writing This Blog

Diane is the one who was keen on creating a blog when we landed in Tanzania two years ago. I was not interested in starting something that felt like yet another on-going commitment. So it's been a bit of a twist that while Diane has concentrated her energies on her plethora of responsibilities at our school I've turned out to be the main contributor.

It's a lot of work. Writing does not come easily to me. However, I like to imagine that my high school English teachers would be pleased that I can stay focused on a single theme, struggle to construct coherent paragraphs, effect transitions between them, and strive to create something that flows for the reader, with a beginning and an end.

The challenge is much intensified by the goal that I set early on of posting something two or three times a month. I had my doubts that I could come up with enough topics and ideas to keep up that pace, in effect, to produce a kind of periodical on a regular basis. So far, I've managed.

Again, it's a significant amount of work. Even to put up a few photos takes more than a few minutes. It involves simple editing such as cropping and increasing contrast; reducing the resolution since the pictures are only intended to be viewed on computer screens; and checking the resulting layout so that the size and placement of photos fit with the words.

So why do this? First, it's for the staff of our organization, Lay Mission-Helpers, who naturally have a constant and immediate interest in our experience of living and working in Tanzania. They would worry about us if we were silent for long periods of time, wouldn't you, Janice?

Secondly, our family and friends. It's difficult to describe for them being in a place that is so alien. But we try to give some idea of the differences, both at the most practical level as well as socially and culturally. And directly and indirectly it lets them know how we're doing.

Then, there may be people we don't know who may have an interest in East Africa because they have lived here or are thinking about doing so. They may find these posts enjoyable or enlightening.

Finally, we are writing this for ourselves as a personal journal. Diane and I debrief with each other almost every day over dinner. This blog provides another means to reflect on what's going on for us. Also, after we have left Tanzania it will serve as a record of our life here. We will really appreciate having it as the memories blur.

- Earl

[ As a rule we have been very hesitant about taking pictures of people. Some of them don't want you to. Some of them will want to be paid. That's unfortunate because there are all kinds of interesting sights that we would otherwise post.

Lately, though, I've finally become comfortable at least with posting photos of our students and other people who know us, who don't seem to mind.

We send multitudinous thanks to our friends Joe and Sharman who gave us the very nice point-and-shoot camera we've been using along with two high-capacity storage cards. ]

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Never Just an Individual Person

Life in East Africa is pretty communal — family, clan, and village provide the focus of one's life. Not for Africans the high individualism of many Western countries. It seems that a consequence of the communalism is that there is much less a sense of maintaining personal privacy and confidentiality. People know a lot more about each other's business.

Here's an example: our form four students just completed their national exams. After their papers have been marked, all the results will be publicly posted on the website of the examinations council, with the scores of individual students shown for each subject they tested in as well as an overall average. Every candidate is listed by name for every school so you can find out exactly how a particular student did.

There is part of me that likes this kind of transparency, especially because these exams are so critically important and there is always the possibility of cheating. There's another part of me that cringes. Diane and I are only marginally a part of Tanzanian society, so there's not much about us that can be revealed. Nevertheless, living here I often have some feeling of my psychic space being infringed on. For an East African it's just normal life, the social milieu that provides structure, security, and meaning.

What is less normal is being a very visible outsider. On the streets this means constantly being stared at as an "mzungu", which translates as "European". I could take exception to that, except that in this context it is actually ethnically accurate. A few Tanzanians who are more aware will look at me and see Chinese or Korean. Either way, I am presumed to have a mountain of money, unable to speak Swahili, and from alien ways. There's some truth to all of that. As in any simplistic stereotype, though, there's also much falseness.

At school and at church where we are regularly present and not quite such a novelty, there is another facet of how we are perceived. I am always aware that as a teacher I represent the school. And as a missioner I represent LMH. What I say and what I do, any misbehavior and any virtuous acts, almost certainly reflect on these organizations, whether intended or not. In other words, I am never "just me". For a very ordinary, somewhat boring and pedantic geek, being always "on" is one of the demands of signing up for this gig.

I look forward to walking the streets of San Francisco anonymously, sitting in a coffeehouse with a cappuccino, with no one paying any particular attention to me. -Earl

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Few More Photos at Aquinas School

The main entrance by road into the school. Diane and I actually normally enter from the opposite side of the campus on foot. I love this picture of the sky, which is so typical of Mtwara. Imagine the temperature to be about 87 degrees Fahrenheit or somewhat higher, with high humidity. That will give you a sense of the climate.

Two form 2 students at the new classrooms which are to be used for the Advanced-Level courses, which have been postponed until next year.

The plaque on the wall in the background states,

Aquinas High School
was officially inaugurated by
His Eminence
Polykarp Cardinal Pengo
25 July 2011
Thanks to the donors, especially to
  Ein Herz Fuer Kinder, Germany

(Ein Herz Fuer Kinder = A Heart for Children)
Pumping water from an underground cistern just outside of the girls' dormitory. The roofs of many of the school buildings act as surfaces to collect rainwater which gutters channel into the cisterns. It's a really clever thing to do in an area where months can go by without any rain at all and where the municipal water supply is erratic and unreliable.

We should do this in the U.S. even though water is not yet in short supply — but I think H2O will become a big source of conflict, maybe within my lifetime.

Diane and I love this photo of these two form 3 students who live in the dorm. The colorful cloths are separate pieces that are tied over the blue dresses. The hat is a cute extra that you don't often see. Very, very few Tanzanians wear hats. I wear mine all the time — it keeps my head much cooler than otherwise.

Late afternoon after classes are over. On the far right is a newly-built grotto for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who apparently was a very fair-complexioned European. I have the notion of committing some constructive vandalism in the form of painting her face and arms brown.

[ All photos were taken by Helga Higelke-Mahlke in August 2011. ]

- Earl

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Photos at Aquinas School

Form 4 students at morning assembly, practicing an in-place dance number. This kind of traditional movement is done by all students, without exception. I can see in it the origins of some of the entertainment that we have in the U.S.

Correction: Diane tells me that the above form 4 students were not dancing at all, they were doing calisthentics as ordered by the deputy headmaster!

A class of form 1 students. This is entirely typical of what the classrooms look like, except that they are often not this neat! Plain wooden chairs, desks with tops that lift up, concrete floor, and a very large blackboard at the front that is heavily used in what is largely a "chalk and talk" educational approach.

Madam Librarian at her post in the new library. The photo at the upper right is of Julius Nyerere, who is called "Mwalimu" (Teacher) and is revered as the founding father of Tanzania. He was an honest man with good intentions. Much of what is positive about this country is credited to him.

Form 4 students doing group study. As I am writing this they are taking their national exams for the next two weeks. The results will determine what opportunities will be offered for further study. This is a highly centralized country — in the realm of education, the Ministry of Education and the National Examinations Council call the shots on everything.

A group of form 1 students. This being "winter" here in the southern hemisphere, they are wearing sweaters. But I'm sweating just looking at them wearing so much clothing.

It looks like some of these students are eating so it must be during the uji break. Uji is a thin porridge often made from corn flour. Our school cooks up big batches of uji that is offered to students every morning. However, not everyone likes it. So there are outside vendors who are allowed on campus to sell other stuff such as mandazi (like a plain doughnut) and fried cassava.

[ All photos were taken by Helga Higelke-Mahlke in August 2011. ]

- Earl

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Diane in Motion

I was fiddling around with our camera and happened to take this blurry photo of Diane moving across the main room of our home. She is turned to her right, wearing a navy blue Tanzanian dress with a matching head wrap. You can see through her to the kitchen where there is a sink.

I like this picture, poorly shot as it is, because it is representative of Diane being on the move so much. She works a lot harder than I do at school and also brings a lot of work home. We are very similar in our work ethic; but I take time to do personal reading, study Swahili, and write this blog.

Life in our town of Mtwara and our neighborhood is slower-paced than in the U.S. Tanzanians in general are not nearly as driven as we are. However, I find that although my life here is not heavily scheduled and planned out it is still full of activity and things that I want to get done. Just like in the U.S.

As the saying goes, "wherever you go, there you are". -Earl

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sitting on Duct Tape

I broke the hinge on our toilet seat by standing on it, so we replaced the seat. That was in February. Less than a week later (!) the seat cracked all the way through on one side. I trimmed two plastic bottle tops and taped them to the underside of the seat to provide additional support. Apparently, the material of the seat is much too thin for the design. My fix held up for awhile. But then another crack developed on the broken side, then another at the very front. Finally, two more cracks happened at the back at the hinges. This left us with a toilet seat in five separate pieces held together with duct tape.

I've since gone out and bought another toilet seat. It's the same model as the old one (we have limited choices in this town, so no snide comments, please). Right away before any cracks developed I reinforced it with seven bottle tops along the underside. We will see how long this one lasts. -Earl

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Working at a Secondary School —
Orderliness, Planning, Precision

(Continued from 30 August)

When we started working at the school the class timetable was a mess. Subjects were not allocated their correct number of periods for each week, for instance. A form one student in one class might get six periods of math each week, whereas a form one student in the other class would only get two periods. Huh?

Granted, I've come to appreciate what an extremely complex problem it is to make a school timetable. Fortunately, I found a piece of computer software to help create schedules that are complete, correct, consistent and satisfy most of the preferences of individual teachers. Because of the software I can do this work in two days, a task that would occupy months if done entirely manually.

Still, the previous lack of a good timetable is so indicative of the disorderliness that is so common. The class timetable drives the day to day operation of the school. It is essential to get it right even if it is difficult and tedious to do so.

The lack of order appears in a number of ways: the chaotic and uncoordinated scheduling of events and activities; the lack of appointments and advance notice; the scarcity of thoughtful planning; inaccurate, haphazard record keeping; and more. I have to tell our students to use the same name everywhere (preferably with a proper family name) and to always spell it the same way.

There are basic ways of thinking, working, and managing things that I take for granted as second nature. They are not! Some mental habits I have let go of because I've come to see that they don't matter. For example, I've gotten comfortable with visitors who just show up with no notice. I've learned to improvise on the spot what to do to try to meet the purpose of their visit. Since we are given no time to prepare, nothing seems to be expected.

However, if you want an organization (or a society, or a country) that works well, runs efficiently and is productive in the material sense, then some things do matter. So maybe these are what foreigners like us should be not only modeling but explicitly teaching and mentoring: not only knowledge and skills in math, sciences, and computers, but also, the ability to think and work more precisely, to plan ahead, to better organize the use of people, and to pay attention to efficiency; and along with those, an appreciation for why they are important.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Working at a Secondary School —
Work Ethic; Student Discipline

(Continued from 25 August)

Coming from the U.S. and being of Chinese descent to boot, I have a pretty strong work ethic. Moreover, I regard teaching as a vocation in the sense of something of higher value that you feel called to do. So I expect a level of dedication from myself and my colleagues that is a cut above merely holding a job.

The picture at school is mixed. It's culturally murky and difficult for me to interpret. On the one hand, teachers are habitually late and casual about starting classes "on time". Occasionally they don't go at all. It's common for teachers to show up late for work and to leave early. Only a few of them take work home. On the other hand, there are occasions when a teacher will volunteer to provide extra instruction in their subject because there is material that still needs to be covered or because their students have not learned it well enough. Overall, though, I can't help having the impression that the work ethic is not up to my expectations. I'm not saying that there are not good reasons for that. But I still notice it, and it's bothersome.

A constant topic of discussion in the staff room is student discipline. But first the issue needs to be put in perspective for the people who are reading this. Our students are like those in high school in the U.S. in the 1950's. Violence is rare, close to non-existent. I am never concerned for the safety of my person. That said, truancy, coming to school late, talking during class, losing books and materials, not taking good care of them, not doing homework, etc. are exasperating to us teachers.

Historically and currently in most schools, corporal punishment has been used, sometimes severely in the form of caning. The manager of our school, who is originally from Germany but has been in Africa for a long time, and the headmistress, who is from The Philippines, have abolished these practices. Some of the Tanzanian teachers disagree, feeling that corporal punishment is necessary for African students and is appropriate and effective when used judiciously. They respect the authority of the administration but feel that their hands are tied as far as disciplining students. I sense a certain amount of perplexity and frustration.

I feel conflicted about this myself, but in a different way. Personally, I do not like to use or to witness physical punishment. But then I also do feel strongly that Tanzanians must figure out their own way through this issue (along with myriad others). There has been enough of non-Africans coming here to subjugate, exploit, and dictate to the indigenous peoples. I do not want to continue that pattern.

Student discipline is a dilemma which all the teachers are struggling to find a way through, including me.

A bit more later. -Earl

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working at a Secondary School —
Being an Introvert; Adolescents

I took a "mental health day" last week. I stayed home to be alone, to catch up on household stuff, and to take a needed break from being at our school. This year has not been a positive time for me. The past few weeks in particular I have been cranky and irritable at work.

It's been very demanding for me to teach and to work at a secondary school. I'd like to describe a few of the ways.

Let's begin with the fact that there is a mismatch between my personality and my position. I am basically an introvert. Always have been. Always will be. That doesn't mean that I dislike people ("introvert" does not equal "misanthrope"). It means that being with people is a draw on my batteries.

That's one very good reason why being a software developer has suited me so well. There is a lot of time spent in solitary work. Not all, but really quite a bit. It's a good balance for me. In contrast I am currently with students an average of close to three hours a day, either conducting class or supervising the computer lab. This is intense for me. And much of the remaining time I am at my desk in a large office shared with a dozen other teachers. I have very little time being truly alone.

If I were teaching adults it would be different. But I don't. I teach adolescents ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen and twenty. Not only are they struggling with the unavoidable process of becoming adults, they also have to deal with health problems, persistent poverty, and, God help them, exposure to Western popular culture and, for a few, the Internet. Moreover, in our part of this country education is not well-rooted as a value. So even at a small, private, Catholic school like ours there are serious problems with student motivation, focus, and academic performance.

I find that I don't really have the requisite patience and caring to be in such close proximity to so much adolescent energy for so much of the time. I now have the utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude for those teachers who do, and who do this essential work day after day, year after year.

If I were to start this gig over again I would ask for less front-line classroom work and to be in more of a support role. In addition to the endless tasks of maintaining the aging computers, I think that being a teaching aide of some sort, rather than being the teacher, would be much more suitable given what I'm writing about in this post and for other reasons as well.

More later. -Earl

Friday, August 12, 2011

Opening of New Buildings at Aquinas School

This past spring our secondary school tried to introduce classes for Form 5 (we currently offer Forms 1 through 4), but so few students enrolled and of such marginal qualifications that the administration decided to shut down the program after only two weeks.

In the meantime we have some beautiful new classrooms, which are mostly going unused. But we also have a new library that Diane has moved into with the book collection. It's a very nice space that is getting a lot of good use, a pleasure to walk into.

Anyhow, even though we don't have any Form 5 students it was decided to go ahead with the official opening ceremony which had already been scheduled. Cardinal Pengo attended, so it turned out to be a pretty big deal. He is, I believe, the highest ranking Catholic in Tanzania. Photos below are of the ceremony. -Earl

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Selous Game Reserve - photo album

Trip to Selous Game Reserve, July 2011

At the beginning of July we had a wonderful trip to the Selous Game Reserve to see wildlife. This park is not well known outside of Tanzania, so it doesn't get many visitors. As a result it is completely uncrowded even though it is relatively close to Dar es Salaam.

The animals we saw included impala, giraffes, baboons, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, lions, painted dogs, a cape buffalo, and many more. It is such a special experience to be with these African animals in their natural environment.

Click on the above photo or its caption to jump to our album of about two dozen pictures which is stored on the Picasa Web Albums website. Unfortunately, many of the photos we took turned out to be too poor quality to share. They are blurry or the animals are too far away to be easily recognizable to anyone but ourselves. We freely admit that we are not photographers. 8-D -Earl

Monday, July 25, 2011

Giraffes and a Safari Lunch - Photos

Here are a couple of photos from our recent wildlife trip to Selous Game Reserve, which we took with our friend Marina visiting from San Francisco. It is simply an amazing and unique experience to be out in the East African savannah with animals in their wilderness habitat. -Earl  [I hope to put up more pictures later.]

Monday, July 11, 2011

Moments of Happiness While Away

Ndanda. Attending the priestly ordination of a Tanzanian friend ~ delighting in the celebratory dances and songs after the ceremony ~ boogying up to the new priests in a line of well-wishers to offer gifts and congratulations ~ and catching a long ride home in the back of a Land Rover with a live chicken lying at our feet.

Mtwara. Gazing at the Indian Ocean at the beach house ~ watching the sun go down during an early dinner at the Msemo Lodge ~ feeling worthy to have a friend visit from ten thousand miles away ~ being moved to tears by her words of support and admiration ~ sharing a home-cooked meal of Tanzanian food ~ and anticipating flying in an airplane again.

Selous Game Reserve. Staying in a "mud hut" above the Rufiji River ~ having a herd of impala freeze at our presence and then suddenly bound away ~ seeing giraffes loping along in their stately slow-motion way ~ sitting within five yards of two grown female lions lazing in the heat who ignored our open-air car and its astonished passengers ~ being stared down by an African buffalo ~ walking through the savannah with a nature guide who identified scat and tracks, accompanied by a park ranger carrying an automatic rifle ~ peering through binoculars into the wide open jaws of a crocodile ~ floating quietly on the river within close sight of a pod of hippos ~ having a young bull elephant do a (mock) charge of our car ~ and seeing the Milky Way brilliant in the night sky.

Dar es Salaam. Meditating in the Blessed Sacrament chapel ~ eating a veggie burger in an outdoor restaurant ~ getting a teeth cleaning and exam ~ browsing Tinga Tinga artwork with its bright colors ~ buying a big bottle of mango-flavored Tang ~ and back at home, snuggling with Diane in our own bed again.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ties That Bind

"In European eyes, the lives of Africans appeared simple, carefree, and in harmony with nature, and Africans themselves child-like in their spontaneous, often naive responses. But when you looked a little way beneath the surface you saw that Africans lived like so many Gullivers, bound by innumerable threads of custom, ... Their behavior, and especially their relations with each other, recalled the complexity of some highly sophisticated, mannered society such as the court of Versailles in the 18th century." -Elspeth Huxley in The Mottled Lizard

The author lived in a different time and a different place — I wouldn't say that the lives of Tanzanians even appear simple, carefree and harmonious with nature. Still, the point is well taken that the native peoples have social relationships that are rich, complex, and constraining. Beyond the outward things such as the natural environment, the houses and foods and bicycles, the marketplaces, and the activities of daily life, I wonder about the interior lives of our colleagues, students and neighbors, lives which are so opaque to an outsider like me.

From conversations with them I get a sense not only of strong family ties but also of strong family obligations. In some cases it's quite understandable. For example, if several of your relatives pooled money together to pay your way through school and now you are holding a paying job as a result of your education, then you're going to feel that you owe them something and not just your gratitude. At other times I get an impression of a culture of dependency in which people will shamelessly ride the gravy train if they can get a ticket on it.

Regardless, those felt obligations and expectations exist. Could they be a factor in the prevalence and persistence of the corruption which exists at all levels of government? Because if on the one hand there are the constant, inexorable demands of extended family members to provide for them, and on the other the sense of civic duty and responsibility, of belonging to a country, is weak, then the temptations of acting unethically are going to be hard to resist.

[ I'm not making any excuses for the Tanzanians. They know the meanings of corruption and stealing. -Earl ]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Planting People, Not Things

After an entire year without electricity to run the student computer lab, it is operating again (thanks to newly installed solar panels funded by a German organization).

That's just one example of how unreliable the infrastructure, and the physical/mechanical environment in general, is in a place like Tanzania. With no warning the water or the power stops working. Doors fall off cars. Toilet seats crack into pieces. Book bindings disintegrate. Parts that should be interchangeable, aren't. It's frustrating.

[ And as soon as I started letting students use the computers again the donated systems started to break down. I've already lost six of them. There's always something. ]

Lately, though, I have been keeping in mind a quote attributed to Confucius: "If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of a hundred years, teach people."

So I try not to get overly annoyed with so many things being poorly made, wearing out quickly, breaking down, not being properly maintained, or whatever. Because what I'm really here for is to plant, that is, to cultivate, people. That's a long term project. Something that will take generations. -Earl

Friday, May 27, 2011

God's Light

You never know when the electricity will stop working where we live. It happens at seemingly random times and days. So early on Diane and I learned to keep flashlights, candles, and matches at hand.

At times the power goes out at night and is still out when it's time for us to get up early in the morning when it's still dark. We light a candle for the bathroom and one for the main room.

Soon enough, though, the sky gets a hint of color. Invariably at these times I feel relieved. And I think, "Our electricity may fail, but now it doesn't matter as much. God's light is coming up to light the day ahead."

[ Photo: an ordinary sunrise from our doorstep in Mtwara. No longer quite so ordinary to me. -Earl ]

Sunday, May 15, 2011


One of our fellow teachers was in a horrible car accident. Luckily, at eight-month's of being pregnant this woman survived with only minor injuries, as did her two young children. The driver of the car she was in died on the spot along with a newborn baby from a different family. The driver of the bus that they hit head-on also was killed as well as three of his passengers.

When you think of the dangers of being in East Africa disease might come to mind first. Malaria, cholera, typhoid, and yellow fever, among others, all do occur. But if you have gotten the vaccinations, treat the water, store and cook food properly, and take a prophylaxis for malaria the chances of serious disease really are very small.

Maybe you think of wild animals. However, in a settled area like the town outskirts where we live and work all you are going to encounter are a few centipedes and scorpions and, very rarely, a snake. Sorry, but no lions and tigers and bears. Mishaps with critters can be largely avoided by being mindful of where you are stepping and what you pick up.

After living in Tanzania for almost two years I find the scariest thing about the place is the traffic. Many drivers lack good training, go way too fast, and take risks that we would consider reckless, such as passing near curves. Many motorcycle riders appear almost suicidal. On top of the driving behavior itself there are poor practices such as the spotty use of seat belts, motorcyclists who don't bother to use the strap on their helmets, and non-existent child seats. Remember the days when you could get a ride in the back of a pick-up? It's common practice here, along with packing as many people as possible in the microbuses, which are called daladala. I know about the daladala because I ride one into town pretty much every week. You wouldn't think it possible to put that many bodies into a minivan.

So if you're coming to these parts don't be excessively concerned about health issues or the wildlife. Instead, take out extra insurance for Accidental Death and Dismemberment. 8-/


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Things We Do in Mtwara ...

... But Not in San Francisco
  • Sleep under a mosquito net
  • Kill mosquitoes with a handheld bug zapper
  • Take mefloquine every week (a prophylaxis for malaria)
  • Take cold showers!
  • Purify tap water with a Swiss-made 10-liter water filter unit
  • Collect rain water for household use (on occasion)
  • Store buckets of water in case the water stops running
  • Check that water is running before flushing the toilet
  • Burn our paper garbage and plastic film (no garbage service)
  • Wash all our clothes by hand
  • Get mail at the post office (no street delivery)
  • Deposit mail at the post office (no street mailboxes, either)
  • Run an electric fan almost all the time, even while sleeping
  • Stock candles & matches (you never know when the power will go out)
  • Keep flashlights handy as soon as it gets dark
  • Use adapters for three different types of electrical plugs (British, German, U.S.)
  • Use a voltage converter (Tanzania has 220 volts)
  • Check clothes and shoes for critters (geckos, scorpions, centipedes, et al)
  • Block gaps in windows and doors with tape and newspaper
  • Carry an umbrella at all times, rain or shine
  • Eat peanut butter everyday for breakfast
  • Ration our chocolate supply
  • Buy rice, beans, flour and sugar in bulk
  • Clean rice and beans for little stones and other debris
  • Test the freshness of eggs with the "float test" (if it floats, we throw it away)
  • Use powdered milk (imported from The Netherlands)
  • Walk and drive on the left side of the road (this used to be a British colony)
  • Ride daladala (minivan buses) and bajaji (little three-wheel motorized buggies)
  • Take 10-12 hour bus rides to Dar es Salaam
  • Do #1 in the bush on long bus rides: ladies on the right side of the road and men on the left side
  • Drink Stoney Tangawizi (a strong ginger-flavored soda -- we will miss it)
  • Eat chipsi mayai (an omelette made with french fries!)
  • Pig out on mangoes when they are in season
  • Toss our food scraps in a big composting/rotting pile behind the rectory
  • Keep sweets in the frig away from the ants and rodents
  • Limit our internet access, including turning off images in web browsers (our connection is metered -- we pay for every byte down and up)
  • Use computers with only 256 MB memory (the ten-year old donated systems at our school)
  • Buy paper phone vouchers with scratch off numbers for putting money on our cellphones and internet access
  • Text/SMS more than talk (it's clunky but much cheaper)
  • Use A4 size paper instead of 8½ x 11
  • Visit a dispensary to see a medical officer
  • Take a half day's bus ride to see a dentist
  • Return soda pop bottles (remember those sturdy bottles with a deposit?)
  • Clean mud off shoes as a frequent part of arriving home
  • Count out squares of toilet paper
  • and ...
  • Write a personal blog

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

The Gardener

This is a quiet ground to garden,
This resting-place of the dead, and yesterday
Should have been quieter still, with the Sabbath
Falling after the executions of the day before.
The rich man's tomb is filled now,
That I saw, rich enough to have a guard
Set overnight: some rowdy Romans drinking

Until all hours, and even when they slept,
No peace and quiet -- all night the sky lit up
As in that year once of the great star,
More star-born winds among the rocks and trees,
And sounds like flocks of birds in passage
Overhead. I kept my hut. The dead are walking,
Was my fear. And here it is day again,
Bright in its dawning, brighter still
For what is over. Little has stirred:
Only a pair of mourners, with their urns,
Women most likely, walking this way
Slowly, and just about to meet a third.

~Nancy G. Westerfield Kearny

Picture: Le Tombeau Vide - The Empty Tomb
Vie de Jesus Mafa

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

O earth, who daily kissed His feet
Like lowly Magdalen,—how sweet
(As oft His mother used) to keep
The silent watches of His sleep,
Till love demands the Prisoner,
And Death replies, "He is not here.
He passed my portal, where, afraid,
My footsteps faltered to invade
The region that beyond me lies:
Then, ere the dawn, I saw Him rise
In glory that dispelled my gloom
And made a Temple of the Tomb."

~John Bannister Tabb

Photo of the Sisters' Cemetery, Ndanda Priory

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

There are no words for that moment
When the temple veil was rent
As darkness overtook the day
Or when water and blood streamed
To form a pool that seeped
Into the fleshy veins beneath

There are no words for scenes
Like these
Yet there is a prayer
Constant in its inexpressible grief
A cry on lips that reaches heaven
A breaking of the heart
That bruises nature
And shrouds the world.

Belfast, Co Antrim, Ireland

Photo of the Way of the Cross, Sister's Chapel, Ndanda Priory

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Garden of Gethsemane

Indifferently, the glimmer of stars
Lit up the turning in the road.
The road went round the Mount of Olives,
Below it the Kedron flowed.

The meadow suddenly stopped half-way.
The Milky Way went on from there.
The grey and silver olive trees
Were trying to march into thin air.

There was a garden at the meadow’s end.
And leaving the disciples by the wall,
He said: ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death,
Tarry ye here, and watch with Me awhile.’

Without a struggle He renounced
Omnipotence and miracles
As if they had been borrowed things,
And now He was a mortal among mortals.

The night’s far reaches seemed a region
Of nothing and annihilation. All
The universe was uninhabited.
There was no life outside the garden wall.

And looking at those dark abysses,
Empty and endless, bottomless deeps,
He prayed the Father, in a bloody sweat,
To let this cup pass from His lips.

Assuaging mortal agony with prayer,
He left the garden. By the road he found
Disciples, overcome by drowsiness,
Asleep spread eagled on the ground.

He wakened them: ‘The Lord has deemed you worthy
To live in My time. Is it worthiness
To sleep in the hour when the Son of Man
Must give Himself into the hands of sinners?’

And hardly had He spoken, when a mob
Of slaves, a ragged multitude, appeared
With torches, swords, and Judas at their head
Shaping a traitor’s kiss behind his beard.

Peter with his sword resisted them
And severed one man’s ear. But then he heard
These words: 'The sword is no solution.
Put up your blade, man, in its scabbard.

Could not My Father instantly send down
Legions of angels in one thunderous gust?
Before a hair of my head was touched,
My enemies would scatter like the dust.

But now the book of life has reached a page
Most precious and most holy. What the pen
Foretold in Scripture here must be fulfilled.
Let prophecy come to pass. Amen.

The course of centuries is like a parable
And, passing, can catch fire. Now, in the name
Of its dread majesty, I am content
To suffer and descend into the tomb.

I shall descend and on the third day rise,
And as the river rafts float into sight,
Towards My Judgment like a string of barges
The centuries will float out of the night.'

~Boris Pasternak

Painting by Faraja Ramadhani, Class of 2010, Aquinas Secondary School, Mtwara, Tanzania

The Last Supper

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

[On seeing Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper", Milan 1904.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Only 102...

On April 15th, the Titanic sank, Abraham Lincoln died, Americans pay taxes, & I headed off to the salon. I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a special way. The last two times I went to the salon, I spent 7-8 hours in the chair without getting up once! But I have been so busy with school work that I have not had another entire –free- day to spend doing absolutely nothing. So when I walked into the salon last weekend, I was prepared to sit there until dark thinking God only knows how long my hairdresser would take! But to my great surprise this “yebo yebo” design only took two hours! What a treat! Of course, having my hair done like this does wonders for international relations. Staff & students alike love it!

So during our weekly student assemblies, the entire school will sing “Happy Birthday” to our teachers when he or she is celebrating a birthday that week. The students also sing, “How old are you now?” and they expect you to tell them. So I told everyone that I was 102 years old today. The students squealed with delight and they were AMAZED that I could be that old!!! One student, Nyabasi, said, “Naaaw, Madam, you only look about 90 years old.” Another student, Amina, told me that she was going to live to be 500 years old.

Because I am a Class Teacher, my Form IV students, all 42 of them, celebrated my birthday in a big way. Then one of my students, Christopher, had a hard time believing that I was a 102 years old. Eyeing me curiously, he said, “Really, really Madam? Aw Madam, you are forever young!” Well, if I am forever young, it is because of the great joy these students bring to my heart…

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Song of Lawino" by Okot p'Bitek

Song of Lawino is a book length poem by Ugandan Okot p'Bitek, published in 1972. The character of Lawino speaks in the first person as an African woman lamenting the cultural death of her Western-educated husband Ocol.

The poem is related to and inspired by traditional Acoli oral literature, but it also uses aspects of Western poetry. It was originally written in the Acoli language, then later translated by the author into English.

I love the images and the rhythm of the work. As you may guess, I am highly sympathetic to Lawino's point of view.

Here is a comment of hers on ballroom dancing.
"My husband laughs at me
Because I cannot dance white men's dances;
He despises Acoli dances
He nurses stupid ideas
That the dances of his people
Are sinful,
That they are mortal sins.

"I am completely ignorant
Of the dances of foreigners
And I do not like it.

"Holding each other
Tightly, tightly
In public,
I cannot.
I am ashamed.
Dancing without a song
Dancing silently like wizards,
Without respect, drunk ...
Since arriving in Tanzania Diane and I do not touch each other in public. Especially, any show of affection is considered shamelessly bad manners.

On keeping time and calendars,
"My husband is angry
Because he says,
I cannot keep time
And I do not know
How to count the years;
"When the baby cries
Let him suck milk
From the breast.
There is no fixed time
For breast feeding.
"In the wisdom of the Acoli
Time is not stupidly split up
Into seconds and minutes.
It does not flow
Like beer in a pot
That is sucked
Until it is finished.
"A person's age
Is shown by what he or she does
It depends on what he or she is,
And on what kind of person
He or she is.
Lawino is not condemning the ways of foreigners but rather imploring her husband not to categorically throw away his own native cultural legacy.
"A certain man
Has no millet field,
He lives on borrowed foods.
He borrows the clothes he wears
And the ideas in his head
And his actions and behavior
Are to please somebody else.
Almost fifty years after independence are Tanzanians still basically trying to please somebody else in some matters such as their educational system? -Earl

[ I found out about Song of Lawino when Diane used this book in teaching English Literature last year. The entire syllabus consists of writings in English by African authors. No Shakespeare! ]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yes We Can!

Well, we know it’s Lent. But we really could not help ourselves when a big care package arrived from California. Bulging with treats & goodies, we tore it open and uncovered a box of chocolate chip cookie mix inside! Wow! THE JACKPOT!!!!

But wait. Read: Bake in 375 degree oven. Alas! We do not have an oven. What to do? So we wondered, “Can we cook a cookie mix on top of the stove?”

“Yes, we can!”

We might be in the middle of Lent, but we gave up chocolate chip cookies ALL YEAR! So we are enjoying every delectable bite!

Many, many, many thanks to all of our “Care Package Angels” around the world: San Francisco, Los Angeles, La Quinta, San Leandro, Martinez, and Lafayette, California; Seattle, Washington; Wood-Ridge, New Jersey; Riverside, Rhode Island; and Falmouth, Nova Scotia.

We cannot thank our “Care Package Angels” and our “Corresponding & Praying Angels” enough for shipping all your love to us in the form of chocolates, cookies, books, magazines, school supplies, vitamins, batteries, shoes, lotions, calendars, shirts, socks, cards, letters, emails, texts, prayers and so much more. Because of all the love you send us, we have so much more love to give to those we serve. Love –does- make the world go round!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent, Magomeni church

I took these two pictures today after attending the early morning Mass at our church in the Magomeni neighborhood of Mtwara, Church of Jesus Christ Redeemer [ Kanisa la Yesu Kristu Mkombozi ].

Purple being one of my favorite colors, I was drawn to take a few photos during this Lent. I really like the layout of this church and its light and airiness. Compared to most Catholic churches in the U.S. the furnishings are very simple. I find that appealing, maybe even elegant. The Tanzanians probably have a different view: that the simplicity is necessitated by having little money.

I wanted to get a photo of our pastor Fr Patrick Mwaya presiding but a visiting priest was there instead. Fr Patrick often goes to the outstations, of which there are several in various villages outside of town, so he is on the go quite a bit. I will catch him another time. -Earl

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mid-Term Slump

I have been in a bit of a slump the past several weeks. I think much of this is due to teaching in a secondary school. The entire school system in this country is stressed.

Overall, there are not nearly enough teachers. There are schools full of students that are barely staffed. Even when teachers are present the pervasive poverty affects so much: low salaries, lack of textbooks and supplies, the inability of families to pay tuition.

Students have personal problems that of course affect their ability to study: malaria and other health issues; divorced parents; living far away from home; relatives infected by HIV; and just plain hunger. Even being at a private Catholic school such as ours we are hardly unaffected by these things.

So much is at stake when the national examinations are taken. They determine whether a student can progress to the next step in the system. If you don't at least pass, your job prospects are bleak — and that seems to be so much of the focus of education. There are alternatives to getting a university degree but they seem to be considered second-rate and looked down on. So there is a lot of pressure on the students academically (and indirectly on their teachers).

And, there is dealing with the bureaucracy of a top-down government that is very centralized and whose education departments are highly politicized. Imagine edicts handed down by people who are not educators making decisions which schools have no choice but to follow even if they do not make sense pedagogically.

I must add that comparatively speaking our school is adequately staffed, well managed, and more or less solvent. We strive not only to prepare our students for those all-important exams but also to influence good character and behavior and to educate in the broadest and best sense of the word.

But that's just it — there are so few schools that are able to attain even the modest level that we are running at. Even in the best of conditions I would expect the needs of a secondary school anywhere to be endless; after all you are working with groups of adolescents who are constantly coming and going as they enter and as they graduate. In our circumstances, the needs are so much greater; they can feel overwhelming. - Earl

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Head Got Mowed!

Just when I thought I was doing pretty well in getting things done around our town of Mtwara and speaking enough Swahili to get by I come home with this (unintended) haircut.

I had gotten haircuts before on my own. I would tell the barber which number attachment to use on the electric clippers. He would trim the sides and back closely and take something off the top.

This time the barber &mdash who had not worked on me before — said, "all of it?" I said "yes" without thinking. He proceeded to mow down a wide swath right off the very top of my head and said, "like this?" At that point I had what you might call a "reverse mohawk" and realized that there was no choice but to get the shortest haircut of my life. I laughed and said, "keep going".

One of the other barbers in the shop quickly explained something to my guy about cutting non-African hair, a bit late but useful for the next time.

I have to say, this is easy to comb and takes very little shampoo to wash. Diane feels like she is married to a Buddhist monk. The Tanzanians all love it because almost all of the men maintain their hair just like this — millimeters long. -Earl

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some Greeting Cards and Small Paintings

Dear Family & Friends,

Last year I wrote a posting with our Tanzanian friend Moris about his daily routine. He recently lost a very large chunk of his income. Diane and I continue to hire him for food shopping and other errands every week, but it's not really enough. So Moris is casting about for other ways to earn some money.

He has friends who are local artists and has arranged to get a cut of the selling price if he is able to find buyers for their work. I have agreed to display some of the pieces on this blog and to handle the money if anyone out there would like to make a purchase.

The artwork is pictured below. If you would like to order something, send me an email. Please keep in mind that postal service between Tanzania and the U.S. is sl-o-o-o-w. Also, our Internet access goes out on occasion, I'm busy as a secondary school teacher -- and a lot of things just happen more slowly in this part of the world. 8-D

Pictured above are four greeting cards, completely blank on the inside and on the back. Each card is roughly 4" by 6". (If you are familiar with European measures each card is a sheet of A5 paper folder in half.) I especially like Card A, which is done in the tinga-tinga style. Each card is $2.50, which includes postage, etc.

Pictured above are two small paintings. Painting A is about 4" by 5" at its widest and tallest points. Painting B is about 4.5" by 7.5". They are done on 1/8" masonite board. Painting A is $4 and Painting B is $6.

Again, send me an email directly if you would like to make a purchase so that we can arrange for payment (PayPal or otherwise) and address to ship to. -Earl

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our Cooling System

As I sit at home in Mtwara sweltering in the heat and humidity with nothing on but underwear and sandals and with an electric fan blowing on me, I try to take comfort from the fact that we human beings have a whole-body cooling system that is far more efficient than that of any other mammal.

The book AFRICA: A Biography of the Continent has a very interesting chapter on this. Our upright stance may have come about as a way to reduce the amount of body surface that is directly exposed to the sun during the hottest part of the day. Being off the ground also puts us up into air that is windier, cooler, and less humid compared to a quadraped.

The other component is well-developed sweat glands together with bare skin. Actually, we have as many hairs per unit area of skin as a chimpanzee -- but those hairs are mostly so fine that we are functionally naked. As a result sweating is an extremely effective way of removing heat from the body as the sweat evaporates.

Here in East Africa being able to stay cooler and more active allows humans to reduce their water requirements and be able to forage farther for food in the open savanna. This would have been the immediate advantage.

But the longer term consequence might have been that this unique system removed a physiological constraint on the development of a large brain! Brain tissue is expensive in terms of its continuous need for oxygen, fuel, and a narrow temperature range in which to operate. The brain runs hot. A researcher is quoted: "it is probably no coincidence that today the mammal with the most highly developed brain and social behavior is the species which possesses the most elaborate cooling system".

If we had not evolved a body that is so good at staying cool I might not now be expressing myself in such an intricate language as an act of a shared complex culture and doing so on a machine. 8-D

- Earl

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"AFRICA: A Biography of the Continent"

"About 100,000 years ago groups of modern humans left Africa for the first time and progressively colonized the rest of the world. Innovative talent carried them into every exploitable niche. They moved across the Sinai peninsula and were living in the eastern Mediterranean ...

By the early 1970s people had been to the moon. Such achievements, and all by virtue of talents which had evolved in Africa."

- from AFRICA: A Biography of the Continent, by John Reader

We all came out of Africa. Many of the most important fossil finds of early people have occurred here in Tanzania and nearby. I feel like I have returned to the cradle of humankind.

This book has impressed on me the extent of my ignorance of this huge sub-Saharan continent from which my ancestors left relatively recently, in evolutionary terms.

The writing is lucid, well-researched, compelling, and easy to read. The content is vast, addressing topics such as the ability to make a tool according to a mental picture; the development of language; the effects of geology, climate change, and diseases; the beginnings of agriculture; early cities and civilizations; the deep and widespread social disruptions caused by slavery and the slave trade; and the codifying of culture into rigid ethnic categories as an invention of Europeans.

There's much more, and it's highly recommended. -Earl

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Malaria, Mosquitoes, ...

I recently read a really good series of articles online about malaria. They are quite detailed, a bit long and not dumbed down, but very readable for the layperson.

The articles were apparently written by a doctor who has lived in Uganda (a neighboring country of Tanzania) for many years and wanted to clear up the confusion around a disease that everyone knows about but with a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions.

The articles are written as seven parts. I give a brief description of each part and provide a link to it.

Part 1. What happens when malaria gets into your blood stream and multiplies.

Part 2. Developing (partial) immunity. How the parasite actually reproduces and gets spread between people.

Part 3. Diagnosis, misdiagnosis, symptoms, and prophylaxis.

Part 4. Rapid tests for malaria and what can go wrong with them.

Part 5. Effective treatment, treatment options, risks.

Part 6. Prevention options, besides drugs.

Part 7. Prophylaxis drugs. Some thoughts about prevention.

For Diane and me, one thing I got from reading this series is that we are actually pretty unlikely to get sick with malaria, for several reasons.

First, it is only a certain kind of mosquito that can carry the malaria parasites. I have been looking carefully at the ones in our home that bite us. They are not the malaria kind. Also, we are rarely outside when it is dark, which is when the malarial mosquitoes are mostly out and about. My guess is that in our day to day life here in Mtwara our exposure to potentially infectious bites is really very low.

On the other hand, if we should go travel somewhere on a wildlife safari the exposure could shoot way up. As long as we are in Tanzania we should not become complacent.

Second, the fact that we are both taking a prophylaxis called mefloquine provides a lot of protection against the parasite should it be introduced into our bodies. According to the author, he has not seen a single case of a patient taking mefloquine properly who has had malaria. Other types of prophylaxis are also extremely effective.

Third, the symptoms that indicate possible malaria can all be caused by other diseases, of which there is a plethora in sub-Saharan Africa. Missing those others can be serious.

If we do get sick and suspect malaria we should be careful about the diagnostic process. Malaria seems to be greatly overdiagnosed.

In any case, besides the risk of malaria I get a fair number of mosquito bites that are just plain very itchy and annoying. So we use a mosquito net on our bed, I often wear long pants at home even when it's hot, and I keep insect repellant handy if we do go out at night. -Earl

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sunshine, serenity and solitude by the sea...

A gently swaying hammock under the whispering pines. A lonely dhow anchored a hundred yards offshore. A vast sea-green sea that stretches to forever. Coconut palm fronds waving in the wind. A brisk salty sea breeze. Although we were surrounded by fragrant frangipani, flame trees, fiery red hibiscus & brilliant bougainvillea, there was not a soul around.

Sunshine, serenity & solitude by the sea! How delightful!

Taking advantage of our month long school break , Earl & I hopped on a tightly packed bus for a 9+ hour rough & tumble ride to Dar. After a couple of days at the less than luxurious & very cheap YMCA (shared bath, cold water & no towels), we boarded the Sea Bus ferry for a 2 hour sea voyage to the magical isle of Zanzibar aka Unguja Island.

Greeted by Father Damas at the hustling, bustling & extremely chaotic ferry terminal, we climbed into his old army jeep and circled around Zanzibar Town. On our way to the heart of the city, Stone Town, we caught glimpses of narrow streets & cobbled alleyways, women draped in black, overhanging verandas, colorful TingaTinga art, bustling bazaars, the Sultan's Palace, Beit El-Ajaib (House of Wonders), street-side vendors, and numerous Moslem minarets piercing the azure sky. The sun was sizzling hot & there was a spicy aroma in the air. Father Damas dropped us off at the Bishop's House, next door to St. Joseph's Cathedral. Also known as "Kanisa la Minara Miwili" (Church with Two Towers), the cathedral was built in 1898 by a French architect. At first glance, one might think one was in Paris!

Sister Laurent, our hostess, escorted us to our simply furnished room with bed & bath. Our window overlooked the narrow street below which was splashed with brightly colored paintings of everything African: dancers & drummers, zebras & giraffes, sun & seascapes, mud huts & mangroves. The highlight of our Stone Town stay was the House of Wonders, home to the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture. Besides viewing a life-sized mtepe, a traditional Swahili sailing vessel made without nails, the planks held together only with coconut fibers & wooden pegs, we learned about Princess Salame who secretly eloped with a German soldier & spent almost the rest of her life in Germany. A woman before her time, she was an advocate for healthcare & the education of women.

After our brief stay in the soul of Zanzibar Town, we bussed 60km to the northernmost tip of Zanzibar where we were perched on a small seaside outcrop with a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. We stayed 3 days at the Mnarani Beach Cottages in Nungwi (private bath, hot water & BIG towels!), a real splurge for us - once every 16 years. The last splurge was on our honeymoon at the Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. On Cape Breton we were 46+ degrees north of the equator and here we could practically touch it! Mnarani means "lighthouse" which was right next door. Built in 1888, the 70 foot tall lighthouse is still blinking!

Earl & I also ventured on a Spice Tour where we met other tourists from England, Holland, Liechtenstein, Canada & Tanzania. Nassor, our Zanzibari tour guide, led us on a leisurely stroll through the jungle-like plantation sprinkled with wild orchids. We nipped nutmeg from the tree, plucked lemon grass from the earth, scraped cinnamon bark off the tree, painted our faces with red Masai powder, whiffed vanilla beans on the vine, rolled peppercorns between our fingers, sniffed a bouquet of fresh cloves, and fingered smooth cones of cayenne peppers. We also sampled a medley of fresh picked fruit such as papaya, jackfruit, star fruit, mangoes, marmalade oranges, and pineapple. Our guides adorned us with woven jungle leaf jewelry - ties, necklaces, rings & bracelets. After a hot lunch of traditional foods such as coconut soup, pilau, & sauteed spinach (all seasoned with the spices we just sampled) in the shade of a thatched roof banda, we descended into the deep dark seaside Slave Cave. After Nassor shared a little Slave Cave history, we climbed out of the dark & into the light to take a refreshing dip in the Indian Ocean.

After an exceptionally crazy non-stop school year, we had a wonderfully relaxing holiday! Diane

Zanzibar Island Trip - Photos

In December we took the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, a beautiful two-hour ride on calm seas. While Diane slept, I went outside to enjoy the ocean and the warm winds. We stayed at guest quarters at the Catholic Cathedral in town and explored the streets a bit. It's a small historic city with a very Old World feel to it.

We did something very touristy -- we went on a "spice tour" to visit a farm where various kinds of spices are grown (along with fruits also). Zanzibar is known for this.

And we splurged on a stay at an idyllic beach cottage resort at Nungwi, which is at the very northern tip of the island. -Earl