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