Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Final Pictures

Together with community workers as they dug the foundation for the Rainwater Collection Tank in Nyambogo

Our first team picture taken with uniforms on, right after a successful match (Week 9)

The whole team gathers around as the coach writes each player's number on their jersey during my goodbye party

1st grade schoolchildren in Shirati holding their new pencils and their new friend (Flat Stanley)  

My favorite Shiarti meal. Ugali is in the lower-right, tomatoes and onions on the top left and the infamous (yet delicious) barbequed pork on the upper-right.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week 10

Goodbye Party – My soccer team decided to throw me a goodbye party before I left. The Sambusa Mother (see Week 5) agreed to host the party and make food for the whole team. The first half of the party was simply each member of the team choosing their jersey number. This was a huge deal to them. They argued, debated and thought deeply about which numbers they wanted, eventually coming up almost entirely with numbers that are more like football than soccer jersey numbers (68, 77, 41, 30). I don’t know where they were getting these numbers from instead of the traditional 1-11 that are used by most starters in soccer, but I, of course, didn’t say a word. An important part of choosing their number was then coming to tell me what they chose and showing me their now completed uniform. One by one they came and showed me their shirts. One by one I congratulated and photographed them holding up their jersey (think NFL draft style). It was really fun. For lunch there was rice and beans, which was very good. After we ate, the kids started playing some traditional Luo music and teaching me Luo dancing. Luo dancing involves leg, knee and foot action…but not much else. It’s a different and fun kind of dancing. We listened to music and danced until it got dark, then the team walked me home.   

King Cobra – During my last trip to Roche we (literally) ran into a king cobra. As we were driving towards the village, we saw the snake starting to cross the road. These are considered to be amongst the most dangerous snakes in all of Africa due to the incredible strength of their poison. I was told that getting bit by one here would lead to death, most likely within the hour. These snakes are rare, but when they show up in a village they are incredibly dangerous to the village livestock and to people (especially kids) who may accidentally stumble into one and suffer the consequence. When our driver saw the 7-foot snake starting to cross the road, he immediately sped up (to ensure we’d hit it) and immediately hit the breaks once we were over it. After sitting for a while, we then backtracked to run it over once more. After our pick-up truck had run over the king cobra twice, it was unable to move. This allowed all the passengers to get out of the truck without having to worry about it coming after us (normally, the snake is very quick and hides well in grass making it incredibly dangerous to be around on foot). Everyone started finding rocks around the area and one-by-one took turns pelting a rock at the snake’s head. After about 10 minutes of this, the snake was finally dead and the community was very thankful that we had rid them of this deadly pest.   

Closing the Gas Station – Last Wednesday, the District Commissioner for our region came to Shirati unannounced, together with 40 police officers. They went straight to the gas station (the only one within about 50 minutes of us) and promptly shut it down. They further stationed police there to ensure that no one can go in or out of the station. No one in town has any idea why they did this and no explanation has yet been given. This has further complicated life around here though, as gas is now being sold in street corners by non-official vendors, out of Dasani bottles (which makes measuring the amount of gas easier since each Dasani bottle is 1 liter). How long this will go for and why it happened, I may never know.

Obama Gets His Net – Remember when I first had the honor of meeting Barack Obama (Week 5)? Well there’s one thing I didn’t tell you about him and his mom. They didn’t have a single mosquito net. At the time I didn’t know it, but they would go on to become the only family (out of over 70 that I interviewed) to not have a single net. Obama’s mother explained to me how she was away in Kenya when the government distributed them. She told me of how he kept getting sick with malaria and she didn’t know where she could get a net post-government distribution. Well it was her lucky day. Two weeks ago, one of the many groups of mzungus that I watched come and go during my time in Shirati left me a very nice, very luxurious mosquito net that a person had gotten for themselves in the U.S. before realizing that nets would be provided for them during their time here. This was a net that was truly fit for a King…or President. In my last trip to Burere, I took the net with me and once again found their home. I told his mother (through my translator of course) that as an American, it pained me to know that Barack Obama was frequently getting sick from malaria. I brought him a mosquito net because it was the right thing to do, and because it was the patriotic thing to do. She laughed and laughed and thanked me for bringing such a needed net for her family. She handed it over to Barack who looked at it puzzled but held on to it like it was a new toy. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a picture of this event as Barack Obama was completely nude throughout my visit. While it was a paparazzi’s dream, I figured it was best for me to not get involved in the business of starting scandals.   
My Teacher Gets His Phone – In Week 6, I told you of the Swahili Lessons that I started taking with a friend from the soccer team who needed money to buy a cell phone. After 4 weeks of intensive classes (not really…at all) I decided that my friend had earned his cell phone. My second to last day in Shirati, I walked with him to Obuere (the neighboring village) and went to the cell phone stand where I myself had bought my phone 10 weeks back. I let him pick out the phone he wanted within the price range we had agreed on pre-classes and was all too happy to watch as he opened the box with joy and enthusiasm, installed the battery and turned his first ever cell phone on. He was so happy that he held my hand tightly (see Week 5) and ran home as he tugged me along behind him. He showed his parents, his brothers, his cousins and even friends the new phone he got. When people would ask how he got it he’d say that I gave it to him; I’d quickly jump in and say that wasn’t true, but rather that he had earned it through the hard work he had done.   

Kids Get Supplies – That same day, my second to last day in Shirati, I had also arranged to visit the local primary school (grades 1 through 7). Before going to Tanzania, I had heard that one of the greatest problems facing the educational system there was that students can’t afford the pen or pencil that they need for school. In fact, many students are indeed sent home from school daily because they don’t have the “proper supplies” (meaning pens or pencils). With pens and pencils being so cheap and affordable to us in America, I figured this was an easy way that I could help. I brought 110 of them with me to the primary school and, working together with the head teacher, went classroom by classroom giving them out. My $10 investment got the entire 1st, 2nd and 6th grade classes writing utensils. It was incredible to think that just $10 could get 110 students supplies that they desperately need to be able to afford staying in school. There needs to be an easier way to do this more often.   

Flat Stanley – Ginger Beebe, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe’s wife, started a project a few years back called the Flat Stanley campaign. The Arkansas First Lady tries to educate Arkansan children about the importance of reading through these little paper figures called Flat Stanley which she encourages people to take with them all over the world and send her back pictures of. She then uses pictures of the well-traveled Flat Stanley to show kids the importance of learning about different places all over the country and world. Each Clinton School student is invited to the Governor’s Mansion a few months before we leave for our international projects and are given the chance to design their own “Flat Stanley” to bring to wherever they’re going. I made mine red, white and blue and brought him with me to the primary school. I took pictures of the kids with Flat Stanley in each of the classes where I distributed writing utensils and then gave him as a gift to the school. The principal hung him up on the front door of the main office; the kids loved this new little American friend they now have.  

The Nyambogo Project: Final Update – Both last week (Week 9) and in Week 7 I told you of the Nyambogo Rainwater Collection Tank Project that I’ve now been working on. The good news is that the truckloads of sand and stones arrived last week. The workers were able to use the sand and stone to level the ground and start laying the foundation. They then used a mixture of cement and stones to lay the foundation in a stable manner. I’m happy to say that the foundation has been laid and the construction of the tank’s walls is now set to begin! Unfortunately, the project has come to a standstill though. The lack of money for the project to move forward means that the villagers have to wait to continue to build this critical structure. I’m once again hopeful that we can see this happen to completion in the not too distant future.

Stomach Juice & Gallbladder – For my last lunch in Shirati, I invited some of the staff that I’ve been working closely with here on the ground to go out with me to a local restaurant. I had been to this place twice before with my local friends and found they had the best food I had tasted during my time there. I always order a plate of “barbequed” goat tips (think steak tips, but not really), tomatoes and mixed greens. This is served with a piece of ugali (the local “bread” (but not really) which is made of a mixture of water and cassava and you take chunks out of and eat together with whatever else you’re having that meal). As you can see this is a quality meal for the area filled with things I normally don’t have there. The cost for this entire filling platter: 40 cents. With sodas, it comes to 70 cents a person. I splurged and got the folks I had been working with this treat. Halfway through our eating, one of the people I was with asked me if I liked the sauce that they used to barbeque the goat. I said of course, this was my third time ordering this dish as I thought it was delicious. He asked if I wanted to know what the sauce was. That, combined with everyone in the table smiling and chuckling as he said this, made me realize that perhaps I should not want to know what the sauce was. But I gave it a go, and soon regretted it when he informed me that they dip the goat in a mixture of cow stomach juice and gallbladder. As good as that meal was, I struggled to eat the last bit on my plate.      

The Last Practice – Later that same afternoon, I attended my final soccer practice. It was bittersweet and I tried to enjoy every moment of it, appreciating how awesome the experience I had of joining a young team in rural Tanzania and playing with them every day during my time there was. I ran through our dirt field as the sun set behind us and the kids around me screamed things I did not understand in Swahili; I realized how much I’ll miss this fun, peaceful and healthy daily routine. After practice the team got together and tearfully said its final goodbye to me. They had gotten me a gift. Not wanting to let me go home “empty handed” (as they put it) they bought a huge cloth at the market for me to use as a tablecloth back home. It’s a beautiful zebra patterned cloth that goes 10 feet across. It was very nice of them, and I know very hard for them to raise the money to get this. I was once again touched. We said our goodbyes, hugged each other and promised to do our best to stay in touch for many years to come.     

Brazilian Superstar: An Update – Back in Week 8, I told you the story of the park worker who was “my biggest fan”. I told you of how I promised him that the next gol I scored I’d dedicate to him. Well it might not have been as glorious a setting as he expected, and perhaps I wasn’t wearing the yellow and blue uniform that he thought I’d be, but sure enough I kept my promise. My last practice saw me score my last gol (3rd overall during my 10 weeks). I immediately remembered the worker, remembered my promise, and dedicated that gol to him.  

Goodbyes – And so I had to say my final goodbyes to all of the people I had come to know and love in Shirati, Tanzania. The villagers, the local staff, my translator, my driver, the night watchman, the cooks, my soccer team and other friends that I had made. It was a day filled with sad goodbyes but one that made me realize that I have to go back to Shirati one day. I’ve become too invested in the community there not to. Before leaving, I was able to get 10 autographed Bill Clinton pictures from the Clinton Foundation and I purchased 4 Clinton School T-shirts to bring with me as gifts to those who truly made a difference during my time here. In retrospect, I wish I had gotten many more gifts. But perhaps next time I’m in Shirati, I’ll be better prepared.  

Bill Clinton – I am, of course, a fan of President Bill Clinton. And, I found out, so are the people in Shirati…but for very different reasons. “Bill Clinton! He was one of us!” people would tell me when I gave them the autographed picture (with a personal thank you note from me written in the back). Now I understand when they say that about President Obama, as his father was a member of the local Luo tribe (see Week 1), but I could not understand what they meant about President Clinton. And so I would ask. One person, two people, three people…then all ten. And, much to my amusement, all ten gave me the same response: “He was the first American President to be like our Presidents. He had more than just one wife. Bill gets us.”

“How Do You Live Here?” – My last conversation with people in Shirati came over breakfast the next morning, as I awaited the car that would be driving me to the bus that would take me into Kenya. One man, who I had become close to here, was telling me all of the problems he was dealing with this week. Electricity was once again particularly bad (we had about 10 hours of power that whole week), his water pump was having some issues and we would run out of water early during the day, the lack of a gas station made driving his motorcycle impossible, so he had to walk the 15 kilometers to work each day, and on top of that his brother had been arrested on bogus charges and the police was demanding money to let him go. He said that sometimes people asked him “with so many problems here in Shirati, with so much that is wrong, how do you live here?” He laughed at the question he had just posed. “You’ve lived here now Fernando. You understand. These are small problems. These aren’t problems to worry about, they’ll all be fixed. What’s important is that we, the people who live here, we’re together through it all. You help someone out a bit, they’ll help you out a bit, and together, we get through it. It’s a good place. Why wouldn’t I live here?” he said with a smile.   

Getting Home – And so I came home. The car took me to the Kenyan border, which I crossed. I boarded a bus to Nairobi, where this time I fortunately arrived safely and with no incidents. I spent another night at my friend Shamim’s mother’s house in Nairobi, boarded a plane to London and then one to Miami. 62 hours after I left Shirati, I safely landed at home. My welcome wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. First I found my bag had completely torn open and my things were scattered. I collected everything, got a cart to carry it all and proceeded to customs. There, the officer showed great concern that I was coming from rural Tanzania where I lived and worked amongst farms. He told me to go to Door 15. Now I had seen the line moving ahead of me for quite a while; most people were told they could freely leave Miami International Airport after talking to customs, some few people, were told to go to Door 2 for further inspection. I had seen no one go through Door 15. I went inside and found two Homeland Security Officers who had been reading their newspaper startled that someone was sent to them. They asked me why I was there. I explained and after X-raying all of my belongings they sent me to Quarantine Room B. Yes, my welcome home to America consisted of being placed into quarantine. They explained that they feared I might unwillingly be carrying live bacteria or diseases on my body, clothes or shoes from the Tanzanian farms and soil. So they made me wait as they suited up, they put on their full gloves/apron/boots/mask attire, and they started spraying me and everything with me down with some sort of insecticide. They particularly focused on my shoes which were drenched by the end of their spraying and had to be further soaked in a tub of theirs before I could get them back. Over 2 hours after I landed, I was released from quarantine and was properly welcomed home by my family. I immediately went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, took a hot shower, turned on my smart phone and enjoyed the luxuries of life that I had all but forgotten.     

Monday, July 18, 2011

Week 9

The Importance of Cleanliness – People here are very into cleanliness. It’s an incredibly important cultural component. When you go to eat at someone’s house, go to a restaurant, or even go to an event where food is served (like a funeral), the first step in the eating process is washing your hands. Someone (usually one of the host’s older daughters if it’s a home) comes around with a bowl of water and an empty bowl. They slowly pour the bowl of water over your hands and hold the empty bowl under your hands to collect the water as it falls. Depending on where you are (mainly restaurants), a bar of soap may also be provided for the hand washing.  

“It’s Just a Pretty Drawing” – Many people here tend to wear T-shirts on a daily basis. The Salvation Army will get donated shirts from the U.S. and sell them to local vendors for very cheap. The vendors then sell these used American T-shirts (for about $2 each) at the Monday market, and daily in their shops. What’s really interesting is reading these shirts, which are very random and at times amusing. I’ve seen everything from high school marching bands, to I “heart” Seattle, to St. Louis marathon, to Super Bowl Championship shirts from the team that was in, but lost the Super Bowl. And every now and then I’ve seen vulgar shirts with curse words or expressions that clearly the folks wearing them don’t understand or they would never be wearing these shirts the way they are. I once asked a kid wearing an American flag T-shirt (the whole shirt was an American flag, including the sleeves and everything) if he knew what the shirt stood for. He looked at me confused and said “it’s just a pretty drawing”. 

Talking in Clicks – Last week, while in South Africa, I witnessed the first ever conversations based on a language that uses clicks as part of its dialogue. It was fascinating to me. Particularly learning about how different methods of clicking can be used; depending on where the click comes from (throat or mouth), how long the click lasts for, and the context in which the click is used, the click can stand for & mean completely different things. This week, back in Shirati, I started noticing that the Luo language also has a bit of a click use in it, although not as obvious as what I heard in South Africa. After discussing it with some of my friends, I learned that clicks are used here as well, albeit more as a way of showing either agreement or displeasure with a statement (depending on how you click). 

The Nyambogo Project – Construction on the Rainwater Collection Tank in Nyambogo (Week 7) has officially kicked off to a great start! The villagers have dug a hole going down 3 feet that will serve as the foundation of the structure. This past weekend, truckloads of sand and rocks were brought over (approximately 40 tons of each) to be mixed with cement and made into the filter’s foundation. Work is continuing and this week should see the foundation laid and finished. The next stage entails the community making the approximately 3,000 bricks that will be needed for the actual structure. Unfortunately, money is scarce and it seems like further fundraising will be needed to actually get this project to completion. I’m hopeful that things will move forward fast though, as the folks in Nyambogo truly need this tank to be operational as quickly as possible.

Astronomy – The other day I was talking with the older brother of one of my soccer teammates who was home on vacation from his final year of college in Mwanza. He’s a very intelligent guy and we had a good conversation about Tanzania and how it compared to America. Towards the end of our conversation, he asked me one big question that he still had. “In America, does the sun look much smaller from how it looks here? Does it look like our moon?” I told him that it didn’t, it looked the exact same. He explained to me that he knew that it was colder in America, and therefore he assumed that meant we had very little exposure to the sun. It was a valid assumption based on the information he knew. Without much of a scientific background it was difficult for me to answer all of his further meteorological questions about the sun, the moon, the earth and where Tanzania and the U.S. stood in all of this.

Making Uniforms – Before Spencer came to Shirati, he asked me if I needed anything from the U.S. I thought about it for a while, considering many different foods that I’d enjoy (and would help me regain some of the weight I’d lost), and many movies or television shows that I would love to have for entertainment here. In the end though, I decided to ask him for only one thing. I asked that he bring me 15 matching blue T-shirts from Wal-Mart and a black permanent marker. This week, I called the coach and assistant coach of the team to a secret meeting with me and gave them the shirts and marker for them to make a team uniform with. They were absolutely ecstatic. The team had been saving up for 3 years (since it was founded) to one day have uniforms. They were ways away from making this a reality. The coaches were so happy and grateful that they designed the uniform to reflect that. The back says “Chapakazi FC” (translates to “hard workers” and FC stands for Futbol Club). They did not put numbers in the back so that players could each choose their own. The front of the shirt was what shocked me. It simply says: “Fernando Team”. They explained to me that all of the European teams have the name of their sponsor in the front. Naturally, they wanted to do the same. I was very touched.

Giving Uniforms – This past Saturday was the last match that my team would play with me still here. Before the match, we had a team meeting where the coaches and I (to the team’s surprise) gave them all uniforms. The players went wild in cheer, and all jumped to hug me. They never thought they’d actually get uniforms one day, being such a young team with little resources. I was happy I could help them. The game was a very close one with a tied 0-0 score at the half and us trailing 0-1 with just 15 minutes left. But then the team turned it on. We scored 4 gols in a row in the remaining 15 minutes and won the game 4-1! I’ve never seen the team so happy or proud. Afterwards, in his speech to the players, the coach congratulated them on a match that served as a great inauguration of their new uniforms, and a perfect goodbye for me.    

Going to School – Last Friday, I took a day off from working and went to school with my assistant soccer coach (who’s a senior in high school). School was a very interesting experience. For one thing, I was shocked that I was able to understand everything. That’s because starting your freshmen year of high school everything at Tanzanian schools must be done in English. Swahili is permitted only as communication amongst students, but never when a teacher is lecturing or even when a student is talking to a teacher. Luo, the local tribal language, is strictly forbidden on campus and if anyone is caught speaking Luo at any time, corporal punishment follows. The school is very big in space, but very simple in what it has. At the same time, I was surprised to find that it really has everything a school actually needs. While there is no lighting or electricity, the school is designed in a way where those things aren’t needed since light comes in naturally. While there is no air conditioning, the structure also allows for a cool breeze to pass through. And while there are no computers or whiteboards, the old blackboard in the classroom I sat in worked and served the needed purpose. In short, they make good use of what they do have here and while it wouldn’t make the cut with American standards, it really isn’t a bad learning environment.

Cleaning – School starts at 7 am when all the students come in with their white long-sleeve shirts, blue pants, black shoes and buzzed haircuts (yes, haircuts are part of the national uniform here and both boys and girls must have their hair closely buzzed throughout their schooling to be allowed to attend). From 7 to 8 am, there are no teachers present at the school. Instead (much like I remember observing when I spent a summer going to high school in Japan) the students spend the first hour of school cleaning the entire school compound. Different classes have different assigned areas that they are permanently in charge of keeping clean. Whether it’s sweeping a dirt road, cutting the grass with machetes, removing rocks and dung from the soccer field or dusting/cleaning the classrooms, each student knows what they have to do and they do it. Before morning announcements (8 am) a “teacher on duty” (which changes every week) will inspect the different spaces to ensure the students did a good job.  

Fees and Punches – Morning announcements happen in the main courtyard of the school. The students line up in several rows (military style) making a 3-sided box around the Tanzanian flag and elevated platform next to it (where the headmaster speaks from and where the teachers all line up behind). Announcements that day were all about school fees. The headmaster pointed out how the students had 5 full weeks of vacation time they were just coming back from, during which they could’ve easily worked to make the money needed to pay for the semester ($7). “You could’ve made bricks and sold them. You could’ve fetched water from Lake Victoria and sold it. In two weeks of hard work you could’ve made that much money. Instead, you are lazy. You sit home and listen to the radio and visit your friends and then when school starts you beg your poor parents for the money. They don’t have it! Now what?” He went on for about 20 minutes. It was an interesting lecture. In the middle of the announcements, he called out one student’s name and made him come to the front. He had apparently been talking during the announcements and the punishment is corporal, in front of the entire student body. As all observed, a teacher walked up to the student and gave him three strong punches to the back of the head. By the third, the student fell down to the ground. Embarrassed and clearly in pain, he walked back to his spot in line to hear the rest of morning announcements.  

Colonialism, Geography and Biology – I was able to observe two classes that day. They are supposed to have 6 classes a day, but a teacher shortage has meant that the new norm is 4 a day, and a teacher’s absence that day meant that students (in the class I was observing) had to be sent home after only 2 classes. The first class was Geography and the second was Biology. Geography started off particularly interesting. I guess they have a different definition of “Geography” here because the topic they were finishing up was “Colonialism”. The teacher was clearly very uncomfortable having me in the room as he (rightfully) blasted “mzungus” for all the ills they had historically brought to the region. He was all too happy to move on to the next section “Noise Pollution”; again, very different definition of “Geography” I guess. The second class was Biology, and today they were covering “Genetics”. It was a fascinating class with a lot of stuff I remember learning in high school involving DNA, RNA, Cell structures, Heredity, etc. I was impressed with how similar their biology curriculum was to an American high school’s. I wish I had sat through more classes that day to further learn and observe, but I guess being released at 10:30 am from a school that’s supposed to go until 2 pm was an interesting observation in itself.

Historic Draught – The region has really been suffering lately from a particularly bad dry season, after a particularly bad rainy season. It’s incredible to think back 9 weeks ago and remember how green everything here still was and how much water was still in the lakes and rivers. These things are all distant memories now. The whole area is now brown and grey. Corn, which used to be taller than me and plentiful all around the community, is now completely dead. It looks like a tornado touched down and destroyed all of the region’s corn fields. The lakes and rivers where people used to get their water supplies from have dried up, and locals are starting to have to walk for almost a full day to fetch clean water. I’m told that this draught is historically bad. That normally, it’s not until early-September (just a few weeks from rainy season) that the lakes and rivers dry up. Yesterday, one of my soccer teammates even told me that his family has gone from 3 meals a day to 2, as they braced for the months to come. The mood here is somber and people are praying for some very unlikely rain to pour down.

Going to Church – Speaking of praying, I went to church this past Sunday with my soccer coach (reminder, he’s my age) whose father is a preacher at a small, local church. When we arrived, services had already started but there was absolutely no one there. The two of us sat down trying not to interrupt the two preachers (the head preacher, my friend’s dad; and the assistant preacher) as they loudly prayed towards an empty room. As the 4-hour service continued, people slowly filtered in, until finally the church was full with about 20 adults and 15 children in attendance. The church was evangelical, which is a type of service I had never attended before. The preachers were very friendly and welcoming, repeatedly referring to me (“Mr. Fernandes”, I guess they misunderstood my name) and asking if I understood everything they would say. I did actually understand it all. Reason being that after the preacher would say a phrase, he would pause and have the assistant preacher translate it into English, just for me. It was really nice of them and delayed the service, but I was able to get all of what was going on, which I appreciated. The end of service (the last hour) was by far the most fun. People went from “fearing God”, to “loving and celebrating God” and with that change they started singing and dancing, waving their hands, moving their bodies and even doing calls, cheers and screams. The choir came out and led more songs and everyone was just joyful, some even started crying from happiness. In a place with so many problems that people must deal with on a daily basis, it was good to see so much happiness.

Lunch with the Preacher – After church, the preacher invited me to his house for lunch with his family. I was happy to accept the offer. I’m always flattered when the people here go above and beyond their means to be welcoming of me as a guest of theirs and their community. The preacher was a very kind man who was very worried about my comfort and kept asking what he could send his youngest son to go buy for me to eat or drink. I kept telling him that I wanted to eat whatever they normally eat and asked for nothing special. Lunch, however, was bread and butter. Not that that’s what they normally eat, but that’s what they thought I would want and so that’s what the preacher sent his young son to go get for us at the market (along with an Orange Fanta for me). Bread and butter do not come cheaply here, and while the meal wasn’t quite the cultural experience I was hoping for, it was a very nice meal over some great conversation.  

Malaria: An Update – In Week 5 I gave you the preliminary good news I found out involving malaria in the region. Now, I can give a fuller and more scientifically accurate update. I had asked 3 local health facilities for help in providing me data for this report. One was unfortunately Rao Hospital (see Week 7) which means I had to rely on the other two. Those two, however, are the two most used healthcare facilities operating in the region and therefore should provide a pretty accurate picture. After getting and compiling all of the data from Shirati Hospital (see Week 5) and Sota Health Clinic, I found that a 7-year comparison of the 4-month period since government net distribution and spraying occurred, shows that malaria is in fact down by 75% this year compared to average! Even more impressive, the government’s targeting of households with young children (most likely to have deadly malaria) brought about a 96% decline in malaria cases of children 2 years and younger. This is great news for the region and should be a major point of pride for the Tanzanian government!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 8

Pastor John – Off I went on a new journey last weekend, this time to South Africa where my classmate Spencer and I would spend 6 days to visit other classmates and to get a break from the Shirati life. As I’ve come to expect, the bus rides here are always an adventure. If not because of the bus itself, then because of the passengers who never fail to disappoint. This trip, Spencer and I decided to sit separately on the bus hoping we’d each get our own row and not be crammed. Of course, what ended up happening within minutes is that we were each sitting next to a stranger. Spencer’s stranger slept the whole way there; mine talked. His name was Pastor John and he was a very friendly and charismatic individual who was in the process of opening his own church and seemed to think that I was the holy grail of Baptist fundraisers. He spent the first 4 hours of the 6-hour journey talking to me about each of the church’s needs and how much they would each cost. While sleep, reading and my ipod had to be put on hold, I had a fun time with Pastor John and appreciated the conversation, even though the topic matter didn’t particularly interest me.
“You Are Blessed” – The last 2-hours of our conversation were different. By this point, I take it that Pastor John realized I would not be the donor he had hoped. So, he changed the topic to world politics and culture. Now this was something I could get into. Pastor John was a really smart man who had a good understanding of the world. It was interesting when he’d ask me about specific things he had heard about and wanted clarification on. Things like hearing that in America people have phones that are also computers. Or that in America, people have so much food that they throw food away every day. After asking me about my travels and being utterly awed at where I’ve been; he looked at me very seriously and told me “You are blessed, Fernando”. He went on to explain how the vast majority of humanity, including his very neighbors in Kenya, are struggling every day to put food on their table. How the majority of humanity will never travel outside of their own district, much less outside of their country. And how the majority of humanity wishes to one day see this great land they hear about called “America”, but never will. He was right. I was very touched and grateful to him for pointing this all out to me. I, and all of you reading this, really am blessed. We shouldn’t have to wait for the Pastor John’s of the world to point this out to us.  

Jo’burg – I arrived in South Africa through the Johannesburg airport, which is simply incredible. I’ve been to many airports around the world, but none have blown me away like this one. Granted, the airport is new and was inaugurated just over a year ago for the 2010 World Cup, but they still went above and beyond. It’s a majestic structure that is beautifully designed and has a lot of open space. You can get anywhere via the automatic ramps, the food court is larger and more varied than any I’ve seen, the stores are beautiful, and they not only have a prayer room but they have a separate meditation room! Not that I’d use either one of those, but the fact that they existed and were incredibly nice impressed me even further. In short, if Tom Hanks is ever in need of a new “Terminal” to live in, he should consider Joburg. 

Cape Town – Wow. Cape Town is by far one of my favorite cities in the world. I was amazed at how beautiful this city is. No matter where you turn, you encounter natural beauty. Whether it’s the mountains on one side or the ocean on the other, the place is just breath taking. The people are also incredibly friendly and have awesome accents. The weather, which was winter there, was perfect with highs in the upper-60’s and lows in the low-50’s and not a cloud to be seen in the beautiful sky. The beauty of the city reminded me a lot of my native Rio de Janeiro (which is apparently a very popular comparison) but the city’s modern infrastructure, development and cleanliness made it an even more appealing place. It seemed like I was in the middle of a great mixture of Europe and the U.S., with a unique accent to go along with it. I cannot stress enough how great a place this is. For several years I’ve thought of Rome as my favorite world city but now, I must say, Cape Town may have overtaken it.  

Staying with our classmates… – Part of the purpose of this trip was to enjoy a week off from Shirati. Another part of the purpose was to visit our classmates who are doing their International Public Service Projects in Cape Town. We were planning on staying with Nicky and Molly, two of our classmates who are living there. We knew that both have eclectic tastes and that living/spending time with them would allow us to see the best that Cape Town had to offer. The day before our arrival, they started telling us that perhaps living with them would not work out. They said that their living space was small and that we wouldn’t fit. Spencer and I were having none of it, knowing the two girls too well to believe that they were living in anything but luxury. We insisted on staying with them. Well, much to our surprise, they were not lying, or even exaggerating. If anything, they were understating it. They indeed were currently living in single rooms that fit nothing more than the bed and luggage they had in them. It’s all that a single person needs, but not what we expected from these two luxurious gals. We spent a night with our classmates, and found we had to go elsewhere for the remaining nights.

Meeting Desmond Tutu – A third, very important purpose of the trip was the incredible opportunity that was offered to us of meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nicky happens to be close family friends with the Archbishop and was able to set up some time for us to meet him. We were invited both to tea time with him that Wednesday, and to attend church services that he would lead that Friday. We were thrilled. I had heard many stories about “The Arch” (as he’s affectionately called by his staff), but the most touching were the ones I heard from his staff the day we were scheduled to meet him. The staff told me that when The Arch reads about an accident in the newspaper that particularly touches him, he calls the family to wish them well, whether or not he knows them and whatever their religious affiliation may be. When the Arch has important visitors come to town to meet him (for example from the last couple of months: David Beckham, George Clooney, or (during our time there) the Princess of Monaco) he always invites them to take a walk with him and introduces them to each of his staff members before taking them next door to introduce them to the secretaries of a different office, because, as his staff explained to me, he thinks these secretaries are sweet ladies and are always so nice to him that they deserve to meet some celebrities as a thank you. I could not wait to meet this truly special man.   

Tea Time – I was not at all disappointed. As soon as Archbishop Tutu walked into the room, I could tell things changed in that room. He has an incredible aura about him, a charisma and charm that is there just from his presence. He greeted me and sat down next to me to enjoy a cup of tea and some cake. He asked about the project Spencer and I were working on in Tanzania and was intrigued. He went on and on discussing the history of Tanzania, Tanzanian politics and his interactions with the first Tanzanian President (who is considered a hero here). Then he stopped suddenly and said to me “but I’ve never spent more than 2 days at a time there, you’ve been there for 8 weeks, you’re the expert. What do you think?” He seemed genuinely interested. I told him that I agreed with everything he had said and that he was right on track with his assertion that the Tanzanians are proud people (the last point he had made). To further prove his point, I told him the “Tanzania is better than America” story from Week 5. He absolutely loved it and was laughing hysterically. He even asked me for permission to share that story with others in the future. After tea he walked up to me and once again asked for my name. “Fernando” I told him, and told him the story of where I came from. When I told him about Brazil, he switched to Portuguese and spoke with me in what he knew of the language while laughing in delight that I had understood him. How down to earth and humble this great man was, was what inspired me and awed me the most about him. He’s truly an incredible person.      

Church Time – Early on Friday morning, Spencer and I went to the Anglican Cathedral for a weekly Friday morning prayer service led by Archbishop Tutu. Knowing that this is open to the public every week, I expected a massive crowd gathered to be with the Arch. I was shocked to only find 25 people there. I guess when an opportunity like that is available every single week, the locals don’t appreciate it as much; but I sure appreciated having even more time with the Archbishop in a small group setting. He was serious throughout the service, having a stern look of business about him. Towards the end he all of a sudden completely changed his look to one of happiness and joy. He looked around the room and said that he “noticed we had some visitors join us today”. He asked that all visitors stand up and introduce themselves. Indeed, about half the room were actually tourists who were there to see the Arch. One by one we each said our name and place of origin. Throughout this time Tutu seemed genuinely interested, humbled and grateful that each of those individual people had decided to come from wherever they came from to see him. You’d think that after so many years of fame, he would’ve gotten used to it. When it got to Spencer and mine’s turn, he put a big smile on his face and said “I know them. Those are the Clinton boys!”. After the service ended, he went around and shook hands with everyone who had come. When he got to me he remembered my name and said “Peace be with you Fernando, it was a pleasure to meet you. Be blessed.”

Touristy Stuff – Besides the beautiful location, perfect weather, hanging out with our classmates and meeting Archbishop Tutu, Cape Town was also a great tourist location, filled with attractions. During the course of the week, we visited Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 23 years behind bars), relaxed at the Water Front (a beautiful outdoor/indoor mall on the shores of the Atlantic), hiked Table Mountain (quite a hike, but well worth it for the beautiful view of Cape Town and the surrounding area that you get once up top), visited the famous Cape of Good Hope (the southernmost point of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean in a beautiful clash), saw African Penguins in their natural habitat, went to the famous “Seal Island” where thousands of seals live and which has one of the most beautiful views of the mountains that I’ve ever seen, and we went to local museums to learn more about apartheid and other issues that South Africa has faced.   

Brazilian Superstar – On our way to hike Table Mountain (see above post) I was approached by a friendly worker at the park who wanted to know if he could help. He asked me for my name and when I told him “Fernando” he said with great enthusiasm “from Brazil!?” I told him I was and he got incredibly excited. He hugged me and shook my hand continuously telling me how big a fan of mine he was. He was almost in tears from excitement. He was convinced that I was a member of the Brazilian national soccer team and claimed to be my biggest fan. Personally, I don’t even know of a Fernando on the national team right now, but regardless, I let him think he was right so as not to burst his bubble. It was hard to be able to say goodbye, but I do think I made his day (if not month). His final request was that I dedicate my next gol to him, which I happily agreed to do.

The Cape Town Diet – While Nicky and Molly were working during the days that we were in town, it was a pleasure to meet them at nights to enjoy the city and its amazing culinary options. We went to some fine dining that included delicious pasta, fresh fish and very good steak. One night, Molly joined us for a dinner whose location we decided to choose as we walked down the street. We saw one place that looked really nice but was completely empty. Molly became interested in it and we soon found out that it was “Roberto’s” opening night. We went in and became their very first customers. We went on to become their first wine order, order their first appetizer, first entrĂ©es and even first dessert. For each of these firsts we were celebrated with the owner/executive chef who came out and took pictures with us, with our food and with us enjoying our food. Our final night, we went to the biggest wine bar in the world which is also a place that has been voted as home to “South Africa’s Best Fillet” 3-years running. After this trip, I’m pretty sure that the Shirati Diet’s consequences (see Week 5) have become null and void.   

Bus Ride Home – After getting back to Nairobi for a night, it was once again time to get on the bus to Shirati. As always, the bus ride didn’t disappoint. I sat in the second to last row and found that the bus was overcrowded today by realizing that there were 7 people sitting in the 4 seats in the very back of the bus. The ride was the bumpiest I have ever taken in my life, with everyone easily bouncing 3 or 4 inches off their seat every time we hit a bump in the road (and you can’t imagine how many of those we hit in a 6-hour bus ride). One of the 7 people behind me was an elderly lady who brought her live chicken with her onto the bus and left it in a box at her feet. At one point (after a particularly big bump) she lost the chicken and we had to search for it around the bus. Another lady behind me had severe motion sickness and puked into a small plastic bag no less than 5 times during the bus ride. Meanwhile a boy sitting opposite from me in the aisle was scared to death of mzungus and couldn’t stop crying, yelling and screaming every time he glanced at me or Spencer. It was another fun 6-hour journey. 

The Accident – As the journey drew to a close, just 10 minutes from our final destination with only 6 of us still left in the entire bus, we had some trouble. The driver seemed to be speeding throughout the bus ride and, it seemed, he was again. Suddenly he slammed on the brakes. The bus skidded to the right side of the road. I was convinced the bus was about to flip over as the wheels in the left hand side were no longer touching the road. I braced myself, but fortunately the bus came to a sideways stop off road. In the hustle and bustle of it all, my right arm was slammed and almost immediately started to bruise. Besides cuts and bruises in my arm, I was fine and Spencer was as well. We weren’t sure what had happened, but were honestly grateful to be alive after both of us were convinced that the bus was about to flip over.  

The Aftermath – I soon started hearing the people from the village we were in screaming in shock and horror. I realized that we must have hit something or someone. I started glancing out the windows and soon spotted two people who were down on the ground in different spots. One man was behind the bus’s current location off in the bushes where he seemed to have been flung towards. He was conscious but seemed to be in pain. The other was directly in front of the bus and did not seem to be conscious. The whole village gathered around the bus and scene of the accident to see what had happened. There were hundreds of people there starring at us; trying to help those who had been hit; and some who were more angry, started yelling at the bus and even hitting it with rocks and their bare hands. After a while longer, the police arrived and moved people back to start their investigation. At this point, I learned what had happened. The bus apparently hit a pedestrian who had been drinking and had just come out of the local pub (which we were directly in front of). The pedestrian flew into a motorcycle driver who was thrown into the bushes. The motorcycle driver was conscious but couldn’t move; he was carried away and rushed to the closest hospital. The pedestrian died on the spot. After a couple of hours there, we were put on another bus and taken to our destination. It was an incredibly sad, shocking and somber ending to our trip.    

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week 8 Pictures: Before Words

In my last few hours in South Africa, I figured I might as well take advantage of the hi-speed internet and post my pictures from the week. I hope to update the blog, as usual, on Monday. Hope you like them!

At Robben Island, in Cape Town, South Africa

With Archbishop Desmond Tutu after sharing an hour-long tea with him

At the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point in Africa

Cape Point, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet

After hiking Table Mountain, I enjoyed the view and a much needed break. The World Cup Stadium and Robben Island can be seen in the background

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Week 7

Rao Hospital – Last week the regional health inspector paid a surprise visit to the Shirati area. Many hospitals and clinics were nervous and some even ended up with fines or citations, but none quite had it as rough as Rao Hospital. Rao is the only other hospital in Shirati (outside of Shirati Hospital, described in Week 5). What I didn’t know about Rao is that its owner has a bit of a shady history. Turns out its owned by a Tanzanian doctor who got his medical degree in the U.S. He was a bit irresponsible there though and after a few years of practice he lost his license and was sought on an arrest warrant. The doctor fled to his native Tanzania where he opened a clinic in Dar. That clinic was shut down by the government for irresponsibly operations, which again caused the doctor to flee and move to Shirati, where he opened Rao hospital. Rao too was apparently not doing too well. Employees hadn’t been made in 7 months which had led them to take the owner to court and win 3-months ago with the judge ordering he pay their salaries. He still hadn’t, which caused all but the most cash strapped low-level employees to quit employment at the hospital. This meant that when the surprise health inspector visit happened, there were no administrators working at the hospital. There were also no doctors working at the hospital or even fully trained nurses there. They did, however, have over 120 patients. It was the first time in the region’s history that a hospital was shut down by an inspector on the spot. He immediately spray painted the front entrance in red saying the hospital is permanently closed and ordered that all patients be evacuated to Shirati Hospital within 3 hours.

Nyambogo Meal – After finishing my normal rounds of hut-to-hut surveying in Nyambogo last week, I was approached by the Village Chairman who asked me to have lunch with him and the Village Elders. Breaking bread with such an important group of people in a village is an incredibly rare and important honor, I of course had to say yes. The lunch they served me was abundant and delicious. They even brought me a Coke figuring as an American I would appreciate that (boy were they right). I felt very privileged to have this honor. After a long conversation, the chairman made his plea to me. He asked me not to forget the people of Nyambogo. He reminded me of how badly they need water; not in the future, but right now. He reminded me of how long they had been promised help to secure water and how they still hadn’t gotten any and how people were now dying every year from dehydration and exhaustion caused from the long walks they have to take to Kenya to find water during the dry season. And he asked me to do my best to speed up the process and get them, if nothing else, a rainwater collection device so that lives could be saved and quality of life in their village improved. It was a touching moment for me, and I promised him I’d do my best to help Nyambogo. I fully meant and intended to keep this promise.

Teaching “Cheers” – When the chairman first brought out the food and Cokes for me, him and the village elders (before the serious talk began) he told me that there was a local ritual that had to be performed before we could drink and eat. I partook in his ritual. As soon as it concluded, all began drinking and eating. I immediately jumped into action and just as he had done, stood up in seriousness to make an announcement. All immediately and apologetically stopped where they were. I said that in America too there was a ritual that must be done before drinking and eating. “When amongst friends, we all hit our glass bottles together and say cheers” I told them. At first they were confused, so I demonstrated by hitting my bottle against that of the chairman’s. He quickly caught on and said “cheers” to me before beginning to laugh in boyish delight as if he had just found a new toy. Everyone immediately loved this new concept and began hitting glasses together and screaming “cheers” (even when they weren’t hitting their glasses together) left and right. It became a fun mess but everyone clearly loved it. I’ve since been to Nyambogo again and people who weren’t even at the lunch last week came up to me, high-fived me and said “cheers”. I’m not sure what tradition I may have started here, but it would be interesting to come back in a year or so and find out.

Drawing Board – Back to the promise that I made the chairman; as I said, I intended to take it very seriously. The chairman, and others in the village before him, had asked me for help with a rainwater collection tank. Now I’m not an engineer and I don’t have extra money laying around so I didn’t know how I could help. What I do have though is the knowledge of opportunities that exist and an ability to make things work when I set my mind to it. So I did. I called on my grandfather (a hydro-engineer) and my father (a structural engineer) to help design possible collection tanks for the villagers. I contacted folks in my school who run a grant enabling program for students working with community initiated projects in high-need areas. I began to talk to local officials and those who understand local customs to figure out a realistic budget for this whole project. Soon, information was coming back and was looking good. My grandfather and father did an excellent job quickly designing (with specificity) possible project ideas for the villagers to look at. My school approved a grant that would allow the project to start immediately. And local officials told me that the project was in fact feasible and relatively quick to construct, ensuring project effectiveness and that I’d be able to oversee it during my time here. The drawing board was looking great, and I moved ahead with the project at full speed. 

Can it Happen? – But all projects face struggles, and this one quickly proved it would be no different. My father and grandfather contacted me to express concerns about the project. Without someone trained in engineering or at least construction overseeing this project on the ground, they feared the produced structure would be unstable, could possibly not work or could even be dangerous. The money situation also quickly shot up in price when the people in Nyambogo made some further requests, including that the structure have a roof, and that a cook be hired to provide lunch to the volunteer laborers who would be working on the project. That, combined with the new construction supervisor I was being told I’d have to hire meant the project was no longer financially feasible within the budget I had been given by my school. Meanwhile, to add to all of the above, I found out that the soil was too rocky to be dug heavily on and that the design that had been prepared may not work out after all. The project was just 4 days old and it had already gone from a full-speed ahead one to an all brakes unleashed one. It no longer seemed like it could happen.

Officially Starting – But I knew that this project was one that the community desperately wanted and needed. So I decided to do what the Clinton School taught me best, go back to the community, tell them where we were and listen to them for what they thought about how we could still make something work if that’s what they really wanted. It worked. The community threw out suggestions, telling me who I could hire as a construction supervisor who would be good but still very cheap. They told me of a different design they had in mind that would be more feasible and much cheaper to produce. Their design, together with measurements they requested from my father and grandfather, were the key to a successful design. At my request, the school approved some further funding to ensure this important project was still feasible. Last Friday, July 1st, I signed an agreement with the construction supervisor and the project officially started. A plot of land right next to the village primary school was picked out by the community and officially agreed to by the Village Council. Construction is set to begin in the coming in the near future. Flexibility will be important with this project and I’m quickly realizing that it will most likely not be completed before I leave. Nonetheless, I think this is a very important project that can truly help save and change lives for the people of Nyambogo and am happy and excited to have seen it officially kick off!

Obama Gum – There is very little candy, chocolate or sweets available in the Shirati area. One widely popular exception is “Obama gum” an incredibly popular bubble gum launched in 2008. Obama gum comes individually wrapped in a wrapper that simply says “Obama Gum” and has 2 different pictures of President Obama. There is nothing else to the wrap, to the marketing strategy or even to the gum itself. In fact, Obama gum is pretty awful. Don’t get me wrong, it has a great strawberry flavor to it; its just that it lasts for less than 15 seconds…literally. There is no reason for this gum to be purchased or consumed by anyone except for its name. But it works and like I said, it’s the most popular sweet in the area. I’ve thought about bringing Obama gum to America, but figured that the unsatisfactory taste it leaves in your mouth so quickly after you select it, would only be ammunition for Republicans.

Monday Market – One really important event in Shirati is the weekly Monday Market. While I’ve been to this several times now, this past week I spent the most significant amount of time walking around and exploring it with some of my soccer friends, so I figured I should write about it. The Monday Market is a big deal around here. Folks come in from all of the villages to partake, buy and sell there. The entire region of Obuere (one of the Shirati subvillages) is taken over by vendors, busses, trucks and vans (transporting both goods and people to and from the market). It is informally organized with fish vendors, meat vendors, food vendors, knife vendors, shoe vendors, cloth vendors, dress vendors, and random item vendors each setting up shop in specific regions of the market. Some vendors will actually build a mini wooden booth each week while others (most) will simply set their goods on the floor. Even witchdoctors will take some space around the market to do their thing while dozens of curious bystanders gather around to watch. The market is a very interesting and important experience as part of Shirati life.

Marriage Proposal, Again – This week I received my second directly worded marriage proposal since I’ve been here. This one didn’t actually come from the girl who would marry me, it actually came from her mom. The lady who’s been cooking for me the past 7 weeks is an incredibly sweet lady and makes some of the best food around. She and I have become pretty good friends. So when she called me over to talk when I was early for breakfast this week, I didn’t think anything of it. Through the help of my translator who she called over, she asked me if I was not yet married. After telling her I wasn’t, she immediately rejoiced and offered me her daughter as a bride. I was flattered, even though I’ve never actually met her 18-year old daughter. Nonetheless, I refused using the “we get married when we’re much older in America” excuse.

But Wait, There’s More… - Later THAT SAME DAY, I received my 3rd marriage proposal since arriving here. This one came from my temporary translator for the day. While I’ve always used a specific guy as my translator since being here, he was busy that one day this week and so I was given a 1-day temporary translator. She was really friendly and we chatted a lot in between houses that I visited that day. While walking from my 6th to 7th house of the day, she asked me for my age. She was excited to find it out, exclaiming that she was just 3-years younger than me which would make us a perfect couple. “Are you looking for a wife? I think this could work out” she said. It was awkward using her as a translator for 4 more houses after having to reject her marriage offer.

Haircut – 7-weeks into my time here, I decided that I needed a haircut. I figured that this would both make me look nicer and would serve as yet another interesting cultural experience during my time here. While in Tarime (the closest “big city”) to get money and buy supplies for the above mentioned Nyambogo project, I also went to get my haircut. Here people spell English things phonetically; and so all of hair saloons spell their names as hair “cutz” saloons. This basically made us family. I walked into one of these places and was pleasantly surprised. While the outside makes it look like a tree-house of sorts (all wooden boards making up a small shack) the inside is generator powered, has some decent chairs and even music playing from the radio. I sat down and requested a scissor cut. The guy didn’t know what I was talking about and after some confusion someone who spoke better English told me that they don’t have scissors at this hair salon. At that point, I figured I might as well let the man do his thing and see what happened. He buzzed me this way and that, used 5 different types of blades at the end of the buzzer and was careful about getting things perfectly…or so it seemed; they also don’t have mirrors so I’m going based on what I could tell. Well 25-minutes later he was done. It was once of the longest haircuts of my life and I couldn’t even tell if it was good or not. Regardless, I admired the effort he put into it, and loved the wet towel he used to wipe me down afterwards making sure no stray hairs were left on me. Finals cost of this adventure: $1. While I don’t normally tip here, as its culturally not done, I felt like I had to in this case. I was exorbitant and gave the man a 50%/50 cent tip. He was clearly incredibly thrilled and grateful; as was I…although I’m still not sure what my hair now looks like.  

Colonial Influence – When meeting an elder in Tanzania one is expected to give a specific greeting that shows the utmost respect. “Shikamo” is what the younger person says, to which the elder responds with “Marahaba”. I’ve become used to this, both as one who receives the greeting from younger kids and as one who gives it to those who are older than me. What I haven’t become used to though is the translation, which, in fact, repulses me. The way its been explained to me, “Shikamo” translates to “May I have the honor of rubbing your feet?”, and “Marahaba” means “If you must, but only once”. The greeting comes from colonial times when locals would have to say this to mzungus.

Stoning to Death – This week, a thief tried breaking into the window in our hostel to steal our electronic equipment (laptop, ipod, etc). Luckily, someone spotted them in the act and they ran away before grabbing anything. Luckily for them, they outran those pursuing them and got away. I heard from folks in the town that two weeks ago, a different man trying to rob a house, was caught mid-act, ran away, and was caught by those pursuing them (in my soccer field as a matter of fact). Those who caught him took justice onto their own hands and stoned the robber to death, on my soccer field. I couldn’t believe this, but had it verified by a couple other folks in town. Wow.

Safari Njema: Part II – I’m once again traveling. This time, I’m spending the week in Cape Town, South Africa with several of my Clinton School classmates who are doing their international projects here. More on this next week, for now, once again wish me a safari njema!