Kristy in Tanzania - e-mails
Season's Greetings from Zanzibar! December 27, 2006
It doesn't really feel like Christmas here so I don't feel like I am missing it! Christmas eve the girls that bring us our food (3 young girls that work up at the sister's house preparing food) knocked on our door (late at night, we were wondering who it was!) with a "Happy Christmas and New Year" cake that they had baked for us. So sweet! We were so excited by the w hole thing that it's possible we scared them a little. But it was good, until our house was invaded by biting ants, that part of the night wasn't so good, but due to Ahmad's severe bug phobia he has plenty of arsenal and we were able to exterminate. Christmas day was rainy and cloudy and we spent most of it wrapping presents and making cards for people at the hospital. We headed into Moshi around 4pm and met up with Greg. We had some more drinks to "celebrate" and went out for nyama choma (bbq'd meat) for dinner. It was good fun. Until I had to get up at 6am to catch a bus to Dar, but I made it. The ride wasn't bad actually, hot but bearable. I made it to Dar, got my ferry ticket (with the help of a random guy/taxi driver who coincidentally drove my friend Jenn to the airport last week to pick up Heather), managed to get it for resident rate (with a bribe to random guy, but s till saved $100...not completely sketchy, my residence visa is in process, just not in my passport yet).
Last night I met up with Heather and Alie again as they were in Dar as well and we went out for Lebanese food, it was delicious! This morning I was up early to catch the 7:30 ferry to Zanzibar. Today I have spent wandering around Stone Town which is a labrynth of narrow streets, it's beautiful though and culturally so different from the mainland. The majority of people here are muslim so women wear head scarves or burkas. People are friendly, a bit too much so sometimes when you're a single girl on your own but it's all good, just gets tiresome saying "no I would not like your company for the rest of the day and maybe this evening too..."
I had a fabulous lunch of fresh fish and curry, it's more expensive than the mainland but delicious! Tomorrow I head to Kendwa (the beach where we will spend new years) to attempt to book rooms for myself et al for the big night. I'm hoping it's somewhat hassle free and not crazy ridiculous. I've heard varying reports about how busy it is there right now. I hope all is well! Not sure how much email there will be at the beach so I may not write again until the new year. Lots of love, take care and talk soon, Kris
Map of the Island of Zanzibar
Hello! December 16, 2006
How is everyone? That's amazing that the weather has been so warm! I have been writing Christmas cards but it's hard to be festive when the weather is hot, not that I'm complaining! But it certainly doesn't feel like Christmas is on it's way!
Our friend Heather is here visiting. She went to school with us this year and is doing her placement in Zimbabwe . The stories of out of control inflation ($60 USD for a pizza if you were to use the official exchange rate, which no one does, the expats all get US dollars sent to them and then exchange it on the black market) are crazy. There is a complete lack of goods there, although apparently there is much more available now than there was a few years ago, she says the problem now is that no one can afford anything because of the inflation and exchange rates. She is enjoying her time here and it is interesting to hear how different things are where she is.
Last night was Leslie's birthday party. We went to Green Garden for nyama choma which is bbq'd meat, lots of it, we had chicken, goat and beef. Yum. And lots of ndizi (bananas, roasted) and pili pili (hot sauce). I drank several beers, potentially a few too many, but the night was good fun and I spun fire which I haven't done in awhile. The Tanzanians who were out with us were duly impressed.
This evening we will go out for Ahmad's birthday dinner at El Rancho (although you would expect a Mexican restaurant, it's Indian, an apparently the best in town so I look forward to it!). I finally found what I think might be the only scrabble board in town after visiting SEVERAL shops, he's been talking about wanting to play scrabble forever so I thought it would be a great gift. If I had known how long it would take to find I may have re-thought the idea but the mission was eventually successful so all is well.
The week went well, more home visits on Monday and Tuesday and then working on profiles for the children. The program is beginning to take shape but there are so many factors involved. It's quite a task to properly set up a program like this. I just found another project near Rwanda that has 3000 orphans who have organized themselves into groups and do leadership training, education, skills trainin g and information sessions on income generating projects, pretty much as orphan-led as is feasible. I might try to go and visit them, sounds like an impressive project!
Anyways, I must get looking at the rest of my emails. The internet seems to be particularly slow today. Sigh. Hope all is well, Lots of love, Kris
Asante Sana !! - December 9, 2006
Asante Sana is thank you very much in Swahili. The packages arrived here last night!! Both Ahmad and I were very appreciative!! We plan to decorate with all the decorations, there are also some still here from last year, so the house should be festive enough! Apparently we will also get a tree, I will send some pics!
Here's my description of the party on Friday:
Friday we took a day off of home visits to head to Rombo, a district a few hours away, still on the mountain, for the big “party”. The party was held to honour sister's who have been in service to the church for 25, 50 and 60 years. First was mass, which was interesting at the beginning but by the end of the third hour my mind was definitely wandering (the singing was beautiful though). There had to be close to 1000 people there and I have never seen so many sisters in one place at one time in my life! Actually I have never seen so many sisters period! There was food, a live 15-piece band, beer (lots of it!), dancing sisters and a lot of goats. People bring goats as gifts and also, the “cake” that they bring out at the end is in fact a roasted goat, but they all call it a cake, apparently it's just “not a flour cake”, no kidding it's not a flour cake, it's a GOAT. All in all the party was good fun and the sister's know how to party it up!
I'll be in touch soon! Love Kris
Hello! - December 6, 2006
No snow here...warm and beautiful really...just about the perfect temperature if I do say so myself. hehe.
Yep...the Oakville Beaver got my e-mail address wrong, it's firstname.lastname@example.org , I emailed them to let them know but it's too late now. Hoping most people will figure it out if they really want to get in touch.
We started home visits this week, we saw 35 children on Monday and Tuesday. It's exhausting work both mentally and physically but worth the trouble to visit these children and evaluate their situations. We were supposed to go again today but the driver had an issue at home so we didn't go, that was fine with me as it was nice to have a day of relative rest, we still had work to do but it's definitely not as draining.
Most of the children we have seen are definitely in need of assistance. Most live with grandparents, some with one parent who is HIV positive. We saw several families of 3-5 children who all sleep in the same bed with their grandmother, they have one blanket and no mattress aside from some foam pieces. The houses are drafty and I would guess that most also leak when it rains. The majority of the children were fairly healthy though, a few were malnutritioned and definitely the least healthy were those who are HIV positive. There were two young girls in one family who are HIV positive and they were clearly not well. They were the only children I saw that didn't smile at all, it was incredibly sad, they were aged 2 and 4 and live about a 2 hour walk from Kilema hospital. The home based care team has been amazing, each day someone showed up at the hospital to guide us to the children's houses. The home based care team is a group of volunteers from the surrounding villages that meet here at the hospital once a month. They check in on people living with HIV/AIDS and ensure they are healthy and taking their AR Vs. I am hoping to increase their involvement in the OVC program as they are the ones that know these children and they have already introduced us to families that we were not yet aware of.
There was also some crazy driving involved, the roads are dirt and in some cases hardly a road at all. Getting up some of the hills was a challenge and we cheered for Severini the driver several times for getting us where we needed to go without flying into the valley or getting stuck on the side of a hill. The views were gorgeous though and hopefully I will get a chance to send pics soon.
Hello! - November 27, 2006
Here's the latest update from Tanzania:
I've already been online for almost 2 hours and have accomplished so little, I think this is the only thing in this country that drives me a bit crazy so far, is the slow internet. They have a saying in Tanzania "pole pole" (sounds like po-lay) which literally means "slowly slowly", which is generally how things operate, which most of the time is perfectly acceptable. But not when all I want to do is get in touch with everyone!
Yesterday we came into Moshi (2.5 hours on a daladala later!) for an American Thanksgiving dinner which was prepared by some of our friends who are here volunteering. They live in a house with my friend Danny who I met in Canada before coming here, she is just here for a few months and also has ties to CACHA.
Thanksgiving was good fun...good people and great food. I missed the death of the turkey but it sounded like a rather bungled attempt...glad that I wasn't there for that. The girls de-feathered the thing and by the time i got there it was ready for cooking. They decided to deep fry it as there wasn't really any other options, they had a huge vat of oil over a fire, and they decided to test run a few chickens first which turned out alright so next in went the turkey. When I woke up yesterday morning I can't say that I expected to find myself deep frying a turkey that afternoon! It turned out well although it was a bit tough by our standards, but no one complained! There was also mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and a variety of other dishes that were brought, a nice mixture of Tanzanian and north american! After everyone ate there was some intense cleaning to be done, there were about 40 people who came so you can imagine the amount of dishes we had to tackle. There were about 8 of us who stayed to help clean up, which is a bit more difficult in extreme darkness because of course the power went out. Thank goodness for headlamps, they're invaluable here! Afterwards we sat and chatted by candlelight and drank wine, most people were american volunteers, then there was myself, Ahmad (who no one believed was from lebanon as he really does sound american/canadian), Greg, two germans, one kenyan, one tanzanian/american and Danny . At one point the discussion turned to the "american empire" and it's influence throughout the world. As it turns out Americans and Germans have some differing thoughts and feelings on these subjects!!
On Saturday, Jenn came to visit Kilema. She has a friend here who happens to live just down the hill from us. His name is Canute and he is one of the most interesting people that I have met. He was raised in this area and then became a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam , he has since retired and moved back to his shamba (farm) to experiment with various forms of agriculture and to transfer this knowledge to the people in the area. He is incredibly knowledgeable and has some very interesting perspectives on development.
Canute was nice enough to take us to his home and for a tour of his shamba. He has just over one acre and has banana trees, cardamon plants, vanilla plants, coca yams, papaya trees, sugar cane and trees that he will eventually harvest for wood. The cardamon and vanilla benefit from the shade of the banana tre es and it appears to be a very symbiotic relationship. As it turns out vanilla is a creeper that must climb another tree, when it flowers it is cross pollinated by hand as the bees that used to pollinate vanilla are no longer found in the area. Once cross-pollinated, the vanilla bean sprouts from the flower and appears as a long, green bean. This bean will is left for about 3 months at which time it's harvested, boiled and then dried for another 3 months. He had some partially dry beans which smelled delicious . He hopes that this will be a viable crop and help to improve the income of farmers in the area.
After the farm tour we went for a beer at the local "pub", or "random house at the side of the road" which is a more accurate description. None the less, the beer was good (albeit warm, as is often the case here) and the conversation engaging. We also had an audience of about six boys that just sat and watched us drink beer. Canute encouraged them to speak english to us although that request was met with shy giggles.
Now it's Monday already and we're spending some time in town. We might go for a swim at the Y, they have a lovely pool with a nice view of Kili. I hope all is well with everyone and I hope to be able to update again soon, love Kris
Hello! - November 23, 2006
Just an update to let you know that all is well. As per usual I've had very little internet access! Yesterday I went to Arusha with Jenn and Leslie (Two Humber College classmates) to watch Romeo Dalaire testify at the Rwanda Tribunal. It was quite interesting although the questioning was a bit harsh, the lawyer was pressing him on the deaths of his Belgian soldiers, we weren't exactly sure of the context either so it seemed a bit out of line but who are we to say!? Jenn and I headed back to Moshi early as we didn't want to go to the bus station in the dark. We ended up travelling back to Moshi with a really nice guy from Germany who wanted to come to Moshi to see Mt. Kili, unfortunately it was raining today so I don't think that he got to see it! I stayed the night in town and headed back to the hospital today. I'm currently using the uber-slow connection here just to update!
It's been rainy the last few days here, more rain than I've seen thus far. We're hoping that it doesn't rain next Friday as it's World AIDS Day and we're expecting about 600 people, mostly children, should be an interesting day!! We're off to go shopping this weekend for food for lunch for everyone. We're also invited to a thanksgiving dinner at a friend's place as it's American Thanksgiving. Looking forward to having some turkey! I'm going to try and make squash soup but not sure what it will taste like here! I also have to confirm that the sister's do in fact have a blender and that it works! I hope all is well, I do have some pictures and will try to send them soon but it would take hours over this connection!
Take care and talk soon, lots of love, Kris
Hello! - Nov. 15, 2006
All is well here, we've come to Moshi for the day and I think that I will finally see Jenn and Leslie, did I tell you they were in another city and all their valuables were stolen from their hotel room? I'm sure I'll hear the whole story today but they were just in Nairobi getting their passports from the Canadian Embassy there. I haven't seen them since they picked me up at the airport ove r 3 weeks ago!
Yesterday was a fairly low key day (as most days are up at the hospital). I went to the PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) meeting to talk to Eric. He is the chair of the group and I want to see if I can help them out by getting them some funding or a loan for a microfinance project. They have already started up the pig project with help from Greg and they are interested in other possibilities. I also want them to meet the people from UMWI (the organization in the next district) as they also have a PLWHA group. They are raising funds to help those who cannot afford transport to the hospital for check ups and such. They also hope to help out with orphans and raise awareness. At the moment they all donate at each meeting whatever they can afford, it's amazing the strength and motivation of people here.
Take care, lots of love, Kris
HELLO - Nov. 4, 2006
A quick update...Ahmad and I came into Moshi today with Makundi (the contractor at the hospital) and the driver Severini. We arrived around 1pm and have to leave by about 4:30 as we don't want it to get dark before we get home. We're heading to the market to get some groceries (mango and avocado seasons are both starting, this is good news!) So far all the fruits and veggies have been great which is good!
Friday was orphan day (the first Friday of every month all the orphans in the area come to Kilema hospital for med check-ups, tea and bread and we send them home with something...this time it was maize and soap). Anyways, last time they had 250 and this time there were 380!!! We're not 100% sure that they are all orphans as some might come just for the food but notmuch we can do. We are going to start doing home visits to the 60 that have been identified as "most vulnerable" to ensure that they are really orphans before we start to support them. It was quite the experience! I'll write more about it in my next email!
Lots of love and I hope to send a better update soon!
Hello from Tanzania - October 31, 2006
So, I'm writing here in Kilema on MS word as we haven't had email forever and I'm not holding out much hope for it re-appearing anytime soon! I'm going to put this on my usb key and take it into town on Tuesday when I should get to do some email. As for internet here, either the power is out or the phone line is down, and you can pretty much count on one or the other being down!! It's ok though, the power is generally out during the day which isn't a big deal for now although it may become more frustrating when there is more to get done. Tonight it went out for a bit and then things were DARK! But apparently this is rare.
As it turns out Kilema is about 1.5-2 hours from Moshi, not 20 minutes! That's ok though, it's gorgeous here, tropical plants all around, a gorgeous view of Kiliminjaro and also down towards the Moshi area where it is flatter. We took a daladala on Thursday morning up here, the road gets pretty crazy for the last part of the trip and you usually end up walking the last 2km or so as not that many people come this far. The hospital consists of several buildings, the biggest and most impressive of which is the Sister's house. Yep, hanging with the Catholic sisters here in Kilema! They are extremely nice though and so far I'm trying not to think about the lack of prevention/education for HIV as clearly condoms are not an option. We live in a house on the hospital grounds as well and there is an office for us in the main building. We also go and eat all our meals up at the sister's house. The food is good, mostly beans, bananas, rice, meat, ugali and chapatti. Ugali is that pasty/gummy white stuff that I haven't tried yet and chapatti is like fried flat bread. It's all good but a bit oily and I hope to get some of my own groceries when I go to town on Tuesday. We have a small fridge and a hot plate so we can cook here if we want, which is nice. There is an extra bedroom and each room has 2 beds, we also have a shower, toilet and living room. It's quite a comfortable living space.
As for people, I live with Ahmed who is Lebanese. He's a big, tall, built, gay muslim man. He's really funny and I like him a lot. No one here really knows he's gay which is also pretty funny because I was pretty sure he was within about 3 seconds of meeting him. He'll be a good person to be here with, working together may pose some issues as we have pretty different ideas about things but I think we'll work it out. Also right now there is a woman staying here, Micheline, she is a retired GP from Canada and has come for 4 weeks. She's very nice but when she goes I get my room to myself, yay! Greg, who is here with CACHA but lives in Moshi is a nice guy and I stayed with him the first two nights in moshi and he showed me around, he has a ton of things on the go.
Sister Clarissa is the one in charge here, she is very friendly and her English is quite good, I've met about 6000 other people and they are all very nice too, but I don't know how I'm ever going to remember everyone's names!
I had my second Swahili lesson today, down at kitsuluni school which is about a 5 minute walk from here. Our teacher is a teacher on staff there, very nice guy but doesn't really know how to approach teaching. I think I might go every other day though, at least I will learn something new and I can work through my Swahili book. The kids here are adorable. They all smile all the time and always say good morning no matter what time of day it is. They're good fun.
On Friday I went to visit a pig project with Greg. It's for the people living with hiv/aids group, they have bought 4 pigs and plan to breed them and sell the piglets for money, we went to check it out to see if it will be feasible. This group has formed because some of them can't afford to get to the hospital for check-ups and such. There is also a home based care group that is associated and I hope to learn more about these groups. We walked from Kilema to another village and when we got to the house with the pigs (very basic residences, concrete/sand blocks as walls, dirt floors and a corrugated roof), they served us tea, boiled eggs and chapatti. It was very yummy and they are such good hosts! I hope to figure out some ways that these groups can become more sustainable as they have very little support right now.
I have two geckos in my room that eat mosquitoes for me, although the mossies arenft that bad here. It cools down at night and to be honest the weather has been beautiful. We had some rain on Saturday but thatfs about it. We have some interesting critters around though! Some crazy colourful moths and butterflies, neat looking birds and lots of creepy-crawlies which Ahmed hates, it's very amusing to see a large gay man freak out over a cockroach. Nairobi fly season is just ending which is good news, apparently they are acidic and if you squish one you can be burned by the acid. Yick. Ahmed's friend swatted one on her neck one night and woke up to burns all on her neck, so I do avoid those little guys.
Overall the adjustment has been fine though, it's very laid back and the people here are very accepting of everyone. It's quiet at the hospital though, this weekend was CHILL, I read a lot, did a lot of yoga/pilates and chatted with Ahmed and Micheline. I will likely make the trip to Moshi at least once every 2 weeks I imagine just to shake things up a little! We go to bed early and wake up early, there's not much going on! I hope all is well there and will update again when I can, take care and talk soon,
Love Kris xoxoxo
Arrived Alive - Oct 25, 2006
I tried to catch you on messenger but to no avail...here's a brief update for now but overall everything is great, it's an incredible place!
So...good old Leslie came through...her and Jenn (the other girl from class) were at the airport with their colleague and his friend to pick me up. That made life a whole lot easier, I stayed at the same hotel as them overnight and made my way to the bus station with no problems. ;The morning call for prayer rang out at 5am which was my alarm clock, repeated at 6 and then 7 so no need to worry about sleeping in. It was a holiday (Eid - for the end of ramadan) so nothing was open for brekkie. On the bus though there were plenty of times we stopped to pick people up and people would sell us snacks through the window (bags of cashews and fruit and cookies). That worked out well! Overall the bus ride was great, it's a gorgeous country and there is a life energy here that is amazing. People are friendly and very accepting.
Last night I met Greg at the bus station and we went out for some food (goat meat and bananas, very tasty). Then to a show that his neighbour was playing at, he's a hip hop artist and made this great video with some australian hip hop dude, its really good and kinda funny with this random white guy and all these tanzanians.
Today we went to visit St.Francis school for the abled and disabled, it's a school for blind, deaf and abled kids. Very cool place. We took a dala dala (a toyota van that should hold 15 people, they fit at least 25 or more, just when you think it would be impossible to fit anyone else in, the impossible becomes possible, quite the experience!). I will write more about that soon, I have limited computer time right now. Apparently they have uber slow email at the hospital, not sure if I can use it or not but we will see. I might end up back in Moshi this weekend so I will try to write again then. In the dala dala I sat beside this masai dude who had the crazy ear lobes and tons of jewellery and a huge knife hanging off his robes, so interesting, anyways about halfway through the ride he ended up falling asleep on my shoulder. SO funny.
I think tomorrow we will go up to Kilema where the hospital is. I'm r unning out of computer time so I should go but hope all is well and I hope to update again soon, not sure that email at the hospital is available but I'll be in touch when I can!
Take care, lots of love, Kris