This ones a long one---but a good one (:

Many people have been asking me through email or in Skype what it is like to live in Tanzania.  I have been coming back and forth to this part of the world for the last few years that I forget that I may not have actually ever thoroughly explained this to some people.  So this blog is dedicated to a glimpse of what life is like in Tanzania and some of the things we encounter on a regular day here.

Cultural Differences

One of the biggest difficulties we face here is the difference in culture that plays into every thing we do.   These differences sometimes cause extreme frustrations and other times open up our eyes to a different way of life.  The biggest struggle for me has been the communication differences.  Americans tend to communicate in a way that tells the listener more information than they often need to know, focuses mainly on getting their own message across and often includes their feelings on things.  Tanzanians tend to tell as little information as possible, always try to please speaker by rarely worrying about their view on things and listening, and never talk about their feelings directly.  This can often be stressful and lead to many miscommunications between the two groups but it also has taught me to focus less on what I want to say but more on the other person. 

Another cultural difference is that Americans tend to create goals and make plans.  They tend to worry about things like money, especially if you are living on $5000 for an entire year.  Where Tanzanians tend to focus on one day at a time.  They often do not budget or plan for things.  This can be very difficult when living in a house with both groups but it has taught all of us to meet in the middle and find ways to see each other’s point of view. 

Another big cultural difference is the level of work that occurs.  People often say that Americans live to work and will work until they die.  This is often seen in the fact that most Americans only get 10 days off a week and work ridiculous hours.  Tanzanians do not worry so much about work but instead focus on relationships and interactions with each other.  For someone like myself who is used to having every minute of the day and the weekend booked with work or things to be working on it has been hard to get used to the slowed down pace of life but it is teaching me there is more to life than working so hard.  Throughout my trips here and my interactions with people there are many more differences that I can talk about.  Every encounter that is frustrating I have to think to myself- this could be  a cultural difference and I have to find a way to learn from it.       

Language Barriers

Another thing I deal with in Tanzania is the language barrier.  The main language in Tanzania is Swahili.  While there are large numbers of people that speak English, in the villages we work and in most events, meetings, and daily interactions we have are communicated in Swahili.  Majority of the friends we have here speak English often but when they do speak Swahili it is often a combination of formal Swahili and Swahili slang.  This has made trying to learn the language very hard.  When people speak Swahili they often speak so fast that it is hard to hear the individual words, which also makes it hard to learn.  While I have picked up more Swahili than I have had in the past I still speak like a 1st grader.  We live with three Tanzanian’s who speak Swahili to us but I still really struggle.  Jillian on the other had is doing pretty well picking up the language.  This sometimes makes it hard for me because people will try to speak to me and then immediately turn to her and speak, leaving me lost.  Often times I get by with my limited vocabulary and my swanglish.  The first few weeks I really tried hard to learn it.  I read my Swahili book, made flashcards, wrote in my notebook, and tried really hard to listen to every word said to me, but after about week 4, frustration set in and I started to give up.  One of the major things I want to accomplish this year is learning Swahili.  To do that Jillian and I are going to go to a two-week course in Dar Es Salaam (the largest city in TZ) and then we hope to get a language tutor when we return so I am hoping I will learn more there.  

Domestic Complications

A few blog posts ago I told you about the house we moved into.  It is a great house and a great place to live but just like anywhere we have some issues with the house we need to work out and it leads to some hilarious and interesting events.  For example we are having major water problems in our bathroom.  At home you would look up a plumber online, call them, and get your water fixed or you would call your landlord.  Here you are left to try to find a fundi (repair man) that knows about plumbing.  Where you find that man is through word of mouth or through your friends.  You have to negotiate a price, watch the man work, question what he does, and then call him back when it breaks again.  After our first fundi visit Jillian and I woke up at 2am to water rushing into the bedroom from the bathroom shooting out of the pipe the fundi just fixed for $20.  The room filled with water and water was shooting around the bathroom.  It was quite a hilarious site and one we still laugh at to this day.  After his return to the house he fixed our bathroom but than two weeks later our kitchen sink started shooting out water and flooded the house again.  So water has been a constant issue.  Luckily for us all Tanzanian houses tend to have cement floors that have been painted so water is not as much of a problem as it would be at home. 

Another example of a domestic complication is that our roommate Swaleh worked to plant a garden to grown some vegetables.   We had to purchase a hoe, slasher, and machete for him to create the garden.  His garden creation looks like a graveyard full of freshly dug graves (just an African way of growing things- and it is working well) Instead of a hose to water the garden Swaleh then made a watering can out of a water bottle by poking holes in the bottom.  It was a very inventive solution to our lack of a hose.  Every morning Jill and I walk out on our front porch chatting and a lovely rooster is trying to eat our garden.  The first time we saw this Jillian tried to chase the rooster out of the yard.  The rooster ran for a short while and then turned around and started chasing Jill.  Now every morning the rooster sits in our garden and flaps his wings at us and challenged us to chase him.  I am not sure how our garden will do with this crazy rooster trying to take it over but we will see.  

Another domestic complication is the wild animals that live in our house.  This week we have found a tarantula, a huge lizard, crazy numbers of huge flying ants, a small Nairobi fly that landed on Jillian and burned her arm with it’s poison, our crazy rooster, and two birds who tried to take up residence in our kitchen.  We have had so many animal encounters this week that Jillian’s dad told us that we could cage all our animals and used them to decorate for our Halloween party.   Let’s just say life here is always an interesting experience.  (:

Frustrations & Fantastic

Many of the westerners I know here have very similar feelings about living here.  They go back and forth between loving every minute of the fabulous life that we live here and the frustrations when they miss parts of their life back home.  Sometimes things here can be so challenging going between the slow pace of life that it makes you feel like you are never going to accomplish anything, to the extreme excitement you feel when you have achieved a goal.  

For Example:

The frustration of the Immigration Office here asking you for $300 extra dollars in corruption charges on top of the $550 you already have to pay for your residency permit can then be trumped by the fantastic feeling of using your contacts to find the right person who will help you meet another contact who will help you with your paperwork without the extra fees. 

The frustration of going to the market and being told the prices are double because you are a “Mzungu” (white person) met with the fantastic feeling that comes after you have used your limited Swahili and knowledge of what food prices should be to bargain down and not get ripped off.  

The frustration of walking in the hot sun on the dirt roads to town while you really miss your car at home met by the fantastic feeling of meeting your good friends on the road who offer you rides as soon as they see you. 

The power problems that have plagued your days with little to no electricity met by long nights sitting under the stars on your front porch with your fabulous friends in the candle light. 

There are so many things here that can lead to frustration such as the 3 hours it takes to do a load of laundry to then have the neighbor burn his garbage next to your laundry line so you have to wash everything again. 

Then there are things that lead to the fabulous feeling like when you are sitting at a café working on work and someone comes up to you and asks you about your project.  That encounter than leads you meeting a great set of new friends that also are working on similar things and you feel like you are not on your own. 

The frustration of missing the autumn season back home and getting home sick when you see pictures of jack-o-lanterns and Halloween costumes is washed away when you construct Halloween decorations out of cardboard, plastic bags and newspaper and all your Tanzanian friends (who you have had to explain this silly holiday to in many different ways) show up in amazing costumes and you have an amazing time. 

All in all living here is a balance between the incredibly frustrating and the amazingly fabulous.

A Typical Day

A common question I keep getting is, “what is your typical day like?”  This question is a hard one to answer because anyone who has lived here can tell you every day is a new and wild adventure.  But some consistency does occur throughout the day so let me try.  Every morning Jill and I wake up around 7ish.  We either get a ride from some friends or walk the 45 minutes to town to our favorite coffee shop Aroma Coffee.  There we usually met some friends and have chai waziwa (spiced milk tea) and mandazi kuoka (bread rolls).  We go there so often the woman there knows our order and is now trying to save us the Mandazi Kuoka each day because they sometimes sell out before we get there. 

After our trip there we then often engage in a wide variety of activities depending on the day and what we are currently working on.  We sometimes spend the days working on creating education materials and meeting our friend Max to help us with translations.  Other times we spend the day visiting local schools to see their special needs units or meeting with village leaders to talk about the needs of the village.  We sometimes attend meetings with groups we are trying to work with and visit their projects or we spend the days at Kilimahewa Education Center working with the teachers or meeting the families that surround the center.  We have some days where we visit our sponsored students in their schools or we meet with local businesses to discuss the idea of funding our projects.  We spend most every minute of our day trying to network with others and find others interested in joining forces or allowing us to help with special needs projects.  We visit orphanages, we plan sports days for Kilimahewa, we run an afterschool group every Wed. and Thursday at Kilimaehwa, and we meet with members of the community on the water project.  Every Thursday we try to attend a Rotary Club meeting and ever Sunday we try to spend some time going to Mantumani Orphanage to play with the kids. 

Every day changes depending on what is going on but we always usually make it home by 5pm and hang out with our roommates sitting and talking on the front or back porch.  Our back porch has an amazing view of Kilimanjaro, which makes it a nice place to sit until the sunsets.  We then eat dinner around 8pm. Sometimes people stop by for dinner or we will see some friends after dinner or watch a movie or TV show on our computers and go to bed by midnight.  We live our lives with or without power but our evening routine sometimes changes if our power goes out. It gets boring in the dark house so we will find other things to do with friends if we have no power.  We also do not have a refrigerator or an oven so we often have to buy stuff for dinner every day from the woman down the street who sells vegetables or the shop that sells eggs and shelf foods.  We often do this on our walk home from town.  Everyday we our able to see our closest friends either in town or during or after dinner which it easy to love this place even when you want to scream about the frustrations.  There is always someone to talk to and turn to in our house and in our lives, which makes it a fun place to be.  We also have many people back home we try to stay in contact with over Skype.  

Overall, it is a pretty nice situation full of hard work and lots of fun.  I hope this helps answer your question.  Please feel free to comment and ask any other questions you might be interested.  I would love to tell you more but I already almost wrote a novel.  I hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Miss you all! (:

Before I left Tanzania I became pretty involved with the Antioch Rotary Club.  The Antioch Rotary Club is a branch of Rotary International.  Rotary International is an organization that I always wanted to be a part of and a organization I admired for its focus on service.  Rotary International was founded in Chicago by a group of professionals that were looking to find a way to help their community.  They met and became friends and also engaged in various service projects throughout the Chicago land area.  This drive for service expanded all over the globe and now Rotary International operates in most countries on the planet and has been doing amazing things.  They made it one of their goals to eradicate polio from the planet and have been successful in eliminating it from all but a few cases in a few countries today.  They have funded the vaccines for polio that goes out to most of the world and have worked to make sure everyone has access to those vaccines.  Within communities around the world people have come together to work focus on service through Rotary.  Individual clubs pop up and the groups decide what their polio is going to be.  Once they create a mission they work together to serve that mission.  Most of you that know me well, know this is an organization that stands for similar values that I do.  

Last year I was invited to attend an Antioch Rotary auction that was held in Antioch in October.  At that auction I met many people working hard to raise money to help send teenagers on international exchange programs.  In a discussion with one man, Mike Schwatz, we decided to start a high school branch of Rotary together called, Interact. This is and will always be something I am most proud of doing in my teaching career.  We decided that the club would combine students from both Antioch and Lakes and we held informational sessions to seek out student interest.  We found another amazing person to help advise the group with us named Nancy Clutter.  She was a perfect choice and had already done some amazing work in Haiti providing health care after the earthquake.  Together we were able to put together a solid core group of kids that were very interested in service work and international understanding.  This group of kids are still together working to improve interact while I am here but they are some of the most amazing young people I have come to know.  They jumped right into starting a new club, organizing and getting chartered from Rotary International, and selecting their mission of fighting malnutrition and global hunger.  Last year they were able to raise awareness at an International Night about world hunger, volunteer at the local food pantry, collect fruit cups for a backpack program, and donate funds to feed my students at Kilimahewa.  In the first year Interact was doing some amazing things.  This year although I am not in the US I try to keep in contact with them and I know that they will continue to do amazing things.  

Being that this had a big impact on me and that the Antioch Rotary was kind enough to support our EdPowerment water project, I was interested in getting to know the local rotary club in Moshi.  My hope was that through connecting with the local Moshi Rotary we could create some sort of cultural exchange between the US club and Interact Club and the Moshi Club.  This week I was able to acquire the name and phone number of the President of the Moshi Rotary Club.  I called him to see about attending a meeting this past Thursday and was told the meeting was in a few hours and Jillian and I should come.  So after our amazing afterschool group at Kilimahewa we jumped in a taxi and headed to the Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel to meet the Moshi Rotary.  When we arrived we met 15 Rotary members who were discussing the arrival of the Lt. Govenor of Rotary.  The Lt. Govenor overseas all the Rotary clubs in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.  He was coming to meet the Moshi Rotary Club and all the new clubs that were created in Tanzania in the last year.  In the Kilimanjaro region the Moshi Rotary Club helped to create 22 new clubs, 2 new interacts, and were working to create 2 new Rotaracts (the college level of Rotary).  The meeting was very interesting and we learned that on top of creating new clubs the Moshi Rotary club had a mission of helping provide clean water, and education.  Being that these were similar missions of EdPowerment Jillian and I were very happy to attend.  As the meeting wrapped up the Rotary Members invited us to attend a nice dinner the next day with the Lt. Governor.  We were not expecting this but were so excited at the opportunity. 

The next evening we met the Rotary members at the Crane Hotel again and jumped into a car with one of the members who drove us to the Presidents house in a village called Kiboroloni.  When we arrive their was a tent outside the house and a beautiful area set up for dinner.  About 50 people attended the dinner.  There were Moshi Rotary Members, Invited Guests, and members of some of the new rotary clubs.  We had an amazing meal, were able to speak to some amazing people, and hear a great inspirational speech from the Lt. Governor.  He addressed the group and talked about the history of Rotary and that people need to work and live not for money and for themselves but to be able to give back and help others.  He talked about all the things he was blessed with through his involvement in Rotary as well as what he has seen Rotary accomplish.  Luckily for us his Swahili was not as good as his English so we were able to hear this amazing speech in clear English.  He talked about how everyone needs to be a member of Rotary and that through working together something that sounds impossible, such as eliminating a devastating disease like polio, becomes possible.  It was an amazing event and a great night.

The Rotary club here in Moshi meets every Thursday and it is one more thing that Jillian and I will be involved with while we are here.  We are hoping to develop a relationship with these members and invite them to see our work at Kilimahewa with EdPowerment.  We are further hoping that through this relationship we can help create an opportunity for the Rotarians and students of Interact in the US to engage in joint projects or cultural learning activities that they wouldn’t have access to in the United States. 

All in all a great experience that reminded me that there are many other like minded people out there that believe serving others will better your life. 

Hope you are all well at home and things are going good as you get into the fall season.  I realize that it is October, even though here it still feels like summer time, and many of you are starting to carve pumpkins in the US.  I would love to see the pictures of pumpkins you carve, so send me some emails with your pictures.

Miss you all! -K

Well it has been two weeks now since my last blog post---sorry about that---a lot has been going on this last few weeks. 

On the EdPowerment front things are coming along.  Jillian, Mama Grace and I went to visit a primary school in Arusha called Uhuru Primary School.  It is has a large special needs unit that has been operational for many years and has an amazing director, Mwalimu Onesmo.  He was both informative and inspirational.  He offered us many interesting ideas for possible things we could do with our Autism Awareness Program-ACT.  He informed us that there are only some teachers in Tanzania that train to be special needs teachers.  Once they finish their training they are assigned to a school.  When they are assigned to a school they are often not given a classroom or any resources and it is very difficult because they are expected to start up a special needs program after only a little bit of training.  He informed us that many teachers often then feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that is required with starting up new special needs units and therefore they often try to get regular education jobs instead.  When given a regular education teaching post the teachers are given classrooms and supplies.  As a result of this many special needs units are understaffed of teachers and classrooms and often kids are not getting the help or services they need.  Those teachers in the classrooms often have very little professional development or workshops to learn new skills and after a few years give up on the profession.  Onesmo suggested that something that might benefit the special needs teachers in Arusha and Moshi would be to hold some professional development workshops.  He told us that the last professional development in the area was in 2007 and that it was helpful but the government used the 3 week training to then state that those who had completed it were now fully trained to work with special needs students.  Onesmo stated that many of those who attended that training were not fully trained and could use more development.  This was a challenge we felt would be one that ACT might be able to take on.  There are about 100 teachers in Arusha and about 70 in Moshi that would benefit from this teacher conference and we now have a vision for something we would like to accomplish with ACT within this next year.  We were very excited about the prospect of helping the teachers and working more closely with those that are committeed to helping kids with special needs.

Some other EdPowerment things this week….Our water project is still underway and we are setting up some visits to homes of villagers to see how things are progressing.  We also plan to meet with the village leaders to make sure all families in need have access to water.  Also, our Kilimahewa afterschool group is going very well.  We meet every Wed. and Thursday after school.  Each day the kids beg us not to leave and to stay longer than our 1 ½ hour planned time.  It has been a lot of fun to work with the kids and get to know them.  There will be another blog post on this later.  We also have a group going this week to take the QT1 qualifying exam from Kilimahewa.  This is our first larger group to do this and if they pass it will be equivilant to them earning the first two years of their secondary school qualifications.  (Similar to a partial GED test)  They take this test on Tuesday and this will be the first real test of how Kilimahewa if functioning as a second chance center.  We will have their results officially in December and the students have been studying very hard for this exam.

For personal stuff and the reason for why this blog is late…..Well, we were evicted from our house 2 weeks ago and had only two weeks to find a new place to live. 

It sounds a lot worse than it really is but this is Africa so everything is so much more confusing, and more difficult to not only understand what is happening but also why it is happening.  So the explanation….Our friend Mussa, who we live with, rented the house we were living in last Oct. for one year.  He was told it would not be a problem to renew the contract for another year so we had planned to stay there for our stay in Tanzania.  We were renting our house from  St. Joseph Secondary Boarding School.  The house was usually used for students but they did not have enough students to fill it and rented it to us.  Two weeks ago St. Joseph decided that they wanted their house back and although they said we could renew our contract they now wanted the house back in two weeks time. 

This left us with only a few days to find a new house.  As anyone who has ever been here will tell you that this situation is explained through 3 letters- TIA (This is Africa).  This is the explaination for everything that seems crazy and this was crazy so TIA. 

To solve our dilemma Mussa talked to some friends and next thing we knew we were looking at houses.  Luckily with two days to our deadline we found a house that was close to where we were living that was nice and had almost everything we needed.  It has three bedrooms, two nice bathrooms with hot showers, and a kitchen.  The best part was it also had a porch in the front and the back to sit on and a nice garden area.  The only thing missing was furniture. (:  After some discussions, negotiations and a roommate meeting over coffee we decided to rent it.  Mussa had some furniture and we would need to find/buy/or borrow some but we would make it work.  That left us with two days to take out a years rent from the bank, exchange it to shillings, review the renters agreement, sign the lease, clean the house, try to move all our stuff out of the other house, find a truck and collect the furniture Mussa had distributed throughout his friends in Moshi.  Since everything in Africa takes three times longer than normal this was a lot to accomplish in two days, especially since all of us were also trying to get work done and had little time for moving.  Luckily in our house we also have to young guys who help out with the house.  Tony helps us with the cooking and Swaleh helps us with the cleaning.  In return we make sure they have a place to live and food to eat and they get a monthly salary.  These guys had been living with Mussa before we moved here and have been so important to our ability to function here and to not starve.  We would not have been able to do this move without them. 

So, this past Wed. we spend the day packing up our house and Thursday we came to our new house to clean and wash it.  Jillian and I started in the bathroom wiping down the walls and using bleach to clean the floor.  Tony came to check on us and informed in us in broken English that we were doing the cleaning all wrong.  He then showed us that you take a bucket full of really soapy water and throw it all around the room so it soaks everything.  After everything is coated you throw buckets of rinse water all over the place to rinse the soapy water.  You do this on the walls, windows, and floors.  Then you use a mop and squeegee to push all the water outside.  This Car Wash version of house washing was much more fun than what we were used to at home.  And after 3-4 hours of it the house looked great.  We then spent the evening moving our stuff in and running around collecting some furniture Mussa had and assembling it.  Our house has a bunk bed for the boys, a big bed for Jill and I to share until we get another one, and some dishes and pots and pans.  We are still lacking anything to sit on in our huge living room but are thinking of getting a bunch of big pillows to throw on the ground with some mats/carpets.  We thought living Middle Eastern style would be cheaper than finding big furniture pieces.  Especially because if you want furniture here you have to pay to have it made from a carpenter.  There are no furniture stores to buy things from.  We will keep you posted on how things go but so far we love the house and the area we live is beautiful.  So all in all the craziness of getting evicted in Tanzania worked out and the house is even better than the last one with the exception of the hard cement floors we have to sit on. (: 

I hope everyone is doing well.  Please send me some emails about how things are going at home.  I miss hearing from everyone.