28 June 2005

count 'em, two hours

I have now spent two hours trying to get the loan consolidation form to go through. I've retyped all the info four times. Meanwhile, waiting for pages to load on the Tanzania connection to the internet, I read a blog by a 9th grader - thought longingly of the days when all that existed was school and boys and telephones with no finances or futures to worry about, and then remembered that I never liked those days all that much anyway. In fact, they were sort of miserable. I remember people telling me, "These are the best years of your life." and I'd think, "Are you mad? If this is the best it gets, I'm quitting." I'd much rather be in Africa, waiting for my loan consolidation to go through and missing the Ethiopian Circus (??) that is going on at ViaVia, meeting great people every day, without a moment in which to be bored.

On the verge... on the verge...

Okay, giving up and leaving this office that I've been in for over 12 hours.

Oh, first, get this: I went to an ATM today to withdraw money and COULD NOT REMEMBER MY PIN NUMBER. I've typed it in so many hundreds of times, but my brain was in Africa mode, not debit card mode, and it took me four tries to withdraw money. I kept saying to IE, "I think there's a... no, wait, maybe a... I don't know." But suddenly it all came clear.

Okay, home. There's court all day tomorrow.

27 June 2005


There are paths. If you can't see them - and why should you see them? - you've only got your own eyes to blame. A white man can't see everything: and he has no need to see everything either, because this land is not a white man's land.

~Camara Laye, The Radiance of the King

I'm reading a book called "A Continent for the Taking: the Tragedy and Hope of Africa" by Howard French, who was the New York Times West Africa bureau chief through much of the 1990s. He writes of the West's involvement and indifference in Africa and at one point, he talks of how the US looks at Africa and believes that it has problems simply because it is Africa, because it is the "other".

I was reminded of a scene on the way back from our safari. A boy, about 10 years old, was standing on the side of the road, just outside the Ngorongoro park, on very tall stilts. He stood balanced high above the road, on the shoulder, as a car passed him and then ours. As we passed, I could see the huge grin on his face - joy at standing so high and pride that there were people to see it.

One of the interns in the car said, "That's the strangest thing I've ever seen. This kid, standing on stilts, right outside the park. Shouldn't he be herding cows or something?"

And I thought to myself, maybe. Maybe that's what kids have to do in Africa, herd cows and get water and take care of little brothers and sisters. And maybe they grow to be more responsible and less rebellious because of it, so maybe it's good.

But maybe he's a ten-year-old kid playing with a great toy.

safari safari safari

we went on safari this weekend, not the normal group that i hang out with but a random sort of group of people all without the people we usually hang out with. we went on the short safari - two nights. not really enough but yet enough. by the end, after five flat tires and two nights of freezing weather, i wanted nothing more than a warm shower. fortunately, the power and water were both on when i got back home.

this is the crew who went on safari:

b - germany
m - CA now NY
ie - canada
ir - CA now NY
f - london
j - china now CT
me - who knows

we saw lots of animals, mostly everything you would want to see. we kept getting bored with the big name things.

"more lions. whatevs."

then we wanted to spend an hour watching the pelicans.

i went on safari before with 19 and 20-year-olds when i was in college. it was not as juvenile as this trip with law students. this is a quote:

"we came on this safari to see death and sex and all we've seen is shit."

not that it wasn't accurate. we stayed in tents and used pit latrines and wazungu with stomach problems apparently do not aim well at a hole in the ground. after two days i stopped wearing my jeans because i was sure that the bottoms of the legs had dragged through poo. ir accidently brushed her scarf against the poo and she took it off and left it.

b and j are housemates and they constantly harass each other. j speaks at all times in a fake german accent that, when filtered through his chinese accent, is quite amusing, although not to b. every few minutes he asks b how to say something in german, which he repeats, badly, and proceeds to use in normal conversation for the next three hours until he's forgotten it. then, as we were driving along, we were checking off animals - "lions, check. deer-like animals, check. zebra, checkcheckcheckcheckchechechechechecheche." b suddenly said, "j, check." j wanted a picture of himself and b on the edge of the ngorongoro crater and the photo turned out to be j trying to put his arm around b and b pushing him away. later, in an all-the-boys picture, m tried to put his arm around b and b said, "I think it is not good for boys to touch my shoulder." he told the girls that we could.

the stars were amazing the first night. we all leaned back and looked up at them for a minute and then ie said, "the sky doesn't move. it's boring. let's do something else."

the third time the tire went out, it was getting dark and we were just climbing off the serengeti plain up to the crater and we didn't have another spare. the driver and b walked off with my phone (because it had battery) and ie's phone card (because celtel has better coverage) to try to find a place where the phones worked. ie's card, when i put it in my phone, showed a message, so i told her that one was waiting for her. for the next forty-five minutes, while we were stuck on the side of the road in the deepening darkness and b and the driver were off seeking help, ie kept saying, "i hope they don't get eaten with my message." (it was from a boy ;-)

f is british and near the beginning of the trip, when we arrived at the first campsite and saw all the tables with tablecloths and white people sitting around them while tanzanians cooked, j started saying, "that's so british" about everything that was colonial. f might have been offended, but he had to give it up after two days because someone said it about every thirty minutes, sometimes alternating it with "that's so colonial."

the next day, about two hours into the driving around the serengeti, j said to me, "is there always so much time in which you don't see any animals?" when i said yes, he started another of his frequently used phrases. "elephants." he would say, "overrated."

"serengeti. overrated. africa. overrated."

classic quotes of the weekend:



"that's so british."

"don't put your shoes on that, they have shit on them."


"i want to pet it."

"why do i have to tell you why?" - our guide, godfrey, when ie refused to close the window when the lions walked up to our car.

"twende!" - let's go (whenever we got sick of the current animals - usually long before any of the other cars)

"how do you say... in german?"

"why doesn't something kill something else or have sex?"


I'm tired now.

21 June 2005

having a maid

so we have a maid, which i also had in rwanda but i revolt against, generally, because i feel like i should be able to keep the house clean on my own but of course i can't because there are clothes to wash by hand and floors to clean with this squeegee thing and i'm gone 12 hours a day. (maybe i should just suck it up and clean after my twelve hours of work, but anyone who knows how crabby i get when i don't get enough sleep would veto that idea immediately.) so we have a maid. i'm okay with that. it's lovely to come home to a clean kitchen and freshly ironed clothes.

and you'd think with a maid, we would have no roommate issues at all related to the cleanliness of the house. not so. our issues now relate to a fundamental question: what is the maid supposed to do? two of us maintain that the maid is there to help us with the stuff we can't do for ourselves - the laundry, for example, and maybe some cooking. Others in the house, whose names shall remain unmentioned, although it is not all the remaining members of the household, so don't go accusing anyone, believe that the entire purpose of having a maid is that we don't have to do anything in the house. they would leave dishes from the saturday party for the maid on monday morning, leaving the house in filth all day sunday and, this week, monday and tuesday as well, since the maid was home with a sick child. they want the maid to make their beds.

never have i so appreciated all those years of clearing the table and washing the dishes in liberia. of course, it's not my house alone, so i can't insist that the dishes get done after dinner except by doing them all myself. i can't insist that the beds get made unless i make them all myself. we're left with that same old roommate dynamic: should i do the dishes for the rest of the house (and be irritated with them for making more work for me) or should i leave the dishes of the rest of the house for the maid to do (and be irritated with them for treating her badly)?

also, i don't like the word "maid." it sounds bad. but really, what word sounds any better? any way you put it, we are hiring someone to clean up our messes. my egalitarianism rebels.

20 June 2005

illness update

just as an addition, for those of you who were alarmed, i did get a hold of Tekle and got a beautiful 7 days worth of amoxycillin. how i do love antibiotics. i feel alarmingly better.

side note: the amoxycillin is made here in Tanzania. I've had some interesting "discussions" recently with this guy (student from another top five law school that shall remain unnamed lest he should reflect badly on it) who is working for a consulting firm here in arusha. he is convinced (based on his now three weeks in Tanzania) that this country will never amount to anything because the people are too lazy and corrupt. He accused me of a "softened bigotry" - ie. lowered standards for Africa, when I said that I thought there was hope and that there is a great deal of pragmatism to some of the corruption (not that I like it, but that there are reasons). Then again, he also accused me of being an Africa snob when I said that maybe it might be better to wait for more than two weeks of being in Africa to decide if there is hope here or not. Anyway, my opinion is, how can you not have hope for a country that makes its own antibiotics AND pasta?

19 June 2005

weekends are too long and too short

Much as I love working here, it would be really nice to get home in time to be able to take a walk or run in the evening before it gets dark. Yesterday I took a nice long ramble in the late afternoon and realized that I live tantalizingly close to real Africa (as opposed to the city). I encountered Maasai kids herding goats and prickly things that stuck into my jeans and tiny winding paths through fields. Somehow, after a lot of wandering, I suddenly ended up in the back yard of the army camp near my house, but there did not seem to be a problem with my appearing in the middle of the camp like there would be if I did the same in Rwanda. The kids greeted me and then a man said hello and we traded the few bits of Kiswahili I know and then I went on home in time to catch a dalla-dalla to town to meet some friends for dinner.

The ones who live in my house gave me a bouquet of flowers as thanks for putting up with them this weekend - and believe me, they took some putting up with. We had a pizza party on Saturday night which degenerated quickly into a drinking party because the pizza took so long to cook. I felt even more than usual like the only adult in the room (this is a sad state of affairs considering that I've spent most of my life being the youngest in any given group besides my family). I usually have a lot of fun with these people, but I've never been able to get into the drinking-as-fun world and this was taking it a bit further than my patience stretches (this is an even sadder state of affairs considering that I usually have very stretchy patience). They played Spin the Bottle (what is this, seventh grade? Spin the Bottle?) in the dining room while I chatted with D in the living room. Let's just put it this way: if we are ever opponents in a case in a conservative state and I'm feeling like using devious tactics to get any one of them off the case, I have a lot of ammunition. I also made my world-famous (well, now famous in three countries) coffee cake which was met to a great deal of applause even though I gave them the slightly burned half because they were too drunk to notice and/or to fully appreciate the difference.

All I can say is that I'm grateful beyond words that life has more meaning than that.

17 June 2005

big problem number one of the 2005 Africa trip


I thought it was just a cold but then I realized that the cold was not progressing into coughing or anything else and the cough drops weren't helping and I recalled the sensation from March. I tried to go to the health center but they close at 11 am. So I sent an SMS to this guy T. in Rwanda asking him for B.'s number in Ethiopia or the other T.'s number in Rwanda so that I can call one of them and find out what to take - the health center gave me penicillin last time but apparently if it recurs you are supposed to treat it with something else. T. hasn't gotten back to me. I hope I got the number right...

14 June 2005

other things

believe it or not (i know, you won't believe it if all you've heard so far is what i've posted on this blog), we do actually do things other than ride dalla-dallas and eat dinner. we work, for example. in fact, we work for far too many hours a day. we leave in the morning soon after it gets light and get back after dark. i'm not really sure what my house looks like by daylight. oh, yes, i did see it on sunday afternoon. that was nice. it's big and two stories and kind of off-white with two balconies and a multi-colored bush in front that looks like it's on fire.

saturday, we decided that we had to get out of the city for a while. Arusha is not nice. by this i mean that i can't honestly say, "Arusha is a nice city." it's sort of generic and has nothing to make it stand out (except a shop-rite, but it's too far out of the way and too expensive and we don't go there very often - instead we get our groceries at mr. price, which is on the way home). mainly, though, it's not a nice city because there are too many foreigners associated with the UN who have created a rich class of people who are easy to spot and easy to rob. so every work person we've met has warned us that we are about to be robbed and that's not a nice feeling.

to get out of the city, we went to a cultural tourism site at longido, which is a mountain and a town north of here toward the kenyan border. on the way, we had amazing views of mt. meru and mt. kilimanjaro as well as other really amazing scenery (hills, trees, cattle drives), which i would have appreciated much more if i had not been in the front seat of a 1983 peugeot station wagon (just like liberia) that was missing all or part of the following functional items: seat belts, speedometer, horn, rearview mirrors, radio, door locks, door handles, window cranks, floor. yes, floor. you could see through the floor to the road, passing at an alarming rate. the engine seemed to work and the brakes must have, because we are alive. there were 8 of us who hired the car and driver for the day. if you know these peugeot station wagons, you know that 8 + driver fits perfectly IF YOU HAVE A BENCH SEAT IN THE FRONT. this one did not. i had to sit in the middle of the front (carsick otherwise) but there was no middle of the front. there were two cushions squashed in over the emergency brake, which i had to balance on (no seat back). and the guys sitting in the back seat had to spend the entire trip bent over because the roof was too low. funny how these cars seemed bigger when i was smaller - weren't they huge in 1985?

longido cultural tourism centre is essentially a trading post: we give some money (a large portion goes to a village development fund that builds things like a school and a medicated cattle bath to prevent ticks), the village gives us knowledge about Maasai culture as well as lunch. we both come away happy. there was a lot of walking and hiking, which was exactly what i needed after being locked away in an office all week. i love landscapes - almost nothing makes me happier than beautiful countryside - and this was a new one for me but i thought it beautiful - semi-arid with a lot of thorny bushes.

the funniest part for me was when i sniffed the air and said, "i smell goat." we rounded a corner and there were goats. three of them were boer goats, which is what we imported to rwanda when i lived there. "boer goats!" i exclaimed, and pointed out their characteristics. the owner said they had gotten them from kenya. ha! the other interns are still laughing at me for not only knowing the smell of goats from a blind 100 meters away, but being able to point out breeds. what can i say? i know a boer goat when i see it.

at the women's market, buying bracelets, a woman offered me her baby daughter for 2000 Tsh ($2). the baby was cute, but i declined. i think she was joking. i hope.

13 June 2005


i wrote this lovely description yesterday of how i got on a supposed dalla-dalla on sunday and it turned out to be a church bus instead and i was apparently hitch-hiking, but then the computer lost it. twice. so i refuse to write it again and you'll just have to trust me that it was funny. we've been hitch-hiking a lot lately. (i know, you are NEVER supposed to hitch-hike, but often it's the only way to get home.) we usually have to do it when we are at this particular strip of restaurants near our houses. the dalla-dallas stop around 9:30 pm (going out of town) and since last night it took us three hours to get dinner (this is about average), it's rare that we make it home by 9:30. last night we went to Pizza Point, which was good but it appeared that the dough had be made from scratch and rise before we could eat. we finally moved inside because i was cold and that seemed to speed up the process - as long as we were watching, the staff busily worked. j looked over at the next table, where a family sat with a child who had a broken arm and was about five years old. "that child," he said, "was conceived in this restaurant, born here, broke his arm here, and they just now got their pizza."

it was 10 when we left and we went to a busy parking lot a few restaurants down and g flagged down a departing vehicle. it was an interpreter for the tribunal, who gladly gave us a ride once g said, "three of us are girls. pretty girls." the guy was so drunk that he never remembered to turn the headlights on (good thing no one came up behind us). fortunately he was of the type that drives really really slowly when drunk because they know that they are drunk and we made it safely.

there followed a torturous nearly two hour stint of trying to figure out who owes what to whom. we have all repented of our spending money without getting reimbursed because it was so painful to figure out two weeks at once. i think l is still getting ripped off. i'm just happy that i will come out 3000 shillings ahead - about $3. perfect, because i currently have 1800 Tsh in my pocket and those I borrowed from j. i really need to get to a forex and change money. otherwise i'm going to starve and i'll have to sleep at the tribunal because i won't be able to pay the dalla-dalla to get home.

09 June 2005

my passionate love for mozilla firefox

for the last week, here at work, I have not had access to the bold-italics-size functions on blogger. so irritating.

but today i got full access to my computer (logged on in my name instead of as "administrator") and i downloaded firefox and now everything works. also i do not get constant popups saying, "will you allow this cookie? How about this one?" i just now blocked them all. HA!

anyway, stf says to give details, so I'll try.

Every morning I walk out into the cool air and think, why did I ever leave this continent? The kids in the primary school behind our house chant, "thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen," the air smells like morning fires and green plants, and the sun lights up the tops of the hills across the meadow. We ride dalla-dallas to work and this morning when L said, "Shusha!" the bus broke into riotous laughter and the manic driver DID NOT STOP. G said it louder and the other passengers laughed louder and still the manic driver DID NOT STOP. Finally he did and we bent over laughing about what we could say in a letter of complaint to the dalla-dalla company (there isn't one).

Last night we went out to Nick's, an outdoor grill place, which turned out actually to be Nick Restaurant, not Nick's. Random. Anyway, we arrived and sat down outside and ordered drinks. They were playing all of my favorite East African music ("mos mos, poli poli, mos mos") and little white flowers fell down off the tree above us like a blessing (until one dropped into my soda - but I didn't really want any more anyway). 8 of us ate 2.5 chickens and 3 fish, a feast for the fingers and mouths and stomachs. Also chips and grilled bananas and the guys got some more brochettes at the end because they were still hungry (???). We left late and there were no more dalla-dallas and the taxi drivers hanging around there were either drunk or stoned and also wanted to rip us off. So we said we'd walk and they said, "no, no, very dangerous" and we felt like the only danger we were in was from them. we walked a little ways and flagged down the next car that came and said, "1000 shillings. we'll give you 1000 shillings to the World Vision road." and then were really embarrassed when it turned out to be a politician in his personal car rather than a taxi. but he gave us a ride home and we thanked him more than profusely and walked the last 200 meters beneath every star ever seen on earth.

08 June 2005

riding in to work

I left for work late this morning because I absolutely had to sleep in a bit and because it was so nice to have the house to myself for a few minutes after all my roommates left.

There are three options for getting to work. The first is to take the UN shuttle, which comes to our house at 7:30 am (not conducive to sleeping in). The second is to take a taxi (minimum $4). The final option is, as mentioned yesterday, a dalla-dalla, which costs 20 cents but stops everywhere and gets really full. On my own, of course I took the dalla-dalla. It was approaching as I reached the tarmac road from our dirt one, and I got on. The only available seat was in the far back, so I sat there. As the bus completed the filling process, which ended with every seat full and four or five people standing hunched over between the seats and the door (it was hard to see how many at that point), I got pushed further and further back into the corner furthest from the door. Unfortunately, I needed to get off at the first stop in town. So I hesitantly knocked on the metal above the window, the dalla-dalla screached to a halt, and about 8 people got out so that I could. The man next to me and the woman next to him and the man next to her, who were crammed with me into the back seat, did not, however, move or make any other concessions to my need to exit the dalla-dalla. I had to clamber over them in a move that seemed destined to end in a head-first tumble out the sliding door, but somehow didn't. I had no grace or poise left by the time I got out the door, but at least I was right-side up (particularly good since I'm wearing a long skirt).

I walked alone to the Tribunal. The "you must fear Arusha" people keep telling us that we are about to get robbed in broad daylight and must always stay in groups, but I can't make myself feel any more unsafe walking around alone here than I did in Kigali. Less, actually, because I walk around alone here more.

06 June 2005

home sweet home

My bedroom in our suburban mansion in Arusha already seems to me like the world's most restful place. My case is in court from 2:30 to 6:30 pm every day, which means a ten hour day at work plus an hour-long commute (traffic coming into the city is horrible - tomorrow morning they say they will pick us up at 7:20). It is bliss to retreat to my four-postered, mosquito-net-canopied bed.

When I lived in Rwanda, I had a car and I was always in a hurry. Here, no car. I've taken more mini-buses here in one week than I did in Rwanda in two years. (They are called dalla-dallas here and our stop is the World Vision shusha - also known as Radio Tanzania Road.) And I'm still in a hurry what with the twelve hours a day of work-related business, but some things just have to wait, like butter knives and more hangers. Some things just cannot wait, like a blanket (the first night in our new house was a freezing misery). Also, for me, tea and a pot to heat water in.

So, we're settling in. I had 2 toasts for breakfast, one with cheese and one with chocolate flakes, and vanilla tea. Life is mundane but most enjoyable.

03 June 2005

lookin' out the window

so here I am, in my office, looking out the window, with a computer (finally), with internet access (not so finally - I was fine with using the library), and in possession of a house. It's impossible to explain how much of our time has been taken up with this silly house search. We went to see three of them. We spent the whole evening talking about the three of them. We dealt with all the intrigue of working out details with the landlord and between ourselves - who will live with who. We visited the house again to show our new roommate. We negotiated with the landlord a while more over a bottle of Dodoma (capital of Tanzania) wine (I had Ethiopian coffee 'cause I hate the taste of alcohol - the restaurant our landlady owns even has that lovely little herb to put in it, which turns out to be called something like ten-adam, accent on the last syllable). We went back to the hotel and talked more about the details. We went with security to visit the house. We went to talk to the landlord about the details again. We still have to work on the contract, sign it, and move in. Oh, and buy everything for the house. It only has furniture and plates. All the rest is on us and will occupy us today and tomorrow. It will be such a relief to move into a house when we've been staying in a hotel for ages and living out of a suitcase. And spending $20 a night... plus restaurants.

So, we're moving in. We are five - T, L, G, J, and me. I'm sure you'll hear more about them later. All are Americans, from California, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and, obviously, me. Should be fun.

02 June 2005

getting started

We are all official interns now, with badges to prove it and office space - so far my office space is a tiny desk with nothing in or on it, but it's still office space. In addition to horror stories about how we'll all get robbed, the previous interns have also been telling us horror stories about how we'll never get a house, because they are all staying extra time and are still occupying all the houses. We panicked a bit and then decided to prove them wrong and went madly looking at houses last night (our first day at work). A group of four of us visited 3 of them and then collapsed in a heap (well, actually, went out to Maasai Camp restaurantish place for dinner and then played cards). We chose a house far enough out to be away from work and to give us a chance to walk in real Africa rather than being stuck in the dusty, crowded downtown all the time. It's a bit huge and spartan - cement floors, five bedrooms, huge kitchen and dining room. More details about housing fun once we are settled in and making it home :-)