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Africa » Tanzania » East » Dar es Salaam
November 5th 2005
Published: November 5th 2005
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So it seems, knock on wood, that our electricity issues have been resolved and that the outages that are still occuring are fewer, farther between, and of a shorter duration. Thank God. The temperature now is 35 or 36 degrees during the day and it is much much more humid. It has rained about three days of the last week and I see that we are heading into the start of the rainy season. God help me.

This will be a quick one because I have been online for a while answering my email and there are several people waiting to use this computer. I guess everybody is getting updated on their communications now that the electricity is more reliable. Ramadan ended Friday with Eid al Fitr (sp?), although it wasn't clear until Wednesday night when the official end would actually be. They wait to check on the status of the moon to see if the month is officially over or not. We knew it would be Thursday or Friday, and that the day would mean a day off work (God bless the Muslims!). Ali called me Wednesday night at around 10:30 to report, quite dejectedly, that "the moon has not been found". Meaning there would be one more day to the fast. They do get tired I think and look forward to the end. He invited me to his house for Friday but unfortunately the invitation didn't come until Friday morning and by then I was already commited to something else. He hadn't mentioned it so I thought maybe he had forgotten, or the plans had changed. Anyhow, he apologized profusely but had been in a meeting all day Thursday and had to check with his wife about the timing. Then I apologized profusely for not being available. Too funny. It was a good thought but we just couldn't pull it together.

Work is going well and we got my midterm evaluation done and in the mail on Tuesday, only a few days late. They are very happy with me which I suspected, but it's always nice to hear. We talked again about my traveling and Dorcas said just to let her know what time I want to take off -- I am so happy. I was debating about whether I should go south or north to the game parks. There is a Canadian guy I know by email but not in person who is working in Arusha (the starting point for most safaris in the north) and he would like to meet up with me but is not sure his schedule will accommodate it. But I have met somebody else that I have been spending time with, actually the guy I wrote about last time who was supposed to go to university this year but lost his funding, and we have become friends. His name is also Ali. He's a great guy and some of his family is in Zambia. He wants to go visit them and offered to take me with him. I could still see wildlife (I HAVE to see hippos before I leave this continent -- that is my number one priority), plus we could go to Victoria Falls which really appeals to me, and it would be the opportunity to see another African country. I always pray about stuff like this and I believe I am getting the go ahead. I just have to figure out my money and let him know what I am able to do, and want to do. So that should be very cool. That will hopefully be in the next two or three weeks. We will take the train so I will really get to see the countryside as we go. Too good.

One nice benefit of having friends from this culture is spending time in their homes. I went to this Ali's house, actually the home of his sister and her little daughter. It is by far the nicest house I have seen, although not the biggest. But even still the floors are concrete, and the bathroom is the ol' hole in the floor trick. The hardest part is they don't use toilet paper (not for anything!) but there is a bucket of water that lets you freshen yourself up when you are through doing whatever you need to do. This has taken a bit of getting used to, let me tell you. I also noticed that there is no shower per se and learned that they pour water over themselves from a big bucket, lather up, then pour water over themselves to rinse. Wow. I can still get blown away by the gap between how we live at home and how the folks here live. They do have a fridge but no stove per se, just a sort of propane tank with a flame that they cook over, and of course no washing machine -- the clothes are all done by hand. I don't know anybody here who has a washing machine. What they do have is hired house help who do that type of chore for them. So at mealtimes, good food just appears magically for me on the table, which is so nice. Mostly it is a lot of rice, flavoured differently from day to day, with bits of meat and maybe something in the way of a fruit or vegetable on the side. Much like my lunches every day when I'm at work. When I see the degree of want I am just happy to have something to fill my tummy with, and I think they feel much the same way.

One nice thing is Ali's sister has a little daughter who is two and a half. She speaks only Swahili but that doesn't prevent her from chatting away to me as if I can understand. She calls me Auntie, which is no reflection on my relationship with her uncle, but what all the children here call an older women. She is super smart and very well advanced, which I can tell even though I don't get what she's saying. Sometimes Ali will translate for me. One day there was a barking sound from next door and he told me what she was saying: "Oh it's okay, that's just the neighbour's dog. He barks like that all the time. He wants to bite me I think. He came over here one day and he wanted to bite me, but he couldn't do it. He still wants to though." And on and on. She really blows my mind. She is always thinking. Unfortunately she is into everything but you can tell it's because she is bored and curious. She doesn't have much in the way of toys or books, not that surprising (although I did get to meet her watoto -- her babies -- she has a couple of dolls) but happily she will start school in January. Her mom is a lovely woman who seems somewhat bewildered at the pace her daughter keeps. I told her don't worry, she will thrive in school and hopefully that will stimulate her enough that she will settle down at home. I think of all the advantages the children in North America have. In Canada they would have her in some kind of advanced or gifted program and she would be learning learning learning, which is I know what she wants. She is so curious and so smart. (She's no Ruby, of course, (my niece) but a very intelligent child just the same). Here I see the same thing over and over -- people with amazing potential and gifts and motivation and no way (or few ways) to develop it. It kills me. It's the hardest part for me of being here. But in any case, I am enjoying meeting some new people and getting a more intimate look at how they live here.

So things are all good. Time is going by so fast and the closer the end gets, the faster it seems to go. It will be hard to leave here as I have said before but I miss you all so much and that will help me get on the plane. Keep a good thought for these last few weeks. I can't believe that it's nearly over.

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