Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sugar Cane Juice

One of the most delicious drinks available in Zanzibar is sugar cane juice.  The men use a machine to take the sugar cane stalk and squeeze as much juice out of it as they can.  In addition to this, they add lime and ginger to the press and you end up with a naturally sweetened drink with a hint of lime and ginger.  I wish we could bottle it up and take it home with us.




Friday, December 16, 2011

Small World

Jon and I got off our ferry around 6:00 pm and tried to find our hotel without a taxi which is quite difficult because Stone Town is a maze of alleyways. As our luck would have it, we ran into a friend of ours who is a volunteer about four hours away from us!  He was visiting Zanzibar with his family who is visiting him.  He recommended the hotel he was staying at and helped show us the way.   The next day, his family and my family (Jon and I), went out on a little boat to see tortoises and go snorkeling. 


Our first stop was to “Prison Island” which as the name suggests was an island for prisoners (specifically slaves), however, it never came to be used for that.  It was then planned to be used as a quarantine for people with severe illnesses.  But, as with the prison (which had actually been built), this never came to be.  Now, it’s just a touristy area.   The most notable reason to visit this island is for the rare tortoises called the Aldabra Giant Tortoise.  And giant they are!  These gentle giants are not native to the Zanzibar area, but were brought as a gift over a hundred years ago.  The oldest tortoise in the group is 150 years old!  It is believed that tortoises are the longest lived of all animals. 


After playing with the tortoises, we took another twenty minute boat ride to a beautiful area where snorkeling was ideal!  We saw beautiful coral reefs, starfish, sand dollars, clown fish, zebra fish, schools of fish, sea urchin, and many, many other fish that I could never identify.  It was so amazing and we were so lucky our friend included us in his day out on the boat to see giant turtles and super colorful fish!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tanzania, really?

Zanzibar is like a whole different world from the part of Tanzania in which Jon and I live in.  It’s hard to tell it’s the same country.  We stayed in the world-famous area of Stone Town which has been built up to attract many tourists.  After six months of being a hot-commodity for being foreign, suddenly we’re like any other tourist where everyone speaks to us in English and harasses us to buy their things or take their taxi, or to let them be our tour guide.  It’s really quite annoying, but such is the condition of any huge touristy area.  In any event, we are ecstatic at the delicious food we are having, street lights!, and the phenomenal surroundings.  The island is characterized by the dominance of the Muslim religion.  Nearly all women here are covered and you can hear the call the prayer all over town.  Once you get away from Stone Town a little, you find what is “real” Tanzania with the poverty and the markets.  Stone Town is just a small portion of the island that I am sure tricks many visitors into believing that the whole island is as developed as this.  Jon and I have gone through an almost “culture-shock” by being here, even though it’s Tanzania.  Really, Zanzibar, are you Tanzanian?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Freedom, at last!

Peace Corps graciously hosts a 10 day conference for us to get some in-service training after three months at site.  We spent ten days back in Morogoro with all the volunteers that we trained with back from June until mid-August.  Surprisingly, our whole training class is still here, no one has "terminated early” and gone back to the USA.  The ten days of training provided us with opportunities to learn about how to tackle some of Tanzania’s pressing issues while being teachers in our communities.  In addition to teaching, next year I also hope to be the school librarian, run an English club, and teach sex education to the grade 9 females as an HIV-prevention method.  Jon and I live in one of the country’s highest areas of people living with HIV/AIDS.  However, ten days of training for 8 hours straight is really not that fun.  The very next day that training ended and we had our freedom back, we headed to Zanzibar to get some rest and relaxation!  After a very frustrating trip to the island, we finally arrived with the smell of fish in the air and excitement in our veins!


Mama Maasai

My favorite Mama Maasai who works in Iringa.  I bought all my Christmas presents from her because her personality is phenomenal.  The maasai are a famous tribe in Tanzania who still live as nomads and their lives are greatly centralized around the cows who provide much of their necessities in life.  They are known for drinking cow’s blood.  On a tourist level, they make and sell the best souvenirs in Tanzania!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Isimila Stone Age Site

On our last day in Iringa, we went to a place called Isimila Stone Age Site which is about 15 miles outside of Iringa.  I was initially attracted to this place because it has tools that are claimed to be between 60,000 – 100,000 years old.  The tools were discovered in the 1950s by archaeologists and they are claimed to be some of the most important finds from the stone age.  However, as cool as that all sounds, these tools were greatly disappointing.  They looked like….rocks.   I am complete unsure how archaeologists are able to determine that these rocks are…tools. 
What ended up being super fascinating were the sandstone pillars which were only about 15 minutes walk from the site displaying the tools.  These natural pillars are absolutely amazing!  As we later learned, it was through erosion in this canyon that the tools were unearthed.  As such, this site is believed to have been inhabited by humans as long ago as 300,000 – 400,000 years ago!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weather and fame

Jon and I woke up on Friday to another gorgeous day in Iringa.  We went to a place  for breakfast called Neema Crafts which is a wonderful not-for-profit organization.  Not only do they sell crafts as the name suggests, but there is also a cafĂ© which serves excellent brewed local coffee and organic foods.  The best part of this organization is that it is a vocational training site for the young deaf and disabled people in the area.  While many disabled people in the USA have a chance to support themselves or at least get some assistance from the government, this is not the case in Tanzania.  All the crafts are made by disabled people and the restaurant is run completely by people who are deaf.  It’s an excellent organization to support and the food was divine.
gangilongaFollowing our delicious breakfast, we continued on to do a hike to Gangilonga rock – a huge rock that overlooks Iringa.  The name of the rock means “talking stone” in the local language of the area, and it is where an old chief from the late 1890s used to meditate.  We spent much time asking for directions to get to it.  After some time, we located it and climbed to the top.  While the rock has been defaced by much graffiti, it did not take away from the peace and tranquility of our settings.  We arrived just as the call to prayer was being sung over the whole city.  The top of the rock was quiet, there were only three other girls who shared the top with us.  We spent a couple hours in the sun and just relaxing. 
But, it’s the rainy season now and a beautiful day quickly turns to a rainy hour or two.  We noticed a drop in temperature and started to pack up our things.  Before we could even get off the top of the rock, it started to sprinkle and in no time it was down-pouring.  After a five or ten minute descent, we finally reached a house.  As fate would have it, we were invited inside by a young girl to escape the rain.  The walk back into Iringa was a good 35 minutes, so we quickly accepted the invitation.   Our friendly host named Loveness was only 15 years old and spoke wonderful English.  She showed us pictures of her family which was fascinating.  You see, her grandpa had over ten wives and 65 children!  The more we talked, the more she shared information about her family.  The next thing we know, she’s telling us about her brother who is a famous hip hop star in Tanzania.  She began showing us his music videos and telling us how he is performing the next day.  After about an hour and a half, the rain let up a bit and we tried excusing ourselves from her home.  However, as a we were fumbling over our words to politely leave, here walks in the famous brother.  Well, we couldn’t leave now!  So, we met him and he showed us some more music videos including one where he sings with Miss Tanzania and one where he sings with a famous albino woman.  I can’t say that I have ever watched a music video of someone while they were there!  It was a great experience.
We went to his show the next day and we were shocked by the number of people who had come out.  It wasn’t some tiny venue with a small following, it was a large venue filled with people singing all his songs.  I think we actually met a real hip hop star here.  It’s pretty awesome because now we are texting him and he texts us.  He’s a famous hip hop singer and we’re celebrities simply because we’re foreigners!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


IMG_2571Iringa is such a cute city!  It is located on top of a mountain which gives it lovely weather at this time of the year, it’s not too hot. Surrounding the city, you can see hillsides dotted with large rocks and boulders larger than houses.  The steady climb to the top of this summit city by bus displays amazing scenery, valleys, rivers, and beautiful hills.  There is a lot of shopping here from food to beautiful handcrafted items and jewelry.  I hope to get some Christmas shopping done!  
germanmosqueSo far, the most unique thing about Iringa is a mosque that was built by Germans during colonialism.  First of all, it doesn’t look at all like a mosque that I am used to seeing.  It’s completely white with a clock tower over it.  It looks like a piece of architecture that could be found in New Orleans.  It has intricate designs.  I am very low in the knowledge of Islam, but to me, it represents nothing Muslim.  Yet, it was fascinating to see and very “awe-some” in the right way to use that term. 
majimaji The other sightseeing suggestion made by handy Lonely Planet was to go see a monument that honors those who died in an uprising from 1905-1907.  Although, I suppose it is historical, it was quite uninteresting.  The monument was simply some rocks put together with a little plaque that could not be read from the road. 
Iringa has a more touristy feel than where we live because it is a gateway city into a huge national park where people go on safari.  As a result, there are delicious restaurants that cater to the tourists allowing us to get some good (but a little pricey) meals while we’re here!   There’s also a park here.  It was nice to see a green space in the middle of a city.  Also, unlike where we live, we hear the call to prayer again which I find to be beautiful.  I used to enjoy hearing it during training, but since moving to our location, we do not hear it.
So far, I really enjoy this city and hope that my camera comes with my friend tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All that preparation, and yet…

We spent this entire week so far cleaning up our house.  The reason for such a clean up is because we are hoping to be gone for a few weeks total.  After seemingly endless loads of laundry, putting away stuff for school that will be unnecessary until the school year starts, scrubbing our floors, and locking away our valuables, we finally departed this morning to catch a bus to Iringa.  We are taking some time here on our way to our conference for In-service training.  After some searching, we located our quaint little guesthouse that is recommended by other Peace Corps volunteers who often visit this city.  It wasn’t until we arrived here, 5 hours later on a bus, that we realized we left our camera at our house in a place where we would not forget to take it.  After a few phone calls, I think it is likely that a friend will bring us the camera tomorrow when she meets us here, hopefully.  Really hopefully, because we’ve requested vacation time to visit Zanzibar.  It would totally suck to not have our camera in such a beautiful place as Zanzibar. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kwetu Pazuri

Here is a song of a very famous song in Tanzania at the moment.  It's by some choir from Rwanda and you can't go a day without hearing it at least 2-3 times!

Kwetu Pazuri Song (opens youtube in another window)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lia loves me

I promise this will not become a cat blog.  But, here’s another picture of our kitten Lia.  She has definitely taken me to be her surrogate mother.  If I am anywhere near her, she needs to be as close to me as possible.  I can’t even take a nap without her climbing on top of me (as shown above), just to be there.  She does not have this habit with Jon at all.  We have tested her and always, she chooses me, even if we are sitting next to each other, laying next to each other, or even if Jon is closer to her.  I don’t mind since she’s so darn cute!

Friday, December 2, 2011


This is the church in our village, we thought people might be interested in seeing it.  We feel guilty because we have not been attending.  Hopefully, we will get back into this habit with school being on break.  It is truly a great experience and a great way to integrate. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Well, it’s being shut off

buckets of water
This afternoon, our neighbor came by with an urgent message.  She told us, quick, fill up all your water now, someone is coming to shut off the well! Can wells be shut off?  Apparently so, if the water bill is not paid.  Who knew?  The teacher explained to us that the school is supposed to pay the water bill, but the school has no money, so they are coming to turn it off.  It was a mass race for the well, all the teachers living around us scrambled to get water before it got shut off.  Our next question of course was, when will we get water back?  The answer was: I don’t know, but the school has no money, they are trying to ask the water people for more time to get the money.  We only have 5 days that we need water for until we travel for a work-related conference.  Our decision was to fill up as much as we could to try to last 5 days, if it comes down to it.  Here’s a sampling of most of our water holders at the moment.  We saved two pots to cook with.  It’s never a dull moment here.