Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcoming home

When we returned back to our school about 10 days ago, everyone was so happy to see us.  Many teachers have come to say they are sorry and spend time with me.  It must be in Tanzanian fashion to give food when someone is sick because in my first week home, we have been showered with food as shown below:


Day 2 home: 6 eggs from the civics teacher and 4 pears from our neighbors


Day 3: from 6 eggs to 16


A basin of potatoes

In addition to these, we also got four more pears and 2 oranges.  The welcoming home was very good and there is so much support from my school.  I am still not teaching but am glad to be within range of my school and colleagues. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slipway in Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam is not a city with much to do besides shop, eat, or lay on beaches. Most volunteers come here for the beaches to relax after months in the village, fun shopping for difficult to find food items or fun Tanzanian stuff, or the excellent choices of restaurants. But, as someone who lives in Tanzania on a volunteer salary and not just visiting for a few weeks, it can be difficult to really enjoy all that Dar has to offer  One place that Jon and I have been visiting frequently that is popular for shopping and food is known as Slipway. It's situated on the Bay of Msasani, so it offers nice views of the water.  There are dozens of shops offering Tanzanian souvenir goods marked up to twice of the price of what you can get in Iringa, several little restaurants and an ice cream shop, a grocery store offering many western food items, a book store, and many other luxury goods. It's relatively close to where we are staying, so we like to go get ice cream and look at the water.  Sometimes, it's torture for me because there are such cute little shops that I want to buy so much from, but I can't afford on my volunteer budget! It's a great place to do Christmas shopping for friends and family back home who would like an ideal Tanzanian souvenir!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Common Tanzanian food

Adapted from a free publication called "Go Dar es Salaam":

Tanzanians come from a variety of cultures bringing rich diversity in the way Tanzanians live, socialize, and eat their food.  Here are some of the most popular local dishes and local food and drinks:

1. Ugali - is made from maize flour, mixed with boiling water and cooked until it becomes solid yet soft enough to mush around in your palms and dip into a sauce.  Ugali is commonly eaten with beef, fish, chicken, beans, or vegetables.  It is loved by many (if not all) Tanzanians.

2. Ndizi - cooked bananas - and there are tens of ways bananas can be cooked, depending on the region the variety is from; Bukoba, Moshi, Mbeya, and Morogoro varieties are the most popular.

3. Wali - it is simply rice.  What you do in the process of cooking rice can change the name of the end product. Straight white rice without spices is simply wali.  Add spices and it becomes pilau. Add yogurt and several other spices it becomes biriani (essentially curry).

4. Nyama Choma - spiced roasted beef or chicken.

5. Mishikaki - pieces of marinated roast beef, fish, or chicken on a stick, very similar to shish kebabs.

6. Chipsi mayai (my favorite!) - fresh eggs are poured on chips (french fries) in a frying pan, and they cook together into a delicious treat.  Add some salt and chili sauce for the best combination! Often served with a side of kichimbari which is a salad of cut tomatoes, onions with fresh squeezed lemon or lime over the top.

7. Samaki-mchuzi - meaning fish curry (or gravy, sauce, soup).  Can be served with wali, ugali or chapati (like naan) .

8. Maharage - eaten regularly by Tanzanians. Usually served with wali, ugali, or ndizi.  Maharage is just simmered beans (usually with a lot of salt).

9. Chapati - a fried circular bread, similar to naan and often eaten as breakfast

10. Maandazi - the Tanzanian version of a donut (without sugar) and eaten as a breakfast item

11.  Chai - tea, often served with a lot of sugar and the option to add milk

Soda (coke products are most often seen) is often served at celebrations such as weddings or school graduations.

Common fruits that are available seasonally include: mangoes, papaya, oranges, watermelons, avocados, sweet bananas, and pineapples.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Remembering today

As most of you already know, I spent two years living in Ishinomaki, Japan after I completed college. Ishinomaki is one of the worst-hit areas of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.  As such, I am putting away my own health issues today and remembering those who lost everything one year ago. There are just so many documentaries and pictures that I continue to read that break my heart and make me joyous at the same time. So many lost lives, so many broken families, and so much heartbreak. Yet, there's such quick rebuilding and such hope that continues to emanate from the the tsunami survivors. I encourage anyone who might still be reading this blog to take a moment and appreciate our lives and the stability and security we are experiencing each day. It was just one year ago that so many of my friend's lives changed forever.

For those with more time on their hands, please take the time to watch some documentaries and see that Japan is trying their hardest to rebuild the destructed part of their nation.

Children of the tsunami by BBC (featuring my former Japanese colleague, Naomi): 

Bringing it close to you: a map showing what a Fukushima nuclear destruction would have looked like in the USA:

Japan's battered coast: then and now:

Thank you from Japan:

A great big thank you from me, as well because my friends are still living in emergency housing and still rebuilding their lives.

If you're looking for a worthwhile donation, I encourage you to donate to the Japan Society.  Below is a detailed message from them demonstrating that 100% of their donations go to organizations that need them in the destructed areas:

"We are pleased to announce eight additional grants totaling $1.6 million from the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. This brings total allocations from the Fund to $7.2 million, distributed to 19 organizations representing 25 projects that directly serve people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

The latest round of allocations supports six new grantees and two previous grantees. Projects range from orphan care, evacuee services and healthcare for people still living in temporary housing, to education workshops throughout Tohoku, promoting creative arts from the region, building a community center, and summer camps for children in Fukushima, which continues to cope with its nuclear crisis. The organizations receiving grants are Ashinaga, Association for the Corporate Support for the Arts, Japan Civil Network for Disaster Relief in East Japan, NPO Jibunmirai Club, Studio for Cultural Exchange, Tumugiya, the Japan Primary Care Association and Supporting Union for the Practical Use of Educational Resources.

The Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, launched on March 12, 2011, has received over $12.5 million as of March 5, 2012 from over 22,000 individuals, companies and foundations. Contributions have been received from all 50 states, and nearly 60 countries around the world. One hundred percent of the fund goes directly to support people affected by the disasters.

For a complete summary of organizations and projects supported by the Relief Fund to date, visit:"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Subira huvuta heri

Subiri huvuta heri - a Swahili proverb meaning "all good things come to those who wait".  Still waiting to go home and hoping my good things start coming.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome to Subway

Today marks one month for me in Dar es Salaam, an anniversary that I am not exactly happy about. Most anniversaries are a call for a celebration, this one however, is more of a commiseration. In order to cheer myself up, I decided to do the one thing that always makes me happy - eat food. As much as I dislike being in Dar at the moment, I should take advantage of what it does have to offer - food I can't get even remotely close to my village!  Jon and I needed to find an ATM and on our errand tour around Dar, we came to Subway.  Yes, a real American subway. Most people spend anniversaries enjoying good food and well I did the same.  Dar es Salaam and I "celebrated" our month long friendship by eating a 6" veggie delight with southwest chipotle sauce. I didn't want to go cheap on my first date with Dar, so I even ordered the meal deal. Dar did not let me down, when I entered Subway, I got a cheerful "Welcome to Subway!" and the workers were even wearing visors. I hope I break up with Dar soon because even though he has been showing me fancy meals, electricity and running water, internet, paved roads, and nice beaches; money can't buy you love. It's time to break up Dar. I need to get back to my ex-boyfriend known as poverty. Against all odds, it seems that poverty and I work better as a couple. I miss my candles, buckets of water, complete ignorance to the outside world of my school, and rice and beans.  Dar - it's not you, it's me. You're just not what I need at this time in my life.  I need to figure things out without you before we can consider a future relationship.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


When living in a foreign land, it is always nice to find things that remind you of home, food, music, clothes, sounds, smells, etc..  As you start to integrate into the culture of that foreign land, you start to lose a little bit of your home country identity and take on some new aspects of the new culture you've immersed yourself into.  Maybe you prefer some new culture music over Miley Cyrus or maybe you really love wearing skirts instead of pants.  But, I think it's awesome when both culture clash into one thing you love.  This is what happened today when I found "sweet chilli pepper" doritos.  A delicious and tasty American chip flavored with Tanzanian spices.  They are amazing!

Monday, March 5, 2012


I feel so bad that I have missed so much school. A lot of people ask me if there are substitute teachers in Tanzania. There are not any substitute teachers. There's a shortage of actual full time teachers, so they certainly do not have people filling in for Jon or I.  I am sure my students are just sitting in their class doing nothing when they should be having English or math class. Maybe some of the most dedicated students are studying, but I doubt it. I don't quite know how I am going to make up all this lost time.  I might add an additional English class per week to try to make up the time. I feel so guilty even though it's beyond my control as to what happened with my health. I got some pocket sized dictionaries to give to the teachers as zawadi, "gifts" for missing so much school.  They were given to me by the US embassy here (thanks Flavia!). I know the teachers will not expect anything from us, but it makes me feel a little less guilty. I need to think of something to give to the student and family who have been watching over Lia and my house. Maybe I'll buy them a week's worth of groceries. I don't know how to ever repay them. I also need to think of something to get for the host family I've been staying with, though I am thinking they'll be pleased with a few bottles of wine.  There's so many people who have helped and supported me during this time of need, I don't know how to thank everyone!  Pay it forward.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shopping in Dar

Since I have pretty much moved right on into Dar for all my medical reasons, I have done a bit of (very expensive) grocery shopping.  I got a few small things that are going to increase the quality and diversity of our food if we ever get back to our village.  Lemon juice for when a recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of lemon juice, I don't have to squeeze 15 lemons and remove all the seeds.  Sesame oil which makes all my cooking better.  Red lentils because maaaaan do I love lentils.  Brown sugar because now I can make some great treats and it's called for in more recipes than you would really realize.  Finally, some coriander.  I make curry alot!  I might still do a little more grocery shopping before we leave and get some more super expensive items that will make my life happier when I get back to my village.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Who needs a convenience store?

One unique difference of Tanzania than that of America is purchasing ability.  Most of the time, people will go to the market or to a small store to get what they need, but they definitely don't need to do that.  Many times - people come to you because that is how they make their living.  If you live in Dar es Salaam, I am certain you could just do your grocery shopping for fresh fruits and veggies on your drive back home from work.  People carry around boxes and baskets of fresh food or drinks for you to purchase.  The price is the same as if you went to the market and actually, many times, you are able to get amazing deals.  I once saw a volunteer get 11 avocados for about one dollar.  The people wait until you are at a stop light or stuck in traffic and then they just walk through the line of cars waiting for people to buy their goods.  Most of the items are food, but I've seen various goods for sale: tissues, toilet paper, stationary, hand-carved tables, maps, flags, sunglasses, purses, sandals, wallets, hats, you  name it.  There aren't many rest stops on a bus ride because the bus driver will just slow down for a police check station and the bus is swarmed with people trying to sell their goods.  Often times, you get the Tanzania version of Mary Kay sellers on the bus and people are buying their toiletries from these people - toothpaste, soap, lotion, shampoo, etc.  The sellers will ride the bus, make sales, get off and then catch a bus going back the way they came.  As far as I can tell, bus drivers do not get commission for allowing these people to sell their goods on the bus.  On my way to Dar es Salaam for medical - I got fresh black tea leaves, mango juice, and biscuits.  You can also always find minutes to buy for your phone or newspapers, pretty much anything.  It's super convenient and I will miss it.  Suddenly, American convenience stores seems less convenient when you have people coming to you to sell what you want/need here.