Saturday, October 15, 2011

I got to meet a pretty important person this week. Some would say it's just another Rotarian, but this guy seemed to make time stop whenever he entered a room. I know this because I awkwardly and unknowingly followed him around from place to place over the past two days. 

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Eric Kimani, Rotary District Governor. 

His district (9200) ranges from Tanzania up through Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, all the way to Eritrea. Becoming a DG is a major accomplishment in Rotary. The reactions of most people in his presence made it feel like I was meeting a celebrity. 

I first met him when I accidentally arrived 3 minutes late to a Rotary meeting on Thursday. This is a big no-no. What could I do?? Traffic was terrible! (Do you see that excuse? I'm becoming SO Tanzanian!) Fortunately the traffic was terrible for everyone, resulting in several Rotarians trickling in after me. The DG was a guest speaker, invited to talk about his recent trip to Taiwan. He could've talked about absolutely anything, and the whole crowd would've still been completely tuned into every word.

Later on, I attended the International School of Tanganyika Interact Chartering ceremony. Can you guess who was the Guest of Honor? He again talked about his trip to Taiwan, but put a spin on it to encourage dedication from the youngsters. It was actually a great speech. He spent quite a bit of time talking about how incredible and life-changing the Rotary Scholarships have been for the youth in Rotary, which I certainly agree with. With 20+ years in Rotary, major humanitarian initiatives carried out to improve the world, and that fancy necklace to distinguish his excellence, the DG was still a very down-to-earth guy. He spent the majority of his time talking individually with the high school Interact students. 

I was lucky to sneak in for a picture with the DG and the President of the Rotaract Club of Kwanza, Chris.

The last event that I creepily followed the DG to was the biggest annual event hosted by Rotary in Dar es Salaam, the Rotary Dar Marathon. Over the past few years, this project has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various initiatives in Tanzania. This year, the Rotary Clubs of Dar es Salaam have decided to focus their efforts on building a new Children's Cancer ward at the National Government Hospital, the only children's cancer center in Tanzania. Leading up to the big day, they had already raised about $400,000 USD. 

I had a 3:45am wake-up call so I could make it across town in time to set up for the big event. I was in good company with a group of Rotaractors from the University. 

The half-marathon was awesome.... to watch. I was helping out with organizational stuff at the big meeting spot i.e. handing out tshirts and water bottles, neatly presenting 250 cases of water bottles and thousands of sodas before the crowds came through. Everyone in my section was so glad to have me helping out because I was the only one who wasn't afraid to touch the big ice blocks. All these Tanzanians thought it was cold! 

The marathon runners were really impressive. Some of the semi-professional runners completed it in 65 minutes! I don't think I could finish if you gave me four hours. It was a good time. 

I had to leave a bit early. At 7:30am, I headed back towards my part of town because I was working the rest of the day. I haven't mentioned that I've taken on a full-time volunteer opportunity. That'll be my next post... but it'll have to wait a while. I'll be bunking with lions in the Serengeti next week!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Good skin

One of my students, an older man (45y/o?) named Chako, was asked to make a sentence using one of the words written on the board that started with the letter S. Out of all 15 words, and all possible combinations of sentences, Chako came up with "Christina's skin is good." So I responded jokingly, "Thanks! Your skin is good too!" He said "No, no. Black skin is bad. Your skin is good."

Later in class, he asked to marry me. I'll let you all make your own interpretations about this one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hiking the Uluguru Mountains

This weekend I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go hiking in the Uluguru Mountains. Unfortunately, my horrible pronunciation paired with a terrible attempt at the Tanzanian accent left me calling them the "Uluguluglu Mountains" but people definitely still knew what I was talking about.

This place was so beautiful. I didn't even realize how massive the mountains were just looking at them. But I figured it out as soon as we started hiking... 

Oh man. I hardly made it to the top. Definitely worth it though. That's the city of Morogoro wayyy down below.

I was struggling with these mountains, just for recreation. Most people who live out here have farms on the steep mountain faces. Can you imagine??

I went with a great group of people, including my friend Neil, and a bunch of his friends who I just met on the trip (Chrissy, Ryan, and our Lithuanian friend Vithas). We all had such a great time, and managed to make it through nearly 9 hours of hiking! 

A Maasai guide joined us for the hike. He works with this organization that provides tours through the mountains and uses a chunk of the tour fees for improving the quality of life for local communities. We passed over a bridge that they built to help the mountain people get to the only hospital in the area, so that was pretty cool. It was nice to hear the history of this area and some cultural tidbits about the villages we were walking through. 
I'm really glad our guide was there to help us out. There's no way I would've ever found my way up to our destination, which was called Morningside. 

I'm not really sure why this was our destination, but it was a nice place to chill out for a few minutes and enjoy the view. 

We passed by the first church built in this area called Morogoro. The Germans built it here in 1913. They still hold services here, though there aren't many people who practice. 90% of the villagers up on the mountain are Muslims. 

I was freaking out at the thought of spiders on this hike, though we didn't come across any. It rained the day before, so I guess that means we're less likely to come across spiders. Our guide said there's one bad spider in this area, but it doesn't like the rain, so we don't have to worry. Just to let you know, this 'bad spider' is actually called the "Bull Spider" because it grows to about the size of your palm and has HORNS! A spider with horns.... was he kidding?! That sounds atrocious. 

We came across some really cool bugs along the way. The butterflies were beautiful, but my favorite colorful bugs were these big grasshoppers. 

Not sure if the photo really captures the size of these things. They were about the length and thickness of my thumb. Apparently it's grasshopper season, so they were all over the place, jumping around, jumping on my clothes, jumping off the cliffs... nbd. 

Then we came to my favorite bug, only because I recognized them from Discovery Channel or Animal Planet or something. Siafu is the local name for the Driver Ant. These things are awful. They travel in colonies with millions upon millions of ants. They ravage anything in their course. Their bite is supposedly horribly painful and they have been known to devour anything from small rodents to babies and even goats.  This was so cool! Until my guide said casually, "oh hey, Christina, there's one on your pants!"

Don't worry, I survived.

On the way down, we stopped by a waterfall. It was so beautiful.

I'll only include this last picture so you can get a good laugh at my horrendous farmer's tan. This is the first time my shoulders have been exposed in Tanzania!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mzungu, I love you!

"How are you?"

This is probably the most common conversation I ever have with strangers as I quickly walk past them. I get a good laugh out of it every single time. In Swahili, there's no distinction between like and love, so if someone is trying to say they like you or just want to talk to you, it comes out as true love. It's doing great things for my ego.