Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Climbing a Second Mountain

Coming to Africa, I prepared myself for many things. I packed my bags. I obtained the necessary documentation. I was ready to leave home, to leave all the people, culture, language, and surroundings I have come to know. I was ready to try new things and meet new people. I was ready to do something, and possibly the first thing, completely on my own. I was ready to climb a mountain. Yet, there is one thing I completely forgot to prepare myself for, and without a doubt it has been the hardest thing I have had to do in the past two and a half months: saying goodbye.

I don’t mean saying goodbye to the things I have grown accustom to back home, but as in goodbye to the people that have become my family here. Because everyone here is out of their element, living in a world completely alien to what would be considered normal in our lives, we are quickly unified. The volunteers share many of the same desires, life goals, philosophies, and of course, water bottles. Within the first couple days here, boundaries are broken and relationships are formed. Even though we may have met only weeks ago, bonds are formed in an uncommon way. These are the people you live with, eat with, talk with, cry with, laugh with, and miss home with. One could describe the relationship here as friendship, but, truly, family is a better adjective.

The sad thing about building such familial relationships is that, unlike your family at home, this family is short lived. There are a few people I will likely see at some point in the future, after we go our separate ways here, yet, there are many who I will likely never see again.

Many volunteers have come and gone since my arrival. I’ve said goodbye to my two mamas, and to several others who I will always remember. Yet, thus far, the goodbyes have been spaced out - two one weekend, one the next ect. However sad it may have been, it was manageable. This weekend was the hardest goodbye I have ever had to deal with. 10 members of the CCS family went home, including those I have become the closest with. I know that there are those I will see again, some even this summer, but it is different here now. The dynamic of CCS has changed. There is an emptiness felt at the meal table. We are few now. And although we will continue to build these relationships with the new volunteers who have arrived, the relationships made previously will not be forgotten.

Goodbyes are hard, yet there is something you can draw from all of them. As one of us here was told in comfort, “There are those who are in your life for a long time, and there are those who are in your life for a short time, but it is the impact they make on you that is significant.” Even though some of the people I have met here were only in my life for three weeks, they have made an enormous impact me, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


So, here it is, arriving by popular demand...... my description of the food! First of all, dispose of all your inklings as to what the food I'm consuming each day is like, because I guarantee it is nothing of the horror and quantity you are picturing. The food here is awesome and plentiful. We have a chef named Primo. Really. That's his name. Seriously. I want to take him to school with me next year!

Traditional Tanzanian food is present at every meal, accompanied by a western option. The main staple in Tanzania is a food called ugali (oo-gah-lee). It resembles mashed potatoes by appearence, yet is far closer to playdoh in texture. Essentially it is flour mixed with water until the correct consistancy is achieved where you can mold it into whatever shape desirable. Playing with your food is allowed here. haha. Basically you eat it by grabbing a tablespoon sized piece of it, rolling it into a ball (using only your right hand as the left hand in Tanzania is associated with hygiene), making a dent in the centre so it resembles a mini bowl, and scooping another substance (lentils, sauce, small vegetables ect.) into the dent with your thumb. Then, consumption. It is awesome. I think part of my enjoyment comes from the fact that when I was younger, I really wanted playdoh to taste good because it looked so appetizing, but I always felt disappointed when I tasted how salty and unappealing it was. Now, I have a replacement!

Lentils are a big part of the diet as well. I believe this is because meat isn't very affordable for the general public, even though we usually have a meat component to our meals. The meat is almost always chicken or pork and typically comes in one of the amazing sauces Primo makes. (Ironically not spaghetti sauce). It is usually intended to be mixed in with rice, which we have at most meals as well. Fruit is not a dessert here. It is a part of every meal. Pears, fruit salads, pineapple, and BANANAS!! I will not be able to eat bananas when I return in the same way I could not appreciate orange juice after Cuba. They are just amazing here. Always! And I'm not even a big banana person. One thing I must address though.... papaya juice = amazing... papayas themselves are really gross. They may be the mushiest type of food I have ever eaten and have a very odd, bitter taste that one would not expect after sampling them in juice form.

To go along with the traditional dishes is often something more familiar to our taste buds, such as the rice and meat listed above, or sometimes for a treat grilled cheese, egg salad sandwiches, pizza, or spaghetti. All of course with a local twist.

The things they don't have here that I probably miss more than anything from home are milk and red meat. Diary is just not common here. I assume it's due to the fact that very few people actually have refridgerators. I miss it. I typically drink a lot of milk. I actually have been eating the powdered milk here. Yes, eating. I consume it in granule form from the tin. It is excellent now, but I feel like when I get home it will be one of those things that only seemed reasonable at the time because of my body's needs. I also crave a lot of ice cream and chocolate, which are expensive, but available here. If you know me well, you know that these are two things I eat very little of at home, yet here, I simply can't get enough.

Red meat is something I feel is more important to my daily life than inhaling oxygen. It to is dearly missed. Upon my return I may request a roast for my first meal... but for myself. The rest present will have to find something else to eat.

Breakfast here is made up of crepes, scrambled eggs, oranges, and toast. It's usually the same thing everyday, which is fine by me seeing as I have at the same type of food for breakfast for the past 10 years of my life.

So, in conclusion, those of you who were expecting to see a withered, very skinny Graeme upon my return will be quite disappointed. Primo lives up to his name.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mud, Bugs, and Plugs

The rainy season has arrived! This means that:

1. your pants are always muddy.
2. cars can't get down dirt roads because they are now mud.
3. the power never works - hence the lack of internet activity on my part for the last 2 weeks.
4. flip flops are often lost during walks into town.
5. laundry refuses to dry. The main problem with this is that if laundry is left out for more than an afternoon you risk the danger of bugs called 'jiggers' laying eggs in the seams of your clothing, which apparently will hatch into insects that enjoy burrowing into your skin. (Anyone remember The Mummy?) So everything, including underwear, must thoroughly be ironed.
5. bugs have taken the opportunity to start breeding like crazy! We get swarmed by flying ants here... which are actually massive, yet harmless. I mean literally swarmed... like thousands of them flying around your head. Some of the girls are quite terrified, which provides humour for those of us who were raised by mothers like Julie Hoit, who let everyone know that nature is a peaceful, harmless thing of which all forms should be embraced and celebrated.

Although it is certainly better for the farmers of Tanzania, general consensus is that the low season sucks. hard. It is not constantly raining, but when it does rain... it feels more like you are getting a bucket of water thrown at you rather than a nice downward sprinkle.

The CCS homebase is surrounded by the most dense hedge I have ever seen. It's around 7 feet tall and has many thorns. We all feel quite safe because of it. Yet, the other day, it rained. Part of the road outside CCS was completely washed out, and by this I mean there is a four foot deep, 10 foot wide trench that runs perpendicular to what was formerly our means of transportation. The problem, other than the fact that you can no longer turn left out of CCS, is that a significant portion of the monsterous hedge that used to protect us, no longer stands erect. It has fallen into what is now the San Andreas Fault of Moshi. The CCS staff then took this opportunity to let us in on the fact that three years ago the former homebase was attacked at 3am by thirty men yeilding machetes and two others with machine guns. um????? Thanks for the timing? I should add to the end of what I have just mentioned that no volunteers were injured.

Chicken wire now lies in place of the hedge that once was.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Importance of Two-Way Communication

Accompanying all the elightenment I have recieved and all the things I have learned, is a small void that I have felt for the past couple days. It is not necessarily that I miss home, as the actual place, or that I am away from the people I love. Those are things I can handle. What has been hardest for me, is that I have absolutely no idea about what is going on at home, and with all of you. I do not know who is in the playoffs; I am completely unaware as to who won March Madness; I don't know the most recent TASShole activities, and I have no clue what the jeanwall looks like at Bootlegger. Although I am currently galavanting through Africa, those things are still important to me. I have made an effort, through my blog, to tell you all how my life is going, what I have been doing, and how I feel. Now it is your turn. Tell me your funny stories, your sad stories, your accomplishments, your failures, your university acceptances, your hook-ups, and most importantly, explain to me what the Buffal0 Bills organization said in defense to the media as to why they signed T.O.

So send me emails, or facebook messages, and let me know... what is going on in Peterpatch these days. It doesn't have to be significant. Act as if we were sitting in the cafeteria, or around the dinner table, or wherever, and share what is happening in your life... I will continue to try and do the same in return. I cannot promise a reply to every message or email. What I can promise, is that I will read them, and that I will feel a little more comfort because of it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prophet Abbas

There is a man here, who is very well known to CCS volunteers, named Abbas Alula. He owns a safari and African expedition company called Bushman Expeditions and Safaris, and is the man who CCS typically books through. Abbas is known throughout CCS and Moshi, as we're trying to spread the word, as the Jesus of our time. The man is a prophet.

I feel in order for you to get a visual, I first need to describe His appearance. Men here are short. Like very short. I am on the tall side of average, and outweigh pretty much anyone by at least 20 lbs. Abbas, on the other hand, is around 6 foot 4, and not a small man. He actually rivals the largest person I have seen up close. Yet in spite of this brooding figure, He is the most gentle, calm, and welcoming man I know, and certainly has the biggest smile I have ever seen - the ear to ear kind you see on cartoon shows. His handshake is not the firm kind we appreciate as manly in our culture back home, but a warm gentle touch, embracing your hand with both of His, as you would do if you were handed a baby chick. "Hello my kaka (brother), thank you so much for blessing me with your presence today," is what usually follows this handshake.

Abbas is very wise, and offers bits of advice that you could have sworn came from an ancient greek philosopher. The man speaks in metaphors. When explaining the preservation of culture He simply said: "A tree cannot grow without its roots, my kaka." For His philosophy on foreign aid policies, He used this description: "You see this hand, 5 fingers, all different sizes and different thicknesses, but they all work together."

In addition to running a pretty major safari company, Abbas is also a painter, a local volunteer, a yoga and aerobics instructor, a photographer, and he has his own coffee plantation. Mind you, this is only what I have discovered so far, as we typically find out a new speciality of His every week. He does everything!

We have determined that He is in fact a prophet, and deserves his own cult following. I intend to fully participate. He even has a prophet name. If I were to start a religion it would not work, solely for the reason that there could not be a prophet Graeme. It just doesn't work, Prophet Abbas on the other hand, has a very nice ring to it.

In addition to the crazy Russian impersonations I have promised upon my return, I will also provide Prophet Abbas impressions.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Warm Hearts of Local Men

So far, the majority of my blog posts have been directed toward the shocking things I have seen or experienced as an outsider looking in, most of which paint a depressing picture of Tanzania. What I have failed thus far to communicate, beyond a few short mentions, is that there are many local people in Moshi who are making a substantially larger difference than any international volunteer could hope to make.
There is a group of young local men here who are just incredible. They dedicate their time, when they aren't in class, to helping out at schools, organizations and orphanages. The future of this nation truly lies with this generation. There are so many who care, and want things to be better for future generations.
There are people who have started schools in their back yard, and sponsored orphanes to go to school, despite not being able to afford electricity for their own home. People care here. They care about eachother far more than we do at home, and that is something that I will certainly miss upon my return.