Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It will likely come as no surprise that there are no washing machines here. All laundry is done by hand. It is funny now that I look at how, back home, laundry is seen as a chore when really all that you need to do is pile it into a machine and push a button. Here, it is a labour intensive process that can take all day, depending on how much you've let your dirty clothes pile up. And, what we view as dirty at home does not compare to what is dirty here. Pants are turned brown from mud and shirts are sweated in so much they smell like they've been sitting at the bottom of my hockey bag for a week. You have to scrub, and scrub, and scrub until they smell and look clean. They, you ring out the soap and put them in clean water. Then you ring out all the water and hang them to dry. Luckily, muhaha, I do not do our laundry. That was the deal from the start - I cook, Aubrey does laundry. I definately got the better end of the deal. I usually help ring out the clothes because it is actually a very good forearm workout and quite tiring.

However, I am not writing this post to tell you about Aubrey's laundry woes. Yesterday, we were at Tuleeni in the afternoon, as per usual. I have spoken before about how amazingly grown up and independent the children are, and yesterday I saw yet another example of that. I walked outside the orphanage gate to find Pendo, Queeni and Seleena washing their own clothes. For those of you who saw my pictures from last time, Queeni was the smallest girl at the orphanage. She only weighs about 30 pounds. Although I am not sure of the others' ages, they cannot be older than 6. I walked over and helped them scrub their socks. I am still amazed as to why locals continue to buy an abundance of white clothing even though they have to handwash the mud out of it. I spent about 15 minutes scrubbing each sock, as each time I thought I had done a satisfactory job, one of the girls would point to a small brown spot that I had missed. After my first sock, which they seemed to be quite impressed with, all the kids fought over whose sock I was going to wash next. It was pretty funny.

What is amazing is that I didn't learn how to turn a washing machine on until I was at least 14, and yet these kids wash their own clothes all the time in a fashion that I find to be quite difficult with smiles on their faces. It's a happy place to be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fun Swahili Terms

When reading these words, remember, Swahili is extremely phonetic. Its not like English where we have sketchy silent letters to simply screw up the poor spellers. "I"s are pronounced like a hard "E" like in 'seek'. All "a"s are soft like in 'tall'. "E"s are like hard "a"s like it babe. All consonants are just like they are in English, although they may be in weird combinations. Just pronounce every letter.

Shita Sana: "a lot of problems." The irony with this term lies in the fact that many of the problem you may encounter when in Tanzania revolve around the at-home meeting of the first word, the followed by sana, in this context meaning a lot of, is very fitting.

Juzi Juzi (pronounced juicy juicy): "the day before the day before yesterday". The fun with this term more is in the contrast between how ridiculous it sounds in comparison to how bland its meaning is.

Poa Kachizi Kama Ndizi: "cool and crazy like a banana". The fact that anyone would even say this here, and they do quite frequently, makes you understand how much a staple bananas are in the Tanzanian culture. Plus, it rhymes.

Pole Sana: "I am very sorry". Everyone is sorry for everything. Please see my post from last year titled by this term if you have not already. It will give you a pretty accurate account of its usage.

Shikamoo: "I touch your feet." This is an acknowledgment of respect you offer as a greeting to anyone who is older than you. Although its meaning is quite nice, last year we turned it into something of a sexual innuendo, saying things like, maybe if you're lucky I'll shikamoo you later. Not only has this unfortunate trend continued, it has escalated. pole sana.

Nimeelewa: "I understand". The problem with this word lies in the fact that if you fail to pronounce both 'e's and simply say Nimelewa, the meaning changes to "I am drunk". Not really sure who came up with that one.

That is all for now. I figured it was time for a silly post.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Communication Frustration

I, now, have the chance to do a lot of good. For the past week, Aubrey and I have been working ten hour days on a grant proposal for White Orange Youth. Unlike previous proposals that I have submitted, which have been year long projects worth only several thousands of dollars, this is a three year project worth close to a million dollars. If granted the proposal, White Orange Youth will be able to reach over five thousand people in nine districts across Tanzania. The proposal is for an advocacy and empowerment project, fighting for a change in the rights and policies of vulnerable children in Tanzania. It focuses on: creating a platform for the children to voice their needs and gives them the means to do so by orchestrating a massive publicity project and regular meetings with high-ranking government officials. We have a very good contact at the organization that would provide the funds, and have been given great feedback on the outline.
This is our chance to do an incredible amount of good on a far larger scale than we have before, and yet, it has been communication problems that have led to worries about a grant that seemed so promising not so long ago. We are playing email tag with our contact, sending and resending the comprehensive budget that I designed and the project logform that Aubrey has developed. Each time, we get feedback and are expected to make changes to what we have done. If anyone has ever tried this, it can be incredibly frustrating when the feedback is broad. For example, at first I submitted the budget in the format I was given, which was a very streamlined budget. Upon this submission she asked for a comprehensive version so it would be more evident as to what we were doing. So, I created one. Upon this submission, she asked for the budget to be condensed. Urgh.
We have no way to call her and ask specific questions.
It's a struggle... communication breakdown, its always the same. (Zeppelin anyone?)

On a side note, I have near perfected the market shopping. We now have a lot of food, several different spices, and we are eating just as well as I do at home. It's a good life in our humble abode.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Same Old, Same Old Difference

It's funny, the first time I was here, I would sit down at the internet cafe and feel overwhelmed with all the things I could write on my blog. I felt as though I had so much to say, but I could not say it all, so I would have to choose one particular issue to talk about. Now, however, I struggle to find things to say. I have thought this through and determined that because the first time I was here, everything was a shock; everything was new. Now, I feel as though I am just living my life, so what I say when people ask me "what's up", is a lot like what I would say if I were back in Canada - "...same old, same old." I find that I have to remind myself that the things I do here on a regular basis are things that most people reading this blog have never seen. So, I will take this opportunity to write about my average day in Tanzania, so that you can get a feel for what my "same old, same old" really is.
I usually wake up at 9 am local time here, far earlier than my normal sleep in time at home. At our apartment, I cook, Aubrey does laundry. That's the agreement. So when I wake up, if we have no pressing timeline, I make breakfast. With our most recent trip to the market, we stocked up on several essentials that we were missing before - like eggs. Now, to paint you a more vivid picture of life here, eggs do not come in a carton, as they would back home. Instead, you simply choose the number of eggs you want from the stand at the market, and they put them in a plastic bag. It was laughable how careful we were when we were carrying them back home - I made Aubrey do it, as I have no doubt they would have broken if left in my hands. So lately breakfast has consisted of onion, tomato, carrott and green pepper omlettes with toast that is made in the frying pan - like grilled cheese (hakuna cheese).
After breakfast, we head to either to town or to the White Orange Youth office to meet with one of the employees from the organization to talk about what we plan to do, or what we have done. This usually takes a while, because we have found that people do not really provide you with information here. You have to ask specific questions to get exactly what you are looking for. For example, the second day we were here, we asked if there was anything they wanted us to do. In a very calm, non-rushed sort of way we were informed that they wanted us to finish a grant application.
us - "Oh, great. We have something to do. When does it need to be finished by?"
them - "Tomorrow."
Things like this happen here all the time. What would have happened had we not arrived? The work they had put into the grant thus far probably would have gone to waste. So, in this case, we finished writing most of the grant, asking questions every five seconds because really, we knew nothing about the project. After most of the grant application was done, we found out that there was a hard copy of all the information they had about what they wanted to do with the project in the filing cabinet. We simply just had to laugh, read it over, change what we wrote before, and finish the rest of the grant. That is typically how the meetings at the WOY office go.
After that, we might head to town, to use the internet or run errands. After that, we return home for dinner - a task that has proven quite interesting so far. Cooking at home is so easy compared to here - you have so many more resources. Here, I am cooking on a camping stove. I have a small frying pan and a medium sized pot. There is no fancy sauces, I cannot buy spices because I have no idea what the names are in Swahili, there is no frozen food, and there are no instructions. The first time I really cooked, I made a stir fry with some fresh veggies, seasoned with salt, pepper, and lime, and put it on rice. It wasn't bad, however, there is only so many times you can make the same meal. Last night, was not as big of a success - we attempted spaghetti. They do not sell spaghetti sauce here, so I trusted Aubrey to make it from scratch. She used tomato paste, diluted with water, vegetables and garlic. Sounds right, doesn't it? But, needless to say, we were still pretty hungry by the time we decided we couldn't eat any more of it.
Following our dinner adventures, we have a couple activities to choose from: read, hang out, go out, or watch a movie. There is a pub close by called 'Kool Bar' that is a fun place to be. Many of our local friends go there to hang out and play pool - an activity that I have also engaged in. They are very serious about their pool here. The table and cue ball are slightly smaller and the rules are a bit different; the main one being that if you scratch, your opponent gets to shoot twice. There is a man, who is dressed as though he is a card dealer in Vegas, who racks the balls and monitors who goes next. He lookes horribly out of place in the rugged, casual setting that fills the rest of the bar.
After we come home, or the movie is over etc... it is bed time. I crawl under the new misquito net and hopefully lala salama (sleep peacefully).
That is a day in the life of Tanzanian Graeme

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Plea for New Found Land

Dear Friends and Family,

Today, I saw a symbol of devotion and perseverance.

Tramping through fields of sugar cane and rice, over the sodden clay roads, and through villages of laughing shoeless children, we curved with the callous path for the right to see a magnificent view. The clouds were heavy with rain, the plants green with nutrients and then she said laughing, “look there it is, our beacon point!” Looking at it, I thought Mama Faraji could not have picked a more symbolic landmark. In the middle of hundreds of acres of fields there stood a vast boboa tree, at least 60 feet in circumference. We continued a few hundred meters to what is to be Tuleeni’s new home; an eight-acre plot of land that is currently supporting the life of maize plants, which were planted by the orphanage earlier in the year.

Mama Faraji and her friend asked if we wanted to walk the property, we said of course and followed them obediently for a few minutes. Just as if they hit a brick wall, they stopped; I looked up from my feet, letting my eyes wander, searching for some sort of property line. Having been in Tanzania before, I should have realized what I was doing was obsolete, I knew there wouldn’t be signs or a fence to show the where their land ended and their neighbors began. They said to us, laughing at our curiosity, that of course they could tell, “look at the crop lines, they are at different angles than our neighbour's”.

We continued into the field and the plants slowly gained height over us. As we pushed through leaf by leaf, still apparently walking on the boarder line, we started noticing a dramatic difference between Tuleeni’s crops and their neighbours. That beautiful Tanzanian smile that I love showed us how proud they were of their work, and rightfully so. They planted all of the crops with their bare hands, the children from the orphanage even came out to help.

The land is picturesque, the air is fresh, and the plants are growing well. I could tell this is already home for them. I want nothing more, than to be able to help them purchase this land, so that after years of farming it and selling the products they will be able to turn it into an African oasis for the children at Tuleeni. With a school, church and hospital in very practical walking distance I could not have imagined a better destination to start a new home. In this location they are able to get their water directly from the ground and their building supplies from the same village, a rare commodity in Tanzania. The total cost of the land is $11,770.00 including the lawyer fees. Mama Faraji has miraculously saved $1,920.00 while paying rent for both the orphanage and the field, as well as feeding, housing, and caring for over forty children. Over the past year former volunteers has raised $7000.00 leaving us $2,850.00 short the total cost.

Many of you have heard our stories about the children at Tuleeni, how they melted our hearts and brought smiles to our faces. Please, hear us again. We are so close to completing a goal that will change the lives of so many and all we need is a small contribution from the people that support us. Let the boboa tree be a symbol of life for the children to grow up with. I have seen Tuleeni work too hard to be able to leave Africa without being able to help them purchase the land. With your support their dream will become a reality. No donation is too small... remember, five dollars can go a very long way in Tanzania.

For any donations you wish to make, the cheques can be made out to:
Global Exchange/Tuleeni
and mailed to:
Jackie Weiss
8639 Lord's Manor Way
Rohnert Park
USA, CA 94928

Asante sana rafikis.
(Thank you very much friends).

Aubrey and Graeme.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Perfect Recognition

I arrived in Moshi two nights ago, and I have to say that it felt like I was coming home. I knew I missed Tanzania, but I did not anticipate that I would have this kind of response. Even the things that annoyed me the first time I was here – the terrible roads, the smell of sweat, the dirt that your clothes collect – brought a smile to my face. I missed this.
I am staying with Aubrey, the girl from Washington D.C. that I worked with at White Orange Youth the last time I was here. We are renting an apartment-esque place, complete with a shower and a normal toilet – hard commodities to come by here. Unlike last time, where our chef, Primo, made us amazing meals at normal scheduled times, we will be fending for ourselves, traveling to the markets, buying and preparing our own food. So far, our diets have consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but following the conclusion of this blog post, we will be making our first trip to buy fresh fruits and vegetables so that we can make proper meals.
Yesterday, we spent the majority of our time walking around Moshi and visiting old friends. My memory has served me well so far, as my Swahili has held up , allowing to get through conversations far better than I thought I would. Last year, I was consistently told that all “mzungu’s” (white people) look the same to the locals here, as such, I did not expect many people to remember who I was. I was presently surprised to find that this was far from the truth. We first visited our favourite internet café – Dot Café – and I was greeted with a hug by the owner. Similar reactions followed from others we had met last year and every time I was amazed.
As the afternoon came, the thing I had been looking forward to the most came up on the agenda. Aubrey and I made a trip back to Tuleeni Orphanage. For those of you whom I have talked about my Tanzania experiences with, this place was likely the focal point of our conversation. The children of Tuleeni have constantly been on my mind since I left last May; rarely does a day go by when I do not thing about Irene, Everest, Felix and all the rest. As we made our way towards the orphanage, navigating our way around the pot holes on the dusty roads, my thoughts were filled with anticipation. I wondered whether they would remember who I was like all the others in Moshi had. Volunteers come and go from Tuleeni all the time, and as such, I doubted that the memories they had with me would be as vivid as the days I can recall spending with them. Irene, who has had a bigger impact on my life than anyone I have ever met, was only 5 the last time I was here, and as I walked towards Tuleeni, I came to the conclusion that it is likely that she would not know who I was.
When we turned the corner to see the gates of Tuleeni, I was met with the cries of those who were outside: “Graeme!” Shedrack, Jamesi and others came running towards me. They remembered. This reaction is one of those moments that you know will last a life time. After hugging the children who were outside, I went in to find the smiling faces of all the kids who changed my life. And contrary to what I anticipated would happen, Irene came running towards me yelling my name and gave me a big hug. For those of you whom I have shared my experiences with, you can probably understand what this was like for me, yet I don’t feel it is something I can begin to describe with words. The rest of our time at Tuleeni made it feel as though I had never left. We watched the boys do handstands and flips, we kicked around a soccer ball, we tossed Queeny in the air, and we filled our time with laughter.
The old saying goes, “the home is where the heart is.” Well, my heart is here. I am home.