Sunday, September 30, 2012

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Today was wow. Great day, packed with juicy stuff. I want to write it all but I am exhausted and need to be up early tomorrow so I’ll offer the sparknotes version.

Notable event #1: I made friends my age(ish)! As I think I mentioned in previous posts, the people with whom I work, though I am coming to love them dearly, are a far cry from 18 years old. I’d say the median age is 42. However Baba preaches at a church called ICC (International Christian Center) on Sundays. The second mass is in English and therefore attracts many missionaries and international folk. Long story short, I found this group of missionaries, all young women in their early and mid twenties. We went out to lunch together after church. It was so great to talk to young people again. We are still in the formalities phase a little bit, but we exchanged numbers and I think hanging out with them every now and then will be an oasis

Notable event #2: Why do I have to get up early tomorrow? BECAUSE I HAVE MY FIRST FULL DAY OF TEACHING!! I know, all caps can be a little in your face, but it’s exciting news!!!! I am teaching English to six teen mothers. They speak no English whatsoever.
I found out that I begin tomorrow at four o’clock this afternoon, so I spent the late afternoon and whole evening preparing a lesson plan. I teach from 9 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon (wowzers) so there was a lot of planning to do. Not wanting to burn the girls out, I incorporated a mixture of English vocabulary, grammar, and songs that can be learned in a series of interactive activities. I hope and truly believe it will be enjoyable for them but stay tuned to find out.

Notable event #3: Josephine popped into my room tonight and picked up the only hard copy book I brought with me, The Vagina Monologues. She asked me what it is really about, so I read a few passages and she was moved. She asked me what I felt called to do after reading the book, and in a zig-zag way, I answered saying that I want to help tell the stories of women who need their stories to be told. We continued to talk about the subject for a short time, but Josephine had a long day and was very tired and went to bed quite quickly. Still, I know that she, given her occupation and reputation, will be extremely helpful with Operation Di*rt. The project has been on hold for a week or so, which is for the best because I need time to focus on Uzima and New Life. Still, my heart is in Operation Di*rt, and having the opportunity to talk about it truly made my night. I cannot wait to get started with it.

Listen to Your Heart, Listen to the Beat

            The ability to harmonize is not something in American blood. Maybe this is because we listen almost exclusively to solo artists. We have steady pitch, but generally lack musical understanding beyond melody. Here, pitch comes and goes. There’s more respect for sliding of the voice.
When you first hear it you’re like “ehck, no that sounds wrong.” But slowly it becomes beautiful.
            I have yet to hear a magnificent soloist singer in Tanzania, but my lord does this culture know how to sing together.  The centrality of gospel singing teaches children at a young age that there are many vocal lines to every song. Last night we sang some Swahili worship songs before bed – Mama carried the melody while Charity, the eight year old, sang up a fifth. I didn’t learn how to do that until my senior year AP Music Theory class, and even then I struggled to not fall in with the melody line.
            At church services here in Tanzania, singers will riff on one word for the whole song or repeat each phrase and sing double time, or even fall into plain old “oo, oo, oo”s. When someone does this in an American singing environment, it is almost always a soloist, but here everyone does it.  I think it is more common because the singers don’t riff to fill a missing piece of the song, rather they riff on instinct simply because they have the urge to do so.
            I revealed my observation to Josephine yesterday and she nodded with pride and said, “The further south you go in Africa, the more beautiful the voices are. We sing better than Kenyans, they love our singing. But South Africans” she clicked her tongue and shook her head side to side, “Wow, they are something else.” She reasoned that it was because of Apartheid. “When they had nothing, no money, no happiness, no lives, they would sing. When they’d sing they would drink and dance and be happy. They had reason to live, reason to thank the lord. They came to depend upon the music so much, that it developed in a deeply emotional way. It’s like the slaves in America. Look at African Americans now – they have the best voices of all!”

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Today I had the option to go to a “graduation” (I put the word in quotations because I’m not sure who is graduating or under what circumstances) but I chose to stay home. I had some college essays to work on and I also wanted to finish the September newsletter for Uzima and do some reading.
I have learned that a full day alone can be a long one. I am here with the house staff (two young women and a man) who have been cleaning and cooking during the day. There is one girl named Sarah who is 18 and particularly friendly. She is somewhat weak right now because she has malaria, but she is recovering. She knocks on my door or comes outside to where I am sitting during the day to bring me a drink, or show me the flowers she picked. She always smiles.
I am shy around the house help because they don’t speak English, but as the day went on I got a little bolder. Sarah entered my room just to give me a friendly wave hello, and I asked her to sit on the bed to show her that I was working in my English-Swahili dictionary. Through a lot of page flipping and hand motions I was able to express to her that I was about to go out to pick up some bread at the store nearby and asked if we needed any other food. I think she understood the question after I asked it two or three different ways, but I proceeded with another few after that before giving her enough time to respond (oops, I’m American). She said that we didn’t need food but thank you. “Chakula hapana, lakini asante”

I went down to the store feeling chipper. I returned with no bread because they didn’t have any, but I was proud that I successfully asked for “mkate”. I came back empty handed and explained with few Swahili words that they didn’t have bread. Sarah responded by saying what I interpreted as Baba (Glorious) will bring bread home. Then she asked if I was hungry. I responded in rapid English accidentally. This made her laugh and she gave an understanding nod, so I think my facial expressions got my answer (no) across. 
This encounter really excited me. I think it had a similar effect on me because she just entered my room while I was writing to ask “Wewe kakee?” Which means “you - something –“. I don’t know what that something is because I can only find my English-Swahili dictionary, not the Swahili-English one. They don’t sell them together here…I find that odd. Also I am running low on Internet money on my modem so I don’t want to look it up online. I’ll ask Charity when she gets home.
Our small interactions through the day have reminded me of something: I love cultures. I love people. I love people who exude their culture with every ounce of their being. I am not shy among friends, but sometimes I am reserved among strangers, especially those from a different background because I don’t want to come across as the ugly American. My time with Sarah today reminded me that in a reserved but vibrant culture like the one I am living in, sometimes it takes a boost of confidence on my part to get the conversation going.

You know you miss 'Merca when...

This comes on and you hop up and start dancing around the room

First Training!!

If you read the previous post, you know that I had my first Uzima outreach training today!!! I have been working every day on Uzima communications (blog, newsletter, and photo-documentation), New Life scheduling, and even some New Life communications, but today was my first outreach training. The audience was Msufini Secondary School and the subject matter was passive, aggressive, assertive, and passive/aggressive communication. The lesson plan has been adapted many times through the week. At first, I planned to conduct the lesson co-teaching with Princely. Unfortunately he’s out of town so I flew solo on this one.
practicing in the New Life office
Yesterday afternoon I learned that the training was not to be given for the audience of 40 I had planned for, rather for over 200 students: the whole secondary school.
I remapped again last night and this morning and arrived at the school feeling relatively prepared given the circumstances.
My lesson went well. The kids were nervous and shy. Hopefully I will be able to overcome that obstacle in the future by requesting smaller groups. That way they will all have to participate and then they’ll realize it’s fun to communicate, and it’s all uphill from there (the good kind of uphill).
The interactive activities were most effective. Through physical participation, they overcame some nerves. Specifically, I led an exercise called Rag Doll where 8 participants came up and split into two groups of four. Each group had one “rag doll” who the other three group members had to mold into an aggressive, passive, assertive, and then passive/aggressive person. Then the class identified certain qualities that made each character exude each category of communication. It was fun and made them laugh. The only one that got a little out of hand was the passive ragdoll because the three molders started tossing their ragdolls around to show passive behavior instead of giving them a passive stance.
This was an example of where the language barrier was a challenge. It took me a while to get them to stop tossing the two students around because I didn’t know how to ask them in Swahili. Luckily I had a translator there to help me out.
Ragdoll in Action
(notice the dress ripped as I was getting out of the car...whoops!)
The need for translation made the process somewhat slow, but it was worth it. Though the students are meant to be fluent in English by secondary school, these kids were not. Much of my lesson would have gone to the wind without my translator there to help, so I am extremely appreciative. I still communicated the first half of the lesson in the time allotted and this half was the most important part.
What’s more is the headmistress of the school wants to continue the training and has asked us to return next Friday. Looks like we passed the test!

Tanzania Time

This morning started at 6 am. I rose early to rehearse my first training session before we left the house for devotion at New Life. The mass ran from 7:30 – 9:15. I then retreated to my office at New Life to practice my training one more time. I was nervous. It was my first public health training. I would present alone for one hour, to a group of over 200 students who did not speak my language. By the time that I finished my final rehearsal, I was quite confident, but I had another worry on my mind. We were supposed to be at the school, 20 minutes away, by 10:30. Mama Shoo wanted to stop in town to give money to a business partner, which was in the opposite direction. We left New Life at 10:15. We finished the meeting with Mama Shoo’s friend at 10:45. We arrived at Msufini Secondary School at 11:07.
For those of you who know me, you may know that I value punctuality. I was raised in a household where everyone ran just a few minutes behind schedule all the time. I learned to resent the habit and value punctuality. I plan my days so that I arrive on time or two minutes early wherever I go. Whether I am walking, driving, running, or swimming, I factor in time for transport and I get where I need to be.
Coming to Tanzania, I knew I would have to adjust. I have fooled myself into thinking I am being flexible, but when I am honest I find I only am on the surface. I do not complain about the constant lateness, but I strongly resent it. It stresses me out and makes me feel unaccomplished.
This morning I addressed the problem. As we were pulling into Msufini Mama asked the time.
“11:07” I said.
“Agh – we are late.”
I almost retreated as usual by making some pass-off remark along the lines of oh well, but something stopped me. Instead I said, “At home, I am very good at keeping schedules. Would it help us to get places on time if I tell you what time it is when it is time to get to the next place?”
Mama was mildly offended. “Knowing the time is not my problem,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you tell me the time. The problem is that I have many important things to do.” She then continued to explain some of the things that she handled while I was rehearsing this morning, and described why they were of importance.
Seeing that she was closing up, I tried to reason. “I’m sorry Mama, maybe I was unclear. I would not interrupt you during that. But in situations like this morning when I was sitting there during your business meeting, can I lean over and tell you the time? Is that okay?”
“In Tanzanian culture the person comes first. It is rude to cut them off and say, ‘I have to go’. You let them finish the whole story, the whole meeting, then you move on. I was already trying to rush the other lady telling her that I had somewhere to be. I could not just cut her off – that would be rude.”
I wish I had said:
“Okay. In American culture the person comes first too – every person’s time is just as valuable as another’s. That is why it is rude to make someone wait.  A solution is to tell someone at the beginning of the meeting, ‘I can be here until X time – let’s meet until then and get done what we can, and then we will pick up again whatever we cannot finish now.’”
Instead I listened as Mama explained, “If a child broke his feet, I would drop everything and go. I would call the Msufini headmistress and say, ‘sorry we cannot come, we there is an emergency’ and she would express her condolences and that would be all.”
She paused to open her window to speak to the man waiting outside. In Swahili he said to her, “You’re early! We are not ready for you! Go and park and we will wait and have tea.”
Mama and I had a laugh and parked the car. She thanked me for speaking my mind and apologized for the cultural difference. I said there is no reason to apologize – I am learning. We did not go to tea, rather we asked begin the lesson “early”.

I am not yet sure how I feel about this interaction. Sometimes in my time here, I feel misguided. I spend so much time at church services and praying and thanking the lord because it is such a huge part of the lives of the people with whom I am living. In coming here, I aligned secular goals: public health training, teaching English class for teen mothers, and blogging the progress of Uzima Healing Center. Somehow, the majority of my day is spent at religious events. (Even now I am sitting at a religious seminar that Mama is giving to pastors’ wives.) This is the result of a chain of circumstances I did not anticipate – without the ability to drive to and from my secular events, I spend hours every day in worship, because that is the centerpiece to Mama and Baba Glorious’ lives. I hope to find a way around this issue either by finding a way to occupy myself during these religious expeditions (most likely by meditation), using them as opportunities to study the culture, and/or gaining more control over my schedule in time.
This post is definitely a stream of conscience post. It is important to include some of these so you are privy to every aspect of my journey, including the moments when I grow confused.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sunny Side Up

I woke this morning at sunrise, I don't know why. I thought about going back to bed, but then grew curious and stepped outside.

Glad I did.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

House Visit #2

The second visit was to the home of a boy we will call Peter. Peter is primary school at New Life. His home is in a village close to Abby’s and his home is of similar structure. His family’s story, however is heartbreaking.

When we were piling into the van to go to Peter’s, I asked the boy how many siblings he had. He said four, “two twins, they died but I still love them. Now it is me and my sister.” His simple, poignant words left me speechless.
We arrived at his house to find two ladies making arrangements for us to sit. One was healthy, but the other was clearly suffering. She could not stop coughing. “My mother is sick.” Peter explained to us.
Peter's Mother
“For how long?”
“Since 2005.”
“My goodness, what is she sick with?”
Peter relayed the question to his mother, something that struck me as odd because I would assume he’d know the answer.
“A cough…chest pains.”
A murmur erupted in the group as we all tried to diagnose a seven years of chest pains.
The visit was short because the sun made Peter’s mother weak. We learned that her husband had died in 2005, and her sister had lived with her since then to offer her support and company. Peter’s younger sister was at school during our visit.
Peter, his aunt, and his mother receive gifts

On the ride home, I hypothesized out loud to the New Life administrator who sat beside me. I suggested that she had developed a strain of TB that had become resistant to the medicine she was taking. I had read about cases like this in Chile and Haiti. She politely rejected my hypothesis by saying, “She is infected.” When I didn’t understand, she clarified, “HIV positive.”
Prayer over Peter's Mama
“Many times people feel uncomfortable sharing this information, so they will instead say that they are sick with whichever symptoms they are suffering from at the moment.” That was why Peter asked his mother what to say, he didn't know how much she wanted to share.
The twins, she believed, died from “infection” and the younger sister was exposed as well. Peter is the only family member who is not a ticking time bomb.

House Visit #1

Tonight I am tired. I do not want to write, but it was a great day so I know I need to. However do me a favor and refrain from judging my craft. This morning I visited the homes of two New Life students. The first one is in secondary school. Let’s call her Abby. Abby has eight siblings: all older, all working as housemaids. In Tanzania, the housemaids often live with the family or in separate quarters off to the side of the house. Most receive pay of about $15 a month; many are not paid at all. Most housemaids and househands are young girls and boys who did not pass their grade 7 national examinations, or children whose parents did not have the money to send them back to school (a cost of $15 a year). At age 12, Abby was already a house girl. She worked at a home close to town. One day she was grabbing groceries and a woman approached her and asked her if she was a house girl. When Abby answered yes, she was, the woman responded, "I have a place for you to go."With twelve years of age, Abby should have been entering into grade four. Instead, she started with grade one at New Life. It is not often that the school allows this to happen, but Abby was a special case. Now, Abby is in secondary school at New Life. She is devoted to her studies, devoted to God, and dreams of being a lawyer.
 This is the home of Abby’s mother. She lives alone now. Most of her children come back to visit, but there is one whom she has not seen for eight years. The house is made of mud and it has a wooden frame. Mama built it with the help of her church group. She lives a primarily secluded life. She provides for herself with the plants that she grows on her land and sells or barters the surplus. From my point of view, the general simplicity of life is something that can be adjusted to, but the isolation is something I could never bare.Abby stays with her mother during school break and hopes to help support her after she has graduated school and has a steady job.

Let's Play Footsie

My feet have not been clean since I arrived. I shower, I scrub, I rinse, but the dust clings. I don't mind it, in fact I find the various outlines from different amusing. But every now and then I look down and think to myself "Wow...that's grime."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Roses Really Smell Like Oo-oo-oo

   Kaka Pri left for Nairobi early today.                  
 I underestimated what a cultural and age gap he fills for me daily. Without anyone to hang with tonight, I got a little photo-artsy

Down the Dirt Road

The walk to work takes forty minutes each morning. I walked it alone once – the family was running on such extreme Africa time that I got up and left.  It was nerve racking because there are boys who catcall and all that. But I had my favorite cap on so I kept it low over my forehead and my eyes straight ahead and I was okay. 
Usually I do the walk with Princely. We feed off of our shared traits during this walk. It results in a heated debate, a new idea for Uzima, or just a lot of really loud singing.

The Tour(ist)

Today was a big day for the Alyssa-New Life relationship. I received a full tour of the primary school, secondary school, A-level (a level between high school and university that exists in the European education system) nursery school, and the Zoe girls school – a separate secondary school for only girls. Visiting each class individually gave me the opportunity to clearly see what role I will best serve at each.
The secondary school students are extremely intelligent; they generally do not seem to need help with their studies. However they are insufferably shy, so I think I will focus on public health and communication trainings with them. Among primary school students, there was a more noticeable divide between the students who understood the material versus those who did not. This observation guides me to think that I will spend one-on-one tutoring time with primary school students who are falling behind (primary school runs through the Tanzanian version of eighth grade). With Zoe girls, I will focus again on communication and public health – however more on public health than communication, whereas in the regular secondary school I’ll highlight communication. Finally, when it comes to the younger primary school students, I was told they were in need of an arts and crafts teacher. I am currently working on some lesson plans on communication and expression of emotion that involve arts and crafts. Though the nursery school children were adorable, I do not think my assistance will be best suited there, especially because I will only spend a few days a week with New Life.
Tomorrow I will visit Zoe babies and Fountain of Joy (the teen mothers) and assess their needs before meeting with the chief coordinator at New Life, Evelyn Mpinda to collaboratively decide precisely what my daily agenda will look like at New Life. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Life Graduation

Yesterday was the New Life graduation for Form Four students. Graduating from Form Four is the equivalent to graduating from high school here in the states. The graduation was a full day event starting at 9 in the morning and going until 7 in the evening. The main thing I took away from it was a beginning to an understanding of how these children all love God so much. This understanding came to me in two-fold.

To start, there was an exhibition area that was something like a science fair extended. My favorite exhibition was the young politicians station. At this station there were three young men and a young lady who had written a proposal for amending the Tanzanian constitution (a project particularly relevant to the times because the constitution is being amended from its 1977 copy this year). I spent quite some time at this station asking the students to elaborate on their proposal and asking how they may face probable challenges in the process. For example one of their proposals was automatic termination of presidential contracts after a president steps out of office (aimed to uplift the immunity granted to privatized firms who have struck long-lasting contracts with past presidents but are generally harmful to the Tanzanian people or economy). I asked how they would plan to raise awareness to campaign against powerhouse corporations and decrease presidential power in one swoop and in the face of a corrupt government that would go to extreme ends to silence them. The students responded with conviction, faith, and evidently extensive knowledge on the topic. I was impressed and surprised by their passion and intelligence and enjoyed the ability to challenge them and watch them push back like true campaigners would. Before closing the discussion, I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. One pointed to the Tanzanian flag and said, "the leader of this country". Wow, I thought. Okay.

The next factor in the materialization of my understanding of New Life faith was a speech given by Mama Josephine during the graduation ceremony. In this speech she called up specific students to share incredible stories of how much they had grown. One of my favorite stories starred a girl named Dukas who was deaf and had been turned down by all other schools in the area due to her disability. New Life took her in, but did not have the funding for the strong hearing aids that she needed, so instead they sat her at the front of each class so she could read the lips of the teacher. Yesterday, she graduated as one of the top seven students in all of Form Four. This was an incredible feat. 

During the telling of that story I realized all these children and their accomplishments were incredible feats. The whole school represents a level of success that goes against the odds. A series of children who were abandoned at birth, struggled with epilepsy, were born HIV positive have not only been given homes at New Life, but also opportunities to be successful. As a child being brought into an organization such as New Life – an organization that that thanks God, praises God, credits God for everything that it has accomplished – how could you not be bursting with faith in Him?

Meet my favorite kind of juice here in Tanzania. Mapera means guava in Swahili. I had never had guava juice at home but it's thick, tangy and mm-mm good

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Family Business

Tonight the fam and I did some significant bonding. First I had some one-on-one time with Charity while Princely and Mama Josephine went to pick up Pastor Glorious from the airport. I taught her how to make the little water-droppy noise with her mouth as we watched Cosby together (the tv only works to watch videos. The family conveniently has The Cosby Show season 1 on tape…Charity loves it).
When the rest of the family got home, we put Charity to bed and had a late dinner. Pastor Glorious tested me tonight by speaking chiefly in Swahili. I embraced the opportunity and wrote down the phrases he said to me before asking what the appropriate response would be. I think I passed the test because he was far more jovial and comfortable around me after that then he has been so far.

After dinner, Mama Josephine and I had a brief and positive exchange about work. For the past couple days we had been beating around the bush, both frustrated because our desires were not being met. My desire was to be given more work to do, as I have been struggling to find work for Uzima in these past few days. Josephine wanted me to continue blogging, but I had already blogged all the significant steps Uzima had taken since my arrival. Her point was that there was more to blog because there were occurrences that took place before I got here. The obstacle however is that she has not yet had time for me to interview her about these events. Tonight, I confronted the reality of the issue and expressed how I have coped thus far: I had filled my time making lesson plans for our October and November trainings, but in reality I need more work to do. This forwardness brought us to an open discussion where we agreed the next two days will be slow for me because she is busy (no time for interview) New Life students are graduating, and there is only manual labor to be done for Uzima (cleaning the clinic). Therefore I will continue to work on the lesson plans. Done. Clear. On Saturday we will interview.

We said a prayer before splitting off for bed. Pastor Glorious led it. It was a long one – about 8 minutes. In the end, he thanked God for his kids, and then also for me. It may be silly but I was really touched.
Last but not least, we all split a Cadbury bar, my favorite kind of chocolate, for dessert. They’re pricy in America but apparently rather cheap here since they have semi-local factories. Such sweet news!  

The Laugh

Princely, Mama Josephine, Charity, and I sporting a fake laugh beneath the palms. "Just throw back your head and open your mouth realllly wide" Princely instructed. Clearly some of us are more adept a the skill than others…


This evening, as Princely and I walked home from work, Kili looked spectacular. She was bright and clear – there were almost no clouds in the sky to obscure her shapely figure. The setting sun reflected off the snow, giving the uppermost third of her body a golden tint. It made for a stunning walk home.
Predicting a cloudless night after a cloudless evening, I recently stepped out to experience one of the most breath taking starry views I have ever seen - and that is coming from a near nightly stargazer. There were thousands of them, some of them glowing white and others pinkish and orange and yellow. The constellations were unfamiliar to me. At home my eyes are immediately drawn to the dippers, Orion’s Belt, and Cassiopeia. Here, my eyes wander and my mind creates its own shapes with the stars. Tonight I found a question mark. The moon was a thin and luminous crescent sitting low in the sky so that its brightness, rather than detracting from starlight, formed unique ornament that attracts your eye before your vision levels to the ground.
As I settled into a chair in the garden, the phrase “we are still under the same night sky” popped into my head. Almost instantly, I burst out crying. But we are not under the same night sky, I realized. Tanzania is in the southern hemisphere; therefore most of the stars that I am viewing right now are stars that my family never sees. I know the phrase isn’t meant to be interpreted in such a literal way (this almost made me laugh as I cried) but the realization truly broke me for the moment.
I have had unique experiences and observations in my time here that I would not trade for anything. However there are things that are different, that are hard.
I miss my family. I haven’t given anybody a true hug, in approximately 11 days and 19 hours. That’s something you don’t expect to think about when traveling, but I promise, you will.
I haven’t spoken to a westerner since this past Sunday. That is tough too. I am speaking the second or third language of all the people around me, and as quickly as I am trying to learn Swahili, the process is slow. Therefore I find myself on a level of politeness with everyone so far rather than true friendship. That too will evolve, but once again it was something I forgot to anticipate.
My bosses are my foster parents for the year. This creates a challenging dynamic sometimes because I am suddenly their child and co-worker. They are incredibly hospitable, and every day I love my stay with them more and more, but the previously mentioned dynamic is going to take a little while to feel out. 
I am sharing this because from my opinion, the challenges I face provide learning experiences just as valuable as those of the good times, of which there have been so so many.
Dada (sister) Charity is cooking dinner tonight!

Just Kidding, It's Mama Josephine

Minced meat over rice with papaya on the side and tea to drink for dinner tonight! Yum, yum

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Streak of Feminism

On Monday September 17, I was working in the New Life office using the wireless Internet to get some work done for Uzima. Josephine had suggested the night before that I look at a site called Silent Voices as a model for Uzima’s pregnancy counseling center.
I found the website very interesting. It possessed information about abortion laws and tendencies around the world. Intrigued, I conducted a bit of independent research on the abortion laws of Tanzania. I will share some of my findings here. These facts and statistics come from the most recently released Abortion Policy Outline by the United Republic of Tanzania, which uses the UN Population Policy Data Bank as a source for publication.
  • ·      Abortion is legal in Tanzania only to save the life of the mother and preserve physical or mental health (not for rape/incest, fetal impairment, econ or social reasons)
  • ·      Person who takes action to procure the miscarriage of a woman is subject to 14 years of imprisonment
  • ·      A pregnant woman who takes action to procure a miscarriage is subject to 7 years of imprisonment
  • ·      A study conducted in the 1980s in the Kilimanjaro region estimates that about 21% of maternal deaths were related to abortion
  • ·      In 1996, the contraceptive prevalence rate was estimated to be 13% for modern methods
  • ·      As of year 2000, the current fertility rate was 5.5 children per mother

I also found that abortion is only completely illegalized in three countries: El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile. I asked a handful of Tanzanians what they think those three countries are, and all of them named Tanzania as one of them. This leads me to believe that there is a broad misconception about the abortion laws in the Kilimanjaro area. A theory that I have is this misconception is fed by the hesitance to talk objectively about abortion here in Tanzania. The few people who want to talk about it at all tend to be Christian support groups (like Silent Angels) who strongly advocate against it.
I want to include abortion studies in my independent project by asking more people what they think the Tanzanian government’s stance is on the issue, interviewing women who have chosen self-induced abortion, interviewing women who chose to keep the child, and interviewing women who will be making their choice in the near future.

Good Morning From New Life

Video Numba Two! Once I figure out exactly how my video camera works, I will begin filming things besides just myself. However for the time being, enjoy my face!

Good Morning Kili!

This morning I woke up to the beautiful sight of shy Kilimanjaro Mountain peeking between the clouds. I have moved in with Glorious and Josephine at this point in my journey. One of the greatest perks of their home (aside from their hospitality and family mentality) is the spoil-me view of majestic Kilimanjaro. I took this picture from right outside the front door.

Friday, September 14, 2012


            “Alyssa, how is everything?”
            “Good! It’s great! Umm, Princely Josephine and I had a really great day yesterday! We prioritized all the Uzima events. It was productive and –“
            “No, I don’t think it is great yet.”
            “It is not great yet.”
            This is the father in the family I am staying with. His name is Glorious Shoo, and as wise as he is, I am confused as to how he can have a better understanding of my time here so far if he has been away on travel these past three days.
            “Why is it not great?” I ask.
            “You have not met the children yet. You have not heard the people. Once you do this, then it will be great.”

Uzima (Read if you want to know what I'm doing)

            Maybe you have noticed that I have yet to write much about my actual work. This is because I am not sure how to begin. It is easier to write my errant thoughts and observations. However, right now I will try.
            For those of you who don’t know, I am working with two different organizations while I am here. One is called New Life Foundation and the other is called Uzima. While I am here, I will be staying with the president and vice president of New Life Foundation, Pastor Glorious Shoo and Mama Josephine Glorious (the wife takes the first name of the husband as her surname). Mama Josephine is also the chief founder of Uzima. Let me describe Uzima to you in detail:
            Uzima has yet to be launched. It is in its infancy. It is a vision that has been stirring and building for a long time and now it is coming to be a real thing. Uzima is a spiritual based healing and leadership empowerment ministry based in Moshi Tanzania. The three sectors of the organization are teaching, preaching, and healing. These three areas are separate, but they check one another, giving versatility and balance to the system. Uzima as it stands is a mobile network. It has a radio talk show and a hotline for helping people in need. It already has stretched its wings beyond Moshi as Mama Josephine receives callers in need from as many a six hours driving distance. It is truly a service for northern Tanzania.
            As it has been described to me, Tanzania is a culture of shame and honor. Honor makes the Tanzanian people kind and eager to share their culture. Shame makes them hesitant to address and even to acknowledge their personal issues. Uzima strives to purge the culture of its shame by teaching people about their personal beauty and strength. The slogan of Uzima is “healing of the wounded heart. Choosing life.”
            Uzima opens its doors to people from all walks of life.  Its crisis pregnancy center will encompass abortion counseling, reproductive health and first aid awareness, and personal aid to each of the mamas to ensure that they will land on their feet (often times this involves vocational training). The healing center will host one-on-one and group counseling Mondays through Friday of each week where people can come in to just talk about the things that burden them. It is a system that encourages openness, which is one of the first steps to acceptance of self, by which personal healing can be acquired. It also will continue to host a 24-hour hotline where callers can undergo a similar process by phone. On Saturdays, the healing center will conduct 8am-4pm trainings that run on a monthly schedule. These trainings are topical with respect to the audience. There are four intended audiences: wounded children, singles, married couples, and women. On Fridays, Uzima will send speakers to high schools in the area where they will conduct one-hour lectures to train the high schoolers in areas such as public health and leadership. Finally, Uzima will conduct festivals and mobile group counseling sessions where we will journey out to spread our mission to villages and towns in the surrounding area.
            The mission is big, but all great ones tend to be so. There are many more parts that allow these external functions to occur. For example Uzima is mapping a series of sustainability projects to avoid complete reliance upon funders for revenue. It also has plans for a network of communications that will communicate with potential donors and potential attendants. The communications and trainings are the two primary areas in which I will contribute to Uzima. I am in charge of writing and sending out the monthly newsletter, keeping the blog constantly updated, and conducting Friday and Saturday trainings alongside a team of employees.
            As a founding member, I am working with Josephine and Princely each day to continue to build the vision of Uzima. So far this week, we have taken a series of brainstormed ideas and added some flesh to it. We prioritized Uzima’s many projects to focus on just four of them over the next few months. We made a calendar for September, October, and December marking important dates and deadlines over these next few months including the opening of the clinic and the official launch of Uzima. We visited the house that will become the Uzima clinic to take pictures and get a physical sense for what the clinic and healing center will look like. We drafted an Uzima brochure. We have begun communications with local manufacturers who will help us with our sustainability projects. Everything is still building, but the key thing is just that: each day we are building. At risk of repeating myself, I want to emphasize that Uzima is a baby. I will have little to physically show for my work here for quite some time. The rumblings of the next two and a half months will be below the surface as we plan and prep and replan and reprep. Still, these months are key because they build the underground foundation to what will stand.
            For the sake of your eyes and attention, and also because I think I will be much better informed to speak of it early next week, I will save word of New Life Foundation for another post. As a preface, however, it is in an entirely different stage than Uzima. It is a teenager, so to speak: a program that has been up and running for eighteen or nineteen years.

The Tanzanian Plate

            The plate is very different in Tanzania. The food is different, yes, but so is the plate. You go down the line and you scoop and plop, scoop and plop, scoop and plop. The foods and flavors mix as the pile grows. The Tanzanian plate is three-dimensional. The chili sauce is on the side and sometimes you have to ask for it specially. “Very hot” they warn you – but it’s not really.
            There are meats in spices. All the meats are very chewy. Chicken is most expensive, so usually it is beef. Yesterday there was cow liver. The starches are soft and thick. They give your teeth a rest. My favorite starches are ka;ajkd (spiced rice) and sweet potatoes. The first day I ate my sweet potatoes plain and enjoyed the purity and specificity of the taste. Now I have learned no – you don’t eat plain. You scoop and stir and prod until each flavor has its place on the fork. Far better. This way the taste explodes at first, and then the sweet potatoes taste stronger for a moment until you feel the beef tough between your teeth and then the salt of cooked carrots on the back of your tongue. Today they are my favorite part, the cooked carrots. There is some other vegetable (kale I think?) that is stringy and bitter. But the carrots are good. They are soft and thin and sweet smelling.
            The fruits go only in a cup. Fresh mango juice, or passion fruit. Look to your right, you can see the tree. Look to your left, you can see the mama grinding with a curd. Mango juice is thick. Passion fruit medium. Rosella is thin and extra sweet. That one is made from a flower.
            The Tanzanian plate must be clean at the end of the meal. You eat every scrap, you drink the last drop. Your stomach feels like it will burst because the three-dimensional pile that you fearlessly stationed to your plate now challenges its walls.
            You wash your hands from a spigot after. The water is warm – this is how you know it is clean. Usually there is a napkin to dry them with. That is the only thing you leave on the plate, a napkin. It was a good meal if the napkin is orangy-brown and crinkled into a little ball by the time you are done.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pillow Talk

            It is hard to fall asleep here. Lying in bed and everything, doing things up until bedtime, yeah that’s fine, easy, enjoyable even. But in that moment when I set it all aside and take on the silence it gets real lonely real fast.
            I skyped with my dad tonight. Man, I love that guy. It was kind of like any other phone call, just a little longer and a little more to catch up on. He was the same though: a great listener (the specific nature of his feedback makes it evident that he absorbs each word) deeply rooted in his beliefs, and always a quick-witted comic. After about 20 minutes the conversation succeeded toward a natural close. We had caught up, words were fewer and farther between, and it was time to give it the old “well I don’t want to keep you too long”. But I did want him to keep me too long. I wanted so badly to want to end the call when really I could have listened to him talk for an hour. Sleep could never come easier.

            I am excited to move in with Glorious and Josephine. I will be in this hotel (ministry center) for one more night and two more days. Josephine and Glorious wanted to give me time to acclimate before I move in. They said that they are installing hot water right now (as opposed to a shower from a bucket) in their home so that it is not unbearable for me. I have consistently tried to reason that these differences are not at all unbearable, rather they are adventures of sorts. That the thing I miss most about home is the constant company, not the hot water. Still, I do appreciate the opportunity to have my own space for these few days as I really enjoy the independent downtime that I get here in the early evening. It inspires me to write and read instead of always socializing. I am quickly learning to appreciate this quiet time as both a hiatus from my daytime work and an opportunity to stretch my mind where it has become complacent.