Saturday, December 15, 2012

Potty all Around the World

I am currently embracing my few weeks in America with a little out west skiing in Colorado. To prevent myself from rambling about the natural elements - breathtaking snow tickled trees and rolling mountains that are constantly caressed by either sunlight or downy powder - I'll cut to the chase by saying facilities are nice here. For the purpose of this post, I'll focus on bathroom facilities. All the toilet seats are squeaky clean and the toilets are automatic flush. The stalls are roomy and there is a huge mirror infront of the sink that is never fogged, despite the clash of heat and cold in the indoor facilities. The paper towel dispensers are motion sensing, and incase you prefer hand dryers, there are four of those in each bathroom as well.
This afternoon as we took a brief hiatus from the slopes, I took a trip to the bathroom and read the text on the hand dryer as it jetted the water from my palms. The notice bragged about the eco-friendly nature of the device - it saves paper with every use (!!!!). For a moment, I mentally commended the effort, but then I thought, well, they must be rather costly to install and they still use energy with every use. Even if it's not paper, it's only so eco-friendly, as the energy is not reusable. Then I allowed my recently developed bias to overcome me as I thought, Tanzania has it right. 
There are two types of toilets in Tanzania. One is a hole in the ground with four wooden or cement walls built around it. A bit uncomfortable at times, but for an eager traveler, definitely an easy adjustment. You just squat and go. There is a bucket of water if you need to "flush", but there is no paper whatsoever. If you need paper, bring it with you. Use hand sanitizer in your office or wherever you came from to clean your hands afterward.
The second type is called a European bathroom (the ones we use here). Sometimes there's TP, sometimes not. There is the small or big flush option on almost all toilets to conserve water. Then there is a modest sink outside the stall with soap, but no towels. That's what your clothes are for.
Let me be clear - little to no TP, eco-friendly flush, and no paper towels. And we're the first world country. Yeah, maybe it's a little uncomfortable at first, but it is a breeze to adjust to.
I am not suggesting that America adopts these mechanisms; I think they require too much sacrifice for our consumer interests.  I understand and agree that America has earned many of its privileged comforts, but at the same time the deterioration of the environment it is something that is happening all around the world, mostly as a result of the lifestyles of consumers like ourselves. Tanzanians have adopted lifestyle choices that are comfortable for them and beneficial to the environment. I think that in America, we still can give some on the comfort end of the spectrum to live truly eco-friendly lifestyles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Financial Ponderings

This is a picture of a Tanzanian bill. They’re called shillings, or shilingi in Kiswahili. The note I have posted is the biggest note: 10,000 tzsh. But don’t get too excited, the value of this note is somewhere between 6 and 7 USD. The conversion rate from TZ shillings to American dollars is 1,600:1. Usually, it is about 1,500 to 1, but the shilling is particularly weak right now. Now that you know the conversion rate, I am going to share a few prices of items and services that we bought locally.

Dala dala ride (bus ride)
            From town to home; 10 min – 300 tz shillings
            From town to neighboring town (Boma); 25 min – 1000 shillings
Petrol – 2,200 per litre (litre = ¼ gallon, so 8,800 per gallon)
Spaghetti – 1,400 shillings
Loaf of bread – 1,400 shillings
½ gallon juice – 3,600 shillings
½ gallon milk – 3,000 shillings
Eating out for 5 at average local restaurant – 35,000 shillings
20 slices of sliced cheese – 14,000 shillings
frozen chicken (whole) – 17,000 shillings

As you may see, some things, like public transit, bread, and eating out are far cheaper. However, other things, like cheese, chicken, and petrol are shockingly expensive. In fact they are far more expensive than they are in America. Still, the income for the average Tanzania is far lower than that of the average American. This means that they, and we when I am there, learn how to do without. For example, I had cheese maybe two times during my three months in Tanzania, whereas I have already eaten it with three meals since returning home last Friday. Chicken is a luxury, so when we ate it, it usually was not from the store, rather from a chicken that we would slaughter from the coup in the yard. Petrol is the most outrageously priced of all (between $5-6 per gallon) so we walked and took the dala dala.
It is often assumed that living in a third world country is far cheaper than living in the first world, but that is only when the proper lifestyle adjustments are made. Tanzania doesn’t have the resources or relationships to obtain petrol that America has, therefore the price is higher.
This concept of learning how to do without is something that many Americans may benefit from practicing. With the encroaching recession, there has been an incredible amount of panic in American business and social communities. Instead of panicking – adjust. I am quite sure that the majority of Americans collect commodities they do not need: extra clothes, non-crucial electronics, toys. All the while, financial responsibilities such as credit card payments and electric bills fall through the cracks. My advice is to learn from the third world countries and practice stricter prioritization until you once again reach a level of comfortable panic-free living.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Come and Stay a While

Maybe some of you thought we would be on hold while I'm in America. THINK AGAIN! I am continuing Uzima work as much as ever in my time here, so I will keep you updated with news from the fundraiser I am hosting, the classes I visit, and the lesson plans I create in my time back home in America. Also, there are a lot of pictures from TZ that I never had the chance to edit and publish here on the blogspot. I will continue posting those, and I also will keep you updated with how things are going with New Life and Uzima in Tanzania. So never fear, Di*rt is still here.
Here's the first. For those of you who don't know, I LOVE Cadbury chocolate. It's not particularly common in America, and it's really expensive here, but it's everywhere in Tanzania, praise the Lord!! Mama and I visited the bank the other day and parked right next to this HUGE Cadbury truck. I absolutely needed a picture. We tried a ton of shots to try to get one that looks like I'm eating the chocolate bar, but this was just about as close as we got.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

because we are

There is something about being in the airport alone that gives me an absolutely immense sense of freedom. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all around me people are traveling to hundreds of cities throughout the world. Maybe it's that I'm invisible to them. Or maybe I'm not invisible to them....just as I was writing that, a German man was walking around the area where I am sitting with my camera bag in hand asking, "Is this yours? Is this yours?"
People are good. Thank God for that. Thank God for freedom of thought and action and community mentality. There is this Ubuntu saying of the Bantu people (most people from East Africa are Bantu people) and it is the core of their culture. It is I am because we are. There's this story to explain it. A man held a banana and he tossed it in the air. Then he said to a group of children sitting before him, "whoever reaches the banana first gets it!" He expected them all to run, but nobody moved. When he asked why, they replied, "I am because we are." Then one boy got up and peeled the banana and passed it to his neighbor who took a bite before passing it to his neighbor who took a bite before passing it to his neighbor.
This philosophy is a fundamental piece of the beauty of this culture.

Top of the mornin' to you

It’s 5:45 am and the sun is rising between the clouds to the right of Kili. I woke early this morning to the sound of my own deep breathing, something I didn’t know was quite possible. I didn’t realize that it was morning until I looked to my left to see that Dada Angel, our new house girl, was already out of bed.
Today is my last day. All these things that are normalcies for me now are about to be put on hold for a month, beginning tonight at 9:50 pm when I board the plane departing from KLM International Airport. Yesterday, I shopped for my family and bought a kanga headdress for myself to take a little piece of Tanzania back with me. Baba and I dropped Mama and Princely at the airport late last night to go to Zambia to visit a CPC that may want to partner with Uzima.  The house feels empty without them, and I feel for Charity who will be without them, me, and Baba this week as we all head to our various destinations. Today I will go to New Life to go to a teachers seminar and then I will go home, collect my things and go to the airport!! Evelyn, one of my bosses here at NLF, her husband, and Baba will take me to the airport. Though I do not want to leave, a part of me is excited to see who I will sit next to on the plane

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chapati Queen

My shirt reeked of sweat and sunflower oil and flour speckled my nose with inverse freckles. I peeked across the kitchen at the chapati on the gas cooker as my hands kneaded the dough mixture mechanically. There was a small pile of harmless bugs I had picked out of the flour to the left of my compact workspace, which was framed by three variously sized containers of oil. I carefully placed the dough I was kneading outside my work space, but away from the bugs before turning to spin the cooking chapati with my palm. Spin, spin, spin – flip! A spoonful of oil, another flip, and now it’s time to knead again. An army could not have stopped me from making my chapati this morning.
 It was my second time making chapati from scratch. Mama said I make it better than many African women. I am preparing for a fundraiser I am hosting at home where I plan to make it for my guests. Mama taught me how to make chapati about a week ago. She showed me one, then we did one together, and then I made the third. Since, I have made one batch of four chapati and this morning I made a batch of five. I love cooking it. It’s time consuming, but it’s so…authentic. It’s cooked from scratch with oil, water, flour, sugar and salt. It’s so tasty that it is hard to believe that these are all the ingredients. Pri snapped some pictures of me as I worked this morning. He now calls me Chapati Queen.
  I planned to make the chapati for him and Charity because they loved it the first time and asked for more, however we had some unexpected guests come by today as Princely, Mama and I worked from home. One of them was a local pastor (who took the chapati we gave him and praised the chef) and the next was a 98 year old man (wow!!) who is also a pastor, still healthy preaching in his old age. He had some and enjoyed it as well. By the time our guests ate their share and our new house girl, Angel, and boy, Theo, got some it was all gone. Maybe I’ll wake early tomorrow to make some more…

Monday, December 3, 2012


            Today we picked up a patient from a regional hospital in Moshi. She was there to abort her child, but somehow she had been in contact with Mama, so we went to pick her and talk to her at Uzima before she underwent the procedure. Mama took her into the counseling room and told her, a few things. She told her that the thing she is carrying inside her is not just a thing, it’s a three month old child. She told her that aborting it is in fact murder and that it would damage her relationship with God for forever. She reminded the girl that she would never forgive herself if she killed the child, and then she took a hopeful approach. She said the child could grow up to become anything – a scientist, doctor, engineer – it is a seed for something beautiful. Then she ended on a realistic note by saying there are so many barren women in Moshi and Kilimanjaro Region: someone will take care of the baby if you cannot. You can come back to the Uzima Healing Center in about a month when we have the equipment set up, and you can see your baby then.
            Then she asked me if there is anything I would like to add. I said that I think it’s a beautiful thing what mere education can do. There is no way that we can know what is going on inside – at three months you cannot even feel the baby kick. However by looking to the future, thinking of what the baby can be and what his or her options are, we can see a life instead of just a red plus sign on a pregnancy test.

            This experience reminded me of the sheer power of education. Within forty five minutes, the young woman made the choice to give life. Forty five minutes. I would have loved to hear more science behind the convincing method. What always sticks with me is when I see those pictures of the baby at one month, and two months and three months – even though we can’t feel it or see it, it’s a living thing and it’s growing fast. When I am home this December, I think I would like to gather teaching materials for this specifically. Maybe I can teach it to Zoe Girls and Joy Girls and secondary school girls at New Life. I can incorporate a spiritual bit (keep my audience in mind) but also focus on the scientific facts that allow someone to really understand what they are doing before they make their choice, whatever it may be. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


One of Uzima's developing sustainability projects is a food production and packaging business called Noga, which means tastefulness in Tanzania's national language of Swahili. This is one of Noga's first friends. We call him Babu (grandpa). Babu has been struggling with health for a long while. He once was unable to walk, and the doctors suggested that he mix cinnamon with honey to strengthen his immune system again. The remedy worked, but now he is too old to work and no longer can afford the honey. We give Babu our fresh Noga honey and cinnamon at a very low and often no cost. He is always so grateful toward us

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Power of Thought

Sorry I’ve been away…things have been quite busy with me leaving in a couple days. Today I want to talk about one moment that happened almost a week ago, but it has stuck with me.
Monday, as I informed you, was pray day at New Life. For the whole day there was no school, no work, no food, no anything besides prayer.  Each individual was prayed over. There were sermons, full group prayers, individual prayers, small group prayers – you name it, we prayed it.
There was one prayer toward the end that stirred my mind. After Pastor Shoo preached the final sermon, we all bowed our heads to listen to God. Now at that point, something had been on my mind the past couple days. The more I thought about it, the more sure I was that I wanted to sponsor Angel, a girl at Zoe Babies who is three years old and is the sweetest thing. I visit her every time I am done working with Joy Girls and she is always so excited. We play and play and she speaks to me in Swahili and I shower her in ticklish kisses. So I’ve been thinking about it and I’m pretty sure I can afford it and it is something I want to do. However when
I was listening to God at that moment, I felt a sense of conviction for the first time that yes, I would sponsor Angel.
My sassy Angelic friend

After the moment was over, we were to share our testimonies with Evelyn, the Chief Coordinator and New Life, if we heard anything from God. I paced around her for a while as others shared their testimonies, and finally, when she was about to get up and share them, I sat down next to her and said, “You don’t have to share this one. Please don’t write it down. But I have been filled with a suddenly strong desire and necessity to sponsor Angel, from Zoe Babies. I think you are the one to talk to about this, so do you think we could talk about it later?”
“Yes.” She said. “Thank you.”
I walked away feeling jittery and awkward, but pleased.
Evelyn moved to the stage area to call up those with testimonies. They came, one then the next then the next. They all spoke of visions God had given them: pouring black and white water from bottles into a well; a man dressed in all white with a bloody wound on his knee. All of the testimonies were visuals or words from the scriptures.
At first I felt stupid. Mine was wrong; it wasn’t the response they were looking for. But then as I thought more about it, I realized mine was no more wrong or right than theirs were, they both were simply a product of our mental environments.
Since they were young, these people have been hearing messages of God interpreted into visions and dreams. Since I was young, I have been taught that charity, sharing of love and resources, is a Christian value. As products of these two schools of thought, we were guided to see different things when our eyes were closed.
This is not to take power from the word of God; rather I think that it is a testimony to the power of personal thought.