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October 26, 2006 - Seattle, Tanzania, Kenya,
I am currently in Seattle, just in from five months in Tanzania and Kenya.
I loved the people I met and the experience of a new continent. I did not
spend a lot of time online while I was there, but I really did try to revise
this homepage several times. My web guy never managed to get my revisions up.
I'm in the Northwest for another week; then I will be in Fort Collins, Colorado,
for a week; and then I'm off to Patzcuaro, Mexico, where I will be working with
Maria Altobelli on that collaborative cookbook. It's not too late to send a submission.
We'll be at it until March first, editing, cooking, and sending entries back
for revisions. Before you send something, do read the material below about what
we're looking for.
My final weeks in Tanzania were spent mostly in Arusha and Longido. I also
visited a Maasai school set up by a German woman, Angelica, eight bumpy hours
into the bush, through the road that circles Ngorongoro Crater, crosses the Serengeti,
and turns off to a tiny village called Malambo. The last two hours of the drive
were pitch black at night on a non-road through the bush where our car lights
kept picking up glowing yellow eyes peering at us from among the thorn bushes
(I have no idea how Angelica knew where to go, everything looked the same to
me.) Angelica said that the yellow eyes belonged to an animal about the size
of a raccoon that hopped a lot like a rabbit or a kangaroo. I did see a long
bushy tail, but I never got the name of the creature. We also kept waking up
various kinds of antelope who jumped up and leapt out of our path. Angelica said
that the antelope sleep in open spaces so they can see and hear the lions in
the night. As far as I know, none of those eyes belonged to lions.
I loved being in a world filled with glowing yellow eyes and leaping antelope,
all viewed from the safety of a big van. For four days I had a great time talking
and singing with the kids in the school. I ate my first ostrich egg omelet. (It
tasted a lot like a hen egg, but it was huge, probably around 8" long.)
I brought the empty eggshell back to the US, it's very hard and practically unbreakable.
We also visited a traditional Maasai boma (home compound) where I blew bubbles
with kids and they gifted me beautiful earrings of Maasai beads.
My Maasai family in Longido gave me a good-bye party, with gifts of Maasai beads
and clothes as a warm reminder of our time together. I write below about the
Meing'arana family who played a major role in my fabulous experience of Tanzania.
I'm going to leave the rest of this combined entry as I originally wrote it.
I hope it doesn't confuse you.
September 12, 2006
A note to all you patient readers: this is actually three updates.
The first two, which I dutifully sent off to my web guy in July and August, never
did get posted.
Tanzania and Kenya are not easy places to do computer stuff, especially when
I'm staying in places that have no electricity, which has been fairly often.
I‚ve been weaning myself off of my computer addiction for weeks now, and
when I finally checked and discovered that the March posting was still there,
I wasn't very happy. So here they are, first the July update, and then the August
one, and now one for September, which I am about to write.
Longido, Tanzania (Written on July 12th,
Finally! This time I almost have an excuse for the delay in writing a new page.
I'm in Tanzania, living in a Maasai village without electricity, two hours away
from the nearest internet connection. Before I left Seattle, a computer consultant
promised to help me set up a list so that I could write group letters; but he
hadn't finished by the time I left. He isn't answering my e-mails either, so
that list-serve idea isn't happening; I don't know whether he got it set up or
not. Instead, I'm posting this. More on Tanzania later.
First, a couple of items that are unrelated to travel.
I wrote in my last revision (dated March) that I'd had lunch with two members
of a music group, Mad Agnes, who give concerts in people's homes. I said they
gave me a tape and I liked it a lot. Well, I've been corrected. (Sorry, Mark.)
Of course, it wasn't a tape; it was a CD. Hey, I still talk about records! Check
them out if you have a very large living room. www.madagnes.com
I also want to mention to those of you who might be interested that before I
left the US, I had brunch in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with David Rozgonyi, author of Goat
Trees, Tales from the Other Side of the World, a small and intriguing
book of fiction based on David's adventures around the world. On the last page
of the book, there‚s an announcement of a Travel Mate Contest that
some of you might be interested in. The prize is a 10-day all-expenses-paid
adventure to anywhere in the world with the author. You have to
tell David in 150 words or less where in the world you want to go and why someplace exciting
and adventurous and unforgettable. In order to enter, you have to buy the
book and cut out the official entry form. My guess is that the number of entries
will not be astronomical, which makes your chance of winning pretty good. The
winner will be determined by what you write and by lottery. Good luck. It's a
great opportunity and I think David would be a good guide and a fun companion.
www.wolverinefarmpublishing.org or www.davidrozgonyi.com
I arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport on May 16th, as a guest of the International
School of Moshi, Arusha campus. They were great hosts. During the next two weeks,
I talked at a conference of early childhood educators, met tons of the teachers
and staff in the school, visited about a dozen classes on two campuses, and interacted
with lots of parents. It's an interesting community made up of second and third
generation immigrants from the west, NGO workers and volunteers, children of
missionaries some of whom own safari companies and luxury lodges and coffee and
other-crop plantations. Most of the teachers are from England, New Zealand, Australia,
and the US.
There are also a large number of kids in the school from families that are involved
in the UN trials of people accused of genocide in Rwanda, many of UN people are
from other African countries. The trials are being held in Arusha. I spent a
moving and emotional day watching two of the courtrooms that were in session.
Genocide is a pretty heavy word to have rolling around in your head as you hear
the perpetrators testifying. (I just read a book, The Zanzibar Chest by
Aiden Hartley, with a Rwanda chapter that will be with me for the rest of my
Kristine Zydel, a pre-school teacher at the international school, is the one
who read my book and proposed that I be invited to be a presenter at the conference.
(I was, by the way, fascinated by the presentations of one of the other speakers,
JoAnn Deak. Her book, Girls will be Girls, is a must-read for
anyone involved with kids, whatever their gender, parents, teachers, etc. It's
all about how the brains of kids work and what we can do to promote learning
on all levels.)
Back to Kristine. She was a great host. She offered her hospitality, her friendship,
and even the use of her house and car while she was in the US this summer. Kristine,
thanks so much. Asante sana. And thanks also to Angie Hollington, the head of
the school who is on her way to Switzerland to start a new international school.
All you teachers out there, if you are adventurous, check out the ISS (International
School Services) site for information on teaching around the world. There's also
a book (ISS) that gives details of the member schools. And while you're at it,
check out CIS (Council of International Schools). If you dream of teaching and
living all over the world, the international school route might appeal to you.
The school, the parties, the conference were great, but I felt as though I was
part of an international community that just happened to be in Arusha. It wasn't
the real Tanzania.
After a little more than two weeks, I moved to Longido, a Maasai village about
two hours away from Arusha. Longido is a fairly large area that includes traditional
Maasai compounds (called "bomas") and the village which has both traditional
Maasai and many other Maasai who have adjusted their traditions to better fit
into the modern world. The village has no electricity, but it has five houses
with solar panels and more with generators. The family I'm staying with has a
generator which they turn on in one room of the house for an hour or two at night,
when there is money for fuel.
I'm saving the details of daily life for a book, but let me share the story of
how I got to Longido. When I was in Seattle in April, I was invited to talk to
a class at Plymouth Church by Pat Belyea, the teacher who had read my book. The
class was titled, The Next FiftyYears. The day after I met with
the class, I received an e-mail from one of the women in the audience, Ann Lawrence,
telling me about a young man named Allan Meing‚arana from Tanzania who
had spent a year-and-a-half working for Earth Corps in Seattle. He was back in
Tanzania and she was sending me his e-mail. Allan and I corresponded and
agreed to meet.
Amazingly, it turned out that Allan was living across the street from Kristine,
where I was staying. When I told him I wanted to spend time in a village; he
said that his parents would be pleased to have me. And here I am, in Longido.
The family is wonderful. I've been here for three weeks with Allan's parents,
Alais and Judith, usually five kids over 13, and an assortment of other guests.
The love within the family is extraordinary. I have never heard an angry word,
just songs and laughter and a deep passion for the education of the children,
which is not a traditional concern of the Maasai people. Every night before we
go to bed, the family sits in the living room, often by lantern-light, and sings
two hymns in four-part harmony before going to bed. The nightly concert has replaced
my reading-before-going-to-sleep time. (There is no light in the bedroom, even
when the generator is on.) And I am nearly over my e-mail-and-internet addiction.
Every two weeks or so I plan to go to Arusha and connect with the world.)
A couple of weeks ago I went with a group of volunteers from an Anglican church
in Virginia Beach (I have never prayed so much in my life as I have here in Longido,
it's a very religious, born-again community) to a solidly traditional Maasai
village a couple of hours on serious dirt roads and paths. We ate goat meat roasted
over a fire, were treated to songs and prayers from the villagers, and saw around
ten giraffes, several ostriches, and about ten different kinds of birds, some
of which are amazing, coming and going.
Beginning tomorrow I‚m doing a safari. For those of you who are interested
in safaris, here are a couple of sites I can recommend. Naipenda Safaris is the
company that Allan works for.
Call or e-mail Jo Bertone, firstname.lastname@example.org, the
or Israel Mwanga, Israel@naipendasafaris.com.
If you decide to go with them, ask for Allan Alais as a guide. You'll love him,
I promise. It's his family that I'm living with.
Another company that I can recommend is owned by the Simonson family whom I know
and like (the two brothers, Stephen and Nathan, are adult children of missionaries). www.serengetisafaris.com
Check out other safari companies as well, there are more than 200
in Arusha, and e-mail them how many you are, what you are interested in, for
how long, and when. And plan some time to hang out without any plans. Tanzania
is a safe country and the people are great. And if you're intrigued, Zanzibar
is just off the coast. How could anybody not want to go to a place that has two
z's in its name.
Another interesting kind of safari is a cultural one. There are a lot of cultural
safari companies as well. Several weeks ago I met Gemma Burford, an Englishwoman
who is married to a Maasai man. Her family has set up a company that will take
you into the villages of the Maasai and Chagga tribes. Tell them what you want
and they will try to meet your needs. Do check it out for yourself on their website. www.oreteti.com . And
check out the others as well. You do have to reserve the animal safaris in advance,
but you can book the cultural ones once you get here.
A personal note: I am known here as Bibi (Swahili for grandma) or Koko (Maasai
for grandma). Whatever way you look at it, white hair and wrinkles mean old (I
turned 69 this month.) People are solicitous and overly protective; and while
on some levels I do need that hand to get down the gulley or out of the truck,
I don't like being old first and other things later. I guess I'll have to learn
to live with it. I'm not getting younger.
I will be in Tanzania until October 11th. At the moment I am taking notes
for a possible book. Whether I write it depends on the experiences I have. I'll
decide when the trip is completed. So far the trip has been extraordinary but
I don't have a book. To be continued.
I'll head to Seattle, WA, and Fort Collins, CO, when I get to the States. And
then to Patzcuaro, Mexico, to work on that cookbook with Maria. (See below.)
Happy journey to all.
Arusha, August 7, 2006
Just hanging out with the Meing‚arana family for the last month has been
an honor. Allan's father, Alais, made sure I experienced whatever ceremonies
were happening in the community. They included two Christian weddings, one traditional
wedding, two female circumcisions (they are illegal in Tanzania, but the traditional
Maasai families are still doing them), and a rite of passage ceremony. All the
traditional ceremonies included dancing and singing, and food. The Maasai
are a proud and elegant and generous people with close ties to their history,
and a legitimate fear that the modern world will steal their identity. That accounts
for some of the resistance they have to educating their kids. Cattle and goats
are their life and they seriously wonder what need there is for education beyond
that, though there are groups within the community that are encouraging more
education. I've been reading non-stop about their fascinating history. I do love
the people I have interacted with.
I did do that safari with five other people (five days, four nights for $1,100,
the price varies tremendously. Some of the variables are number of people, quality
of accommodations, time of year, and of course, length of the trip.) We went
to Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti National Park. I'm planning
to go to Tarangire in a private car with friends. I'm sure I would have been
happy to have done a longer trip, but actually, those five days were incredible,
we saw all the animals, many times, and the experience was memorable. More in
the book, if I decide to write it.
If you want to investigate your own safari, do ask about the vehicle. My only
complaint was that our van had roof panels that were removed during the day and
the sun was hot. There are other vehicles that simply raise the roof and the
protection is still there. Next time, I want one where the driver can raise the
I am now back in Arusha at Kristine's house. Tomorrow I will be leaving for three
weeks in Kenya with a Dutch woman, Nora, who was married to a Maasai man and
has been in Kenya for around 33 years. She is now in the business of marketing
West African art to shops and I'm going to tag along on one of her selling trips.
It will include Nairobi and more. Nora is filled with knowledge and experience
in a world I hunger to know more about, so I'm really looking forward to hearing
That's it for now. I hope to write again in a month or so.
Arusha, September 12, 2006
I'm back from Kenya. We started out in Nairobi, a modern city filled with shopping
malls, supermarkets, big buildings, and constant warnings about crime. Nora's
friend, Leo, hosted us for four days. He works for the World Food Program of
the United Nations. Nora visited shops, buyers, and friends and I tagged along.
After Nairobi, we spent most of the next two-and-a-half weeks on dirt roads,
four-wheel-driving (we had a driver) our way up and down mountains on paths that
hadn‚t seen a car in years. Sometimes we drove for hours without seeing
a soul, and a few times we picked up people who had been walking for days, just
to go to a market. We drove the Great Rift Valley, stayed in tribal villages,
passed through areas where tribal warfare is still very much a part of every
day life. Cow herders of the Samburu and Pokot tribes are killing each other
and stealing cattle. We spent a couple of days when all we saw were herders with
AK47 machine guns slung over their shoulders. Fortunately, Nora and I don't have
any cows, so we weren't in danger.
Along the way we saw tons of antelopes, giraffes, zebras, and thousands of flamingoes.
In Nora, I had a built-in encyclopedia. She speaks fluent Maasai and Swahili,
and had friends wherever we went. People in tiny villages, wearing traditional
clothes, would call after the car, "Nora, Nora" And then we would find
ourselves in huts drinking tea with her old friends, some of whom she hadn‚t
seen in 25 years.
We had our moments. Her life experience is so very different from mine and our
ways of communicating with the world are dramatically opposite in most instances. Three
weeks is a long time to be with anyone, but we were still talking when it was
all over, and I'd had an experience of Kenya that was rare and special.
A brief aside. We were in a place called Fisherman's Camp when I was walking
on the grass toward the restaurant. I stopped briefly to talk to a couple from
New Zealand. They asked me if I had ever been to New Zealand. "Yes",
I said, "I spent a year in Coromandel."Well," said the man, "If
you walk up those stairs and look to the left, you‚ll see four women from
Coromandel." He paused, thought a minute, and then asked, "You don‚t
happen to be a writer?" When I said yes, he broke into a big smile. "Well,
one of those women is the one you lived with!!!" And there was Marian, the
one I wrote about in the book. We greeted each other with a big hug; neither
of us could believe we were meeting again at a small camp ground in Kenya. What