Happy Halloween!!!

31 10 2006


This is what happens when you leave your therapist and move to Minnesota!

Kendwa (on Zanzibar): 10-13 Sep 2006

13 09 2006

We are now back in Dar es Salaam for two days proir to flying back home ūüė¶

We have spent the past days shamelessly lying on a beach, snorkeling and relaxing in a wonderful small resort at the northern tip of Zanzibar.

(As a side note, Zanzibar actually consists of two main islands-in addition to many small ones-called Unguja and Pemba.  When I say we were on Zanzibar, we were actually on Unguja, the larger of the two main islands.)

We stayed at the Sunrise Resort for three nights and soaked up SO much sun!¬† It was definitely the “vacation” portion of our month away!¬† One day we went on a dhow for an all day snorkeling trip off one island with a fish bar-b-que on¬†a beach of Unguja.¬† The dhow was a “double-decker” so Andy and I laid out on the upper deck most of the day (since more time was spent on hte boat than snorkeling).¬† My other complaint of the day was that the equipment was crap.¬† I learned the value of buying our own snorkeling equipment and how a bad (leaking) mask or snorkel can really make reef exploration not so much fun.¬† We were in a group of about 20 people, but the size was pretty enjoyable on this trip.¬† We met a couple from Italy at the hotel in Stone Town.¬† We ended up in attached bungalows in Kendwa and they went on the snorkeling trip with us.¬† It was nice to run into them throughout the days and see friendly familiar faces.¬† He had bought the trip to Zanzibar for her birthday.¬† Pretty nice, huh?¬†

We also did a boat trip to neighboring Nungwi to see a natural aquarium that held turtles and do a cultural tour of the village.¬† The aquarium holds 25 turtles.¬† Each year, some new babies come into the system,¬† When they are old enough, one will be put in the aquarium and the rest released.¬† At the same time the oldest turtle will also be released, so there are always 25.¬† It was a pretty good system.¬† The same guide for the aquarium also took us on hte cultural tour.¬† He had very good english and was my 2nd favorite guide.¬† The tour was my favorite though.¬† I didn’t get the sense that I had to constantly shell out cash to have any interactions with the village folks, which is good, because I didn’t have any (more on that later).¬† Andy and I learned to weave from a younger woman, learned some natural remedies from a very old woman herbalist, and learned how to make twine from another very old woman using only her hands and the inside of a coconut shell.¬†

We went to a place where dhows are built and saw that preocess.¬† One interesting thing from that was how the wood is bent:¬† It’s held in place with wood and oil is put on the wood where the bend should happen.¬† The plank is then burned at that spot and bent to where it is needed and cooled in place.

We saw old water systems that were over 150 years old and used up to 6 months ago when faucets were installed around the village. 

The tour guide said that the local tourism industry was good for awhile because it brought in jobs, but at this point, most people that work at the resort come in from other areas (like Stone Town) so the money is coming in, but it’s not going into the local economy.¬† I heard the same thing in Mbeya and I’m sure it’s a common theme where tourists are concerned.¬† There has also been a negative impact on the locals since it is 100% muslim and¬†many people feel that they cannot to go to the beach¬†because they don’t want to see women in swimwear (mostly bikinis).¬† So, of course, that triggered my “mzungu” guilt, but I still enjoyed the beach….with more social consciousness.

OK, the money issue.¬† There are NO working money sources in the northern tip of Unguja.¬† I found this out yesterday as I was down to the last $10 and trying to find a place to get money from the Visa card to pay for the hotel…or to pay for anything.¬† It was very frustrating!¬† Eventually, we talked to the guy running the hotel who knows the driver of the minivan we were taking back to Stone Town.¬† He told the driver how much we owed and we were able to give the money to that guy to take back to the hotel.¬† AND we could charge dinner to the room so it could also be paid once in Stone Town.¬† So, finally, Tanzanian flexibility worked in our favor.¬†

So, this morning, we took¬†the minivan back to Stone town and then a 2 hour frerry to Dar.¬† The ferry went very fast and I got pretty sick from the intense waves and bumping around.¬† Andy thought it was fun, but I was just focusing on not throwing up.¬† Here at the Dar port we were bombarded with guys trying to get us to take a taxi but just walked through them to our hotel.¬† Tomorrow we hang out with Kagu and HAidi again.¬† It’ll be nice to see them.¬† Time’s up, gotta go!!!!

Zanzibar Islands: 8 Sep 2006

8 09 2006

So two days in a row at the internet!  I bribed Andy with a hot dog.

We are REALLY enjoying Zanzibar!!¬† Today, we both agreed, was the best day so far of the entire vacation.¬† We started out early in the morning and were taken down to the dock to get fitted for snorkling gear.¬† That consisted of about 7 guys swapping around gear and trying to figure out what sizes we should wear, who takes us and other details.¬† It was all in Swahili, so I’m really not sure what was said, but the conversations were animated and funny to listen to.¬† Once that was arranged, Andy and I set sail on a “dhow” with two guys.¬† A dhow is a wooden boat made by hand here and commonly used to transport people and cargo.¬† Many use beautiful sails, but ours had a small motor.

I have never snorkled before and was expecting to like it about as much as I like skiing, but one of the guys explained how to do it and we got into the water.¬† I was surprised how easy it is and how amazing!!!¬† I’ve never seen¬†a coral reef¬†before in real life and these are beautiful and so alive.¬† So we island hopped all day, snorkling and checking out sights.¬† The first, Bawe Island, had the best reefs.¬† I wish we had spent more time here, but I didn’t realize that it was the most interesting of the islands.¬† We took the camera underwater, but of course the pics don’t look anywhere near as cool as the real thing.¬† The water is SO clear and that doesn’t come through in the pics, maybe because there were small air bubbles?¬† I don’t know.

We then went to Changuu Island, also called Prison Island.  A lot of the reef here was dead due to fishermen dragging nets over it.  It was good for both of us to see the impact.  Some of the reef was ok, and that was nice to experience.  We saw two giant clams here.  They were larger and more colorful than I expected-one bright blue and the other redish orange- and it was fun to watch them open and close.  We saw star fish, many bright colored fish and the moving reef (the parts that were alive, anyway).

After snorkling here, we went onto the island to see giant tortoises.¬† There is a large colony here with the oldest over 100 years old.¬† They are second in size to the Galapagos turtles.¬† We could walk amongst and touch them.¬† They weren’t shy!¬† There is also a rebuilt prison on the island.¬† It’s actually a prison that never was: The British built it, but instead of its intended purpose, it was used as a quarantine for patients with yellow fever.¬† Now it houses part of a restaurant with a bar, but the building is very interesting.¬† One cool part was the toilets: they were a wooden platform built over the ocean water…toilets that never need to be flushed or emptied!¬† I took a pic of what remains of them.¬† (Two pics of toilets…maybe I have a theme going here. ūüôā )

From Prison¬† Island we took the dhow to Chapwani Island, or Grave Island.¬† On it is a beatutiful (ie. expensive) resort, a large colony of large bats, and graves of various soldiers and sailors that have died in the area, especially in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

The rides on the dhow from island to island were so much fun!  The water is so choppy in places!  We both received an invigorating share of sunshine and it was refreshing to be active and wet for a day.  Also, I feel much more comfortable here than I did on the mainland.  People on the island are so much more welcoming and easy going. 

I had a good (authentic) conversation with the woman who works at our hotel last night.¬† She and I were talking about the differences between lifestyles on the mainland and here, women’s perceptions of tourists and how women in Zanzibar live.¬† I asked her how the conservative muslin women percieved us “free-spirited” tourists and our lifestyle.¬† She said it’s not really about lifestyle, but if there is any resentment, it’s about money and how westerners spend it so freely while women (in general) in Zanzibar do not have all that surplus money to throw around.¬† She said things are changing a bit recently, but before it was considered shameful for a woman to sell things in a shop, so there wasn’t any economic independence.¬† In addition, women who do work can have an entire family (mother, father, grandparents, kids) dependent on her¬†(and maybe her husband’s) income, so there often isn’t a lot left over.

We are heading out to get dinner.¬† I’ll check in again when¬†I can.¬† I hope everyone is doing well.¬† We both are missing our friends and family.¬† Andy’s even missing school and especially his friends.¬†
BUT, well, this IS a pretty cool experience that I wish didn’t have to end!

Zanzibar: 6 Sep 2006

7 09 2006

Right now I am sitting on a beach in Zanzibar.¬† Today we took a spice tour in the morning to see how spices are grown and we went to a slave cave.¬† The cave was used to hold slaves proir to departing on ships¬†for the eastern destinations.¬† The caves consist of two small cavernswith only a little light and air.¬† We also saw, in contrast, a bath house erected by a sultan for his wife-very luxurious (even though it’s just an empty building at this point) and more room than one person needs to take a bath!¬† After the tours, the bus took us to a very nice ocean beach.¬† Andy is having a blast in the sand building some randon structure as I write this.¬† I love the rhythm of the ocean waves and the sun in such a clear, clear sky!

Mbeya: 27-29 Aug 2006

7 09 2006

Mbeya was wonderful!!! The train ride and the city were such a nice break from the chaos of Dar es Salaam.  On Sun, the 27th, we did a hike with Martina and Andi and a Sisi Kwa Sisi guide, Felix.

Sisi Kwa Sisi, literally translates to something like “Us for Us”, but the meaning is more about a group of guys working as tour guides for themselves; sort of a cooperative.¬† The profits are distributed equally at the end of the month after the bills are paid and it’s owned by each person involved.

Felix is really just this amazing person.  He knows about every topic Martina, Andi and I brought up:every country, politics, philosophy.  He gave honest, thoughtful answers to almost any question we asked AND he was such a patient, thorough guide.  He really knows the area.

We climbed in the Poroto Mountains to get to Ngosi Crater Lake.¬† It was a good climb.¬† At one point we had to go up by climbing roots (like rope climbing, but using tree roots) and the lake inside the crater was just beautiful.¬† Kids from the area went up and down the mountain like nothing.¬† The water from th lake is said to have special powers, so it’s used to make medicine, but no one swims in hte lake.¬† At the top we had a gourmet lunch provided by Martina, Andi and Felix ūüôā and were accompanied by many of the local children (we were their entertainment).¬† Andy tried to monkey up the banana trees like the local kids-but it was a bit harder than they make it look.¬† We headed back down through the rainforest mountain (with wild banana and palm trees) and back to the hotel.¬† We were SOOOOOO tired!¬†

On Mon, the 28th, Andy and I went with Felix and his friend, the driver, to Kaporogwe Falls and “God’s Bridge” over the Kiwira River.¬† Fortunately, the day didn’t require much walking, since we were still tired from the day before.¬† We had a driver, so we could drive close to our destinations.¬†

I forgot to mention, on SUN, to get to the crater lake, we took “dala dalas”.¬† Dala Dalas are this amazing public transportation system consisting of anything from a minivan to small buses that are privately owned and transport people from place to place.¬† They can be very elaborately painted or very junky (or both), but almost always they are VERY full.¬† At times, people sit practically (or literally) on other people’s laps.¬† ON the one we took bacl from the crater lake, the woman next to me was holding a live chicken!¬† It was so funny!¬†¬† I wanted to take a picture, but didn’t want to offend her.

Anyway, the Kaporogwe Falls were beautiful and played a role in Tanzanian history.   When the Germans and English were battling during WWI, the Germans hid in a cave beneath the Falls.  The discovery of stone tools also indicates that the area was populated during the stone age.

From there we drove to the Kirwia River and saw a natural lava bridge over the river.¬† It was pretty cool, also, but seeing the tea and coffee plantations and hte way people in the area live was more interesting.¬† Also, the bridge was on the land of a government installation where prison guards are trained so we had to go on the installation to get official clearance.¬† It was a good example of how official Tanzanians like to look and act REALLY official-as if the mundane task they are performing is way more important than it really is.¬† An interesting scene from that:¬† As we drove into the government area, all of the trainees were on lunch so we drove through this sea of people in drab tan uniforms…but each was a holding a brightly colored plastic bowl.¬† No pics were allowed (the government is weird about that), but the image had a nice contrast.

This is it!

18 08 2006

We fly out today! I really just can’t believe it.


(Whenever I fly, I think of this movie.  It really is funny!)

The luggage is packed and everything fits.

Today consisted of running around checking items off an extensive list. Andy was with me and we just had fun doing all the errands. He’s been so good about this trip!

Whenever I need something (even moments of silence), he’s right on it. I can’t get too wigged-out, because he keeps me laughing. There really is no one else I would rather take this trip with. He’s mature enough to organize and print a bunch of paperwork, but young enough to ask if he can take his care bear.

I love his complexity, his compassion and his unique view on the world….and he loves to antagonize me!

I am going to try to post something here at least weekly so everyone knows I’m alive, but no promises.

One thing you all should know is that I have so much love in my world and I’m living my life as full as I possibly can and plan to always be able to say that.

Thanks for all the support…seriously.

counting the days

15 08 2006

Tomorrow is the last day of work. I say it like I’m not going back…..

Here is my horoscope:

“Nothing is quite the way you feel it ought to be. That’s either exasperating or magnificent, depending on how you choose to look at the situation. Abandon your preconceived ideas. Be as adaptable and intuitive as you can be. Bring forth your inner supply of Piscean creativity and think positively about whatever is causing you so much concern. There is a much more inspiring (and more accurate) way to see it. As long as you don’t succumb to a sense of pressure, this will soon become clear. Amazing opportunities await in the next few days.”

Cool, eh?

I’ve planned and planned, but still feel so unprepared. I can’t believe it’s so soon. After months…years…of waiting, saying “someday”, it’s here and real and I just can’t wrap my mind around this.

The best thing that has come of this already is the daily reminders of what amazing friends I have. Each is so unique and fits a different part of me, but if someone were to judge me by my friends, the consensus would be that I am a pretty fortunate woman.

And I would agree.

There’s a lot swirling around inside, but mostly, I’m focused on the details: Making sure everything is taken care of and nothing is forgotten.¬†¬† I need to remember to step back and feel the emotions.

And to sleep.

One more day of work……

new definition

2 06 2006

It's been amazing to witness the redefinition of age as I get older.


One of my favorite lines from the musical Mama Mia! proclaims: "Age does not wither her!" What a great line……..I plan to not wither.

I remember not SO long ago, at the age of 20, having a friend that was 28 and thinking how well she had aged. Now that thought would be for a friend of 60 or 65.

So far, 38 has been a great age. I made a very conscious decision to stop coloring my hair about 8 months ago. With this symbolic move has come a growing into my years and an acceptance of who I am. When 20, there were expectations that I act 30, so when I turned 30, I lived what should have been the freedom of my 20's. Now there is an equilibrium and 38 feels right. Old enough to have a clue, young enough to make mistakes.

The best part is realizing that this process keeps going and I can keep enjoying growing…not just emotionally, spiritually…but physically also. I don't have to get to some fictitious place…or avoid some other place…but just travel the way that feels right.

Maybe it's not a new definition, but rather, a new acceptance.

open your eyes

24 05 2006


"'I can't shake this crazy feeling that there is some small thing that we're being lied to about.' And that's how the paper ended."

Ishmael nodded thoughtfully… "And do you still wonder if you've been lied to?"

"Yes, but not as desperately as I did then."

"Not as desperately? Why is that?"

"Because I've found out that, as a practical matter, it doesn't make any difference. Whether we're being lied to or not, we still have to get up and go to work and pay the bills and all the rest."

"Unless, of course, you all began to suspect you were being lied to-and all found out what the lie was."

"What do you mean?"

"If you alone found out what the lie was, then you're probably right-it would make no great difference. But if you all found out what the lie was, it might conceivably make a very great difference indeed."

~from Ishmael by Daniel Quinn


This passage came to my mind two nights ago as I was listening to a panel discussion at the Wil-Mar center about Iran.