28 October 2011

The day I gave all the kids pipi!


[How cute is this kid?!]

We awoke to rain this morning (which is the first time any of us have done that since being in Africa) when the donkeys screamed, telling us it was time to wake up.  My bed always feels extra cozy on rainy mornings, so I just rolled over as Julia got ready for work.  She grabbed her umbrella before leaving.

Then she came back to grab a jacket.

Apparently it’s going to be cold, rainy day.

I got dressed and had oatmeal with Stephanie.  She’s super thankful this morning that art classes don’t start until 10 am.

I debate walking down to get chi, because warm tea sounds fabulous on a day like today, but getting wet just doesn’t really seem worth it.

Julia returns from work to eat oatmeal and offers me some chi she has here.  Problem solved! I get to stay dry and drink chi while working on my project! 


The rain stopped around 10 am.  Julia walks back in and we start to discuss strategy for the weekend.

When you only can drive to the town with a  grocery store in it every other week, you have to make very careful plans for everything.

We discussed our strategy: drive to the hotel, check in, drive to the paint store, order paint, drive to the grocery store, pick up groceries, then back to the paint store to pick up paint, then have the driver take everything home while he drops us off at the market and we shop for things at the market.

Julia’s getting really good at plans.  She also devised plan to get her house ready asap without asking specifically for it.  She had Jackie, who “knows the language better” ask for her.  That’s the way you have to do things around here.


Julia’s drunk.

At least that’s what she’s been telling people for the past month. 

She thought when two vowels were next to each other, they make 1 sound like in English.  But in Swahili, they make 2 distinct sounds.

She’s been meaning to say “Naelewa (I understand)” but has been saying “Nalewah (I’m drunk)”

Incidentally, Naolewa = I’m getting married, so if I had been off by a letter in the other direction we would have all been fine.


Julia walked into the 5th grade room to drop off some forms, and the teacher was teaching a science lesson.  Julia had just been typing up the 5th grade science curriculum and had just finished the digestive system.  She glanced down at the science book on the teacher’s desk and briefly saw a cross section of a human with what looked like organs inside.

She said to the class, “Oh, you’re studying the digestive system.”

The teacher corrected her, “No, we’re studying sexual reproduction.”

Julia glanced back down at the cross section of the human, and realized it was a human male with all the anatomical parts outlined and identified for the reproductive system.

She walked out, blushing, of a room of laughing 5th graders.


Julia and I decided to walk to the big house (where Chris and his 4 sons live) for internet.

“Hodi (think Howdy without the without the W and just a long O)” we call out. Because that’s how you politely enter someone else’s house.

“Karibu (welcome)” the housekeeper called.

After working on my project for a long time, I excused myself to the restroom.

Where I found boxers hanging from the shower curtain rod.

Living with boys.  Boxers hanging from the bathroom.

I guess this is what I have to look forward to ;)

Guess what’s for lunch?

You guessed it! Ugale and beans!  Again!

I just have to keep reminding myself, “be thankful the kids are getting fed…”  I may never eat cornmeal and plain baked beans again.


Julia gets a text from Chris and Kayci, who have taken 2 kids, a girl and a boy, to America for the first time.  They are currently still in transit, but have made it to an airport big enough to have “moving sidewalks.”

The kids have never seen anything like that before and jumped around on them, clearly in love.

We would LOVE to be there as the kids experience these new things.  We only wonder what they’ll think of New York City, their first destination in America.

Although, Julia is tired of using her old generation phone (the kind without a keyboard or T9Word option) to text Chris.  The entire conversation about the kids took about 30 minutes to type via phone, when it just took me less than 1 minute to explain it to you.

Welcome to Africa.


This afternoon, we met the kids at school and spread the word: Shannon is giving you a check up after school and has presents for each kid!

The best way to ensure you get kids to go to the doctor: give them a present after their check-up.

[small line]

I did a basic physical minus an otoscope/ ophthalmoscope. But pretty much everything else.

[Yonga is 4.  Does she look skeptical, or is it just me?]

[physical exam]

Each kid got a bar of soap (thanks Dr. Jones!) and a new toothbrush (Thanks Mom!) and a piece of pipi.

Which is Swahili for candy.


Exams on 40 kids took me a few hours.  At the end, some kids wanted to listen to their heartbeat.  I showed them what it sounds like, then I let them listen to my heart and their heart.  The faces on the kids were priceless!

[Can I steal her?!  Look at that smile!]

[Stephanie and Seti watching heartbeats]

For dinner, we made guacamole (yum!) and quesadillas from scratch!  We shredded the cheese from U-turn and rolled out and fried dough to make tortillas!  We found some tortilla chips the Chris and Kayci left open, and since they would be bad before they returned, we commandeered them for our meal.  It was SO delicious. 

Tortilla Recipe-from the Joy of cooking cookbook (so I don’t forget):

1tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
2 cups flower (I used wheat flower, delicious!)
¼ cup margarine (Blue Band brand in Tanzania although you could use Crisco in America)
Add ¾ cup hot water (110-130 degrees, I did boiling)

Mix dough for 6 ish minutes, roll to 8 balls and let sit 20 min.

[dough balls]

Roll out balls to 6 inch tortillas, fry in olive oil coating the bottom of the pan.

[rolling out dough]

[frying dough; Danny makes the best helper!]


[eating the cheese coated dough]

P.S. Ryan, we’re registering for a rolling pin now :)

27 October 2011

The day we chewed 1,000 times.


Poor Julia.

She runs off to school while I get up slowly each morning.  Today I showered (I don’t shower every day here because of all the trouble it takes, but I get quite a bit dirtier here than I do America).  One of the busses broke down, so we were short about 30 kids and 3 teachers.

Good thing she’s got a roommate who’s looking for a new way to put off working on her project for school!

I got super excited because Julia promised me I could read the kids this super cool counting book that Ryan’s mom found.  It counts in Swahili and talks about all the animals in Tanzania and calls them by their Swahili names.  It’s probably the coolest thing I brought on my trip! 

I also got pretty excited about teaching the kids science, since it’s my favorite subject and the kids all think I’m a doctor (they know I’m not, but again, there’s no word for PA in their language). 

I was flipping through the 3rd grade science book the other day and I learned so much: methods of HIV/AIDS transmission (they conveniently left out the big one),  that you should let your underwear soak for 20 minutes in wash water before rinsing it out, then you should iron everything.

Guess I’m not smarter than a Tanzanian 3rd grader.

And I’m walking around wearing dirty underwear since I only let mine soak for 5 minutes before rinsing them…

Just as I’m walking to school with my book, belly full of oatmeal from the guest house and chi from the kitchen, the lost bus pulls up.  It’s supposed to hold about 15 people, but it’s carrying about 30 kids and our missing 3 teachers.

And a few loaves of bread, which the children chase down the bus for.

Guess I’m going to work on my project today after all.

But first, I walked with a sweet girl named Veneranda who walks with the assistance of a cane.  All the other kids ran after the bread and she looked unsure if she should go after some too.  After confirming that she did want bread, I asked if I could walk with her.  She smiled and said yes.  Awesome!

I learned that she wants to be a “sister” when she grows up, but I’m not really sure what that means in this context.  She’s in grade 3 and she likes art class.

Although, all the kids leave art class covered in glitter, so I’m pretty sure they all like art class.

After walking with her to get bread and back to her classroom, I returned to work on my project.  I got about 30 minutes in when I got bored and remembered I promised Julia I would do laundry today.  I’m out of clean shirts and skirts, so I really actually needed to do laundry. 

It looked like rain, so I wasn’t sure about washing, but I figured if it did rain I my clothes would just get rinsed by rain water, which I guessed is just as clean as what comes out of the tap here (that smells like the lake).

And I’d be sure to soak my underwear for 20 minutes this time…

After finishing, I went back and successfully worked on my project for the rest of the morning, and got partly done with my second paper analysis.  Thank you Jesus!!


So, this weekend Julia, Stephanie and I are planning a girls weekend in Mwanza.  Chris, the guy who owns the Children’s home, has a friend Jan who jointly owns the farm in B?? that we stayed at last weekend.  Jan also owns a hotel in Mwanza called Tunza.  They’re having a Halloween party this weekend and we’re going to stay the night in a beach-front bungalow on Lake Victoria. 

So, it’s always a challenge to find a Halloween costume in America that’s creative and fun but not really expensive or really skimpy.  But at least in America you have endless supplies at your fingertips.

We don’t have that here.

Stephanie, being the creative Art teacher she is, decided we should be butterflies.  We all, coincidentally, have black leggings and black tank tops.  We were going to fashion some wings out of Konga (basically 2 yards of bright fabric) stretched between thick, shaped wire. 

Which sounds like fun, but the wire we have is actually extra barbed wire from a fence project and I wasn’t too excited about Julia’s idea to just cut off all the barbs.

So we nixed the butterfly idea.

We floated through a series of costume ideas and decided on Greek goddesses.  We all have white bed sheets that we can make into togas.  Stephanie had the kids make hair wreath things a week or two ago, and we can use that for our hair.  We rummaged through things until we found rope to tie around our waists! And Stephanie has face paint that she’s determined to use!

[kids with head wreaths that look slightly Greek goddess ish]

Perfect, we thought.

Then we noticed how many people here walk around in similar outfits (long cloth wrapped around them).  We thought that maybe since the Masai walk around in basically cloth attached to them with a belt, we might appear to be making fun of them if all we wore was a bed sheet wrapped around us attached by a belt for Haloween.

So, the toga idea was also nixed.

Because no one is brave enough to mess with the Masai.

Stephanie has a wide array of tie-died clothing with her.  She’s got a long story behind it, basically ending in that’s what she could find when she went shopping.  She was running in a tie-died Konga one day (because you have to always wear a skirt here, even when running) and it ripped.  So now we have 2 yards of tie die material at our fingertips.  She thought it would be fabulous to be hippies from the 70s.  I’m not sure if the 70s hit East Africa like they did in America, but at the very least, we’ll be bright, colorful, and matching, which should be fun.

Assuming this idea sticks.


I’ve acquired a new skill.

I’ve learned to speak Swahili.  Fluently.

Only, I can’t do it when I’m awake.  According to Julia, she heard me say “Karibu! (Welcome)” last night in the middle of the night.

Now if I could just channel those thoughts in the daytime, I’ll be set!


Jonas is Chris’s 2nd oldest adopted son.  His oldest, Seleh, is in America ringing the Liberty Bell and raising money to keep the Children’s home and school running. 

Jonas recently read “Where the Red Fern Grows.”  Classic young adult book.  But a difficult one for a kid who’s 3rd language is English.

Being the good student he is, he kept a journal with all the new words he came across and he gets visitors to translate them periodically. 

While I was pulling my laundry off the line to fold it, I helped him translate some words to Swahili.  I would compare it to playing the game Taboo.

I’m decently stellar at the game Taboo.  Ryan can vouch for me.  I was really excited to play this new, Swahili version with Jonas.

You have a word that you have to describe to your teammate, only there’s a bunch of words you can’t use (only the words I can’t use aren’t written out for me, they’re just words Jonas also doesn’t know).

For instance, translate the word eerie:  I tried to use spooky. 


Then creepy.  Also Buzz.

How about scary.  Yes! We have a winner!  We can move on to a new card.

Some of the words were kinda hard, in the way that they could mean two different things.  Like the word “winged.”  It could be used to describe a bird or an aircraft, as a winged object.  Or it could be used to talk about how we had no idea what to make for dinner, but we walked into the kitchen, grabbed some supplies, and winged it, or came up with something on the spot.

I gave him both translations.  I didn’t have the word in context. 

Other words on the list: Kernels, superstition, screech, apron, liquor, and my personal favorite “snort.”

I asked Jonas what sound chickens made in Swahili.  Because I remember from Spanish class some animals make different noises in Spanish than in English.  But chickens make the same noise in English and in Swahili.  So I figured pigs probably do too.  I told him sometimes in America pigs make the noise “oink” and sometimes they snort.

It’s like when you pull air through your nose and make a noise.  That’s a snort.  I didn’t tell him about the translation for snort that people do with drugs.  I figured that wasn’t what they meant when they used the word snort in “Where the Red Fern Grows.”

Last night, when Julia woke up in the middle of the night to charge her computer.  I really still don’t know why, but apparently it worked.

I got up to go potty, like a normal person might do in the middle of the night.

The lights were on when I walked through our living room to the community bathroom.  I flipped the switch to turn on the single light in the entire bathroom, and instantly all the lights in the house turned off.

Nice move.

We flipped a series of light switches, and it seems I turned out all the lights in the house, permanently.  No problem, we’ll just go to bed and fix our power issues tomorrow.

Now, switch the scene to tonight.  Julia and I both remember back to last night when we flipped I flipped all the lights off unintentionally.  Julia gets the bright idea to reset the breaker box.

And suddenly we have lights again, but no main bathroom light, which is a problem because Julia wants to take a shower.  She flips on the bathroom light, which throws all the lights off.

We go back to the breaker box to reset it again, but it won’t reset.  Julia (who is the only one that can reach the breaker box, they practically put it on the ceiling here) can’t flip the switch up. 

I looked and Julia had the bathroom light switch in the on position.  She thought that if she left it on, she could trick the lights into all being on when she reset the breaker box.  But I explained that the breaker box wouldn’t reset with that light on because that’s what is throwing off all the lights in the first place.

Not that I know much about electricity, but I’ve had to flip a few breaker box switches back in the day when I lifeguarded so I figured that’s how they worked in Africa.

Turns out, when we flipped the bathroom light switch down, we had no problem turning on all the other lights in the house.  We tried unsuccessfully to get some of the lights in the bathroom stalls and showers to work, but we could only get the lights to work in the showers that didn’t drain or didn’t have cold water.  So Julia opted for a warm shower in the dark stall that has no door.

It’s funny though, this shower feels ten times more refreshing than the showers I take in America.  Probably, I figure, since I get ten times dirtier here.


We ate dinner with the kids tonight.  We heard that it was probably not rice and beans, that it might be potatoes and bananas and that sounded fabulous to me.

It turned out to be Ugale (cornmeal mush), beans, and meat.  Ok, not Ugale/rice and beans, but close.  Still, the meat added a new flavor and I was pretty thankful for that.

Until I bit into the meat. 

Whoever came up with the saying “chew your food 28 times before swallowing,” has never had African meat.  Across the board, I’ve not had meat here that you can swallow without chewing at least 100 times.

I chewed so long that the meat lost most of its flavor, which was only decent to begin with.  I looked around.

I wasn’t the only American sitting in the room that was chewing over and over again seemingly unsuccessfully.  I was thankful I had only put a small chunk of meat on my plate.

I’m grateful the kids get meat sometimes, and in the future I’ll be happy to let them have it all.  When I first got here, I thought I had to finish all the food on my plate whether I liked it or not.  After all, these kids once were the “starving children in Africa” our mothers always told us about.

But Julia and Stephanie let me in on a great way to ensure there are less hungry kids in the world.  You tell the children “karibu (welcome)” and hand them your plate.  They dive at it and finish it off, then they fight over who gets to take it to the sink for you.


Except that my mouth felt all waxy when we finished dinner.  That’s funny.  I asked Julia, who again, is like my personal guide to all things Tanzanian, and she told me it was fat.

From the meat.

Wince.  Eeew.

Needless to say, I finished off the last of the bag of Chocolate Covered Sunshine (Raisinettes) I brought with me to get the taste out of my mouth.

But realistically, I had to finish them before the mouse got to them, so it worked out wonderfully!


So, headlamps are generally great.  I was kinda bummed that I left mine in Zambia, but I guess God knows better than I do.  While walking home from dinner, I used Julia’s headlamp, and just for a good time, I put it on my head.

And then ate a bug.

Bad idea.  The headlamp was promptly removed from my head and the swarm of bugs followed suit.  Thankfully.


While we charged our computers and worked that evening, Chris’s sons watched The Polar Express.

It’s officially October 26th and I foolishly thought I might make it all the way to mid-November this year without hearing Christmas music.  Usually, my friend Diana is the first one to get me to listen to Christmas music, either with a mixed CD or in her car.  But someone beat her to it this year. 

I think it was worth it, just to see Chris’s youngest son, Danny (who doesn’t know his real age because he was found with no parents or birth certificate or anything), but we guess he’s around 8, sit straight up the entire time, eyes wide, staring at the movie.  Everything he does is “the best thing ever.”

Seriously, this kid couldn’t stop saying “Asante Sana (thank you so much)” when we let him grate our cheese the other day.  Like grating cheese for someone is something special.

I found myself thanking God that he made each child to be something special.


25 October 2011

The day I drank porridge for breakfast.


I walked down to get my usual Chi for breakfast and they had cups sitting out that were filled with white liquid.

Neat, I thought!  A new flavor chi!  Maybe with milk!  How fun!

But really, it wasn’t chi, it was porridge.  A thick, mixture with a taste like blended oatmeal (well, it tasted like cornmeal if you know what that tastes like).  I could only imagine I was drinking Ugale (which is what we had for lunch incidentally, more cornmeal…mmmm!)

I’ve decided that while sugar and cornmeal is a hearty breakfast, I’d prefer the regular Simba (which means lion in Swahili-turns out those guys who wrote The Lion King got something right) chi tea with the plain bread for breakfast.

But the kids seemed to like it, which is good.

I ate my porridge with Martha, one of the tiniest girls ever.  She reminded me of sweet Evet at Harvest Children’s Home in Cameroon.  She would not let go of my hand.  Even when it was time for class, so I walked her to the pre-school room.

I returned to work on my project for school (It hasn’t been successful at finishing itself, so I suppose I should work on it) and found Stephanie and Jackie (one of the Tanzanian women who helps run JBFC Children’s Home and School) in an argument over the water filters.

We had just begun to filter water yesterday because we have no more blue “sparklettes” style water pitchers and we need water to survive.  The water filters were labeled JBFC and we thought they were for guests to use since they were in the guest house. 

Turns out one belonged to someone else, and he came back for it today.  Convenient.  I cleaned them both out after mildly successfully dumping the filtered water into a new jug and went to read.

Which turned into a nap.  I’m really being productive so far today.  When I woke up one of the filters was gone, and one was left for us.  Thankfully, they left us the non-broken one.

Thanks for watching out for us God!

Also while I was sleeping Chris and Kayci and the 2 kids left for their flight out of Mwanza.  They were planning to leave tomorrow, but when you try to buy a last minute ticket for 4 people, that’s what you get I guess.

They abandoned our water jugs because the car was full of luggage.

Good thing we’re not thirsty for water that tastes good.

I’m ready to be back in America when mice eat Julia and I’s cookies.  She threw away the rest of the package of cookies (thankfully it was only 4) and the cat ate the rest.  Seriously, yuck.

Also yuck:

I was on the porch of the big house (where Chris and his 4 boys live and Kayci has a room too) minding my own business while I worked on my project for school when a stick looking catipillar inched towards me.  I call Jonas, one of Chris’s adopted boys, over and he starts to pick it up and get it away from me, when there is some yelling in Swahili by momma Mary (the housekeeper of the big house).

Then Jonas calls out that Stephanie and I should come see their “pet.”

Which turns out to be a poisonous snake in the closet.

Chris’s newly abandoned closet that still has clothes hanging.  Good thing he just packed up and left for America or he might be dead right now.

Jonas yells in Swahili and calls Cha Cha, one of the Masai guards, over and he tried with a stick to kill it. 

Cha Cha hit it, but didn’t kill it, but he ran and so did Jonas.  Momma Mary held her ground, and so did I, which I don’t think was the wisest decision.  I went to the kitchen while Momma Mary returned with a can of raid and Cha Cha finally killed the snake. 

Stephanie got a picture of it.  It was nice and long and green.  I would never have seen it, let alone know it was poisonous. 

Lord, please keep me safe from poisonous things!


For dinner, we decided we’d had enough rice and beans (or cornmeal and beans) so we commandeered the rice (don’t worry, we pay them for food) and ate our Indian leftovers.  The power was off, so we ate by candlelight.

As there was no internet (no power, no way to turn on the power) we called it an early night.

I attempted to sleep, but very squeaky sounds kept me awake.  I thought for a while in Zambia that the squeaky sounds were mice (we’ve already seen mice here!) but I was afraid they might be bats.  Bats would be too terrifying.

I attempted to text Ryan from Julia’s newly working, but illegal phone.  I think it worked.  (I hope!) Julia’s phone didn’t have a charger for 2 weeks, and wouldn’t charge with the “universal” charger.  We finally got a charger, but the minutes she had purchased were expired.  They were sold to her with a 2010 expiration date.  No one here realized they expired prior to purchasing them.  When she finally got non-expired minutes about a week later, she got a text from Airtel that she had to register her phone at a shop so it would be legal.  Which is fine, but there’s no shop anywhere close.  And now that Chris and Kayci are gone, we’re on our own with no phone or car.

So her phone will just be unregistered (it still works, we’ve heard there’s a month grace period) until we go back to town on Saturday.

Welcome to Africa.

The day we had prom!


I always sleep in until Julia leaves for school and just before she goes she wakes me up, so I get ready for the day.  Usually I’m pretty eager to get out of bed and work on emails/ blogs/ my project for school.  (well, maybe I’m not so eager to work on my project for school)  Julia has do do announcements at 8 am, then watch the kids go to their first class.  The kids all have breakfast (usually chi (tea) with some bread) and then they start class again at 10, which is when Stephanie teaches her first Art class of the day.  Stephanie started hot water boiling, so we got to eat oatmeal for breakfast!

The oats were plain, but we added honey and raisins, so we were thrilled!

I worked on finishing my reflective essay for school in the morning.  It was amazing all the things I had learned in the past month about International medicine, I almost couldn’t narrow it down to a one page paper.

I also took my malaria pill.  I have visible mosquito bites from last night (for the first time since I got here, and I really don’t want malaria!), so I’m praying the medicine in the pill is actually working. 


I ate lunch with one of the girls, Pili, and she showed me around the school afterwards.  She showed me each classroom and then showed me the room that was set aside to be “the library.”  I almost cried.  It was full of workshop equipment and there was not a book in sight.  Pili told me they were supposed to get some computers, and once they did the library would be put together.  I hope that happens.

Pray for it to happen?


Later I got a tour of the school with Julia where we got greeted by each class, “Good afternoon Julias and her friend.” They shouted in unison as they all stood up.  Julia took several pictures of the campus.

She also told me the “library” space was being used as a workshop now because the playground is under construction.  There have always been age appropriate books in each classroom that the kids can check out.  But a central library with computers is in the plans (if they can raise enough money and they get a grant for solar-powered laptops that Chris applied for).

Julia and I also took pictures all around campus, including with the Masai, who are basically the equivalent in their culture of Ninjas.  One killed a lion a few days before I got here.

With his bare hands. 

Or maybe it was with a knife.  Either way, it wasn’t a gun.

They basically are super-hard-core legit guys that guard the compound at night (so you can sleep easy knowing that nothing is going to come in and attack us with our Masai warriors  guarding us all!)

At lunch, Chris and Kayci wanted to thank us for all our hard work (well, Julia and Stephanie work hard, and I’m just along for the ride I guess) by taking us out do dinner in Mwanza.  They have some errands to run and then we were going to eat at a fancy hotel called Tilapia.  Chris and Kayci also had to get a plane ticket from Mwanza to Nairobi, where they would catch a flight straight to New York.  They had the international ticket for a month at least, but still had yet to buy the ticket to Nairobi.  They managed to get 4 tickets for $45 each 2 days before the flight.  Only, they didn’t exactly get the tickets they wanted so they had to leave a day earlier than expected, which wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that it cut dinner short (we didn’t get to eat fried bananas topped with ice cream which would have made this meal the best I’d ever eaten in an African restaurant) so I was pretty bummed that they waited so long for tickets since we went home to pack instead of having desert.

We also had to make copies.  Julia and Kayci walked into the copy shop but they couldn’t get the papers printed.  Chris walked in, talked some Swahili, and suddenly the printer worked.  Interesting.

It was going to take forever to make copies, so Chris drove Stephanie and I over to Tilapia, ordered some Indian food, and then left to go pick up money and Julia and Kayci.

On our way over to Tilapia, we got stuck in a line of cars that had their 4 way flashers on and were all honking their horns incessantly.

A wedding parade!  Just to humor Stephanie and I, Chris put on our car’s 4 way flashers and honked his horn so we could join in the parade!! 

 I had a glass of chilled white wine at Tilapia (apparently you have to specify that you want your drinks cold here) and Stephanie had a cold Safari Beer.  It was fantastic.  They rest of the party arrived just on time for food, which was delicious.  I had no idea what I ate, but I loved it!!

We returned home full and sleepy, but with no water jugs.

I hope we get water to work out!!