Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Determination

We were invited to attend Thanksgiving potluck at one of the homes here in Moshi.  The Western community is tight and supportive of each other, and the get-togethers are always fun. I was given the task to bring green bean casserole and yams to this event, and I accepted the challenge! Green beans are not hard to get here - we made a trip to the outdoor market in town and got a huge bag (3 kg) of fresh green beans for 3000 shillings, about $2. But the yams...they were a different story. I was determined that our Thanksgiving feast would have candied yams, it's just the perfect food. I decided on yams with a brown sugar crumble topping despite the fact that there's no brown sugar here either. I was going to make it work!
The market stall with the 'yams'
Clean purple yams ready to bake
So we trekked to the market again, on a mission to find yams. I had heard the yams here weren't the yams I would be used to. They only have taro root here, or a purple-skinned yam with white flesh.  I went for the latter, and at the market, an old Tanzanian woman assured me I had got the right thing. She even broke it open, took a bite herself, then handed it to me to try. I just smiled and handed it to Melissa to taste. She politely took a tiny bite.  We bartered for a minute, and I ended up buying 20 yams for 9000 shillings (yikes! that's $6!).

And it was a Thanksgiving miracle - at another shop here, I found a tiny bag of brown sugar American-style for 4500 TSH ($3). I snatched it up. I roasted the sweet potatoes and cut them open hopefully. The taste was very sweet, but the texture was just like a regular potato - starchy and a bit crumbly. The yams that I'm used to at home are a bit creamier and smoother - so I was a little bit worried.  I think they are delicacies here though.  Our house mama Fridah came into the kitchen, and Holly asked her in Swahili "Oh do you like sweet potatoes?" and Fridah eagerly nodded, took a hot one off the pan and bit into it immediately. We were all taken aback! Anyway, we mashed them all up, added the sugar, eggs, milk, and it looked...terrible. Nothing was incorporated very well and it was much soupier than I expected.  These were supposed to be yams for nearly 30 people - so I was getting a tad worried. Nevertheless, we poured it in, put a brown sugar topping on top, and baked it. 

I am happy to report that it turned out absolutely fine - a little dense I think due to the texture of the potatoes, but the taste was great!  Such relief as I brought them over to the potluck and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast!
The final product - yum!!
All mashed and mixed - skepticism setting in!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pedicure in Moshi?

Here in Moshi, there are not salons for nails or hair as there are everywhere in the U.S. Those kinds of luxuries are unheard of here – the people are barely scraping by and their poverty doesn’t allow for frivolous spending (unless it’s on a cell phone, people will go hungry here but leave money to buy a cell phone and minutes for it - go figure).  But the dirt and dust here are beyond insane -- I cannot go 5 feet before I'm covered in dust.  At night sometimes, I'll put on socks to protect me from mosquitoes, and the bottom of those poor socks will be brown instantly.  And that's with a hard-working housegirl who mops daily. You get used to the dust here, it's ubiquitous and everyone deals with it, so we can't gripe too much. But we've been delighted to meet Tracy, a woman who is not afraid to tackle dirty feet and clean them up.  So every once in a while, for $7 USD, we get to have clean feet and painted toenails, and it is heavenly. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ah The Wildlife

Just a normal lunch where a giant stork is stalking us, hungry for a snack.  I've started getting used to the random wildlife around these parts!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roadtrip to the Movies

On a whim last week, I googled “movie theater in Arusha,” having heard there might be a place to see semi-new movies.  First of all, I was surprised that my search even turned up a website, but I was completely amazed to see Skyfall listed on the showtimes for this weekend.  And when I say ‘amazed,’ I mean there was such high-pitched squealing that the dogs started barking. I thought Tanzania was at least 3-4 months behind in the film realm, and to see otherwise was a gift STRAIGHT from Heaven. I’m being completely serious. This girl loves her movies.

Naturally, about nine of us Westerners planned a roadtrip to Arusha on Saturday to see the film. As I thought about it, I honestly wouldn’t have cared if we were seeing Piranha 3DD (the other, more dreadful option at the theater), I was so curious what our experience would be like.

We got to the theater a little early before the movie for a quick lunch.  The courtyard of the cinemas has about 6 different restaurants and as soon as we picked a table, a waiter from each restaurant pushed menus in our face, trying to make sure theirs was on top of the stack. Then they hovered around as we read, pointing their finger at menu items and telling us what we wanted to eat, in their opinions. It was a little crazy, but I’m getting used to a little craziness when it comes to this country.
So many menus to choose from...
We ate and got our tickets – 8000 Tanzanian Shillings each – about $5.50. That’s expensive for locals, seeing as some people pay 30,000 TSH a month for rent. But for us, that’s a bargain, and we were happy to pay it.

Before we got to the theater, we were joking about how the theater could just be a big screen tv and wooden chairs.  Or a tv with a couple couches – we really didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately for us, we found a much better place than we anticipated. The theater itself was small of course, but still the room had 5 rows of 10 regular theater-type seats.  The screen wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t tiny either, and the room had good sound to it. As the movie started, I whispered to Vicki, “Is this still Africa?!?” It felt so different from anyplace else here.

My proof that we saw the movie! Opening credits.
And of course to top it all off – Skyfall was a great film, my favorite of the recent James Bond reboot. That opening sequence was awesome, hooked us all in immediately.  And I love Judi Dench as M, she got so much screen time this film, and the audience got to see her character develop more.  And my final thought on this – Daniel Craig is a great Bond, but as soon as Q (Ben Whishaw) came on screen, all of Bond’s persona had nothing on the cute techie nerd. More Q, less Bond!! =)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Sights Around Moshi

Materuni / Mnambe Waterfall
I am realizing with these posts that I am spoiled with all the things I've been able to see recently! It seems like every weekend we are doing something interesting and seeing great things. Ryan and Stacy are so good to us teachers, they try to give us a good experience being here.  And so far, so good!  I feel like I've seen a lot of the surrounding areas, and it's only been 2 months! If it's been a hard week of teaching, it helps to have something to look forward to on Saturday or Sunday. And while I enjoy teaching, seeing new sights is one of my favorite activities! So I am blessed.

On Sunday we drove up the hills of Moshi about half an hour, through many Chagga villages (a local tribe here) and into a remote area. The roads were dirt and steep and it was a bumpy ride to get to our final destination. It is always fun to wave to the locals and see their curious looks as we go by. Kids are my favorite, when we wave to them, a smile lights up their face, they get so excited, waving back while jumping up and down, or running after our car.  This time the locals were a little unusual -- a lot of little pubs line the road in the Chagga area, it's well known that they Chagga people have a habit of drinking. They brew beer out of millet they grow, or even bananas. It's apparently nasty (haven't tried it! no thanks!) but strong, and has the desired effect of getting them drunk. As we went up the hill, it was only about 3pm but we passed plenty of staggering Chaggas, or pubs with overly friendly drunk Chaggas. The way back home was much worse, I think 75% of the people we saw on the way home were drunk, even the elderly ones making their way home. Sad to think of a whole people group in bondage to alcoholism, and how that cycle will go on and on unless people take a stand against it.

 After quite a bit of intense driving (think the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland but crazier), we reached a hill where we parked, and began our hike to the Materuni waterfall. The locals found this interesting, and our group was followed by about 10 young men and children, who I guess didn't have anything better to do with their afternoon! They did tell us that in Chagga, the waterfall is called Mnambe, meaning 'firstborn,' because 200 years ago or so, the Chagga used to throw their firstborn child off the top of the waterfall, as a human sacrifice to their gods. Yikes...

On that happy note, we hiked to the falls, which took about 30 minutes, and the air was so much cooler than in Moshi, that a 30 minute hike was actually really pleasant and easy. We hiked along the ridge of a valley, from which the view was just incredible. We could see Moshi in the distance, and lots of green hills and little villages in between.  Kilimanjaro was also looming off to the right. It was a great hike, and we passed all kinds of little homes and huts that made me marvel at the fact that people live here, well off the beaten path, and walk such a distance every day to get to 'town'. 

Pre-icy dive
Once at the waterfalls, many people jumped right in, only to find the water so icy it took your breath away! The waterfall was beautiful and inviting, but the cold water made us only want to take a quick dip, before scurrying out to warm up in the sun. But before I knew it, my friends were swimming under the waterfall to climb up on some rocks underneath it. I couldn't resist either, and dove in to swim. When I say icy, I really do mean icy, and it was even difficult for me to take a deep breath while I was in that water. But it was rather refreshing and I enjoyed the experience! It cooled me off for the uphill hike back, which was of course more challenging than the way there.
I made it under the waterfall!
This is me congratulating another
girl on surviving the swim. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moshi's Paradise - The Hot Springs

The first glimpse of the springs

Cool rope swing into the pool
Our recent trip to the Hot Springs right outside Moshi was one of my personal highlights thus far. For such a beautiful place, the Hot Springs are hidden away and unadvertised in Moshi.  No signs line the dirt roads there, you pass through a few little villages, take some crazy turns, pass some Maasai herding cattle and goats, offroad a bit and suddenly you find yourself at a true oasis. Moshi gets increasingly hot as the year comes to an end, and the blistering heat can really sap your energy to do anything. So in the midst of an endless dusty area, the appearance of the cool and shady Springs surprised me.

Now when I say Hot Springs, it doesn't actually mean they were hot. No picture of a jacuzzi should be forming in your mind. Most of the water that flows through Moshi comes from the snow melt or glaciers on top of Mt Kilimanjaro. So swimming in that is beyond cold--even on the hottest day, you would only enjoy a few minutes in that water. The Hot Springs, on the other hand, flow from Kili through some heated underground thermal areas, and come out to be cold and refreshing but not icy.  The water is a perfect temperature for swimming. Just make sure that swimming is done during the daytime only, apparently at night, it is home to many hungry crocodiles.

Look at that water!! Crystal clear!
We swam for hours, enjoying the clear water and shade. The water is clear enough to see all the fish swimming around the bottom -- some of the fish delight in nibbling the dead skin off your feet, which terrified me at first, but I adjusted to the ticklish feeling after a bit. Some parts of the pool have underwater caves that you can peek into when you're swimming around.  But the most fun came from the rope swing into the water, and the overhanging trees which some of our group enjoyed monkeying around and jumping from into the water.  We swam and relaxed until our skin shriveled - had a lunch picnic and then swam some more.  
Lovely ladies enjoying the water!