November 4, 2006

Tanzania, pt. 9

The next day we got up relatively early and had some breakfast at the hotel restaurant (it was included with our room). By this point in time Wes had made friends with almost all of the hotel workers and we discovered that one of the waiters was going to go to Stone Town tomorrow, the same as us, and we arranged to go together the next day.

Then we met Said on the beach to go snorkeling! (Wes had arranged this beforehand). Said brought us to a stand with masks and flippers, and we picked out ones that fit, and then Said guided us to a waiting boat. We climbed onto it and went to pick up the other people who were going to come on Nungwi beach, and then left! It was a gorgeous sunny day, and there was an upper level of the boat that you could climb a ladder to get to, so Wes and I climbed up there with a few others and lay in the sun as we went. I fell asleep for awhile, and woke up to a few people pointing at somewhere in the ocean. I could just make out some small protrusions in the water that, as soon as I saw them, they were gone – dolphins! I didn’t see them very well but it was still pretty cool that we saw them at all.

Soon we arrived near a different beach, and anchored a little bit away from shore. We put on our flippers and got off the boat. I had never been snorkeling before so it took me a little bit of practice to figure out how to breathe correctly with the snorkeling mask, and to adjust it, but then we started. It was…by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. There was so much coral and so many amazing fish. It really was another world from the one I saw when I lifted my face two inches upwards.

Eventually it was time to leave, so we swam back to the boat. I was starting to feel the effects of the ocean anyway – my lips were almost numb they were so salty. As I swam I felt a quick, tiny sharp feeling and then it was gone. A few seconds later another one. I was just saying “Hey I think something stung me or something” when I felt a few more. They were just tiny, tiny little pinpricks, and I couldn’t see ANYTHING in the water, but had a few small red dots on my hands after I got out of the water. Weird. The best I could determine was that they were really, really, REALLY tiny jellyfish.

We didn’t have far to go on the boat until we got to another beach, where we got off the boat and swam ashore to have lunch. The people running the snorkeling expedition had brought fish, which they cooked for us, and also offered some pineapple. I don’t normally like pineapple all that much but this pineapple was GOOD. We ate, and then when we were finished, Wes and I explored the beach a little bit, collecting seashells and being highly entertained by the tiny white crabs. Some were no bigger than my fingernail, while others were about the size of a walnut. All were extremely amusing to watch. They sort of…scuttle…sideways, and have flat little eyes on top of their heads. After awhile Wes started cracking up and pointing at a hole in the sand. He told me to watch another hole, so I did. It took watching a few different likely-looking holes where we found one where a crab scurried out, and then threw sand in the air, then scurried back in. (This was what Wes had seen earlier). I know that might not sound that amusing to you, but to us it was hilarious. We spent the rest of the time on the beach trying to find more crabs to watch dig their holes.

Eventually it was time to go. We had some extra time, and it was a windy day, so instead of using the motor, they unfurled the sail on the boat and we sailed back. Amazing.

When we got back we caught a gorgeous sunset, and walked along the beach a little bit and just enjoyed it, taking a few awesome pictures. We went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner, and I discovered that my hours of laying on the boat napping in the sun had resulted in a fairly decent sunburn; whooops...At night we went to dinner at a different place on the beach. We noticed some people had a table further away from the restaurant actually ON the beach, and requested one too. It was pretty amazing; we ate our dinner under the stars with our feet in the sand.

October 5, 2006

Tanzania - Kendwa Day 2

The next morning we slept in until we woke up on our own, which was wonderful; ¦it was nice just to have no place to be. There was something else significant about this morning - it was July 24, our two year anniversary, and we were on Zanzibar. What could be better than that?

After we got up we decided we would walk back over to Nungwi to buy some bread and peanut butter for lunches for the next couple of days so we didn't have to buy them, as meals on Zanzibar, while still cheap by American or European standards, are a little more expensive than the mainland. This time the tide was still out, so we kicked off our shoes and walked along the beach to get there.

Realizing that for the first time since I'd come to Tanzania we were in a truly and completely touristy place, I walked along the beach in just my pants and a bathing suit top. After five weeks of being careful never to show my shoulders or anything revealing, I even felt a little daring doing it, like I was finally breaking some unwritten law. It felt almost liberating, to say, I don't have to worry about that here, and not to worry about who I might be offending. For the first time in five weeks I reverted back to the rules of my own culture instead of someone else's, that say it's okay to walk in public with your shoulders showing, and definitely okay to walk along a beach in a bathing suit top.

Along the way we saw some pretty cool and random things. First we noted the random crabs on the beach; they were little, and white, and kind of fun to watch. As we walked we picked up a few random shells and pieces of coral to save as souvenirs. At one point we saw a Tanzanian hanging squid up to dry; they had been brought in with the tide and left, and he was taking them, probably to cook or sell.

Probably the most notable thing we saw on the way though was a very large blue jellyfish! It was absolutely huge and floating near the shore. It was extremely cool looking, although it made me very aware of where I placed my feet when we went swimming later.

Halfway there I could no longer stand looking at this beautiful water on this perfect, hot, sunny day, so I took off all but my bathing suit, handed my things to Wes, and ran towards the water and plunged in. One thing I was struck by was how warm it was, without being so warm it was uncomfortable. Amazing. I closed my eyes and dunked my head underwater, then went back to Wes on the beach, refreshed and content now to continue walking.

We got to Nungwi and walked past the souvenir stands and the hotels into the actual town; as we did I reverted back to Tanzanian rules and put my shirt back on. It was like there was some unspoken boundary between the beach and the village, like they were two different worlds despite the fact that they occupied the same corner of the same island. The further into the town we walked the more confused looks we got...I'm pretty sure not many tourists usually venture away from the touristy areas of Zanzibar. We got quite a few stares as we walked, greeted everyone we could, and eventually found someone who was willing to lead us to a place where we were able to find bread. We bought the bread and stopped at another store on the way back to buy some jam and some biscuits.

Afterwards we went back to the beach; again I shed my layers, and we began our walk back. The tide was starting to come in at this point so it was slightly more of a challenge; at some points the beach was entirely covered by water, so at times we lifted what we were carrying above our heads, but it was an enjoyable walk and kind of fun dodging the water.

When we got back to the hotel I looked at my arm and was shocked at what I saw: somehow, in the last three or four hours, I had turned about four shades darker. I knew that we were pretty much on the equator but I guess I just hadn't realized it would have that much of an effect that quickly. I had put on sunscreen, too! I was absolutely amazed at how quickly the sun could act when you were that much directly underneath it.

We ate lunch, and then Wes located a bucket so that we could do laundry, as we hadn't done any since Andrew's house and our clothes were pretty dirty. Laundry in Tanzania is done by putting soap and water in a bucket, then swirling your clothes around in the bucket, just basically agitating the clothes and water as much as you can, like a human washing machine. Then you put the clothes in another bucket (or the same bucket, except refilled) with just plain water and do the same thing, then wring them out with your hands and hang them up to dry. We sat on the porch for a while and read as our clothes dried outside.

Finally went out to the beach to go swimming for real, not just my random dip into the water. The water was perfect. We swam around for awhile, and then just kind of floated near each other. Eventually we got tired and went back to the beach, where we put out some towels and lay and read and enjoyed the sun for awhile. It was one of the first times on the trip that we just sat and relaxed.

We eventually went back to the hotel room and showered and got ready for dinner. We decided to go someplace different for dinner, as there were a lot of nice looking restaurants along the beach. So we walked down the beach (I took off my shoes again - I took them off as much as possible on the beach; the sand felt awesome) to a restaurant we had seen that looked pretty cool earlier. As we walked in, we were handed menus...¦in Euros. We took one look at the prices, blanched, and left to find a different restaurant.

We looked at a few before settling on another one on the beach, had an amazing meal and some wine, then walked back on the beach under the stars. The entire day it took some self restraint to refrain from pinching myself to ensure that this was real - a beautiful beach on a tropical island, with my boyfriend of two years, warmth, soft sand, sounds like I made it up!

October 3, 2006

Tanzania, pt. 7 - getting to Kendwa

We planned to take a dala to the part of the island that we are going to stay at, Kendwa, but that's far easier said than done. The second we got out of the customs area we were bombarded with more taxis and taxi drivers. We walked forward quickly among "Hello rafiki!"'s (“Hello, friend!” – I didn’t trust anyone I didn’t know who called me “rafiki.” It generally meant they wanted something from me) and "Taxi! Taxi!" ourselves repeating, "Hapana, hapana, si etagi (sp?)" (No, no, we don't need), but a few latched onto us and followed.

One guy repeated, "But you can take this minibus, where you are among other tourists only." I looked at him quizzically. "Why on earth would we care about that?" It's sad though, because I'm guessing the reason he used this line is because it's worked in the past. I will never understand how you could really go to a place and see avoiding any and all locals as a good thing. Anyway, after he persisted for awhile, Wes told him to go away in Swahili, and finally he went. One guy actually made a pretty good sell for a...van? minibus?...though, and offered a price that we like, so we said okay. It turned out that he was not the driver of this vehicle but the guy who got customers for this vehicle, so he took us to an area along the street and made a call, which, if we were anywhere but Tanzania, I would see this as highly shady, so I was a little nervous, but Wes reassured me.

As we stood Wes negotiated, and the guy eventually agreed that we could pay almost half of what the other people in the van were paying, with the stipulation that we not TELL the people in the van we were paying that much as that would hurt their business. He was at least very honest about it. Finally the van comes, and we got in, then went to pick up another guy who was also an American, and asked us how much we paid. "I paid 7000, is that what you paid?" "Sure, about that..." Um, yeah...

And we're off. On our way we talked to the guy and he ended up giving Wes a book that he had just read, so that was kind of exciting. Finally we arrived, although apparently there was some miscommunication somewhere, because we were in Nungwi, not Kendwa. While Nungwi is NEXT to Kendwa, and accessible to Kendwa by the beach, it is not exactly where we were told we were going to be, but the driver insisted that was what he was told and that he was staying in Nungwi for the night and so not going back to Kendwa now. So now we had the small problem of getting to Kendwa, the small problem being that the tide was in so we couldn’t get to Kendwa from the beach at this moment.

We did walk over to the beach, and the sight took my breath away. The beach, and the Indian Ocean, is gorgeous. The sand is white, and made from coral, so it's insanely soft. I immediately took off my shoes and carried them, enjoying the feel of walking barefoot in the sand. And the water...the water is clear when you look at it closely, and a gorgeous blue when you look at it from farther away, and beautiful. As we entered the beach, we met a group of local people who were talking/working, and they asked us what we were up to. Wes engaged in conversation with them, and told them our problem. They seemed incredibly surprised and somewhat gratified that Wes spoke Swahili, and soon a man introduced himself as Said, and said he could help us out (which was appropriate, because Said means help in Swahili). He offered to take us over to the other shore in a boat for a small fee, and the fee being reasonable, we agreed, so just sat down to wait for a little while. The boat came, and we got in...The ride over to Kendwa was actually a lot of fun to me; the boat was a speedboat type of boat, and I received a lot of enjoyment from being over the water.

We arrived at Kendwa. Our next order of business was to determine somewhere to stay. We had reservations at one hotel, but we were only able to get reservations there for a night, and we decided we would rather go find somewhere where we could stay for all three. Said said he would help us with that too; Wes asked what he got out of it and Said explained that if he took us to a hotel and we decided to stay there that he got a commission from the hotel owner, so everybody won. Sounded good to us, so off we went.

We were first led to one hotel with a large group of workers sitting on the front porch; the hotel was extremely nice but kind of expensive, and could only guarantee us a room for the first two nights, and then could give us a different room for the third, but not the same one. Wes went to check out the room while I stayed and watched our things. One of the workers initiated conversation and I tried practicing my broken Swahili (they spoke far better English than I spoke Swahili, but I derived more enjoyment out of trying to speak in their language, and so, it seemed, did they). I did my best to explain where we were from and what we were doing here, although a few misunderstandings set them laughing, but not a mean laughter, more a friendly laughter. Overall they were kind of fun to talk to, although I found myself turning sort of red from my lack of understanding a few times. They were helpful in my mistakes though, and we continued to talk until Wes got back. Wes and I talked for a little while; they were highly amused when Wes said he wouldn’t make a decision unless I was okay with it. ("So she is the boss?").

We thought about it, determined that after so much moving around for the past week or two, it'd be really nice to just stay in the same room for three consecutive nights, so go off to look somewhere else. We looked at one or two more places before we found where we ended up staying; it was cheaper, had fairly nice rooms, and would let us stay there all three nights, so that won us over. By this time we were exhausted because we'd been on an early morning ferry, a long van ride, a boat ride, and then walked around an island for ages, so gratefully collapsed for a little while, got clean, and went off in search of food.

We didn't have to walk far - our hotel had its own restaurant on the beach. This was when it really hit me that we were on Zanzibar. The restaurant was outside, covered by a tent type thing, with tables and chairs on the sand. We ended the night eating a really good dinner, with our feet in the sand, looking out onto the beach. Amazing.

Tanzania pt. 6 - trip to Zanzibar

The next morning, luckily, all the insane amounts of sleep I'd been getting started to work for me, and I felt a lot better, still not completely well, but a hundred times better than I had felt the day before. We got up relatively early to catch yet another bus - this time to Dar Es Salaam, so that the next morning, we could catch a ferry to Zanzibar!

The bus ride was insanely long, but I didn't mind all the sitting as I was still feeling kind of out of it. When we got to Dar, we were mobbed by huge numbers of taxi drivers and people who gained commission for finding passengers for taxi drivers, which is pretty standard for the Dar bus stand. One particularly persistent taxi driver somehow got commission from us even after we shrugged him off and went to talk to the taxi drivers by ourselves, which I'm not entirely sure how that worked, but whatever... we finally got a taxi to the YMCA, which was where we were staying (it was a hostel).

We checked into the Y (next time we sing the YMCA song at camp I'll be highly amused), talking to a few random people along the way, and then went to find food. Which brought us to...SUBWAY. There is a Subway in dar. It's not EXACTLY the same, of course, there are a few differences...but overall it's pretty much the Subway we know. They even have the same napkins! And by the same napkins, I mean the EXACT same - there's a customer service number for the US on them. It was kind of expensive for a meal in Tanzania - it was about the same amount of money you'd pay for a meal at Subway in the US - but oh so good. By the time we got back to the Y it was getting kind of late, and, as we had an early morning again the next day, we went to bed.

The next day we set off for Zanzibar! First we had to go buy tickets for a ferry. As soon as you get to the street you are set upon by multiple people working for ferry companies who show you schedules of the ferries and prices and offer to buy your tickets for you. We made our way through these people with much less difficulty than you would think, and got to the ferry company that we wanted. Now, here's the odd part - we had to pay in American dollars for me. How this makes sense, I'm not entirely sure, but since I was not a resident, they would not accept Tanzanian shillings. It still kind of baffles me how a country can refuse to accept its own currency.

Anyway, we walked over to the ferry, had our bags searched before we were allowed to enter (they had security like an airport, sort of - the bag searching was a replacement for the x-ray machine, I'm pretty sure) and then waited around for a long time as they got the boat ready.

One of the things that awed me about the people waiting in line was just the sheer variety of people. You had people who were actually from Tanzania or Zanzibar, people from America, people from other parts of Europe, just...everywhere. Oh, and chickens. That's right, I hear squawking and look over and a person is carrying a chicken as if you might hold a baby.

Finally, we were allowed to board the boat; it was fairly crowded but decently comfortable. So we set off. I listened to music for awhile while Wes got into a conversation with someone from a country in Europe who had actually taught in the Moshi region of Tanzania for a few years, so they compared stories and ideas for awhile while I faded in and out of the conversation, sometimes contributing, sometimes just listening. At one point Wes got up to stretch his legs and came back, telling me I should try going up to the front.

There were some steep stairs at the front of the boat, so I walked up them and discovered a random space at the bow of the bow of the ship. There were already a lot of other people but I found a spot along the rail and closed my eyes. It felt...amazing. I always thought that that moment in Titanic where the girl stands at the bow and says she feels like she's flying was really cheesy and stupid, really DID. There was just this cool, sort of breathless feeling I got while standing there that I couldn't get too much of. I went back downstairs briefly to see if Wes wanted to walk around more since I had left him guarding our things, and to tell him he was right about how cool it was, then, when he said he was all right where he was, I went back upstairs.

This time I talked briefly to a Kenyan. "Hello." I responded, "Mambo." (Kind of like, "what's up?") "Do you speak English?" GRIN. "Yeah, I'm American." "Oooh, okay." We talked a little bit about where we were from and what we were doing, then I found a spot along the front to just sit and enjoy the wind and the feel of movement for as long as I could.

When the boat docked, the craziness began. Coming to Tanzania from England, where they make nice orderly queues for, well, pretty much everything, it was even more so. There was a huge crush of people all trying to get their bags which were all stowed in the same place, then other Tanzanians trying to make a quick buck by helping tourists get their bags off. One of them stepped in and helped us. Wes gave him a tip; the man looked at him and said, "No, it was ___ shillings," naming some outrageous amount. Wes shook his head, and the guy went away. We took our bags and went through customs to get our passports stamped.

We were in Zanzibar!

October 1, 2006

Tanzania Pt. 5 - Lushoto

We got off the bus in Sony, a town near Lushoto where a Peace Corps volunteer named Jen works and teaches. She was working when we got there, so we dropped our things at her house and left to explore a little bit. After such a great experience with the Moshi waterfall, we went in search of the "Sony Waterfall" that we heard was nearby. There was a very cool looking waterfall that we had seen when we first got off the bus, but we didn't think that was it, and even if it was we weren't sure how to get down to it, so we just wandered. Finding very little in the way of direction, though, we found ourselves near some workers and Wes where the waterfall was. Either they didn't completely understand us or the waterfall really WAS the waterfall we saw when we got into town, but they directed us downwards and we found ourselves at the bottom of the waterfall we'd seen upon arriving. It was larger than the Moshi waterfall but not quite as cool, but it was still nice to get a little bit of alone time and just sit by the waterfall for a little while. With all the moving around, alone time had been sort of lacking, so it was nice to just sit and enjoy each other's company for awhile.

We sat by the waterfall for a little bit and then wandered back to Jen's, where we sat and talked for a little while. While we were making dinner I started feeling extremely sick, so wasn't very helpful with the dinner making. We had dinner and I felt a little better and we just sat around and talked for awhile, played Dominos and listened to music. It was a very chill night but it was nice. Went to early because I still wasn't feeling well.

The next morning, I felt awful. I got up and ate a bit and then went back to bed. We tried taking my temperature with some tempa-dot things, but discovered they weren't good anymore when one said my temperature was 93 and the other said my temperature was 105.8, which, as I was conscious and still alive, made us figure that neither was correct. So much for those. Finally we located an actual thermometer, with which we discovered my temperature to be around 101, which made far more sense. Regardless of what it was, I still felt like crap, so spent most of the day sleeping and/or lying down.

Then we had to figure out what to do about our stuff. Half of our things were still at Andrew's, which was a dala ride and a five kilometer walk away. I felt shaky just standing up, let alone walking five kilometers uphill and carrying a backpack and a shoulder bag, and the original plan had been to go pick up our things at Andrew's and then go to Lushoto.

Wes solved the problem by being wonderful and going to collect our stuff himself, and I went to Lushoto with Jen on a dala.

Meanwhile, Jen hadn't been feeling well for awhile either, and she called the Peace Corps office and they told her to go get tested for malaria in Lushoto. She met Josh in Ness's house (the girl who we were visiting in Lushoto) and he went with her to the hospital to get tested, and I...slept some more. Finally, Wes and Andrew got there, and Wes expressed his wishes that I would go and get tested too.

To put him (and my family) at ease, I agreed to go, and we walked to the hospital. Upon arrival, we were told that they had just closed, but Wes again did whatever he did the whole time we were there to make random people help us, and they agreed to test me anyway. There was an extremely nice nurse there who told me exactly what she was doing at every point - well, she told Wes, and Wes translated - explained what she was looking for in my blood, and even let us look through the microscope ourselves. No malaria. Blood looks cool through a microscope, though.

As we left, all the doctors were sitting on the porch outside the building. We asked them whether or not we needed to register and asked how much we owed them. Looking around and determining that the person who usually dealt with that wasn't there, they decided that was too much trouble and just let us go without paying or registering. Score!

Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the people who were visiting Lushoto, bought some supplies for dinner, and came back to make it. I, again, went to sleep, and woke up feeling okay enough to socialize for awhile. We played a game of Texas Hold 'em, which was fun. I ended up coming in second, and in the middle of it we had some amazing spaghetti.

I also took a "shower." Sort of. There actually WAS no shower, since there was no running water, but I took a bucket bath with some heated up water, which was entertaining, although afterwards I couldn't stop shivering. Seriously. It was ridiculous; my entire body was shaking. I went to bed early, while everyone else watched a movie.

September 26, 2006

Tanzania Pt. 5 - Lushoto

We got off the bus in Sony, a town near Lushoto where a Peace Corps volunteer named Jen works and teaches. She was working when we got there, so we dropped our things at her house and left to explore a little bit. After such a great experience with the Moshi waterfall, we went in search of the "Sony Waterfall" that we heard was nearby. There was a very cool looking waterfall that we had seen when we first got off the bus, but we didn't think that was it, and even if it was we weren't sure how to get down to it, so we just wandered. Finding very little in the way of direction, though, we found ourselves near some workers and Wes where the waterfall was. Either they didn't completely understand us or the waterfall really WAS the waterfall we saw when we got into town, but they directed us downwards and we found ourselves at the bottom of the waterfall we'd seen upon arriving. It was larger than the Moshi waterfall but not quite as cool, but it was still nice to get a little bit of alone time and just sit by the waterfall for a little while. With all the moving around, alone time had been sort of lacking, so it was nice to just sit and enjoy each other's company for awhile.

We sat by the waterfall for a little bit and then wandered back to Jen's, where we sat and talked for a little while. While we were making dinner I started feeling extremely sick, so wasn't very helpful with the dinner making. We had dinner and I felt a little better and we just sat around and talked for awhile, played Dominos and listened to music. It was a very chill night but it was nice. Went to early because I still wasn't feeling well.

The next morning, I felt awful. I got up and ate a bit and then went back to bed. We tried taking my temperature with some tempa-dot things, but discovered they weren't good anymore when one said my temperature was 93 and the other said my temperature was 105.8, which, as I was conscious and still alive, made us figure that neither was correct. So much for those. Finally we located an actual thermometer, with which we discovered my temperature to be around 101, which made far more sense. Regardless of what it was, I still felt like crap, so spent most of the day sleeping and/or lying down.

Then we had to figure out what to do about our stuff. Half of our things were still at Andrew's, which was a dala ride and a five kilometer walk away. I felt shaky just standing up, let alone walking five kilometers uphill and carrying a backpack and a shoulder bag, and the original plan had been to go pick up our things at Andrew's and then go to Lushoto.

Wes solved the problem by being wonderful and going to collect our stuff himself, and I went to Lushoto with Jen on a dala.

Meanwhile, Jen hadn't been feeling well for awhile either, and she called the Peace Corps office and they told her to go get tested for malaria in Lushoto. She met Josh in Ness's house (the girl who we were visiting in Lushoto) and he went with her to the hospital to get tested, and I...slept some more. Finally, Wes and Andrew got there, and Wes expressed his wishes that I would go and get tested too.

To put him (and my family) at ease, I agreed to go, and we walked to the hospital. Upon arrival, we were told that they had just closed, but Wes again did whatever he did the whole time we were there to make random people help us, and they agreed to test me anyway. There was an extremely nice nurse there who told me exactly what she was doing at every point - well, she told Wes, and Wes translated - explained what she was looking for in my blood, and even let us look through the microscope ourselves. No malaria. Blood looks cool through a microscope, though.

As we left, all the doctors were sitting on the porch outside the building. We asked them whether or not we needed to register and asked how much we owed them. Looking around and determining that the person who usually dealt with that wasn't there, they decided that was too much trouble and just let us go without paying or registering. Score!

As we left, all the doctors were sitting on the porch outside the building. We asked them whether or not we needed to register and how much we owed them. Looking around and determining that the person who usually did that wasn't there, they decided that it was too much trouble and just let us go. Score!

September 25, 2006

Tanzania pt. 4 - Amani cont'd.

The next morning we woke up on our own, had breakfast, and relaxed at Thomas's house for a little while on his porch waiting for one of his neighbors to bring over a rooster. We got our first glimpse of Amani in the daylight - pretty. When it became apparent the guy was a no show, we left for a hike through Amani. About five minutes after we started our hike we saw a chameleon! He had two horns so apparently he's fairly rare, too, which is kind of cool. We spent awhile looking at the chameleon, and laughed at its slow, leaf like progress across the road. Seriously, chameleons are insanely slow. They test each step before actually taking it so they look kind of like a physical representation of a skipping record, or maybe just an animal that's REALLY uncertain of if it truly wants to go the way its going. "Here we go, wait no, hang on, well yeah okay, okay left foot, wait, hang on, oh okay..." We determined that it probably helps it blend in better when it�s actually in the grass or near trees, but on the road it just looked funny. When it finally got to the grass we watched its colors change a little bit before moving onwards.

After that pretty cool start to the hike, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. We made our way into the forest and across a river, and just kind of enjoyed the sights and sounds of the forest. Rainforests are COOL. I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually in one. And then, just in case I was uncertain, we saw a monkey! It was REALLY high up so you couldn't see a lot of details, but still insanely cool. There were also so many amazingly vivid flowers and some really cool trees that spanned greater than our heights. We found the end of the trail, which ended on a fairly high point where you could see flatter, unforested land far was gorgeous. As we turned around to make our way back we saw a walking stick insect, a little green guy that blended in at first with the leaves.

When we got back we stopped in town and had dinner, and then I bought a kanga from one of the shops, which is a large piece of rectangular cloth with a design and some writing on it that women in Tanzania wear around their waist, over their shoulders, and even carry babies in! The shop owner seemed really happy that I liked them, and I actually understood what she was saying to me, which made me happy as well. Went back to Thomas's house and I took a shower. This may not seem like that significant of an event but not everywhere in Tanzania has hot showers and it was kind of cold outside as it was, so it was a COLD shower. Not just cold like a the-hot-water-just-ran-out type of cold, but cold as in...BRRR. Made me kind of glad that we spent so many mornings jumping in the lake at camp. But, clean, refreshed, and wide awake, I went back in the house and we talked for awhile, sitting on Thomas's porch. While we were on the porch one of Thomas's neighbors brought us over some sugar cane and cloves! The sugar cane was interesting. If you've ever had sugar cane before, basically what you do is cut the top with a knife, then peel the outer layer down a little bit, and then...gnaw. There's a sweet, sugary juice inside that tastes pretty good, so it was fun for awhile, but after awhile I began to feel like I was eating wood. It was a good experience though. Then we all watched a movie on Wes's laptop before going to bed.

The next morning we woke up early to go back to Muheza, then Lushoto. The ride back to Muheza was decidedly more pleasant than the ride away from it. The drivers remembered Wes and me and had saved us seats in front, so we had actual leg room and could take the three hour ride in relative comfort. On the way back we ran into the two travelers we had seen (and said goodbye to as they took the earlier dala) two days before, and led them to the bus station since we were all going to Lushoto. I had a window seat and so had fun ignoring (studiously ignoring, as they're PERSISTENT) and conversing with the various people selling things by turns. On to Sony.

September 19, 2006

Tanzania pt. 3 - Amani

Okay I will finish writing about this trip, even though it's getting further and further this point it sometimes seems like it never even happened. Like it was all some strange, amazing dream that I made up in my head. But it did happen, and I'll keep writing for the record of it.

We left Andrew's site extremely early in the morning, hiked a few kilometers to catch a bus going to a town that was close to Amani (I forgot what it was called). It was an extremely crowded bus and it looked like we were going to have to stand the whole time, but someone beckoned to me towards the beginning of the ride and I got a seat in the front; not too much leg room or anything but I had a seat, which was nice. (Wes wasn't so fortunate; he did stand for most of it). We arrived early afternoon and signed up for seats on a dala dala to take us up the mountain on a three hour ride to get to Thomas (the peace corps volunteer we were visiting there)'s site. We had lunch and then came back to wait by the dala stand. And wait. It turned out there was something wrong with the van that we were going to take, and they spent a long time fixing it. Finally, some really nice people offered us a bench on their porch, so we sat there, even used their bathroom, and...waited some more. Meanwhile, we met some other people who were traveling to Amani as well, who had arrived later and signed up for a different dala. We watched them come, and leave, as we continued to wait. I made friends with a few local kids who seemed highly amused with the fact that I spoke some limited Swahili, which was fun at first although after awhile I began to feel like a zoo attraction... I was sort of playing peek-a-boo/hide and seek with this one 8 year old girl, and then I talked to her and she screamed and hid, but then finally started talking to me a little bit after I asked her if she was afraid (with some help from Wes on the Swahili for that one). Shortly after she ran away and came back with a friend; I greeted her and ask her name and where she was from, she answered and then both girls screamed and hid. Shortly after THAT, they left and brought a THIRD girl. After I exhausted what little Swahili I knew, they got bored and left, and I started feeling ridiculously tired.

Several hours later, the dala was finally fixed. But still, they wouldn't let people in. First, they loaded the stuff. Beer, sacks of food, etc., it all went in there, both in the trunk and on the floor. FINALLY they let people in. We said goodbye and thank you to the people whose porch we'd been sitting on basically all day, and walked over to the dala. Wes and I discovered our seats were in the very back, and there was stuff both on our seats and underneath them. Some guy said "sit;" Wes and I looked around somewhat frustratedly and said, "WAPI?" (Where?). Finally, they moved some of the stuff, so that there were no longer any things on our seats, but there was absolutely NO leg room. The next seat was about two inches in front of ours, and there was stuff on the ground, and nowhere to put our feet. I ended up figuring out some odd, cramped position in which one foot was in a small hole and the other leg rested on top of the first leg and my backpack rested on top of THAT, and we were off. Fifteen minutes later, we got a flat tire.

Wes and I got out of the van, unable to sit where we were for very long, and paced around outside. They fixed the tire, and everyone started into the van again. I stared at it. "Wes, I CAN'T sit there again." Wes began some fast talking with the workers in the van, gesturing to where they were expecting us to sit. Some of the Tanzanians looked and you could see even they were suppressing some sort of amusement at our seats, because they were pretty ridiculous.

The van driver said something and people moved around a bit. Now I was in the middle of another row, and Wes was sitting behind the driver, leaning forward at an odd angle. We started off again. And the trunk popped open, spilling sacks out of the back. We stopped again.

Four men and I got out to help put things back in the trunk. When I got back, my space in THAT bench had shrunk to about half its original size as the guy next to me claimed more room than he should have had, and the woman next to me was a very large mama with a baby and her knees about as far apart as possible. Two hours or so later I'd lost all feeling in one of my legs and was starting to contract a headache. We made another stop, and I got off to try to regain feeling in my legs. Wes and I decided to try switching seats. It was slightly better in that it was a new position than the one I'd been in for the past two hours, but not much; it mainly just meant that my legs were burning in NEW places now. I glanced over and grinned a little; Wes had in no uncertain terms designated HIS space, and the guy who was intruding on mine the whole time looked decidedly less comfortable. I learned later that that's probably what I should have done in the first place, but was kind of stupid about it.

About a half an hour before we arrived at Thomas's site, the people in the front got out, and Wes and I moved in. Ahhh. I regained feeling in my legs.

It was dark by the time we arrived, and Thomas came to meet us. Somewhere along the lines Wes had made friends with the dala drivers, and told them we would be returning in two mornings. Thus ended the worst public transportation ride I've ever had in my life. But it was worth it...we were now in an actual rainforest.

Thomas bought us some sodas and led us to his house, served us dinner, generally took really good care of us. We talked a bit and went to bed fairly early, as Wes and I were both exhausted.

August 24, 2006

Okay, making progress. I really want to write about this. Not only because I want to have a record about it to remember, and I want to share, but also because I've had so many new experiences and things going on within the past seven months that basically everything I've done is sort of in this huge knot or jumble in my mind. There's just SO much information in my head I can't really make sense of it all, and writing about it seems to be helping me organize it a bit. Anyway.

After the party at Clarissa's site we made dinner (fried rice and egg rolls! The egg rolls were amazing) and played Scrabble! The next day we left Clarissa's site and met a bunch of other peace corps volunteers for lunch in Moshi itself, then the other volunteers all left and it was just Wes and me again. We got a hotel in Moshi and stayed for two nights. It was nice; we spent some time exploring, and some time just relaxing, talked to some people, got my khangas sewn, went to a pretty cool rooftop bar...the rooftop bar was funny because we were the only people there that night, so we ended up having a fairly in depth conversation with some of the workers there about schools in America and various other topics. Moshi was also pretty good for my Swahili; I took every chance I got to speak it a little bit and I think improved a small amount. I like learning languages, and I like being able to understand - and contribute - to what's going on around me, and I also liked being able to show the Tanzanians that I had made an effort to understand THEIR language and culture instead of just assuming they'd know mine. I never learned all that much - six weeks, while it seems long, is sort of short for learning an entire language, even if you ARE immersed in it - but I was proud of myself for learning what I did.

The part that amused me most in Moshi, though, was when we went to get one of my kangas sewn by these two young women, probably around my age. They talked with us for awhile as they sewed and were fairly amused by us. Then Wes told them that I was his fiance (they don't really have a highly appropriate word for "girlfriend" that doesn't connotate "lover" so we figured we'd go with mchumbe instead) and one of the girls giggled and asked the equivalent of, "Do you want another?" Wes paused. "Uh...I have one." "Yes but do you want another?" Wes then explained that in America, you only have one, which sent them into gales of laughter.

After Moshi we took another bus to another village near Lushoto to visit another volunteer, Andrew. The bus dropped us off a couple of miles away from his village, since it was kind of small, so we walked up the mountain with our stuff. The walk, while kind of long and hot, was also pretty funny. We were greeted by sooo many people, and at one point there was this entire group of Tanzanian women all just standing there waving at us enthusiastically and all talking at once; I wish I could have taken a picture. And when we actually got to the site, the headmaster gave us sodas, and on the way back to Andrew's house, we attracted a following of a few children. Literally a following; they followed us almost all the way back to Andrew's house, and at one point started giggling and imitating the way I walked. It was hilarious. Cooked dinner at Andrew's house, and played Scrabble again, hehe.

The next day we stashed our stuff at Andrew's house and left early to go to Amani, which is a rainforest in the northeastern part of Tanzania. I'll write more about that later...

August 23, 2006

Tanzania trip, pt 1

So, Tanzania. I keep promising I'm going to write about it and it keeps getting further and further away from the date I actually came home, so I'd better do it soon before I forget things.

For our trip, we spent the first night in Morgoro, then the next day took a LONG bus ride to a town near Moshi where a peace corps volunteer named Alex lived. We ended up on a sort of shady bus; it was a perfectly okay bus ride but at various points in time they had everyone in the back of the bus get up, walk to the middle or the front, and then crouch down. Wha? Other than that it was a fairly uneventful, seven hour bus ride, just sat and listened to music for most of it. Arrived in Moshi and were immediately swarmed by people; Wes somehow managed to make friends with them all in about ten seconds, then they helped us get on a dalla (the public's like a large van almost into which they cram as many people as possible before going to their destination) where there was room for both us and our stuff, and even shooed away a crazy man for us. The whole scenario was somehow ridiculous, but made me laugh.

Alex's site was pretty cool; the next day Wes and I visited an amazing waterfall that was within walking distance of the site. It was interesting because it was really the first place I saw in Tanzania that wasn't Dar or Morogoro, and I had sort of grown used to the way things were in Morogoro. It's a lot more touristy in Moshi because Mt. Kilimanjaro is really close (unfortunately, we didn't get to see the top - it was too cloudy), and we noticed the effects pretty quickly. Everyone said "Jambo" when they saw us, which isn't actually what Tanzanians say to each OTHER, just what they say to the white tourists, and "Hello rafiki!" (friend), and "Hakuna matata" (which they ALSO don't say - they say it in Kenya; in Tanzania they say other things). It was weird. I don't understand why you would purposefully dilute your own language for the sake of the tourists. There definitely seem to be a lot of things in their culture that have either changed or developed because of tourists. I don't know what to think of that. There are so many things that can be said, both good and bad, of tourism. I think ultimately it's a good thing, obviously - I WAS a tourist there, so I can't exactly criticize the other tourists, but... I think that it can help break down stereotypes and better educate people about the world, but on the other hand, it can also CREATE stereotypes. So I guess the question is what's the good kind of tourist? How do you make sure that you make a positive impact instead of a negative one? Is it even possible to be sure of that?

Anyway, getting off topic a little...the waterfall was amazing, as I said; I posted some pictures...we went down this crazily steep path to get to it. The guide gave us walking sticks at the beginning and I didn't understand why I would need a walking stick, but I was extremely glad I took it once we started going down...we spent some time at the bottom just admiring the waterfall, then we were all ready to go when the guide asked if we wanted to go across to the other side of the river, which of course we did! That was probably my favorite part actually; we kicked off our shoes and walked across the rocks to get to the other side; it was Some inner child in me still loves walking across rocks in water for some reason. We even could have gone swimming - the guide offered to show us the area where we could - but it wasn't very hot outside and we would have had to walk about a mile in wet clothes afterwards through a lot of areas with people, so we opted out of that one.

That night we went to Clarissa (Alex's girlfriend, another peace corps volunteer)'s site, and as we got there they were having a party! Not Clarissa; her school - they had just had some British students come and build them a classroom, and the students were leaving, so they threw a party for them, and we got to go at the tail end of it. It was a really cool experience. There was music on and everyone was dancing and I even had a teacher there decide she was going to be my friend, lol. It was definitely something I don't think I EVER would have experienced had I just gone there without going to see a peace corps volunteer. I was really amused by the music selection though...sort of regular African music, and then Celine Dion, and then Shaggy! ?!!? The teachers were even singing along to that one!

K, I'm going to leave that for now, I'll come back later, at least I've made a start!

August 1, 2006


So yeah, I'm jet lagged...woke up around forty five minutes ago or so and couldnt' get back to sleep. But that probably has something to do with the fact that I slept for about five hours after getting home, was up for around four, and then went back to bed at eight. But can you blame me? I was travelling for about 37 hours. Who WOULDNT sleep a lot after that? Probably the weirdest thing though is having Jessy come home for the night about twenty minutes after I wake up. Seeing as she brought in the newspaper when she got in though, I'm not sure whose sleep schedule is the strangest.

The trip home was okay...really long, as you may have guessed. Flew into Heathrow Airport from Dar, arrived about 4:30, and met Helen...then Helen was amazing and camped out in the airport with me until it was time for my checkin for my eight am flight the next morning. I have said it before and I will say again that I have awesome friends. It was such a strange thing to see the entire airport shut down and then wake up again. Then hopped on another airplane and flew home, met my parents at the airport, came home and slept.

The remainder of our trip was amazing, although I will write about it later at a more normal time of day. Saying goodbye to Wes again was...hard. Of course. And getting home was weird. It's good to be home but I'm really disoriented. I think I'm on sort of an emotional lockdown at the moment; I'd like to be excited about being home but I just feel kind of zoned-outness. Yes I realize zoned-outness is not a word. It's five in the morning, give me a break.

Anyway. I figure once my sleep patterns return to a semi normal state I should feel normal again as well. I did miss home. Seven months is a long time to be away. I am looking forward to seeing the friends I haven't seen for that long, although you might need to give me a day or two to feel human again.

Back to sleep, maybe? Not yet. Soon though.

Trying to figure out if I have time within the next two weeks to visit camp...

July 14, 2006

Beginning of our trip

I didn't get that much time to write the last time I was online, spent all my time uploading pictures. :P But it was worth it, so that's okay. Anyway. I'm doing really well. Two days ago was the first day of Wes's leave time, so after Wes finished crazy amounts of grading chem exams, we got a ride to Morogoro and spent the night, and the next day we hopped on a bus to Marangu, a town near Moshi (which is by Mount Kilamanjaro - unfortunately it's too cloudy to see the mountain from here at the moment) to visit another peace corps volunteer. The bus was, well, entertaining...not a bad bus ride, but mildly shady - on two seperate occasions they had everyone in the back of the bus get up and move to the front in the middle of the aisle, and ???

But other than that everything was pretty normal, and we got to Marangu without much event...oh, here's something - when you get off buses here (in Tanzania), you are usually swarmed by people who want to give you a taxi ride, or direct you where to go, or sometimes sell you food, water, or completely random things like wooden spoons... anyway, we were surrounded by lots of people at the dala stand who were eager to tell us where we had to go and find out more about us; Wes somehow managed to charm them all. Seriously. I don't cease to be amazed by his ability in this country to make everyone around him almost instantly like us.

One person was talking to me a bit, and I discovered that despite the fact that I know enough swahili at this point to at least get through the beginnings of a conversation and impart basic information about myself and Wes, when actually having a conversation all knowledge goes out the window. I can understand at least the general subject line of what people are asking me, but when actually asked to respond it's ridiculous. The guy asked how many weeks I'd been in Tanzania and I couldn't even remember the word for three; I had to sit there for a few seconds counting on my fingers going moja...mbili...tatu! "Tatu!" Not to mention that I know how to say "He is a teacher" and "I am visiting" but instead all I managed was to point at Wes and say "Mwalimu" (teacher) and myself and say "Mgeni" (visitor). Yeah...welcome to the world of Tarzan. I might as well have said "Me Christina." *shakes head* But on the up side, some other guy was talking to us on the way to the teacher's college where Wes's friend lives, and Wes sat silent and let me talk for awhile, and I managed to speak in coherent sentences that time, so maybe I'm not hopeless after all. :P

Anyway, so yesterday we were travelling for most of day, so just kind of chilled out at Alex's house (the peace corps volunteer) and talked for a bit. I like Marangu, its a definite different feel than Morgoro, and the air is different, so it actually feels like we travelled somewhere. I like it. It's very pretty (not that Morgoro isnt, just pretty in a different way); there's a stream nearby with all sorts of tropical looking trees; I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. Today I think we're going to just relax a bit...our plans are kind of relaxed for the next week or so, but I'll keep you posted if I can. Just letting you know I'm doing well, if you were wondering. :)

July 4, 2006

Fourth of July in a country that doesn't celebrate it

Wow! Okay so I finally get a chance to sit down and write a little bit. This past week and a half has gone really well, with the exception of the lack of power all last week, but that wasn't a HUGE deal, just mildly annoying. I've been taking in a LOT and had a lot to process; this really is an amazing experience. (Not just because I get to see Wes. :P Although that's definitely the best part). But anyway. I'm not entirely sure where to start. I guess I could explain the last pictures I posted. Last Monday we had dinner over at the Igosha house, both the wife and the husband are teachers at Mzumbe Secondary. It was really nice; Mama Igosha was amazingly friendly and even showed me how to tie a khanga (finally!) which is what I am wearing in the picture. It never occured to me just how versatile a large piece of cloth could be. Seriously. Women use them for so much here. Skirts, dresses, shirts, shawls, they even tie them a certain way to hold their babies on their backs. Craziness. Plus I felt like people in Morogoro were a lot friendlier to me when I was wearing one. Not that they were UNfriendly before, just...friendlier. I like at least making the effort to show that I'm trying to respect the culture here. Same with the language. Although it's funny. People seem to vary between being surprised I know words like "hello" and "thank you" after being here for two and a half weeks, and seeming shocked that I'm not yet completely fluent in the language.

Anyway, Tuesday and Wednesday were good, Wednesday we played scrabble again with Wes's teacher friends (this time III won! It was really, really close though. Wes and I were neck and neck the whole time. And then we played again the next day and Wes beat me again. Rar. Just wait until next time! ) Thursday Mukama, Rugora, and Gosbert (the teachers) came back and came bearing meat, fried bananas, and drinks! They brought us dinner to welcome me to Tanzania. It was an absolutely amazing night. Everyone talked, and then we played this game where everyone wrote down questions to ask everyone else, not unlike questions in a fishbowl from camp or ASB, but sparked a two hour or so long, really good conversation. It was great.

The next day was amazing but for a completely different reason. We went into Morogoro and ended up going spur of the moment to this party at this guy Joel's house. (Joel isn't Tanzanian, I'm not sure what nationality he is, he works for a tabacco company). It was like a completely different world. Lots of rich people, hardwood floors, tons of food and , dancing...I had a really good time but I couldn't help being struck by the fact that it felt like we were lightyears away from Morogoro and Mzumbe even though we were IN Morogoro and only about a thirty minute drive away from Mzumbe. Anyway, Joel was really nice and even let us spend the night when it started getting late, and fed us awesome leftovers in the morning. :P

This week has been pretty good too, the power came back on, Wes has had a bit more free time, and we took a walk up the foothill of a mountain around sunset yesterday, which was amazing. (Pictures below)

Throughout everything I've been having more and more really interesting conversations; the culture's so different here. At the same time, I'm thinking that I'm pretty sure it's possible to feel at home anywhere. Cultures can be different but I think people are the same; you're always going to have the generous and the selfish, the outgoing and the shy, the rich and the poor, the kind and the rude, etc., and I think maybe it's possible to make friends anywhere if you can communicate. :)

June 24, 2006

Week 1 in Tanzania

So, by tomorrow I will have been in Tanzania a week. I'm so glad I'm doing this. I am taking in so much and filing away in my head so many things to think about when I'm done processing all of this at a later date.

I'm working on learning some Swahili; I'm not doing too badly so far. I'm much less shy and more confident when I have at least a vague knowledge of what's going on around me, so I'm trying to learn as much as possible. I think I'm learning far faster here than I would in a classroom setting; there's definitely something to be said about learning by being placed IN the setting. I think I may have learned more swahili in the first week here than I learned french in my first month of french classes in high school. Then again its all still very tentative, but I'm doing my best, and people seem to appreciate that I'm making an effort at all. I'm also discovering that, although most people at wes's school speak english, they don't tend to understand me if I just talk normally. I talk to fast and, well, American. So I've been trying to slow down my speech a little bit and put more emphasis on consonants and using less contractions like Wes has been doing, but it's pretty funny, because then I get into a habit of doing that and then I end up talking to Wes like that as well. It goes the other way too though; when I start getting into a conversation I forget and start talking normally again, and then I find whoever I'm talking to sort of pause and stare at me for a second. Oops.

I've had some extremely, extremely interesting conversations with people so far. I had one very long conversation with a teacher (and later on two teachers) at Wes's school about teaching and educational systems; the pros and cons of teaching, the difficulties, whether it is better to have a more or less specialized educational system, and even talked a little about being far away from home. It was very cool to hear some of this teacher's perspectives. The beginning and end of the conversation was highly interesting to me, though. We were in the teacher's lounge and Wes was leaving to go to the computer lab; the teacher asked Wes if I could be allowed to stay and talk with him for awhile. (In English, and I was there. This keeps happening, and is bizarre. Wes's response was "its not up to me, its up to her," of course.) Anyway, the conversation was wrapping up, and Wes came back, and we were about to leave, and the teacher thanked Wes for "allowing" me to stay and talk with him. He kind of laughed and said he had nothing to do with it; it was my choice, and the teacher said, "Yes, but had you commanded her to go to the computer lab with you, she would have gone, wouldnt she?" He was highly surprised to hear both of us say that no, Wes would never order me to do anything, and if he ever started, instead of me following his commands, we probably wouldnt be dating anymore. I think we confuse people a little as a couple. Anyway, it sparked another fifteen minutes or so talking about gender equality; it was a really good conversation.

Had another interesting conversation yesterday; a student came into the computer lab where Wes and I were and said he wanted to ask Wes some questions about America. (I ended up joining in the conversation as well.) His first question was why everyone is rich in America, and upon being told that no, everyone is not rich in america, there are poor people there too, he wanted to know why there were poor people and rich people and whether it was God's doing or what the difference between the people were. The conversation spanned from inequality to diversity to differences between cultures to a lot of other things; it was fascinating both to hear these questions and try and think of how I would respond to them.

Outside of things I am learning, I saw some monkeys today! That made me smile. Just on the roof of some building, and in a tree. How cool is that?

June 21, 2006

I'm in WHERE?

Leaving England was so strange. The last night Helen, Tom, and Gareth all slept in my room, hehe. Saying goodbye, driving was weird. It's bizarre that there's a place I called home for the last five months, a specific group of people I hung out with for the last five months, and now I dont know when I'm going to see that place or if I'll ever be with that entire group of people again. (I'm most certainly going to see a few of them again, but whether I'll ever see them all at once again I'm not sure). The feeling was like leaving camp at the end of the summer times a thousand. I can't describe how much my flatmates did for me this past semester. They are truly amazing people and I hope you get to meet them someday if you haven't. You probably will; I don't plan on losing touch. :P

But feelings were mixed...once I finally got on the plane I started letting myself get excited. (I was trying not to let myself get excited before then; it would have been too difficult). I saw a beautiful sunset on the way, and even managed to get a few fifteen-minute intervals of sleep. It was hard towards the end of the flight, as when it got to about three hours away, three hours seemed sooo short comparitively speaking to how long we've been away from each other, but still kind of a long time to be really excited and have nothing happen.

But now...I'm in Tanzania. Seriously. That is INCREDIBLY weird to type. I'm HERE. And it only took a five and a half hour bus ride, six hours of waiting around in the airport, and a ten hour plane ride! Woohoo! (And then a two-three hour bus ride from dar to morogoro, then lunch in Morogoro, then another twenty minute car ride to Mzumbe...but that was with Wes so it's okay). Waiting in line for my visa was agonizing, as I knew Wes was right outside, but ooh it was so nice to see him again. It's amazing. And perfect. I missed him. Nine months is a LONG time. But now it feels kind of like we were never apart at all. It just feels so...normal.

So, Tanzania. Where do I start? I'm taking in sooo much so it's hard to process a little bit. Wes's site is gorgeous. We watched the sun set over the mountains the first night here; it's so cool to see mountains out the window of Wes's house. And then the stars were very pretty last night as well, although very strange; I've never been in the southern hemisphere before - it's weird not to recognize any of the constellations!

Hm, what else, the people. Everyone's been EXTREMELY nice so far. They all seem very happy to meet me and okay with the fact that I don't really speak Swahili. I'm working on learning, slowly, but so far most of my vocabulary is limited to Thank you, welcome, clean, (yeah they say clean in response to a lot of things here, its kinda funny), peacefully, you, and later, hehe. Luckily most people around here seem to speak English so it's all well and good. It's crazy to hear Wes speak swahili! I'm not used to hearing him talk and having absolutely no idea what he's saying. I'm really proud of him for it though. :P He's not going to brag about himself so I'll do it for him: so far I've seen him talk to people, interact, cook, be in the market, teach, work in the computer lab, and he's doing awesomely in every respect. *grin* I'm happy to have a boyfriend who's so adaptable and awesome at what he does, and everyone here seems to respect and like him. :)

Wes's neighbors have already had us over to dinner and are extremely nice, and one of the English teachers said that I could come in and observe her class. (Actually she was prepared to let me TEACH her class but I said I didnt think I was exactly ready for that. The conversation took a turn when she said "What book would you be interested in teaching?" "WHA? Hold up...") The headmaster seems thrilled that I'm here and even invited me to come eat lunch with all the teachers during the teachers meeting, and Wes's friends that I've met were amazingly friendly.

Although the friendliness is a little odd sometimes too. Everyone seems to know who I am on sight. It's a strange feeling. And kind of disconcerting at times. And meeting everyone can be a little intimidating. I got applauded when I walked into chai in the teacher's lounge! WEIRD. And then I sat in on a teacher's meeting, and the headmaster asked if I wanted to say a few words. Actually, he asked WES if I could say a few words, which was strange, the gender thing is a definite cultural difference that is very strange to me. Gender equality isnt quite there at the moment, as I've noticed in a few different situations, although mainly through observing others, not really through attitudes towards myself. Anyway, I said basically, hi, my name's Christina, thank you for welcoming me, I am happy to be here...and then promptly knocked over a plate. Oy. Smooth, Christina, really smooth.

The teacher's meeting was really interesting. I have tons of thoughts on it but I dont know if I'm going to write them all at the moment. Although the meeting was very long. I wasn't there for all of it, I left a few times. Already I think this trip is going to help me a lot as far as my educational viewpoints go. It's definitely a good experience to have and some good knowledge to pick up. If you want my thoughts on it, ask me.

Anyway. I have tons more I can write but I think I'll save it for a later date; I'm trying to do too much catch-up on this computer at the moment. But if you're wondering, I'm happy, in love, and doing great.

June 10, 2006

Ups and Downs

World Cup Match: England, 1; Paraguay, 0. :)

I'm leaving England in a week. I'm still trying to comprehend this. It's so strange. I've been here five months, and it's become so much my home. It's so bizarre to think that when I leave here in a week, I will never be back to this in the same way again. Sure I'll be back to England; I'm DEFINITELY coming back to England. But I won't be living in Waveney, and I don't even know if my friends are still going to be in university still. That's STRANGE. How am I going to do this?

This semester really has been amazing for me. I am so glad I did it. I'm a different person than I was at the beginning of the semester, which might be a bit weird when I get back at first, but I'm pretty sure I like the change. I feel so much more adult than I did before coming here, so much more confident, so much less afraid that I won't be able to deal with things thrown my way. So many things that used to scare me or overwhelm are just normal, everyday things now not worth a fuss. It's amazing. And my flatmates were/are phenomenal. I couldn't have asked for a better set of people to help me adjust to being in another country and away from my family. It's going to be so strange not to see them every day and live with them just down the hall and see them randomly in the kitchen.

Not to mention that this semester I actually got to remind myself what it was like to RELAX. Sure I worked hard on my papers but I have had a few weeks after my exams with just...nothing. And at first I thought that would be strange; I like to feel productive, I like to feel like I'm making a difference somewhere. And I'm sure if I was just sitting around here for, say, another month, with nothing to actually do, I would begin to go a little crazy. But these past couple of weeks? They've been really, really good for me. I remember what it's like to just HAVE free time again, just relax and not worry about what else I have to get done before such-and-such a date. I remember how to breathe.

On the flip side, I miss my friends at home that it's been far too long since I've seen, and it's incredibly weird knowing staff training is now going on without me at camp. When I initially planned my summer, logically, I was thinking okay, I was maybe a little burned out this past summer, and I don't think I can really be a counselor again this summer, and maybe it will be good for me to take a break. But now that it's actually happening without me? It's so strange. The first time in seven years (I've gone eight years but I skipped a year in between the first and the second) that I won't be going to camp. I'm going to try and swing a visit in between getting home and school starting again but that's not exactly the same. Just another weird thing in the time marching on-ness. Hopefully camp doesn't forget about me. :P I will be back!

But on still yet another flip side, I am so happy that I'm going to be seeing Wes in eight days. Eight days! It's so nice to be able to count in days instead of weeks, to know that NEXT SUNDAY I'll be stepping off a plane in Tanzania and remember what it's like to have a boyfriend I can actually SEE, in person. Not to mention hug, or kiss. Rarrr. I'm in a slight amount of shock that it's actually been almost nine months. Three quarters of a YEAR. WHAT? But, we actually did it. We made it three quarters of a year and are still going strong. That's got to say something.

As you can probably tell from this entry, my emotions are ridiculously up and down lately. That's understandable though I guess. But I wouldn't give anything I've done or am doing up, so it's worth it. :)

May 8, 2006

Europe Trip Pt. 3

Okay, I need to speed this up, sorry those other two were so long, I'm just trying to remember everything I can!

Hm. Venice. Venice was beautiful, and our hostel was awesome (an amazingly nice lady who gave us a map and glass figurines, and super nice rooms), but I have two complaints about it. One is that I don't know if it entirely lives up to expectations - I saw a row of about eight gondolas that looked like they were part of some boat ride at Disney World or something, and the gondoliers all look severely bored. (No we didn't go on a gondola ride, they're insanely expensive). The other is that Venice is great, and the canals are pretty...until you actually need to GET somewhere. I got lost in Venice for about two hours. I ended up in random residential areas, random store areas, none of the streets go straight, and even got to one point where I could SEE EXACTLY where I needed to go, with the exception of the eight foot gap of water in between me and the path and no bridges in sight. (I momentarily debated long jumping it - TECHNICALLY I should be able to jump it, eight feet really isnt that far for a long jump, but decided that would probably end in badness). After two hours of wandering and fighting back tears as I had no map and no phrasebook and couldn't find anyone who could tell me where to go that I could understand, I finally made it back. Highly stressed and trying to swallow a lump in my throat, I didn't say anything but instead just sat next to Andrew without a word, unfortunately started crying about two minutes later. Poor Andrew. Ah well.

But yes, despite that two hours of intense frusturation, I did enjoy my time in Venice, mostly our time visiting this island called Ludo that had a beach we picnicked on and just spent time walking around. On to Nice, we took our first night train, which was pretty cool, as the fourth person in our car didn't show up for about an hour so for the first hour or so it was just Mary, Andrew, and me, so had some fun talking/reading/dodging pillows aimed my way by Andrew.

Nice is beautiful. I've come to the conclusion that the Mediterranean is absolutely gorgeous no matter where you see it. (We saw it again in Barcelona and it was just as pretty). Spent some time chilling on the beach and exploring; it really is just amazinlgly beautiful. Best part of Nice was climbing on these huge rocks that went down from a path to the water itself. Spent about two hours randomly clambering over rocks. Unfortunately I chose that day of all days to wear the skirt I had brought in case we ended up going to church on Easter, so scuffed up my shoes a bit and was a bit unladylike at times, but who cares, it was fun. Spent most of that day just chilling out. That night we took a walk down the beach again which was mildly disconcerting - it got to the point where the ocean was black and the sky was black, so when you looked across the beach it looked like the world just...ended, right there. Mary and I spent some time walking towards it and creeping ourselves out. It really was sort of humbling.

The next morning was mildly stressful, to put it lightly. Said goodby to Andrew, went to the train station, then the fun began. We had Eurorail passes and so thought that we could just hop on the train to Paris at the time it said and all would be well. Not so. I went to check with the information guy just to verify the platform we were on, but as soon as I said "we need to go to Paris" (in French!! Hehe that was fun), he said "You need a reservation." (In English, unfortunately, kinda disappointing). "Do I NEED a reservation?" "Yes." Okay. Off to find Mary, wait in line for the ticket window, get up there, tell the guy what we need...

"It's full." "It's what?" "Full." "Can we take a connection somewhere?" "What?" "A connection." "I dont understand. Do you speak any french." "Un peu." "Can you ask it in french." This being the first time I've really had to speak french in about a year without rehearsing what I was going to say in my head first, I fumble a little bit, and in horrible, horrible grammar and accent, come out with, "Oui, j'essaiyais...est-ce qu'ils sont les autres desinations qui nous pouvons" trail off weakly, "...that will eventually get us to Paris?" Smooth. Real smooth. Guy looks at us blankly. We walk off, me kicking myself.

Anyway, we did eventually get to Paris... More later. :)

May 3, 2006

Europe Trip Pt. 2

Okay, day, woke up reasonably early, hopped on a train to Florence. We took a different train than Andrew because we had rail passes and he didnt, so decided to meet up at a specific time at our hostel. Our hostel in Florence was in a much, much better location than Rome, but I didnt' like how it was run as much. For one, we didnt get much of an introduction to the place, as the other people who arrived at the same time didnt have a reservation, and they guy spent most of his time yelling at them for it. (?) Also, the proprietors of the hostel appear to have decided to fill the largest amount of space possible with beds, and therefore there was about a foot of space between each bed and it was extremely difficult to walk anywhere in the room. (Not to mention that Mary and my bed (they gave us a double, for some reason) was right next to the bathroom so EVERY time someone went to the bathroom it bumped our bed. Oy). But it wasn't a horrible place all in all, so no big deal. We settled in and had an amazing lunch at the restaurant next door, then went in front of our steps to meet Andrew.

Or would have, had Andrew been there. He wasn't. We waited on some steps nearby, wandered a bit, came back...still no Andrew. Once it reached about an hour or so after we were supposed to meet, we begin to worry a bit, so decide to find a computer lab and email him in hopes that he might do the same if he had problems finding us. We sit down, email him, and then I just happen to look out the door at the exact moment that Andrew walks past. Weird. Turns out his train had some problems on the way there, and then he had difficulty finding our hostel. But now all is well.

Time to explore Florence. Florence we don't know as much about as Rome, and we're a bit museumed and monumented out for the time being, so we decide to just explore. My absolutely brilliant idea is "Let's walk towards the mountains." Now, if you understand the geography of Florence (which I didn't at first), you will realize that it is a ludicrous idea since you could walk in pretty much any direction and you will STILL be walking "towards the mountains."

Somehow, despite the idiocy of the comment, it still managed to work out really well...we walked towards the mountains we could see, walked along a really pretty river, and then discovered that there were steps leading up the sides of one mountain-like area. Climb the steps to a piazza on the top with an absolutely amazing view. We admire it for awhile, then decide to follow the road upwards and see where it leads. We discover an extremely pretty (but NOT insanely ornate) church, and an even better view, and sit there and watch the sun set over the mountains and over florence. It was absolutely beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Next morning we discover why not everyone likes to stay in hostels. The first alarm goes off at 2:30 in the morning. That person gets up to take a shower (in the bahtroom right next to our bed). I check my clock, blanche, roll over and go back to sleep. The next alarm comes seemingly immediately after I obtain sleep again. This continues, in a nice little pattern, until absolutely about 8:30. For some reason every single other person in our hostel room was leaving that day and decided to get up and shower obscenely early. Ah well.

Our own alarms go off the second everyone has vacated the room and stopped waking us up; we shower and then go downstairs to a cafe right next door to grab breakfast on our way to Andrew's hostel, where we agreed to meet. We ask for a pastry and the guy asks if we have tickets. "Tickets?" Is this some strange form of Italian currency? No. Turns out that we're supposed to get free breakfast because we're staying in the next door hostel, and they were supposed to have given us tickets for it but in their hurry at yelling at the random people they forgot. At least I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they forgot. So we go back up to the hostel and obtain these "tickets," go back down. (This is after the hostel owners tell us not to tell any of the other hostel residents about these tickets...interesting...)

The guy asks what we want. I point at a nice looking pastry with a sign in it that says "Dolci" so I assume thats the name of the pastry. "Dolci?" "Which one?" "Dolci." "Point at it." Confused as to why he's not understanding that I want the one that says "dolci," I point, and obtain it and a pretty decent cup of coffee in exchange for my ticket. Later I realize that "dolci" merely means "sweet thing" or something along those lines, and I was basically repeating, over and over again, the equivalent of, "'Cake?' 'Which one?' 'Cake.'" Score one for the oh so intelligent tourist.

We arrive at Andrew's hostel, a bit late, and go to explore Florence some more. We find a pretty cool market that we pass an hour or so in wandering, then Mary and I go off to a food market to get food for another picnic while Andrew goes to move his stuff into our hostel (he's staying in our hostel that night but could only get it that night and not both). The market is really cool. Its a covered market area and has an insane amount of food stalls. We purchase some bread, meat, cheese, another bottle of wine (this time local to Florence) (in case you're wondering, in most places we went wine actually ended up being cheaper than water or at least about the equivalent of the price, strangely enough), and some awesome looking desert pastry things, all for about 3 euros per person.

The other interesting part of the market was that one of the stalls was giving out samples, and I picked up a small piece of bread that had things on it that looked like some form of Bruschetta. As I pick it up, some Italians turn towards us and say something and gesture to the bread. We determine that they're saying "It's hot, be careful" by way of a nice woman who translates when we look extremely confused. Me, thinking they meant hot temperature-wise, bite into it carefully, but I'm just in the midst of saying, "Wow, thats' really good, and its not hot at all," and offering it to Mary (she takes a bite), when my mouth starts burning. Oh. THAT kind of hot. We race around for about five minutes looking desperately for a place that sells something to drink to soothe the crazy burning sensations in our mouths, when I remember I have a bottle of water in my purse. We down it in about three seconds and have to go through quite a bit of bread before feeling okay again. Whoops.

Return, take our picnic to the Boboli Gardens but we're told that we can't take food inside so we eat on this really nice, slanted area on which many people are sunbathing and just generally enjoying the warmth. We enjoy awesome sandwiches and deserts; at some point in time Andrew's orange (which is on a slanted platform) begins to roll. I make a grab for it and fail, realize there's no way I can get it before it runs into something, I decide to wait until it stops to get it as to not run like an idiot after a rolling object down a hill. As I decide this, I glance down and realize that the "thing" that's going to stop the orange, if it continues in the path it is, is a woman's head. I leap to my feet, cue running like an idiot after an object rolling down a hill, but don't manage to catch up to it until it collides with aforesaid head. I say "Sorry! Sorry!" momentarily forgetting the often used "Mi scusi" that I've learned since being in Italy, woman gives me a dirty look, I return with orange, all is well. We turn our attentions to the wine bottle; an hour or so later of key-drilling, we have wine in plastic bottles. Classy.

Go into the Boboli Gardens. They're really pretty, although I'm not sure if they were worth the seven euros to get in, but still, pretty. While we're there Mary runs into her friend Joe who goes to U of I and is studying in Verona (random coincidence #2). They catch up, we stay until we're kicked out of the gardens. After we part ways with Joe we find an internet cafe where I can take time out of our exploring to sit at a foreign keyboard for an hour and do an email interview for ASB board, then we go for an AMAZING dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Next morning we get up early to go see the David, by Michelangelo. Wait in a long line, I go to check exactly how long the line is, and I come back and there's Dan and Meredith (two MORE people from U of I that we met over London weekend). Random coincidence number three. After awhile in line, we get in and see David. I wasn't sure what to expect of it, or if it would be worth it to wake up early and wait in line to see it, but it definitely was; it's a really cool statue. It's insanely lifelike, you can see the veins in his HAND, I can't imagine having the skill to carve something like that, one slip up and it's all over. *shakes head*

More later...I'll cut down on the details at some point, its just nice to have a record.

April 30, 2006

Europe Trip: Part One

Europe Trip - Part one

Promised I'd tell more about the trip! Here's a bit about it, I think I'll give it in pieces.

We started in Rome; landing in a somewhat turbulent ride that started the entire front half of the plane yelling "Ahh!" like you would excitedly on a rollercoaster at the drops at every bump, and then sparking spontaneous applause when we actually landed. It was pretty funny. Anyway, we got off the plane, took a bus to the train station, then walked about a block to our hostel. We walk through a somewhat shady area, lots of graffiti and people who look like they are waiting around for a drug deal, then walk up to this door that says "Eden b&b" (our hostel is called Hostel Eden) with a door and lots of buttons on the side with names next to them. We look at them confusedly for a second as there are about three buttons that all say hostel eden with a random number next to the words, and finally decide just to press a random one and see what happens. The door opens, we walk in, are immediately greeted from a tiny kitchen area by a guy blowing smoke out of his nose!

After some initial apprehension, it turns out that the guy is named Salvadore and he's actually extremely nice and helpful; he pulls out a map and circles the areas that tourists usually like to visit, and even circles, with a different color, grocery stores and internet points, then takes us up a TINY elevator (called by mary the wonka-vator, as it bears a strange resemblance to the tiny little elevator they all go into at first in the original movie) to a surprisingly nice, flat-like area that bears a kitchen, a bathroom, some security lockers, and our bedroom. We happily rid ourselves of our backpacks and then begin the excitingness of the trip - we take a nap.

We wake up refreshed and hungry, we go and each have a pizza at a nearby the end, we get our bill, there is a random 3 euro charge for we don't know what; as we try to decipher the bill we strike up a conversation with a random British couple whose table is right next to us. We determine that the charge is for having a table outside (stupid random charges without prior warning), and proceed to have a good thirty minute long discussion with the couple. They turn out to be really cool people; they've travelled all over the world and they're taking a stop on their way to visit their son and daughter in law who live in Venice for Easter, and they give us advice on various places in Italy. Eventaully we say goodbye and thank them for their help, its about 10:30 or so by theis point, and given the area of our hostel, we decide to return and save exploring for the next day.

The next morning we find Andrew on the front steps of our hostel; hellos are exchanged and then we set off to explore. The first stop is the Colloseum; we take a minute to be completely awed by the fact that we're actually standing in front of the colloseum, then walk over to figure out how to go inside. There's a ridiculously long line, but we pay an extra few Euros for a tour of the place and of Palatine hill, which has the satisfying result of jumping the line, and are educated and entertained by an Italian guy with a slightly crude sense of humor, but it was still nice to actually learn things about the Colloseum and Rome in general as our first activity there. Unfortunately, as Mary and I were so excited about the warmness of the morning, we both neglected to wear coats, and as it gets cloudy and drizzly it gets somewhat COLD so I spent most of the tour shivering, but ah well. Sun started coming out, for which we were grateful, and we took our tour of Palatine Hill and the forums, which was extremely cool. Its so weird to look down on this area that has existed far longer than anything in the US, and to think about Romans meeting there so long ago, and realize that this is it, its the real thing, not a movie, not a recreation. I had a lot of those moments on the trip in general. After hearing about places in school and just in general, and always having them seem so far away, both in distance and in history, its incredibly strange to suddenly be confronted by them in reality.

Explored Rome more, went to Trevi fountain, which is an amazing fountain that also happens to have an amazing gelato place nearby...Italian ice cream is amazing, by the way. It's soooo good. I think we had gelato every single day that we were in Italy. There were one or two days we had it twice. I don't think I've ever had ice cream that tasted THAT good. After sitting by Trevi fountain for awhile, we bought some food for a picnic, and walk to this area called Pinchot. Somewhere along the lines we also spent some time sitting on the Spanish steps. Here's where I begin to realize the drawbacks of visiting an extremely touristy city. There are people EVERYWHERE trying to sell you things in Rome. Roses, random weird balloon things, sunglasses, you name it, I'm sure theres some guy, somewhere, in Rome chasing people around trying to sell it to them. Anyawy, we finally get to Pinchot, which is really overlooks a piazza and, if you look out further, basically all of Rome. It was soooo pretty. We found a random bench in the park and enjoyed our sandwiches and the view.

Next day we went to the Vatican relatively early, as on Wednesdays at the Vatican the pope has a general audience. We got seats and heard the pope, who gave a blessing in about five different languages, which was kind of cool. Everything in the Vatican is...immense. I'm not sure how I felt about it to be honest. Here is the seat of Catholicism, the center of it, and it's just so...elaborate and ornate and showy. I don't know. I had the same conflicting feelings every time I looked at one of the insanely detailed and expensive cathedrals. I think about all the money and time that went into these buildings, and I'm not sure how to feel. On the one hand, it's amazing that people spent that much time and money and dedicated it to God, but on the other, it seems to me that it could all be better spent on the people who the church says it helps? Not to mention, I don't know...buildings don't make me feel closer to God. It's a building. It can be a very very beautiful building, and I'll look at it and even be awed by it because of its beauty and detail, but I just can't connect elaborate, ornate buildings with spirituality in my mind. Again, I can't figure out how to feel about it. Maybe I'll figure it out with time, but something tells me it might just be something I'm eternally baffled by.

After seeing the pope, we wandered around for awhile and then went into the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum is...enormous. It would take...weeks to see everything in there and even then its somewhat mazelike so you might end up missing something. We had been advised by one of the people in our hostel that if you want to see the Sistine Chapel its a good idea to head straight to it or you'll be so overwhelmed by the time you get there you won't be able to appreciate it, so we did, and discovered it was good advice. There's a loooonnng amount of hallways and rooms on the way to the Sistine Chapel, so admired the art along the way, and then finally arrived at the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel really is all everyone says it is, it was amazing, I can't imagine the time and attention to detail it must have taken to finish it. The atmosphere was spoiled a bit by insane amounts of people and an ineffective security guard who every ten minutes said "Shhhh!!!! No pictures! No talking!" which I found kind of humorous, but we spent quite a bit of time just...looking.

We reached our limit of intakes of art and left, feeling slightly overwhelmed with even the amount we had seen. Went back, seeing the Pantheon on the way, and bought some pasta for dinner. Andrew did most of the work on the pasta cooking (and did an amazing job, may I add) as our kitchen was kind of small and it's somewhat difficult to figure out what the other two people should do once the process of cooking is started, and then we wrapped in up with insane amounts of plastic wrap and proceeded to walk around various sections of rome for about two hours looking for a park on the map we had decided would make a good picnic spot. By the time we go there, it was dark, and looked like a decidedly shady place for a picnic in the nighttime, so instead at by this balcony area that had an awesome view of rome and a beautiful fountain, but also happened to be right next to a main road so we had quite a few cars going past at all times. We ate the (amazing) pasta (props, Andrew), and then set to work on the bottle of wine we had brought with a key, as we realized none of us had a bottle opener. A few minutes later and some drilling, we enjoyed some cheap (but good) Roman wine, and then were on our way back to our respective hostels.

April 27, 2006


Granada is AMAZING. This whole trip has been amazing. I don´t know if I can describe it. We fly home tonight, then we get to sit around in an airport for about six hours until the earliest train back to Norwich from London leaves, then we´ll finally be back to campus probably around 10 in the morning. This trip has been so worth every penny I´ve spent on it.

Lots of stories to tell, done tons of things, seen lots of sights, I dont really have time to write about all of it right now nor do I think I will ever write about ALL of it as that would be one ridiculously long entry, but I´ll at least go over hilights or post pictures or something.

We went to the Allhambra yesterday, which is basically a´s the palaces where the sultans used to live when the Arabs took over Granada, its beautiful, but even more beautiful was the view from the top of the bell tower. It was one of the most intensely beautiful things Ive ever seen in my life. You could basically see all of Granada, the Sierra Nevadas, beautiful sky, oh yeah and a castle that you just happened to be standing in. I have no words.

More when I get back!

April 9, 2006

The Epic Battle Against the Silverware Box

There is one small kitchen in our peaceful living space for twelve people. So, naturally, the dishes sometimes stack up fairly high. One of our brave women "solved" this problem by placing a box on the floor into which all dirty dishes every day the kitchen was cleaned went.

This was the start of something terrible. As things tended to sit in the box for days, even weeks, people became less and less willing to venture into the dark unknown of what became known as "there." (As in, "I'm afraid to look in there.") Forks, spoons, and all sorts of cutlery began to mysteriously disappear into the box's infernal stomach as the box gobbled up all in sight and began to be a breeding ground for it's infernal army of bacteria and mould.

Today, quite rightly anticipating that, if left alone throughout the entire month long break, the box would have sprouted legs and probably fur by the time we all returned and be in the process of taking over not only the kitchen, but the world, I waged war against the box. It was a dangerous mission, I know, but somebody had to do it. It was difficult and long, and at times it was tempting to give up...the box had too many weopons at its disposal. But I pressed on. I even attacked them with a soft squishy thing called a "sponge." I realize that it may have been morally questionable on my part to use such a terrible weopon, but I had to take every advantage I could find...the box's powers were too many.

After an epic battle, I prevailed. The box was reduced to a flat piece of cardboard as each of its insides was extracted and soaked in that terrible killing mechanism called "soap." I stood, triumphant, and raised my soap-covered hands in the air, rightfully reclaiming the kitchen as Waveney territory.

April 1, 2006

American Stereotypes

Conversation today:

(Me looking at key ring): "Oh you drive a Ford?"
"Yeah. (surprised tone of voice) Do you have fords in America?"
Me: "Yeah, isn't it an American car?"
"Oh, right, it's just that Ford makes some smaller cars and I thought you all drove huge gas-guzzling ones in America."

This was said in a completely serious tone of voice.

Sparked a conversation about stereotypes - British, American (um, basically from what I can tell the entire world has pretty negative stereotypes of us, sorry guys), etc. I've had this conversation a few times with people this semester. I am continually amazed when the actions of a few, or even many, turn into views of how all people in one country behave. You're almost always going to find people who fit stereotypes for a specific country/group, but you're also almost always going to find people who completely blow every stereotype out of the water. It seems to me that people are people, and human nature should be the same no matter what part of the world you're in. Why do we feel such a need to group people instead of taking them on an individual basis?

March 19, 2006

I'm getting more English by the hour

I'm in a good mood today, and was yesterday as well. I feel so different lately. I am different. I'm not the same person I was when I got here. I don't know if it's noticeable to anyone else, or will be, but I notice it, and I kind of like it. :) I was wondering the other day what it's going to be like when I get back. I'm proud of myself though. That I'm doing this. I really am.

Interesting week...good for the most part though. These next couple of weeks are going to be a little stressful as it's coming close to the end of term so I have to get it together and everything's due in about two weeks. But I think I can handle it. I'll be working on a story after this shortly, and then reading for Shakespeare, then more working on story, then hopefully starting on an essay...everything's due at the same time but I figure as long as I'm thinking about it and worrying about it now (two weeks ahead of time) it should be okay. And then it will be spring break!!!! I can't stress to any end how excited I am about this trip.

It's March 19. It's been exactly half a year since Wes left for Tanzania. That's so strange. I miss him. But the good thing is, and the reason I write about it here, is that I don't see our relationship as having weakened in the slightest. In fact I think it might be stronger.

I realize that I've gotten used to being here when I:

-Say "cheers" without thinking about it
-Automatically think of a soccer ball when someone mentions "football"
-Say "trousers" instead of "pants."
-Called college "uni" the other day
-Don't feel odd ordering a drink in a pub
-Am not surprised by cars on the left side of the road
-Actually know my way pretty well around Norwich and no longer have to think about saying "Norrich" instead of "Nor-which"
-I sing along with and recognize British music