Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coming Home

Thank you all for all of your prayers and concerns over the last four months.  Due to health concerns, I will be returning home on Wednesday from East Africa. I will post more updates after I get home to let you all know how I am doing.  For now, this will be my last post from Africa.

God bless you all who have prayed for me, stayed in touch as best as we could, and enjoyed reading this blog of mine.  See you all soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I am doing well in my first week of lectures in Gulu, except that today I was admitted to the Gulu Independent Hospital and diagnosed with Typhoid Fever.  I am pretty sick, but feeling better now that I am in the hospital.  I have taken two IV drips and will get another in the morning.  The doctor said I should be here a day or two, then I will need anti-biotics for a few days afterwards. 

I am not the only one.  David, another student on the trip, is in the bed next to me with Typhoid as well.  We figure we ate or drank something together that hit us, so we will be recovering together.  The good thing is that we are in an independent hospital which is really clean and has good doctors.  It is a vast improvement since my previous clinical visits in Tanzania. 

Thank you for your prayers as always.  I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The First Few Days

So, I have been through an orientation week here in Gulu, moved in with my new host family, and lectures began today at the SIT World Learning Center in Gulu.  Orientation week finished Saturday with an interviewing project throughout Gulu town.  We all managed to meet quite a few new people and gathered information which will help with our research projects, but also practical issues of living here for the next three months. 

We have discovered a bar in town, BJz, which plays good music, serves good beer, and has great entertainment throughout the week.  Wednesday was Stand-up Comedy, and Thursday was Trivia competition.  A few of us went to the stand-up, where we met "Fabulous" Patrick, a local radio host and the funniest man of the night.  All fifteen of us returned the following night to compete for trivia night.  We split the group into two teams and did our best to fill the answers to Ugandan Sports, Literature, Current Events, and Geography.  My team at least beat the other American group, but we didn't take the title, or the case of beer which went to the winners.  However, for those of us who stuck around (myself included), the crate of beer was shared with us, as we knew a few of the winners.  We danced for an hour or so before returning to the hotel and the final day of orientation the following morning.

Saturday afternoon I moved in with my new host family, Paul and Florence and their 18-year-old daughter Rita.  Paul reminds me alot of my Grandpa Copas, and I have spent most of the weekend studying or discussing politics and current events with him.  They are a nice family, and I will enjoy spending the next month or so with them.  However, there is no electricity there, so I will only be able to post when I get into town for class.  I feel like it gets old, but I will say it again, be patient with the electricity in Africa.

Otherwise, I am doing well.  Classes started this morning with lectures on Acholi Language, Conflict Mapping & Analysis, and the Cultures of Northern Uganda.  I am now sitting in a cafe eating an ice cream before heading back home for dinner.

I'll post again soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Posts from Uganda

This is the first chance with internet access to post in the last few days.

September 5, 2011
The billboard over the road reads “Peace, Stability, and Security” next to a picture of President Museveni.  Rather ironic considering I have come to Uganda to study conflict, instability, and insecurity.  I am crossing the border into Uganda from Kenya.  The sun is setting, and I know I am at least 3 hours from Kampala.  There comes a point in the trip when I think we should be about one hour from Kampala.  An hour later, the woman in the seat ahead of me says we are in Jinja, and we should be in Kampala in an hour.  Two hours later, we arrive in Kampala.
The bus ride from Nairobi was scheduled to last 12-13 hours.  We left 45 minutes late from Nairobi and made it to Kampala in just over 15 hours.  Nevertheless, I have persevered and arrived safely in Uganda.  I will meet my group later this afternoon, as they are flying in today.  Wish me luck.  This is the final leg of my journey.  I will not be travelling alone again, except during the trip home 106 days from now.

September 7, 2011
I have arrived with my group in Gulu.  This is the most Wazungus I have been with since arriving in East Africa.  There are 15 students from all over the US.  We are sitting at a coffee shop using the free internet and drinking Coca Cola.  I feel like such a tourist.  It is odd, being as I have met less than 10 Americans in the last three months of being here, and suddenly I have a new group of friends, all of whom know what baseball is, want to talk about American football, and all agree that rice does not a stable diet make.
We left Kampala at 10:30 for our 5 hour trip to Gulu.  One broken bus, two rented matatu vans, and 8 hours later, we arrived in Gulu in a rainshower.  Luckily my bag wasn't tied to the roof like the others, but was safely tucked inside.  Not a problem though, we stayed in a nice hotel and I was blessed with my first hot shower in 5 weeks. 
Anyway, we have a few days of orientation to the Gulu area and our program before moving in with our host families on Saturday and starting class next Monday.  I will update as is possible.  I am going to try to find an USB internet stick so that I can have unlimited wireless, but no promises. 
Best wishes and God Bless all.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Return from the Bush

Well all, I have arrived once again back to the land of electricity, people, and running water which we call civilization.  I have had the time of my life.  I have learned more than I thought possible and gained new perspectives on economics, tourism, politics, and Kenya itself.  My health remains good, although I did have a short bout with an intestinal bug during the month.  But now I have returned to Nairobi where I will stay and rest a few days.  Then I’m off for Kampala, Uganda.  I will be in Uganda for the next 3 and ½ months and I should be returning home on the 21st of December, just in time for Christmas.
However, that is yet to come and a lot will happen between now and then.  The last month however, has left me with more memories, stories, and pictures than I can possibly show or tell.  This was my fear when I left the internet behind for a month.  Nevertheless, I will do my best to relate a few of my experiences from the last 28 day field guiding course in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The morning of August 4th I met the other three members of my group: one British middle-school science teacher who wants to open a Wildlife Preserve in Sri Lanka, one Dutch Biology undergrad, one British woman (born in Kenya) who seems to have travelled everywhere and now works in Zanzibar, and me.  I thought it would be an interesting group and we didn’t disappoint.  We arrived the afternoon of the 4th at our camp in Lewa to find Michael, the camp manager, waiting for us.  I thought it was going to be sleeping in tents on the hard earth for a month.  No such luck.  Michael had single beds build in the largest camping tents I have ever seen; a luxurious stay if I say so myself.  That night, we met the rest of the crew over steak dinner prepared by Frank, a professional chef and one of the most politically incorrect men I have ever known.  Mohammad was his assistant and Richard was the cleaning/maintenance man.  (After two weeks, there came a time when I took a picture of Richard sitting in a chair reading a newspaper.  This may not sound exciting, but the reason I took the picture was that it was the first time since arriving that we had seen him sit down and not working.  He is actually the most motivated worker I ever met.  Our instructor Mark joked that he was going to stuff Richard into his suitcase and smuggle him home to South Africa.) 
Anyway, our instructor Mark was there waiting for us and we began our studies the next day.  We would wake at 5:00am, study for awhile, and then leave camp around 6:30 for a walk in the bush.  We would return to camp about 9:00 for breakfast.  At 10:30 we had a lecture (ranging from Animal Behavior to botany to the weather patterns of Kenya and South Africa) which usually lasted till about 12:30.  We had some free time then, usually spent studying or reading, before lunch at 2:00pm.  By three, we were back in the field until dark, around 6:30.  Dinner was at 7 with a few beers, some after-dinner hanging out, then early to bed around 9 or 10 in order to make it up again the following morning. 
In the field we would either walk or drive.  When walking, we studied more in depth, especially the trees and birds.  When we drove, we could get a lot further and usually find more of the elusive mammals.  However, we didn’t always have to go far to find big mammals.  Nearly every morning of the trip, we woke up around 5:30 to find Elvis and Mawingu munching just outside our camp fence.  They are a black rhino mother-and-son pair whose territory encompasses our campsite.  One morning, we stood along the fence and Elvis came to within three feet of us. 
Not long into the trip, we were all beginning to get the hang of guiding the group.  Each of us took turns practicing the drives, teaching as if we were guiding for real.  However, one night, we heard there was a lion chilling down the road a ways, but it was down the road we weren’t supposed to go on (certain areas of the reserve were reserved for those “bloody-rich-buggers” who were paying $800 a night).  So, Mark decided it might be better to ask for forgiveness than permission, so he drove us down the road anyway.  We found the lion, an old male alone, just watching the sun set.  He seemed so calm, exactly as I imagined he would, waiting for the moment where it would be necessary to become “king” again.  It seemed to me that he had been king long enough and was now on his way out.  We watched him for a bit before heading back towards camp.  On the way though, we found the elephant heard.  We parked about 10 meters from a young bull, maybe 5 to 10 years old.  Relatively small compared to other males (he was still the size of our truck), he had a bit of a napoleon complex growing in his young bones.  He continued eating until he was about 15 feet from us, and then decided he didn’t really appreciate our presence.  He decided to prove he was just as tough as daddy and started to mock charge the truck.  He seemed to enjoy coming at us, shaking his head, backing of for a while, then coming again.  I don’t think he had any real intention of ever really coming after us; he just wanted us to take him seriously, much like every adolescent.  It was one of the sweetest encounters of the trip.
Now, it was not always the “big-five” we were after.  We were training to become professional safari guides, and there is much more out there than mammals, such as geology, astronomy, insects, reptiles, and birds.  Birds presented a unique challenge to all of us on the course, particularly because there are 1080 species of birds in Kenya.  Over the month, we positively identified 108 birds, probably seeing another 20 or so which we couldn’t identify.  We carried three things on every walk and drive: a notebook, our binoculars, and a bird book.  At one time, we had six different bird books in the truck.  Eventually we moved onto the bird calls (downloaded from Mark’s computer to Itunes).  That is when it really started getting messy.  Pretty soon, I knew around 30 bird calls and at least 50 or 60 by sight.  By week three, everything (that is, all the bird knowledge) just started to mash together until we finally broke down.  One afternoon, we promised eachother we wouldn’t try to find a single bird.  We had had enough of birds for one day.  That afternoon, we found 8 new birds which we had never seen before.  That pretty much sums up our student-bird relationship.  When you go looking for them, you can’t find a single one; when you can’t stand to look at another, 8 new guys show up to introduce themselves.
Two weeks in we were joined by three more former students who just wanted to hang out with us for the second half of the course.  They added a new fire to the camp, but also, they were all women, so it definitely turned the odds against the male-power in the camp.  It all turned out just fine.  We really enjoyed the camaraderie in the camp.
Now, some of you know that I am a really good driver.  However, if you want a new experience, try driving off-road, up a rocky hill, in a stick-shift truck that jams and makes funny engine noises, has no power steering, and then find a bull elephant waiting for you at the top of the hill.  It is not something we do everyday back home in Normal, Illinois.  Actually, I don’t think this experience is common most anywhere.  Better yet, I was driving.  For those of you reading this who are already getting worried, we were trained early in the month how to deal with dangerous encounters and always have an escape route.  The thing that made this spot tricky was that my escape route was in reverse back down the hill into a gorge.  Luckily, the bull was only mildly unimpressed with my driving and our presence on his road.  He was within five feet of my door at one time.  He must have decided, at least momentarily, that we weren’t worth the effort, so he passed us by and as he got out of the way, I took us past and away.  It is among my favorite moments of the trip.     
During the final week of the course, we all took exams.  We had done some exams during the first three weeks, but these were our finals.  We had a 3 hour final exam, a field identification exam, the FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) exam (which I didn’t take), and then our assessment.  The exams all went fine.  What made us all most nervous was the assessment.  Either a three hour drive or 90 minute walk, fully guided as if taking newly arrived tourists to the bush.  These “tourists” were to be some of our fellow students and Mark the instructor/assessor.  However, my assessment went well.  I even had a giraffe walk right up to our group, which was quite unexpected (I made sure I paid him off later on that night for his graceful appearance).  All in all, the exams went well and all of us passed the course.  So now, I am a professionally-trained safari guide.  I don’t have a license to use my training, but if ever I decide that I want a career change, I would come back in a heartbeat, no doubt about it.
Sadly, we had to return to our normal lives on the 31st.  Well, I guess that isn’t really true.  The others are all heading home.  I am not exactly living a “normal” live, but screw that.  I am enjoying myself THOROUGHLY, and if that is abnormal, so be it.  I have made it back to Nairobi.  Tomorrow I will take the bus to Kampala and meet up with the SIT group to study for the fall. 
Thank you to everyone again for all your continued prayers for my health.  I was sick again, but I saw another doctor and that seems to have cleared it up for good.  Thank you also for your patience with communications.  I know your world does revolve around me, my blogging, and what I think, so thank you for managing for a month without me. 
In all seriousness, it was a great experience to live without a phone or the internet for a month (I know I cheated to send a few emails from an internet cafĂ© three weeks through, but that was only because I knew how much you all need me).  I believe that everyone should try going without their phone and email for a week or two, just for fun.  Not only is it good practice for the zombie apocalypse, but also a nice way to remind yourself that there is much more to the world than what can be found on a phone or the internet.  You find yourself sitting around the fire drinking a beer with complete strangers and coming home with friends you feel like you have known your whole life.  It is a great feeling, and one something that everyone should remember often.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Nairobi...And Beyond!

I have made it to Nairobi.  Somehow, a 4 hour trip became a 10 hour journey, but whatever.  For any of you who know some of my travel stories from Europe, you know I have a habit of miscalculation when it comes to travel times.  However, in this case, it wasn't my fault.  I got bumped off a flight, the next flight was late, I waited at immigration behind 10 screaming children for an hour, and I had a 45 minute taxi when I got here.  Nevertheless, I am now ready to sign away my access to the internet for the next month and head out to the Wildlife Conservancy for a few weeks.

We leave early tomorrow, and I will return on the 31st.  Goodbye and good luck to all.  Have a nice time going to school.  Meanwhile, you can think of me, living on the savannah.  I will be enjoying the beauty of the Kenyan wilderness and "studying" for a few weeks.  It will be difficult, but I will continue to make the sacrifice and keep going.  It's a tough life, but someone's got to live it (If you have drowned in the sarcasm, I appologize).  I have been waiting my whole life for this opportunity, so here I go.



Well, I appologize again for such a long wait between posts.  However, I have been traveling with limited internet access. 

I stayed in Stone Town for a few days.  I was sick again, as many of you heard, so I wasn't up for much more than walking around and chilling.  But it is my rest/vacation period anyway, so I didn't feel bad about it.  One day I toured the Anglican Cathedral built on the site of the old slave market over a hundred years ago.  This was an incredible experience.  I have seen many of the European cathedrals with all their grandeur, but this one takes the prize for symbolic meaning.  The church is not shinning or well kept, but like most buildings in Stone Town looks its age.  It has construction flaws, is falling down in some places, and many of the windows are broken.  But for some reason, it has a beauty which I can't quite express.  It stands as a testament to overcoming the slave trade, the power of God in a place of darkness.  The destruction of the slave trade pulled many Africans into Christianity, something not predominant before in the Muslim Omani Zanzibar.  Still, Christianity has never taken too large a hold in Zanzibar, as 95% of the population is Muslim. 

Another evening, I went to the market at Jodhani Park along the waterfront.  Here fresh seafood is served and cooked by vendors by candlelight.  It was crazy, beautiful, and smelled fantastic.  I ate prawns, lobster, and baracuda, all of which tasted exquisite.  Sugar cane juice was a great chaser before heading back to the hostel for an early night.

As I said, much of my time in Stone Town was spent walking the streets or resting.  I met some interesting people while here, and I was proposed by two women one of the evenings.  A little straightforward I thought, but whatever.  Apparently some women are just looking for a white guy to get them out of here.  Respectfully (and quickly) I declined their offers, feeling rather awkward about the whole thing.

I left Stone Town on the 28th to head to Paje on the East coast of the island.  I stayed at a small hotel about 50 yards from the beach.  I had a backpacker's bunk room to myself, which was great.  I spent some time on the beach that first day, just sitting and admiring the white sand and turquiose blue waters.  Looking East, I imagined Australia only about 7000 miles away.  I grabbed a beer and a quick dinner before heading to bed.  I was a little tired and I had a busy and tiring few days ahead.

On the 29th, I began SCUBA diving.  The first day was refresher training in the pool, which was pretty boring, but on the 30th, we headed out into the ocean.  We stayed inside the reef at a place called the lagoon.  SCUBA diving is like sinking into a whole other world you didn't know existed, a dream world which seems so colorful and fantastic it can't be real.  When you come up from the dive, it is like waking up back into the real world again, and all you want to do is dive again.

The 30th and 31st were spent on training dives in the lagoon, but the 1st of August we headed out of the reef to Makanda.  This dive spot is about 30 meters deep and is on the outside edge of the Zanzibari reef.  We descended into a place unlike any I had ever seen.  I have never dove that deep before, so this was a new experience again.  Being much darker, things come out of nowhere at you.  You are drifting along and all of a sudden, a wall of coral or a school of fish comes right up in front of you.  There are also the hidden things you only see if you pay attention, the lionfish, the sea snakes, and the sting rays hiding beneath the rocks (I saw all three on this dive). 

We dove a second time at another site not far away.  Between the dives was about an hour of letting the excess nitrogen escape our blood, and being in the open sea was not good for many of us.  I got a little seasick, but after it "passes" you feel much better.  We reviewed the procedures for vomitting underwater and headed back into the water for another amazing dive.  This time we could faintly hear dolphins, but we never saw them.  With their vision and sonar, they probably saw us coming from a long way off and were gone long before we could see them. 

Diving was fantastic, and a great break from studying and traveling.  My final for the course was taken while sipping a mojito on the beach, which I find to be the recommended way for taking any final exam in the future.  Yesterday, I left the coast and came back to Stone Town.  I stayed in the same hostel last night and I am just about to leave for the airport now.  I am flying to Nairobi this afternoon and meeting up with the EcoTraining group tomorrow morning.

I will spend the month of August at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy North of Nairobi.  I appologize, but I will be without internet access from tomorrow until August 31st.  I will not be posting on the blog and I will not be returning any emails.  I know many of you rely on my for your daily entertainment, but where there is no electricity, the internet cannot go.  I believe I will be able to make an occasional phone call, so I may be able to check in with my parents, so if you are desperate to know my whereabouts and condition, talk to them and they might know.  Otherwise, I am planning to post as soon as I return to Nairobi on the 31st or the 1st of September.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer, have a great beginning of a new school year.  I will talk to you all in a month. 

God Bless

Monday, July 25, 2011

Arrived in Zanzibar

Hello all,

Firstly, I made it safe and sound to Dar es Salaam two days ago by bus from Morogoro.  I got there about 2 pm and took a taxi to my hotel, which cost about 4 times as much as the bus ride.  That's taxis though.  Anyway, the hotel was great; cheap, clean, airconditioning, and had a cool atmosphere and a bar downstairs.  I even had cable television (with only 4 channels that worked though).  I rested for a bit, then took a walk down to the ocean about a mile away.  I was out of Dar es Salaam immediately when  I landed here two months ago so I never saw the ocean except from the air. 

After my ocean view indulgence, I was getting hungry and needed to find something to do for the evening.  Being as I am an American and especially love movies, I thought I would hit up one of Tanzania's three movie theaters.  On this note, it is rediculous to think that Bloomington-Normal has 4 movie theaters for about 150,000 people, whereas Tanzania has 3 theaters (2 in DAR) for its 40 million people.  Anyway, I got a bite to eat before seeing Harry Potter 7.2.  It was a good movie, like everyone has told me from back home.  The interesting thing was the theater's location.  The movie theater was located in a shopping mall.  I felt like I was dreaming and had been teleported back to the US.  It was the weirdest experience since I arrived here, being one moment surrounded by dust, garbage, and poverty; the next walking through the door of the icon of consumer capitalism.  Like I said, weird.

Anyway, following the movie I headed back to the hotel for some sleep.  I woke up early yesterday to try to make the 9:30 ferry to Zanzibar.  I had reserved a spot on the boat, but I didn't make it.  It turns out that if you reserve a ticket, but don't arrive more than an hour early, they cancel your reservation and you are skrewed (I was there 45 minutes early).  Well, I thought I would just get the next one.  Except that this ferry company was booked all day.  So I headed back onto the street and prayed I wouldn't get thrashed by the hawkers.  I found one who took me to get a ticket on a different ferry.  I paid the "mzungu price" which is much higher than normal, but they wouldn't deal and I was tired of haggling, plus I was afraid I wouldn't get any spot at all if I didn't take it.  So I sucked it up and paid the guy, eventually making it to the boat.  The disadvantage of taking this boat is that my original reservation was for the "fast" boat, an hour and 45 minute trip.  However, this new booking was for the larger slow boat, and the trip is a minimum four hours. 

We made it in just under four and a half hours.  I got a nice seat though, looking out the front window.  The AC broke though, so it got pretty warm inside.  I spent some time on deck, which wasn't much cooler, but at least there was a breeze.  I arrived and passed immigration by 5.  I am staying at a hostel a few blocks from the dock.  My room is one the third floor, with windows looking into the next building.  However, the roof is a kitchen and chill out place.  From here I can overlook much of Stone Town, the harbor, and the sun sets just right over the bay in front of me.  It is beautiful.

My first impression of Stone Town is a place where time has forgotten the buildings while everything else attempted to advance over the last 100 years.  It has incredible architecture.  The second thing I notice is the smell.  In one short walk, you can smell spices, the ocean breeze, really good cooking (especially when they are cooking with curry), and lots of fish (both the good smell and the bad one).  It is an interesting place on first glance and I am excited to spend a few days here.

Thanks to all of your for your encouraging emails which many of you have sent in the last week.  I have fully recovered again from the malaria.  The ocean is helping too.  Anyway, I want to let you know that I believe in the power of prayer, and your prayers for me are felt.  I miss all of you, your caring and kindness, and the friends back home.  I wish I could do more than write a blog to share this experience with you, but time and technology have not made it possible for much better.  I certainly am grateful for all of you, and I look forward to thanking you for your caring, support, and prayers in person when I return.

God bless you all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Interesting Last Week

To say the least, it has been an interesting final week.  I came down with malaria again, as many of you know.  However, after speaking with doctors in Tanzania, the US, and from the CDC, I do not believe I contracted it for a second time.  I believe that I had malaria three weeks ago and A) it was undertreated and came back or B) it was treated but is recurrent malaria and came back really quick instead of waiting for a while before coming after me again.  Either way, I have blasted it again with drugs and liquids and I am much better now.  I will stop by a travel clinic (this clinic was recommended by more than one friend – see “clinic” in use below) when I get to Dar es Salaam tomorrow just to be sure.

Yes, I will be leaving Morogoro tomorrow.  I have been here exactly 50 days now, just over 7 weeks.  It will be a little sad to go, but I am, however, ready for the next new part of this adventure.  Before I get to what comes next, I had better tell a few stories from this past week.

On Monday, I got really sick and Tuesday morning had my blood test here at the campus to check for malaria.  However, since the timing was so quick between the two, I thought I had better go into town on Wednesday to a clinic and get a second opinion.  However, I was in for a "learning experience" rather than learning anything additional about my own health. 

I arrived at the clinic at 1:23pm on Wednesday.  I walked in and met the receptionist, who spoke English quite well.  I paid 500 shillings for registration as a new patient and 2500 shillings to see the doctor for a consultation (3000 shillings is about $2US).  I went and sat down in one of two lines to see the doctor in room four with my "medical chart" in hand.  Firstly, the medical chart was actually a small exercise notebook for school kids.  Secondly, there were two lines to see the doctor, but neither meant anything different than the other, at least nothing I figured out while waiting.  After about 45 minutes, I went in to see the doctor.  We chatted in mixed Swahili and English about my condition and health during the past few weeks.  He decided I would need two labs done, a blood test and a stool sample. 

First I had to pay for the labs, so I headed back to the front desk to deposit 5000 more shillings and then headed to the lab room around the corner.  The blood test was like the one at the school here; stick the finger with a needle, bleed onto a slide, and that's that.  However, when that was over, the lab assistant hands me a toothpick and an empty film canister and says "we just need a little, bathroom upstairs."  I would have liked to have seen my own face...or perhaps not.  Anyway, I went upstairs to find the bathrooms.  I found them without trouble, but realized quickly that following my own advice at all times had saved me again (see "Daily Advice" page).  Tip of the day (edited): Always travel with toilet paper, even to the hospital.  There is something unnerving about being treated in a facility whose doctors don't use toilet paper, but like I said, this is as much a learning experience and a new perspective on Tanzanian life as it is FREAKING OUT AS A TYPICAL AMERICAN WOULD! 

So anyway, I managed to make due with my toothpick and film canister (all I can hope is that nothing was recycled).  I headed back downstairs, returned my deposit to the lab assistant, and sat down at the back of the line again.  This time I chose the other line, thinking that it might have something to do with who would see the doctor first.  I was wrong, as this line was longer and only that characteristic distinguished it from the other.  Luckily, there was a soccer match on the TV in the next room over that I could watch, at least until I moved up two seats in the line.

After 30 more minutes, a woman brought me a sheet with my lab results written on them to give to the doctor.  About this time, two white guys came in and went to the receptionist's desk.  Two minutes later, they came around the corner with the receptionist herself leading.  They stopped outside the doctor's office door and waited.  After the present patient came out, they both were ushered in, coming out five minutes later.  I found out that a small bribe had saved them 2 hours waiting in line.  I wondered why they had not asked me for such a bribe, and at the time I certainly would have paid it.  Again, constantly learning about the Tanzanian system.

It took about another hour before I saw the doctor again.  He told me both my labs had come back negative, and that I should just drink lots of water.  Wow, really, after three hours, I paid $5.50 to be told that when I am sick, I should drink fluids.  Not exactly the second opinion I was hoping for, but I learned a lot about the Tanzanian health care system, which is part of what I came here for.  It is not exactly the method of choice for learning such things, but beggars can't be choosers.  I left the clinic at 4:42 and headed back to the school.  It took me three and a half hours to realize that I don't want to spend another second in a Tanzanian health clinic.

Thursday was spent around here, catching up and getting ready to leave on Saturday.  Today, Friday, was my last day here, so I had to pay my bill.  However, with the power out again, wire transfer wouldn't work and since I am leaving early tomorrow, the bill had to be paid in cash.  I headed into the city this afternoon sure of my task, but unsure of how to accomplish it.  It turns out that only 300,000 shillings can be withdrawn from an ATM at one time, and only 1,000,000 shillings from a single ATM per day.  This creates a dilemma for anyone in need of 3,000,000 shillings on short notice.  However, 3 different ATMs, 10 withdrawals, 1 international phone call to my bank, and 45 minutes later, I had a loaf of dough that filled both side my pockets (which luckily do velcro shut on this pair of pants).  I had to walk about 100 yards from the last ATM to catch a cab back to the school.  All I could think was "remember Joe, act normal and pretend you are not carrying 8 times the minimum wage yearly salary in your pockets, and no one will hurt you."  No one looked at me any different than any other silly-looking mzungu, so I came through without any unwanted attention.  I took an 8000-shilling cab (the same price as my hospital visit) back to the language school, rather than risk it on a packed daladala.  It seemed like a worthy investment.

I made it back and got my bill paid without any hassle.  So that's it, now I am set to leave Saturday morning.  I will take a bus to Dar es Salaam, check into my hotel, stop by the clinic, then have a restful evening.  Sunday, I plan to take an early ferry over to Zanzibar and spend a few days in Stone Town before heading over to the east coast of the island.  So long as my health holds, I will be diving for three days over there, but we shall see.  If not, I will still get to sit on the beach and drink beer and dance under the stars and swim and get a tan before I head onward to meet my EcoTraining program in Nairobi.  I tell you, it’s a tough life, but somebody's got to live it.

On a more serious note, thank you all so much again for your prayers.  I have felt their power and have recovered quickly (hopefully I will remain so).  It means a great deal to have so many people looking out for me and praying over me back home.  I do not know the reason for my malaria, nor its existence in the world at all, nor the extent of all reasons that God has lead me on this trip, but as with all things, I figure He has it figured out better than I ever will. 

Blessings to all of you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Well, yesterday I came down with something awful, and this morning I found out  I have malaria again.  I feel worse than last time, and I am not sure how  I could have contracted it so quickly since just having it only a few weeks ago.  Thank you to all of you for your continued prayers and I will keep you posted as best I can.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Almost Done with Part One

Well, there are two possible reasons for me being lax in posting to this blog, either the electricity is turned off or I am very busy.  In the case of the last few days, it has been the latter. 

Thursday - A rather boring day of study until about 4:30 in the afternoon.  Young, Elia, Katarina, and I decided to find a soccer ball and head out to the field to mess around.  What began as a small game of monkey-in-the-middle and passing practice quickly evolved into a six-on-six match with the kids from the seminary.  This was the most fun I have had in a long time, and considering I spoke three languages while playing, I feel that it could be considered an academic excercise as well.  I not embarrassed because I was outplayed by the kids (I did play soccer at one point in my life and still do with friends at school), but I was certainly out-ran by every kid who showed up.  They are quick, but, as I am twice the size of all of them, I also had to play back so as not to run anyone over.  This of course, is the foremost reason for there being any strength favoring the kids.  We played until 6 and then went to dinner, leaving the kids to keep playing until dark.  We promised to return the next day at the same time.

Friday - I finished my sixth week of Swahili training.  As promised, at 4:29 I headed out to meet the kids again, a few of whom were already waiting.  We played for nearly two hours before calling it quits.  I did score the winning goal, but the kids could have played another two hours before getting tired.  I however, would have been run into the ground had we played any longer.  After a quick shower, Sarah and I headed into town with Ellen (one of the new students) for a quick bite to eat and a beer (something unavailable at the seminary).  We have agreed to hold off on another football match until Monday.

Saturday - Sarah and I went with Pastor Daniel Moreto to the cattle market north of Morogoro.  About an hour and a half by daladala and bus, it took twice as long as when I had gone four weeks ago with Pastor Hafermann.  However, at the time my Swahili vocabulary was not as large and my aprehension in taking photographs was still against me, so I decided to go back to see myself a month later.  This time I was able to converse readily and took enough pictures to be satisfied.  In addition, we got to eat goat and fried potatoes, something the Masaai can make far better than anyone I have found in Morogoro.  We returned by way of daladala (the long way, but also quick if you manage to fall asleep). 

Sunday - was spent catching up and reading books for most of the day.  I ran into town for a while to purchase a new cell phone and SIM card, a transaction I conducted entirely in Swahili.  If you must know, I am quite proud of myself, although I know much of the Swahili I have learned will be gone once out of daily practice.  However, I hope to keep using it over my next few months in Kenya and Uganda.

Another long course is set to begin again Monday, so I have been blessed by 5 new faces this weekend.  I will be here for one week longer, then I am headed to the coast and to Zanzibar for a week or so.  I will tour some of the island and I have planned to SCUBA dive of the eastern coast for a few days before heading on to Kenya.  I will keep you all posted as to my travels and underwater exploits in the weeks to come.  Until then, I am hoping all goes well with my final week here in Morogoro. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just Keeping Up

Well, not a whole lot new has transpired here in Morogoro over the past few days.  The electricity has been out for a few days, but I have learned to manage (I was a boy scout and came prepared with a flashlight).  It seems that the fifth week of study is the hardest, which was last week.  Now that I have overcome it, I can say that this week, number six, is turning out quite nice.  These past two days my Swahili skills have just seemed to click.  I suppose that there is a point where you just realize that you will not be fluent anytime soon, you recognized for yourself that you did not come here to assimilate, but to understand, and then suddenly without any help at all, all the barriers of embarrassment at making mistakes disappear and you can just talk.  That was me these last few days.  I know that I am not speaking about philosophy, economics, or the greater good in life, just simple conversation, but it is enough to know that I am understanding most of what everyone is saying.  That is what I came for and so I am really pleased with myself.

On another technical note, I know a few of you have requested pictures, but with the internet as slow as it is, it has been difficult loading photographs.  I have created a page for them and will update as the flow of internet permits.

Thank you to all of you for your continued prayers and support concerning both myself and others here in Tanzania.  Both Jumapili and Beatrice (two teachers) have recovered from typhoid.  There will also be many new students who begin a new course in Swahili this coming week, so it will nice to no longer be one of three here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day

Well, as many of you know, Independence Day is my favorite holiday of the year.  So, needless to say, I missed it being 8000 miles from America.  However, I was furthermore saddened because I was one of two Americans at the school here and the other was gone, so I celebrated America alone.  I watched fireworks on Youtube, drank a Coca-Cola, and went to bed.  I cannot say it was the best Fourth of July ever.

However, I am in a sincerely pleasant mood, since I am healthy and able to run again.  Thursday is a Tanzanian holiday, Sikukuu ya Wafanyakazi (Laborer's Day).  A few of us will celebrate by taking the afternoon off of class, heading into town for dinner, and trying to find a celebration somewhere.  It should be fun whatever we do.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Damu Yangu ni Safi Kabisa

Well, I went back for another blood test at the doctor's today.  My blood has no parasites, and since I feel better, I will assume that my short bout with Malaria is over.  I am back at class this morning too, so I can now begin catching up on studies missed during the last week. 

A few of us from the school went into town on Saturday to find a few things.  In our quest, we stumbled upon a supermarket that sells imported Pringles, Frosted Flakes, and (best of all) Snickers Bars!  I didn't get any this time around, because anyone who knows me knows my love for Snickers.  However, anyone who also loves Snickers knows that you cannot get just one, and since they are imported from halfway around the world, they are nearly $2.50 Snickers Bars.  So I passed and came home with some juice and cookies instead. 

Anyway, not much news from LJS in Morogoro, but I wanted to let everyone know I am cured of Malaria, and other than still being pretty tired, there are no residual side-effects.  Thank you for all your concern and prayers.  Continue praying for the other students and teachers here.  There are two teachers who have Typhoid right now, and given my past weeks experience, I have learned that illness can sneak up on anyone at anytime. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Malaria Affects Studying

As a few of you have heard, I have Malaria.  By the way, if you have never had it or didn't know, it is not fun.  I have been in bed for the better part of the past two days, sleeping and reading.  I have not gone to class since Tuesday, but I will try to go back this afternoon.  I was feeling better yesterday, as I have switched from Malaria Prevention Medication to Malaria Fighting Medication.  By the way, there is no refund on prophylaxis if you get sick anyway.  However, when I woke up this morning, I was as bad as the first day, so I am taking the morning of and may head to class after morning tea.  It will depend on what I feel I can actually accomplish by going.  So, I haven't exactly been accomplishing anything this week, but at least I proved that Jeffrey Sachs was right, Malaria does decrease output and efficiency.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Farewell Sermon for Pastor Hafermann

I took another trip to visit the Massai and Kwere today.  We met first in the house of a local Masaai who has used his wealth to build an area school and aid in the construction of the church in the village.  His house is connected to electricity and backed up by solar power and has indoor plumming.  While this seems to Americans as basic utilities, it is uncommon among the rural villages.  His family has just been extremely fortunate and were good businessmen. 

Anyway, the church service was excellent.  Perhaps 80 were in attendence, a large group for a Monday, but this is a week off for the young children, who are home from school.  After the service we were fed quite well, so no dinner again today.  Not necessary. 

This was Pastor Hafermann's last sermon in Tanzania, at least for a while, as he will return to the United States on Thursday.  I will miss him and the opportunity to travel with him, but his introductions and kindness have opened many doors for me, not only over the next few weeks after he has gone, but also in years to come.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Trip with the Pastor

I went out with Pastor Hafermann as planned today.  We travelled a few hours to get there and were late, so no time for tea.  We went straight in to church.  It is a nice feeling beginning to understand more of a church service.  Secondly, this past week I learned all the number up to 10,000 and the word for "page number" and "hymn."  So, I can follow along a little easier this weekend. 

In Masaai culture, guests are served a meal, regardless of home many times they have already eaten.  Therefore, we had one meal after the service, a second on visiting the home of a church elder, and a third on visiting a sick friend of the church.  All the meals were rice and goat-fat stew, which is really good, but too much of a good thing...well, you know the story.  Needless to say I went without dinner when I got back.

On a more serious note, I encountered AIDs for the first time today.  It is one thing to read about it, or know of it in America where it is isolated and well-treated.  But seeing it untreatable here in Tanzania was something I was not prepared for.  I met a man who had surgery for a staff infection and is on crutches now, who has taken in the children (it appeared as many as 7) who were recently orphaned by the death of their parents who both from AIDs.

Today's experiences have certainly given me new perspectives, both on the advantages we have in the US that we take wholistically for granted, but also, I was struck by the level of such happiness and contentment felt by the people I met today.  With a life expectancy of about 45 and illness and death a part of everyday, these people still manage joy.  It was something unbelievable to witness, and I will not forget it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Third Week of Study

Things are continuing well this week.  I am progressing continually in Swahili, and as I have now some experience, I have really begun to use Swahili in common speach. 

Plans to leave the school fell through today, so I have been reading and studying.  Skyping home was an added bonus to the day, as the electricity and internet have now remained on for a continuous 20 hours.

There is not much happening here.  I am heading out tomorrow with Pastor Hafermann.  I will let you know how that goes.  For now I am safe and content with my books.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nationalized Power and a Fantastic Second Week

For those of you who are earnestly checking my blog everyday, I appologize that I have disappointed you for so many days in a row.  I have hoped to write this many times in the past week, but have been unable.  In Tanzania, there is one nationalized electricity company, which when it determines it "necessary," may turn of the power grid in certain areas as it sees fit.  Everyday in the last 10 we have been without power for some part of the day.  While the power does come back on eventually, the internet connection doesn't always come back with it.  So, long story short, this is the first time I have been here with time to write and the internet was working.  (I did tell many of you that constant communication would not always be possible.)

Anyway, I have now completed my second week of Swahili training in Morogoro and today began my third (by the way, Monday mornings at school are the same on every continent).  I can introduce myself with confidence and carry a mildly interesting conversation.  This is to say that I have been speaking and studying for three weeks, so I am not sure whether I am saying it all right, but everyone seems to be understanding me well enough. 

This weekend, I was given the opportunity to travel again.  On Saturday afternoon, I traveled to the cattle market at Sokoine.  This is much like a cross between a county fair and a flea market, except that the food is slaughtered on the spot.  It was a great time and an interesting experience.  The cattle market is held every other Saturday.  Masaai bring cattle and other livestock to market and sell each cow individually, setting their prices against all others.  There are perhaps more than a hundred other vendors selling everything from knives to beads, clothing, shoes, and everything else you may need.  This is the weekend gathering for everyone, so there were probably 1000 people there, and as I was with Pastor Hafermann, it seemed as though everyone wanted to say hello.

Sunday, I travelled with Pastor Hafermann on a preaching trip to the village of Kambala.  About 2 hours from Morogoro, it was not too far, and half of the drive was on paved roads, so that was a plus.  The service was 3 hours long (which in the US would never be allowed, I am told).  During the service and soon afterward, I met two incredible people.  The first, a deaf-mute since birth, was all smiles to greet the Pastor and his guests.  He could not say anything, but "voiced" his excitement to see us.  At first I was skeptical of his faith when he came to church, but while one of the choirs was singing, he proceeded to the front of the choir to direct, in perfect time.  It seemed miraculous that a deaf man, and mute, could direct a choral group in time, but I later learned that he has learned to feel the vibrations in the foundations and can "feel" the music.  I watched him though much of the service (as I can only understand a little of the actual service).  I realized that he is as faithful as the rest, perhaps moreso than the rest.  He "sings" and praises, takes communion, and gives offering.  I was humbled immediately.

The second man I met after the service is a changed man.  Some people tell stories of 180 degree reversals in life: this is one of them.  Moreto is brother to the Laibon, who is the political head of the Parakuyo people, and also what we would call a witch doctor.  Moreto was also a witch doctor and practiced black magic until his conversion.  One day he realized that his work was wrong, and brought all his tools and his chair to the church at Kambala (the chair was important as it was the seat from which he would curse people).  He asked to be baptized and that someone fetch oil.  After his baptism and repenting for his practices, he piled all his tools, dark objects, and his chair in a pile before the church, doused it in oil, and burnt it all.  Since then, he has faithfully attended church and become a reformed christian.  I was introduced to his four wives and found that he has 50 children as well.  (For those of you who are confused, having multiple wives is common practice and not strictly against any code of the church.)

Having been thoroughly humbled for the day and had my fill of goat stew and rice, I returned back to Morogoro ready as ever for sleep.  I woke up this morning and started everything all over again.  But hey, today I spoke Swahili without really realizing what I was saying, and it came out right to what I meant to say, so there is hope for me yet. 

Blessings to all at home and elsewhere. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A semester in 3 days

I suppose I did not introduce my situation in Morogoro very well in my previous posts.  Morogoro, Tanzania is the first of three programs of study over the next seven months in East Africa.  Here I will be studying intensive Swahili language and Tanzanian culture for 7 to 8 weeks.  Meanwhile, I am working with Professor Jennings of Washington & Lee, studying the history of the Parakuyo pastoralists of East Africa.  He has since returned to the United States, but we will continue to be in contact.  In addition to these projects, Pastor Hafermann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, who teaches at the Seminary in Morogoro and ministers to over 100 communities in the area, has invited me to travel during my weekends to visit people in his congregations and witness the work of the church in Tanzania.  Having been with him this past weekend, it will be a true blessing to travel and learn from his bank of knowledge.

So, now I have begun my Swahili study at the ELCT Junior Seminary in Morogoro, Tanzania.  To say that it is an intensive course may put it lightly by some standards.  I have covered the equivalent of a semester of study in the US over the past three days.  This is for certain the most mentally consumed by a single subject I have ever been.  However, it has allowed me to begin speaking Swahili with local Tanzanians from the first day.  Although we are not discussing anything more than basic conversation, I am satisfied with three days work.  I have high hopes for myself at the end of 7 weeks. 

So, to all who are concerned, I am doing well.  I am studying hard, and learning a lot.  I hope you are all happy in whatever it is you are doing. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

First Days in Tanzania

Given the variablity of access to internet, I will journal everyday and post the days or events which seem to be most interesting.  I have arrived safe and sound in Tanzania, plus I have overcome jet lag in only one day, so I am feeling pretty good about myself. 

June 4, 2011
Today was my first full day in Tanzania, and a great one at that.  Pastor Hafermann took Professor Jennings and me with Emanuel to a Parakuyo village about an hour’s drive from the school.  Along the way, we picked up a Pastor Ulinga who went with us to visit the village, as he comes from the area.  We spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon visiting with the village men, conversing (they talked while I pretended I could understand more than the occasional familiar word).  We sat for nearly 4 hours, Professor Jennings prodded for about an hour on the history of the Parakuyo as described by Moses, a man of importance in the village and among the Parakuyo, as well as an pastor of the ELCT.  We were given the opportunity to visit the cattle heard of the village head, and view his new water project.  I had my first taste of fresh goat, twice, as well as Chai with goat milk and Tangawizi (ginger beer).  Eventually, the real purpose of our visit was reached, and about 2:30 pm the village gathered for church.  Because the “Big Man” was forced to build houses for his family instead of the promised church, the service took place beneath the shade of a nearby tree.  As it was all in Kiswahili, I understood next to nothing, but as before, I was treated as a guest and welcomed to sing, pray, and take communion with the rest.  Not long after the service was over, I was thanked for my visit, but asked to stay for an evening meal.  We had rice with more goat, which seems to have been prepared specifically for Pastor Hafermann’s visit.  Again, it was a fantastic meal.  We then returned along the rural “dirt road” to the main road and back to Morogoro.  As I said, a great day to be welcomed to Tanzania and the people of the Morogoro region.