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.