Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Driving, a.k.a. Taking Your Life Into Your Hands

Yesterday we were talking with some friends about a student who is trying to get her Tanzanian driver's license. Since the student is American, we were discussing how learning how to drive in Dar is vastly different than learning to drive in the U.S. Learning to drive here has been like gaining an entirely new skill! Here are some of the "unwritten" driving rules we have discovered during our five years here:
1. Tanzania is a former British colony, so drive on the left side of the road. (That is, unless it’s more convenient to drive on the right.)

2. The bigger car gets the right-of-way

3. If you have a red license plate (government), then you have the right-of-way

4. If you have a blue license plate (United Nations), then you have the right-of-way.

5. If traffic stops in your lane, feel free to drive on the shoulder. Or the shoulder of the other side of the road. Or into on-coming traffic. Whichever gets you where you need to go the fastest. Pay no attention to the fact you are actually making traffic worse.

6. Getting pulled over often depends on the color of your skin, not on breaking a traffic rule.

7. When you come to a traffic light, stop only if you feel like it. Ignore the traffic light if there is a police officer in the intersection directing traffic, because he always trumps the light.

8. If the traffic light isn’t working, and there’s no police officer, close your eyes and drive through.

9. If you hit 40 mph…whew! It’s exhilarating.

10. Drive offensively, not defensively, or you won’t ever get anywhere.

11. At night, always drive with your brights on, unless you feel like being considerate.

12. Always drive with the assumption that at any moment, any one of the cars in front or the sides of you could spontaneously pull into your lane. Assume that they will.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And You Think California is Expensive....

1600 shillings per liter equals $1.33 per liter
Approximately 4 liters to a gallon means...
$5.33 per gallon.
(the other prices listed are for diesel and kerosene)

Makes you want to ride a bike!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


My small group came over yesterday for a craft afternoon. This age group(8th graders) is so fun because they still really like projects like this.

I love the diversity of my group! Andrea (Dutch), Jenai (Irish), Christa (American), Randra (Madagascar), Jessi (Swiss), and Samael (Tanzanian). Hannah (Korean) wasn't there. I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things these girls' parents are doing throughout Tanzania, but this isn't the place to write about it. HOPAC has only 8 boarding students and 3 of them are in my group!

Grace totally amazed me yesterday. She wanted to participate too, so she got set up at the table with pony beads and yarn, and she spent almost 2 hours stringing those beads! When she ran out and wanted more, we took all her beads off the string and she did it over again! Love the tongue--total concentration. :-)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Look at Me, Mommy!

Her legs are finally long enough! Go, Gracie, Go!
(And yes, my daughter does does run around in just underwear a lot of the time. I admit it.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does This Make Me Green?

I wash and reuse my zip-lock bags. Lots of times. According to past roommates (who shall remain nameless) and friends who now live in Long Beach (who shall remain nameless), this made me weird. Very weird.

But I was raised in Africa. You couldn’t buy zip-lock bags there. They were a luxury so you re-used them until they didn’t hold together anymore. So I did it in the States too—out of habit, I guess. Now I do it because I’m living in Africa again and I have to make my one box of bags last two years.

But this makes me Green, right? Now, I know I haven’t lived in the States for a while, but Green means Cool, right? Not weird? Definitely not weird.

Wash ‘em, stick ‘em on the wall to dry. Good as new.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Get Out the Sweaters!

As Grace would say, "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" The rains have come. Every day this week it has been raining, all day, every day. Tanzania has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. Or you could call it the hot season and the hotter season. But this week, it has actually been cold! I mean, we've gotten down to a definite 73 degrees! Makes you want to snuggle up by the fire.

Rain makes the roads impossible and makes it virtually impossible to dry clothes. But I love the rain here! As I've mentioned before, we have no glass on our windows, only screens. So that means that I can hear, smell, "feel" the rain even while sitting in my house. And rain here has this lovely, tropical smell to it.

Hip, Hip, Hooray! The worst of the hot season is over. The next few months should be gorgeous.

Gil took these pictures with his cell phone from our car. We actually saw a guy with a canoe, giving people rides down the street on this day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The CRACKS part 2

You may remember that in February I posted about the ever-growing cracks in the walls of our house.

The saga continues.

Some of the cracks got so bad that if you looked at them right at eye level, you could see directly through the wall to the room on the other side. So I finally told our landlord about it, and she had someone come and look at the walls.

So the solution that this builder, or engineer, or whoever he is came up with is that he needs to knock down all of the internal walls of the house, dig into the foundation, put a better foundation under the walls, and then rebuild the walls.

Uhhhh.... sure.

Oh, and could they do the work this summer?

Considering the fact that in the next 5 months we will have over 20 people living with us at different times, and during the summer only have 5 days when we DON'T have guests, I asked very politely if the work could wait until NEXT summer when we will be in the States.

Thankfully, the landlord agreed. At one point this summer, we will have 15 people in this house all at once. It will be hard enough having 15 people use 2 bathrooms, let alone two bathrooms that have no walls.

So this basically means that we will have to move everything out of the house next summer. Sigh. Not thrilled about that, and we considered looking for another house. But the truth is, we love this house. I doubt we'll EVER find another house that meets our needs the way this one does. So, we put up with it.

Since the renovation is over a year away, I asked the landlord if she could have the cracks filled in for the time being. So this week there have been workers in my house. They have been knocking out the cement around the cracks, putting in reinforcers, and then filling them back in. I had a picture of the giant holes in my walls and the hallway filled with cement, but the picture got lost somewhere in cyberspace.

However, the worker's solution in the bathroom wasn't exactly what I had in mind, as the walls came out looking like this:

Hmmm...not exactly aesthetically pleasing....and not exactly what I asked them to do. So yesterday we agreed that they would take glossy white paint and cover up the cement. Sigh. Such is life. Hopefully at least now the people who use our bathroom won't worry about the walls caving in on them.