Sunday, August 21, 2011

Colin Has Visitors from Home

The Harari family from Madison, Wisconsin plus Uncle Jimmy from San Jose, California made a trip in July 2011 to visit Colin during his Peace Corps service in Tanzania. This trip also included a 7 day Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater regions. Below are some impressions and photographs from this incredible visit to beautiful Tanzania. 

A Few Words From Sarah (aka Mom)
It has been hard to put into words how much we enjoyed this trip and harder yet to choose one or two favorite parts of the adventure. Truly, the whole trip was eye opening and inspiring. Of course the very best was seeing Colin for the first time in 10 months, being together as a family, with the addition of Uncle Jimmy as the cherry on top! Colin surprised us by meeting us at the Kilimanjaro airport upon our arrival. We hadn’t had much contact with him in the previous couple of weeks since he was backpacking in the mountains with friends since early June. We didn’t easily recognize him either since he had grown a beard, his hair was long with a woolen cap perched on top of his scruffy head. He most closely resembled Tom Hanks…. from Castaway. He remarked that he was doing his very best to look his most unkempt at our arrival just for the shock value. Success!

The safari landscape coupled with the STUNNING array of animals was an absolute favorite. How could it not amaze? Indescribable beauty and crazy Lion King animals, everywhere and numerous!  My personal favorite? The ngiris (or the warthogs) because they were ridiculously funny looking and scaredy britches who high tail it into the high grass at the first sound of approaching danger with their skinny tails stuck straight up into the air like antennae. Our guide told us their Swahilli name was pumbavu, meaning foolish or stupid, because they often started running away and then, in mid sprint, forgot what they were running from, turn around and run right back toward the danger (ie lion). Needless to say they are not at the top of the food chain, but highly entertaining nonetheless.

And besides traveling to Colin’s beautiful village and seeing him teaching Physics to 60 kids at a time (that was ridiculously fun)…my overall favorite memories center on the many colors of Africa.

For me, the beauty of Tanzania lies layered in the Serengeti landscape, the red clay of Karatu, the white caps of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the green valleys of Ngorongoro Crater and mountainside village of  Chome, the deep dark skin of the Maasai men herding their cattle across the desert, the bright red of the their “shuka“ contrasting with the desert landscape; the intricately beaded necklaces and earrings of the Maasai women, the beautiful wrinkly faces of the elderly, the bundles of green bananas, red tomatoes, golden corn and hay being marketed and transported by bicycle throughout the country. But my favorite colors of Africa were found on all the beautiful mamas of Tanzania. Their bold, colorful Kitenge worn as skirts, dresses, headdresses, blouses, baby wraps and often topped by a basket full of market goods or water buckets. Always seen was a constant stream of mamas; walking, working, moving, in their beautiful colors along every roadside and through out the hillsides. As Julia remarked, “the Mama’s rock!” That they do!

Thank you to Colin for being such a superb and patient host (especially in my hunt for Kitenge to bring home) J Your family herd of white rhinos are forever indebted, even if we ruined your street cred as a local!

Note from Uncle Jimmy:

We spent a few days in Chome, which is the village where Colin lives and teaches school.  There are no population or welcome signs as you drive up the incredible gravel mountain road to Chome, so we are guessing there are 5-8 thousand people spread out across the hillside that live there.  After our brief stay however, it seemed clear that Colin has a potential future career as the Mayor of Chome.  Everywhere we went, people would stop and chat with him in Swahili and give him some funky handshake as though this was their long lost brother they had not seen in 20 years!  They would laugh, talk, shake hands a few more times, and then move on. This happened about every 5 minutes as we took a long walk through the village one evening.  Since all the back and forth conversation took place in Swahili or (a local Chome dialect), it is hard to say exactly what they were talking about.  Colin has clearly been accepted into this town and the fact that he is a white guy physics teacher from America who actually speaks decent Swahili seems really fascinating to the local community.

Attached are two photos showing Colin chatting it up with a few locals. Also attached is a photo showing the department heads of this secondary school.  Notice the Physics Department head, Mr. Colin. Yup, that is the future Mayor of Chome. Apparently Harari is hard to pronounce so they stick with his first name. (Those other names look a lot harder to pronounce to me????). We had a great trip and Mr. Colin was a great host.  Housing us, cooking for us, and generally making sure we did not get lost. I encourage you to visit the Mayor of Chome - although the Chome Manor where Colin lives (story for another time) is a little spartan. After one night sharing a bed with Mr. Colin since beds were scarce, I opted for the floor since he likes to point his new fan directly across his bed that makes it feel an arctic wind tunnel. Good for keeping the mosquitos moving along however. 

Blog for Colin (Paige)

Everyone keeps asking me, “How was Africa?!” and the only word I can muster up in my vocabulary is…amazing. But that word does not nearly begin to describe how incredible Africa was. From the second we stepped off the airplane in Kilimanjaro, I knew it was going to be stellar because there was a gigantic tree I’d never seen before!

But for me one of the most mind blowing things about Africa besides the wild array of cool animals, and witnessing Colin living there, was the actual culture and people of Africa. We traveled through a good amount of Northern Tanzania and were able to see many of the villages in which people reside (including Colin’s village). It was so amazing for me to watch all these people so completely happy getting up every morning in the wee hours of the morning to farm in their fields and villages, go to their stores and get ready for the day. It seemed like people there were content and fulfilled to do what they did and didn’t have a complaint in the world. For me, it was so refreshing that these people loved life without needing to constantly be on the internet or texting. Every time we walked by someone would be saying, “Karibu!” (welcome) or just sort of waving at the pack of white people in awe. I definitely could not have asked for a better experience, although I’m not quite ready to give up my cell phone forever…

Note from Leah:

Two interesting highlights of the trip for me were learning Tanzanian names and that some of COlins fellow villagers believe that he is a spy. One night at dinner, our waiters name was Goodlove. SOme other names I really enjoyed were Hopeness, Goodness, Prideness, Godspeed and Godsend. As for Colin being a spy, I'm not sure where people form his village are coming from. The typical spy look is very clean adn slick and Colin is the opposite of this. He is in fact the only person in all of Tanzania with facial hair from what I saw. Not to mention, his being the sole white person in his village makes him much less conspicuous. Regardless of whether or not he is spying, I am now assuming that Chome is hiding some sort of huge conspiracy of world hunger solution somewhere within its crater. 
Oh, and one more highschol was Paige double fisting Tanzanian beer at dinner (daily).

Note from Father Harari:

Travel that includes the entire family unit is pretty rare once the kids get to high school and college. This summer 2011 trip to Tanzania, Africa to visit son Colin in the Peace Corps was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. To connect our family of 6 plus my brother Jim on the other side of the world was truly fantastic. Among so many highlights, perhaps the most compelling included visiting Colin after almost a year away from the US in the Peace Corps, taking a spectacular Safari through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater regions, and seeing the beauty and challenges that face a developing African country like Tanzania. Here are some impressions from the first of these highlights; namely visiting Colin in his hometown of Chome Village, Tanzania.

The beautiful village of Chome is tucked high in the Pare Mountains some 150 km from the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. The road up to Chome is an adventure to say the least. The thrill and nervousness that we felt making this precipitous ascent in a rock stable, fully equipped safari vehicle triggered butterflies as we thought of the trips made by Colin up and down this rugged terrain each month or so in weathered, crowded local buses. 

For our family, the most striking part of our Chome visit was the warmth and friendly greetings of local people. We took a spectacular evening walk across Chome Village with Colin and his good friend and fellow teacher Baraka who has known Chome his entire life. Seven white americans walking across Chome draws the attention, interest and giggles of children and adults. With Baraka as our guide, and Colin as a familiar face having arrived in Chome in Fall 2010, we made a 3 hour round trip walk across this beautiful agricultural village. Groups of children walking home from school joined us for parts of the trip, adults welcomed us with broad smiles and Swahili greetings. Baraka and Colin took turns explaining this unusual group of visitors. We visited Baraka’s Baba at his home on the other side of Chome (hour walk from the school where Baraka and Colin teach and live). His incredible warmth and bright smile was infectious as he and Colin laughed, conversed in Swahili and shook hands several dozen times during the hour visit. Walking across this rural village with a brief glimpse of so many kind people, the beautiful farmland, simple dwellings and local animals provided a heart and soul for our family trip to Tanzania. Knowing that Colin was surrounded by such friendly and hard working people was heartening. Experiencing firsthand the joyful expression of local greetings to “Mr. Colin” and his family was unforgettable. A few photos from this memorable Chome Village walk are attached here. Hope to get back there someday.   

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some More Pictures

My class soccer team. (I am the head of one of the classes and we had a school tourney and these were my boys)

The school kitchen. The mama on the left cooks for 400 in here everyday. This is the whole kitchen, just 4 massive pots (two for cooking beans and two for cooking either ugali or rice)

A couple PCVs hanging out with some awesome quadruplets we found in Morogoro

Proof that I am actually a teacher

The Goat

*A quick warning for those with weak stomachs: this story involves the death by machete to a goat, as well as the consumption of things that in my opinion should not be consumed*

I have never had any problem eating meat. In fact, in the states I would eat meat at every meal if possible. Even if I were merely having cereal for breakfast, I would see no harm in a little beef turkey snack on the side. However, coming to Tanzania has decreased my meat consumption significantly. When I am in town I will get it from time to time, but in the village, it tends to be almost inedible in my opinion. Boiling meat is a go to meat cooking maneuver here. This is fine, but they boil it for so long that it tends to be jaw ruining tough. Also, in an attempt to prevent even the tiniest piece of meat from going to waste, a large majority of what is cooked is bone and fat. And removing really rubbery meat, and fat fastened to the bone is quite a challenge, so I tend to stay away from it.
Anyways, on to the actually story…the goat. Yesterday I walked outside, making my way to fetch some water, and saw a few of the other teachers playing tag with a goat. One finally got the goat by the horns, and another quickly roped its legs together. Once they had it’s legs tied together, I finally realize what was about to happen. Naturally, since I have never really been present at the slaughtering of anything prior to this, I take out my camera. So lucky for all of who you do in fact want to hear about the fateful end of this little guy, I have visual documentation as well…Goat goes down, two of the teachers are on ‘hold the body still’ duty, the other is over the goats neck holding a mean looking machete. Before he goes at it, a fourth comes over with a bowl and places it right beside the neck, beneath the chin. I am going to start using the teachers names so I can stop having to say another teacher for everyone…so, after this, Mr. Nderumaki (teacher at the goats neck) goes to town like a lumberjack sawing wood. As he is making his way through the trachea, he is yelling directions at Mr. Tendwa (teacher with the bowl by the neck) making sure none of the blood hits the ground and all gets into the bowl (or so I thought was the reasoning). After coming to the spine, the machete is no longer sharp enough to go any further, so for about 5 minutes we sat there, collecting blood, and waiting. They all were unfazed. I, however, felt rather nauseous.
Towards the end if the waiting game, I realized that Mr. Tendwa had been constantly stirring the bowl of blood, keeping it from congealing. This seemed a little strange to me. Well a few things were strange…first, why they would be using a bowl that was used to hold cooked food…second, if they just wanted to collect the blood in a prevention of dirtying the ground, why were they so actively tending to it…and then they added salt it. This I did not understand at all so I asked what could they possibly be planning to do with this now partially congealed, salty, maroon mixture. They told me it was for a delicious drink. I literally almost vomited in my mouth at this point. The killing of the goat and everything that followed was stomach-churning for sure, but this idea was the worst for me, hands down. They told me not only was it delicious, but it was a medicine for any disease. Yup, any disease.  Regardless of what it is, it turns out that fresh, salty, goat blood will cure any ailment. Yuck.
            All right…so step one down. Our friend the goat has passed on to a better place. Step two, hang it from a near by tree, and prepare to dissect. The carving of the goat was not the worst for me since I guess I have seen a Kangaroo bite the dust with some bush buddies of mine in the land down under. Also, this part was done quite well…the whole goat hide was removed in one piece which was impressive to watch…especially considering the few blunt tools they had to use. Then it was time to explore the chest and abdominal cavities. This was probably the coolest part of the whole debacle for me. Stomach, both intestines, liver, kidney, ovaries, heart, lungs, got to see it all…like being back in Bio, Freshman year of high school, exploring those fetal pigs. This carcass, however, was not cold and did not smell of formaldehyde, but was warm, bleeding, and smelled slightly of excrement that was being released by the no longer functioning intestines. Interesting to see nonetheless.
            On the topic of excrement, after the stomach and both intestines were removed Mr. Tendwa took them over to the closest banana tree with a bucket of water in hand. He proceeded to empty the partially digested food around the tree by flipping the stomach inside out, and juicing the intestines, kind of like someone would do to a Freezie Pop or Go-Gurt tube (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you all have internet so you can google it or something).  A bowlful of water was used to rinse off the leftover greenish slime that was still clinging to the inside of the stomach, which looked kind of like an old school shag-rug, and then the two internal organs were dropped into a large cooking pot. As Mr. Tendwa was de-pooping, Mr. Nderumaki was hacking away at the rest. Six different sticks had been fashioned into shish kebab skewers. And as Mr. Nderumaki karate chopped the goat, pieces of bone, fat, and a little bit of meat were slid on the skewers, to be cooked over open flame.
            Meanwhile, literally everything else was being added to the pot containing the shag rug stomach. And I do mean everything. Liver, kidney, lungs, heart, eyes… everything. I guess they did say that the ovaries were not to be put into the bowl, and they also cut off the tip of the goats tongue (they said something about how the tip of the tongue often will contain malaria…so naturally, it got cut off). This bowl was then filled about half way with water, and set over a hot fire and let to boil. The bone, fat, meat kebabs were then salted up and handed out amongst the six of us to begin cooking over some open flames.
            The goat kebabs were not too much of a problem for me. The only iffy part was that it was difficult to get the meat to cook all the way through, therefore I ended up eating it quite rare. This was not normally a problem. but after seeing the goat meandering around the school only hours before, the borderline bloody meat made me slightly queasy. The stew of entrails was a more trying experience for my gag reflex. I guess if you grew up on a farm maybe this recount is not all that out of the ordinary, but I am not used to eating, well, very single part of an animal. The stew consumption began first with a glass of yellowish juice. The water that was used to boil all the organs and such was divvied up between all of us. As I just mentioned, it was yellow, or yellowish brown, very chunky, and had quite a meaty taste to it. Following the yellow stew, we dug into the mystery parts sitting in this big bowl. I had 4 or 5 bites (each with a slightly different taste, and very different texture) before I decided I had to through in the towel. Dessert was meant to be the blood, I believe, but there was just no possibility I was going to commit to that. I told them as politely as possible that I was too full to eat any more goat organs, so I would sadly have pass up on the blood.

For those who would like, here is a link to the photos I took during this ordeal. Don’t click if you have a weak stomach!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Witnessing an Exorcism

Today seemed just like another normal day at school here in Chome. For the first time, four and a half months after arriving in Tanzania, very few experiences seem to come as a shock or are completely new. Bucket baths are standard; mopping and sweeping with an old shirt, and 13 bundled up pieces of straw respectively seems quite normal; kids refusing to let me carry any of my own things, running towards me and taking my backpack, or bag of rice asking where they should be taking it; squat toilets, which I was born to do. I am a champ at the squatty potty these days let me tell you, my aim is impeccable…since I am sure you all were extremely curious. Everything as the Tanzanians would say is kama kawaida, or as usual.
Today, however, I had an entirely new experience, one that they don’t really tell us about during training like they do with the bathrooms, or corporal punishment. Today, I witnessed an exorcism. Literally. It was pretty crazy to say the least. Sooo, lets start this one from the beginning. It’s a Friday and I had come back to my house to grab a book and some water I had boiled in a seemingly feeble attempt to prevent Giardia. When I walked back out, going towards the physics lab to put some notes on the board to prepare for my class after lunch, I noticed a group of girls gathered around outside of their classroom. This might not seem strange, but there are almost never students doing nothing on school grounds here. They are in class, outside cutting grass (which they do with a sickle by the way…and there is no shortage of grass around here, crazy stuff), sweeping, or doing some form of manual labor. So when I saw the girls all gathered around under the shade of this tree I was curious as to what they might be doing. As I got closer I realized there was another girl, whom they were all crowded around, lying on the ground in the middle of the group moaning. Two of the girls were holding onto her arms, and another was near her head protecting it when she would thrash and squirm. As you can imagine this was slightly alarming to me at first, but seeing how calm all the students were I assumed it was nothing too serious, however serious it appeared to be. As I got closer I thought could she be having a seizure, or some kind of severe panic attack. I came into the group of girls now, looking at the one lying on the ground. When I was right up close I was fairly certain it was not in fact a seizure, as I have seen a few before and this was very much different. She was very vocal, and at times muttering under her breath things I had trouble both hearing at all, or translating for that matter if I could make out the words. I also abandoned the the panic attack guess shortly after arriving when the girl, named Joyce, sporadically would moan, sort of sit up, and her eyes could blink open just for a second before rolling back into her head. Then she would fall back again muttering and yelling and moaning and writhing on the ground. “Is she OK?” I asked the girls …the girls replied plainly, “no.” Haha, I guess it was a stupid questions, so I deserved a stupid response. I asked them what was wrong with her, and they told me she was sick. I asked if her forehead was warm, or was it a stomachache because, well, I really just did not know what to ask them. And I don’t know how to say much other along the lines of sicknesses beyond does her head or stomach hurt. So I asked more directly if they knew what the problem was, and they all said they did not know.
Fifteen minutes or so went by and the bell rang for lunch. Shortly after the school secretary came up behind me along with one of the other teachers of the school. He walked by and said, “oh, she has the devil inside her,” as if this was perfectly normal and I already knew this. He then continued on his way to eat lunch. Ester, the school secretary stayed. She told the other girls to go and get food while she stayed with Joyce.  I thought I might as well stay seeing as I have never seen anyone that so obviously ‘had the devil inside of them.’ So, Ester and I stood there next to Joyce…Ester, gaze fixed on Joyce, watched her movements very intensely, as I shifted my focus between Ester to Joyce uncertain about what to expect. After about five minutes, when nothing but staring had taken place, and when I was pretty sure nothing more would come of the situation, Ester started muttering under her breath, now even more fiercely than before and her gaze locked even more intensely on Joyce. She was slowly inching towards Joyce, and at the same time her hand was rising from her side with index finger outstretched. The muttering got slightly louder as she continued, but only just so that I could partially make out the syllables, and her index finger was inches away from Joyce’s face.  Over an over again she was saying “Toka, toka, ‘oka majina yesu,” in a sharp raspy whisper, which loosely translates to, “leave, leave, leave in the name of Jesus.” From time to time over the next minute or two she would rattle off other murmurings that I was neither able to hear nor translate. With each passing second her finger crept closer and closer to Joyce’s’ face. Finally something happened…Joyce shot up, sitting upright, eyes wide open, staring right through Ester who was positioned directly in front of her. It was still obvious that Joyce was still not ‘all there’ per se…her pupils were still dilated and did not adjust at all even when open to the bright sunlight. Ester, with her finger still outstretched, continued to command the invisible force to leave, but Joyce’s eyes rolled back again as she yelled something along the lines of, “I cant…” or, “it wont leave.” Ester followed her to the ground, and placed her hand on Joyce’s chest now, speaking at normal conversation volume, but with even more ferocity. Joyce tried to fight Esters touch, as if the spot where Ester was touching was burning a hole through her, but Ester would not be budged. Joyce, yelling loudly now, shot up for the second time, eyes wide open. Ester took her by the shoulders, telling her to expel the devil, and to do it quickly. And this time Joyce’s eyes relaxed, muscles loosened and she moved her head from side to side looking rather bewildered. Slowly but surely she took in her surroundings and calmed down (although when she first looked at me, I think she was maybe more confused than ever to see some random white dude sitting next to her). Ester talked to her shortly, making sure she was all right, and asked another student to bring her some lunch. And that was that…the devil was out, and all was peachy keen.