Monday, February 9, 2009

Four days later and I am still eating rice...

You know how at Christmas you cook a really big turkey and it feels like the feeding of the five thousand when the food was way more than enough. And you are left eating turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pie, turkey soup and eventually club house sandwiches just to put some other flavour with the turkey. Well just to let you know you are only able to do so much with rice. One day white rice, then fried rice with egg, then fried rice with beef and vegetables. I know it seems like a lot of different options but the main ingredient is still rice. Oh and did you know if you marinate your tough meat in beer and soya sauce it turns out the meat is still tough and now tastes like beer. Plus for those beer lovers out there who think mmmmm beer, mmmm beef word to the wise that beer tasting beef is not a good as it sounds. So if anyone out there knows a good recipe for marinate or a special way to cook REALLY tough beef to make it chewable please email me or put it in the comment section of the blog. I could use all the ideas and help that I can get.

If you have ever traveled you know that just like back home there are thieves, pick pockets, con artists that try to sell you things like dancing dolls (right Rajpal) and other things that normal people may find rude or mean or I don’t know illegal. Well it is worse in developing countries or other places where people can see you are obviously not from around there. Well here is no different. So here you mix the awe and wonder of Africa with the need to carry a backpack and you have a horrible combination. I remember the first time my dad came to see me in Africa. I did not let him carry money or leave my side for the first two weeks here especially after he wanted to but a litre and a half of cold water for $16 USD. Granted he had not gotten used to the exchange yet. Well yesterday we were in Moshi so I could sing for a friend of mine at her AGM for the organization she runs and we were waiting at the bus stop to catch the daladala home. This group of white people got on the bus and we were just standing outside beside it. This one girl from the group sat down with her back to me and her backpack sticking out of the window totally unaware of any danger. I thought to myself that is really not smart someone could just come along and stick their hand in and steal whatever they could get. No sooner than I had finished my thought a man walked up and stopped between me and the girls back pack. He made a reach for the pocket and I lunged forward grabbing him by the shoulder, jerking him away I yelled, “STOP, get out of here!” He was so shocked he ran away, one guy laughed I think they were working together, I scolded the girl encouraging her to take better care and my fiancĂ© sent a text message totally oblivious to my heroics. Ah another day in paradise.

I baked a mango pie by the way. It was delicious. I got the recipe from Kerry and I thought it has to be easy enough to make mango pie from scratch. Till I realised I had no pie plate and no rolling pin. Pie tin not such an easy fix. Rolling pin no problem I just used the beer bottle from my earlier experiment with the beef. In the end a wonderful mango pie, totally not shaped like a pie at all came out of my oven. Next I will bake banana bread which I believe turns out more like banana cake. But that’s okay I don’t have a pan for baking bread anyway. But I definitely do not have a shortage of bananas.

Well that is all for now. I am going to try to put some pictures on tomorrow so you can all see what I see every day. Tuesday Bariki and I leave for a Pre-marital counselling retreat for three days. Please pray for that. Oh and can you also pray for my family one of my aunts is very sick and they do not know how long she has. They think only 2 months or so. She was diagnosed with cancer a couple weeks ago. Thank you for your love and support. I hope to hear from you all soon.

The market and the Mzungu....

So today I went to the market for the first time this trip. Kerry a woman from America, who is a Pastor at the church I will be married at and is married to a Tanzanian man, took me to show me the ropes. First I will say that her friendship is a gift from God. Not only can I speak to her without talking slowly and with a kind of accent so she will understand but she is married to a local and has gone through the challenges of a cross cultural marriage. She is also pregnant and due on Sunday February 8th.

Anyway back to my market story. So we met outside the teachers college where she lives and began the walk into town to the market. I wanted to go with her because I knew that she was familiar with what things actually cost here. To let you all know nothing here is a fixed price. The sellers are able to raise the price or lower it as they please mostly according to the colour of your skin. So as we walked through the market we were met with jambo (hello), harabi? (how are you?) , and of course Mzungu Mzungu(white person white person) Because pointing out to me that I’m white like I don’t already know is going to help you to get my business. She took me to all her favourite stands where she knew the cost is fair and the product is good. I bought 18 small mangoes for 800 TSH which is 62 cents. I am going to make mango pie. I also bought 1 scribbler, 1 kilo of flour, 1 kilo of sugar and a small box of baking soda for the total cost of $2. Now as we walked back to our houses we passed a woman selling bananas (the really small ones that are packed full of flavour). So this is where the colour of your skin comes into play. Kerry asked the women how much the bananas were. Her answer was 600 TSH which sounds great to you all back home. By the time I left I walked away with the same bananas for 300 TSH. So you can pretty much guaranty that most people will double the price for me.

Then as I walked home in +34 carrying what to me felt like 20 pounds of mangoes I was sweating in places I never knew existed. Sorry for the graphic picture. I felt so stupid complaining to myself about the, heat the bags I was carrying etc as I’m passed, that’s right passed by women who are probably 10-20 years older than me plus carrying 50 lbs of bananas on their head.

Last night I made a date with Mama Stella to teach me how to make coconut rice Mmmmm. Apparently teaching someone here means do everything and call them over when you are ready to put the rice in the water. Not entirely helpful but I asked a lot of questions and now I think I am ready to try it on my own but not until I eat enough rice to feed an entire army. You see here one cup of rice should typically feed 4 people. Well Mama Stella made 4 cups of rice so enough to feed 16 people and when the rice was finished she handed me the pot and said here is your rice. Ummm Mama you know that I am by myself and it would take me 5 years to eat all this rice. It didn’t matter I went home with enough rice to feed a small village. I really love her. Rice anyone?

House of sticks...

It may sound funny but the weather here is changing rapidly. The rainy season is usually March, April and May. The rains have already come. We get rain once a day usually at night but not always. The rains are accompanied by really high winds. The other day as I lay in bed listening to the wind howl I was reminded of the story of the three little pigs. In the story as everyone knows they built a house of straw, then of sticks, then finally of bricks. As the wind howled I thought man am I ever glad that I live in a house of brick... Because my version of the story would be like this, first they built a house of sticks. Then they built a house of straw and sticks stuck together with mud, manure and finally sealed with cow urine. Then last but not least you would have the house made of concrete. No lie you can see the pictures that I am going to try to add.

Yesterday we went to Moshi on the hunt for dress shoes for Bariki to wear with his suit. Wow I never knew how picky he was till that day. He is so excited about the wedding that he wants everything to be perfect. Which I think is really great. So we reach Moshi about 9:45 am and start walking around from shoe store (if you can call them that) to shoe store. Now please keep in mind that by this time it is already +28 at least. So off we go into the heart of a concrete jungle on the hunt for the perfect pair of shoes. We went to at least ten places which by the way all carry the same shoes. Finally we found one he liked. But unfortunately they did not have his size. So we went back to some of the ten shops. So now we found another one he liked they did not have his size. So as you can imagine we went back to some of the same shops. In between all this we went into a BATA that’s right a BATA just like back home. We found a pair that fit, a pair that was cheaper than the rest and we nice. He didn’t like them as much so outside again in what is now +38 to one more shoe store. Okay maybe two where he again could not find his size in the shoe he really liked. So as the day came to an end 6 hours later we went back to BATA for our final stop and there we purchased wedding shoes for my very picky husband to be for the cost or 59,500 TSH (Tanzanian Shillings) which is about $45 USD. It was cute and I appreciate his enthusiasm for wanting everything just right. Things that I got from the day were exercise, a sun burn and the realization that my husband is more excited about this wedding then the rest of the world put together. All in all it was a really great day.

P.S. I took all of 3 minutes to pick my shoes... Those that know me well will appreciate the picture.

Committee meeting two....

Well this meeting went better then the first one that I attended. The colours were announced and no one stoned me. The fact that I want a friend to MC and not a total stranger went well. The fact that I was willing to walk from the church to the hotel where the reception is went over really well including laughter lifting from around the table as they found out that is what I said at the last meeting. I would just hike up my dress so it didn’t drag through the red soil and I would show everyone my silver and baby blue wedding shoes (running shoes by the way) and I would make the normally 4 minute walk to the reception. Probably this day it would take a little longer. When I made the suggestion to do pictures before the wedding (I know slightly non-traditional for Canadians) my idea was met with a cheer. Because now they could stop arguing about what part of the reception we needed to leave during before it got to dark to take pictures. It starts getting dark at 6 pm and is totally dark shortly thereafter.

I can’t actually tell you if the wedding plans are coming along well or not. I don’t understand a single word at the meetings except the little that is translated to me. I am assured by Bariki, Christina and Julita that plans are coming along well and that day will be perfect. I am still a little nervous trying to figure out what is going on. The fact that they do not send out invitations till a week and a half before the wedding stresses me out a little, but I can tell you for sure I am not in Kansas (Canada) anymore.

Today I went to church for the second time. I will try to explain a little bit about church here. Tanzania was a British colony years ago. So it was filled with British missionaries that enforced many rules and regulations about the way church and school and other things should look. Including things like hitting the kids whether at school, conformation class or at home as a form of discipline. Not teaching about things like premarital sex as something that is against God’s will, or being an alcoholic as something of which God is not pleased. Oh and one of my favourites not going to church as a family and if you do you cannot sit together. It is some form of discipline I guess. Men on one side women on the other, you cannot worship with your husband or wife or your son or daughter. Well today I walked into church with my fiancĂ© and sat right down beside him, on the men’s side I might add. Can we say uncomfortable?

Here in TZ by law you have to announce the wedding for 3 weeks in the church before you can get married. So in order to register the wedding I needed a letter from my home church confirming that I was a Christian, they knew I was coming to get married and that there was no reason that anyone should object to me getting married. So they will announce the wedding three times here. They will put the announcement on a bulletin board and anyone who objects gets to put their name and the reason. They have three weeks to do this and then a week before the wedding we sit with the Pastor and go over any objections. The Pastor said it is to get everything out on the table, past marriages, past engagements or anything else like that. It seems strange to me but when in African do as the Africans.

My husband to be is coming over tonight to cook me supper. African men do not cook usually so I am very excited for this. I will let you know how it all goes. Thank you for your prayers and your support. I love you all and miss you already.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Finally wedding colours picked....

Our next committee meeting is tomorrow and this time I am ready. I am ready with wedding colours, an MC, a vehicle and a time the wedding and reception will start. I am also ready to fight for the things in which I find important.

Yesterday Bariki and I traveled to Arusha (a city over two hours away) to look at his suit. When we were in Nairobi he had showed me the colour of his suit and based our decision on wedding colours on the colour he showed me. The suit I saw yesterday was not even close to that colour. So without further ado the wedding colours are pink and cream. That’s right the tomboy Jen that you have all grown to know and love has chosen pink and cream. Is it bad to say I don’t even care? The colours could be fluorescent green and yellow and I wouldn’t care. Well maybe a little. I just want to marry the man that I love and begin our lives together with our daughter Elli.

The trip home from Arusha turned out to be an adventure in itself. Our Daladala (public transportation) was not sounding so good. Now to give you an idea of the public transportation here is hard. Picture a 14 passenger van type vehicle that only really holds 11 people comfortably. Okay now that you are picturing that put 20 people sitting down and 11 people standing. That’s right there were 31 people that I could count in this vehicle with the door closed by the way. Sometimes if there is no room inside they leave the sliding door open and 5 or 6 people stand on the ledge holding onto the door way. So 31 people and I start to hear some funny noises coming from this van. I said to myself this does not sound good. I was right a few miles later there was a giant crash that sounded like a tire blowing and we came to an abrupt stop. I think some people thought the van was on fire because suddenly total mayhem broke out. People were crawling over each other to get out. They were trying to jump out the windows. And I was in the very back wondering what in the world was happening. I think something went with the radiator because you could see a lot of liquid on the highway from when I heard to bang to when we stopped.

So down the highway we began to hike in the opposite direction we were trying to go. I didn’t understand why but it was so we were ahead of the rest of the group for when another daladala came. Some came but none going to Marangu where I live. So, on the side of the road stood me, Bariki, a friend of ours and a total stranger from the bus who maybe figured he had a better chance for a ride with the white girl trying to hitch hike back to Marangu. I Jennifer Scheetz hitch hiked in Africa for the first time in her life. Every car that passed ignored our friend that was trying to stop them. But one hand out from the white girl and the vehicle stopped. I laughed and was pretty proud of myself. So 4 people crawl into the Land cruiser and we were off again on our way home. It was fun and I will remember it for a long time.

My days are long....

Pretty much since I have arrived here in Marangu Bariki has been working from 6 am to 10pm every day. This has made for some really long boring days. I spend some time at my house and some time at the hotel. I really need to find something to do with my time. It will be easier after the wedding but for now it is brutal.

Mama Stella never ceases to amaze me. She was telling me a little about her life the other day. She explained that she was married to a British man for a while during which time she say more of Europe then I will ever see. Unfortunately he died when she was very young. As I listened to her I was simply taken by the way she talked and then came the comment that caused me to almost fall over. She began to explain to me that men from Tanga make good lovers but Chugga men do not. I was so shocked that in a culture where you cannot even use the word sex this little woman was teaching me about the birds and the bees. I laughed harder then I have laughed in a while.

Yesterday Bariki and I went to Moshi and met with the Bishop. The plans from his end for the wedding are going well. Everyone is getting more and more excited, including us. We wish the wedding was tomorrow. It was very hot in town, maybe +40. It is not that hot up here on the mountain and we have been getting some rain which really helps with the heat and the temperature. The rain is welcomed by all.