Travel

I met Jane Goodall!

Jane Goodall - One of the world''s best known animal researchers- for the Grateful Web

I just wanted to share with you something very exciting that happened yesterday - I met Jane Goodall!  I even got to sit next to her at a table for about 45 minutes, and exchange opinions on international "development", the exploitation of people and resources, and the Bush administration.  She was here because her organization Roots and Shoots that focuses on empowering youth to care for their environment will now be collaborating with Peace Corps to get Roots and Shoots programs established in rural villages.  It is very exciting work!  It is immensely heartening and inspiring to listen to her speak, and to know that there are positive forces at work out there in the world!

Also exciting is that she may be speaking at the University of Nebraska in March, when I am there, and so I might get to see her again (as will some of you!)!  She hopes to go to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Cranes and is trying to set up a speaking engagement at the University to encourage more students to vote in this year's election, and to vote for the Democratic candidate.  She says we may not get a good Democrat but at least a Democrat and Bush will be out of there.  With him in office the whole world is in danger.

If you want to help Jane, I'm sure she has websites where you can donate money to help fund her research on chimps or to help the Roots and Shoots program.  I am inspired! (Editor's Note:  Click on Jane to view her site).

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Zambia & Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls- for the Grateful Web

I'm glad I wrote already about the first part of our trip, since there is so much to tell from the second part!  (If you didn't get the first message about Malawi, let me know & I'll send it to ya.) Our journey continued on Saturday the 27th when we boarded a bus in the afternoon for Lusaka, Zambia.  After 13 excruciating hours we arrived in Lusaka at dawn and a few hours later boarded another bus to Livingstone for antoher 7 hour ride, and needless to say our assess were sore!  Throughout the next few days, we recovered and thankfully realized the pain and exhaustion was more than worth it!  In Livingstone we stayed at a super great backpacker hostel called Fawlty Towers, which is owned by a British guy and named after a place in a Monty Python movie.  Thier motto is "It's really not that fawlty, and there's not many towers, but it is perhaps one of the best backpackers in the world." and I would agree with that!  It's certainly the best hostel I've ever stayed in!  It was open and airy with a beautifully landscaped garden patio around the pool, big cushy couches in the main room with satelite TV and internet as w ell as other exquisitely decorated quiet rooms to hand out in, kitchen facilities, dorms, family rooms, doubles, and they allow camping, AWESOME showers, a super friendly staff to help with booking activities, and the best part was it was only $6 a night to stay there! ($8 without Peace Corps discount, and more if you want a private room.) We had lots of time just to chill there, and immensely enjoyed every minute of it!

The first day in Livingstone we walked around town, took in the sights and shopped at the local craft market (bought lots of cool stuff for YOU ALL ).  The second day we went on a walking safari in Livingstone National Park.  When we first pulled in, we encountered 3 bachelor elephants close to the road (I got some great pictures for ya, Vic!) and lucklily we were still in the vehicle otherwise we would have not have been able to be so close.  From the vehicle, we also saw just the tips of hippo heads in the river.  (Unfortunately they are only active at night!)  Then with two armed guards (the guide with a rifle the other with an AK-47) we set out on our walk through the park and came within close range of crocodiles, giraffes, waterbuffalo, wildebeasts, zebras, impala, waterbuck, and other cool creatures like foam frogs, dung beetles and ve lvet mites. The highlight was coming within about 10 yards of 3 rhinoceri (rhinoceruses?), Africa's most endangered animal. These 3 (1 bull and 2 cows) were reintroduced to the park along with 2 others (who died last year) several years ago yet they have not had any offspring and their population as a whole in Africa continues to decline.  They are surprisingly a very docile animal and were mostly dozing while we were near them, hence the reason why we were able to get so close.  The other animals in the park have become accustomed to being protected and do not see humans as a threat, so on several occassions they just stood and stared at us while we stood and stared at them!

The third day, New Year's Eve Day, was absolutely the best day of the trip, spent at Victoria Falls.  WOW is it AMAZING!  Maybe the fact that it's one of the Seven Wonders of the World will help to begin to explain how absolutely AMAZING it is!  What stuck me the most, besides the sheer force and pounding loudness of the water, was the incredible intense colors of the contrasting blue sky, white clouds, dark brown rock, vibrant green plant life, and of course the multiple RAINBOWS in the mist!  We were there just at the beginning of the rainy season so the water level was low, but there were many advantages to this.  One was we were actually able to SEE the falls.  During it's peak the falls can not even sometimes be seen because the mist is so thick!  Another advantage was we were able to rock hop and wade across the top!  (With a guide to direct and assist us across the trecherous parts with the falls rushing down just a few meters away.)  We were able to stand right on the edge and see the falls from view points (such as straight down) that very few people get to see (you would have loved it Vic!).  We also were lucky to be able to swim in a pool on the side of the falls called Angel's Armchair.  Never did I imagine in my life hanging out in my underwear with a bunch of strangers in a cliffside pool on the edge of Victoria Falls!  In the pool you could shower under the falls coming into the pool or swim to the other side and hang over the cliff to wave down to the people rafting.  We felt very lucky to be there and it was an unforgettable experience!

New Year's Eve was an international one; we just stayed in at the hostel and cooked up a big feast and drank several bottles of wine with another PCV from Malawi, a sweet young chap from South Africa, and a kayaker from France.  Later we were joined by a German family with two teenage sons, an American family with 2 twenty-somethings and an Irish boyfriend, and a pool full of drunk and naked British women!  Kwa heri 2003, Karibu 2004!

On New Year's Day we boarded a bus to Lusaka, where we stayed one night in a really seedy hostel (definitely a few steps down from Fawlty Towers), but there we were lucky to meet a British/Tanzanian couple selling cheap first class tickets on the train leaving the next day to Tanzania.  So we took the train back, which we originally ruled out of our travel plans due to the extra time and expense versus the bus.  But it was really enjoyable and from now on, whenever I have the extra time I will much prefer to take the train!  The views, especially in Tanzania were incredible, passing 2 through 2 mountain ranges and 2 wild game parks. The train ride was 44 hours, and I arrived in Dar yesterday.

Travelling to Zambia has inspired me to travel more in Africa, but I'd like to do it when I have a larger budget to work with and can afford to do things like white water raft on the Zambezi (said to be the BEST white water rafting in the world!) which we very much wanted to do on this trip but could not due to the cost ($95).  We also would have liked to see the rest of the Falls from the Zimbabwe side, which was also cost prohibitive due to having to buy a $55 visa.  A great trip to do someday would be to arrive at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe after trekking up through Botswana and Namibia, and first touring the Cape Winelands and spending time in Cape Town.  $$$$$  Someday..

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Happy New Year from Africa! -by Pamela

- for the Grateful Web

Hi Everyone! Hope your holidays were warm and wonderful!  Mine were fantastic, I spent them with other volunteers in the area.  We cooked up a couple of huge feasts and made memories to last a lifetime!  If I hadn't had gotten together with other volunteers, it might not have felt like the holidays at all.  Christmas here is very subdued, because most Tanzanians don't have any money to spend on things like gifts or decorations.  In the village, the Tanzanians I know spent Christmas by going to church and spending time with their families, which is what Christmas is all about anyway.  For New Year's, the other volunteers and I had a big party at my friend Carolyn's house, who is my nearest PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) neighbor.  There were 19 PCVs and several members of her village government and their families who showed up.  It was great to have the villagers there!  They are used to big parties, because they have them all th e time.  However, their drinks of choice are ulanzi (fermented bamboo sap) and pombe (a brew cooked up from corn and millet).  I find ulanzi to be quite tasty, like a Bartles and James wine cooler, but pombe I find to be terribly repulsive!  At our PCV gatherings, we stick to the traditional wine and beer.

Now it's back to the business of settling into my new home.  For our first three months of service, we are not expected to do anything except set up our houses and get to know the people and needs of our villages.  I have already become good friends with several of my female neighbors, the mamas, who are either teachers or wives of teachers at the school.  It is not acceptable here to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, but all the mamas bond together and support each other.  They have been very supportive of me so far by sending their kids over with cuttings of flowers for my front yard, helping me haul water from the well 150 yds from my house (with buckets on our heads!), and giving me fresh harvested beans and potatoes from their farms.  I have tried to return their favors by baking them cakes and breads and sharing vegetable seeds.

One of the biggest tasks I have accomplished so far, with the help of Doris, a neighbor girl, is digging up a large area for a garden.  The area was previously sod, and it was a tremendous amount of work overturning the soil and removing all the grass!  Doris (who is only 16 and half the size of me) could swing the jembe, a large hoe, up over her head and get it twice as far down into the ground as I could!  Of course, she's been doing this her whole life.  A common sight around my village now is all the women and children out working in their fields, swinging jembes.  The women will often do this all day long, sometimes with babies slung over their backs!   Most fields are planted to corn, beans, potatoes, and pumpkins or other squash, and these are usually intercropped together.  It is a goal of mine to encourage growing other vegetables as well, like tomatoes, carrots, mchicha (a local green), onions, etc.  I have been told however, that it may be too cold here to grow certain things like watermelon, peanuts, and maybe even tomatoes and green peppers!

My village is at elevation 6,000 ft, and every night I sleep with 2 heavy blankets. Some mornings I can see my breath!  It's hard to believe this is the warmest time of year, and hard to believe I am in Africa!  Never did I imagine I would be writing home asking my folks to send a hat, gloves, and long johns!  I will certainly need them come June and July.  Oh but I'm not complaining!  I would be complaining if I was one of the other volunteers who live down in the lowlands or along the coast.  They say they do nothing every afternoon except sit nearly naked in front of a fan and try not to sweat.  No thanks!  I'd rather be curled up under a blanket any day. 

Adjusting to a life of solitude has been somewhat challenging, but I'm sure times will easier once my Swahili improves and I become busy with projects.  For now, I have been spending my time reading, writing letters, sewing, learning how to cook and bake on a charcoal stove, doing yoga, meeting people in the village, working in the garden, and getting out to explore the INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL surroundings on my mountain bike!  It is a very peaceful life, going to bed and rising with the sun, and having no distractions except ones I create myself.

Well, except for the distractions of rats and bugs!  Hopefully soon I will have a cat to take care of the rats, and as for the bugs, I'll have to learn to tolerate them.  Most don't bother me though, and there are some really cool ones here!  Butterflies and moths of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and strange looking beetles, grasshoppers, and dragonflies.  There are some really neat birds as well.  With all the trees near my house, I have several birds that serenade me in the mornings and evenings!  I have been able to identify a few of them with the help of an ID book my friend Lori gave me before I left.  (Thanks Lori!).

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Happy Valentine's Day... from Africa!

Pamela in Africa 2003/2004- for the Grateful Web
- for the Grateful Web

I am back in Iringa again, to take care of some business and buy certain things that I cannot buy in or near my village, like a new (used) pair of work pants and a new short-wave radio, since mine for some reason is not working.  I have been borrowing my friend Carolyn's radio however, and listening to BBC or VOA everyday.  I find all of this talk about war to be very disturbing, but I also feel removed from it.  There are a few Muslims around in this part of the country, but they do not at all appear to be threatening.  The only adverse attitudes we volunteers have encountered is the occasional "Osama!"  shouted out at us from little boys, usually only in the bigger cities.  There has been terrorist threats on the island of Zanzibar, but no action resulted from them. 

Life in the village continues to be nothing but peaceful.  I am beginning to be very busy - talking with farmers about the problems they are having with their crops and trees, and projects they would like to do.  Beekeeping, medicine for cows, and layer hens are first on the list, but I will not have any funds to initiate these projects until May or June, due to changes in our Peace Corps project budgets.  In the mean time, I have begun helping to weigh babies at "clinic day" which is held once a month for the mamas to bring their babies to be examined.  These days will be good times for me to hold seminars about health and nutrition for the mamas.  Next month already, I'm giving a seminar about how to make banana bread and corn bread!  Bananas and corn are two things that we have an abundance of in the village, and although sweet breads may not be considered to be entirely healthy, they do add some variety to the villager's diets.  Also on Monday, I will begin teaching English to first and second graders at the primary school near my house.  At first I was apprehensive about this since I have never taught English before, but first and second grade should be fairly easy, and I think it will be a lot of fun!  Once the students get to secondary school, all of their courses are taught in English, and many of them fail since English is not adequately taught in primary school, so I feel this is a very important thing to do.  There are four students from my village that attend secondary school (the have to ride their bikes 12 miles every day round trip!), and I have begun to tutor them in English and other subjects.  Very few students have the opportunity to go to secondary school, because not only do they have to pass a very difficult examination (in English!), but their parents also have to pay fees.  So usually, only students with parents who have paying jobs get to go. 

Two opposing attitudes I have observed and experienced here have posed challenges to feeling completely comfortable and "blending in" with Tanzanians.  One attitude is that because I am white and come from America, some villagers seem to think that means I can do anything and have all the answers to their problems.  I feel a lot of undue respect from them, especially when I look around and see many of their answers to their problems (their poverty in particular) are all right here.  Several farmers already make compost and use contours and have fruit trees and beehives.  It's just that the information is not shared.  Some people seem to be saying that only if it comes from me, it will seem like the right thing to do.  How I will convince them that their knowledge is just as, if not more valuable, I do not know. The other attitude is apparent resentment of my material wealth.  I look around my little cottage of a house and think about how few things I have here compared to what I had or what most people have in the States!  But even what I have here is far more than most villagers can ever even hope to have.  This resentment is more blatant when I leave my village, and people shout out at me, begging for money, or when cocky young 20-something males strike up a conversation about the differences between the US and Tanzania, and ask "so why is it that you have a job and I don't?"  Jared Diamond offers an answer to these questions in the book Guns, Germs, and Steel (an excellent read, I highly recommend it), but how do you begin to explain his intricate and elaborate theory in a 10-minute conversation (and in broken Swahili and English)?  I'm not sure this question can ever be answered in a completely satisfying way for those of us who feel guilt, or for those of us who feel resentment, about the disparities in the world. But I'll continue to carry on, waging PEACE!

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International politics in Africa and more Pamela

The Serengetti - Tanzania, Africa- for the Grateful Web

Hi Everyone!  How are you?  Hopefully staying sane in this insane world!  I am continuing to listen to VOA and BBC every day, and glad to hear the war is (maybe?) nearing an end.  It has been interesting hearing the differences in American and British perspectives, although we are "united in the war effort".  The British angle is definitely more analytical and objective, expressing more views from other nations as well as their own.  Most Tanzanians don't think the war is justified, and they don't like Bush.  They think he is using excessive force to accomplish a task that should have been left to the United Nations.  We are not seen as a liberator, we are seen as a big bully and it's quite embarrassing to be an American right now.

At the village level, the war has had an impact on my ability to initiate projects, because the grant review process was stalled until the war ends.  All first-year Environment/Agriculture volunteers were scheduled to go to Dar Es Salaam March 23-29 for meetings on how to fine tune our grants and implement projects.  However, just prior to this, the war began and our meeting has been postponed until a date that is still unknown.  Also, we were put on modified standfast, meaning we were not allowed to leave our regions.  A week later we were put on full standfast, and not allowed to leave our villages except to buy supplies.  This lasted for two weeks, and now we are back on modified standfast.  When the war began, there were several Muslim protests held around the country, but nothing potentially violent or dangerous resulted from them, so the Ambassador and Peace Corps staff have relaxed a bit.

I have still been keeping busy - gardening, building a rainwater harvester, talking to people to prepare for projects, teaching English, reading a lot, and traveling.  After we found out we weren't going to Dar and before we were on full standfast, a couple other volunteers and I traveled down to the town of Njombe to visit our volunteer friends there.  We took a bus out to a village 3 hours east of Njombe, and I would have to say it was the scariest bus ride of my entire life!  The road was muddy and the terrain was very mountainous.  At one point, the bus was spinning tires trying to make it up a hill, and a guy jumped out to run along side the bus with a block of wood!  I assume he was our emergency break system !?!  Once we arrived at our destination however, the ride was well worth it.  The landscape there was absolutely breath taking - steep lush and green mountains covered with tea, other crops, and forest, and surrounded by thick mist.  On high points you could see out over several layers of mountains, probably for hundreds of miles out onto the plains.  It was incredible!

Last week, I traveled to another beautiful area in my district, near the village of Ifwagi.  Each of the 17 volunteers around Mafinga brought 3 students (one boy, two girls) to a Girls' Empowerment Conference.  The students learned about women and children's rights, HIV/AIDS, rape, good nutrition, and also fun things like new songs, how to crochet, sew underwear, make corn-husk dolls, and play hacky sack and frisbee!  I think the students had a great time, being away from home and their chores (especially the girls, who haul all the water, wash clothes, and help their mothers cook.)  The volunteers also had a great time.  We set up a tent city and made sure the local dukas (shops) made a profit this month by buying up all their beer!

This weekend, I had the options of climbing Mt. Kili or going on safari in Ruaha National Park, and was leaning towards the safari because it was not as expensive.  But now I've decided to hold off on that as well (until ya'll come visit!), and save my money to go to South Africa in July to see my friend Lori, go to an International Film Festival on Zanzibar, also in July, and maybe go to Lake Victoria in June.  I am having no problem enjoying life here!

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Greetings from South Africa

Pretoria, South Africa- for the Grateful Web
Johannesburg, South Africa- for the Grateful Web

Just to let you know, I'm in Pretoria, South Africa, to see the dentist.  It looks like I may be here until the end of next week, August 7th, and I don't have much to do, so if you want to write, I will certainly have the time to write you back!  The PC Medical office in Tanzania sent me here because the dentist in Dar es Salaam thought I needed a root canal and a crown, and there is no one there who is trained to do these things.  The dentist here, however, says I don't need a root canal, YEAH! Only a crown, but it will still take about a week and a half for this.

Usually from Tanzania we are sent to Nairobi, but currently we are not allowed to travel there because of a ban issued by the State Department.  Apparently links have been found between the diamond and tanzanite mining companies in Kenya with Al Qaeda, and the British and American governments are making a big deal out of it.  People who I have talked to from Kenya think this is all totally absurd, and are pleading for the ban to be lifted because, as one of them said, "the tourism industry has been brought to its knees."  British Airways have cancelled their flights to Nairobi since about the middle of May. 

Also to let you know, Johannesburg and Pretoria are really not as dangerous as their reputation suggests.  I flew into Johannesburg earlier this week, and everyone I have met has insisted on this.  However, they say it is still smart to be precautious.  From what I've seen so far, nearly everything here is exactly like in America!  The only differences are people drive on the left side of the road, have mostly German vehicles: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW, and most of the signs are in Afrikaans, that funky language that is the derivative of Dutch.  Besides that, Pretoria could be any college town in the Southeastern US!  There are tree-lined streets, stylish residential areas, good restaurants, lots of nature preserves and parks, and many young people out and about, riding mountain bikes and walking.  This is what I've seen.  But from what I've heard, Pretoria and Johannesburg give the impression that this is first-world country, but once you get out in the bush, it becomes obvious that South Africa really is third world.  The disparities are enormous!  Only about 15% of South Africans are of European descent, yet almost all of them live within the greater Johannesburg and Pretoria metropolitan areas, giving the impression that more than half the population here is white.  It is obvious though; that help is needed otherwise Peace Corps would not be here.

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Pamela at Lake Nyasa in Africa

Lake Nyasa - for the Grateful Web
- for the Grateful Web

I hope you are all doing well and had an enjoyable summer!  It is getting near spring here, evident by the pink flowers of the blooming peach trees.  Yet the weather in the Highlands is still very cold!  Some days, when it is cloudy or windy the temperature doesn't get much above 65, and when the sun is out it will get maybe up in the 70s.  The crops and grasses are brown and have died down, but the pine, eucalyptus and other evergreen shrubs remain as a presence of green.

Time is beginning to slow down a bit here, probably because the excitement has worn off, although new things are happening every day.  As many of you know, I went to South Africa last month to have dental work done, and since returning I have been tremendously busy with projects.  I was very happy to see that the school carried on well with classroom renovation and constructing the fences and raised beds for the garden and tree nursery.  One day about 600 of the 690 students helped to haul rich soil up from the valley (about 1/2 mile from the school) in bags that they carried on their heads!  They looked like a line of worker ants.  For several days they also brought bags of composted manure from home.  We now have literally thousands of seedlings of 8 different types of trees (mostly for lumber and soil improvement; soon we will obtain fruit tree seedlings), and 38 varieties of 14 types of vegetables, including: tomatoes, onions, collards, kale, several types of beans, amaranth, eggplant, carrots, peas, watermelon, pumpkins, sweet corn, and cucumbers.  We have 10 varieties each of tomatoes and onions, and several varieties of other vegetables, and therefore are conducting a mini variety trial research project!  (Like I didn't get enough of that in grad school!)  The seeds were obtained from local markets and two NGOs, ECHO, a Christian hunger relief organization based in Florida, and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center based in Taiwan and has an African Division office in Arusha.  Both of these organizations are interested in obtaining feed back the plants' performance, so I plan to make evaluation sheets that the students to help them analyze plant growth, then we will write reports.  In addition to developing critical thinking skills, hopefully the students are also learning the basics of vegetable gardening and tree care, so that the health and income of their families will be improved.  I am happy to see that the students are very excited about this project, as are other teachers.  I have no doubt that this project will carry on well without me!

Another project to help achieve the goal of improving the health and income of families began last week with a "travel study", when 4 women and I went to observe the farm belonging to the mother of one of our district officials, who has artistically integrated the components of a large vegetable garden, numerous fruit trees, and various types of livestock.  The farm is near the village of Ludewa, which is 35 km from Lake Nyasa, and within the Livingstone Mountains.  We were not able to see the lake because of mountains, but it was still very beautiful!  Hopefully the women came home with new ideas, but I'm sure just seeing some place new changed their lives in some way.  I am now meeting with them to plan seminars that they will give in each sub village about what they learned and observed, and this will hopefully get people talking about ways they can diversify their farms.  The beekeeping and chicken projects are both in progress; 2 village craftsmen are currently making beehives and soon we will have 85 to sell to villagers at a reduced cost, with the help of PC grant money.  The District Beekeeping Extension Officer came to the village to give a seminar, after which the villagers formed a bee group.  If they keep in touch with the Extension Officer, he will be able to help them find markets for their honey and wax.  People are also really enthusiastic about the chicken project, and this coming week we will be organizing a chicken group who will decide and coordinate the method of distributing vaccinations.  I will then give a series of seminars on the needs of modern breed chickens, after which 20 roosters (Rhode Island Reds) will be brought to the village and distributed to people who have built bandas.  In the following months, more vaccinations and more roosters will be brought. 

On a personal level, I have been struggling somewhat with homesickness and what PC terms "cultural fatigue".  But I am not going through this alone; all of the volunteers in my training group seem to be experiencing the same feelings right now.  At least we have each other and plans of many adventures for next year..

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Pamela's Xmas in Africa

- for the Grateful Web
Dar- for the Grateful Web

I hope the Holiday Season is looking to be a happy one, and the transition into winter is welcoming!  The change in seasons here is as abrupt as elsewhere in Africa, from last month bone dry and blazing forest, field and brush fires all around, adding smoke to the already dusty air and to now flash flood downpour every afternoon, usually clearing off to a cool crisp evening and a fresh sky of sparkling stars.  Gardens are flourishing again, and field planting has begun. 

I'm continuing work with the beekeeping and chicken projects, the school garden and tree nursery, and conducting health seminars.  Together with several very enthusiastic students, we've started an after school youth group to focus on issues such as animal husbandry, sustainable farming practices, life skills, and environmental education.  I just recently painted a mural of the world map at the school, and next year hope to do more educational murals, perhaps incorporating creative assistance from the students.  Next year my focus will also be on building fuel-efficient stoves and completing the school and community library, which will be funded by a $2,100 grant recently received from the US Embassy. 

Life in the village has been good, but I definitely have been needing to get away for a while!  I just came from Dar, where I began the process of purchasing the books for the library, but I also went to see the doctor, and for some R&R on the beach!  I had a couple extra days to spend on Zanzibar, where the volunteers hosted a full moon beach party!  It was a great time - we ate incredible amounts of seafood - octopus spaghetti, lobster, and a fish barbeque.  I wish you all could have been there!  I wish every one of you could come visit to experience swimming in the waves of the turquoise blue Indian Ocean.  If you were to come visit, you could also experience listening to the Muslim call to prayer on the roof of a hotel in downtown Dar es Salaam at sunset, and eating Indian and Ethiopian food!  But I realize how unfeasible this is for most of you, so I hope I can share with you my experience s as much as possible.

After returning to site today, I will be leaving again on the 20th to go to Lake Nyasa (Malawi) with my friend Gwen and her family who will be here to visit, then spending Christmas with other volunteers in the town of Mbeya, and continuing on with my friend Carolyn to take the train across Zambia to go to Victoria Falls for New Year's!  Woohoo! 

Will it really be 2004 already?  I have a feeling time will fly again next year.  It will begin with even more traveling.  After returning from Zambia, I have to go to South Africa AGAIN, this time to have gallbladder surgery.  It has been giving me problems, and the doctors decided it would be better to take it now, rather than wait for another attack when I'm way out in the bush far from medical care.  I will then return to Dar for the last few days of our Mid-Service Conference.  After possibly spending a few more days on the beach, I'll be at site for the month of February, and then will be back in Nebraska for most of the month of March for my sister's wedding!  YEAH!  I hope to see some of you then!

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Hamjambo? An update from Pamela

Tiananmen Square- for the Grateful Web

I just wanted to report on the first week of vacation, since so much has happened so far!  We began with an adventurous trek to Lake Malawi, 11hours, 3 buses and the last hour in the back of a truck, arriving finally at 10pm!  But it was all worth it, because the Lake was absolutely beautiful.  Pure grey sand, crystal clear water, and green mountains jutting up all around.  We rode in a dug out canoe across the bay to snorkel in a rocky area with colorful fish, and to visit a remote village where the people specialize in pottery making.  This was one of the most incredible village experiences I have had, because the people obviously hadn't had much exposure to white people or the outside world, especially the children, but were still very friendly and welcoming.

 

The "resort" where we stayed didn't have much to offer as far as food or activities, but the newly built red roofed cottages were very clean and comfortable.  The light, smells, and feel of the place reminded me so much of summer camp!  We spent three full relaxing days on the beach, swimming, reading, and eating incredibly yummy mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and several other unusual and unknown fruits!

 

We celebrated Christmas Eve with a South African couple who were camping there, and had their campsite all decorated with homemade foil garland and ornaments, and wreaths and candle holders made out of tree branches, fruits and pinecones.  They also made chocolate cake over the camp fire and had an entire array of hor'dourves.  "What would you like to drink?", they asked.  "We have tequila, rum, vodka, gin, beer, and red wine."  It was a great Christmas! 

 

On Christmas Day morning, we got a ride back to Mbeya in a super SUV with 4 Chinese guys, all engineers working for the roads department.  We had very interesting conversations, covering a broad range of topics from Tiananmen Square and democratic reform in China to of course basketball!  And what made it even more interesting were that these conversations were in three languages: Chinese, English and Swahili!  They took us out for Christmas dinner at a 70s decor hotel where we ate chicken curry.

 

Yesterday Carolyn and I hiked to the top of one of the nearest mountains around Mbeya, and this afternoon are boarding a bus to Lusaka, Zambia, where we will get another bus to the town of Livingstone.  The adventure continues...

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Pamela's stories from Africa

- for the Grateful Web

Hi everyone!  Hawajambo wote?

I returned to my village 6 days ago, and have been adjusting well despite a few struggles.  Being in the States ruined me in some ways!  I had a fabulous time there, enjoying all the luxuries that are so often taken for granted, such as daily hot showers, driving, a vast variety of food, comfortable chairs, clean stuff, wine and GOOD BEER.  And of course above all else, I immensely enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  Other volunteers that have gone back to the States warned me that everything would be so strange and that I might have a hard time relating to people.  However despite having felt a bit repulsed by our greed (which repulsed me before I left) I otherwise did not at all feel out of place.  With family and friends, I felt more connected to them than ever before.  Everything felt so comfortable and so much like HOME.  
 
The two weddings I was lucky to attend were very special times.  My friend Lori had a very simple yet elegant wedding set in an old mansion bed and breakfast, catered with Indian food and a scrumptious chocolate strawberry cake that she made herself!  My sister had the big traditional wedding, quite extravagant yet earthy, with gorgeous yellow and orange roses, a hummer limo, huge gourmet buffet at a country club and a raging dance party.  Good times all around, with so many friends and family in town!  Time of course flew by way to fast.
 
The Wednesday after my sister's wedding, I got on a plane again for Tanzania, reminding myself I have only 8 months left.  All my flight connections went smoothly, even having a 3 hour emergency landing in Goose Bay, Quebec to let off a sick person.  I spent Friday in Dar taking care of business related matters, and all day Saturday on the beach, where I ended up sleeping off most of my jet lag.  A great place to do it!  Sunday I took a bus to Mafinga, and Monday returned to the village.
 
I returned to find my house and everything in it intact, except there was dirt everywhere that had fallen from the ceiling or blown in, my clothes cabinet and all my clothes inside and my bed and bedsheets were infected with mildew, weeds had overtaken my garden, one of my (thought to be) hens turned into a rooster, and my cat was missing!  She later turned up; I discovered she had kittens in the forest behind the house because she apparently was scared of my guard who slept there every night.  On Thursday she finally brought them (4 of them!) to live with us.  I love having kittens!  Other things to be happy about (after cleaning and washing everything)  is returning to the awesome natural beauty I am surrounded by, the peaceful solitude, being out on my bike again, and my very welcoming village friends. 
 
I brought back almost as much stuff as I brough to America - all gifts - but to America I brought baskets, wood carvings, batiks, and fabrics, whereas to Tanzania I brought M&Ms, sweaters and sweatshirts (thanks Mom and Dad and Vic!), potholders, calendars, candles, jewelry, and bubbles.  They LOVE everything I brought for them, especially the jewelry and bubbles.  Even the adults have never seen bubbles before and get quite a kick out of them!
 
My last 8 months here I'm sure will go fast, because I have plenty to keep me busy!  This month I'll continue teaching English at the school, organize a second beekeeping seminar, begin making fuel-efficient stoves, and track down another place to buy modern breed roosters.  The Rhode Island Reds I brought a few months ago are not getting it on with the local hens!  (Any advice in this area would be much appreciated!  My uncle suggested country music, but I haven't tried this yet.)  The first week of May will be Girls' Empowerment Camp, same as last year but this year at an Italian convent (= good food!).  Then mid-May I'll head to Dar to pick up my friend Jamie from Alaska.  She'll be here for almost a whole month and we're doing everything there is to do here - safari, village, Zanzibar, and most exciting, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! 
 
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated money for my students.  I now have enough to take (maybe 30!) primary students on safari, buy several books for the new library, and pay secondary school fees for at least 3 maybe 4 students.  I'm still in the process of organizing everything now, but as soon as I can I'll be sending you pictures of the students and hopefully letters from them.  *** If you haven't donated but would still like to, it's not too late.  You can still send checks addressed to me (my mom has power of attourney) at my parents' address.  They'll deposit them in my account there, I'll withdraw the funds from an ATM in Dar, then deposit them in the account I am setting up here.  Wanafunzi wanawashukuru sana!  The students thank you very much!
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