Friday, January 15, 2010

Best room decoration!

Mia and I made a Christmas countdown chain. Well, not actually a chain to countdown until Christmas but a chain of links counting down our time in Tanzania. Each day after work we come back and tear off a link. Then we write any new Swahili words we learned that day on it and hang it from a string on the other side of the room. At first mention we both thought it was a fun idea, but we had no concept of how awesome it would turn out to be! We get such a kick out of tearing off each link, marking the end of another exciting day… It reminds us to savor the time we have here and keeps us looking forward to the end as well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just a little bit of silliness really…

There is a random cat that stalks around the lunch room. Talking with one of the trainers today at lunch I pointed to cat and told her we should make up a name for it. Then I had to check that they do in fact name pets in Tanzania. They do. She informed me her cat at home is named Chiquita! What an awesome cat name. This girl immediately became one of my favorites :) If I am allowed such things…

The shower area in our bathroom has one soap holder and it’s slanted so the soap keeps falling on the floor. Bummer. So was determined to get a soap dish. Turns out I didn’t really come across any in the market. Solution. I cut the bottom off one of our 1.5L water bottles and creatively used a pair scissors to drill some holes on the bottom. Result? The perfect custom soap dish. Sara 1, Tanzania 0.

I have only been here for 7 days and I already have a sandal tan that would give John the Baptist a run for his money.

Last tidbit… I am a huge fan of ornately carved door frames. To my delight and amazement Bagamoyo has a plethora of these charming portals. I made Michael and Angela take a picture of me in front of one. Pretty Amazing!

All the mosquitoes love Mia which means they stay away from me. Great for me, not so great for her.

Badhi! (later in Swahili...)


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Welcome back.

Landing in Dar es Salamm at 5:30am the morning air was fresh with the smell of drizzling rain. I stepped off the plane and was greeted by a legit airport. Wow, I thought, Tanzania is going to seem like paradise compared to Burkina. After handing over my crisp $100 bill I was given a 90-day Visa and proceeded to find my luggage…all of which arrived safely. (Even my yoga mat. Holler!) I left the airport with my fingers crossed that whoever was supposed to pick me up hadn’t accidentally overslept. My eyes scanned the pieces of paper that greeted me like a sea of stock market traders beaconing to me. On first pass I didn’t see my name. I kept walking slowing to make it appear like I knew what I was doing and finally saw my name scribbled on a piece of notebook paper, with only one minor spelling error. A little sketch. Yes. But it seemed like the best option so I rolled with it.

Walking to the car I took in the scenery. It was so green! And with the smell of the fresh rain I couldn’t help but say to myself, “Now, THIS is Afrrica… (Africa being pronounced with a somewhat rolling “r” accent, like maybe rafiki from the Lion King would say it). As Anne Shirley would have said it, I just stood for a moment to drink it all in.

The driver brought me to the hostel where I had a reservation to stay until the afternoon when another student would be arriving and we would go to Bagamoyo together. I was able to shower and get breakfast which consisted of the most delicious bread I had tasted in a really long time. No offense Ryan, but these ladies know how to make bread… The morning feast was followed by a wonderful 4 hour siesta nap. I made myself get up at noon to start adjusting to the time change. However, my body thought it was 3am and was not super excited about that decision.

Funny story 1: I had lunch at the hostel with 3 Asian dudes who offered me some of their Asian peppers to add to my rice. They looked kind of funny, but then I figured it would make a great story for my blog so I went for it. As I took the first bite I imagined what might happen on the car ride to Bagamoyo if they didn’t agree with my stomach, but at that point it was too late to go back. Turns out they were kind of salty, not spicy at all, and agreed with my stomach just fine. Some might have thought that was not a wise move, but I try to broaden my horizons as much as possible.

Funny story 2: I was supposed to be picked up at 3pm to go to the airport to get my classmate and then onto Bagamoyo. 3:30pm No One. 4pm No One. I get a hold of the other students already at the house and they try and see what is going on. 5pm No One. 6pm the car pulls up. The guy went to the airport first and then to come get me. Thanks for the heads up. I was able to read for most of the time, so it wasn’t all a loss. But I might have planned my time differently if I had known I would have 3 more hours! Okay, so that’s not super funny. But it is true.

It was great to arrive at the house and see the rest of the crew! I’m sharing a room with a girl named Mia. She is great! The house is enormous and its size is accentuated by the fact that there is little to no furniture in it what so ever. All the walls and floors are white and the ceiling in the great room is at least 16feet high. Mia and I have our own bathroom and all the beds have mosquito nets. The mattresses are foam which is pretty common. I thought mine what pretty high density until I realized that the divot formed by my body while sleeping doesn’t really go away. Awesome (sarcastic tone). Hopefully, I won’t have any back problems with it.

Well, I’m over my limit so I’ll finish with the wonderful dinner we had of rice and beans. It was very much like the lunch I had at the hostel which also consisted of rice and beans. Welcome back to Africa. Yum.

Turkey. No, not the food you eat.

Because I had purchased two round trip tickets to facilitate my Turkish adventure with Caroline on the way back, I had to check into my Egypt Air flight like I would any other flight. There was no easy connection. I had to collect my luggage, go through customs, find the counter, check in, go through security and make it to my next flight. I had 3 hours. Well obviously I made it since I’m here now. But it was quite a stressful time. I had to buy a $20 visa at the airport so I could leave the secure area to get my bags and check back in! Thankfully there was no paperwork. I gave him my $20 USD and the guy a little sticker in my passport. No questions, nothing. Fine by me and I can use the same visa when I go back so it was really not all that inconvenient. I was however a bit concerned that the control to get back into the airport would question why I entered and exited their country in a span of 2 hours. But again. Nothing. If they don’t ask, you don’t open your mouth. The other challenge to this whole escapade was managing all my luggage. I travel light, but I was hauling a cooler full of lab supplies with me. If it wouldn’t have cost me a fortune, the convenience of shipping it would have been much preferred. Anyway, they had those great little luggage carts and all you needed was a little coin to unlock it from the next one, like they have all over Europe and at Aldi’s in the states. Of course I have no Turkish coins, so I try putting a quarter, my only quarter in the slot. Outcome? Stuck. Well there were actually 2 slots on each cart and so this Turkish guy comes up behind waving his little coin around and I’m thinking oh how nice… he’s going to help me. Wrong. He uses his coin to unlock the cart and away with it he goes and I left stunned; Quarterless and cartless.

In the end, I decided the cart wasn’t going to be worth the hassle and that I would just carry my 120lbs of luggage to wherever I needed to go by the strength of my own being. I managed all right, but the distance was little farther than I had guessed… after dropping my bags at the counter I was left hobbling funny when I tried to walk because my muscles were so sore. In hind sight, I should have tried harder to get a coin that would work. But I have to say the looks I got from the people in the airport watching me struggle were really entertaining. It was especially awesome when I walked up the tourist information desk to find out where I could find the Egypt Air counter. I had this huge goofy grin on because I knew how ridiculous I looked. I put down the cooler, let out a sigh and chuckled for a second before asking my question. The ladies that helped me must have thought I was quite a trip… My 3 hour time in Turkey = priceless.

The fastest 11 hours ever.

Speaking of meeting fascinating people, the plane bound for Istanbul was almost fully boarded and I was crossing my fingers that the two middle seats in my row would remain empty and if they didn’t at least someone amazing would sit next to me. God must have heard my plea, because I look up and there is this handsome, single, incredibly well dressed guy pointing to the seat next to me. I’m thinking, oh man, this is AWESOME… I’ll meet the guy of my dreams on a plane to Turkey! What a story will that will make at our wedding. But yeah, none of that is not true… I did have you going though didn’t I? In any case, I looked up and was greeted by a very friendly face of two girls, about my age. They sat down and we started chatting. It was like instant friends. We had a ton in common and I swear she must be related Annie, one of my best friends… just her humor and mannerisms, so like Annie. Well, with my new found friend the 11 hours flew by. We talked during the meals and then started the same movie at the same time using our on-demand in flight entertainment system so we could laugh at the same parts together. It was totally nerdy I know, but it was great! I said it once and I’ll say it million times, traveling alone you meet the most fascinating people. Needless to say we exchanged emails. This girl is awesome.

New Record for Longest Travel.

I left my house at 6pm Central Time on Monday. I arrived at my final destination in Bagamoyo, Tanzania at 7pm local time or 10am Central Time on Wednesday. Yes. Wednesday. In total it was 40 hours door to door. I had an 11 hour flight to Istanbul followed by a 2 hour flight to Cairo followed by a 7 hour flight to Dar es Salaam. I knew it would be exhausting, but it was more so than even I had anticipated. All in all, things went smoothly. The check in line at O’Hare when I was leaving was absurdly long. To add insult to injury the whole international terminal area is practically empty except for the Turkish Airways counter. On the bright side of things, I got to talk with the guy behind me for about 30 minutes. Turns out he was the security director of a petroleum company going to Azerbaijan and he told me all about good security measures to take and things to look out for, ect. He also had been based in Turkey for a while so he gave me some suggestions for the week I will be spending there at the end of March! Lemonade from lemons. Traveling alone you meet the most fascinating people.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Africa Part Duex: Tanzania. Go.

I owe you an apology. I hate it when someone starts something and then fails to finish or at least provide some sort of closure. And I, I fell into one of the worst transgressions of them all - Abandoning my blog. Maybe abandoning is too strong of a word. I really just went on an unannounced vacation. In any case, I apologize to all of you readers (if there are any readers out there) for stopping so abruptly. To be honest, I started working at UNICEF in Panama and life was ordinary again. Of course there were the exciting things here and there, but in general I was back to a routine and routines frankly don’t make for such great blog material.

So what prompts this post? Why Tanzania of course! For the next three months, I am helping with a research project studying water, sanitation, and hygiene in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. If you are interested in learning more about the work we are doing there is an official blog for the project at However, I wanted to continue my personal blog, you know, since it was such a hit last time I was in beloved Africa and so that I can speak only for myself and not worry about speaking for the whole group.

In response to feedback from my last blog, I am limiting my posts to 400 words. This means you will be getting only the best of the best, or only half the story depending on how you look at it, er… I mean, how I write it. So with that, I am ending this introductory post, hoping you are left wanting more.


p.s. That's me in Tanzania. Gold star if you guessed that on your own.