A is for Africa

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The More We Get Together March 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 4:33 pm

As I approach the street where Raha.com internet is located, I see a crowd gathering, and I know it can only be one thing. A mwizi.

Tanzanians are known, and I bare witness, for the peaceful nature of their country – especially compared to other countries in Africa.

However, there is one specific area where this peace breaks down – when it concerns a mwizi, or thief. In response to a corrupt law enforcement system, that releases thieves back into society after only a couple days, Tanzanians take matters into their own hands – when a thief is caught, every able bodied man in the area beats him, right there, until he dies. Sometimes, they bind the mwizi with tires and set him on fire.

There he is, the left side of his head and shoulder drenched in blood from the blows to his head. Apparently, he stole the machine that makes the garage-like door located on some cargo trucks go up and down. As much as I want to, I can’t take my eyes from the scene. A policeman is there, laughing, making little effort to calm the crowd.

“They will kill him,” an elderly man watching beside me says.

Brick in the air and down on his head.

A cycling ice cream man rides up. His speakers play, “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

You know it – let’s go ahead and finish the song,

“Cause your friend is my friend, and my friend is your friend.

Oh, the more we get together the happier we’ll be.”

The time is going so I force myself up the stairs into Raha to buy more Internet for the office.

“They’re beating a thief out there. Right out there. In the street,” I tell the man who is helping me.

“Oh really?” he says, as if I’ve just told him there’s a sale at Shoprite. “Right outside?” He chuckles.

“If you were out there, would you beat him too?”

“Of course,” he shrugs. “Why not? I hate those guys. Would you?”

For some reason I feel guilty when I tell him that, “no. I don’t think I would. It’s not really the custom in my country.”

By the time I get outside again, they’ve left, but the elderly man is still there and tells me they took him to the police station. I guess the policeman decided to do his job, but I wonder – how soon will the mwizi be back in the street to steal something else? It’s not that I want them to kill him, but I guess I begin to understand the conflict Tanzanians face.

The first time I saw a mwizi was outside the orphanage. He was lying on the ground, and the crowd was kicking him. Somewhere along the way, they realized he was the wrong man. Unfortunate. Thankfully, they did not kill him before realizing this. As he walked passed the orphanage, he looked much like the man I saw today. Blood all over his head and chest.

The children and I stood outside the orphanage and watched him as he passed. When he was gone, we went back inside and returned to what we were doing.


Zanzibar in Pictures March 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 2:31 pm
Upendo and me drinking coconut water - a highlight!

Upendo and me drinking coconut water - a highlight!

Shop owner who sold me a "100-year-old" candlestick. I don't care - I love it! He had Obama pictures everywhere. So Tanzanian.

Shop owner who sold me a "100-year-old" candlestick. I don't care - I love it! He had Obama pictures everywhere. So Tanzanian.


This is what happens when you go on a spice tour. The red stuff on my lips is from a fruit they use for makeup. Check out my henna!

This is what happens when you go on a spice tour. The red stuff on my lips is from a fruit they use for makeup. Check out my henna!



We spoke a mixture of Swahili and English with Koreans over Japanese cold noodles in Zanzibar.

I spoke a mixture of Swahili and English with Koreans over Japanese cold noodles in Zanzibar.

Only the most gorgeous beach I've ever visited. No big deal.

Only the most gorgeous beach I've ever visited. No big deal.

Relaxing over veggie curry, date cake, Stoney Tangawizi and spiced coffee after shopping in Stonetown and before boarding the boat. *From left: Upendo, Jin, Jennifer and me*

Relaxing over veggie curry, date cake, fresh passion fruit juice, Stoney Tangawizi and spiced coffee after shopping in Stonetown and before boarding the boat. *From left: Upendo, Jin, Jennifer and me*


Beaches, Roaches, Pumps and Chickens…and lasagna too!

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 1:38 pm

What do swimming with dolphins, Koreans, coconut water and spiced coffee have in common?


  • ZANZIBAR!!!! –  On Monday evening, my ferry sailed me and my Korean friend, Upendo, back into the port of Dar es Salaam after an indescribable weekend in exotic Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. It is the most beautiful place I’ve been in Africa – hands down. From Saturday morning to Monday afternoon, we swam in crystal clear water, ate homemade Japanese food (I mean Japanese, not Korean – it was a culturally mixed weekend!), lounged under straw umbrellas on the beach, snorkeled, spice toured, tried Zanzibar pizza, octopus (my favorite!) and fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. I could go on and on! I will say my favorite part, I can’t explain why, was drinking coconut water from a stand on the street. I also enjoyed spending time with Upendo and all of her Korean friends. We spoke a mix of Swahili and English – what a blast!
  • Home Sweet Home – Two weeks ago, I moved into the orphanage for my last month. I love it! I’m getting a lot of work done and hanging out with the kids (though they make it more difficult to do work sometimes too!) I’m back to sleeping under a net, squatty potties and bucket showers. I will admit that the hygiene is…an experience, but it’s nothing that living in an old Gainesville house didn’t prepare me for – just your usual rats and roaches. In fact, I’ve become so used to it that when a baby roach climbed out of my hair during a bucket shower, I didn’t even flinch. I briefly wondered how long it had been there and if it had friends, but forgot about it soon after. Please do pray for good health as sickness travels like wildfire in this place. I’m still working on teaching them to cover their mouths when they cough.
  • Pump it up! – I may have mentioned before that we recently installed a foot-operated water pump at the shamba. An NGO from Morogoro installed it for free, and it’s been such a help. We visited the shamba again today with one of their technicians and made plans to install two more – and one for free again. These catapult us into our irrigation project – a key step toward produce production and sustainability!
  • Chickens! – speaking of sustainability, our chicken coop is well under way and today, we received our first batch of chickens! We’re not stopping any time soon either. On Monday, I received a phone call from NMB Bank, and they pledged $2,000 toward our coop! Yeah!!
  • Lasagna – I’ve been craving my mom’s lasagna like you wouldn’t believe, and I just have to tell some people who understand. Thanks for being there for me!
  • I believe St. Patty’s day is around the corner, do you have any plans? I think it will be pretty calm here – I don’t think Tanzania is that devoted to the holiday.




Spooning Standing Up March 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 2:38 pm

Is the best way to describe how I spent much of yesterday morning.


After waiting nearly an hour for a dala, with available seats, that never came (Baba really hates to ride the dala standing), we squeezed ourselves onto a one – two of the last three people to fit. Immediately, I found myself the small and large spoon. Tanzanians don’t blink an eye over this lack of personal space, and I’ve become used to it myself.


That didn’t keep me from being happy when we both had seats on the next dala, where we spent almost three hours of our journey. Although only 55 kilometers outside of Dar, a trip to our secondary school in the shamba (rural area surrounding a city, garden, field) takes anywhere from three to six hours, depending on traffic. Unless it’s the rainy season, when you have to take a canoe at one point, we go by dala dala and piki piki (or motorcycle). You may remember my picture with Riziki from before.


It was early in the morning, so we bought breakfast on the road. It was only the second time I had caki (cake-i), but it confirmed my love and adoration for this sweet frostingless cupcake.


Anyway, I think I just need to get to the best point of this whole story – a lime green, flannel, long-sleeve pajama top – proudly worn by Mohammed, our piki-piki driver. And I mean our – he was the only one around, and we couldn’t wait, so Baba and I squeezed on with Mr. M. It was amazing and hilarious – see for yourself below.


Not only was Mohammed’s shirt a lime green, flannel, long-sleeve pajama top, it also had white Siamese cat print with bold, hot pink bubble letters proclaiming Mohammed’s competing “flirty” and “angelic” sides of his personality.


Nuzzled in the left breast pocket of his pjs, sat Mohammed’s phone. Imagine my delight when, while riding through the African bush, I hear Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie.


It’s moments like this when I can’t believe I am here. What am I doing riding this motorcycle through Tanzania? I smell the sweetness of wet foliage and flowers I can’t name, occasionally mingled with Mohammed’s bad breath. That doesn’t bother me, and neither do the thorn bushes that scrape my legs as we zoom by. Baba and Mohammed carry on conversation I can’t understand but just love hearing, especially when they make each other laugh.


I can’t believe how lucky I am, seriously, to cross paths with Mohammed just for an hour. Teenage girl pajama wearing, Shakira loving, motorcycle driving Mohammed, from a tiny town outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.



Nyandula February 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 8:46 pm

It took me three months and 26 days, but I’ve finally gained Nyandula’s trust.


Baba’a three-year-old daughter is notoriously terrified of wazungus. Say her name, and she ignores you. Call her to you, and she runs and hides.


I think the turning point came one evening over Photobooth, a program on my MacBook. Nyandu’s a sucker for two things, candy and computers. That evening, she even sat on my lap to take pictures. A breakthrough.


A few nights later, she allowed me to strap her to my back with a kanga (African mama style) and carry her around until she fell asleep. Unheard of.


Normally, she may trust me by the end of the day, but the next morning, she hides. Now, we’re friends from morning to evening.


Yesterday, Grace, Omary, Bakari, Samweli, Nyandula and I went to the market to buy coconuts. She fell asleep in my arms on the way back.


Today, I returned to the orphanage sweaty and hot after a brisk walk to the bank. Upon seeing this, she offered me a small, hot pink, hand-held fan she was playing with. Sometimes she even shares her candy with me or offers me a bite of her morning mandazi.


She’s not too expressive, unless she’s crying (boy, can she cry), and until today, I had never seen her full smile. Her’s is a half-smile, whose corners do not turn up on the sides of its mouth. But today, I broke through. As it turns out, all I needed was a tomato and a cup.


She was playing with a small roma tomato and an aluminum cup and offered them to me. I casually tossed the tomato in the air and caught it with the cup. Bingo – instant eyes-shining, crescent moon-smiling laughter.


I think I’ll make turned up corners an everyday goal.



Carrying Nyandula like an African Mama!

Carrying Nyandula like an African Mama!







Papaya February 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 9:23 am

The first time I tried papaya was about three months ago in Mbeya. It was auctioned off at a church (as is often the custom here – interesting), and a member of the church purchased it for 1,000 TZS (a little less than a dollar) “for the Mzungu.” Ha! I was pretty excited – especially about trying it. However, when we cut it up to enjoy after lunch, I found it tasteless, squishy and overall, disappointing. I swore I would never waste my time on a papaya again and instead, focus all my effort on passion fruit, mango and pineapple.



As usual, Tanzania hospitality did me in.



The second time I had papaya, I was talking to Mama and Baba on the front porch of the orphanage after staying late one evening, and Mama offered me a slice of one she was cutting up. Inwardly cringing, yet outwardly eager to avoid coming across as rude, I accepted.



And what do you know? I found myself praying to be offered another piece! The taste was not bland, but subtle, the texture was not squishy, but soft. Suffering from passion fruit codependence and fearing a change in loyalty, I maintained my priorities for another two months (if you don’t count a brief rendezvous with South African papaya which, in my opinion, does not compare). Until…



Last week.



I returned from South Africa, desperate for the fresh fruit of Tanzania (As you can tell, I’ve become quite uppity when to comes to fresh produce. Oh and cashews too. And soda. Ok everything is better here). I tried a new stand on the way home from work (To which I won’t return. Those over-charging swindlers). After taking advantage of my desperation and over-charging me for my mango, the owner promised the papaya I chose would be ready to eat the next day.



The following week, Ally (Heidi’s house keeper) cut it up for me while I was at work. I came home to my beautiful papaya, a li perfectly iva (ripe) and sliced up in the way only Ally can. He also cut up a lime to squeeze over the papaya. I ate about half of this football-size fruit in 20 minutes, finished another quarter in an hour, and had to leave the house to avoid the last piece, which I happily finished this morning. 

My first, and last, disgusting papaya.

My first, and last, disgusting papaya.


Obama T-shirts February 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — atilley @ 6:43 am

First off, I would like to say a HUGE thank you for the Christmas cards and packages that have been sent to me. It’s so uplifting and fun to receive snail mail, and I’ve really enjoyed the hygienic benefits of some of the packages. Lotions, shampoos, nail polish…I’m a new girl!


  • Education Center – Do you remember how the government ordered us to close down our school last year? We do not meet the infrastructure requirements of a secondary school (oh, we’re about four buildings short), so we cannot register. A major headache has been the question, “Where are the children going to go when school starts again in January?” Well, we found a loophole! We can operate as an education center without registration. We will still offer our secondary classes, and our children can take national examinations as individuals like they did before. School registration is still a top priority – for significant breaks and help from the government – but at least our children are continuing their education!
  •  “You dishonor your mother” – Last Sunday, I went to Dar es Salaam Pentecostal Church with Dietrich (one of the older boys). I met up with him at the orphanage, and as I was waiting, Mama looks at me and says, “Amy, why you wear these shoes to church? You are so beautiful, but why? Why you wear these shoes?” She was talking about my dusty, worn crocs, of course. “You – how you say? You dishonor your mother!” Hilarious! I’m considering investing in some sandals, but I can hardly justify wearing a nice pair of shoes and trudging through the dirt and grime of Dar – no matter what my Tanzanian Mama thinks. J
  • Cheza – Mama is going to get a monopoly on my bullet points. I can’t help it – I love her! On Thursday, I had just walked into the orphanage when Mama came out of the office and said “Amy. Cheza!” Kucheza means to dance in Kiswahili. Let me tell you, that woman has some groove! Tanzanians, and East Africans in general, don’t dance as wildly as they do in West Africa. The moves tend to be a little more slow and soulful (and sometimes pretty goofy-looking). I felt a bit stiff, tall and gangly next to Mama – stout and plump, dancing proudly with her chin up and shoulders moving to the beat, but I eventually shook off my Mzungu-ness and got into it.
  • Inauguration – Heidi and I invited Baba, Mama and Headmaster Denis over to eat pizza and watch the inauguration. We donned our Obama shirts – a surprise from Heidi – and watched history take place all the way over here in TZ! We stood for the national anthem and Obama’s oath, we cried over Rick Warren’s prayer (or maybe that was just me…) and laughed at the old woman from Pasadena, Calf.,  who could never quite prepare for the shock of seeing herself on national television. Denis took video of the speech on his digital camera. Neither he nor Baba could stop talking about the international significance of our peaceful election or our direct mention of God’s provision for our country. It just doesn’t happen like that in Africa.

Ok – your turn. Here’s a question I would love to know from everyone – Where were you for the inauguration? Dancing in the streets? Mourning in your homes? I’m interested to hear how you marked such a momentous event.


Thank you again for reading, loving, praying and learning with me! I love sharing this with each of you and pray that my experience is impacting you as well.