Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I know I've been slow to post these.....

.... but here they are now! Read all about my Fourth of July Celebration, progress on making a foldable tray for the wheelchair, and my recent trip to Zanzibar!

June 10, 2007- Back to Arusha

Unfortunately this morning we had to leave Paradise. Usually I’m pretty sad when a vacation comes to an end, but I think this time I was okay because I knew that even though I was leaving Zanzibar, I was going back to Arusha—my home away from home. While going back to Arusha means back to work, it’s work that I love doing with people who I really missed. Awwwwwww.

The flight back routed us through Dar es Salaam which made for an interesting trip, but I was happy when we got back to Arusha. My refrigerator seems to only have one setting regardless of how you turn the knob, and that setting is freezing! So all my fruits seem to have turned to stone over the weekend. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to buy more! Other than that the apartment is in tip-top shape. We returned from Zanzibar mid-afternoon so while we were waiting to meet with some friends for dinner I enjoyed the view from my perch on the fourth floor.

I took Mario to New Countryside Bar, a restaurant close to my apartment where they serve the best kuku choma (barbequed chicken). After I ordered the food the waitress proceeded to ask me another series of questions that I was not expecting. I presume she was asking how much chicken—half, quarter, the whole thing? But unfortunately I don’t know any of those words. Mario and I tried to demonstrate “one half” using some entertaining hand motions but eventually the waitress realized we were going nowhere fast and gave it her best guess.

Somehow we were still hungry after this (maybe we needed more chicken?) so I decided we should get chips mayai, the tasty potato omlette that I like so much and which Mario had yet to try. Joseph was back in town so he joined us for our second dinner of the night. In the middle of this meal my friend Boniphace (Taye Diggs’ twin) called because he was with another friend who wanted to take us out for pizza. I may have still been hungry after the chicken but by this point I was really full! We met up with Boniphace and his friend just to say hi, and somehow I was convinced to order a cappuccino and a nutella crepe, which Joseph happily helped me finish. I think I’ve officially spoiled myself in terms of food these past few days!

June 9, 2007- Fish Galore

I had gotten certified as an Open Water scuba diver a few months ago through a physical education class at MIT, so I was really excited to be in a place with such amazing dive sites. In Massachusetts I had to wear two super thick wetsuits, booties, gloves, and a hood so I was delighted to be diving in such warm water!

When I got on the boat the divemaster asked everybody to introduce themselves and their diving background. Well it turns out that all my fellow divers were these amazing advanced divers who had logged tons of dives all over the world. Then there was me, the baby who had just gotten certified. When he was making buddy pairs the divemaster picked me for his buddy and basically took me under his wing. It worked out amazingly because not only did he take really good care of me, but he knew where to find all the best fish so I got a really amazing tour! We did dives at two different sites of about 40 minutes each, at a depth of about 20 meters, and it was amazing!! I was a little scared when I hopped in the water and was greeted by a school of jellyfish (my archenemy next to snakes) but Mbwana, my buddy, picked one up and started playing with it to show me that they were harmless.

The fish we saw were amazing! Big ones, small ones, long ones, skinny ones—blue, green, orange… you name it! It was just incredible. Between the two dives they served up some freshly cut pineapple and bananas on a flipper that doubled as a tray. I think this place really set the bar for the rest of my diving!

I came back around 2 and quickly had lunch so I could get back onto the beach. It was quite a relaxing afternoon, going back and forth between playing in the warm water and napping on the beach. Ahh… to be in paradise. Before I had decided that I would definitely get married in Antigua, a Caribbean vacation spot that has become like a second home for my family, but I think Zanzibar might be in the running now. I guess it depends on who I marry!

After another Zanzibar sunset we showered and headed for dinner. Another restaurant on our beach was having a barbeque so we decided to go for it. We sat at a table that had been constructed from an old dhow and ate under a sky filled with more stars than I thought could be possible. They had built a little bonfire on the beach so after dinner we relaxed by the fire and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

July 8, 2007- Up to Nungwi

This morning Pandu arrived bright and early to transfer us to Nungwi, a beach on the northern tip of Zanzibar where we would be spending the next two nights. Our hotel was called Paradise Beach Bungalows, and what a paradise it was! The water was an amazing mix of dark blue and light turquoise, dotted with old dhows and fishermen paddling their boats with long sticks a la Venice. I quickly changed into my bathing suit because I couldn’t wait any longer to get on the beach and feel the fine white sand between my toes.

As I splashed into the water it suddenly occurred to me that I was in the Indian Ocean. I’ve never been in the Indian Ocean before! I was struck by how incredibly far away from home I was and reflected on the path that had taken me all the way here. I don’t want to get all dramatic and serious but I did do some quality thinking under that scorching sun.

At high tide our beach was just one of many along the coast, but at low tide the water goes out so far that all the beaches between the different hotels connect together into one long, long beach. So as the water moved out we walked around a bit, exploring this charming new place and of course making lots of friends along the way.

We were talking about how much fun it would be to make a sand castle when I suddenly had an idea—let’s make a sand castle of MIT! Emily and I had built part of the campus as a gingerbread house for a competition around the holidays (which we won I might add) so making it out of sand couldn’t be much harder. We must have looked pretty silly, 3 adults digging on the beach, making odd shapes with the sand and obsessing over the location and design of each mound. Building the Stata Center was a lot of fun—just toss random piles of sand all over the place and you’re done! A group of South African college students were taking bets on what we were making, so I tried my best to explain that we really weren’t strange people, we just wanted to make a sand castle of our school. Okay, so maybe we were a little weird but it was a lot of fun! The pictures don’t do justice to our MIT castle which lasted for most of the afternoon, until two dogs decided to wrestle in it.

It just doesn’t get cold here so as the sun was setting I was still laying on the beach. I had my feet pointed toward the water, and as the sun came down it made this beautiful pink line across the water that could have been connected straight through my feet to my head! I felt so perfectly aligned with the world, as bizarre as that sounds.

July 7, 2007- Off to Zanzibar!

This morning we set off early to catch our flight to Zanzibar! Zanzibar! I just can’t say the name enough. Precision Air runs a shuttle from town to the airport for free so after a quick trip to the ATM and a stop to get some egg chop for breakfast we arrived at their office. I suddenly realized that I had forgotten my passport (I know, so silly of me!) but as it turned out I didn’t need it because I wasn’t going out of the country—I just used my driver’s license instead. While we went to wait inside somehow the shuttle left without us, 20 minutes before it was scheduled to depart!! I could feel “airport Lou” starting to creep up inside of me but Joseph calmed that beast and handled the problem effortlessly, getting Mario and I our own private shuttle to the airport.

Kilimanjaro Airport is so cute! I had arrived very late at night when I came in June so I didn’t really see much of it then. Like almost everything here, it’s really very charming. Another MIT student, Shirley, met us at the airport because she had been in Moshi. We all jabbered away about anything and everything and before we knew it we had landed in Zanzibar! I was certainly not prepared for the heat. Arusha has been so mild, even chilly at times, so I was overwhelmed at first by the sun!

I spotted a man holding a sign that said “Tesch x3” who I deduced to be our driver. After exchanging the usual Tanzanian hospitalities, Pandu helped us into his jeep and took us over to Stone Town, giving us a detailed history of everything we passed along the way. We checked into the Safari Lodge which was nestled between stone buildings along narrow streets just wide enough for people and bicycles.

Feeling adventurous, we asked Pandu to suggest a couple places for us to check out. A short walk took us to this amazing spice market where we all bought lots of souvenirs. Along the way we passed through wheelbarrows and stalls of people selling all kinds of fruits which is always my favorite. I made a new friend who I affectionately refer to as Mr. Mangoes because he had the most delicious mangoes! He sliced one up for me in a pretty creative fashion and I munched it on the street as we weaved between the spice stalls. It really doesn’t get much better than this! I love talking to people on the street so this was a great opportunity to practice my conversational Swahili.

Pandu had told us about this amazing fish barbeque that was pretty close to our hotel so before it got dark we headed over there. I can’t even being to explain this place! It was basically a pier on the water covered in rectangular tables with people selling anything and everything to eat. The fish guys had big tables with kebabs of every kind of fish, crab, lobster, etc. When you selected your items they would pop them on the barbeque and cook it right there for you. It was really fun to watch the whole process from beginning to end. The tables always seemed fully stocked because the “chefs” had guys behind them scooping up the fish—but the funny part was that these stockers seemed to be scooping up the fish right from the sea! In reality they were just picking them from their stock below on the beach, but from where we were it really looked like they were just fishing them from the water!

We tasted Zanzibarian Pizza which is essentially this really thin piece of dough that the chef puts scoops of meat, tomatoes, mayo, and an egg on. He mixes it all together, cooks it in a frying pan, and then cuts it into neat little finger-food sized pieces. It was surprisingly delicious given the ingredients! A later pizza guy I found was making chocolate and banana pizza which of course I had to try. I took a picture with him and instead of saying cheese, he instructed me to say “yummy yummy!” I love it!

After stuffing ourselves full of food it was still pretty early, so we decided to stop for a drink at this cute little restaurant overlooking the water. It was run by a very sweet Hindu family who really chatted us up. The man who appeared to be the owner was this very sweet 67 year old guy who had been born and raised in Zanzibar, but who had traveled to lots of other places. He told us charming stories from his life and bragged about his house on the island that costs him only $4 a month! One of his sons joined us who must have been mildly autistic because he was rattling off the capital of every country and its major airport. It was a very memorable night to say the least. I have the worst sense of direction in the world (mom, you can vouch for that) so luckily my companions were handy navigators and got us back to our hotel easily at the end of the night.

July 5-6, 2007- Work Work Work

What a busy week! At Mobility Care we have hard at work prototyping our first design for the foldable tray, which is coming along pretty nicely. The only problem is that everybody is so excited to work on it, that I feel bad reminding them that they should be sure to take care of their own business first before helping me with mine. It seemed like an easy task at first—just cut a rectangular piece of wood and have it fold out onto the user’s lap. But alas it’s much more complicated than that. The user needs to maintain full functionality while in the chair—so basically this means that when folded, the tray cannot hinder the user in any way. In other words, when it’s folded you shouldn’t even be able to tell that it’s there! I’ll write more about this when I have an update, but for now we’re still prototyping and working out the kinks.

On Thursday night Joseph and I went on a wild goose chase looking for sheets and blankets for the apartment. We drove past closed shop after closed shop until Joseph suddenly had a brainstorm and took me speeding off toward Sakina. The Sakina Supermarket can only be likened to a luxurious Target. Not only is it open until close to 10pm, but when you enter you are greeted by your own personal shopper who carries your basket and helps you select your items. I wanted to buy everything but limited myself to a case of Coca Cola Light (the closest thing to Diet Coke), peanut butter and jelly fixings, and a variety of fruits including one very large pineapple.

Outside the Supermarket we stopped to get dinner and while we were waiting we had some egg chop. To make egg chop you basically take a hard-boiled egg, cover it in meat, batter it, and then deep fry it. Needless to say it’s absolutely delicious. Just don’t eat too many!

On Friday night Mario arrived from Nairobi so after picking him up we met with Mr. Daniel for dinner. I think this week must have really worn me out because boy was I tired! Mr. Daniel was thinking that we could go somewhere to dance and listen to music after dinner but I was way too tired for that. We had an early flight to Zanzibar the next morning and I still hadn’t packed so we headed pack to prepare for our trip.

July 4, 2007- Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you all had a happy celebration, wherever you were. I had promised my friends here at Mobility Care that I would prepare a real American lunch for them on this occasion, and boy did we have a feast! I had a small American flag that I had brought from home, and using some colored pens I managed to make a small Tanzanian flag to hang next to it. When Agnes arrived this morning I was totally surprised to see her decked out in full Tanzanian traditional clothing. She had even brought one piece for me to wear! Even though it’s not practical for the kind of work we do here, Agnes felt that she needed to wear it because today was such a special day. How sweet!

It was really cold today so we brought the gas stove inside to cook, and after taking care of our usual morning business Agnes and I set off to prepare the food. She was very excited to learn how to make hamburgers and hot dogs and let me tell you, she was one fast learner! I think she’s now officially ready to open up her own American restaurant here in Arusha.

I made a poor conversion between grams and pounds which led me to buy far too much meat, but luckily everybody had brought their biggest appetites today. Lucas and Agnes each packed away two cheeseburgers and Daniel had a burger and three hot dogs! I couldn’t have been happier to see them enjoying it so much. After taking a few bites of her burger Agnes announced, “now I am no longer in Tanzania. Now I am in America.” I explained that while it was lunchtime for us in Arusha, my friends and family in America were still sleeping—and everybody here was very excited that we had begun the celebration for everybody back in the States!

As if we weren’t busy enough already, today we had so many visitors! I think I mentioned earlier how KASI had found sponsors for 10 wheelchairs, so three of the new users came today to be measured for their wheelchairs. When they smelled the food coming from the office/kitchen they were delighted to partake in the festivities as well!

On Wednesdays there is a huge market at Tengeru, a town just a few stops past Mobility Care. For all the previous Wednesdays I have been in Moshi, so I’ve missed the craziness that ensues when you try to catch the daladala on Wednesday evening. Let me tell you, it was a pretty big adventure! Because the daladala stops at the market before coming to our stop, each one was jam-packed with people (and their various sacks of goods) by the time it reached us. We finally decided to take a daladala out of town toward the market, where we would get off and switch to come back. It seemed like a good idea, but when we reached the market the people rushed the bus and piled on so fast that there was no way we could get off! So we had to ride out all the way to Usa River (the last stop) and then we stayed on to come back. I’ve talked about how crowded the daladala can be, but this really broke all records. At one point I counted at least 25 heads in a space meant for 16. Now add in the fact that everybody has large sacks of oranges, rice, tomatoes, and plenty of small children! It was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.

I had found a really nice apartment and I was supposed to move my things there tonight, and then I would move myself in on Friday after the current tenant moved out. I called to tell her that I was running late and she informed me that it didn’t matter because she had already moved out! Ah, so I can move in? Yes! I hastily packed up my things so I could get over there before it was too late, but the landlord was happy to come over and let me in (and collect his money of course.)

It’s a beautiful apartment with a gorgeous view from its perch on the fourth floor. The only problem was that despite being furnished with a bed, sofa, etc, there were no blankets or pillows. Apparently I was supposed to bring my own. It’s not a big deal because I can buy those things for very cheap, but nothing was open because it was so late. So I pulled on my sweatpants and sweatshirt and I was actually surprisingly warm for the night! But hopefully tomorrow I can pick up those last items that will make the place really great.

Joseph had come over to help me move my things from the guesthouse to the apartment and to thank him I wanted to make a proper American Fourth of July dinner (because he wasn’t at our party this afternoon). Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with much given the hour, so we had a delicious meal of French fries, Crystal Light Lemonade, and the smallest Snickers bars I’ve ever seen. I’d say that was pretty American!

I would say that this was one of the best days I’ve had here, but really, every day is amazing. Each day I meet more amazing people, I learn things I never thought I could learn, and I share moments with friends that I’ll remember forever. Okay maybe that was a little sappy, but this has really been the most amazing summer. Thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way.

July 2-3, 2007

The past two days just flew by. In fact, the past month has really flown by! I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already, and I certainly can’t even begin to think about the fact that I only have one month more. Tonight Daniel informed that he already had figured out how he could extend my stay. He has decided that he can just talk to KLM and have them cancel all their flights out of Tanzania, and warned me not to be surprised when I have to stay for a few more weeks. Ahhh, I wouldn’t mind that at all!

We’ve spent the past two days brainstorming on the Vodacom project, specifically how to make a foldable tray. The idea is to have a large rectangular tray that the user can pull out when they want to “open up shop.” The difficulty is in finding a mechanism that is simple to produce, easy for the user to use, and sleek enough so that it does not hinder the user’s regular activity. We have two ideas that seem pretty on target, so we’re ready to start prototyping!

I went running around town before work this morning to find all the supplies needed to make a proper American feast for the 4th of July tomorrow. I managed to come up with hamburger meat and Heinz ketchup, but there are no hamburger buns anywhere! I think I may have to give in and use the regular SupaLoaf bread which we make our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on. In any case it should be a really fun day!


JKM said...

would love to see some pics of the new apartment!

And Boniphace too!

Carlos said...

These articles are fantastic; the information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written. It’s just great!! Do you want to know something more? Read it...:Great investment opportunity in Costa Rica: jcondos house, costa rica beach condos, condos rentals. Visit us for more info at: