Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's A Mad World

     Alright, I know I said I would write about my trip to Malawi in my next blog. Well, I lied. It’s been such a long time since then that I have another trip there coming up in the next week or two, so I’m going to save it until then and just write about both trips. However, I’ve been harassed by a large enough group of people over a long enough period of time that I’m going to write one before then, too. Namely, this one.

     So what’s happened since my last blog? Well, Charlene went home, for one. We had a big party beforehand with lots of games and prizes for the winners. There were a lot of scraped knees that happened—easy to do when your playground consists of dirt and rocks—so I spent a time being Doctor Lisa and going around with neosporin disinfecting spray and bandaids, and Charlene’s voice fell prey to the constant, necessary need to shout over the voices of 40-some excited children (sorry for being bad at shouting, Charlene. You are a trooper), but everyone had a lot of fun. We also bought 150 mendazi (a sort of donut-like fried bread) that we sprinkled with sugar and cocoa powder, which everyone loved.

     After the games we had a slumber party with the kids at Charlene’s house. We watched a couple movies (Home Alone and The Lion King) and danced to Taylor Swift and Shakira (if you ever want to get incredibly sick of hearing the song Waka Waka, come have a dance party with these kids). We all had a good time. When it was time for lights out the kids were predictably giggly and didn’t want to sleep, and of course I didn’t help because every time they said something silly I would laugh, too, but eventually my half-hearted scolding and the late hour won out and everyone got to sleep. Zach slept in the other room with the boys so that they weren’t left out, which was good. It’s always sad when one group gets excluded. Then in the morning we had a giant impromptu pillow fight (which actually gave me a huge headache because pillows hurt when people swing them as hard as they can at your head—imagine that!) and then we sent the kids home.

     The day Charlene left we had school and I spent the day being a photographer so that she’d have lots of pictures of her with the kids. The kids and I were also incredibly sneaky and I’d been teaching them a song to sing her (God Be With You Till We Meet Again) for the last couple months which, with the help of Olga, we successfully surprised her with at the end of school. It wasn’t great, but it was cute and we succeeded in my goal of making Charlene cry, so it was worth it. I’m very impressed that they managed to keep it a secret for so long, though. I guess they all really wanted to make Teacher Charlene cry, too.

     After she left we still had the end of school so I had to write, proctor, and grade a few midterms, which was a very new experience for me. It’s fun when kids who have been struggling surprise you and do well on their tests—but it’s not so fun when kids who you know are very smart do badly because they’re nervous. I’m determined to give them lots of practice tests to get them over that before their national exams. Still, most everyone did quite well, and as I said before, those that didn’t still have half a year to improve—plus they’ll have triple the amount of wazungu teachers in the meantime, so they’ll be fine.
Babies! The one on the left is the two-week-old.

     After that all of us teachers had to get together and fill out report cards for the kids, which took several hours but ended up being kind of fun, too. I like the Tanzanian teachers, they’re good people. Then we had a parent-teacher meeting where I spoke a bit at the beginning about how the children should act at school and how they needed to study over break and how they needed new uniforms for next term and Teacher Samson translated for me. Then I just sat there looking pretty and pretending I understood what was happening while everyone spoke in Kiswahili for a couple hours, which I’m getting pretty good at. It would be better if I just learned Kiswahili, but hey… I’m slowly, slowly getting there. I can sing the national anthem now! …I still don’t know what it means, but it’s a start.

     Almost immediately after school ended Olga and I left on a safari to Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara National Park, which was amazing. Each park is unique and worth a look, especially Ngorongoro. Along with the regular crowd of impala, wildebeest, giraffes, and zebras, Tarangire had a TON of elephants. We lucked out because we saw several babies, one that was only a week or two old, according to our guide. Elephants don’t mate at any certain time of year (I guess Zebra are one of the only few savannah animals that have a “mating season”) so it really is the luck of the draw. Being friends with a few park rangers might help. On our way out we got eaten alive by tsetse flies, so now I can joke about having sleeping sickness (whether it’s true or not remains to be seen).

     The drive up to the rim of Ngorongoro was beautiful with a lot of mahogany trees, which I’d never seen before. I’m really a nerd—I take pictures of the trees and rocks here because they’re so different and so much more interesting than the ones back home. In the basin there were a lot of yellow acacia trees which I really loved and got a lot of pictures of, along with the millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, water buffalo, hippos, ostriches, warthogs, flamingoes, jackals, hyenas, lions, and, yes, a black rhino. 

Yellow acacia (they look yellower in person)
     The rhino was the thing I was most excited about—although we did get to see a lioness stalking some prey, which was neat. She slunk off into the tall grass while her friend just watched her lazily, and the wildebeest she took an interest in decided they didn’t share her interest one bit, thank you very much, and promptly ran across the road to the open plain. We saw some hyenas chasing wildebeest, too, but they really weren’t interested in eating, according to our guide. Just messing with them. Maybe they wanted to start a stampede to kill Mufasa, who knows?

     But I digress. The rhino! Yes, the rhino was great. We saw him far, far away and stopped to squint out at him along with another car. Then he went behind a hill and the other car left but we stayed because we were chatting and he showed up again—and kept coming. Sucks for that other car, they gave up too easily. He came so close that our guide said he’d never seen one so near before. I guess you usually need a good telephoto lens or some binoculars to get a good look at one, but we were lucky. Unluckily I had broken my mom’s good camera on my Malawi trip (which I will tell you about later, I promise) so all I had was an underwater camera with no zoom, but it’s enough for the memories. Our guide called all the other guides on his radio and told them that we were sitting there with this rhino right up next to us (well, okay, he was still a good 30-40 feet away, but it’s a wild rhino, darn it! It was close!) and everyone came rushing over. It was a really neat experience, but it makes me sad that it’s one I will probably never repeat because of how close to extinction the black rhino is. I wished him luck as we drove off.

     After Ngorongoro we went to Lake Manyara, which was sort of a mistake because Ngorongoro is so incredible that Lake Manyara really pales by comparison. There were a lot of really cute monkeys and baboons, though, along with their babies, so it was still great. We also saw this small grey furry mammal that our guide said was related to the elephant (don’t remember the name, maybe someone can tell me) and a lot of beautiful birds. There were also these MASSIVE fig trees which I wanted to get a picture of but we were always driving when I saw one and I felt stupid saying “Wait! Go back! I want a picture of this tree!” Oh, and we saw one of my favorite impala/gazelle-type animals, the bush buck. They’re really cute and they have spots like a baby deer, but they’re really shy and only travel in pairs so you don’t see them very often.

     After that we flew to Zanzibar and spent a night there, and the following day we swam with the sea turtles at the sanctuary in Nungwi. This was the one part of the trip that Olga was really excited about, and it was the one thing I absolutely have been wanting to do ever since my mom came back from Zanzibar, so we were both very happy. We spent about two and a half hours there, I think, and I got a lot of pictures and videos with my underwater camera. Several people I’ve talked to have asked whether the water was clean—well, no, it wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from swimming with sea turtles, was I? I didn’t even stop when one of them bit me. (I had a bit of seaweed on me, wasn’t the turtle’s fault.) It was an amazing experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

A couple friends enjoying the view.
     On the flip side, while we were driving back to the airport one of the workers of the hotel, who had hitched a ride with us, told us how a couple of women from the hotel had decided to walk to Nungwi (the same village where we swam with the turtles) that day. He tried to convince them to take a cab, but they didn’t want to spend the extra money and it was a short walk so they went on their way. Apparently no one felt it important to warn them (including the hotel guy, apparently??) that they shouldn’t wear tank tops or short shorts in a Muslim country during Ramadan, so they ended up being robbed and severely beaten by a group of men. A neighboring hotel found them and took them to the hospital before phoning our hotel and that’s how he knew about it. Luckily they’d left their passports behind, so they didn’t lose those, but imagine—you go on vacation to this beautiful tropical island expecting to have a great time and you end up beaten senseless and robbed.

Our guide, Ibra; Olga; and I, on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater.
     I don’t want to lay the blame on those girls, because what those men did was disgusting and they should be locked away for it, but I do think this is something worthwhile to tell all you people out there—RESEARCH THE CULTURE OF ANY PLACE YOU’RE GOING TO BE TRAVELING. Learn what is okay to wear and not to wear, to do and not do, to say and not say. You’ll be safer, and the locals will like you a lot more. Even things like asking before you take a picture can be a big deal to some people, so just be careful, and when in doubt, ask. When we were on the road to Tarangire we saw a massive line of men training for the Tanzanian military, some with giant tires around their necks, some carrying huge sections of pipe, all walking for miles in the hot sun. I asked our guide if I could take a picture and he said no, you’re never allowed to take pictures of them. I was disappointed, but hey, when you’re in a different country you have to play by their rules. If I’d decided to ignore him or hadn’t asked in the first place and we’d been pulled over I’d probably have had to pay a huge fine/bribe. So again, research, err on the conservative side, and ask. That’s my sage advice for this post.

     Now that we’ve gotten that over with, let me tell you the tale of the first time I’ve ever punched someone that wasn’t one of my siblings. We went back to Dar that night and, due to some changes in Olga’s flight, had to stay there for a few extra nights. That was fine—Dar is a pretty nice place to be stuck, after all, (just not when you’re stuck in traffic) and we had a very nice dinner at Mamboz. So the next morning we went to Coco Beach, the only public beach in Dar, and, well… it’s a very nice beach, but chances are high that if you go you’ll be the only mzungu (white person) there, and everyone will be staring at you. This is a common occurrence all throughout Tanzania. You get used to the staring. But it’s a little more disconcerting when you’re wearing a bathing suit, so Olga and I decided to skip on the swimming. Despite that smart decision, I had some trouble with a man who was either drunk or high on something pretty potent.

     We were sitting on some benches overlooking the beach and he came over and sat next to me. I was talking to Olga and Zach so I didn’t really pay attention to him until he started talking to me—at which point I started actively ignoring him. That sounds mean, but men can be very pushy and nasty here and I knew he didn’t want to make small talk, so ignore him I did. After a couple minutes of this he reaches over and tries to hand me a CD. I didn’t know what it was so I just gave him a weird look and said “hapana, asante” (no thanks). He left his hand with the CD on my leg, which creeped me out, so I stood up and told the others we should walk down the beach, and they agreed. Zach had to pay for his drink or use the bathroom or something so he left for a moment while Olga and I talked, and while we were standing there the same man walks up behind me and grabs my butt.

     Now, this wasn’t just a simple little pinch on the toosh, this was like, some very invasive groping, so I told him in not-so-polite terms to get lost. To which he responded by repeating the action, and I turned and swore loudly at him and stalked off down the beach, fuming. Olga and Zach followed after me, surprised into silence because I don’t think either of them had ever seen me angry before. And boy, was I angry. I’ve really never been so angry in my entire life. And to top it off, the man started following us. He walked with us down the length of the beach while we all ignored him and I tried not to give in to my insane desire to bash his head in. When we turned around and started heading back he did the same, and about halfway along he stepped close to me and grabbed my wrist. I wasn’t having any of that, so I turned and punched him as hard as I could in the arm (his face was, alas, too far away for me to reach) and said something very rude. I think this surprised him because he grabbed his arm where I’d punched him and backed off. Meanwhile I stooped down and picked up a big ol’ chunk of coral to bash him with if he tried anything else (I told you I was incredibly angry). He didn’t bother us after that, perhaps because I kept a firm grip on that coral or perhaps because he really hadn’t expected me to punch him in the first place. The women here tend not to protest when men start getting nasty. Too bad for this guy, he picked the worst kind of mzungu. The pissy kind with a good right hook.

     We had a lovely day after that, visiting the Slipway and all the little shops around it, walking along the dock there, and of course dinner again at Mamboz. The next day we spent around our hotel (Olga and I stayed at the Holiday Inn which has a lot of nice amenities), swimming and making a whirlpool in the pool, lounging around on the deck and eating lunch, then retiring to our room to watch TV. We got about 3/4 of the way through the second Hobbit movie (which I’d never seen before, darn it, and I didn’t get to finish) before we had to leave to take Olga to the airport. Lucky we left when we did because it was the usual Dar traffic and it took us a couple of hours to make it to the airport. After some sad goodbyes we went out to eat at—you guessed it—Mamboz. But this time the owner told us he wanted us to go try his son’s restaurant, which was also called Mamboz, but was about 15 minutes away. (30, if you get lost like we did.)

     Oh, man. Regular Mamboz is excellent, but this place was divine. It even had a salad bar. (Well, a table with plates of shredded cabbage and various other things on it, but still. A SALAD BAR!) Zach got the chicken tikka masala and I got some sort of shrimp noodle thing, both of which were delicious. Abdallah decided to stick with good ol’ fried chicken, which of course was great, as it always is at Mamboz.

     We drove back the next morning and I’ve been in Berega since then, hanging out with the kids and the other volunteers and reading—lots of reading. Not going to lie, this place gets pretty isolating when you don’t have school to take up your time and energy and I’ll admit, it’s really been getting to me over this break. I’ll be glad when school starts again and I have something to do all day—then I’ll appreciate the few days where I have nothing.

     We have a lot of new volunteers coming in for this next term, and all of them are staying a year, so that’s exciting. I think we’ll get a lot done that we’ve just never had the manpower to do before. Plus, a huge group of volunteers are coming to help work on our new school building, so maybe we’ll have some classrooms started up soon! I know I go on about the safaris and the other trips, but the kids are why most of us come here, and they’re what make it worth it. We’ll be working especially hard with Standard 4 this next term to prepare them for their national exams at the end of the year, something that they must pass in order to move on to Standard 5. This is the first year that we’ve had a Standard 4, since we started from the ground up, so this is a big deal. I’m confident that they’ll do well, though, they’re very bright kids. Plus, they’ve had good teachers—even the ones that occasionally attack poor, defenseless men on the beach who just wanted to share their new CD.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Come On Along With Me, On Safari.

     Here I am again, waiting ages to write another post and only doing so because I've finally managed to guilt myself into it.

     So I feel like I've settled into life here pretty well. It's been 3 months now—which seems crazy on two levels. Days tend to drag by here. Not necessarily in an unpleasant way, just sometimes I'll be doing something and look at the clock and think “how has it only been 5 minutes?!” But when I think about how I've already been here 3 months it's like where did the time go?

     I've had days here that seemed to last a week, but I think it's because I'm doing so much and experiencing so many things I never have before. I mentioned being 2 feet from a wild lion in my previous post, and let me tell you, that day was a LONG, amazing day. We started out early (like 5 or 6 in the morning early) from Morogoro and drove the couple hours it takes to get to Mikumi National Park. We wanted to get there early because I guess the lions disappear during the middle of the day (makes sense since they're nocturnal) and we really wanted to see one. We decided to rent a safari car rather than take one of our own in. It was a lot more costly, but totally worth it. Plus, we had 7 people so it wasn't too expensive split 7 ways.
This is the car we took. Totally worth it.

     So we spent an hour or so driving around looking at all the giraffes and zebras and elephants (oh my). Then at one point our driver kept circling back around to this one area and getting out and looking around and finally he just went offroad, weaving in-between these bushes while we're all bouncing up and down in the back. And then we saw her, this gorgeous lion sitting in the shade of a bush and we were like okay, totally worth getting 3 hours of sleep. I have no idea how our guide knew she was there, but I guess if your job is showing off animals every day you learn their usual haunts.

     After that we stopped to have lunch and then went back out for a couple hours. We saw all kinds of gazelle-type animals (Charlene says they're like the dogs of safari because after the first couple minutes you're just like “Oh, another gazelle. Meh.”), plus wildebeest, water buffalo, baboons, monkeys, hippos, a crocodile, and even a green mamba (an extremely venomous snake that was in a tree right above our heads and totally could have dropped down and killed us if it wanted to. Fun!) I think we spent about 4 or 5 hours there total, and it was a blast. After we got back to Morogoro, Charlene had to take her mom and friend back to Dar es Salaam because they were only visiting for a week, and Zach went back to Berega, but Kristien, Kevin and I decided to stay in Morogoro for the weekend.

     I feel like we might have spent a few hours at the pool that day (Morogoro Hotel has a lovely pool with these cabana things you can sit underneath and it's like our little retreat we visit every time we go into Morogoro), or at least we did something else that I can't remember, but I do remember what we did later.

     That night we went to a club with our Tanzanian friend Almas, who lives in Morogoro and so knows all the best places to go, plus he's a really nice guy. This particular club has two sides: one with a DJ and a bar and one with live music and room for dancing. We were sitting on the bar side and I was drinking a soda (I feel the need to emphasize this even though I know anyone who knows me knows I don't drink—but the fact that I can't chalk what happened next up to alcohol is, I think, significant), and out of the blue Almas says “so, Lisa, I'm friends with the band manager here and he said you could play a song tonight.” I just sort of stared at him and, eloquent English teacher that I am, blurted “um... what?”

     After a bit (read: a lot) of persuading and nervous hand-wringing I assented and we made our way to the other side of the club. Then I really started sweating, because good gracious, there were a lot of people there. And I don't mean “a lot” like 50 people, I mean like over 100, probably closer to 200 people all sitting around listening to the band and having a good time. And I didn't even have time to practice.

If you look closely you can see the green mamba.
     I wanted to back out but I knew if I did I'd regret it because who can say they've really performed live in Tanzania, right? So, after an introduction from the band manager (he called me “Mama Lisa” which I thought was kind-of adorable, even though I know they do that to everyone here), I went on stage and awkwardly introduced myself again in English because my Kiswahili is terrible. I think everyone was a little confused as to why this random mzungu was interrupting their music and dancing, but oh well. I ended up playing Paparazzi by Lady Gaga and halfway through my guitar got unplugged but I just kept going because hey, what else are you gonna do? Luckily they noticed and plugged it back in before I'd made too much of a fool of myself. Then a random man came up and threw 5,000 tsh at me like I was a stripper, which was nice of him. All-in-all it was a sort of mortifying but also fun experience and I'm glad I didn't chicken out. Who knows, maybe one day Mama Lisa will give a repeat performance. But maybe she'll wait until she can introduce herself in Kiswahili, first.

     Things at the school have been going pretty well. Charlene is leaving soon and midterms are coming up so the workload is getting heavier for students and teachers alike, but I'm confident that we'll all do well. We really do have a great, smart group of kids. And the ones who aren't as bright, well, they'll still have half a year after this test to improve. I am pretty bummed that Charlene is leaving, though. I'll miss her, and I know she'll miss the kids. Just thinking about leaving them, even after only being here for 3 months, breaks my heart. I don't think I'll ever be able to stay away from this place for long, just because of them. Berega feels like home to me now, and I love it.
I was so happy when we saw a crocodile! They're one of my favorite animals.
     In my next post I will regale you with the story of my adventure in border hopping to Malawi to renew my Visa. It was meant to be a quick weekend trip but ended up becoming a week-long endeavor. Hamna shida, we should have known that travel plans never go quite the way you want them to in Africa (or anywhere else, for that matter).
I think this is definitely one of the best pictures I'll ever take.

Hope you're all doing well, sending you all my love from Tanzania,


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Berega or Bust

This was one of the first pictures I took here.
A random house in the village

     Alright. Here it is. My first blog post from Tanzania. And yes, I realize how pathetic it is that I've been here over a month and this is my first time writing. I consider myself an exceptional procrastinator, but I just couldn't put it off any longer. (Or rather, I have a lot of dishes and laundry to do that I can justify putting off, but only if I'm doing something else that I don't really want to do. My mind works in mysterious ways.)
Some boys from school climbing on my clothesline.

     So here I am in Berega! Finally, after years of waiting and wishing. It's still a bit surreal, to be honest. Sometimes I'll be doing something and it hits me: I'm in Africa right now. Not that I really ever forget, it's just so far from anywhere I've ever been or anything I've ever experienced. I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time before I left America and the sense of awe and "is this real?" that I felt there I've been feeling a lot since I got here.


Playing with fire (don't worry, we took these away)
     Berega is beautiful. The people here are very friendly and welcoming. The people everywhere in Tanzania are, actually. Seriously, I have never felt more welcome anywhere. I had the opportunity to go to a Maasai wedding last week and another volunteer and I discussed how we were a little uncomfortable with the idea before we went, just because we felt like we'd be intruding. Like, six foreign people that you don't know show up in the middle of your wedding and start taking pictures of your party (well, okay, it wasn't that bad--they knew we were coming, but still). If that happened in America we'd be livid. But they were so happy that we were there, and they even encouraged us to join in on the dancing, which the boys did. I thought about it but chickened out in the end. Then they fed us some delicious beef (which was very tough like all the beef is here, but it tasted very good). It was a shame because, due to work and a huge rainstorm and car troubles, we got there about half-an-hour before dark and ended up only spending a couple hours there. They told us we were welcome to come again, though, so hopefully we'll get another opportunity. I'm here 'til December so I think I have a pretty good shot.
Me and a bunch of the kids. If I'm making a weird face (which I am) it's because they were all leaning on me and I was trying not to fall forward. But they're cute, so it's okay.
Standard 1 collecting their prizes on test day.

     I think I've settled into my day-to-day life pretty well. I'm still pretty terrible at cooking (and here, if you don't cook, you don't eat), but I've discovered that my baking is pretty good. I can make some great bread. But then, I have a good recipe. I also learned how to make some nice tomato sauce, which is good because tomatoes are one of the only constants here. I've been lucky enough that potatoes are in season right now and I can make mashed potatoes every so often. Time consuming, but worth it.

Waiting out the rainstorm while they fixed the car.
     But onto the whole reason I'm here--teaching! I've been teaching remedial classes mostly. I work with a few kids from Std. 1 and Std. 2 who are very behind in their English and math, and I recently started teaching English to Std. 4 (not remedial). Teaching is hard but fun. Yelling at kids all day is something I'm still getting used to, having never had any kids of my own or even any younger siblings. But I'm sure I'll get the teacher voice eventually and they'll start to listen without me yelling at them every two minutes. Charlene (the other teacher volunteer here, she's been here for 9 months) is the one they listen to when she yells, but she told me it was like this for her when she first arrived--Liz was the one they listened to and it took her a while to learn how to show them she meant business. So, y'know, I'm not really worried. Just kidding, I'm always worried. But I'm sure things will be fine.
This was my first time eating with the kids (which I do every once in a while). I was disappointed that it was makande and not ugali.
This is one of my favorites. I think I'll paint it someday.
      The kids at school are the best part of this whole thing, even though they can be frustrating sometimes. They're so happy and eager to learn. And when I say that, I mean it. These kids love school. That's about as foreign a concept as you can get from American children, and I love it. Yesterday I did adverb charades with Std. 4 (they had to pick a random verb + adverb out of two bowls and then act it out without talking) and it was great. They're not really to the level where we can do anything but basic words, but it was fun watching Samweli try to pollute slowly. ("Pollute" is what they call farting, and it always makes me laugh. I'm so mature. That's why I get along with the kids so well.)

We had a football (soccer) game versus a rival school recently. Here are the teams, ready to face off! (Our boys on the left.)
Some of the action.
     Remedial is slow going but I have been seeing some improvement. I think I finally succeeded in teaching one Std. 1 boy subtraction with borrowing after many failed attempts, and the worst reader in class is starting to recognize words and even sound a few out. I'm actually learning things, too--I was never very fast at my multiplication before I came here but now that I do flash cards with the kids every day I have it down better than I ever did. Of course, as soon as I leave I'll probably forget it all again, but hey, you win some you lose some.

Everyone went crazy when we scored. (We tied, by the way.)
The girls wanted a picture, too. I love how I caught them really laughing.
     It's Autumn in Tanzania right now, and it's one of the rainy seasons (there are two and this is the "less rainy, but still rainy" season). It's sort of nice because it reminds me of home when it rains, plus it's much cooler, but it's also crappy when you have to hang your clothes to dry and it keeps raining on them. Speaking of the heat, it's really hot--and I mean really hot--but I'm actually much better at dealing with it than I'd expected. I think my islander genes are paying off. I've also got a nice tan going, as I'm sure you'll see from pictures. The kids say by the time I go home I'll be as black as them. It would be nice--I wouldn't have to worry about burning anymore and they age much more gracefully than I think I will.

There's a graveyard right next to the football field, so guess where most people sat?
     Well, it's almost 10 pm so I think I'd better stop putting off my dishes and laundry now, while I still have power. It's been going out a lot lately. I think because of the weather, but people say it might also be because it's an election year and the Government is using the money they should be spending on electricity towards campaigning and other things. The big cities always have power, but we're just a small village so I guess they figure we can live without it for days at a time. Which is true, but frustrating. Anyway, I'm stalling and I still have pictures to upload so I'll leave you by saying: I'm sorry I haven't kept you all updated as much as I should, I'll try to be better. I've done some pretty awesome things already in the short time I've been here, like visiting a national park and being about 2 feet from a wild lion, having my first taste of ugali (a local staple made out of corn) delivered to me halfway up a mountain by a random little girl, and being persuaded into an impromptu and very unexpected performance in front of about 150 Tanzanians, but I'll save those stories for a later time.

Until then, I love you all,

Yeah, I think I did alright.