TZ

So, a very belated catch-up is in store for all of you still reading! The title of this post refers to Tanzania’s nickname, TZ (pronounced tee-zed, not tee-zee!). So, I am going to tell you about our week-long educational tour in Tanzania, which took place a month ago.

The trip started off in typical SIT-style, as our group had a “Sound of Music” singalong-sleepover at our program office the night before we were due to depart for Tanzania. It was exactly what the name suggests. We all crowded into the common room in our sleeping bags in various uncomfortable seats and watched the movie, singing along quietly so as not to disturb the neighbors!

Early the next morning, we awoke around 6 AM to meet the bus to leave for Tanzania! The drive to Tanzania took up a good chunk of the day. I passed the hours sleeping, listening to my iPod and watching the scenery change as we drove further and further away from Nairobi. As we were nearing Arusha, one of Tanzania’s major cities, the landscape became increasingly hilly and we were soon greeted with an amazing view of Mt. Meru as we approached and passed it on the highway. Later that day, we arrived at UAACC, a community center established outside of Arusha by a former member of the Black Panthers, Pete O’Neal, who has been a political exile from the United States for about 40 years. We were greeted by Mzee Pete himself (Mzee is a respectful Swahili title for an older man) and had dinner, followed by a documentary about his life in Tanzania.

The next morning (Monday) after breakfast, we headed to the ICC Tribunal for the Rwandan genocide, which is located in Arusha. After an introductory talk, we were allowed to sit in on an actual tribunal session. We sat in a gallery, watched through a large glass panel, and listened to the trial through headphones. I switched back and forth from the English translation to the untranslated sound, mostly in French, which I was pleased I could understand. It made a big difference hearing the actual voices of the defense lawyer and other people in the court. The case we heard was an appeal of a sentence issued to a Rwandan man for transporting the Interhamwe militia, who were responsible for much of the genocide’s deaths. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything particularly interesting, but I was very much mistaken, as we listened to the chamber debate a specific date in April 1994, and the alibi of the defendant. I have studied the Rwandan genocide in a lot of different classes in my life, so visiting the Tribunal was incredibly surreal. Getting the opportunity to do so was probably the highlight of the week for me.

On Tuesday, we traveled by bus to a Maasai village in a rural area some distance away from Arusha, where we stayed until Thursday. We camped in tents about a ten minute walk from the village itself, and had our meals made by UAACC’s camp crew. Our few days with the Maasai were quite packed. We were given lots of information about Maasai traditions and the village, and even learned a few greetings in KiMaasai! I was incredibly impressed by their ability to live in bomas (houses) that have no windows at all. Not only does this mean that it is pitch black indoors, even at midday, but it also means there is a huge amount of smoke in the mud houses with little ventilation. We sat inside a house for maybe five minutes on the first day, and my eyes were stinging for hours afterwards from the smoke! I must confess that I was a little grumpy during our stay in the village due to the environment (DUSTY), but there were still things I really, really enjoyed. One morning, we all got up around 5 to watch the sunrise over Mt. Kilimanjaro, which was sometimes visible (along with Mt. Meru) in the distance from the camp. We all stood in an expansive field covered with low bushes with little white flowers, the light spilling across the landscape and silhouetting the slope and summit of Kilimanjaro against a bright orange background. That was also a surreal moment.

Another surreal moment was participating in a Maasai courtship (I think) ritual, a dance ceremony by moonlight where men and women have a kind of exchange through different chants, songs, and dances. We all started out very hesitant, being way out of our element in the dark having a completely foreign experience, but it was really great. Watching the men do the infamous Maasai jumping was incredible (and startling when they came hurtling towards us!) There was one other event which was a highlight of the Maasai experience, though not one I can really say I participated in–a goat sacrifice. Knowing it was going to upset me too much, I decided to sit it out with a couple of other friends. I rejoined the group after the goat had been killed and they were skinning it and stewing its organs. It was really interesting to see the organs as they were removed, though the smell from the stomach was distinctly unpleasant. I declined the offer to drink from a cup of goat blood and instead sat with some of my friends drawing things in the dust. A lot of our group also ended up getting branded (yes, really) with little circle marks. I also declined that offer! While I felt a little bit of a party pooper at times, I’m proud that this semester I have honed the skill of listening to and making decisions for myself, and I saw this day as a microcosm of that general development in my personality.

After three days and two nights in Maasai land, we left on Thursday morning in a fleet of safari-looking Land Cruisers to our next adventure. On our way to that night’s campsite, we stopped by two different local tribes for quick visits. The first was one of the last remaining true hunter-gatherer groups. We spent about an hour with them, trying to start fires, trying to shoot arrows, and trying to follow them through a nearby forest-y area as they hunted. It was a brief but interesting experience, and we got a great view of the surrounding landscape as their camp was on top of a massive hill (which was quite interesting to climb in our cars!) After a quick lunch, we visited a tribe whose main craft is metal work. We watched a couple guys make a bracelet out of some positively molten-looking melted metal, which they solidified and cooled by submerging in a cool little track filled with water in the ground. That night, we camped in tents once more outside of a lodge type thing with a nice common area that included a big couch, a fireplace, and a TV, much to our happiness! Unfortunately, that day and night, about five people came down with a really nasty stomach bug (cause still undetermined), adding to the two people who already had equally awful stomach bugs they had picked up in Nairobi. If you know me well, you will know that my most infamous phobia is vomiting… so I became somewhat of an anxious wreck at that point in the trip, as well as a truly compulsive hand sanitizer-user. (God bless Purell!) Luckily, I was spared.

The next day, we awoke to torrential rain and scampered around gathering our things and piling into our cars for a game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater! By this time, several more people were feeling ill, which made it a pretty low-key event. Entering the Crater, the cloud cover was very thick and obscured our view, but the rain did stop for us, and when we reached the floor of the Crater we were able to appreciate both its immense size and immense beauty. We saw herds of zebras, elephants, hyenas, gazelles, and even a family of lions. We were also able to avoid the increasingly damp interior of our car by standing up and popping our heads out of the hole in the top of the car. (Okay, not a hole… but for some reason the correct term is not coming to mind! Someone refresh my memory?) Sunroof? Driving around the Crater made for an amazing couple of hours, and as we drove out we were able to get the full view over the Crater that we had missed driving in. Absolutely stunning!

That night, we were thrilled to arrive back in the comfort of UAACC– back to our bunk beds and showers from the first two nights in Tanzania! We all relaxed and went to sleep nice and early to prepare for the grand finale of our Tanzania tour–hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro!!! Now, before you get too impressed, I should specify that we only hiked to the first base camp. However, it was a fantastic experience. We drove up to the bottom of the mountain, climbing up and up in our bus, and all signed the register at the headquarters at the bottom. After, we started our hike. Now, just like I said about my vomit phobia earlier, those of you who know me well will know that I am not exactly fond of hiking. I can legitimately enjoy it sometimes, but I was quite resentful of the hiking I had to do during my high school’s yearly pre-school outdoor trip. But hiking Kilimanjaro is different, so I set out with the goal to enjoy myself. To do this, I knew I couldn’t bother trying to keep up with the group, so me and some other non-hikers took up the back. Because of this, I really enjoyed myself and set my own pace for the hike up, which wasn’t too strenuous, though it grew steep at times. The base camp came at the perfect time, after only two hours of hiking when I was starting to get really tired. Once there, we walked 15 minutes further to a point where we could see the summit of the mountain, as well as views in other directions! It was so surreal to be hiking Kilimanjaro, and I was incredibly proud of our group because every single one of us made it up despite being in various states of un-wellness. Not only that, but we apparently achieved the fastest time of a group ascent in a long time! That evening, we arrived back to UAACC feeling very tired but very satisfied. We enjoyed one last night in the community center, complete with birthday cake for one of the girls in our program who was celebrating her 21st, and a dance lesson from a local dance troupe! The next morning, unfortunately, I was awoken by some INCREDIBLE stomach cramps, but I managed to make it through the bus ride back to Nairobi with no incidents. Unfortunately the stomach problems persisted, but I eventually took care of it with our favorite medicine, the antibiotic Cipro, that will kill anything ailing the digestive tract. After an eventful week, I was happy to return to the comfort of Nairobi and the beginning of our research period!

Speaking of said research… I’m currently in the process of writing our 40-page final paper, which is due on Thursday. But I will try to get you all up to speed and up to date before we depart for the final week of the program in the coastal city of Malindi!

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Mud Season

Here I am again, weeks late on my blogging! I don’t really have an excuse, so I’ll skip right to the entry itself.

A week ago, we returned from our week-long educational tour in northern Tanzania. This week, we wrote our final seminar papers and passed in our final proposals for our Independent Study Projects! More on those later. I thought I’d update you all on what was happening here in Nairobi in the three weeks between our return from Shirazi and Mombasa and our departure for Tanzania.

 

I titled this blog “Mud Season” because in the three weeks I just mentioned, the rainy season began! Also because at Waynflete, my high school, that’s what we called the random part of March that is neither winter nor spring, which is basically what those three weeks were equivalent to here. (Though it’s actually the summer to fall transition right now.) It’s still not raining completely regularly, but quite a few days out of the week I wake up in the morning to find that it has rained overnight. The rainy weather is a nice break from the hot, sunny weather that, although not too bad because it’s fairly dry, can be a little exhausting on the walk to and from school. Though the rain turns half of my daily walk to a puddle-avoiding, mud-skidding challenge, I very much appreciate that it keeps the ever-present dust from becoming too much of a breathing issue.

The week we returned from Mombasa, we began our health and development seminar. Our group split up into two separate classes, depending on who wanted to study what, and attended lectures for three or four hours every morning. I stayed in the development lectures the entire time, despite the fact that I am likely concentrating in public health at GW. I decided that development was more relevant to my probable research topic, and the lectures were also very historically oriented (which makes me automatically interested), dealt with a lot of important events and trends, and were taught by a really great professor/economist from the University of Nairobi. He reminded me and a fellow GW student of good professors from home.

That week, we also had our final four Swahili classes! Unfortunately, I can’t say they were very productive, as they were moved from their usual morning slot to the afternoon in order to accommodate the health and development seminar lectures. Going into three hours of Swahili after our two-hour lunch break was a little rough, to say the least. Best example: One day, my class (Simba) collapsed into hysterics as we tried to figure out what a specific vocab word meant. Our Swahili teacher told us it meant “tin”—we wanted to know whether it meant tin can, or a tin roof, or just the metal itself. There was mass confusion as there often is over Swahili vocabulary (for example, “ua” is either the command “kill!” or “flower.” Or “hedge.” Or “fence.”) and when our teacher drew a 2-dimensional square on the chalkboard and labeled it “TIN”, not making the definition any clearer, we were a hopeless case. By the time we figured out that it did indeed mean “tin can”, I was crying with laughter!

The following week, we had a couple assignments due, plus our oral ACTFL exams for Swahili. I really enjoyed one of the assignments, the newspaper assignment, for which we all had to pick a topic that is currently in the news, read 5 newspaper articles about said topic, and interview three Kenyans about the topic. I chose to look at the issue of the six Kenyans who have been summoned to the International Criminal Court at the Hague because they are suspected to be responsible for the post-election violence of 2007 and early 2008. This has been front page of every newspaper almost every day since I’ve been here, and always features prominently in the nightly news. I think I’m going to dedicate an entire entry to the “Ocampo Six” issue, because it really is a defining issue here, and one that more people in the world should be paying attention to!

That week, we also passed in our group assignments and individual assignments from our Shirazi homestay. I believe we also had a student-led roundtable discussion on the relationship between development and health, which was the topic of our final seminar paper.

The last week, we had ISP prep for three days, which was basically three days of relaxation for me since I am not traveling anywhere for my ISP. Thursday and Friday of that week consisted of meeting with our ISP advisors, and passing in our ISP draft proposal.

After our time at the coast, I was freshly appreciative of Nairobi, and excited to explore the city more, so I really enjoyed those three weeks. Additionally, I met my host mother’s two younger sons, who I hadn’t met before that point (Tom, her eldest, is living at home currently, so I have known him from the start). Andrew (who is the same age as me) came home from university on the same day I did and stayed for a few days to see Timothy, who flew in the day after him from Toronto via the Netherlands (that’s where is fiancée is). The house was quite full and it was a lot of fun to see them all together, as it is rare that they’re all home in Nairobi at the same time. Also, Andrew and Tim are both big soccer fans, so I had companions for the subsequent Champions League matches! Always a plus. The great return to my homestay also eventually helped me decide to stay here during the ISP period instead of getting an apartment, as most people on the program do. I have become really comfortable here, with my host family, my cute house, and my neighborhood. During these weeks, I also got more comfortable with the city. Ate at new restaurants, visited different parts of Nairobi (like Karen, named after Karen Blixen from Out of Africa, where we tried to visit the museum on her former coffee estate. It was 800 shillings for the non-resident price, so we didn’t actually go inside… I also got comfortable with the daunting downtown area), and really started taking public transportation around.

Because of that, going to Tanzania was a little bittersweet, as I was really liking Nairobi. However, my last day in Nairobi before leaving was pretty great. I went with Tim to see Kenya play against Angola in an African Cup of Nations qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium. The stadium was full (not a common sight at Kenyan soccer matches) of people waving Kenyan flags and blowing vuvuzelas (the extremely loud plastic horn that became notorious after this summer’s World Cup in South Africa). Kenya were considered underdogs, but I predicted it would be a 2-1 win for the home side, and I was actually right! Angola got a goal in the first half, but Kenya came back with two goals in the second half, with the winner only five minutes before the end of the match. Needless to say, people were going wild and it was incredibly fun.

That night, at the SIT office, we all had a sleepover and watched The Sound of Music and had a quiet sing-along so as not to disturb the neighbors.  No, not a typical Saturday night activity for college students, but it wouldn’t really surprise you if you knew our group. We have somewhat of a history with that movie, as we were asked to sing for our teachers in Shirazi, and “Do Re Mi” was the only song that the singers among us could perform on the spot. A week or so later, our group was having a somewhat serious meeting back in Nairobi, and one of our academic directors, Odoch, had us hold hands and sing the song because he thought it was “spiritual”. Hence the eventual sing-along being organized. The following morning, we all woke up at 6 and met the bus for our departure to Tanzania.

More on Tanzania coming very soon, as well as the entry I mentioned about the ICC cases. Also, I now have my own modem for my laptop, so I don’t have to depend on our school internet anymore. This means I’m going to try to upload some pictures to my blog! Bear with me. Now, I’m off to watch the 9 o’clock news!

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Sounds of Kenya…

On one of my earlier blog posts, I got a question about music in Kenya! So, I decided to post a few videos to give you all a little sample of what you might hear if you were here.


This is the music you will hear if you ride a matatu (minibus) to get somewhere in Nairobi… and it will be blasting loudly! I’m a big fan of this kind of music because of the catchy beats, and it always makes matatu rides a little more pleasant, even if I am squashed up against a window! This would also be played in nightclubs, etc.


This is the music you will hear if you turn on the TV between 8 and 9 o’clock PM on any given day… This is the theme song of “En Nombre Del Amor”, the most popular of the Mexican soap operas that air on Kenyan TV…


This is a song you might hear after a night of drinking… I’ve never actually heard anyone sing this, but our Swahili teachers taught it to us during our rural village homestay. The Swahili lyrics basically translate to “Bring me home, I’m very drunk without a place to sleep”, and that just repeats to make up the entire song.


This is a song you might hear if you are a tourist… it’s a really famous song here and is good if you’re learning Swahili, because the lyrics have a bunch of simple, common phrases… It translates to “Hello, hello sir, how are you? Very good. Guests, you are welcome, in Kenya there are no worries (hakuna matata)”.

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Shirazi, Part II

continued from part I…

Other comical elements of the village included the animals, the children, the food, and, most of all, my host sister Mwanajabu. I’ll give you guys a brief description of each of these.

•The animals: everywhere you go in Shirazi, you run into animals. Goats, kuku (chicken), cows, kittens, monkeys, lizards, wadudu (bugs) you name it. One day, I spent the duration of my outdoor shower with one eye on a thin, green snake on the wall. Each night, Amelie and I would hang out under a mango tree in front of my house, and collapse into fits of laughter because of the ridiculous noises the goats make, which often sound like annoying children yelling. There was also a crazy goat, a little black one who liked to run around. My host sister’s chicks would often wander right through the front door of our house.

•The children: there were also children everywhere, and they do things that children do NOT do at home! First of all, they were much more resourceful with their playing. One day, my host brother was building a house out of sticks and palm leaves. Another day, he and his friend had drawn a football pitch in the sand, with stick goals and stick players (11 per team). For a ball, they had a pebble which they placed in front of the stick players and shot by pulling the sticks back and letting them go, propelling the pebble forward. Naturally, they told me that the match in the sand was Arsenal vs. Chelsea. Another thing that amused/bemused us about the kids was that they would be literally playing with fire all the time. Several nights, my little host brother and his friends would be carrying around flaming, dry palm branches as torches. One day, they lit a big fire under a charred metal pan in the middle of the compound, which soon got huge. We sat and watched as they poked and prodded it, then flung the pan away, a torrent of smoke billowing away from the three six-year-olds, sparks flying all over the surrounding grass. Meanwhile, my host mother walks by balancing a bucket of water on her head, smiles, and says “Wanachoma koshoro.” “They’re roasting cashews.”… as if that explanation was adequate to describe the spectacle taking place in front of us. But that’s Shirazi for you!

•The food: everything was either fried or coated in sugar—sometimes both! Being a lover of both varieties of unhealthy food, you’d think I’d love this, but it was too much even for me. I draw the line at sugary spaghetti. One thing I loved were the breakfasts we got—mandazi (doughnut-like things my family made and sold for a living) and bhajia (fried gram flour with spinach inside). At night, they drank tea with no milk, so you could really taste the cloves and cinnamon they boil in with the tea.

•Mwanajabu: the funniest person ever, my host sister. In Shirazi, we were all given “Shirazi names”, and mine was Mwanajabu, after my sister. Predictably, this often got very confusing. However, we called eachother “somo yangu”, which means “my namesake”. It’s a Swahili tradition that you refer to people who share your name in this way. Anyways, more about her. She was about five feet tall, with a really sweet, round face, that made some of her remarks even more surprising and hilarious. She had a very funny manner of speaking and a high but very forceful voice. So, without further ado, let me give you some of the choice Mwanajabu quotes:

 

One day after school talking with our host family. A coconut falls from a tree nearby…

Amelie: Are coconuts dangerous when they fall?

Mwanajabu: No, they’re not dangerous… but when they hit people, they can be dangerous.

 

During our last dinner with our host family, eating pilau with a side of kachumbari (onions and tomatoes)…

Amelie: You know, I’m really sad to leave Shirazi. I really like it here.

Mwanajabu: …. Why haven’t you eaten the tomatoes?!?!??!

 

Later in the same dinner, eating chicken…

Mwanajabu: This was my chicken… today, the chicks are orphans!! (laughter)

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Shirazi, Part I

So! I’m sorry this is so late. It’s been a bit of a busy week re-integrating into Nairobi life, so I’m just getting around to my blogging now.

Our time on the coast was fantastic, if oppressively hot and humid. We traveled from Nairobi to Mombasa on an overnight bus (which gave out Cadbury chocolate in their snack packs, much to our surprise and joy!) and arrived at the SIT office in Old Town Mombasa (next to Fort Jesus) shortly before sunrise. After taking short naps, we ate breakfast and headed out into the city to stock up on colorful muu-muus and khangas to wear during our rural village homestay. We got on another bus after lunch, and were taken south to the village of Shirazi, the location of our homestay.

Shirazi is a beautiful place—it is right on the ocean, with sandy soil paths winding between the houses of the village that rest under the numerous and tall palm trees. We had class every day at the madrasa, the mosque school. My Swahili class started at 7:30 AM every day in an effort to avoid the midday heat, and my specific class (Simba) met under a mango tree. In the afternoons, we were free to do research for our village group projects. My group of four was assigned to study tourism and its effects on the area, so we spent many of our free hours traveling to nearby resorts and interviewing the owners—what a hardship! We saw some beautiful beaches, as well as learned a lot of interesting information about the repercussions of tourism—some great, some bad.

In Shirazi, I stayed with a host family that kind of mirrored my Nairobi family (a widowed mother with adult children), which was an interesting comparison to be handed. I lived with my host mother, Mwanavita, her daughter Mwanajabu (about 30 years old), her son Hamisi (who I would not recognize in daylight because I only saw him when it was pitch black in our house at night) and Mwanajabu’s son Farouk, around six years old. There were also a large assortment of other children around all the time, as well as cousins and other people with ambiguous family connections to my host mother. Luckily, my friend Amelie was staying with my host mother’s sister in the same general compound, so we were able to unite in our effort to figure out who actually belonged to our host family and who didn’t!

My family’s house was a typical Shirazi house, with walls made of mud and sand, a dirt floor, wooden doors, and a high ceiling made from makuti (thatched palm leaves). I showered out of a bucket in an outdoor shower (the walls also made from makuti) behind our house. The water was straight from the well, so it was nice and cool, which was always incredibly refreshing after a day of sweltering under multiple clothing layers in the 90 degree heat. As a bonus, I got to look up at the palm trees swaying against the clear blue sky as I shampooed my hair! Doesn’t get much better than that.

I think I wrote before about how I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in Nairobi than I have since I was a kid. Well, my Nairobi schedule ain’t got nothin’ on my Shirazi schedule. Since there is no evening news to watch in Shirazi (which pushes my bedtime to 10:15 in Nairobi), I was in bed not much after 9 o’clock every night. After we ate dinner, I had nothing to do and no light, so I’d just douse myself with DEET, crawl under my mosquito net and go to sleep, not waking until I heard the call to prayer at 5:30 AM.

Actually, the entire time in Shirazi was kind of a regression to childhood… people in Shirazi don’t use utensils, and only eat using their right hands (the left hand is associated with cleaning oneself after using the toilet), so I felt like a baby dropping hot rice all over myself trying to eat Shirazi-style the first night! Additionally, our host families dressed us every day, a process in which we had no say. Luckily, I usually got loose dresses and muu-muus, over which I’d have to tie a khanga to wear around my waist, and another to cover my head with. However, many people were made to wear dresses that can only be described as a tacky prom dresses from the 90’s…of course, made from synthetic fabrics that made the humidity even worse. Arriving at school each morning and seeing what outfit everyone had been given was always a comical highlight of the day.

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Niko na Safaricom

So. I’ve returned to Nairobi from two weeks on the coast, and am in the process of writing a few entries to post to tell you all about my time there! It was a really full two weeks and it might take me  a while to synthesize everything, so in the meantime, I decided to post a YouTube link to my favorite ad from TV here. It’s for the mobile phone company Safaricom, which is the biggest here in Kenya. They’re also the ones who innovated the “M Pesa” mobile money system… the M Pesa logo appears everywhere in Safaricom’s trademark bright green.

This ad is on TV and the radio all the time, and I think has been around for a while now, because it was made to celebrate Safaricom’s tenth anniversary. The song is an original composition and the video shows the choir singing all over the country to “celebrate Kenyanness” and “represent Safaricom as a brand for everyone.” It is definitely THE most beautiful advertisement I’ve ever seen, not to mention the song is literally stuck in my head more days than not. It’s in Swahili, but I barely understand it and still appreciate it. Niko na Safaricom basically means “I’m with Safaricom”. Enjoy! More soon!

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Chizifreshi

1. When it rains, it pours. In my first entry from Nairobi, I wrote about how dusty and dry it is here. Well, my wishes for rain were apparently heard, because it has rained in the evening for the past three days. (Unfortunately one of those afternoons, I was locked out of my house.) Last night, the sound of the thunder and of the rain hammering on the tin roofs of the market outside of my window actually woke me up. It’s been a big relief because the rain has cooled the weather down a lot, but it has also brought a fresh complication—MUD. And lots of it!

2. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—soccer is HUGE here! I love looking out the window of our bus and seeing club teams’ crests painted on the sides of different little shops and other buildings. On a wall in Kibera today, someone had painted “EMIRATES” in huge letters—Emirates Stadium is Arsenal’s home stadium in London. In Mathare, I am almost 100% positive I saw a mural of Jesus Christ wearing a Chelsea jersey. Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona disputed a heavily publicized Champions League match a couple nights ago, and as I was going to sleep sometime after midnight, I heard an uproar of cheering from somewhere in the distance and took that to mean that Arsenal had scored… I was right! What I had been hearing was the team coming back from a one goal deficit to win the match, which everyone was saying they’d lose.

3. On my first entry, there was a question about the local food, which I’ll answer now! The food here is great, if a little monotonous. The staples are rice and ugali, which is white cornmeal boiled until it absorbs the water and takes on a consistency comparable to Play Dough. These are almost always accompanied by some kind of meet (usually chicken or beef) another common food such as chapati (kind of like tortillas, but thicker and oiler), sukuma wiki (cooked shredded kale), beans (in this brown-ish sauce that EVERYTHING is made in… I have no idea what it consists of, but it’s good!) or lentils. Chai (tea) is also something that people have at least three times a day here… Kenyans make their tea with milk instead of water. I usually sweeten mine with a little spoonful of sugar. I eat less here than I do at home because the food is just so filling. My host mother thinks I eat “kidogo sana” (very little), but my bursting stomach would beg to differ!

4. Unexpectedly, I’ve become a little nervous about our stay on the coast (being completely out of touch is a little daunting)… but I’m very much looking forward to it still. We have been broken up into groups of four, each one with a different topic. My topic is tourism and its effect on the area. I’m really interested to see what kind of information we’ll find on this topic, especially because it’s not something I’ve really studied or looked into before. I’m also excited for a break from Nairobi, for seeing the ocean (although it’s a very different one from the one I live next to in Maine) and for a stay in a more slow-paced environment where I do not have to harbor a legitimate fear of being run down by a bus! Everyone in Shirazi (the village we’re living in) is Muslim, so that will also offer an interesting contrast to my household in Nairobi, which is a very Christian one. Finally, one of our academic directors, Jamal, is from Mombasa, and we’re probably going to have dinner with his family, which will be great! I’m also reminding myself that the northern coast of Kenya, where I’ve been before, is among my absolute favorite places.

5. The title of this entry refers to an interesting vocabulary word we learned in Swahili class the other day. I think the term “chizifreshi” would be considered Sheng, which is a kind of street slang prominent in Nairobi that is a hybrid of English and Swahili. Chizifreshi is used to describe someone who is cool, but in a really crazy way.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of the region (roughly) that I’ll be living in for the next two weeks…

Kenya's southern coast

Have a great two weeks! Talk to you in March!

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