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Family Stories

What’s Up?

May 26, 2015

Hello Friends,

Quick update. I write from Paris where we have been enjoying the sights and fabulous French food since Saturday. Alex and Layla will head back to the U.S. on Thursday, May 28th. Anna and I will be flying back to Arusha, Tanzania the same day.  Anna and I are returning to work with children at Plaster House. Please check it out. We will be back in Bozeman, Montana on July 5, 2015.

ALAS!! — the latest round of Serengeti photos are up in the Gallery.  Access them at

We had the time of our lives with our incredibly knowledgeable and now great friend Max Isaya. This photo essay takes you through a day in the life on safari with Max. We also made a new friend in Emanuel Melubo who is featured in some of the photos. He is of the Maasai tribe and co-owner of Sidai Designs with Eszter Rabin. They have created a non-profit benefitting urban Maasai women. Please check out Eszter’s stunning, beaded jewelry designs available at boutiques and museum shops around the U.S.  All of the beading is done by Maasai women.

Tutaonana tena!  Until we see each other again.


Family Stories, Tanzania

Goodbye, For Now

April 12, 2015

I opened a book this morning that Sarah gave to me a couple of mornings ago, Journey to the Heart, by Melody Beattie. Sarah told me to open the book to any page and read and discover a little something about me, my day, a deeper look into the present. Today’s title, “See How Each Soul Has Touched You.” The section talks about the significance of a relationship unnoticed until later. It talks about such a relationship as a dance, quiet interactions, themes barely noticed. Appropriate for today?

Sarah left for Nairobi yesterday to be with her Mum and Dad. Her Mum, who is 75, found two lumps in her breast last week and this past weekend had a mastectomy. The surgery went well and we are hopeful that she will be released Tuesday or Wednesday. Sarah will help her get settled at the “the club” in Nairobi and return home on Wednesday.

Sister, Denise, is here. Close by. Planting the farm along with the farm workers. Getting the beans, barley and grass seeds safely into the ground. The rains have arrived and the farm is alive with growth, tractors and farm workers, mostly women dressed in traditional colorful, multi-patterned clothing. I am teary-eyed knowing that we will be saying goodbye to our friends in less than two weeks.

It’s not difficult to “see how each soul” here has touched us. Sarah, Denise, Di and Chris. First friends, now family who took us in, provided us with a real home, flowers in the vase at the center of the table, birthday party for Layla, surprise birthday cake in the fridge for me, welcoming, warm invitations to dinner at their houses, much, much needed challenging conversation about pretty much everything under the African sun.

By staying here and settling in with this family who has lived in Tanzania since before independence, we have experienced Tanzania as we would not have other wise. Some things as simple as the truly hidden away restaurants — turn left off top road, head past the rock quarry (where the most extreme poor sit and crack rock upon rock) and you will find Damascus restaurant, an oasis with a swimming pool and an unrivaled view of Mt. Meru. Head further up the “road” to Zanzibar-style homes owned by some of the wealthiest of Arusha. And, don’t forget about Abyssinian, also off top road. The best Ethiopian food prepared by your Ethiopian hosts. And, of course, Khan’s chicken-on-the-bonnet, I described in an earlier post. All places most expats have never been too.

But there are more serious conversations that have taken place here too: the hard, hard, hardships of doing business in a developing country in Africa where new taxes are levied regularly and applied retroactively; the cycle of poverty of the citizens of Tanzania – where the average worker’s pay does not allow for saving even a penny for something as necessary as a child’s education in a non-government school where teaching English is THE priority; the convoluted politics of the upcoming election in November, including the new anti-foreign worker law; the fact that women must get their husband’s permission to get birth control or choose to be sterilized and hence family planning in this overpopulated country is non-existent; that most of the well-meaning NGO’s of the last four decades have created a culture of dependency where hand outs have become the norm and the newest concept of macrocredits continues to fail because most of the population has never had to repay a “handout.”

We have come and now we will leave — with a much better understanding of Tanzania. What will each of us do with this new knowledge? We will have to wait and see. But, what we will do, feel, and think of our new family, I hope is not a mystery. I write this now as a promise to myself to never lose Sarah, Denise, Di and Chris. Wherever you are, we are with you.

The sun is just starting to peak through the clouds on Mt. Meru. Another African sunrise. I hear a safari vehicle headed down the farm road. Probably coming to pick up the Israeli family staying in House One for the last couple of nights. That’s going to be us in just twelve days. My heart aches. So much ahead and leaving so, so much behind.

New story in Travel Shorts about our visit with the Bushmen (fun and funny!) and photos in the Gallery.

Family Stories, Tanzania

On The Move — Again

February 18, 2015

We have moved out of our indoor camping facility where we hung the wet laundry on an indoor line to avoid the possible burrowing and egg laying of mango flies in the damp clothes.  Reports have it that if you wear the clothes with the eggs implanted, they may burrow into your skin, incubate and hatch.  They do just fly away when that happens but sounds like it might be good to avoid, if possible.  Most people here iron their clothes in order to kill the eggs but standing over a hot iron in the hottest February (normally the hottest month) in Tanzanian history seems well, hot.  So we shared our only living space with criss-crossing laundry lines and with Anna who used the couch or “Zanzibar bed” as her bed — sharing the full size bed with Layla had become bruising.

The urban camping theme played out each night with the screened windows wide open. Intermittent yelps and cries of the neighborhood dogs scared my sleep away.  Alex and I were well-tented in the lower double bed of a bunk bed encased in mosquito netting.  Each time I came in and out of the tent, I hit my head on the bottom of the top bunk.  I lay cursing looking up at scribbles on the cross planks – Nico, Sarai – the names of the previous owner’s children? Continue Reading…

Family Stories

Why We Are Here

February 7, 2015

Many small reasons, actually – but sibling bonding perhaps one of the greatest —

“Let’s theme our bedroom, Layla. Blue and light blue? Since we both like those colors?” We are sitting al fresco at a table in the center of the shopping center that houses “the best grocery store in Arusha” and the only cinema. Though it is shaded, the air is hot, dusty and dry. I chuckle at the film posters — The Barbie Movie, Dolly and Dolly (a Bollywood film) and American Sniper. Today is not the day but I am determined to get back here to see a film. In all my travels I have found movie-going an eye-opening cultural experience. (“Anaconda” in Mysore, India was one of those times.)

Our driver, Gaudence, has brought us here to eat and buy groceries. We have also heard from a new friend, Carolyn, that a place where we might find a bookshelf and/or desk is just a short bit down the road from here. It’s called “Furniturustic” and is where local craftsmen create furniture from reclaimed wood.

Layla had taken keen note of the floral nook next to the hallway to the w.c. when we walked in. “Mom, can I buy flowers for our room?”

Continue Reading…

Family Stories

Goodbye Bozeman.

January 25, 2015

Thanks for the magnificent sunset tonight.  We’re off early, early tomorrow morning and will miss all of you.  I hope you will follow our stories right here.  Don’t forget to check out the Gallery too!