Amani

March 13, 2015

Our journey to Amani Children’s Home for Street Children began months before we set foot on the continent of Africa. If we weren’t coming to Tanzania to do service work, I wanted to at least bring some “things” from home to children who needed those “things.” After way too much time researching which travel book to buy and then settling on the British Bradt Tanzania Safari Guide, I had my answer on page 86, “www.stuffyourrucksack.com is a website…which enables travelers to give direct help to small charities, schools, or other organizations in the country they are visiting. …The website describes organizations that need your help and lists the items they most need.” I liked this part best, “Check what’s needed in Tanzania, contact the organization to say you are coming and bring not only much-needed goods but an extra dimension to your travels and the knowledge that in a small way you have made a difference.”

I found on the Tanzania list the Amani Children’s Home located between Arusha and Moshi. Perfect

On their website was a 4-page list of items they requested of visitors to Amani. I emailed Amani to ask if any of the hundred or so items were more important than others. Salma Khatibu, Communications Officer, emailed back that everything on the list was a priority and that she was looking forward to our visit in February. She included directions and her phone number. As a family, we picked Legos, as we had access at Sacagawea Middle School in Bozeman, Montana to not just hundreds of Legos, but thousands. We also sourced soccer and volleyballs, air pumps and pins, dry erase markers and white board wash. One duffel bag was designated exclusively for Amani.

The Amani duffel visited Los Angeles and then Istanbul, sat barely noticable under the Zanzibar bed that doubled as a couch in the apartment we first called home in Arusha. In our new home in Kimemo, we hid it away in one of our many closets.

An email arrived from Salma. When are you coming? She hadn’t forgotten us and certainly wasn’t going to let us off the hook. I emailed her back. Could we visit on a weekend, on a Sunday? The girls are in school now at ISM, Arusha Monday through Friday. Anytime after 1:00, just let me know which day, she responded. Weekends went by. Another email from Salma. Late in the day last Friday I confirmed with Alex, Saturday is the International Fair at school, Sunday to Amani. Are we good? Yes. I let Salma know.

Sunday morning we pull out the map. Goal — lunch in Moshi, visit to Amani, Rivertrees for pizza and a swim.   Sounds lovely, except that Amani is really practically in Moshi and Moshi is at least 2 hours from our house. Nix lunch in Moshi, pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, throw in a few Isagenix bars. And, sorry kids, we may not have time for a swim but like every day, throw in the bathing suits and towels — just in case.

Three police stops later[1], including one for speeding (that’s a story for www.AWritersSpace.com/travel-shorts) we circle the first roundabout in Moshi with plenty of time for lunch.

Continue Reading…

Ibuka Dance Meets Chicken-on-the-Bonnet

March 4, 2015

The first sentence for this essay that came to mind as I sat entranced under jacaranda trees last Saturday night, was, “There are no words to describe this and sadly because I am not a professional or even an avid photographer, I do not have my camera with me. How could I possibly describe these sights, these sounds, these feelings?”

Hmm. I guess I could simply begin by describing the scene in which I felt truly part of by our new Arusha home.

Alex, Anna, Layla and I along with our new family from Kimemo, Sas (a sobriquet for Sarah) and her sister Denise have arrived at the Ibuka Dance theatre atop Themi Hill, south of Arusha. We stand at the top row of an amphitheatre. My eyes scan the scene and I am caught completely off guard by Mt. Meru hazy in the last of the evening sun dwarfing the stage roof. My eyes move overhead to a half moon directly above. Wow, I say to Anna, look at that, gesturing to the mountain. She takes my hand and encourages me down the stairs about midway to a row of cushioned benches.

I am a bit stunned. When Sas invited us to accompany her and Denise to Ibuka’s performance she described Ibuka as a labor of love of an American girl whom Sas wanted to support. I had envisioned a small, unprofessional indoor dance studio. I certainly should have known better, at least about the indoor part. Everything here in North-Eastern Tanzania is outside, schools, businesses, restaurants. Why not a dance studio?

Alex disappears and then reappears Continue Reading…

Self-Safari?

February 24, 2015

Self-safari to Arusha National Park? In the Rav 4? It’s only 45 minutes or so down the road. I think we can do this. Okay, let’s do it.

We head out of our “manor house,” I like to call it, around 9:15 on Monday morning (four-day weekend at the new school). We are well-stocked, picnic with every piece of possible picnic food in our fridge and pantry, salami, gouda cheese, two different kids of “crisps” aka chips, chopped tomatoes, apples, pineapple, crackers, cookies, a loaf of bread, and the egg salad we have made with “mayonnaise” that tastes a little too much like Miracle Whip and a decent Dijon to spice it up, a five gallon jug of drinking water, four pairs of binoculars, two cameras and two cell phones.

We have a detailed park map which has identifiers for birds, mammals and flora that we might see. Excited and hopeful, we wave goodbye to the askari (guard), Irispa, at the gate, turn left to the “top road,” right to the east and we’re off. We have been this way before. Just yesterday we went to Rivertrees Lodge on a tip from a fellow traveler on our Serengeti safari. Fabulous pool, really good food, monkeys in the trees and expats welcome. We were not disappointed. If today works out as planned, we will be back at Rivertrees by four in time for dinner and a swim.

Continue Reading…

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…

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…

A Fish Tale

February 1, 2015

Layla picks a small piece of the fish from the bones and squeezes the juice of the lemon quarter on it. She eats. I stare. She takes another piece and another quarter of lemon. She squeezes. She eats. I stare. She picks a piece of bread from the basket and looks up at me. I nod and smile — a silent thanks for trying the fish.

Anna to my right pulls slabs of the Sea Bream from its bones, drips the lemon onto it. She eats. And then another and another. When the bones are clean, she uses her fork as a serving spoon to pile more of the whole fish onto her plate.

Continue Reading…

Sultanahmet, Istanbul

January 28, 2015

Wednesday, January 28th,  6 a.m., Istanbul, Turkey. (Tuesday, January 27th, 8 p.m., Bozeman time.)

I am awakened by the muezzin. One hour before day break or daybreak?  I don’t recall. The voice of the imam is clear and melodic.  I don’t think it’s a recording.  If it is a real live imam this is the first in my memory of the muezzin not crackling like a candy wrapper.

The girls awake. Anna reads to Layla from her book, 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear. Anna’s voice fills our suite atop the Empress Zoe Hotel.  I arise. I pull open the gold, silk curtain from the window before me and gaze at the water to the south linking the Bosphorus Srait to the Sea of Marmara. The Alaturks Restaurant and Café Open Roof Terrace Sign stares directly at me from across the cobblestone street below. A narrow minaret to the left tops an ancient brick mosque.

Continue Reading…

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!

Reflections on Ferguson, Missouri 2014

January 17, 2015

What’s a White Woman To Do?

My high school friend Annie P. posted on Facebook that she was reading the transcript of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury proceedings. My first reaction was – don’t waste your time. But I didn’t knee-jerk and post that. I took a breath and then scrolled through the Comments. One said he had read parts of the transcript and was surprised by the conflicting eyewitness testimony. I couldn’t hold back, “Welcome to the world of criminal law,” I quipped. As a criminal defense attorney, I know that there is no such thing as reliable eyewitness testimony.[1] I closed out Facebook. But I couldn’t let go of Annie’s post. I had something to say to her but I knew that any short Facebook-y response would not be helpful. In fact, it may be hurtful. She was mining for answers in that hefty, 4,799-page transcript.

Continue Reading…