Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not About Millie

I am nearly ready to admit that it's time to rename this blog It's Millie Time because that is basically all we cover. And despite my promises to get better about blogging more regularly, I don't seem to be following through, do I? Why is that? I think its because living in East Africa with a child has become normal and ordinary. Not boring. Just, normal. But it's hard to remember that what is normal for us, may be noteworthy to you, dear readers. So here are a few tidbits that characterize our life here and are unique about the culture:

- we drive on the left side of the road, and at any given moment you are watching out for motorcycles, bikes, cars, pedestrians, wooden carts, donkeys, cows, chickens and children.

- there are also 2ft deep x 3 ft wide uncovered drainage ditches lining each side of the road. did i mention they have no grate over them? so if you swerve too far (in order to dodge above mentioned road co-habitants) you're kind of screwed (i have witnessed a few cars in these ditches, including a brand new Range Rover!). and with minimal street lights, this is particularly nerve racking at night!

- the 'long rains' have started. that seems to mean cloudy days, and lots of rain on and off in the morning. makes morning walks with Millie more difficult. as well as having dry clothes.

- long rains also mean the invasion of the kono kono's - slugs and snails (which give becky the heebejeebees like no other, no thanks to my fear mongering brother who told an impressionable little Becky at the tender age of 8 that she would turn into a slug after having stepped on one BAREFOOT).

- the electricity in our house is pre-paid. it's called luku. we go to the central power company, give them our meter number and about $45, then they generate a unique 16-digit code which we enter into our meter that keeps the lights on (except when there are power cuts!) for about a month. the other day i went to buy our luku and the power company had no electricity, nor a generator!

- when you come to Tanzania (I said 'when' people, not 'if'!), the first Swahili word you will learn without a doubt is 'Karibu.' it literally translates into 'you are welcome' but also really means 'get close' (but not in a creepy-invade-my-personal-space kind of way). you hear it everywhere. when you walk into shops, restaurants, passing the ladies on the street selling tea.... everywhere. it is also a response to 'thank you.' it reminds me of the use of 'aloha' in Hawaii in that i think it sets the tone of the culture - very open and welcoming.

- we don't have a TV, but we have a computer so sometimes at night we watch DVD's that we borrow from friends or that we've received in generous care packages. so far we've made it through five seasons of West Wing, first season of Glee and now we're working our way through Arrested Development.

- except on Weds nights, we play bridge with our dear friends Katie & Ollie

- if you want to get take out here, there are basically two options - Indian food or grilled chicken. both are very good, but sometimes you would just do anything for a pad thai or pupusa!

- probably the third or fourth word you would learn in Tanzania (WHEN you come) is 'pole' (poe-lay). it means 'sorry' or 'i extend my sympathies to you.' you use it the same way you would use 'sorry' in English for the most part, but you also use it to convey your sympathies to anyone doing any kind of work. for example, when Millie and I walk in the morning, I usually carry her in the backpack and people tell me 'pole' presumably for the task of carting around a 20lb baby on my shoulders (roger gets it too when he's out running). but then, the person telling me 'pole' is usually hauling two 100lb sacks of grain on a bike or cutting grass with a machete or doing some other form of insanely hard manual labor, yet they feel sympathy for me and my $100 baby backpack!

So does this jive with the image you had of our life here? Note I didn't mention the fanning of palm fronds while we sit atop our four poster beds being fed grapes by servants in long white robes. I figured you all naturally assumed that part!

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