Monthly Archives: October 2015

2015 – On the way out – Sights, Sounds and Smells of Western Tanzania

Dar es Salaam – We are back in Dar and have spent the night at a resort north of the city called the Konduji Beach Hotel.  It is a very large resort, right on the Indian Ocean, with a lovely white sand beach, complete with tropical shells, a rusting frieghter that ran aground long ago, and sadly, a selection of trash washing up with the waves.  The decour is post-colonial, but they plan to redecorate and I think that it will be very modern, which is also a little sad.  It is currently low tide, and Bill is taking a walk out on the sand-bar to get close up pictures of the frieghter.  I am staying inside, where it is cool and not humid (air conditionig!)

Mean while, I wanted to share some of my observations of the sights and sounds and smells of Western Tanzania, while they are still fresh in my mind. 

At this time of year (end of the dry season), the first thing that hits your senses, after the heat of the sun, is the smell of smoke.  It is every where, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always in the back ground.  There is the smell of charcoal smoke, mixed with delicious food smells, as charcoal cooking is the most economical way to prepare food here.  But there are also little fires everywhere.  Some are for burning trash, but most of them are clearing land of last year’s plants, in preperation for planting when the rains come.

And preparing the land for planting is the major work in the fields right now.  Sometimes you will see a line of folks digging up the land with their hoes, other times a single person will be working on a plot.  (Just imagine what a single roto-tiller would do for a village!)  As you drive past the villages, you start to notice small retangular plots of dense green; and then (if you are me) you realize that these are nursery sets, ready to be planted as soon as the rains come.  (You don’t ususally see single crop fields here.  The Tanzanians are masters of inter-mixing their corps – beans using corn-stocks for poles, for examples – or anything inter-mixed with banana plants.)

Kigoma airport is very small.  A manual cart brings the luggage and cargo (inter-mixed) to a window were everyone from your flight gathers to be handed their bags and packages.  After greeting friends and loading luggage into the dusty well-used Land Cruiser, you head out of the dirt ariport parking lot, which is striped by white painted rocks and head to the hills of Kasulu.  

The first part of the route is paved tarmac and you climb some impressively steep and curved hills.  (Imagine, if you can, what this route was like before it was re-engineered and paved:  rutted, filled with little dust bowls.  Now imagine it during the rainy season, when those dust bowls would turn to mud.)  You come to a junction – Uvinza to the right,  Kasulu straight ahead.  The pavement continues to the right and you continue straight on the unpaved road.  At all times the road jiggles you with a wash-board effect.  This year it is seriously rutted and you sway back and forth as the driver does his best to avoid the deepest ruts.  Doing any thing but hanging on and looking out the window is next to impossible.

If you are lucky, you are riding in an air-conditioned car and can keep the windows rolled up to avoid the worst of the dust, but most likely the air-conditioning is not working, so you keep the windows rolled down as much as you can to enjoy the air.  All to often you are passed by large petrolium lorries or other large trucks coming from the other direction.  They create a large cloud of dust and you are quick to roll up the window, but soon you are covered in a fine layer of the stuff.  The taste of dust coats your lips.  Even worse are the times that you are caught behind another vehicle and you are caught in dust like a thick fog.  Your driver passes this vehicle as soon as he can, honking to scatter the pedistrians and people pushing bicycles loaded with bananas, tin roofing and mattresses that are also on the road.  And you realize that your vehicle is also kicking up a lot of dust and these people are getting covered in it.

Several hours later you arrive in the center of Kasulu town.  The street is lined with little kiosk shops.  Occasionally you see some goats. And lots and lots of people.  Motor scooters dart around the loaded bicycles, pedestrians and cargo carts of two bycycle wheels connected to a cargo bed pushed by a young man.  Shop goods spill into the street.  And through this turn those large lorries.  This is one of the main truck routes between Dar es Salaam and Kigoma, where goods are transhipped across Lake Tanganyika to the land-locked Congo.

Although most folks here don’t do flower gardening per se, growing crops is too important,  if you look, you can find flowers everwhere.  At ever season some bush or tree is in colorfull bloom.

Most windows in Kasulu don’t close all the way.  They may be the slatted glass “Florida Window” or just shutters.  The citizens of Kasulu are not shy about sharing their noise.  At the Bible College, the sound to school children inter mixes with lecturing from the KBC class rooms.  A seminar is going on at the Cathedral and the amplified preaching and singing floats over the Bible College and up the hill to the Diocese Compound.  You walk pass the back yard walls of KBC staff, and a cow acknowloeges you with a large “Baaarrroooow”.  Chickens walk by, clucking.

Up in the DWT compound, bird song is prevelent.  The birds that, over the years, Bill and I have named “the pan flute bird” (which as a call like a more melodious coo-coo clock), the “Harrigan Bird”, many warblers, and raucous caws of the crows.  An airplane passese over-head, a sound so unusual here that you can’t help but notice.  On a Saturday night, the bass and drumming from the local disco is in the background all night, even drowning out the 5:00 am call to prayer from the local mosque.  Occasionally a dog chorus floats over the town.  And on our last night here, a cool breeze, rattling the fronds of the banana plants, sounding almost like rain, except that there is nothing hitting the tin roof.  The bird chorus joined the rising sun and it was time get up for chapel, finish packing a get ready to leave.

We are now waiting to board our first flight back home.  I hope that you have enjoyed our trip reporting.  We want  to thank you for your prayers and to praise God for everything going so smoothly (even changing the path of a hurricane so that we don’t have to worry about flight delays – and even though I left my phone back in Kigoma by accident).  Truely, visting Tanzania, and Kasullu in particular is probably the closest we can get to visiting the Garden of Eden in this day and age.


(P.S.  Check back – I plan to add some more pictures later) 

2015 – Saying Good-bye to Kasulu

Kigoma – Today we said goodbye to Kasulu.  We are flying from  Kigoma to Dar es Salaam tomorrow and the reporting time is 6:45 am.  We are not big fans of driving long distances in the dark in this part of the country.  Any road you take from Kasulu is going to be an off-roaders delight;  better to travel in daylight. 

 In the past there has always been a big send-off dinner at a local hotel, with speaches and presentations.  Over the years it has made us more and more uncomfortable.  This year they didn’t do it!  Our send off was perfect:  a quiet lunch at the Bible College with the staff that we had been working with.  We enjoyed the meal; shared a few thoughts with each other;  they prayed for us.  Absolutely perfect!


I am both sad and happy to be leaving.  I was so comfortable here that at times I would have to remind myself:  “Hey, Cathy!  Do you realize you are actually in Eastern Africa?”.  And we have such good friends here.  On the other hand, I miss my “fur-babies” and the long conversations I enjoy at least once a week with my daughter.  (Time zone differences and low band-width make this really hard to do here, even with skype.)  It’s really difficult here to follow the kind of diet and exercise plan that I need to do to be healthy:  the diet in this part of the world is really carbohydrate-based.  I also miss all of our friends at St. Paul’s.

The mission at Shunga was already planning to send a car down to Kigoma today to meet the plane that we will actually be taking out of Kigoma tomorrow, and they were very insistant that we ride with them rather then have the diocese send an additional car.  The Shunga contingent did a lot of shopping in Kasulu – which they left on Andrea’s screened in porch to be picked up tomorrow – then picked us up.  Bill and I were crammed into the front seat as the back of the truck contained all of our luggage, some other folks luggage, Felix, Rev. Fred, a woman worker from Matyazo and a small boy.  We made several stops, dropping off  luggage at one church along the way, the small boy a little later, and then making a stop at Matyazo to drop of the woman worker, Rev. Fred and a sack of potatoes that Andrea had sent (She had received a HUGE sack of potatoes from the church that she visited on Sunday.)

It has been the end of the dry season, very dusty and everyone waiting impatiently for the rains to come.  Last night the winds blew.  Today, as we climbed the hills out of Kusulu towards Burundi and Matyazo, the lightening flashed, the thunder roared and the rains came.  I don’t know if the rains reached our part of Kasulu town or not, but the hills recieved their first drink, and the huge smile I saw on one of the woman along the side of the road we traveled, reflected the joy of a thirsty land enjoying a long awaited drink.

I wish you all the same joy as you drink from the living water of our Lord, Jesus.  Let us never thirst!

2015 – Monday/Tuesday and Shunga and Catchup

KASULU – We are enjoying our last week here in Kasulu.  It will actually only be a few more days.  The plane leaves from Kigoma so early in the morning that we have been advised to spend the prevous night in Kigoma.  So Thursday (today – later in the day) we drive to Kigoma,  Friday we fly to Dar es Salaam and Saturday we leave for Dubai and on to New York.  Technically we could easily fly from Kigoma and make the plane to Dubai on the same day, but you can never be certain that Air Tanzania will fly on schedule, or sometimes even at all, so its always best to go to Dar a day early.

After the busyness of the weekend, Monday was a slow day.  We spent the morning in the DWT compound.  The Bishop’s only chance to meet with us this trip was mid-morning.  So we spend the morning writing up our activities from the weekend and meeting for about an hour with the Bishop.

The afternoon was spent at the Bible College.  We started with our Swahili lessons and learned about personal possessives.  Unlike English, where we only have “these, those, that, your, their and theirs, the personal possessives change depending on what they refer to.  There is one group if the noun belongs to a person and three other classes for “thing” nouns, and you just have to memorize what the correct form is for the noun!  Well, my goal here is to understand what folks are saying, not speak it perfectly, so if I at least recognize that that it’s a possessive I guess that I will be doing well.

Bill spent the rest of the afternoon documenting the network set up at the Bible College and then we headed back to the compound to get cleaned up and dinner with the Bishop and his wife and four year old granddaughter, Alyssa.  Dinner was late due to all kinds of Bishop demands but we had a good visit and, as usual, helped with a few technical issues with iPads and personal laptops.  

Tuesday we headed for Shunga to do a site-survey for wi-fi there.  Shunga is a medical clinic run by German Missionaries that really should be (and is on track to being) classified as a hospital.  The drive there was a bit exciting.  The road, overall was in much better shape than any of the other roads we have been on this year – until we got to this one culvert over a wash.  The middle of it was completely worn through with only two layers of rebar between any vehical and the drop to the wash below.  The only warning about this condition was the branch that someone had stuck upright into the rebar.  We stopped the car, got out and looked at the situation.  The road-bed on the right side was not quite wide enough for the car to pass over, so Bill and I stayed out of the car while our driver slowly crossed the culvert.  He made it without getting stuck or going over and Bill and I got back into the car to continue our journey.  

One thing we noticed on thos drive was wooden utility poles laying at regular intervals alongside the road until about half-way to our destination.  It looks as if electricity is making it’s way out to regions were roads don’t show up on our maps aps!

We were greeted at Shunga by Sister Christine, Felix, the nurse from Germany and our old friend Rev. Fred, who is currently working at Matyazo but was at Shunga to help Christine with some bookkeeping.  Felix showed us around and we did an intial determination of access points, repeaters and bridges that would be needed to network the complex.  We will pull up the complex on Googel Earth later and create a detailed plan. The idea at this point will be to start with internet networking between the two “sister” houses and some doctor’s houses.  These houses are closer to the hospital offices and wards, so that will be a jumping off point for adding networking to the hospital in the future.  Currently NOTHING is computerized and Felix and we think that a good start would be computerizing lab results.

At lunch the discussion was what the source of the internet would be.  There is a new cell tower being built right next to the complex.  They are not sure what the carrier on it will be, but they are hoping that the carrier will install 3G on the tower.  Right now the best they can do is get Vodocom Edge service.  It’s hard to even do emailing at that level of service.  There is a group back in Germany that was talking about installing satalite based internet at Shunga, but, as we have learned, if 3G cell is available, it is MUCH less expensive and much faster that satalite.

We headed back home via the Kabondo road so as to avoid the broken culvert, got cleaned up and picked up Daudi and Olivia to go out to dinner at the Kasulu Motel.  As Bill wrote in his blog, Olivia brought chicken that she had cooked.  It wasn’t BILL’s chicken, which somehow got lost, along with one of the Ndhana’s chickens while they were in Kabondo, but the thought was there.  (In other chicken news, I have heardd that the Bishop’s chicken arrived from Kigoma on Tuesday.)

Yesterday (Wednesday) was our final Swahili lesson at the Bible College.  Bill helped Festus get the Presonus Mixer we had brought for him to work and verify that everything is okay with it.  One issue was a “popping” sound that Festus was getting when plugging in a microphone that uses phantom power, but Bill recalled that he has the same issue with those kinds of microphones and some mixing boards at home.  Alll supporting drivers have been downloaded and correcttly installed now, and the rest is just learning curve.

Dinner was at Reginald’s house.  His older daughter is away at school, the one that is still at home is so cute!  We enjoyed some of the tastest pork that I have had here.  We also saw a DVD of us singing at Shunga last year.

Soon we will be heading down to the Bible College for a farewelll lunch and then head off to Kigoma with Sister Christine.  More later.