Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Change of Scenery

Top priority after 1.5 years...
Well I am very happy to say that I have successfully returned home to the greatest place on earth, Tinley Park, and have officially begun my holiday vacation in America. Still, I wanted to give some updates on what I had been up to in Tanzania just before coming home.

Dating back to Thanksgiving, I have to say that it turned out to be one of the greatest and more memorable Thanksgivings I've ever had, mostly because of how smoothly it went despite having so few "typical" amenities. We were able to cook a turkey (to perfection, not by me of course) in an aluminum pot charcoal oven, along with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some amazing pies made from scratch - pumpkin, mango, chocolate pudding-pineapple, and apple. I continue to be blown away by the cooking prowess of many of the other people here. My endeavors were not as difficult or complicated, but were equally successful and appreciated by all. I ended up making a 10-liter bucket's worth of guacamole, which turned out to be a great secondary gravy, and the egg nog was a HUGE hit and went off without a hitch. I think I've influenced a few more people to make it a twice-a-year tradition like it is for me. With 20 people at a single Peace Corps house with no electricity, the fact that we were able to get all of the cooking done and actually eat by 7 o'clock may have been nothing short of a miracle. After eating, we all gathered around a 12-inch netbook computer screen and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Mr. Turkey finished to perfection.
The "jiko" oven used to cook the turkey.
Thanksgiving gang, mostly residents of Njombe / Songea.
Truly classic-looking Thanksgiving pies - pumpkin, mango, apple.

Following Thanksgiving, I traveled to Morogoro to help with the in-service-training of the new class of Education volunteers. I led two sessions related to teaching Math in Tanzania, and I was part of the Hands-On-Science team that led activities all day on Saturday the 1st. We talked about ways to make science seem more exciting for students, and demonstrated this by doing an egg drop competition for the volunteers and their Tanzanian counterparts. We also made homemade gunpowder and stuffed it into a giant paper crane and then ignited it for an enticing fireworks introduction. So essentially our message was: if you can't break or blow something up, it's not science.

Testing out an egg drop contraption.
Cooking up a delicious batch of gunpowder.

Upon finishing my work at IST, I had about a week of time before needing to be in Dar for my flight home. Before he left, an old friend of mine in country told me about his site in a place called Lushoto, which is a small town in the mountains slightly farther North than Dar. I had my tent with me, and so I decided to go check out that area and see if I could do any hiking. From my guidebook, I learned about this place called the Irente Viewpoint, for which the book used some pretty intense descriptors such as: heart-pounding, breath-taking and gob-smacking. After seeing it myself, I have to say I agree with all of these, though I might also add on one more - scrumptulescent. It was really incredible, and I felt like there needed to be some Lord of the Rings background music just to stand and look out at the view. There is a very nice hotel right at the viewpoint, which was far outside of my budget range, but luckily they let people set up their own tents on their front lawn for cheap, and so I was able to wake up to the incredible sights seen below.

There were a lot of chameleons in the forests of Lushoto.

After my hike through Lushoto, I made my way to Tanga, a coastal town only a few hours away. There is a beautiful beach called Pangani that can be reached by a short 2-hour bus ride from town. I stayed there with a friend for 2 days and enjoyed the soft sandy beach, slightly warmer than desired but still refreshing Indian Ocean waters, and unbelievable views of the starry night sky. The temperature was very hot since this is the middle of the summer season, but with a nice fanned room it was nothing unbearable.

Finally, after leaving Pangani, I went on to Dar with a day of preparation before my 4:30 am flight on the 12th. On my last day before coming to America I decided it would be worthwhile to get into the proper mindset for the next 3 weeks and go to an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. 6 plates later my stomach was sufficiently stretched out to accommodate for all of my eating plans at home.

Now that I've had a couple days to be back and start catching up with friends and family, I can definitely see how seemlessly some things like driving came back to me, and yet everything I do seems to cause me to draw comparisons to my life in Tanzania. I'm sure I will be looking forward to returning in January, but for now it is nice to be completely unburdened and to actually understand everything that's being said around me! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you for your continued interest in my blog and activities over the past year. Be sure to stay tuned next year for even more wild and wacky Tanzanian adventures!

1 comment:

  1. Welcome home, Steve--although I sense Tanzania has a "home" feeling for you, too. LOVED the adventure of Thanksgiving you had--the food looked and sounded fabulous! Wish I could see you while you're home, but Arli and Ashlyn are driving here from KS even as I type; eta 3-4 a.m. I'm so glad they're coming, and I can only imagine how your mother feels about having you home now! Please give her my love, which I send to you, too, and to Sarah and Christine, of course. Merry, merry Christmas to all!
    Aunt Mary Anne