Dear Bloss.......

(My letter to Gem....which has taken nearly an hour to process so I have decided to use it as my blog entry!...I am learning what the word patience really means! T.I.T. This Is Tanzania!)

Jambo! (A frequently used shortened version of Hujambo which essentially means: How are you? To which you reply Poa=Cool! If someone said Hujambo you would reply: Nzuri, Sijambo?= good, and you?... To which they reply Nzuri. Asante. = good thank you...No-one is ever not good!!! and you always reply as it is seen as bad manners not to!!)
You sound busy and getting organised.
I'm glad you aren't bringing your IPhone. It's just not worth having anything of value in Dar in particular! I assume you will be moving in larger groups and it is the bigger groups of mzungus (white people) that the theives target. A money belt is great. You purchase EVERYTHING with cash. It's strange carrying Tsh 100,000+ but when I am at my own place I will be able to modify how much I carry on me. It seems expensive when you buy a meal for Tsh 5,000 but Tsh1,000 = Aus 75c so food etc can be very cheap and wholesome. Be prepared to totally change your diet. I think I will be very much a vegetarian here. Rice, Ugali or potatoes are their staple but there a lots cheap eggs, bananas, mangoes,avocadoes, cashews (I think of Col whenever I eat them!) and peanuts as these are the foods grown aplenty ...heaps of vegs, which need to be washed and usually soaked in Milton for example to be sure any potential eggs are removed...lentils/bean dishes....Indian, Chinese, etc...and some Mzungu food!
Regarding dress, most mzungus wear 3/4 cargo type pants and if they wear sleeveless tops, carry a wrap and/or a kanga which you will be able to buy very cheaply everywhere to either cover up or ward off the mosquitos later in the evening. Have a look at my blog to get an idea of what I mean.
Sunscreen, mossie repellent and alcoholic hand wash are all essentials to carry. The weather here in Dar is getting humid and maybe low 30's which I don't mind but the others find it exhausting. Morogoro and Dodoma are cooler but will get more humid as the wet season approaches. Because you are moving you will have a range of weather but it will still be much hotter than Victorian weather atm!
I am easily able to adapt to adversity so the dusty, uneven roads; the overcrowded daladalas; roadside stalls and uncovered food don't worry me as I have learned what to buy and what not to eat etc....It's been a huge learning curve but as I have been with people who know Africa, they have been so helpful in teaching those of us who are new. I'm sure your guides will do the same for you. . I just make sure I have my phone, money etc well under my control.
I am really enjoying piki training as I now have my confidence back. It will be interesting when I get back to Morogoro. I will practise lots before I go out on the road but I know I will be fine eventually.
I'm pleased about your does make sense for Leroy to buy it....cuts out the mucking around. Give him my love. Have you heard anything about Trav? I'm not worried if you haven't because I know Stuart will take good care of him.
I have changed my phone number: when you are in Africa you will only need to dial +255778255104 but I think you need to use another code to get out of Australia....Is that right?
I can't remember whether I left my swimming gear at Mum's or in Trinity but if Gran has my goggles, rashtop and Speedo onepiece I would appreciate you bringing them but don't stress as maybe it will be easier to post them.
I was moved into a room on the 5th floor of the Econo Lodge when Wendy left but when I got back last night it was a sauna!!!!!! The afternoon sun had been pouring in all afternoon. The curtains had to be shut because my room is at eye level with the apartment directly opposite and when I awoke the first morning having left the curtains open to allow air flow, the man in the opposite apartment was standing staring in at me!!!

When I arrived back yesterday I had a shower to wash off the dust but was dripping so much as I got dressed, I was nearly sick...This is not something I, the frog, am used to! In response to this I have moved rooms this morning down to level 1- out of the sun, the rising heat and hopefully into a cooler, more private environment.
I had to laugh because after I had changed rooms I came to this internet cafe to spend an hour in the air conditioning however, the room I am in isn't air conditioned!!! Oh Well! It is nice not to have to rush off anywhere this morning. We don't have Piki until 1400 - 1600 after which I am going out to Mwenge to stay with Tracey, Bruce and the girls (Canadians) for the night.
I miss you heaps Darling but am really looking forward to short as our time together might will be precious.
Nina kupenda. I love you,
Mum. xxxxx

New Tanzanian mobile number!

Just to confuse thos of you who are trying to contact me here in Tanzania....I have purchased another sim card through Zantel as my modm for the computer will be though Zantel as well. I am hoping that this provider will give me better coverage than the Vodacom one. It is the one I will use the most however, I will check the other number occassionally.
Please change your contact number to: (+255 = Tanzania. If you are messaging from Australia you might have to put another code infront...please let me know in a comment so that others in Aus will know too!!)


I have just spent 2 hours in the internet cafe and achieved very is so slow to upload pics so I'm sorry that they are limited...When I get my own modem it will be easier to get vision to you!
We are heading off to a bar now to celebrate our Piki achievements. We all took a pillion passenger throughout the grounds of VETA today. The two boys  each had me on behind and because I took my life into their hands and gave them an easy pillion they each owe me bai baridi moja! ONE COLD BEER!

Tuesday 26 October. Day 2. Farewell Wendy; Back to Mikadi Beach.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOYLE BOYS.....Chris AND Zac!!! ....Hongera! Nitanywa bai Kili mbili baridi!Congratulations! I will drink 2 cold Kili beers!
I am finding that being 8 hours behind Australia (Vic) and not having reliable access to the internet is challenging in keeping up with daily events. Thanks to those of you who have been able to text me and keep me on track. Please forgive me if I overlook an important date (....but you are not allowed to overlook any of my important dates!!!!!! Lol!)
Wendy’s friendship, wealth of local knowledge and support in using Kiswahili has been encouraging and has helped me on my steep learning curve. It was sad to farewell her as she set off for Zanzibar but reassuring that we will meet again in Dar at the annual VSO conference early December. On completion of the conference, I am going out to stay with her and explore Zanzibar in anticipation of sharing Christmas with many of the other Vols who are heading out there......and, of course....being with Gem!
Tom, Mike and I, helmets under our arms, found Temeke Posta daladala and undertook our first ride to VETA. We correctly negotiated the return ride as well....I even travelled on my own! Easy! Day 2 was focused on gaining confidence in our control of the piki piki. Between the three of us, we maximised our riding time, and could see our improvement by the end of the 2 hours.
Kavuta had arranged to take me to Mikadi beach after training so he was waiting for me at Econo Lodge. We crossed the waterway on the ferry in his taxi then enjoyed several hours of swimming in the warm refreshing water and relaxing in the warm breeze as the sun set over Dar. Not having spent much time in the water, Kavuta enjoyed my coaching and is determined to practise hard. Swimming is not an easy skill for Africans to master. Kavuta is very patient and good at English so we spent all our time conversing in Kiswahili. He says it is very good for him to practice English too.Maybe this private tutoring will help both of us!
Having lost my room mate, I had to down size my room at Econo Lodge. I went from a spacious, 3 bedroom on second floor to a little hot box way up on 5th floor. Room #503 faces the afternoon sun with only a small fan to move the otherwise still, heavy warm air. Once again I am fortunate that I easily adapt to warm climates! It is clean and spacious enough for one small person!

Monday. Day 1 Piki Piki training.

Individual meetings, some things sorted out, a visit to Slipway to buy myself some informative books on Tanzania as well as its wildlife, then off to VETA (Vocational Education Training Academy) to meet Pastor Channi and begin our training.
 The Honda XL 125 was a kick start manual which was a bit tricky to start but has been faithful since! Fe, from the Phillipines had only trained on a semi automatic so was a bit challenged with this bike. Tom, (Ireland) and Mike, (UK), did their training as I did but fortunately came out of it still in one piece!! I didn’t know that I was anxious about getting back on the bike however, after successfully riding up and back the narrow section of our training track, completing two tight turns and avoiding wandering students, I dismounted and began shaking. I was so relieved to have the ‘first ride’ over with!! I was fine along the straight but when I had to turn I nearly panicked. I was taking a corner when I had my accident and as I turned on this first ride, I could almost feel the bike sliding out from under me! Looking cool, confident and in control, I was a wreck inside but.....I got back on again and again and again. Gradually the shakes subsided. I was sooo happy to be back on a bike as I know I enjoy it and that I can ride. I am looking forward to the remainder of the week.
I had arranged for Kavuta, Susan’s taxi driving friend to collect us. Having left the others at Econo Lodge, I continued on to Mwenge where Wendy had been stocking up on supplies to take over to Zanzibar. Tracey, Sadie and Belle joined us for dinner and sundowners as they live within walking distance from this shopping mall. It was great to see them again as they had left Morogoro after the Safari and missed the second week. They were looking forward to Bruce’s parents from Canada, joining them later that night.

Sunday 24/10/2010

Leo ni Jumapili, Tarehe ishirini na nne Mweziwa tisa Mwaka elfu mbili na kumi.
Today is Sunday 24th October 2010.

This was our departure day from Language School. The bus was due to leave: Saa tatu (9 o’clock) however I had decided that I wanted to go to the church service held at the Boys’ Seminary on the adjoining property to Amabilis. I joined Caroline at Saa moja nanusu (7:30am) and shared the inspiring 1 ½ hours of song and service. As it was a Catholic service, both Caroline and I were able to follow the sequence and actually recognise many of the Kiswahili words. We still have a long way to go before we can follow the whole service word for word but we were excited to feel a part of it...not just onlookers! The boys’ voices were mesmerising and still caressing our ears as we left them behind and hurried back to Amabilis to board the waiting bus and begin our journey back to Dar!

As I collected my bags from my room I came across Francesca. She is one of the gorgeous young girls who work at Amabilis. We have had a bit of a thing going between us ever since she learned that we have the same name (nijina). We have laughed our way through stilted conversations trying to help each understand the other. As I farewelled her, I slipped the shell bracelet from my wrist onto her wrist and was thanked with her biggest, widest of those priceless moments!

It was an easier trip back as the day wasn’t quite as hot as it had been when we travelled out. I certainly appreciate my new little IPod on these journeys!

Almost every newish car is a Toyota. Trav would certainly feel at home in Tanzania as most Toyotas are Rav 4’s! I have seen so many similar to him but none with a moonroof, driving lights or tow pack! All other cars on the roads are much older and have a whole lot of character!

Once settled in to Econo Lodge, Wendy and I headed back to 56 Bhog for Indian Dosas...cooked as we watched on, then delivered to us within 5 minutes of us ordering. The quick, cheap, filling meal we needed before we fell into bed, relieved to be horizontal!

Jumamosi mchana, jioni na usiku (Saturday afternoon, evening and night)

After pumzika kidogo (a much needed Nanno!), Wendy, Mae and I squashed like sardines into a daladala and bumped our way into town into town. Relieved to tumble out of the hot box we wandered through the streets and into the Kanga store. Kangas are the African version of the sarong and are worn by almost every woman in Morogoro, Zanzibar and many of the women in Dar and throughout Africa. You buy them in 2 panels and mzungus will often buy one; keep one for themselves and give the other to a good friend They are similar to a framed picture in that they have a border around each piece, a matching pattern in the centre and a small printed message across the bottom of the kanga. The women tie them around their lower and/or upper bodies, often in creative ways, to hide their shoulders and their legs. They also use them to in which to carry their babies. The Katangi fabric is bought in longer lengths and can be tailored into beautiful dresses or skirts and blouses. With Wendy’s help I used my limited Kiswahili to purchase four lengths of Katangi at two different shops then we power walked all the way out to the tailor and again using my Kiswahili, I hope I asked for 2 dresses and 2 skirts and tops to be sewn and collected in one week! The tailor, Mr Ngosha (coincidently he is the same tailor Sandra had recommended I use but I hadn’t known how to find!) is a really nice guy and obliged us in sorting out our fumbled requests and explanations of designs!
We left feeling very proud of ourselves and consequently celebrated with the remaining volunteers at Dragonaires.....another fun night!
Walking from Amabilis to Dragonaires, we were passed by a wedding procession. It is the third one I have witnessed. A wedding is an occasion shared by the whole community. Everyone involved takes part in a procession which drives several times through town and many of the streets with their lights on and a band playing loudly in the back of the leading truck. Twice, just on dusk, these processions have passed us making a fitting ending to the day and a delightful entree for our own festivities!

Saturday 23 October. Last day of Language school

As you all know, I am not good at farewells and today marks the end of our Language school training. The morning session for our group was spent revising verbs but also involved a practical discussion about negotiating the bus terminals.
Left: Andre (Pembe), Mama J, Fe (Dodoma)
I am relieved that Mama J has alerted me to some of the challenges I will inevitably encounter! Five of the Vols had organised a guide to take them hiking up through the mountains to the waterfalls. Initially I was disappointed that I couldn’t go as my foot would not have survived the distance but....realising that language tutors are expensive and I had lots to learn, I changed my disappointment into productive energy. The mountains are going to be at my backdoor during the whole 2 years I am here!
Group evaluations were completed, teachers awarded us with certificates and new notebooks and sang us their farewell songs after which we reluctantly farewelled the departures.
Left: Hazel(near Mtwara), Mama J, Wendy(Zanzibar) Fe(Dodoma), Elizabet(Dodoma),
Left: Fe, Wendy, Christine, Alain, Hazel, Mai, Susan, Tasmyn, Fredrique,Meaghan, Andre, Aquilin.

Friday, October 22.

What a bumpy day I have had!
Usually I sleep with my phone on silent but having forgotten to silence it, I was woken at 6am by a message from gazzat20 – a skyped text from GT in Miami. This was followed by his phone call. Communication is adhoc here however, this will be amended when I return from Dar and have access to my own modem. Later I used my available phone credit to ring Mum. These much needed chats with familiar voices gave my shakey belief in my abilities, a positive injection!
It was slog on.....
In the break, I had organised with Polly to have her collect me and my luggage at 4.30pm. Lunch was rushed as I needed to pack and sort my things to take to Dar for Piki next week, so I arrive at the arvo session a bit frazzled....
.....Role plays.....dialogue....communication....blah.....blah....blah.......blank.....blank.....
How can a mind have been filled with knowledge and the mouth not able to speak it.....!!!!! Brain must have been lala (asleep!) OR the knowledge had taken the scenic route and hadn’t reached my memory yet!!!.....
A minor melt down! FranzfrazzlednTanz!! Outside for time out! Dear Hazel and Susan... Asante Sana!
Thankfully 4.30 arrived. Wendy came as my first visitor and we were eagerly welcomed at my house by Mustafa. He had done an amazing job this week in transforming the dusty, barren yard into a potentially living, colourful garden! When the rains come the roses, passionfruit vines, variety of pretty, colourful bushes, citrus trees and other delights will burst into life. There is a large area in which I will plant vegies and fresh herbs. We spent some time hanging the new curtains in my room. From my windows I look out over this garden and their majestic mountainous backdrop.
I have an ensuite off my bedroom which is newly tiled...such a luxury! And across the hall is a room intended as my study. Just to the left of my bedroom door is the end of the hall which is really the front doors to the house. These double doors open out onto the garden. So potentially beautiful and peaceful! The side door is the most used entrance as it has a porch area on which to leave muddy/dusty shoes and the piki piki. I have a full sized fridge and cooker ....also luxuries! Polly said that there is still more furniture coming! I know that I am VERY lucky! It was nice to share my house with a friend as she was just as excited about it as me!
As Polly dropped us in town she said “Fran we need to have a talk. When we spoke last I said that all you need to do in November is to relax and get to know the girls and teachers....however we now need the English teacher to help us put together a building proposal and would like you to teach English to the Form 1 girls!”
I’m a really excited to actually be able to get started and be useful. I think it will be much better to be actively involved instead of feeling like I am spying on the classes. This will be far less intimidating for the African teachers and help me get to know the girls in an active capacity. I have bought their text book and, having so recently been a struggling student, I believe that I will be sensitive to their challenges in learning a second language!
Having walked out from town we collected some of the others and continued on foot to Dragonaires, where VSO were generously paying for our meals. As it was our last night all together (some Vols have long distances to travel so are returning to Dar earlier than the rest of us. The Dodoma three, which includes Susan, have commitments on Saturday evening), we relaxed and had so much fun....
Franisms are already being bantered around:.....”Ostraaaaaaaaalia”.....
“No that’s not how I said it!!! I said, Australia”
......”Yes that’s what we said you said....OOOOOstraaaaaaaaaaaalia!!!”
Apparently Aussies talk funny!!! I’ve never noticed!
But we have had a Frantastic’s been Frantabulous......I am Frabulous Frangelica.....and I didn’t even start these!!!
Nina kupenda (Mum.....this is the correct way to say I love you in Kiswahili!!)
FranznTanz! xxxxx

October 22. Daily routine and patriotism!

Our routine here at Amabalis is structured and busy. I usually wake at about 6am, have a quick shower then either do my washing or some study before going to breakfast at 7am. This morning I needed to do my washing. Arriving at the ground floor laundry having greeted atleast 4 people with the same greeting.....”Habari za asubuhi?” (how are you this morning?) They would reply “Nzuri” or “Njema” (good/fine) “Habari za asubuhi?” To which I must reply “Nzuri, Njema or Salama” (good /fine/ peace).Then they usually say “Asalaamu alekum” (Peace be with you¬), to which I need to say “Asante, Wa alekum salaam” (Thankyou peace to you too). Some of the younger ones might say to me: “Shikamoo” which is a lovely way of showing respect to their elders to which I must reply “Marahaba”. If I failed to reply to this they would be very offended!
Greetings are very important and to ignore a greeting is bad manners. Everywhere you go the greetings follow the same lines. It has taken me ages to remember, let alone say, the correct responses to each of the greetings however I did learn Marahaba very quickly as it is the one which carries the greatest weight!
You can imagine that by the time I had reached the laundry, my mind was spinning reflecting on what I had just said to each of the people I had met! I believe this morning’s responses were the most correct so far during the past 2 weeks!!
Our simple laundry has cement wash troughs into which we put a big bucket, fill it with water, add the powder then begin the workout! Up and down, up and down,....pour out the soapy water, squeeze out the excess water....fill the bucket, up, down, up, down,....pour out the water....squeeze, twist, re-rinse.....squeeze, squeeze, twist.... I think this routine has assisted in gently strengthening the muscles in my weakened left arm....something I hadn’t realised until I was swimming and wondered why my arm wasn’t complaining! Hanging out the wet things is a bit tricky as it involves hiding my knickers inside a skirt, under a towel or inside my lingerie wash bag, as it is extremely bad manners and not acceptable for a woman’s underpants to be seen in public. I think one of the lovely older Nuns has her own special way of hanging out clothes because every time I have come back to collect my washing it has been hung differently from how I left it! She is a Darling and will do anything to help I will try to remember to hang it the way she likes it next time! Of course everything dries quickly so the very few available pegs are shared often. I have learned to collect my things at lunchtime as last time most of them had been unpegged and all pegged together in one bunch!
Breakfast begins at 7am. It is always coffee, tea, white bread, jam and either a boiled egg, a banana or a small savoury crepe.

Some of us still at breakfast: L-R 'The 2 Frans': Francesca and Me!, Elizabet, Fredrique, Fe, Mae, Hazel Wendy

Lessons begin at 8-10.00am. during which time we are given a bottle of water. The first 2 sessions are intense and we stagger out of each on feeling like our brains are going to burst! The morning break is needed and is usually deep fried, battered banana, and a doughnut like deep fried cake, or a large sweet crepe or a somosa. The food is heavy and I have learned not to eat too much in this break! Lunch, 12.30 - 1.30 is always a cooked meal of rice, potatoes (mashed, chips or boiled in a creamy sauce) a tomato based sauce, yummy spinach, and either deep fried chicken/fish ormeat casserole and a piece of fruit: banana, orange or watermelon. A bottle of water is available. After about 3.30 or a bit later we are given a bottle of soda or water and either popcorn or peanuts. Between 4-6.30 is our free time. We either: sleep, walk or catch a daladala into town, go to the internet cafe or study. Amabilis has a small fridge in which they keep water soda and Kili beer so sundowners is usually enjoyed sitting out the back overlooking the mountains and enjoying the cool breeze.
L-R Hazel, Wendy and Alison
 Dinner, 6.30pm is always cooked and usually similar to the menu I described to lunch but if we had had fish at lunch we would be offered chicken at dinner. Night study sessions are optional either in the lounge room or in our rooms.
Wendy was having a night off from studying as she was miles ahead of me with her command of Kiswahili so she was watching one of my movies whilst I studied...Note my learning tools/posters on the wall!!

Some nights we eat out but usually we study, socialise, write blogs, laugh heaps, and if we feel like it, join the 8.30 boys for a drink at the local Elvis Bar!

This afternoon we sang the National Anthem and two other Tanzanian songs. Singing is second nature to the Africans so it involved lots of emotion and was lots of fun. We then took it in turns of singing our own National anthems. Being the only Aussie, I went solo, was very patriotic, very emotive and finished my rendition with
“Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ....Oi, Oi, Oi!!!”

October 18-21. Week 2 Language School.

Habari, jina langu ni Fran. Nini mwaustralia. Nini toka miji wa Cairns na nina kaa nji wa Trinity Beach. Tuna jifunza Kiswahili. Nina penda kujifunza Kiswahili. Nita kaa Morogoro na nitakwenda kufanyakazi SEGA, Mikundi. Ijumaa, ilikwenda SEGA kutana wamwanafunzi na mkuu wa shule mwanamke. Leo ni Jumatano. Saa kumi na nusu ni jiono. Sislikwenda mji kuzungumza watanzania.Leo baadaye hotelini sisitakwenda kukula. Asalaamu alekum

Hi my name is Fran. I am Australian. I came from Cairns and lived in Trinity Beach. We are learning Kiswahili. I like learning Kiswahili. I will live in Morogoro and go to work at SEGA, Mikundi. Friday, I went to SEGA to meet the students and the Head Mistress. Today is Wednesday. We went to town to practise talking to Tanzanians. It is 4.30 in the evening. Later today we are going to the hotel to eat. Farewell.

I am getting better at recognising the Kiswahili words and being able to put the sentences together but we had the funniest conversations with the Tanzanians in our adventure into town today!! Firstly Caroline and I went to the tailor whom we had met the other day with Mama J. He was very helpful. We both managed in Kiswahili to organise getting a skirt made. I hope the end product is what we thought we were asking for! We negotiated buying a notebook and envelopes; chatted to the prison warden; tried to buy a sharpener; bought some fabric (numbers, money and time seem to come more easily to me than any other conversation!!); tried to find our way to the Bank of Africa and had to stop a policeman and ask him directions!! I communicated with a lovely Tanzanian lady....I’m still not really sure what we ended up talking about but I thought I was saying that I am learning Kiswahili and am going to be a teacher but I think she interpreted my broken conversation as meaning that I am going to teach Kiswahili....She must have been thinking..."POOR students who get this crazy woman as their teacher!!!” It was lots of fun. The Tanzanians love to talk to mzungus and are very friendly. Some have a good understanding of English but most only know the basic words like: Morning....which they might say as they pass us in the evening. I’m sure it’s the same when they listen to me trying to get the correct words out. They will go home bragging to their family that they talked with the mzungus and I can imagine them laughing about my incorrect choice of words!

I am writing this in my little room and the smell of smoke it strong. Sunday night when we walked back from the restaurant, a large section of the mountains were alight. It was very spectacular sight but we were concerned that with the wild wind that was blowing, there would be a lot of damage done. We have since learned that it is a regular controlled burn to assist nature. Every evening since, we have watched it creep across the face of the mountain, slowly doing its job and making a spectacular picture.

Yesterday was Mike’s (from UK) birthday. We decided that a swim in the pool at the International School of Tanzania would be a treat for for Mike and all those of us who were sweaty, smelly, yuk!!. After classes we caught some taxis, fought the traffic and were rewarded with an hour of blissful relaxation in the 25mtr chlorinated pool, set in the safe, green grounds of the IST.....only 20 minutes walk from my future home!! I was relieved to learn that my shoulder didn't resist the exercise and that my foot was able to take the movement with all stroke disciplines. I slipped through the water thankful that I will have access to such a wonderful resource. It was great to share my oasis and, as a bonus, Polly and her husband and daughter, Martha, were there as well.
Alison (Dar es Salaam) and birthday boy Mike (Zanzibar) standing beneath the beautiful Frangipani tree at the entrance to the swimming pool. We waited for ages for our taxi man to return and when he didn't we wandered down the track towards the glowing sunset
Later that night I joined the 8.30 club and went to the Elvis bar for Mike’s birthday drinks. (Elvis is the name of the manager. He is African and his true name is Elvis!)

October 17. On Safari to Mikumi National Park

Oh my, Oh my....Today I really knew I was in Africa!! By 7am this morning we had seen Impalas, baboons, zebras, giraffes, guinea fowls, elephants, water buffalo, vultures and numerous bird like.....and we hadn’t even gone through the gates of Mikumi National Park!! We were all so excited to be treated with such abundance so early in our adventure. 12 of us had risen early and departed Amabilis at 5am for the relatively smooth trip to the NP.

As we entered the park we were greeted by a large herd of elephants, adults and babies. African elephants are big and have large ears shaped like the African continent! They have an extremely acute sense of smell. Similar to humans, they are very social animals! At one stage of our journey we were treated to a close encounter with a very inquisitive male elephant. He approached our bus from a distance, circled onto the road in front of us, came towards us with his gigantic ears flapping, trunk flailing, did a bit of a backward dance, seemingly for our entertainment, lifted his trunk and tail in salute as he danced off into the wilderness!! The crowd went wild!! We couldn’t believe our luck as we rejoiced at having had our own spontaneous African stage show exclusively choreographed by a ‘Big Daddy Native!’

The giraffes stand as tall as 5.5 meters above the ground. The young ones are so cute. It was as if they were in slow motion as they loped away from our prying eyes.

 So many zebras....”I like to move it...move!!!” .... as their little tails swished the insistent flies from their butts! Zebras have very good sight but their sense of smell is poor. Their best friends, however, are the wilder beast whose sense of smell is sharp, but sight is poor! We were treated to many, many of these mingling groups.

Tanzania is in their dry season so consequently much of the wildlife gathers at close proximity to the watering holes. As we neared a fairly depleted hole the zebras and wilder beast were nearby but not close or drinking there. This was unusual until we discovered a small pride of lions, hidden from general view, behind the embankment of the waterhole!!d Having just been treated to seeing a hippopotamus and some baboons, we couldn’t believe our luck as we had been warned that it would be hard to find any lions if there were any in Mikumi at all!

Lucky, lucky, lucky us!!
Alongside the four lions was a half devoured carcass of a very unfortunate zebra. It was obvious that the feast had only just been completed as the four lions had the fattest bellies I have ever seen! They could hardly lie down and most of the time they rolled onto their backs with their feet in the air and their distended bellies pointing to the sky! They were panting hard and disinterested in anything around them. Eagles and vultures circled above hoping to score a feed, however, one of the lions was on watch. She slowly wandered around the sleeping three, then stealthily made her way up the embankment, peered over the top to spy on any unsuspecting prey, should they have dared wander too close! (Wendy W: Her gentleness and ability to watch out for her friends was so evident so it is only fitting that I have officially named her Wendy....and yes, if given the chance, she would probably have eaten me!! Xxx).

I think the gazelles were fortunate that the lions scored a zebra, as the large number of these delicate animals would have made easy prey for the hungry lions!
The landscape, so sparse and dry, but beautiful with its backdrop of the jagged mountain range. As the bare trees changed to green shrubby bush, we pulled into Campsite #2 for a breakfast of samosas, boiled eggs, bananas, bread and jam and a much needed coffee! The kitchen staff had been up at 3.30am preparing it for us.
Unbeknown to us, we were to be treated with our second spontaneous African stage show!
Another bus load had arrived at campsite #2. They were all Africans from Dar and very friendly and interested in us mzungus! To our delight they shared their beautifully rich voices and burst into song! Several songs later and many expressions of gratitude from us their bus left. Little faces were pressed against the windows as the older children called out the windows, with smiles as wide as their faces....”Bye mzungos!”
The birdlife was prolific; their colors and beauty a stark contrast to the pale, dry, tired colors of their environment.

As we neared the end of our journey within the Park we came across an unused truck near a water tank. A family of baboon watched their young playing amongst the water and the shade of a lone green bush, as three stately buffalo watched on.
At the entrance/exit of the Park there are bungalows in which visitors can camp. It was almost as if the animals had agreed to gather together here to become our farewell party. Zebras frolicked as the little oxpecker birds cleaned their hides, the elephants stood guard, buffalo wallowed in the mud (apparently a great way to keep the flies away!) totally covering their bodies, baboons lazed in the shade. If you decide to come and stay at Mikumi NP....don’t nick out the back during the night or you might encounter more than you bargained for!!!

Back at Amabilis, we were again treated to another group of Gospel singers recording songs. Their beautiful voices resounding through the corridors and beyond!
I am so lucky.

October 16. Celebrations and Cooking African style

I woke at 4am and realised that it was midday in Australia.....Midday on October 16th....Aidan’s 24th birthday! Unfortunately I don’t have access to making international calls yet so had to make do with sending a text to share my wishes and love for his special day.
The best way to help you understand today is to relate it to camping without electricity! It was reminiscent of camping at Morna using only the open fire and the camp ovens.
We used coal fires and put the hot coals on top of the saucepans to create an oven effect....but that’s where the similarities ended!
We learned how to: use the following utensils... ungo, chekeche, sinia, kisu, crack open a coconut and save its milk then shred its flesh using a small seat with a sharp toothed end on its handle, milk the flesh of its juices and strain the flesh using a chujio lanazi then use the thick milk to cook Wali ne nazi (coconut rice); prepare Mchicha (spinach like plant); use the small stoves efficiently; prepare Pilauya Njegere (pilau of green peas.....and we added lots of other begs too!); Mahitaji (savoury rice); ugali and mutanda (fruit salad)
Many laughs were had throughout the morning then we finally sat down together and shared our feast!
Dragonaires, a local restaurant/bar, does pizza on Saturday nights so we relaxed there and celebrated Fredrique and Elizabet’s 7th wedding anniversary, Aidan’s 24th and the end to a very successful first week at Language school.!

15 October. Sikoni & SEGA

Kwenda sokoniI.....I go to the market! Shopping at the market...very daunting! We had spent all morning learning the vocabulary to help us shop at the market and cook with the food we had to buy! I still didn’t feel confident but practise makes it off we headed!
Nenda sokoni nunua mafuta ya kupikia lita moja halafu uliza bei ya ndizi.
Go to the market and buy one litre of cooking oil and after ask the price of bananas
Having searched the market for somewhere to buy oil, I discovered honey and coconut oil and had to ask for cooking oil. Big mistake! Some young African guys leapt to my assistance and rushed off in three different directions to quickly return, each with one liter of cooking oil. Shilingi mia saba!!! WHAT....7,000Tsh...Habana, Habana!..No, No, Mama J had told me that I should only pay about 2-3000 Tsh for one liter!
Then the three guys started an intense discussion as to who was going to sell me the oil and what price they were going to ask for it!!!...I was lost as I couldn’t quickly pull the vocabulary I needed out of my brain. I tried by saying “Habana, ghali, shilling mia mbili!” – “No, expensive, 2000 Tsh!” their discussion was too intense for me to have any impact on their decision so, thankfully Hazel stepped in with her more advanced Swahili and sorted them out! I ended up paying 3000 Tsh but I have learned so much in having gone through this encounter! The older sellers at the market don’t approve of these young boys as they are too aggressive. They follow people, especially mzungos (white people), hassle them to tell them what they want to buy, rush off to the vendor, collect the goods then set the price so that they can get commission! These guys followed me for the entire time I was at the market, hassling me to buy something...anything! We got some hints on how to handle these pests from some of the older vendors, especially the ndizi (banana) man who was so generous, caring and helpful. (I remembered to ask his price for ndizi...shilingi mia mbili) They took a genuine interest in us. I certainly know who I will be patronising when I do my shopping in future....Big mistake young guys.....HUGE!
Next adventure took me to SEGA. Polly rescued me from the market and drove me the 10 kms out the Dodoma Road to Mikundi. The further away from Morogoro we got the quieter the road became and I realised that I would be able to cope with the traffic and the road on the pikipki....I will need to negotiate a very rough dirt track into the school but there wont be any traffic along it so I should be okay!
Half the girls rushed out to greet us whilst the quieter, shier ones slowly joined us and introduced themselves. Introductions over, the girls were asked to take me on a tour of the school. the time I left I had met everyone, seen everything, been shown each girls bed and sleeping quarters, met the cook and watched her preparing ugali for their dinner, had nearly each girl hold my soon as one let go another would take hold and excitedly tell me something about herself. The form one girls, the boarders, speak quite good English but the year 6 girls, day girls, have slightly better command over English than I have over Kiswahili! We have agreed that if I help them with their English they will help me with my Kiswahili....I think we both have our work cut out for us! The new school building which will house the form 2 students next year is well under way as is the larger undercover eating area. The girls proudly showed me these buildings. Our last stop was the vegetable garden which was wonderful as I was able to identify many of the plants in Kiswahili. The girls fell around laughing when I got the names wrong and worked hard to help me correct my mistakes. Timely revision for me and a fun time for all of us!
Before we left I met the teachers and spent a short time with the Headmistress with whom I will be working closely.
I felt as though I had been there before! It was very easy being with the girls and I know it is only going to get a whole lot better as I get to know them.
On our return to Amabilis, Polly took me to the International School and showed me the 25mtr pool. It was crystal clear and inside the grounds of the school so that usual African dress code doesn’t apply. I couldn’t believe it! My house was about a 15 minute walk away directly across the Dodoma Road! Not only will I be coaching the girls at SEGA to learn to swim but I will be able to finish off a hot day at school swimming laps instead of running the dusty roads of Morogoro!!! Much better for my recovering shoulder and foot too! I couldn’t have planned it better. To top it off, Polly has offered to ask for a deal on the entrance fee so it that it won’t cost me too much!
Dragonaires, a local restaurant/bar does pizzas on Saturday nights so we walked there, celebrated Fredrique and Elizabet’s 7th wedding anniversary, Aidan’s 24th and the end of a successful first week at Language school!

13 October. Day 3 Language school

Hopefully I will emerge from this fog of language that I am learning and be able to actually converse in Swahili! I have been exposed to so many new verbs, nouns and combinations of words/letters which change the sentences/words into totally different meanings then something else changes when it becomes a question/plural/you/me/them etc......When I am looking at the words and sentences it makes sense but as soon as I  try to goes right out of my head!!
I guess this is nothing new to those of you who have learned another language but the speed at which we are moving through the rules seems pretty fast to this old brain and..... my memory isn't as quick as it used to be! They keep telling me that this time next year I will look back and laugh!!!.......mmmmmmm... Oh Well! I am trying to remember that it is all a part of the adventure and that I am only at the end of DAY #3!!!
The weather is kind here as the days don't seem too humid or hot, maybe around 30C.  Tracey, Sadie and I have just caught the daladala into town and successfully found our way to Oasis Hotel where we have booked the group in for dinner. I am rather proud of myself as I managed to lead us directly there having been explained the way by Renee on Sunday. The hottest time of day has passed and it is starting to cool down. It is very similar to the dry season in TNQ so very familiar to me.
Life is pretty simple for all of us. We have simple but clean shared rooms (although I have a room to myself as there is an uneven number of females and I opted to let the others share), 2 shared showers and toilets in each wing. Each wing has 10 bedrooms. The four wings surround a central courtyard in which the Gospel singers were singing on Sunday. I am on the second floor which opens out onto a balcony overlooking this courtyard. We have a simple laundry where we handwash our clothes. The grounds proudly display manicured lawns and peaceful gardens where we sit and relax, usually with a Kili beer before dinner starts @ 6.30pm!
Evenings so far have been set aside for revision and relaxation. The group is easy going and heaps of fun so there is never a dull moment. There is the same mix of personalities/characters as you would find in any class....the naughty boys (of naughty girls!)...the fast, keen learners,.... the ones who are a few steps behind (that's me!)... and lots of bantering and support and praise of all efforts made! Mama J, Asia and Benji are wonderfully patient teachers!
A great way to learn!

11 – 12 October. Day 1 & 2. Language school.

Monday. Day 1
They say Kishwahili is an easy language to learn. I’m not sure what they were comparing it with but I certainly didn’t find the first day easy at all! In fact, I had a minor melt down when at the lunch table Mama J asked me how many children I had and I burst into tears! I had no idea it was going to happen but it did! I had just come from my room and the messages I had tried to send to Gemma and the boys hadn’t gone through, my foot was swelling alarmingly, I couldn’t remember any of the things I had just been taught in the classroom.......
....anyway.....thanks to the understanding support of my wonderful friends, who have each gone through or are going through similar melt downs, I survived the day and even came out of the final class feeling in control of some of the Swahili!
Sitting on the steps, enjoying a cool drink and chatting, I had the very pleasant surprise of the much looked forward to meeting with Polly. I had told her that I would be available any day between 4-6pm and was hoping to meet me Tuesday however she couldn’t wait to meet me either and arrived unexpectedly.
Polly, the founder of SEGA, is an American who has been living in Africa for 10+ years and is married to a South African. She has a daughter as well and they have just moved from Dar to Morogoro into the house Sandra, my volunteer predecessor, was living in. Polly has rented a newly built 4 bedroomed house for me and has furnished it with all her furniture from Dar. She took me to the house where I met, Camilla and Elaina, two 17 year old lovely American girls on their gap year. They are at SEGA October – start February. They have just moved in this week and are getting the house ready for me. The curtains had just arrived and it looks fantastic...very welcoming already. I am so lucky to have the girls to start my placement with. I am sure they will be Tanzanian savvy very quickly and so be able to teach me what they have learned! They are taking the girls swimming this Wednesday....a job I will inherit when I get there!
It was reassuring being able to talk to Polly about my placement and her expectations and especially what she is doing at SEGA at the moment. I am right in thinking that I am going to be drawing on all my past experiences during my placement. I can’t wait!
Polly’s visit was certainly well timed!

Tuesday. Day 2.

Avocado and orange for breakky instead of white bread and jam! Verbs...past, present and future. This was followed by a very informative, and much needed session, on Do’s and Don’ts in Tanz. There are so many that are different from Western Culture! Being left handed I was surprised by the custom that I shouldn’t put food into my mouth using my left hand without utensils. I am going to have to be very aware of this when eating out! Hands are the preferred utensils.
I have serious study to do as I am learning so much and not retaining very much however the more we talk in Swahili with each other and the gentle Sisters here at Amabilis, the easier it is getting....I think!

Fe and I dancing as I show off my first African dress on my first wearing of it!

9-10 October. Morogoro.

Saturday. Bus from Dar to Morogoro

With bags packed and ready to leave Econo Lodge, had a late breakfast a Chef’s Pride. I had a full cooked breakfast and was thankful that I did as I didn’t eat again until dinner.
VSO bussed us out to the bus depot about 45 minutes from Econo Lodge. The depot very busy as it was Saturday afternoon. Bargaining occurred to allow us to take our bus into the depot. Just as well because I would never have been able to carry all my bags the distance to our designated bus, let alone negotiate the traffic and people!
Andre (King of Pemba!) guarding our gear
Slowly we made our way out of the thick city traffic. When the bus stopped in the traffic, which it did very often, men selling bottles of water, apples, cashews, towels, drinks, peanuts, ice creams, oranges...etc.etc... would appear below the windows, hold their boxes of goods up at our eye level and try to make a sale. As we moved further out of the city, the men would board the bus when it stopped and again bargain their goods. Easy shopping for us but a very hard way to make a living!
Nearly 4 hours of weary travel found us approaching Morogoro on sunset. How lucky I was to experience my first glimpse of the town, in which I am going to spend the next 2 years, in such a stunning light! I fell in love with it immediately. Needless to say, the backdrop of rugged mountains added to my positive response.

Everyone was relieved to find our accommodation; the Amabilis Centre, clean and in a safe area. It is a monastery in the Kilakala area on the Old Dar Es Salaam road. The sisters were welcoming and helpful.

Sunday: Gospel Singers. Exploring Morogoro

An unbelievable start!...
I couldn’t believe my ears as I woke to the sound of African Gospel singers. I quickly made my way out onto the balcony to witness their song and dance. At first I had thought there might have been a service at the monastery however I was to learn later that they were making a film promoting the understanding of HIV/AIDs.
We went exploring on foot through the local area and wound our way higher and higher above the town, passed a church service and its singing,

and the local houses many made from red mud or mud bricks.

L - R: Fredrique, Tracey, Elizabet(front) Hazel, Benji, Mike, Wendy, Mae, Andre, Fran, Adrian, Belle.

 Later in the day we walked into town, passed the Post Office, the oval where a friendly soccer game was being held and sourced out many other relevant landmarks. I bargained at the fruit and veg market for my first purchases of a mango and an avocado! Both pieces were bargained down from 1000 Tanzanian shillings to 500 Tsh. I am really lucky to have such an extensive market here!

We met after lunch and were given an overview of the week to come. 3 groups: Simba - Lion, Tembo -Elephant and Kiboko - Hippo were created with me being a Hippo!! Tracey and I were designated in charge of organising the food venues for when we eat out.

3 – 8 October. ICT – In Country Training.

Sunday: Arriving

Arriving at Dar Es Salaam airport, Susan and I were greeted by her enthusiastic friends as well as Renee our VSO rep. Susan’s friend Kavuta, who is a local taxi driver, drove us the half hour to town and unloaded us at Econo Lodge which was to be our accommodation for the week.
Exhaustion was overwhelming so we declined the offer to go to dinner with the others and fell into bed.
Susan, happy to be on African ground!
Monday: Day 1 ICT (In Country Training)

6.30am we were rudely awakened by the alarm...down to the standard breakfast of papaya, banana, dry white toast and coffee then straight onto the bus which took us through the maze of streets and frantic traffic, to VSO office in Masasani. 8.30am start.....Information, introductions, information, information...bang, bang, bang.....My learning curve was so steep and continued to get steeper as the week unfolded!
But it was exciting and reassuring as we got to know each other.
Lunch was delivered very late but we were reminded that T. I. T! (This Is Tanzania!) I didn’t mind as my meal was delicious. I had ordered Ugali (a thick gruel, similar to semolina but made from maize meal flour) and vegetables. You take a small amount of the Ugali, roll it into a ball then push an indent into the ball to use as an edible scoop.
Monday evening we had drinks and dinner by the sea at Coco Beach. Once again we fell into bed exhausted as Susan and I really hadn’t had much time slow down or even know/realise whether we were jet lagged or not!

Tuesday: Day 2 ICT

My first experience of walking the streets in Dar!
Uneven ground where ever you, bikes, pikipiki, daladalas, people, people, people, and more of the same everywhere! The energy was intense but the cars would eventually stop for you if you waited for a slight break in the pace then put your hand down and forward to indicate that you wanted to cross. Extreme caution and scanning your eyes everywhere around you was essential. Fortunately I was with a group as I was not able to look anywhere but the ground and where I was placing my tender foot! Good team work got us safely to Posta, the daladala (bus) stop. Catching the required daladala brought more challenges as it was peak hour, which resulted in us taking a less crowded one half way and negotiating a badagi (tuk tuk) the remainder of the way. Learning all the time!
The city slipped past, (without a map I had no idea where I was!) as we headed to VSO office for another day of intense training, information and sorting out placement details etc. Doctor Baalia Klaassen spoke at length about health in Tanzania. She and her husband have been practicing here for many years and she was very blunt and appropriate in her delivery. VSO use their clinic which is situated at the International School Campus in Dar. I feel very secure in knowing that she would be looking after me in a time of need.
Dinner was enjoyed at the Badminton club where we met Tracey, a fellow volunteer’s daughters and husband who have relocated their lives to share the experience with Tracey. Sadie, yr 12 and Belle, yr 10 from Canada, are doing their studies online....yes...together with all the frustrations of dodgy connections etc. I admire their tenacity but what an experience they are getting!

Wednesday: Day 3 ICT: Rest Day. Beach Day

Perfectly timed! A day off from study and a social day but still a very hectic day of learning! During the long walk to the ferry terminal, bought some sugar cane from one of the many vendors along the roadside. It was juicy, sweet and much needed sustenance by me as I was using 3 times the energy as the other Vols just trying to keep up the pace! It was worth it. The ferry ride across the waterway took us to a beautiful place of peace and tranquillity. Mikadi Beach wrapped around us and squeezed out the anxieties and stresses of the past few days. Warm blue Indian Ocean gently soothed my aching body and helped me re-energise. Lunch provided one of the best seafood salads I have ever eaten after which I curled up in the ample hammock and read my book. Totally relaxed, we rode the daladala back to the ferry and wound our way through the busy streets back to Econo Lodge. Dinner at Bhog 56, a very cheap, Indian restaurant, was a delight as we dined on the sidewalk and watched them prepare the Dosa in front of us. They are a cheesy, crusty thin pancake folded into quarters with a vegetable masala filling. I will definitely be eating them again!
Andre(Dutch-Pembe) Wendy (Canadian-Zanzibar) Renee(Dutch-Dodoma) Sine(German-Zanzibar) Mae(Phillipino-Iringa)
Alison(UK-Dar) Caroline(UK wife of Adrian) Adrian UK-Mtwara) Fredrique Dutch - Dodoma and Elizabet wife of Fredrique -Dodoma

Thursday: Day 4 ICT. Independent Day!

Having been shown where and how to travel by daladala to VSO office, we had to do it ourselves in small groups! Luckily I didn’t have to do it alone as I still didn’t really have my bearings. As we headed off, I realised that I could actually look up and around at my surroundings as my foot was feeling much stronger. I tried to remember landmarks and enjoyed the experience of almost knowing where I was! Susan’s efforts to post a parcel at the Post Office, was frustrating and time consuming, a taste of things to come for me as I will be responsible for collecting and posting the mail for the SEGA girls! The two of us proudly caught the daladala and nearly missed the end busstop! Thanks to Anthony from VSO, who had been travelling on our daldala, we headed in the right direction to the VSO office!
My quest to buy a map of Tanzania and the language phrase book took us to the Slipway, a shopping complex, 10 minutes walk from VSO office.
We raided the well stocked bookstore, indulged in ice coffees and icecreams, enjoyed the ambience of the seaside precinct....then Wendy and I went shopping! Wendy had spent 12 months taking tours through South and Eastern Africa so was ‘Afrikan savvy!’ I learned a lot about bargaining, price, what is acceptable practice and lots of practical stuff! I look forward to learning a whole lot more as our friendship grows.
Time was moving quickly as 3 very crowded daladalas passed by, atleast 5-6 men hanging dangerously out the doors! At this point, Wendy and I decided to bargain a badagi and returned to Econo Lodge in time to join the others for Chinese dinner.
Me, Renee, Elizabet & Fredrique, Wendy

Friday: Last day @ VSO office

This was a day of individual meetings, finalising details and a shared lunch outside under the verandah. I realised that I was very lucky to be acclimatised to the tropics as many Vols were feeling the exhausting effect of a week of hot, sticky weather.
Tom (Ireland-Aznaibar) Mike (UK-Zanzibar) Alison (UK-Dar) Caroline (UK-Mtwara)

This was soon forgotten as we were again treated to a beautiful beachside bar to allow us to wash the dust from our throats and get to know each other better. This was a very fitting finish to an extremely hectic week.
VSO kept saying to us that the week was to be a soft landing before we head off to our placements. I wonder what will unfold!