Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And now an excerpt from my personal journal…

Ok, I have to stop and write for a moment because only a minute ago I felt this overwhelming sense of happiness and I simply must mention it! Today I bought a mango and tonight I took a bite of it and realized it was possibly the most delicious thing I’ve yet tasted. And I felt so incredibly at home and happy. It’s the small thing like that which make a place like this feel so right and so good. I remember the moment that I fell in love with Aix, France—it was when I had run down my 5 flights of stairs to take out the trash and I was on my way coming back up the stairs when the stairwell light timer went out. I was left in the complete darkness. I smiled—grinned even, and I knew I loved it there.

And now tonight with the mango and the feeling of belonging and having friends here—loving people here too. And I wondered how I could go another December without eating such a mango as this.

Three things I’ll write about briefly because I haven't written in so long!

  1. Teaching at Makumira University- Last week I started teaching at the only university that offers a music degree in all of Tanzania! I’m really excited to have this opportunity, as it will certainly be unlike any I’ve ever had! This semester I’ll teach a class on composition and arranging- the first time this class has been offered. Next term I’ll teach the composition course and also help teach a conducting class. I’m so excited! Last Wednesday was my first day and I met my class of 13 Tanzanian men, ages 30-45! So in walks this little muzungu girl ready to teach all these men somethin’ about music. I’m sure I looked a little silly, but we can only do our best, right? I asked them some questions about themselves to get a perspective on the class first—most are teachers of main-course subjects in primary schools and they want to also start teaching music in their schools. A few are choir directors with churches, one guy is a police officer who plays in their police brass band.

A few have composed or arranged, but overall the experience with composing is very limited. They almost all sing, but few play piano or have a main instrument. There’s lot’s to learn for them and for me. The first class I taught on musical motives- I was pleased that they knew the definition of a motive and they could eventually guess the 3 kinds of motives (rhythmic, harmonic, melodic). I played several pieces for them where we could hear these kinds of motives- it ranged from Bruckner 4 to Charles Mingus jazz to Beethoven 5. I think the concept of ‘motivic development/economy’ really hit them when they listened to Beethoven 5 differently than they had before. I have to be careful though because first I played Bruckner 4 and I wrote his name on the board. Then I played C. Mingus and only said his name, so someone asked me after they listened to the Mingus, “was that Bruckner too??” oops! Big difference. They were all very respectful and kind and only one or two of them looked board during the Bruckner, so I have hope! Haha At first I thought I didn’t know what I would lecture on each week, but now I’m starting to get a lot of ideas and I’m thinking ‘I don’t have enough time!’ Oh also- there is another teacher at Makumira who’s a professor at University of Tennessee and he’s here on sabbatical for a year!! How crazy is that!

  1. Umoja end-of-term concert: On Saturday we had a fantastic concert given by a LOT of the students in Umoja Music School. We had them perform everything from Brandenburg Concerto to Smoke on the Water to the piece that I composed for Umoja Ensemble. All of the teachers were so proud! I think the piece I composed went really well, too, as the kids performed it so well and Alison played violin beautifully with it and Tiana conducted the ensemble wonderfully and I accompanied on piano. Annette told me after that it brought tears to her eyes! That meant so much. Glad the first song I wrote in Swahili went so well!

  1. Umoja Collaborative: I feel so lucky and so excited because I am about to start a very big project collaborating with Tiana, Umoja teacher and fantastic dancer/choreographer, and Collette Albiolo who was my art history teacher when I studied abroad in Aix 2 years ago! She is an incredible artist and you must see her webpage: http://www.albiolo.eu/

The three of us are starting a big collaborative project with Umoja Ensemble where Collette is providing fabulously colorful abstract images to accompany music that I’m composing for the ensemble and Tiana will help create the choreography and visual element for the performance. The date is set for June 16 and we’ll have Collette fly down to be here for a week before the premier. Tiana and I sat down last Thursday and drew up a story that will be the basis of the project. It’s going to be about a dream the children have where at night they all turn into ants! They search for food, fly through the air, almost get smashed by a herd of elephants, burrow deep into the ground, and then when the sun begins to rise the ants turn back into Children. I’m very excited to get started on the composition. Now the question is … WHEN?! I leave in one week to go home for Christmas! It’s so crazy. I’m really excited and actually a little bit nervous about culture shock back into my homeland.

Only one more week of work. Push push push! Ninaiweza!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sorry it's been a while!

mom came to visit! it's been a crazy time. There's so much to say about her incredible visit, but I'll let the video do a bit of the talking. I miss her already and I'm so so glad she got to come visit! next up-- dad better come see me!

Next in news: the song that I wrote in Swahili for the Umoja Ensemble kids was performed for the first time! Maasai Joy school had a parents meeting and they asked the kids to perform a few songs for the occasion. The first song on the video here is the school singing the National Anthem- I love the song, it's really beautiful. Then on the video is my song "Watoto wa Umoja" which means "children of Umoja". I think it turned out not too badly! I think they had fun with it. The third song on the video is another tune Tiana arranged for the group to sing. They're just so cute, aren't they?!

While at the party we threw for mom, I performed a song I wrote about a month ago called "Muzungu in Arusha"-- it's been a big hit here, I must say! Mostly because other foreigners, and even Tanzanians, can relate to it in a lot of ways. Here's the link to the video mom took and below are the words (with translation of swahili in parenthesis) :

Teksi (taxi), Teksi, Sista, You wanna teksi?
Don’t wanna teksi cause I’m out of pesa (money), yeah
Want to go to the near sakoni (market)
But they just can’t speak pole pole (slowly)
For this sista, who wants to buy ndizi (bananas), yeah
So I suck up my pride, go inside the Shopright (big grocery store here)

Want to practice my Kiswahili (Swahili)
with my new best friend who’s sitting on me
we’ve become quite close now since we met on this daladala (public transport bus)
but before I get chance
I make a frightful glance and hear,
yeah I’m on the wrong daladala

but I love this place and I love the laughs
and how these children smile
and how a simple muzungu like myself can last here for a while
and I love shikamoo (respectful greeting to elders)
and how all the time goes slow
and how on rainy nights I slumber soundly
even when I leave and this dust comes off,
I’ll always have Arusha on me

They start to ask me, my new rafiki (friend),
If I could please sing some karaoke
But I pass up the offer to sing ‘I believe I can fly’
When they ask me what my name be
I say ‘danielle’ and they stare at me
And the attempts to say my name begin and finally I have to grin
What’s so tough about my name in Tanzania?

But I love this place and I love the laughs
And I love the roaring pikipikis (motorcycles) from afar
And the wedding bands that blow by in their caravan,
hot pink ribbons streaming
And I love pole sana (very sorry)
and how every lady’s called momma
And how Mount Meru looks so misty
And if I leave and this dust comes off, I’ll still have Arusha on me

The power goes out and I start to doubt
If I’ll have a hot shower this weekend
But in candle light together where we sip upon our Tuskar (beer)
It’s official- I’m feelin’ Tanzanian

but I love this place and I love the laughs
and how these children smile
and how a simple muzungu like myself can last here for a while
and I love shikamoo and how all the time goes slow
and how on these rainy nights I slumber soundly
and when I leave and this dust comes off, I’ll always have Arusha on me


So TOMORROW I start teaching at Makumira University here in Arusha-- well its about 30 minutes outside of Arusha, but close enough. So I'll be teaching a class on composition and arranging-- it's the first class they've had like it so there's lots of things missing that I'm used to-- like a syllabus, maybe no text book.. i'm not quite sure what time the class starts... haha. It's a bit of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience, but I'll write after tomorrow to let you know how it goes!

all the best,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three awesome videos

I've got three terrific videos for you all!

1. Last week I went to see a German organ builder who's living and building right outside of Arusha!! so crazy! I plan on going back and working as an apprentice for him next March for a week.


2. On Friday Alison, David (guitar teacher), and I were riding in our friend Jimmy's taxi with our instruments. I asked David to start playing some guitar in the back of the taxi and then I realized I had my flute in my lap! A jam session subsequently kicked off.


3. The grand finale here. On sunday I and 5 dear friends went on a hot air balloon safari!! I stayed up all night hanging out with friends until we left for the shuttle pick up at 4am. 1.5 hrs later we arrived at the balloon launching site. I hope you enjoy the video!


Life is good here and my mom arrives in 1 week!!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Record Studio

Aren't I just the best blogger ever? I mean, I have so many friends who go away and never even take a picture while on their trip! I'm up to nearly 30 blog posts in 3 months! Exactly 3 months ago (almost to the hour!), by the way, I was loading up my car with mom to go to the airport to fly here! Kind of crazy, really, how much happens in 3 months.

Well, I have to tell you about the incredibly wonderful experience I had this weekend! The Umoja Ensemble I work with each friday had the opportunity to record 5 songs on an album called Swahili Kids. It was such a treat for every one because these kids got to be picked up, taken a long distance to this exciting studio, sing with all of the fancy equipment, and hear themselves recorded with music! well, again, I can't describe it so I made another video! I love this video because it shows the joy of the children and how much fun I get to have working with them. I feel so grateful and so lucky. Click the youtube link below to watch- and turn up the volume!

It kind of looks like I'm rapping here.. not sure why.. haha.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Random but AWESOME things:

Giraffes, dolphins, and clothes!

First, I must post the video from our incredible day safari to Arusha National Park on Sunday. I went with friends Nicole, Avi, and Alison and we got to see some incredible sights—particularly the baboons, giraffes, and Mt. Meru. It was such a gorgeous day and really the video says it all:


Then I have some new photos that I got from some of the people who went dolphin swimming with me in Zanzibar. They’re too beautiful not to post here! One of the people had an underwater camera and got some awesome shots of the dolphins we saw!

Then, Alison and I had a little photo shoot tonight in all of our new clothes that we’ve had made here in Tanzania! We have a fantastic little tailor shop across the street from our house where a kind man has made us dresses from beautiful fabric we bought here! Check out all of these colors and styles!

I love my Maasai pants—from Maasai tribe fabric.

Monday, October 31, 2011

zanzibar video

The video I made from our trip to Zanzibar has FINALLY decided to upload to youtube! Check it out!

We went on another incredible safari yesterday to Arusha National Park, but I'll have photos and video of that up soon!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Surely, a week I will never in my life forget. What will I remember most? The waters, so blue and so clear; I could have simply stood in the water, my toes wiggling in the soft cream-colored sand, looking out at the distance for days and days.
The sunsets lured us toward the shore each night and seemed to flaunt their beauty, knowing that none of our photos or videos could ever capture their lurid red splendor. It was only for our eyes to behold and for our minds to someday foggily remember; I’m quite certain my heart will never forget, however.

Then there was the day when I boarded a bus with a few other tourists as we were promised the chance to ‘swim with dolphins!’—I have of course attempted to do this in the past, but never could I have imagined that I would have such an experience as I did that day! As we walked out onto the beach I froze in my place, entirely awestruck by the beauty that surrounded me—such blue and such white. The place where the water met the sky was hardly discernable, for their colors blended seamlessly. And then, as our boat tuttered out to sea and came to stop, rocking slowly and steadily, we caught our first glimpse of the dolphins, their grey glossy fins there to greet us at the water’s surface. Fins ready, goggles on, snorkel set and we heard our captain shout, “Now! Jump!!” As I took my first plunge from the warm wooden boat, the thoughts raced through my mind: “how deep is it??” and “will the dolphins mind us?” And then quick, cold water surrounded me which I welcomed with a fast gasp of air. Below and around me was the crystal water, the ocean floor about 30 feet below, and to my right, about 20 dolphins ever-gracefully and beautifully flying together. Their fins hardly moved against the water, except for that of the baby dolphin who played alongside her mother as they traveled with the group. We had to paddle hard to keep up with the dolphins who raced on below us, though they never seemed to labor or make a movement of effort. Then, every so often the family of dolphins would slowly rise up toward us and make their push into the surface with a fast spray of water. Once we saw the baby dolphin leap into the air with joy or fright or playfulness. Though we were swimming quite with them, I always felt like such a bystander, beholding an entirely different civilization below me. I could hear their conversations of squeeks and chirps all along the way, beneath the water. It was so incredible.

On the same day, we went to a jungle park where, after a short hike through tall, green, wet trees we could find friendly and small monkeys all around us. They were not afraid of us, though they were quite wild and on their own. At one point, I walked by one of them and it held on to my leg! I voiced a noise of concern and it scampered away a few feet in fear. We both looked back at each other in curiosity at what sound the other had made.

[do you see the monkey on the left?]

A few days later, Alison and I rode a boat a ways to an incredibly beautiful snorkeling spot. Again, I took the icy jump into deep and endlessly clear water. This time, schools of multi-colored fish surrounded me, seemingly unbothered by my presence. Every so often I would take a big gulp of air and dive down among them so that I could be alone and swimming within their school, looking up at surface of the water from below.

The food was incredibly delicious everywhere and we were able to stay in lovely back-packers lodges for about $12 a day—breakfast included!

Stonetown, the main city in Zanzibar, enthralled us with its beautifully ornate architecture and intimately winding alleys and streets. On the second-to-last day, our friends Cameron and Simone arrived to spend some days there as well. We were greeted with their laughter and stories for many hours before we had to leave them and the island behind.

After getting henna tattoos, a tan, a lot of sleep, and incredible memories to keep forever, I am very happy to be back in Arusha. Please do go to Zanzibar if ever possible.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


On Sunday my friends Cam and Simone accompanied me to Moshi where I was going to see a new Tanzanian friend of mine, Anita. She had invited me to her father’s church in Moshi, which is about 1.5 hours away by bus. It was such a beautiful day and the church service was so fun! I took video so you can get a glimpse of it for yourself: click the link to see my video!

There, I couldn’t help but purchase a few paintings. They were terrific prices and I just looovee the color and the animals on them. What do you think?

I’m currently sitting in my nice and warm living room, listening to Alison practice a Bach French suite and hearing the rain softly fall outside our window. It’s another very peaceful and wonderful evening in our house.

I wrote my first song in Swahili on Sunday- it’s for the kids at Umoja Ensemble to start learning. I hope they enjoy it. As soon as we start rehearsing it, I’ll record it and send it your way! The words are as follows (translation below):

Sisi ni watoto wa Umoja

Sisi ni sauti ya nchi yetu

Kuimba pamoja tunaongezeka

Haya ni sauti ya Umoja

Sisi ni watoto wa Tanzania

Sisi ni sauti ya mababu

Kuimba pamoja tunajifunza

Haya ni sauti ya umoja


Umoja, Umoja, Umoja,

dunia itatusikia

We are the children of Umoja

We are the voices of our land

Together we sing and together we grow

These are the sounds of Umoja

We are the children of Tanzania

We are the voices of ancestors

Together we sing and together we learn

These are the sounds of Umoja


Umoja, umoja, Umoja

The world will hear us

Saturday, October 8, 2011

happy happy days

I just came in the house tonight and said to myself “wow. What an incredible weekend.” It’s official- this place is my home. Yes, ok, I have my homes at home in Georgia and Tennessee too, but I there are days where I just love this place. I wish I had so many photos to share, but alas, these memories remain only in my mind. I’ll try to offer some of the best moments though.

Last Thursday we had our first song writer’s night! We had 7 song writers (including myself) come out and perform for a packed house! Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, although the venue was a bit noisy. Next time we’ll have more microphones, quiet spaces, and hopefully even more songwriters! I performed two songs on guitar/voice, one of which Alison graciously and beautifully accompanied me on violin! We met some great new people through the event as well. Will have photos soon!

Friday morning was an especially memorable day. Each Friday we go to two schools to teach Tanzanian kids drumming, singing, and dance. It’s always SUCH a fulfilling experience and this Friday proved to be just the same. We left in the morning under a grey sheet of rain. When we reached the dirt road that leads us to the first school though, the rain suddenly stopped and there before us was one of the brightest and closest rainbows I’ve yet seen. We were filled with joy to see such an incredible sight, with the clouds moving away and a gold-silver light stretching out across the dimly green hills surrounding us. It was incredible. We arrived at the school and were greeted, as always, with bright smiling faces. We started our lesson with our 9 students and were soon jumping around, dancing, drumming, and singing with joy like we do each Friday morning. I then got the chance to teach them their first lesson on Jazz and music notation! It’s quite an incredible thing for these young kids to already be learning some notation. Of course it will go slowly and steadily, but we are very happy to be teaching them this already. We want to empower them with the knowledge that they can compose and create. Then, after the lesson we had the most delicious chai with a teacher there, Wilson, as we do each week. I leave that place in the happiest of spirits. If I could find a way to just work there for a year I totally would.

Friday night was the first student recital for many of our piano, voice, guitar, and violin students. I was in charge of organizing this first concert but had a lot of great help. We had 38 students perform without problems at all! I was glad to have our first concert all finished.

This week Alison and I started taking dala-dalas (public transport buses) on our own… finally! I even took one (don’t get mad, family) by myself today. Of course, I’m very careful everywhere I go. I’ve been able to navigate to roads a lot easier now and taking daladalas saves us ooooodles of money verus taxis everywhere!

Today was a wonderful day, but a bit sad as well. Our Swahili teacher and very dear friend, Mike, is leaving us to go back to university in Dar Es Salaam. He and I hung out a lot this afternoon and I realized how much I’m going to miss him! At any rate, I’m so glad we got to know him and learn so much from him.

Tonight was particularly special! Our taxi driver and dear friend, Jimmy, invited us his friends’ wedding reception! It was quite a colorful experience. Everything was VERY bubblegum pink and the party included bursting champagne bottles, African acrobats (?!), and an entire (dead) goat on a platter. The goat was a bit shocking to me when they first rolled it out, but I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. What would the Tanzanians think if I had a wedding here and made it all vegetarian?? Haha. Big roasting chunk of tofu on a stake, right? Mmm!!! At the wedding, Jimmy introduced us to two volunteers who he’s hosting at his home! They were such awesome girls, just finished college, from Canada and have just arrived to volunteer for 2 months. I went back to Jimmy’s home with them after the wedding where I finally got to meet Jimmy’s family. Of course they were all incredibly kind, had food and chai ready for us when we arrived. His children are beautiful and SO adorable. I told him my mom was coming to visit in November, arriving on her birthday, and he was so excited and said, “Please can you have her come to our house? We would like to celebrate for her!” He’s such a wonderful person and I can’t wait for him to meet mom!

I’ve arrived home so happy and content. There are days like today when I feel like I could call this place my home for a long time. Oh.. and awesome news is that we leave for Zanzibar in one week!! Beach vacation, here I come!!

Sending lots of love.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Music, Pineapple, and Fabric

I have a few photos to update every one! First, I simply must discuss the incredible experience I get to have each Friday working with Umoja Ensemble. It was only our second week working with the kids at these two schools, but I can already say I’m in love with the program and the children! We taught them a new song that basically translates from Swahili into “I like to eat, eat, eat, I like to eat, eat, eat chewing gum.” Haha! It’s been stuck in my head all week, but at least its helping me to study my Swahili! We talked about different drums and rhythms and brought the kids a big world map for their room. When we asked one class where Africa was on the map, most of them couldn’t find it. It was really an incredible moment to be a part of, the first time that they found map and identified where they were.

These photos are from last week, but I laugh when I see them. I sang to Alison: “which one of these is not like the other??” tehehe.

It’s a beautiful drive out to our first school, Masai Joy, and we’re always greeted with very kind smiles and helpful hands wanting to carry our drums and supplies inside. After class, we are invited to have delicious chai (tea, sugar, spices, and milk) with a couple of the teachers. I was speaking to one of the Tanzanian school teachers, Wilson, about the upcoming Songwriter’s night I’ve organized that will take place this Thursday— He was really happy to hear about the event and is going to play a song or two at the little coffee shop concert. I’m so excited to hear his music!

Speaking of which… Yes! We got the ball rolling and have put together a Songwriter’s Night! Liza used to organize these a few years back and said that they were all a big hit. We’re starting off this Thursday with 6 performers, including myself. I’m going to play a couple of guitar songs and maybe a piano tune. But, mostly I want to meet other song writers and hear their music. Alison and I are going to perform my “Wade Out” tune—Alison on some fiddle! Also, one of my piano students and I are going to open the concert with some improvisation together. Should be a whole lot of fun! Here are the posters I drew up and sent out for the event:

Yesterday I bought a big pineapple and had most of it for dinner. YUMMM.

This weekend was a whole lot of fun because we went fabric shopping! I wish I could have taken photos in the market because it was really quite incredible the number of fabrics that were all around us. Our very dear friends, Jimmy (taxi driver), and Mike (Swahili teacher) took me and Alison to show us where the best deals are. Below are most of the fabrics that we bought! I’m so excited to make them into dresses, pillows, table clothes, curtains…everything! Friends and family: get ready for some fabric Christmas gifts. Haha.

Oh, and the fabric pieces are GIANT. check out this one that we stretched out across our house:


Well, the Sunday flew by and I got to spend some of it with my very dear friends Cameron, Alison, Simone, and Katie.

Tomorrow it’s right back to work. It’s our last full week of work before our vacation and trip to Zanzibar on October 14th! I’m very very excited for the upcoming break.

So many hugs,


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Past and Present

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a blog entry, but I think it’s only because this place is becoming more of a home and less of a novelty. It’s a very good thing, I can feel it. The days fly by- mornings are always busy with running or Swahili lesson or hopping over to a market somewhere, then the days pass by all too quickly with students coming in and out of my room back to back, then suddenly it’s evening and perhaps I have something to go out and do or cook. Then all of the sudden, I’m back at home ready to crash in my bed! Monday starts and before I know it, it’s Wednesday night which means Thursday’s basically here which means Friday’s basically here which means it’s time to get ready for teaching on Saturday which means it’s time to get ready to do all of the other stuff we need to on Sunday which means BAM it’s Monday again!! You see how the time passes so quickly. And here it is, already near October.

It finally felt strange to me today, thinking about October arriving. It’s warm here and getting warmer and more beautiful each day. How odd it seems to know that the fall colors are just arriving back home and people are beginning to smell the first autumn breeze. I know my university campus must be gorgeous about this time, or maybe in a few weeks all of those gold and orange leaves will fall into deep, soft piles all around campus. When I think of that difference, only then do I begin to feel so far away. It doesn’t bother me… it is only a strange phenomenon to feel so at home so far away from my old home.

Last semester at Vanderbilt I made audio recordings of some of my private lessons with composition teachers, my organ teacher, and some conversations with friends. I listened to a few of them tonight and it spurred so many strange thoughts. In one of the conversations with a professor, he asked me what my plans for next year were. The conversation was recorded in mid April and I told him, “oh I have no idea! Nothing’s certain. I could be in Africa, France, Haiti, or Costa Rica.” He laughs and I laugh at myself now. It seems so recently, that lesson and that room … yet, I knew nothing of what I know now! What incredible adventures last summer held and the people I met who I’ll never forget. This job and the people here and the new language I’m learning… none of it was a part of me then.

It was quite dizzying, listening to that recorded conversation from Blair School of Music, because I would be listening to the vivid voice of my teacher and then suddenly a local Tanzanian dog would start barking. It felt a bit like how it feels to play organ—when your brain divides into several pieces at once and seems confusing only when you focus on what your brain is actually doing. Hearing these sounds from Blair and from Tanzania mix together… it was disorienting. The two places seem beyond distant. They are of different worlds.

I wanted to listen back to my lesson because I feel that I have forgotten what it was like when I was a student… only a few months ago! It’s a bit intoxicating to be a teacher every day, to be giving diligent advice to students, to hear yourself spouting out tips and demands-- the same that so many have given me over the years! I wish I could remember when and where I learned each bit of information I now offer my students, for it all just seems to come out, and from where I don’t know. When I listen to the recordings of my lessons at Vandy, though, I know that I miss that. The challenge and stimulation and thrill of grasping something new, taking hold of a better form of art. All I can say is that I feel so lucky to have been able to study art and music and life!! I’m realizing that transitioning out of college is learning how to keep learning in every day in life.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Umoja Ensemble

This friday Tiana, and David and I kicked off this year's work with Umoja Ensemble- we work in two schools teaching two classes percussion and singing. I'll really just let the video speak for itself. It was awesome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Safari weekend!

My GOODNESS, what an incredible weekend we had. I’m going to try to list and describe all of the things that made the past few days so memorable and beautiful!

Friday: Another good teaching day that ended with me and Alison going for a tough but good evening run through the coffee fields. The setting sun and misty Mt. Meru made for a beautiful backdrop. We changed, hopped in a cab, and went to meet a bunch of great new friends at a lovely outdoor restaurant. The cool air, delicious wine, and great company made for such a relaxing evening. After dinner, a few of us went on to meet more new friends at a small, yet hoppin’, bar called Lively Lady. That was where I started to lose my voice as I shouted over the loud crowd and music. I headed home late and slept well.

Saturday: We started our morning with a Swahili lesson with Mike. Things are progressing nicely in the lessons, but there sure are a lot of words and rules to learn! I tell people “nina soma Kiswahili…pole pole..” that means I’m learning Swahili… slowly… haha. Then it was off to the community church where we were going to meet our Umoja outreach students who we will there on Saturdays! It was so terrific to meet all of these adorable little Tanzanians and their very dedicated mothers. It’s a real sacrifice these moms are making to get their kids some music lessons: missing work, making accommodations to get transport, taking time out of their already work-filled days. I hope we can serve them well. We heard the kids each play a song they had learned in their lessons last year and then we all performed twinkle twinkle together- guitar, violin, singing, piano! I have 3 piano students and 1 flute student in the outreach program.

I then immediately headed out to get my hair cut by a local guy who has quite a reputation in Arusha. Sure enough, as soon as I walked in, I (and every one in the shop) was offered an orange slice, salt, and a tequila shot! Don’t worry, he wasn’t drunk as he cut my hair. We had a lot of laughs as his shop cats purred at my fee.t He just took off a few inches of my hair and I feel a little bit lighter—less to keep clean, at least. Haha! I met up with Alison and Mike for coffee after that, and then Alison and I took off to perform with a band at a private party. The party was actually at the home of a couple of my piano students, so a lot of our music students were there! We performed with David (Umoja guitar teacher) a woman named Momma-C who can flat out sing with some soul!! (she was an active member of the black Panther party for a long time and has led quite an interesting life!) Then there was a great drummer and terrific bassist. Oh man, it was SO much fun as we basically jammed and improvised through a lot of songs, rhythms, and new improvisations for hours into the night. The view at this house was spectacular as well. There I stood, rockin’ out on the piano with fabulous music and people surrounding me, overlooking the green tropical hills of rural Arusha. I just had to smile. It’s one of those moments when you just kind of stop and say to yourself: “how did I get so lucky? And how on earth did I get HERE?!” There was lots of loud music and talking at the party, so my voice continued to lose its strength.

Sunday: Safari day!!! I woke up at 5:30am and found that my voice was indeed mostly scratchy whispers. Yuk! But, we were off to Tarangeri National Park for a Safari with our new friends Anne, Simone, Katie, and Cameron. They are all working here for a range of 1 month-2 months as medical students, seeing how the hospital here in Arusha works. They tell us very interesting stories about the power going out in mid-surgery here and how everyone just flips on their head lamps and keeps going! They’re all such terrific people and MAN did we laugh a lot on our safari. We left by 6:30am and arrived in Tarangeri at about 8:30 am (oh.. after fixing a flat tired that popped on the way to the park!) We saw so many amazing animals, but the best was getting to see a lioness sunbathing right in front of us as elephants passed in between.

I’ll let some of the photos and video speak for itself! We had a safari jeep whose roof opened up so we could stand up, feel the wind on our faces, and really see a 360 degree view of the animals. Amazing. There were so many moments when I found myself just standing there, smiling, feeling absolute bliss and comfort. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am more than thankful for it.

At the end of the day, we were quite tired, but still wanted to get dinner together when we got back to Arusha that evening. We had wonderful Ethiopian food and then headed back to their house for drinks and music.

I returned to work today without a voice.. haha.. lessons were interesting! But feeling soo rejuvenated and happy about life.

There should be a new video appearing at the top of this blog showing out Safari adventure, but here’s the youtube link if you’d like to see it directly:


Thursday, September 15, 2011

I will paint the scene

First off-- there's a new video! Check the top of this blog under the words "My life in Tanzania." It should be the video on the far left box.

Now, I feel like I've been writing about a lot of very trivial events and failing to mention the more emotional elements of my day. I wrote some poetry and prose recently in my journal, so I thought I would copy them here. The first is a poem and the second is just me writing about myself in third person. Someone looking down at my world one night. Hope you enjoy.

Take me


A surging wave of wind and dust thrusts against these walls

And seems to mock my stormy mind with boastful crests and falls

Reminds me still that nothing’s still and will steal me from my aim

Demands my mind to change its pace and wonder from where it came

Is this a new deep breath of air that should freeze me once again?

Is this that born trust of unfamiliar who, looking back, shall be a friend?

Fatigue fills my eyes and hair; I breathe, slow-soft and calm.

I see it now: we shall never arrive... and life ebbs slowly on,

With an always-desire, always-need to fill a bottomless bowl—

Embracing this nature, I open myself and hush my breath amidst this lull

Silent, though, I remain, I burst internally—

Shouting to the universe (I shudder)… again, here please, take me.


I will paint the scene: a young woman with gently worn makeup, disheveled hair, and weary yet contently heavy eyes lies tucked beneath warm blankets, beneath a silvery billowing mosquito net, beneath sturdy and dusty walls, beneath the bright stars and full moon of an Arusha night sky. She lies in complete comfort, surrounded only by the light of her small burning flashlight, writing easily in her journal and absorbing the cool smooth music of Arvo Part. The silky and clear voices of a choir build and bellow into her ears, causing her to often pause and close her eyes to feel the fullness and sinew of the voices and echoes. Outside, an occasional wind builds and impresses its power against the strong walls and flittering tree leaves, while dogs announce their news in always-distant rough barks and howls. A full belly rests within the girl, and a full heart, holding memories, questions, and faint worries. Her mind quickly weaves between desires of an understanding and an understanding that so much should not be understood now. Listen to the voices. Wake up. Seize. Do not worry. Breathe. The wind, just then. All of these speak to her. And how she wishes that each person had a purpose and knew it well.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I got bored after practicing tonight so I thought I would offer you all a different perspective into the little details that make my life so great here in Arusha. I went around and with my camera’s macro-lens I captured close shot of some important material objects. See if you can guess what each item is before reading their descriptions below. [not too much to report otherwise- just working hard, running, learning Swahili, and practicing!]

    1. My wooden mask—Liza gave this to me from her house and I have it hanging on my wall to greet me each time I come home
    2. Jug o hugs—given to me by my dear friend, Martha, it sits on my bedside table and I smile every time I look at it
    3. My airtell modem—this little guy goes into my computer so I can have internet and talk to you all! Where would we be without portable modems, ay?
    4. My violin—notice there’s no dust on it, since I practice it alllll the time… hehe.. or I should, at least!
    5. Swahili book—one of the several books Alison and I use to help our Swahili lessons we’re taking each week. Ninafanya kazi! We’re doing work! Haha, simple Swahili that I know.
    6. Jeeves and Wooster DVD’s – you ever read/seen this series? Tristan introduced me to it last summer, but when we moved in I noticed that Thembi had the whole collection! I’ve been vegging out on it a little bit every other day I think. It’s pretty dang funny
    7. Sesame and honey bar—these sweet treats are quickly becoming a must-have in our house hold. Yummm
    8. Our ‘kitty’ (british term for jar??)—we collect a bit of extra money in it each week so that Amena can go out and buy us fresh fruits, veggies, and milk.
    9. Fresh avocado, yes?—When this puppy gets ripe we’ll blend her up for some delicious fresh guacamole!
    10. Paka, our cat, of course—here she is fighting my camera string. Of course, a cat is an every-house-hold-must-have in my opinion! J