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,