The content of this blog does not reflect the positions of the Peace Corps and is solely the responsibility of the author.

UN Human Rights Commission Takes on Female Genital Mutilation

*Warning: political.*

The UN Human Rights Commission is calling for a ban on female genital mutilation.  Good on them!  Now, practically speaking, such a ban from the UN does nothing.  But it's some high minded rhetoric from a respected international body on rights, meaning that it gives aid and social workers a talking point.  If national governments do more than just agree with this that would be helpful.  The UN is calling for education efforts, which would be great.

I can't imagine this will change anything in remote villages, at least not fast.  Because even if a national government is totally in favor of this and outlaws it, well, what then?   To be useful, a government should have the resources to actually protect girls from the practice, which includes education campaigns to change a culture in which the girls want to be circumcised for reasons of status, and the ability to usefully respond to a situation in which a circumcision still happens.

I don't see prosecution, even assuming a meaningful justice system, doing anything to end the practice.  Parents do it to their children because they believe it's the thing to do to their children adn will resent interference.  For another thing, the people who perform FGM are usually respected members of the community, so the victim might be blamed for a respected elder being put in jail.  Unless the government has the resources to care for and relocate a victim (assuming the poor girl speaks something other than the tribal language and will still have access to education such that she will be able to support herself away from her family) prosecution is actually going to make the situation much worse for the victim.

Tanzania has outlawed the practice of FGM for some time now, and according to a schoolgirl I talked to in Morogoro, therefore no one does it.  She may be a tad optimistic.   It is well known that FGM occurs among the Maasai tribe, and there are lots of NGOs (non-government organizations) spending a lot of money to try to change this.  On a grass roots level, a friend of mine who volunteers on the Maasai steppe with the African Wildlife Foundation is good friends with a lot of Maasai men and she has gotten a very positive response from casual conversations in which she explains to men in graphic detail what they need to do to make their wives want to have sex with them more often.  Note that in Tanzania, fast and dry is the ideal sexual encounter.  So my friend talks about foreplay and fingering and the role of the clitoris and lots of other fun stuff, and the men are fascinated and want to learn more.  Opposing misogynistic practices like FGM in terms of better sex for men is, of course, not ideal, but behavior change happens slowly and for reasons that people already agree with.   Next step, trying to change a culture in which a woman's moral compass is supposed to be between her legs, and remove the major justification for FGM, i.e., women are huge sluts who must be prevented with extreme measures from having sex except under controlled circumstances.

The Maasai, however, are a bit of a special tribe in that foreigners are willing to pay good money to study and photograph them.  The less cool tribes don't get that amount of foreign aid.  Besides which, Maasai are not ethnically Bantu, unlike most of the rest of Tanzania, and are generally the butt of jokes told about groups of people.  (E.g. restaurants that advertise their form will often include at the end the phrase "na kingine" meaning "and others."  It's the etc. phrase of Kiswahili.  The joke is that it is the Maasai who walks into the restaurant and tries to order the na kingine.)  So it may also be the case that the Tanzanian government is more than willing to other Maasai, because people are always more in favor of cultural change when it happens to definitely other cultures that can be conveniently looked down on.   How much of a problem FGM is among other tribes here I'm not in a good position to know, in that I have always been in towns, which tend to be cosmopolitan enough to not have strong tribal identities.  A lady I met in Babati did tell me about a tribe in the Manyara area that spends all their time singing and dancing, but is very misogynistic and practices FGM, but I forget the name of this tribe.  Also, I don't just ask about FGM, or actually about anything that might seem obviously a sensitive subject. If people ask me about something sensitive, I take that to mean they feel comfortable about it and respond as best I can, but I am not the one to bring these things up.  A paper from Mzumbe university citing sources from about 10 years ago suggests that about 18% of women in Tanzania suffer from FGM and about 20 out of the 150 tribes practice it, and there's a newspaper article from fairly recently talking about the practice up in the Mara region, so I'm going to say it's quite the issue.  

By the way, this does happen in developed nations, usually among diaspora populations, as the UN points out.  Most well-known (to me at least) are the cases of girls in Britain taken to other countries to visit their relatives and cut while there.  Infuriatingly enough, I cannot imagine the US doing anything to about this because the justification behind FGM is that it prevents women from having extramarital sex, and it is STILL a serious talking point for the US whether easy access to contraceptives and life-saving vaccines like HPV will encourage women to have sex.  Sluttiness: still more of a concern than health.  Grr.

Anyway, I'm still happy that the UN is trying to make a gesture.  If money can get thrown into good education campaigns, that will be even better.

Things I Find on the Inside of my Clothing


Once I realized it wasn't just a dead leaf, I jumped with perhaps a frightened squeak, named the thing Fred, and then threw it out the door onto the balcony, because Fred has beady, villainous eyes.

Algorithmic Thinking

Some of my students care.  Well, enough that they stay after class.  On Mondays, I have class from 10:00am to 12:10, and then another class at 1:25.  So I often just stay in the lab between and answer questions for whatever students was to come talk to me about programming, or computers in general.  Or just about the somewhat complicated way I use my computer.  I demonstrated making a virtual machine, and the students' eyes got big and they thought it was wonderful.  VMs really are cool.  It reminds me of why I did my graduate research on them in the first place.  Anyway, this Monday, I was going over the modulus operator with a student (mod being one of those things that few people who aren't computer scientists use, and on first introduction, it's somewhat incomprehensible why one would ever use it), and had an example with the turtle in which we have a loop that repeats m time but we only want the turtle to draw a circle every 10th time through the loop.  This is a good way to show how useful mod is.  One of the students commented that he didn't understand how computer science people could take a problem and just come up with the steps to solve it.  Good on him for noticing that this is the essence of computer science!  I took the opportunity to wax lyrical about algorithmic thinking.  Frances Allen, who is one of my heroes, being as she is the first woman to win the Turing Award, actually said in a lecture I was privileged to attend "algorithmic thinking is what computer science brings that revolutionizes thinking and is why computer science can become queen of the sciences."  (I might be paraphrasing because I don't remember it exactly).  And talked about how I give them assignments in class and first I talk about how to break the problem into steps and then I try to force people to follow the steps exactly.  (It is amazing how people, given exact pseudocode to follow, don't bother to try following it.)  Anyway, it is students like that that make me think I might not be wasting my time playing around in Africa on government money after all.

The Care and Feeding of Expats

Americans abroad who are not Peace Corps are strange.  They have money, standards, and apprehension.  This is both good and bad.  Thanksgiving with the expats in town was thrown by a former PCV who likes to have many people in her house with lots of food and drink.  Her only requirement is that everyone brings something.  This seems fair.  Also, the expats are magical and can produce things like blackberry cheesecake.  How blackberries were acquired in this country I need to know.  Right now.  (Actually she may have planted them herself since they looked like wild blackberries, so maybe I can cut a deal for some of those blackberries.  I need them. )  For all my grumpiness, Thanksgiving was a fun day of expats and Peace Corps mutually entertaining one another with our incomprehensible weirdnesses.

Expats are entertaining because they are shocked by the conditions in which volunteers live and the general lack of concern we develop about it. One lady was very shocked that I live alone and kept asking me if I felt safe.  I can understand why.  If, in the developing world, you live in a really nice house with a fence around it, some guards, and are always transported in a private car, you are a visible symbol of wealth which is a tempting target to people desperately poor.  The desperately poor may further assume that you are so wealthy that robbing you is really a victimless crime, in that you can easily replace whatever is taken.  The psychological upset of having strangers enter your home with impunity is, I suppose, not considered.   Anyway, large amounts of white folk with rich lifestyles (by the standard of TZ) have led to a stereotype that all white people are wealthy.  In a way we are, since even the Peace Corps volunteers, who have a reputation among expats for being dirt poor and willing to to anything for money (nor are they wrong), have stealable electronics worth a great deal of money.  I was once arguing over the price of something or other and the person in confusion asked me why I was concerned about a low price since I was white.  Anyway, there is a way in which it is actually safer to live in typical housing--you aren't an obvious rich person.  It also really helps to be able to introduce yourself and be known to a community as having a place there.  It is quite a different thing to rob someone who is part of a community that might seek retribution than to rob the out of place person with no obvious community help or connections.  On the other hand, rich expats have hot showers and decent transportation and don't have to clean their own houses.   I have agreed to house sit for a pack of expats all of whom are leaving the country and need their dog walked and their house lived in.  I will take 4 showers a day in their house.  Because I can.

What was more fun was that the lady who was worried about my safety was very proud that she had taken a daladala once to experience it, but asked me in shocked tones if I was comfortable taking dalas on a regular basis. Daladalas are 15 passenger vans which function as public transport.  As a general rule, it is possible to fit around 30 people, their children, luggage (which MUST include large buckets or sacks full of heavy things) and livestock.  In a truly full dala, it is impossible for the people standing up to fall over, because there simply isn't enough space.  The operators save a great deal of money on maintenance by never doing it.  This is how I have learned through observation that breakdowns can be solved by poking at the engine with a stick for a while.  The successful passenger of the daladala is the person who has no pretensions to personal space, no ability to smell compacted humanity (and chickens) in a hot, enclosed vehicle, and no sense of alarm when the operator does things like pour in more gas while the engine is running.

These ladies, however, cannot imagine taking anything other than taxis, and that not at night, so they have never encountered the fun world of taxis running out of gas, drunk taxi drivers, or taxi drivers who just can't drive.  For example, on a particular night returning late to my house with friends, the driver got the wheel stuck in a large hole on the side of the road.  As the smallest and least useful for pushing member of the party I was detailed to take the wheel and hold it in neutral while everyone else and the driver shoved for a while.  These things happen.

Fortunately, the Peace Corps entertains expats considerably as well.  There was a large group of Germans there with whom I had a delightful conversation about schadenfreude (they were just happy an American knew the word). Also, as mentioned above, we are dirt poor with no standards, so some people have found out that we will do silly things for money.  Which is how I made 25,000TSH for agreeing to have a bucket of ice water poured over my head.  After a quick mental check to make sure my clothing wouldn't become erotic when wet.  The thing is, half the time I take cold bucket baths or showers anyway because I'm simply too lazy to heat water up to bathe in all the time, my shirt had chalk on it and needed rinsing anyway, and if expats want to fund me some cheese and jewelry, I'm okay with that.  I'm really far more embarrassed about finding a dropped piece of pocky on my floor that had to have been there at least 2 days and eating it anyway.  The expats then moved on to trying to talk another volunteer into rolling down a hill in a steel barrel, which he had the sense to refuse since his head would stick out and that's actually somewhat dangerous.  Some expat children were around who seemed willing, but I think their parents intervened.  Oh well.  

In which I am a Grinch about Thanksgiving

Can I do that?  Even without an animated Dr. Seuss character?  Or a Charles Dickens novel?  It's not that there's anything wrong with Thanksgiving per se, (well, actually there is, ask the Native Americans) it's just that it always seems to fall at an academically inconvenient time.  I am invited to a Thanksgiving gathering in town with a bunch of PCVs, former PCVs, and ex-pats today, and I have been asked, and agreed, to supply pumpkin pies.  Which I had planned to actually be sweet potato pies because pumpkins aren't in season and sweet potatoes are the same thing but sweeter and don't have to be hacked apart with a machete, which is definitely a plus.  Americans with access to genetically engineered pumpkins that can be sawed through with an ordinary kitchen knife are lucky.  The entire reason I originally bought a machete, in fact, is because nothing less would open the last pumpkins I dealt with, when I made pumpkin wine (don't bother, such a wine is not good enough to be worth the effort).  Which is why I prefer baking with sweet potato, the availability of which turned out to be an unwarranted assumption.   After verifying the nonexistence of sweet potatoes at four different markets, feeling irritated and cranky and wishing I could just drive to a grocery store and be done with it, the sweet lady organizing Thanksgiving and I decided that my contribution could be the much less exciting cornbread.  Corn flour I can just buy anywhere, though there is always a danger when I have to buy corn flour and wheat flour at the same time, because when they both come in plastic bags, I can't tell them apart.  So this is much less work and time, which is good, since I already feel guilty about choosing a nice long meal over doing work, of which I have a lot.  The downside to students who care enough to do homework is that I am morally obligated to grade it.  I am also feeling guilty for skipping student presentations on their upcoming final projects.  I was going to attend, but then an hour after the scheduled time it still hadn't started, and I had other things to do, and besides I support my students by being available to answer questions and having lectures ready to be lectured on time.   Also holding extra classes on request.   Besides which, I show up at their computer club meetings, which last two hours, and I smile and look supportive.  So yeah, I really should be grading rather than worrying about Thanksgiving.  And going to presentations rather than shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients that didn't exist.  Overall, just grump.

Wine not from these Grapes

My new bucket of hibiscus wine is fermented and drinkable.  Of all the wines I have made or tasted here (watermelon, papaya, mango, pineapple, ginger, stafali/soursop/topetope--they're like marshmallows in fruit form that I haven't seen in the states and everyone has different names for) hibiscus is definitely my favorite.  I've heard rumors that some people make wine out of grapes, but that would just be predictable.

You can buy little bags of dried hibiscus blossoms, they are called
choya.  They look sort of like crumpled dessicated bugs, but smell good.

Sugar.  Lots of sugar.  2 kilos.  

Boiling water, because the stuff is dried.   They need to steep for
a few hours in their sugary water.

After the water is cool, yeast.  Still the most helpful organism
on the planet.

****Three weeks later****
It's a red wine, sweet (possibly due mostly to the 2 kilos of sugar per
10 liter wine bucket), with a floral aftertaste.   Drunk out of a mug
because Peace Corps is classy like that.  

Book of verses, mug of wine, loaf of bread.  Not pictured: thou.  

In which I Make Ice Cream

I like ice cream.  It's yummy.  I have never attempted to make it before.  My mama makes it a lot in the states, but she has this fancy machine to do it.  I, however, have a book, with pictures, and some instructions from my chemistry minded aunt.

Book courtesy of Albert, an RPCV who preceded me at Morogoro and
supports and encourages me.
It is possible to get fresh milk rather than preservative filled stuff, but even boiling the milk myself, I'd still be a little hesitant after I heard about a volunteer in the Dodoma region getting tuberculosis.  My entire cultural background tells me I should be dying of tuberculosis right sexily (The well-bred ladies of opera and Val Kilmer in Tombstone can't all be wrong, but they could all be painfully dead.), but I'd rather not.   If only because I can't sing "Addio del Passato" like Anna Netrebkho, who makes for a consummate consumptive.
The milk and cream are mixed and heated, but not boiled.

Sugar and egg yolks, with the whites set aside.  

The instructions say whisk together, because some people have whisks. 

Add the hot mixed cream and milk, then put it back to heating with the egg and sugar. 

I also made bread while stirring the ice cream mixture, because I'm efficient that way.  Also, I needed more bread and I needed something to throw the leftover egg whites into.  I don't follow a recipe for bread, bread loves us all and wants us to be happy and will at least sort of work no matter what is done to it.  Which is odd given that the one important technique is to keep the yeast warm, happy, and well-fed right up until the moment the yeast get cooked to death.

In the meantime, I'm still stirring the ice cream mixture on low heat.  It's weird, it looks like it should turn into a custard, but you are supposed to stop when it's not quite custarded and chill.  I'm not entirely certain I understand the chemistry of the situation.
The sugary milk etc now gets to cool in a big sufuria filled with ice water plus
salt, at the helpful reminder of my chemistry-minded aunt.

After freezing overnight, I have this.  I put too much vanilla flavoring in, but
it is legitimately ice cream.  

It's just like adding milk to my morning coffee, only with a lot more fat,
which is what makes things yummy.    

International Aid to Uganda in Light of Human Rights Violations

*Warning: highly political.*

Uganda wants to formalize it's Death to Homosexuals policies.  The UK is making threats to end foreign aid if they do.  I am all for human rights and equality under the law, but I don't think the UK is taking the right approach here.

I realize nations that provide a large amount of money free of charge to other nations can expect to wield a certain amount of influence over the client nations.  However, the UK continuing to dictate policies in Uganda is not an approach without a nasty echo of colonial government with lots of fun atrocities.  Also, Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde might have some nasty comments about the UK pretending to uncompromising moral superiority about equal rights for all sexual orientations.   On a pragmatic note for the situation here and now, if Uganda is anything like Tanzania, a withdrawal of foreign aid is going to spell trouble for a lot of government services, as for example education.  Now remember when I say this I don't actually have the data, I'm extrapolating from the education system in TZ, largely dependent on foreign aid. But based on that, my guess would be that the UK withdrawing foreign aid would hurt the people who need foreign aid most in the way that they would have a hope of opposing legislative policy, that is education.  If we want to influence another nation to have non-human rights violating policies, hurting the investment in the cognoscenti of the future is not only statistically counter intuitive,  sending foreign aid and foreign teachers is a sneaky way to bring progressive talks into the curriculum.  Me, I tend to casually mention whenever the opportunity arises that since computers are good, discriminating against homosexuality is bad, because Alan Turing.  Behavior change happens through education, as the immortal words of Captain Hammer, Corporate Tool, "It's not enough to bash in heads, we've got to bash in minds."

Furthermore, while capital punishment for homosexuality is a horrifying immediate problem of human rights  (whenever folk are dying for no reason that's an immediate problem), I seriously doubt this is in anyway a new problem.  And legislation is not likely to make it more of a problem.  Again, I don't have the actual data for this, I'm extrapolating from the way that the justice system, official and mob, works in Tanzania.  In Tanzania the police are useless.  They hang out at traffic stops looking for minor infractions they can threaten major penalties for unless they are bribed (well, it's not like the government can afford to pay their salaries), and if actually summoned for something possibly important (e.g. a dead body) they don't show up unless someone pays for their gas.  Criminals suspected and otherwise, if caught in public, are beaten to death by mobs.  Homosexuals are also subject to being beaten to death by mobs.  Official government sanction or disapproval by itself, while an important gesture, is unlikely to change this, and laws by themselves aren't going to make the police do their jobs even assuming the police have the money to do police work.   And again, this assumes that the people and police of Uganda even know what the laws are.  Which from Tanzania's example is not a good assumption to make.

NB. Uganda seemed a somewhat more prosperous nation than Tanzania with at least enough efficiency that people can usually make change for moderately big amounts of money, so it's entirely possible that Uganda has a police force and a justice system that actually kind of works.

I'm part of the legion of hand-wringing liberal hippie that believes something should indeed be done, but I'm one of the people actually doing things, and I do not recommend sweeping gestures with immediate demands for sustainable behavior change.  It doesn't work and it can be questionably ethical and often hypocritical.  Given the US' human rights record and continuing practices with regard to homosexuality I would be embarrassed to make strong statement about it.  In fact, I think sodomy might still be illegal in my home state.

Anyway: there are two major general problems I see that could be useful to address.  First, the generalized xenophobia that exists in areas that are remote and traditionally organized into homogeneously religious and ethnic tribal groups.  People just aren't used to people that are different from them.  There's a reason why cosmopolitan areas tend to be more progressively liberal and tolerant, people get more used to interacting with people who aren't like them.  More foreign aid (and foreign teachers) for education and transportation is a good place to start.  A more educated, prosperous, and mobile people will not spend so much time with the same people who get into incestuous habits of thought.  This is not a criticism of a small group of African peoples, any small enough group without much outside contact will start thinking the same way.  This is actually something that gets illustrated beautifully by Peace Corps trainings:  they rely on splitting their groups of 40 odd trainees into smaller groups, having them discuss whatever the current topic at hand, and present their thoughts on flipchart paper to the large group.  Disregarding the unwarranted assumption this method makes that the knowledge necessary is already present in the group and doesn't need to be presented in any way by someone with experience, the result of this small group discussion approach is that after about week 3, all groups start presenting the exact same things, because the group is too small and not having enough time to get outside experience, so incestuous thought patterns set in.  These are all, I might point out, people with at least bachelor's degrees from reasonable educational institutions, and incestuous thought from such small groups is still inevitable.  Granted, I don't think Americans are as given to independent thought as we think we are (I'm with Tocqueville on this one), but it's still a good example.

Back to the point, I don't think we should end foreign aid but use it, not just to invest in a more educated and mobile future, but to introduce differences between people right now.  Peace Corps is already supposed to talk about HIV/AIDs at any given opportunity, there has to be a nice and (necessarily because we can't do anything that might be seen as insurrectionist, and also our lives are in danger if we are suspected of homosexuality) generally yay for equal rights speech we can give.  Foreigners are, in a way, safer to have awkward conversations about sex with, because they have no clear or lasting place in the community.

The other major factor that seems to be driving this whole murderous attitude that needs to be addressed, and addressed by us (because it is our fault), is missionaries.  Westerners tend to have fluffy feelings about missionaries for no good reason.  Oh, in addition to spreading the word of god (no matter how thickly it's already spread) they build schools and teach!  Well, maybe.  A few.  I think I've met two that I respect, because they teach at a severely understaffed primary school out in a remote village and ignore their sect's party line on abstinence-only sex education, but having a handful doing good things does not justify the majority who hang out in only the nice towns (my favorite line from a missionary ever, "we're 45 minutes away from town, way out in the jungle!  A jungle was heretofore not known to exist within 45 minutes of Morogoro, which is one of the nicest towns in Tanzania.) and spend time mostly with other foreigners.  A group of missionaries from Minnesota went through Senegal recently and, according to the volunteers there, decided that black people (which I guess they had never seen in Minnesota?) were worrisome so they spent all their time praying for the black people in the company only of other white people.  Recently in Morogoro, a group of people were stopping at 11 different countries to spread God's love by staying with host families and, according to them, "serving the families."  How we can't imagine, since we who have also stayed with host families here have noticed we never do chores well enough, and if we clean things, they get cleaned again after we do it, we don't cook native food well enough and Tanzanians by and large don't like American food.  So I certainly hope these people served at least by compensating monetarily these families for the extra food expenditures.  So: those are just the useless missionaries.  There are also the evil missionaries, who demand conversion (or at least lip service) as a price for educational or health services, both of which are basic human rights that should not be contingent on any religious tests.  The missionaries to Uganda, however, outdo themselves by advocating for murder.  So my point is, we have all these people hanging around African nations who have neither necessary credentials to speak with authority that people believe, nor any realistic accountability for what they say, and they are getting people killed.   On our end, there isn't, unfortunately, a lot we can do except prosecute for hate speech (which can be tricky) and end the perks (the only useful missionaries I have met told me they get free luggage from some airlines for being missionaries, which made me a little angry.  I am here by the express invitation of the TZ government with the support of and training in local culture and language from my own government, and I don't get perks as good as people who have just decided they are needed and should go somewhere and may or may not know anything about where they are going.) we give missionaries.  We can also try to persuade foreign governments to require visa restrictions on missionary work.  My work permit and visa (I think) is contingent on never proselytizing for any religion, so I'm not sure what kind of visa missionaries get, but apparently they don't have a problem or any supervision.   This is an urgent situation that we need to address, because, as Charles Simic puts it, "it is with the murderer's in one's own family that one has the moral obligation to deal with first."  And again, I don't have the data or the experience to do more about Uganda than make some generalized extrapolations based on a neighboring country and 10 days there, but I do know without guessing that my home should not be sending people abroad who provide support and moral affirmation for those who want to commit human rights violations.

Sonnets from the Peace Corps Volunteers: Hymn to Food

For all the people who look like they need to go back to the states and eat a sandwich or 50.  

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon
With cheese, and biscuits flaky-cooked with grease.
In grease with milk we'll scramble eggs till done,
Then French-pressed Kona coffee ends our feast.

Our noon repast: too many sandwiches
Adorned with meats and sauces, fruits and cheeses.
Ham, gouda, pepperjack...from fridges(!)
Loaded well with condiments egregious.

Who needs a dinner when there is dessert?
Peanut butter mashed with chocolate ice cream,
An apple pie that's flaky, sweet, and tart,
Strawberry margaritas poured in streams.

Our challenge, 2 for 1, it starts today:
Gain twice the pounds we lost along the way.

In Which I am Forced to Spend Time on a Tropical Beach

The problem with going to Tanga is that the only logical thing to do is spend a lot of time swimming in the Indian Ocean.  If I were closer to this town, I would never get work done.  Ever.  

Pretty bay featuring knee I am too lazy to crop out. 

At some point during the beach-related sloth, a kid in a unicycle showed up.  My old sitemate George attempted it.  I have spent the past year sitting on the sidelines giggling while George tries silly things.  I am conveniently leaving out the pictures of my own unicycle attempt, which ended in me being too chicken to commit and actually get on the thing.

I love Tanga. Last time I was here I also ended up on a beach, and someone let me play with his kayak, this time I am invited to play with a unicycle, albeit much less successfully.

Also, there is hookah and live bands which George just kind of joins.  Because he can.

Can you spot the white person playing drums?  

I love Tanga.

It was the Best of Homecomings and the Worst of Homecomings

I had a fight with my department head yesterday over teaching methods.    On the other hand I received several packages containing books, and no home is complete without untidy piles of books in the process of being read or simply spilling out of the bookcases.  On the other hand again my proxy server in the states is down currently.  Farewell sweet netflix.   Fortunately, the internet is providing me with some wonderful things like the latest xkcd, in which Randall Munroe asks an important question that should have occurred to me back when I was an undergrad presented with this problem.  Seriously, why do you have a wolf?

Oh well.  I did have a fabulous trip.  I had some work to do in Tanga that not so coincidentally was arranged for a weekend when I could see my old Morogoro sitemate before he left for America and also it was my birthday.

We went to a bamboo forest and toured some limestone caves.


Tree full of annoying birds and their nests. 

Sculpture probably for traditional worship
but I couldn't get a story about it.

Into the gaping black maw. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the rock was defaced by graffiti. 

The caves are a very interfaith place of worship, the traditionalists, as always, came first and they leave offerings.  That's grain scattered on the floor, bottles of various things (the darker ones blood, most likely not human) and in the middle there's a bottle of rose water.  People soak twigs in the water and burn it like incense.

This stone is where the Muslims worship because some of the markings look
like words from the Koran.

This is where the Christians worship, there are some stone formations up
in the arch that supposedly look like the annunciation. 

It's nice to see some tolerance going on.  Normally everyone is Christian or Muslim and makes fun of the traditionalists.  Of course, acknowledging only three possible religious beliefs isn't that big a step up from acknowledging only two possible religious beliefs and the logic of worshiping in the caves seems to be because of pareidolia more than anything else, but whatever.  There was also a natural chair formation that was where the king of demons sat back in the days of demon congresses.  I sat on it, though every horror show I have ever seen tells me this is a bad idea.  

 Most of the stalactites were touched so much that they weren't shiny any more, but this was up near the ceiling out of easy reach.

Light at the end of the tunnel. 

Since we were in the area, we also stopped by some sulphur hot springs with healing properties, maintained by an old man rocking a toothbrush mustache.  He presented me with a water bottle full of the water.  

The grasses are free floating islands formed of the dead roots and fronds
that the sulphur kills and which somehow forms a shield and nutrient base for the stuff on top. 

The water is kind of whitish and bubbly.  Also smelly. 

No day is complete without a football match.  Fortunately, Yanga (the Young Africans, a team from Dar) was here to play the home team, the Coastal Union.  In the hot sun.  Fortunately, as spectators, we get to sit and drink water and eat popsicles (frozen mango juice on a stick.  Sold by the weirdest seller I've ever encountered.  Most vendors everywhere yell constantly what they are selling and shove it in one's face, but this man just walked around with an unlabeled closed cooler, and when I asked him what he was selling he muttered something I couldn't even hear.  I can't decide if this was terrible business strategy or good business strategy, since it did make him stand out) while other people sweat for our entertainment.  Popsicles and circuses, yo.  Also guards with really big guns.

So hard to get pictures through the fence I didn't really try.  But I did like that people climbed what I assume would be the light poles assuming they had lights on them.

Can you spot the white person?