Showing posts with label projects (be prepared to laugh). Show all posts
Showing posts with label projects (be prepared to laugh). Show all posts

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Photo Challenge

There was that moment. When my camera had gotten stolen for the second time, and I realized that thanks to Wycliffe’s great insurance, I could get a much better camera half-paid for (instead of replacing the old, smaller though good point and shoot). I did research, picked out a camera, and then realized that (one of) my good photographer friends in Musoma had the same camera. I ordered it, had it carried over by friends who were coming back from Christmas in America, and started shooting.

One of the first photos I got to take with my new camera, untouched.
Thanks, little monkey, for coming and posing as we left the restaurant after lunch!
I was pretty excited with the detail in the shot.

And suddenly, I realized that all the things I had wanted to do with my camera before, and couldn’t, wasn’t perhaps because of my lack of ability, but potentially because of my lack of adequate equipment. Apparently the things I wanted to do with pictures, the ways I wanted to capture the world around me – were possible. I was shocked, delighted, and so excited.*

My friend with the same camera and I set to work trying to figure out the technical aspects of our camera, without a lot of luck. We took some amazing photos, which I loved, and the auto-setting served me/ us well. But I still wanted to learn more.

Fast forward about two years. I’m in the States now; previously mentioned friends are still in Tanzania. Another photographer friend submitted the idea of a 30 Day Photography Challenge Project he’d found online, and I was hooked. Finally I had a good reason, excuse even, to pull out my camera every day, go outside, shoot, look up information, and play until I figured some of the technical details out.

In 3 days I’ve learned more than I ever have about the technical details of photography. I still have a TON to learn and a LONG ways to go. But I’m excited. I’m glad to have more tools, more “informational equipment” in my bag that I can pull out and use to capture the shots and images I yearn to share with others. And I’m thankful for the chance to be stretched, challenged, and grown in new ways through this time.

So with that, instead of sharing 30 separate posts with pictures, I thought I’d share a weekly synopsis of the pictures I took and what I learned. If you don’t care about the details, just check in for the shots. Or better yet, go to #nov30dpc on Facebook to check out all the shots my super-amazing friends (and some of their awesome kids/my previous students) and I have taken. We have a long ways to go, and I’m hoping I don’t get too stuck along the way. But I figure as long as I'm learning something, I'm on the right track! :)

*Not saying that camera equipment is the end-all of good picture taking. Just that I was thankful for more challenges and for opportunities to play with settings/get clearer pictures!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana Week

It’s banana week at our house. 
A few weeks back, one of the bunches of bananas on the banana trees in back of our house dropped.  Ronit and I had big plans for these bananas – we tend to use whatever we have on hand pretty well.  So when they went missing, we were pretty bummed.  And confused.

After a bit of inquiry, we discovered that one of our guards had helpfully put the bananas in a cardboard box, tied it closed with copper wire, and put it in one of the back storage rooms on the property.

When he heard we were looking for them, he brought the box up to the house, explaining that you should always put bananas in a cardboard box to ripen quicker.  “Right,” we said, nodding our heads.  Inwardly, I likened it to an old Tanzanian-wives-tale, like the one where I'm not supposed to drink cold water on hot days because it makes me cough. I'm sure it had nothing to do with allergies!?

All I could think of when I saw the copper wire was how people steal
copper off irrigation systems in the States to sell it for money! 
If they only knew how many boxes of bananas were sitting wrapped
with copper wire in Tanzanian backyards...
I'm assuming the newspaper is also critical to the ripening process?

My roommate and I laughed, took a few pictures (because that’s what we do), and left the box covered to see what would happen.

A couple of weeks later we started smelling a mysterious banana-like smell from the entryway where we had left the box.  We checked inside, and whala!  The bananas were ready!  Turns out that bananas really do let off a ripening agent-something-or-other-that-does-something-so-they-ripen-and-apparently-you-can-put-other-fruit-in-the-box-to-ripen-too-and-I-should-look-up-why-this-is-but-will-refer-you-to-knowledgeable-chemist-friends-instead-because,-well,-I’m-too-busy-cooking-with-bananas.

Suddenly, all our plans for Sunday-afternoon cooking changed.  Pumpkin bread for morning routines was cancelled, and banana bread subbed in.  We found a Betty Crocker Pound Cake Mix (a treasure in these parts!) in the freezer and came up with a banana-maple syrup topping for it.  Making pancakes?  Add a few – or ten – bananas to the mix!  And I’m pretty sure that banana chocolate chip bars will be on the dessert/snack menu for sometime this week – sans oats, since oats are so expensive here.

yum! :)
We started wondering in the bustle of banana-cooking what would happen once these bananas were gone.  After all, we had managed to use nearly half the box in 30 minutes time!  And then we remembered the trees out back, with another five bunches worth of bananas slowly getting ready to drop… and simply smiled as we thought of all the banana weeks to come.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving... Tanzania Style

Here in Tanzania, we're often a bit limited on what we can get.  In Musoma, I'm learning, it's even more so.  So when it comes to making a holiday feel "normal" with all the traditional foods, things can be a bit... complicated.  That's where the creativity comes in.

Any guesses what this is?

Sweet potatoes!!!

The sweet potatoes we can get here are white, so in order to make them appropriately traditional for Thanksgiving, they of course need some dye.  Lots of it.

But of course, a true sweet potato casserole needs either pecans (which we can't get here), or marshmallows (which are a bit easier to produce, even if they're not available either).  So we pulled out the trusty Wycliffe Cookbook, found a recipe for homemade marshmallows, and got started!
We quickly learned that making marshmallows is NOT a one-person job! 
The process required at least three hands at all times...
So glad for the candy thermometer that was left at the house!
The gelatin that got added... it acted a bit like Ooblek!
(I love this Mythbusters clip) :)

We started with hand-beating...
Then after a few turns, decided a mixer might be a good idea
It got thicker and thicker...
...and lighter and lighter in color...
Till finally, we deemed it done.
We were a bit excited - couldn't believe it actually worked!
Making the dollops
And of course, finishing off the process right
A few hours later, we checked on them, and they were all stuck together
just as proper marshmallows should be!  Success!!!
Happy Homemade Thanksgiving, all!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On the Road Again... in Germany!

24 June 2011  <-- No, I'm not still in Germany.  But I promised someone I'd post this story "someday" and thought it was about time I got around to it!

Many of you know I had the chance to "relearn" driving a stick shift, on the right side of the road, and driving REALLY fast, in Germany the past four weeks.  Add this to culture shock, negotiating a new location in a different language, and four intense masters classes, and I kept pretty busy during my time there!  My housemate and I were staying outside of town a bit and the walk to class was about 50 minutes... so it was nice some days to have a motorized alternative!  My first experiences driving a stick were in Tanzania, on the left side of the road (shifting with my left hand...), and had some adventurous results.  So I was more than a little nervous to get behind the wheel in Germany!  But after a few "refresher" lessons I was feeling more secure.  I even emailed the person whose car it is to tell her how well it was going the first week!
Then one night, on our way home from a game night with classmates, I couldn't get the car going.  It stalled, then stalled, then stalled again.  And again.  x10.  A guy from class came by and gave me a few tips, which should have helped.  But it stalled again right away.  At this point I was TOTALLY frustrated, and extremely thankful that my housemate was patient and a "go-with-the-flow" person.  But it was also 10:30 at night, and evidently Germans don't do late nights.  Not in this town.  As in, you don't make noise after 10pm or before 7am.  So out comes the lady from across the street, in an effort to help me.  She speaks about three words of English, which is about my level of German.  And somehow, she communicates that she's going to drive us home. 

What?  I don't know how to politely say no, but "NO!"  I can do this.  I should be able to drive a car 10 minutes and get us home.  I got us to the game night even when we had to turn around 10 times because we didn't have good directions.  This was RiDiCuLoUs!  But she told her husband to follow us with their car, got in the driver's seat, and took off with us in the back.  I was totally embarrassed the entire way home but couldn't do anything.  Except, of course, think about how insane this was and how I should be able to drive a silly car down the road.

The “helpful” German lady parked the car in the parking area for our apartments, but she put it in a place that blocked another car from getting out.  I didn't bother having her readjust because I wanted to get back in the car before I went to bed... you know, that "get back on the horse" idea.  So after hiding out for about 10 minutes till the couple was gone... (they really were great and they totally didn't have to go out of their way to bring us home!  It was just, well, extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing for me along the way...), I came back out to start the car and put it away.  Except, the ignition wouldn't start when I turned the key.  No sound.  Not one iota of anything.  After several tries, and alternating between wanting to laugh and cry and giggle hysterically in frustration... I went inside to get my housemate.  We were sure it was a dead battery, but we were still blocking the landlord's daughter's car and she couldn't get out in the morning.

Then we got a fabulous idea.  It's a small car.  We're two fairly active women.  So we rolled the car back, and tried to push it up the driveway between the two of us.  It, uh, didn't work out as well as we had hoped. :(  I guess we underestimated the pull of gravity on a car trying to roll down a slight hill.

Hmm.  Plan B.  (Or maybe E?)  A friendly missionary family that lives right next door happened to still have their lights on at 11pm that night, and we were able to knock on their door to ask for help.  The teens helped push the car up and the mom offered to jump it the next day.

Cue 11am.  The mom invited me over for iced-coffee and to chat for a couple of hours.  Just because.  She's awesome.  Then we headed out to jump-start the car.  (After she got on Google to check the proper order for hooking up the jumper cables, of course!  Glad I'm not the only one who needs car help at times.)  We let the car run for a few minutes, then planned to drive around in a loop for a while to recharge the battery.  Unfortunately, as we went up a hill, I didn't downshift quite enough, and the car stalled.  It wouldn't restart, or even make a noise.  I backed off the street (thank goodness for gravity this time!) and the mom came back with her car to jump start me again.  Then we tried the main road to get the car recharged.  Faster = better, right?  But we had to go up a street to turn around at one point, and the car stalled again.  We jumped it, then it stalled again.  And again.  Seriously!  This time I was ready to just get the insanely-infuriating car back to the owner's garage and MAYBE deal with it again in a week.  or so.  If I had to.  After another jump-start though, we finally got it back.  At which point, the family offered to loan me an extra bike to ride to class the upcoming week.  They even made sure it had a bike lock with a key I could use.  Which was really sweet.  And (deep breath) I was feeling very much relieved.

After sharing my story the next day after church, a couple of people from the school (who are much more proficient at manual car-driving than I!) came and got the vehicle to bring it to the school.  A maintenance guy spent the next day trying to charge the battery… and finally concluded it was shot.  A new battery was put in.  And I had a couple of days to realize that maybe, just maybe, I could do this driving thing.  And so we began again.

Thankfully, I think the battery was a big part of the problem (along with some operator error, of course).  I still stalled out occasionally the next 2 weeks… but this time, it was 4-5 times a week, and not per day!  I even drove it on the Autobahn in Switzerland for about an hour and a half one day coming home... and was was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments!

me. in the car. on a much-better day!

I’ve actually discovered that driving a manual is pretty fun… and I've heard driving a stick is actually a good deterrent of theft in the States as many thieves don't know how to drive them!  However, I need to weigh the pros and cons before purchasing another vehicle again some day.  My mom continues to remind me that driving a manual limits your ability to hold a milkshake in one hand while you drive with the other, and this is a serious predicament to consider.  We'll see what rules as most critical - fun driving, or milkshake-drinking ability - when the time comes!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Puppy Practicalities

27 February 2011

Having grown up in America, I often joke about going down the street to buy such-and-such item at the local Office Depot.  Or maybe go get a drill from HomeDepot.
But here in Tanzania, getting what you need just isn't that simple.  It might mean a long (and I mean LONG) drive into the city center to get something from one of three - or thirty - possible dukas.  Or knowing someone who knows someone who can get them from the UK on an upcoming shipment.  Or something like that.

Another option is asking the local fundis (or "experts" of some sort).  We often joke that if you can't get something here you can always get it made... but it's not far from the truth.  Between inexpensive fundis for welding, carpentry, sewing, and everything else imaginable, you can just about describe anything and get something KIND of like it a long while later :)

Sometimes, as the go-getters that we are, we decide to just do it ourselves.  Like when we went out to get a shelf made, and the guy refused to make it for us.  We finally convinced him to sell a piece of lumber (it was just sitting there in a pile!), and carried it half a kilometer back to our house.  By ourselves.  People along the way stopped and stared at these crazy wazungu girls carrying a board down the road and didn't know what to do with us. Our guard, who was used to our schemes, just laughed when he saw us.  Then he went to borrow a saw to help us get started.

It's always kind of fun to play with people's cultural expectations... in a culturally appropriate way, of course!

But today was slightly different.  Today we’ve been worried about our puppy.  It’s been sick, losing weight, and her hair is coming out in tufts.  The vet came a week ago and gave us some stuff to put on her nose, but she just keeps getting worse.  And worse.  Now we’re pretty much slathering the stuff all over her poor, bare body. :(
Now, just for the record, we really do trust our Tanzanian vet.  He knows what he’s doing.  And I like him a lot.  He’s a Christian, AND he speaks English, which is REALLY nice!  But the puppy came to us in bad shape from the start.  The vet isn’t here today, and we needed a second opinion.  So I turned to my personal favorite vet, named “dad.”

I took a few pictures, sent them off in an email, and got a response back.  Fired back answers, got more questions.  The last email, though, caused a slight problem.  “What’s her weight?”

Hmm.  We don’t have a regular scale at our house.  We used to have a scale from the Chem lab, which weighs things in Newtons, and used it to convert our luggage weight into pounds from that before flying.  (Don’t ask me how much I weigh in Newtons, please!)  But now that we’ve moved, we don’t even have that.

So, it was back to basics.  The only scale we have in the house is a luggage scale, which I brought back at Christmas in an effort to skip the converting to Newtons on my next trip home.  A luggage scale, for a puppy.  Hmm.  We nixed the idea of hanging the puppy from the scale by the collar… but there’s got to be another way, right?

We have a garbage can that doubles as a bucket when our house help is here.  (Ok, it’s really a bucket that we use as a garbage can…)  So, using some basic skills that I learned in seventh grade or so Science… we weighed the bucket, stuck in the puppy, and weighed it again.
 The verdict?  She weighs about twice as much as the “less than three pounds” we predicted.  Which, I guess, is a good sign.  The weight went off, the verdict came back, and now we’re trying to figure out how to cut a pill into ten pieces for the right dosage for our puppy.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes at a later date!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beam Me Up, Amani!

or, Thoughts on Teleportation and it's Reliability as a Transportation Source in Tanzania

28 March 2011

So I was contemplating the idea of teleportation tonight with a friend, and commenting on how I need to get my super-smart brother and sister-in-law to get going on this project.  After all, I’m sure that was a part of the aerodynamics and quantum theories of black holes classes they took at Embry Riddle, right?  Basic stuff.  So the thought was that they should build it, maybe sell it to a lot of people, but most importantly provide the machine for free to missionaries.  Or at least to me, and my friends.  After all, I’m the sister!
 As we contemplated the fantastic aspects of this invention, we started to get excited.  We could bop down to the Penninsula (and bypass all the traffic) whenever we wanted to for an evening out.  (Can you tell where we were when this discussion ensued?)  Or better yet (and much more importantly) we could head “home” to the States for a weekend and make it back in time for school the next Monday.

But then, I started thinking.  If all the missionaries are going home every weekend, there’s never going to be any community here.  Which kind of stinks.  AND all the Tanzanians (and other people all over the world) will be wanting to come, too.  Which might cause a bit of a new issue for immigration. 

Then, some of the logistics started to set in.  Do we REALLY want our molecules being taken apart in one place, and trusting them to be put back together again in another?  Would we even be the same person on the other side?  I mentioned I felt more comfortable going TO the States than back to Dar… I trust the State-side teleporter to actually work correctly!  (This coming after three weeks without internet or a server at school… and little to no internet in Dar in general this past week while the fiberoptic cable has something wrong with it… and after our principals’ comment a couple of weeks back at staff meeting, saying “So basically what we’re saying is there’s no power, no internet, and no water.  Have a great day!" …and, yes, we’re still sitting in traffic.)  My friend mentioned the potential problem of having a power cut happen just as you’re in the middle of transport.  And so, we began thinking about the practicalities of having working electronic devices here in Dar. 

The question is, if the teleportation device in Dar breaks, do we call in the local fundi (expert)?  Probably the fundi la bomba (plumber) would come and say, “yes, no problem.  It is ok.  I fix” and then go and get some parts.  Or say, “parts very expensive.  Must get from States.  Many pesas.”  At which point we would mention how we have little money.  They would give us a rubber band and a plastic tube, and say “sawa, it is ok.” 

Thought: I wonder if teleportation could be done through sling-shotting ourselves from Dar to the States via a rubber band?  It would sure cut down the cost!?

The other option is that when we say we have no money, they will say “ok” and get a part made in China.  Then it will break, and we will call again, and they will get another cheap part from China.  And then that one will break, and we’ll get another, and so on, and so on.  And no one will be bothered by these numerous, long, annoying transactions except for us missionaries. :D

The more I think about the frequent power cuts we’re having, I’m realizing we would really need to get a reliable generator specifically for the machine.  This would at least help ensure that no one gets stuck halfway between two places.  I’m imagining writing an email with one hand saying, “Hey mom, did I leave my other hand and foot there?  I’ll try to get them again when the power comes back on!”  Except, oh wait, no power means no email.  Whoops.  Hope they don’t get thrown away by mistake!

The other thing is that I would definitely not rely on anyone keeping the machine maintained during my three day stay at home.  Rather, someone here would probably get jealous of my cool machine and come steal some part or other so that I can’t use it anymore.  And then I would be sad.  And broke, because I’d have to pay for a quick super-sonic ticket back before school starts on Monday!

So anyway, long before we ever made it home from our relaxing time of working at a coffee shop (my first in a VERY VERY long time!) and the 1.5 hr drive home from town afterward (definitely NOT my first recently!), it was pretty much decided that, at least for Tanzania, perhaps the teleportation route is just not quite the way to go. 

But, Jer and Claudia, if you want to get working on prototypes for the future… preferably models that don’t require power or maintenance… I certainly won’t object!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Where Does the TIME Go?

13 January 2011

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of writing and a lot of thinking, but not a lot of posting.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to (and maybe I’ll get around to posting the other thoughts when I have a few moments…)

*I arrived safely back from the States.  And one week later, my bag arrived too!  Hooray!!!  (Double, triple, quadruple hooray – it’s nice to have everything safely here once again!)

*School started.  And it’s going well.  I’m excited to finally start using (hopefully soon!) one of the computer projectors that I brought back from the States with me for the school…  and am enjoying teaching a fun unit on fantasy!  Dragons and giant peaches, here we come!

*My housemates and I are officially addicted to watching… HOUSE.  I think we are now ready to handle any weird medical emergency that comes our way… although we've learned that the diagnosis is NEVER lupus!

*Marie, Carley, and I are pretty much more than officially moved into our new house.  We actually have some curtains now, which is nicer than the sheets we had up before.  (Special thanks, I might add, to the people at Dar airport for returning my missing bag… to HOPAC, no less!)  The kitchen is still driving me nuts – still no countertops OR storage, a tiny sink, and our microwave has the wrong kind of plug to use here.  But we DO have a working fridge, a rolling cart, and lots of pots and pans I brought with from the States!  Other than that, I’m loving the cool breeze, the freedom of being away from the teacher’s compound (not the people – just all the issues!), and simply being a bit more outside the main city (or at least away from the main road!!!)
Here's where we were when I left for Christmas. Not so much is stored on the table now, thankfully!  Look at the sink... it's tiny!  Although this does show us coming a long way from when we first arrived...
A few moments in the first days of our house.  We didn't have a bottle opener, so I'm using a screwdriver in the upper left-hand corner to get the top off a soda.  A friend gave us the cute fanta opener the next day :).  On the right, this is Carley and I attempting to make ratatouille from a can - without a can opener.  Yes, we used a knife to open the can and pry it open.  Lastly, on the bottom left is a "to get" list for our new house.  Doesn't everyone need a new bow and arrow for their new place???

*We now have a second dog who resides in the garage (not sure if it’ll work out – she attacked our first dog, Bethlehem, the first day and wouldn’t let go of her leg… they’re not exactly on seeing-each-other-from-afar-terms at the moment…).  Bethi is currently outside my window barking.  We also have a cat somewhere around… moths living in my mosquito net, and a frog we just found in the toilet.  The ants haven’t discovered our house yet, but it seems the rest of the animal kingdom is enjoying it fully!

*I could use prayer for patience, as I’m finding I’m suddenly getting easily frustrated – about everything.  Like the kitchen sink.  (Literally!)  And well-meaning - but very talkative - kids.

*I miss people in the States.  I’m very thankful for relationships here.  Bos. (that’s all.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Snapshot of Saturday

14 August 2010

We tend to do a lot of projects around the house on the weekends, none of which are actually planned.  Well, hold up.  Let me rephrase that.  We do actually plan, think through, and try to anticipate any needs or problems ahead of time.  But in the end, each project is always 10 steps longer and 15x more complicated than might be expected.  This is Africa, after all!

Today, we’ve been working on electrical projects.  I got a new lamp at a duka (little street-side store) down the street, but of course there was no cord or plug attached!  So we went across the street to get a wire, then set to work trying to put it all together.
I'm learning a lot these days - and I hope at least some of this knowledge will transfer over to 110 power in the States!  Grandpa, your amazing screwdriver set is already being put hard to work!  Thanks a million :)

We got a little hungry along the way.  Thanks to my amazing roommate, tuna with cheese sandwiches were on the menu.  Yum!

When we finally went to check the lamp for workability, we discovered that it takes a "bulbu ndogo" (small bulb, the candle-kind), which no one seemed to have up or down our street as we trekked around in a bajaj.  Hmm... maybe tomorrow! 

Later, we tried to repair our broken kettle for heating water.  As our amazing guard helped us with the technicalities, we watched our neighbor’s house get painted.  Note the following: 1. Nothing is securing the ladder, anywhere.  2. The ground isn’t even, so they just stuck wood under one side.  3. The rungs are uneven, a bit far apart, and definitely hand-constructed out of wood.  4. The plastic bag hat on the painter’s head!

Our trusty guard, Amani.  He loves doing this stuff, and is always volunteering to help us with our crazy endeavors of daily life living in Dar es Salaam

Here’s hoping your Saturday afternoon projects go a bit more smoothly – and safely - than ours!