Friday, December 31, 2010

A 2-dimensional Christmas

Inspired by some Mennonite family blog, Kacey created a lovely Christmas tree made of wrapping paper. We spent Christmas morning placing some hand-made ornaments sourced from Townes's obsessions - trains, drums, the Gingerbread man, and a few others. It was a good morning, but unique in its inward focus. We hope that all the families out there appreciated the big gatherings, we certainly missed ours.

Luckily, my colleague from EFTA, Israel, invited us to his house for Christmas dinner. Townes had a blast running around the house with his grandson, Prosper, hiding his cars from the other kids, and meeting the turkeys, ducks and chickens that lived behind the house. The meal was a combination of Tanzanian specialities - such as spiced rice dish called, Pilau - as well as fried chicken. Thanks Israel and Rose for the great home cooking!

Townes having a blast with the Christmas ornaments:

TukTuk Style

There is a lone TukTuk in Moshi that serves as a relatively inexpensive means of transport. The term "TukTuk" comes from the sound of the 4-cylinder engine that powers them.

Dar es Salaam is flooded with TukTuks, but perhaps due to the longer travel times in Moshi, there are relatively less common. It's a nice way to go, the only problem is being passed by 18 wheelers at 3x's the speed. Our guy was almost blown off the road.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Your contributions to Goodwill...

...may have traveled further than you think. In fact, Townes could be wearing some of them right now! This morning an Aussie expat introduced me to the big market with stall after stall of clothes and shoes. Townes has been growing out of his pants at a rapid rate so this market was exactly what I needed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Yesterday Townes turned Mbili (that's two in Swahili). I know that I’m meant to say how quickly time has flown and that I can’t believe he’s already a toddler but the truth is that when I consider how much he has grown and changed since we met him on that snowy night in Zurich, it’s harder to believe that only two years have passed.
With scraped knees and a skater’s hairdo, Townes is no longer a baby. He has a knock-out memory (that I’m happy he picked up from his papa). He often sings himself to sleep with Baa Baa Black Sheep in its entirety or just chatting away with his duck. He loves his collection of matchbox cars which is a good thing considering how little space we made in our suitcases for toys. He can identify numbers 0 to 10 but a typical attempt to count his fingers on one hand can range from 3 to 8. He loves books and can fill in the blanks when we leave out words...this is also probably connected to the fact that we only brought about 8 books with us and have read them hundreds of times. He can greet and thank people in Swahili now which delights the folks we meet around Moshi. But for some reason the only question he knows how to answer is ‘How are you?’. If asked about his name, he will always reply ‘I’m fine.’ He loves running laps around the house and playing peek from behind the trees. This week he has mastered jumping with both feet leaving the ground but we’ll be in big trouble when he figures out that he is probably capable of climbing out of the pack’n’play he sleeps in every night! He has discovered that the best place to throw a tantrum is when in the backpack because there’s virtually nothing that can be done but to let him thrash about while enduring everyone’s stares. Since the introduction of time-outs a few weeks ago, Townes has spent his fair share of minutes behind a closed door weighing the cost of isolation against the fun of screaming or hitting. I suppose Townes let us know by crying for four months straight when he was born that he won’t ever be an easy kid to raise but he sure has brought us a lot of joy. Happy birthday, boy-o.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tanzanian I Do's

On Saturday, Coy's colleague, Israel, invited us to a friend's wedding. It was a lively affair that, for us, started with photos and music in the roundabout in Moshi. The musicians played drums and horns; it felt a bit like a New Orleans jazz-up.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the wedding was when the featured guest - a whole, fried goat festooned with sliced hard-boiled eggs - was literally danced out to the wedding party. The flopping of his head was a bit unnerving, but overall, the goat was a pretty good dancer.

And yes, he tasted delicious.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Townes has a fascination with tunnels these days - even makeshift ones. His memory is interesting in its selectivity: when he thinks about tunnels now he remembers driving through the tunnels to the Zurich airport in Jake's car. He says "tunnel...Jake car...Nancy, Rachel, Julia house".

Sadly, there aren't too many tunnels in Tanzania, but the tablecloth at a small cafe in town worked just fine.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The road to Marengu

Last weekend, we borrowed a Rav 4 from a Tanzanian lady named Flo to drive to Marengu, a small town north of Moshi. The first couple of weeks had been quite busy with work and getting settled, so we were both quite excited to get out of town and see the countryside around Kilimanjaro. Some friends had recommended that we get to know a couple from Atlanta working in Dar es Salaam, so we had orchestrated to meet them at a small hotel about an hour outside of town. The stage was set for a great weekend.

As we were leaving Moshi, blazing through the savannah, we felt the freedom that only the start of a good road trip can create. We scanned the FM radio band, which interestingly only ranges from 73.5 to 82.5MhZ, and found nothing, so we contented ourselves with the wind as it blew in the open windows.

Then the hood on the Rav 4 flew up at about 50 mph.

We were blinded, and quickly ducked to look under the small space under the hood to navigate to safely. Once on the side of the road, we closed the hood and inspected the damage. Not too much, but the hood wouldn't close. We looked around us - nothing and no one to help. We decided to drive up the road a bit to see what we could find.

Soon, we ran across a bar full of off-duty dala dala drivers (dala dala's are the Tanzanian equivalents of tro-tro drivers in Ghana). We pulled into the bar and showed them the problem. In a flash, we had 8 dala dala captains come to our aid. They pushed, prodded, lifted, tugged, pried and shimmied, but accomplished little other than further damaging the hood of the car. The lid of the car would not shut firmly enough.

After about 15 minutes of muscling the hood, we conceded that the hood wouldn't close and another guy brought some tether to tie it down. This seemed to work.

We all felt quite good about ourselves. I paid the dala dala captains 5,000 shillings (about 4 dollars) which resulted in a round of cheers and handshakes, then a group photo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Polka

I'm sitting in Precision Air's mustard-yellow offices in Moshi to catch a shuttle bus for my flight to Dar es Salaam. The walls are covered with travel posters featuring mountain gorillas, elephants and Zanzibar, while a photo of the president Ndugu Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete smiles from the second floor. A stirring rendition of "Christmas Polka" by Jim Reeves is playing out of what looks to be an old fax machine.

There's something strangely comforting about it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shanty Town (Won't You Take Me to)


Our new address - at least for the moment - is Shanty Town, Tanzania. Shanty Town is right outside of Moshi, and is quite lovely. We found the place through a German couple, who introduced us to an English family with some extra room in their guest house. It was nice to get out of the Umoja hostel, which was perfectly fine, but a bit of a tight fit with Townes. In the evenings, there wasn't much to do around the hostel, so we were left being really quiet in the room while Townes slept in the adjacent room blocked only by some really thin walls.

Despite being a nice place to live, Shanty Town feels a bit removed from the city - especially without a car. Most of our neighbors have large Land Rovers that take them to and from work. I have been reliant on their guest bike (where the first outing was greeted by a flat tire and lots of walking) and a taxi driver called Goodluck.

Given the distance from Moshi, we're not yet sure if we will stay in Shanty Town. Regardless, it has been a nice place to be for a spell and we've met some really nice people. The German couple who introduced us to Shanty Town, named Merenka and Heiko, have been great to get to know. They have a young daughter named Yael, who Townes really enjoys talking about.

So far, no giant scorpions in Shanty Town, but we were greeted by the cockerels (roosters) on our first morning at 3.30am. Townes was wide awake and responded with "Chickens...PUSH chickens....". He now realizes that pushing is bad and wanted to harm those who had initiated the 3.30 wake-up call. Hard to believe that we were longing for the days of the simple radio man at 5...

(We hope to upload some of our own photos soon. In the meantime, thanks to the Richardsons on TravelBlog for this photo!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The mountain was out this morning

I remember the first time I heard the phrase, "The mountains are out this morning." It was on a trip to work with Andy Block on the 2 tram as we crossed over the Limmat in Zurich. It was an unusually clear day, and we had a fantastic view of the Alps.

The concept of mountains being "out" was a bit novel for me. Coming from the coastal lowlands of Mobile, AL, the only opportunity to comment on the visibility of landscape was when I would wipe the fog from my glasses on a humid summer morning.

It is a bright and warm summer day here in Tanzania and the most dominant feature of the surrounding landscape was out this morning, Kilimanjaro. The landscape is only of one of the numerous contrasts of Tanzania to our experiences in West Africa. So far, Townes has been a bit confused about where he is - he keeps asking for Roxin, our security man in Ankaase - but is generally pleased to be in warm weather and around people who are excited to greet him.

We will be moving out of the Umoja Lutheran guest house this morning and into our rented apartment. Once we get settled, we start updating more regularly with photos and blog updates.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving to our friends in the US!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few of the people who have crossed our path, cont...

Harriet, a 4-year old at RCA
Harriet is one of those kids who has presence. She wasn't overly impressed with the obrunis at her school, but found a soft spot for Townes. Oftentimes, Townes would find himself lost in a group of students as they would press to get a closer look; this usually involved running their hands through his hair and occasionally a bit of pushing. When the crowd got to be too much, Harriet would step in and create some space. Afterwards, there was no need for acknowledgment or thanks; it was just something that needed doing.

Like I said, the kid has presence.

Coy met Clement ten years ago and we've kept a special relationship with his family since then. Clement is a quiet kid who is more comfortable just hanging out than talking. One of the only subjects that can elicit more than a single sentence response is music, specifically reggae! The picture shows him introducing Townes to some rasta tunes on a cd that he made for us.

Grace, Nursery 2 teacher at RCA
With an easy laugh and an inexhaustible supply of patience, Grace is the only person I know in the world who would be willing to teach 50 three and four year olds in one small room. The children love her and her use of songs and chants to teach. Though attention spans at that age are tiny, her class has learned so much in the first months of school. In addition to the alphabet, numbers and greetings in English, the kids have acquired Grace's enthusiasm. They cheer when Townes and I enter the room and again when saying goodbye at the end of a lesson. I guarantee that you've never seen any group of kids who LOVE singing Wheels on the Bus as much as this class! I admire Grace for her energy and sweet nature.

The Chicken

This is one of the domesticated fowl that lives around the school. He enjoys eating dropped bits of rice, re-establishment of the pecking order and sneaking into the kitchen. Occasionally, the cleaning of plumage is interrupted by a game of chase.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Last Day of School

Extra sing-alongs were the order of the day

Monday, November 08, 2010

A few of the people who have crossed our path, cont.

Julie, the Librarian

Julie fits all the nicest stereotypes that you may have of a librarian- kind, quiet, wise, and able to silence a table of teenagers with just a glance. The Reading Town Library was the creation of our friend, Anne Gongwer, who believes that the library has the potential to change lives. The library was opened two years ago and is a remarkable building with a very good collection of books. Students from the nearby schools spend hours there and Julie has high hopes of teachers seeing it as a valuable resource. Julie would love to see more people in town bringing their children or just coming to read but I think that this will come with time. Julie has the patience and presence to make it happen.

Leticia, KG1 Teacher at Royal Christian Academy

A first-time teacher who has just finished her studies, Leticia is one of the star teachers at Royal Christian Academy. Her class is learning by leaps and bounds and they adore their teacher. She is firm but loving and can teach while holding a stray kid who wanders in from the nursery class. Considering the fact that RCA has no textbooks and that the classes share slates and chalk, Leticia has been teaching most things through recitation, songs, and enthusiasm. Of all the classes, I look forward to teaching in KG1 the most.


Ema works at the house part-time. For the 10 years I have known him, Ema has been one of the kindest and most peaceful people I have ever met. He can also mow a field of high grass with a machete in his left hand. Ema has a soft spot for children and it's been great seeing him get to know Townes; they really hit it off - particularly when there were bubbles involved.

The Vegetable Lady at Ankaase Market

We had weekly encounters with this lady at the market in Ankaase, but sadly we never learned her name. Richie and Maggie simply referred to her as the Vegetable Lady. The Vegetable Lady gave us a tough time at first as we stumbled in Twi to buy our vegetables, but over the months she warmed to us and became a welcome sight when we needed to buy bananas, carrots or onions. When I stopped to say farewell and take this picture, I bought a bag of carrots even though we had a refrigerator drawer full - she is quite the salesman.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A few of the people who have crossed our path, cont...

Adu, the Choir Master

Adu is a little over 5 feet tall, but makes up for his short stature with an extra dose of life and energy. Whenever you see him, Adu's face will quickly light up with a big smile and an enthusiastic greeting. While he's always lively, Adu is most in his element as the choir director of the Methodist Church. When he leads the choir, his enthusiasm is at full tilt as he dances, sings and plays the tambourine - always laughing and smiling.

I wish I could adequately convey the way music captures so much about Ankaase - one needs to experience it. It's not an easy life here, but music seems to be such a natural outpouring of their hope and joy. Tonight, we had a friend, Dorothy, for dinner who also sings with the choir. After the meal, we played a bit of Ghanaian music as we were talking and almost immediately she was out of her seat, dancing and encouraging Townes to the floor, who quickly responded with a little hip shake.

Where music in Ghana captures a bit about everyone, it especially tells the story of people like Adu and Dorothy. We're thankful to have shared it with them.

Adu and his wife:

Suleman, a JS student in Ankaase

I met Suleman on Tuesday as he was walking up the hill from school. I've only met him twice, but he is a good example of the kids we meet in Ankaase: always curious about Obrunis and very interested to greet you. As we walked, Suleman and I spoke briefly about his school and his favorite teachers. My limited Twi didn't allow for much depth, but he seemed like a good kid.

Muhammed, or Mama

Mama is another one of the people I met when I was first in Ankaase. He works as part of the janitorial staff at the hospital. Mama is a soft-spoken and genuine man, who also tends the plantain farm behind our house. About once a month he will arrive on the weekend with a stalk of plantains twice as tall as Townes. We usually give about half of the plantains to our friends, and save the rest to pound for fuofuo or, when it ripens, to fry with RedRed.

When I asked to take his photo, Mama requested that we move inside of the hospital so that it could be taken next to the flowers.

A few of the people who have crossed our path

This post begins a series of stories about people we have met during our time in Ankaase. Unfortunately, we can't cover all of the people here, but we wanted to share a few as we are leaving.

Roxin, or Asante.

Roxin is the security guard for the day shift. He arrives at the gate around 5:30 in the morning after the nightwatchman leaves. Roxin is generally a serious-minded guy - as it should be for a security guard, I suppose. He sits on the front bench listening to politics on the radio and watching the area around the house with a stern eye. As far as I can tell, there isn't much to be afraid of around our house, but if someone considered causing a little trouble, I'm fairly sure Roxin would make them think better of it.

The only people I have seen break his focus are his children, and Townes. They first made a connection when Townes learned Roxin's name. Townes would wake up, look out the window, and yell "Roxin, Roxin". Roxin would dutifully emerge, give a slight wave, then head back to his post. A friendship was born.

Now that Townes's vocabulary has expanded, you'll hear "Does Roxin fly? Nooo, Roxin doesn't fly" as well as "Bye Bye Roxin" as Townes heads off to school every morning and afternoon.

Thanks for watching out for us Roxin!

Esther, or "Me tamfo", trans. "My enemy"

When I first came to Ankaase 10 years ago, Esther was working at the house with the Doctor's family. We would hang out in the kitchen or in the backyard as I would do my laundry. She recently reminded me of one evening where I came to her house and helped to shuck corn.

Esther is warm with an infectious laugh and her wide network of friends never ceases to amaze me; as she was leading Kacey through Kejetia market, she would constantly greet all of her friends working in the stalls, each of whom she refers to as her "sistah". Considering that Kejetia is the largest open air market in West Africa, she has quite a few sisters!

She is also known as Me Tamfo, or My Enemy. When I was first learning Twi, I would confuse Me Damfo, My Friend, with Me Tamfo, My Enemy. After making the mistake several times, we eventually settled on calling each other "Me Tamfo".

Esther now works in Kumasi, so unfortunately we didn't get to see her much this trip. We'd occasionally catch her when she would come to tend her small cocoa farm in Ankaase. Tonight she came by to teach Kacey how to make groundnut soup - it was good and spicy!


Ralph is from the Volta Region, but now lives in Ankaase. I first met him 10 years ago when he worked construction at the hospital. He now has his own shop in Ejuretia (about a 10 minute walk from Ankaase) where he welds and fabricates. Whenever you ask him how business is going, his response is "as usual, small small". Ralph's a friendly guy and always good for a quick chat on the way to the pre-school. We had tried to weld a chin-up bar behind the house - but I think the governor's pipe wasn't quite galvanized enough (?) - regardless, I decided not to push him too hard and it was never built!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Me oh my how the time does fly

3 months - already gone. It's hard to believe, but we are making our preparations to head back to Accra on Friday. Ghana has treated us very well - we've seen Richie and Maggie's school mature into a well-functioning preschool, full of happy kids. We've had the chance to reconnect with some friends from 10 years ago, and make a few new ones along the way. Kacey is now a full-fledged Ghanaian chef, with a few new recipes to spice up the Buckley kitchen for years to come, not to mention Townes' tolerance for hot food.

School kids in Ghana have a great way of sharing praise. The teacher will ask the kids to clap for Townes, for instance, and so all the kids will perform a modified clap: [CLAP], [CLAP] FOOOOR TOWNES! The "for Townes" bit being reflected by the kids pushing their palms outward and sending the praise his way. It's a great way to share the love.

For those who have kept up with us in the blog for these last few months, we appreciate your continued interest and look forward to sharing more adventures from Tanzania!

But for now, we'd like to say,


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Yes, my very own ball - safe enough so that even Jesus could play with it.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What happens when I let a kid borrow my camera

These were taken at the beach several weeks ago. A kid asked if he could borrow my camera - here are 5 of the 150 pictures he took.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Candlelit Dinner for Four

Rainy season has lasted longer than expected and we've had some impressive thunderstorms in the past week. Our electricity has held up pretty well and usually only blinks out for about a half an hour at a time. Except on Monday evening we lost it for about twenty hours.

Not much to do but pull out the candles and enjoy the ambience with our friend who was visiting. Coy offered to make the pepe sauce with a mortar and pestle in lieu of a blender. It turned out quite nicely.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Different Perspectives

One Ghanaian imagining how it would look to fly over a city.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thanks, Goat.

Drums - another one in a long list of captivating things about Ghana. Years back, I visited James, one of the premier drum makers in Ghana, who makes drums for the Ashanti Chief, visiting dignitaries, etc. He's a talented guy and makes beautiful drums of various shapes and sizes. James and I talked for a while about drum making: the Tweneboah wood used for the drum body, how to tune the drums by adjusting the depth of the pegs, and getting the right goat skin for the drum head.

The leopard drum is one of the more interesting. The leopard drum wasn't designed for playing, but for scaring off the enemy during battle. When the drumstick is moved in a circular motion around the drum head it actually sounds like a leopard's roar. Tradition has it that the Ashanti warriors would hide in the bushes, making leopard noises with their drums and successfully fend off larger armies.

James made one of the leopard drums for my brother 10 years ago. After Marshall tired of making the leopard drum noise every morning after he brushed his teeth, it quietly sat in the corner mostly untouched. I suppose dried goat skin could smell a bit like goat jerky, which caught the attention of a bored dog and led to the consumption of half the drum head.

I'm not sure how well it digested, probably like an old shoe.

A new drum head is on the way. I suppose we must only feel sorry for the goat.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coming Soon to Comedy Central

Townes’s sense of humor has been developing and we think his first attempts at jokes are pretty hilarious. Usually he hooks you with talking about animals. “Doggie tail,” he might say or “Cat tail.” Once he has you agreeing that, “Yes, a doggie has a tail” then he gives a little grin and tries out “Daddy tail.” When that gets a laugh, he’ll go back to listing some things that have tails before inserting “Emma/momma/Townes tail.”

His other big joke uses the same approach but with a slightly different punchline. For this one he names things that fly...”Airplane/Bird/Butterfly/Bubbles/Helicopter fly” before tossing in “Daddy fly” followed by a wry little grin and a “Nooooo!”.

His third joke involves a prop. Duck Hat:

Get it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Living in a village, you realize that you took some of the small things for granted; like purchasing a bottle of bubbles, which is almost impossible outside of a 6 hour drive. As we approach the end of our bubble supply, we'd like to look back on the good times - and valuable distractions - that bubbles have given us.

Bubbles, we thank you.