Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mzungu Mania, Kuku Carry-On, and Geckos that Fall from the Sky

Here's another non-jump rope post before plenty of exciting jumping news.

Anytime you travel to another country, you're bound to encounter a few surprises. For better and for worse, every one of your five senses will be stirred, but as long as you come with an open mind, traveling can be an amazing and eye-opening experience.

If you visit Tanzania, be ready to stand out. Don't worry about trying not to – you will stand out, and there's not much you can do about it. If you are Caucasian, you'll hear the word “mzungu” a lot – basically, “white person” - and you'll get a lot of stares. Just be friendly. Although the attention took some getting used to, one of the things I love about Tanzania is how natural it is to just say hello to people you walk past during the day. The watoto (little children) laugh and say "mzungu!", then "shikamoo". I greet people with "Habari yako?" or "Mambo?" as often as I can, and I'm almost always met with a smile and greeting in return. I've said it before, but the people here are so kind, friendly, and interested in the well-being of the people in their community.

I ride a dala-dala here on a fairly regular basis. They're very inexpensive, and can get you anywhere you need to get in Dar, which is great because it's a big city, and most taxi drivers will overcharge. The dala-dalas can get a bit crowded, though, since they're the preferred mode of transport for most Tanzanians. The other day, a few seconds after boarding a dala-dala to get back home, I heard a cluck nearby. I looked to my right, and saw a person, who I assumed could not be responsible for the noise. I looked down, and saw two chickens (kuku mbili). Two chickens. In a satchel. Heads poking out for a better view of floor. Sometimes it's the little things that make your day. That was my day-maker.

A few nights ago, I was walking to my room, when a gecko fell from the ceiling. That's right. A gecko, crawling upside down on the ceiling, plummeted a distance of more than 100 times his own height, and landed directly under my next step. I think I must have walked on air during that moment, because he somehow scurried away unharmed, as if this sort of thing happened regularly. I was a bit shaken up.

Napenda mjusi. Napenda kuku. Napenda dala-dala. Sitaki kuondoka Tanzania!

More soon,
Mike

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kariakoo

If you're not yet convinced that Dar es Salaam is an awesome city, the next paragraph should help assuage any doubts.

Today, I took a dala-dala (basically a mini-bus - $0.20 U.S.) into the Kariakoo marketplace. It's about a five minute walk from Mnazi Mmoja, where the Peace Day celebration was held last Friday, and is one of the biggest markets in East Africa. The scene was bustling - packed with people, and filled with just about anything you would want. There, I was able to buy 11 mini bananas, 6 mini mangos, 2 oranges, an avocado, a cup of ice cream, chipsi mayai, and mishikaki for less than $3.50 U.S. I still can't get over how good that avocado was. Probably the best I've ever had.

It's been really fun venturing out into the city and discovering new restaurants and shops. Most of the places don't have names, but if you go out for a walk, you'll pass at least a few within a couple of minutes.

The people I've met are all so friendly. It's going to be tough leaving.

Amani,
Mike

Sunday, September 20, 2009

International Day of Peace

Lots to write about. Last Saturday night, I met with Zameer Noorali, Program Manager for GNRC-Africa. He invited me to perform at an after-school meeting of several different peace clubs in the area. I jumped for about 90 teenagers, and 35 have expressed interest in instruction. Zameer also asked that I attend the International Day of Peace celebration held this past Friday in Mnazi Mmoja. The Day of Peace is not actually until tomorrow, but was celebrated early due to Eid falling on Monday. It was a great event. Probably around 1000 kids, and several different performing groups. There was a lot of great music, dancing, acrobatics, and singing. I'm so glad I got to go.

The kids at Dogodogo are learning fast, and they're a blast to work with.

A few of them can do the T.S. (behind the back cross), many can do pushups and frogs, and they all love 2-in-1 (Two people sharing one rope). Here's a video of two of the boys jumping a short routine they made up yesterday.

video

Athuman, the one on the right, is completely awesome. His English is pretty good, and he's able to understand my explanations of almost everything. From the very beginning, he has taken on a teaching/leadership role with the other kids. He has a great memory, and is now able to explain to the others what causes a mistake, and how to fix it. It's really cool to see. He can do several rope releases already, a pushup, toad, double under, 360, E.B., and is a solid Double Dutch turner.

34 mosquito bites and counting - and that's just from the past few days. Sipendi mbu. Still loving the food, though - I found a great place near the Haven of Peace Academy where I can get chipsi mayai (basically an omelette with fried potatoes - delicious) and mishikaki for 1800. That's less than $1.50 U.S. Amazing.

Much more coming soon,
Mike

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturdays in the Village

Amanda Maxwell, one of the teachers at the Haven of Peace Academy, has helped organize a Saturday morning games session for a group of children in a village near Mbuyuni, Dar es Salaam. They'll play soccer, run around, do puzzles - and now, jump rope. I've gone in with her the past two Saturdays, and had an absolute blast jumping with the kids there. Here are some of the pictures:

One World One Rope Jump Rope in Africa International jump rope Tanzania

One World One Rope Jump Rope in Africa International jump rope TanzaniaOne World One Rope Jump Rope in Africa International jump rope Tanzania
One World One Rope Jump Rope in Africa International jump rope Tanzania

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Performance

Friday was a good day. My first performance of the year took place at Dar es Salaam International Academy. Beautiful school, and the kids were really excited to watch. I'll be working with them on Mondays and Thursdays - in the morning during P.E., and after-school as part of a "Middle Years Program" for the older students. A few of the teachers there are very interested in learning.

In the afternoon, I visited the Dogodogo Centre for a performance and some teaching. The kids were unbelievable. I will say this: Lukas...you've got some serious competition. Jump rope world, meet Amisi.

video

He's 8 years old, and he can do a back flip. Today, in about an hour, he learned a frog, a pushup, and a forward roll kip. He then did a pushup directly into a forward roll kip, and can almost do a kamikaze. I showed him a freeze, and he can hold the position really well. I'm sure he'll be doing it easily with the rope in a few days. Many of the kids were able to do front crosses, and a few learned the toad, double under, and crougar. I taught one kid a nice Double Dutch strength sequence without the ropes, and another is fairly close to the Nederman Pop. If he gets it, I'll post a video, and listen for the sound of jaws around the world slamming into the floor. They all seemed to really enjoy jumping long rope, and there are several natural gymnasts in the group.

One World One Rope Jump Rope in Africa International jump rope TanzaniaI can't wait to see what Day Two with them brings.

Dar es Salaam is a beautiful city. The people are so nice, and the food is delicious. Two mishikaki (grilled beef on a stick) with diced tomatoes and onions is about $1.50 U.S. Best. Dinner. Ever. You all should come visit...right now.

Upendo na Amani toka Tanzania,

Mike