"The greatest oppression is to those that don't truly know they are not free."

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I have been in Tanzania for 2 weeks now. I live in a mud hut with a family that has 7 children though only 4 still live at home. I sleep on a wooden cot with a mosquitoo net hanging overhead from a branch that sticks out of the mud-daubed walls. I eat plain bread out of a bag with chai tea in the mornings. I take about 7 different pills and vitamins in order to avoid malaria, scurvy, and constipation. I eat one of 4 different meals for lunch or dinner: rice with beans, beans with potatoes, beans and corn, or a grits-like mash with spinach called ugali. I have lost what I estimate to be around 4-5 pounds judging by the expansion of my clothes around me and the degree that my ribs stick out. I work on site digging trenches, gardening, hoeing, etc. I teach HIV and AIDS prevention  3 days a week in a high school to a class of 40-50 16-20 year olds. I teach a class of elementary students in the local village twice a week.
But the absolute joy of my teaching expereince is in tutoring 7-year old Farajah every day in our children's home. Farajah was orhpaned at 4. Both parents died to AIDS. He was the only person at his mom's side when she died. He has an older sister, age 10, who also lives with him at the OHS children's home. He is the sweetest boy, full of energy, physically talented, with the biggest eyes that show straight to the center of his little heart. He is in 1st grade but he cannot read. So I am teaching him. And he is learning and learning fast. I tell him I love him because I really do. And he loves me too. We get along famously.
I am always dirty here. There is no way to avoid it. We live in dust and dirt and clay and sand and mud. Those "Save the children" spots on TV in the States show the kids looking so pathetic and dirty.Well we may not be living in luxury, but dirt no longer conveys a sense of helplessness to me. Dirt is merely a way of life.
Africa is home to the most stunning vibrant and unreal sunsets in the whole world (at least the parts that I have traveled). I love to climb the hill behind our site and see the whole village sprawled out below and the mountains in the distance and the deep reds and fiery oranges washed with a rare purple.
Everyone here is called "mama" or "baba" or "brother" or "sister". And we really do feel like family. We dont know everyone. But anyone is always welcomed to anyone's little mud hut for a warm meal, some hugs, and some belly laughs.

More to come from the land of Safari, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, the Masai Tribe, and AIDS.


  1. And I love YOU! I am proud of you, baby.

  2. Joanna, How is the Swahili coming? Grandpa Gary

  3. Joanna,

    Mimi wanapaswa kuulizwa wewe Jinsi nzuri ni Kiswahili wako?


  4. Tanzania sounds amazingly beautiful, dust or no dust, I'm living vicariously through your evocative language. :) miss you, stay healthy and safe. Love you much.
    Karis =)

  5. Oh J-Liu....Reading your blogs makes us miss you so much.
    We have been counting the days now until you return. Claire talks about you often.
    Connor prays for you. Skyler points to scooters and says "joanna."
    Heart U sister!

  6. Bless you, my new hero!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral