Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #10

Hey Wazungu!  Image from visittanzaniasafaris.com
From The Rough Guide to Tanzania:
Mzungu (plural, wazungu) is a word white traveller will hear all over East Africa -- children, especially, take great delete in chanting it whenever you're around. Strictly speaking, a mzungu is a white European, though Afro-Europeans and Afro-Americans need not feel left out, being known as mzungu mwafrikana. Asian travelers will have to content themselves with mchina, and Indians mhindi.
The term was first reported by nineteenth-century missionaries and explorers, who flattered themselves to think that it meant wondrous, clever, or extraordinary. The real meaning of the word is perhaps more appropriate. Stemming from zungua, it means to go round, to turn, to wander, to travel, or just to be tiresome. However weary you may grow of the mzungu tag, you should at least be grateful that the Maasai word for Europeans didn't stick; inspired by the sight of the trouser-wearing invaders from the north, they christened the newcomers iloridaa enjekat: those who confine their farts.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A childhood dream realized! I'm doin' the Puyallup!

Like a lot of people who grew up in western Washington, I see the Puyallup Fair as an annual tradition. And, no, I don't care that it's been renamed the Washington State Fair. It's simply THE Fair to me.

I try to go every year, and I love it every time. I love seeing the biggest dairy cow, the biggest bull, and the biggest pumpkin; voting for the best grange display; eating food on sticks; watching the hucksters (to whom I mean no disrespect with that label!) selling their wares; cheering at the draft horse show; and trying to decide if *this* is the year when we'll finally buy that wooden sign for our house. Oh, and the people watching.

And I love the Hobby Hall. Every year I walk through it thinking, "some day I'll submit one of my collections" ... but I never do. Until now.

I submitted my paperwork not long before the deadline; first completing an online application, then sending in photos of my collection... And then I waited. And then I got THE LETTER!!!

And then there was panic. I had been assigned a "medium case", dimensions approximately 4 feet high by 6 feet wide. OMG, would I have enough medals to fill it? 

I pulled all of the medals off the picture rail in my office, and lay them down on the floor ... 

Well, yes, I *do* appear to have enough medals. And then some. But then the problem of how to display them? I pretty quickly came up with the idea to have some wooden supports with hooks in them, with curtain rods resting on the hooks. I realized the structure would be even stronger -- and allow for a better "tiered" display if I leaned it back on the wall ... and then I realized that I didn't need a "back" and "feet" ... I could use the case itself to support the display.

I used my 9th-grade geometry skills (Mrs. Nixon, I know you were smiling down on me!) to sketch out the support, figure out the length of the hypotenuse (yeah!), and the correct angles so that the boards would lean evenly against the back wall and the floor. A trip to Home Depot with some precarious lumber hauling, some help from Eric and his Very Big Saw, and I had the support boards ready to paint.

if you look closely, the boards say STUD
A lick of black paint later, and it was time to get the hooks on. I decided just to put one coat of paint on the boards, which left them with a "stained" look that I liked.

Okay, the "getting the hooks on" part was ... rough. Our ancient drill seems to have finally given up the ghost, so there was a night-time trip to Home Depot to buy another drill, some cursing, and such ... but I did get them on, along with some anchor brackets on the feet, and then tried it out on a wall in our bedroom. Woot!

Honestly, I can't tell you how satisfying this was!

Then yesterday I loaded up my car with tools, the boards and rods, a bunch of fabric for a background, and a whole lotta medals and drove down to Puyallup. I was super nervous and excited ... when the security guard met me at the gate, I could barely explain what I was doing there and why. I'm guessing he's seen it all before. I got a parking pass and was told to just drive around to the Hobby Hall.

I parked across the "road" from the Hobby Hall, trying to stay out of the way because I knew I would be there more than an hour.

The Hobby Hall ladies welcomed me with a smile -- gave me my paperwork and two one-day passes to the Fair (a nice surprise!) and showed me to my case, #38.

First I staple-gunned fabric to each side and just around both back corners. I cut the fabric a little longer than I needed to so that I would have some overlap on the bottom.

I then installed the support pieces, quickly bolting them to the floor and installing the top hook on each one (which, because of the length of the screws, actually was bolted to the back wall too). The side supports were just a little way from the side walls to allow for room on the rods, and I just drilled through the fabric.

Then I staple-gunned the fabric to the back in two sections, overlapping it around the center support. I left the fabric long so that I could drape it on the bottom of the case and cover the brackets. I seriously can't tell you how relieved I am that it all worked and looked nice and clean.

The case next to mine (playing cards) was partially decorated when I came in, but there was no one else who came in to set up their cases until midday on my side.

Then it was time to start hanging up the medals. I had some some rough organization at home, just for a sense of what should go where, and had decided that the first two rows should be my runDisney medals. What's funny is that, as I was working, the Hobby Hall ladies would come by to check in, see how it was going, whether I needed any help, etc., and one of them told me later that she thought my collection was of Disney stuff. Well, looking at the top row, I can see why!

I had decided that rather than try to hide the ribbons, I would just use them as added color on the background. So each medal is pinned by its ribbon and hangs off the rod.

The two runDisney rows done, I turned to my Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series medals -- apparently I had enough not to need to feature multiple "Heavy Medals" (earned for running two or more events during a year) ... in fact, I wasn't able to display either of the new series of Heavy Medals. And since RnR medals tend to be a little smaller than the honkin' runDisney medals, I was able to "stagger" them a bit and put more of them on the row.

Then I decided to display some "unique" medals, such as my two glass medals (Wineglass Half and Center of the Nation Full Series medals), my wooden medals (Oak Barrel Half, Lakefair Half, Grandpa's Half Bone, Grandpa's Wish Bone, and Run Like the Wind Half), the funny painted metal  medal from Hartford Half; our Mainly Marathons series medals; the massive Sage Rat Run medals, and then some other fun ones (Beat the Blerch, Valley of the Trolls, Inca Trail, Caribbean Running Cruise, Chips 'n' Salsa).

On the fifth row I decided to feature a bunch of my "50 States Challenge" medals, in no particular order ... along with a few from Seattle.

And then in the sixth and final row, a bunch of other race medals, mostly from Seattle. Phew!

Then came the big decision ... do I keep it simple, like this? Maybe add in my Half Fanatics and Double Agent shirts? Or do I add some of my race bibs?  In the end, I went for adding a bunch of my favorite race bibs, along with my HF and DA shirts. Originally I tried safety pinning the bibs to the fabric on the sides, but that was too difficult, so I pulled out my handy staple gun again and just attached them that way.

And that, my friends, is my medal display. Gaudy? Oh yes.

The Puyallup Fair .... okay, Washington State Fair ... runs from September 2 - 25 (closed Tuesdays). The Hobby Hall doesn't need to be your first stop -- by all means, get scones or a crusty pup first -- but do swing by and check out all the quirky collections.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #9

The national flag of Tanzania combines the colors of the old Tanganyika and Zanzibar flags. Green stands for the land, gold for mineral wealth, black for the people, and blue for the sea.

Source: Source: Jay Heale & Willie Wong, Cultures of the World: Tanzania. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #8

In the late 1990s Tanzania developed and published their "Development Vision 2025" -- an ambitious plan to lift the country out of poverty and move from being one of the world's least developed countries to being one of the middle-income countries. The vision targeted five main attributes:

  • High quality livelihood
  • Peace, stability, and unity
  • Good governance
  • A well-educated and learning society
  • A competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits
The Tanzania development Vision 2025 seeks to realize patriotism, nationalism and to strengthen national cohesion of all the people in society, taking into consideration current environment in the economic, political and other relevant factors. The national cohesion will be realized only when the implementation of the Development Vision entails equal opportunities for participation of all the people and the same opportunities extended to all people for the enjoyment of the fruits of its achievements. The formulation of the Development Vision 2025 has been realized through a national consensus which involved extensive consultations with the various groups in Tanzania society in the form of workshops, interviews, meetings, etc. It is emphasised that the Development vision's implementation be equally participatory. For it is only through such a participatory process that the Development Vision will acquire a people-centred and people-driven character which is the main foundation for obtaining the people's genuine commitment towards ensuring the realisation of their goals.

Source: Tanzania Development Vision 2025, http://www.mof.go.tz/mofdocs/overarch/vision2025.htm

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sometimes you're the porcupine, sometimes you're the raven.

I ran a half marathon just outside Juneau the other day. The course was a double out and back, run along a fine yet sparsely trafficked road on Douglas Island. On my first leg out, I noticed what seemed like an ENORMOUS pile of offal on the edge of the road: stomach, intestines, various squishy things. But I didn't spot a carcass. This comforted me, slightly -- surely a large predator would have eaten that, so perhaps a careless hunter had field dressed an animal and abandoned the innards?

I didn't notice the pile on my way back -- after all, I was on the other side of the street. I also somehow missed seeing it when I went back out for the second lap. I was struggling, a little, by that time and was just thinking about my breathing and keeping my feet from slapping hard on the wet pavement.

But on my second "back" -- the home stretch of the run -- having been fortified by cheerful high school XC runners bearing brownies and Dixie cups of blue Gatorade (my FAVORITE), my spirits were lifted even higher by the chirpy "ho-ho" of ravens in the trees.

I saw one large raven off to the far side of the road, worrying at something, then looking up and staring. I moved across the road for a better look and noticed he was pecking at something... and gobbling beakfuls of flesh. I couldn't help myself and I had to move closer. As the raven hopped away, I realized it was the remains of a roadkill porcupine, much of it eaten away.

Much of the porcupine's upper body had been stripped to the bone, the quills on his backside protecting his nether regions for now. The great big pile of innards had been pulled out and discarded by the choosy ravens.

After we finished the race, I chatted with an old friend about life, how things were going, etc. I told him about the raven and the porcupine and we both said, "Sometimes you're the porcupine, sometimes you're the raven."

I've been feeling a bit like the porcupine lately. And when my friend told me how much he liked a particular discontinued item and wondered if I could help him get some, and that if I ever left the company I should secure any remaining stock even if it meant combing through the warehouse by myself, I blurted out, "Yeah, about that... I got laid off on Wednesday."

Cure awkward split-second pause as amusement-then-disbelief-then-anger all flashed across his face. Probably the same way as it did across mine when my boss's boss told me the news. Of course, in that room in that other state my focus was on holding a poker face and internally repeating "don't cry, don't cry", and while he droned on about "headwinds" and "tough decisions" and "how hard this is".

NOTE: Should you ever find yourself in a position to lay someone off, don't tell them how hard it is. It's WAY harder for them.

Porcupine, meet truck.

Porcupines have lots of natural defenses. Like a porcupine, I thought my quills skills offered a good defense. Branding boss, e-commerce goddess, email marketing maven, UX-pert, word girl, and team builder extraordinaire... But sometimes a big truck still slams into you.

This past week I have definitely felt like the porcupine. But it's time to start feeling like a raven. Not in an eating-roadkill-by-the-side-of-the-road sort of way, but in a traditional creator/trickster sort of way.

The next few weeks will be hard -- no one likes looking for a job -- but this is a chance to stretch my wings. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #7

Tanzania lies just south of the equator, which means that it is hot year round, with hardly any different between summer and winter. About half of Tanzania receives less than 30 inches per hear of rain. Nearly all of this falls between March and May, during what is called the "long rains". There are lighter "short rains" that take place during November and December.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ice, Ice Baby... (Alaska trip day 3)

Our last day in Alaska was a long one. Our flight didn't leave until 8pm, so we had the whole day to explore. 

We woke up on the early side, and the miracle of ear plugs (combined with a Sunday night, I suppose) meant I had slept absurdly well. So we got up, packed our bags, dropped them at the front desk of the hotel, and were out by 8:15. Stopping at the omnipresent Heritage Coffee for another one of their roasted red pepper and feta scones (so good!), we then headed to the bus stop for our adventure. 

See, we *could* have taken a glacier bus at $30pp. Or we could hop on a city bus for $2pp and walk the last mile and a half. Since we had plenty of time -- and since the glacier buses wouldn't run until the cruise ships arrived around 11 -- we decided to travel like locals. 

The bus was spotless, the seats were comfortable, the service was designed to meet up at a central transfer point, and the route, though winding, was interesting as we saw a whole lot of Juneau's neighborhoods. 

The driver called out our stop and pointed us in the right direction, along a nicely paved bike path running along the road to the glacier. 

We were walking along the road, chatting, minding our own business, when we felt a cold blast. Looking up, there it was. GLACIER!

It still astounds me that the glacier is so close ... but we did learn that Juneau is surrounded by a massive ice field, so I guess that's no surprise!

A little farther along, near a trailhead next to a small lake, we saw this sign and giggled nervously.

A little farther along we reached the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which looks ever so slightly like the lair of a Bond villain, complete with downstairs tunnel entrance. Nice little center, with a movie about the glacier, some exhibits, taxidermy (of course!), and a really great gift shop.

We had hoped to hike to Kettle Falls (seen in the center of the photo above), but the trail was closed due to flooding. So we contented ourselves with the short walk to Photo Point. With only a handful of people there, and still having people in our photos ... imagine what it's like when the buses of cruisers come in?

I really liked the look of the rocks, all scraped and polished by the glacier. And, well, I like rocks in general.

And, indeed, the view of the glacier from Photo Point was amazing. Interesting fact: we were told that under blue skies the glacier just looks shiny white, but under grey skies you see the bright blue. Or maybe that's like saying it's good luck if it rains on your wedding day ... it's a consolation prize!

I did keep thinking how great it would have been to visit the ice caves, but even the weather today wasn't something I would want to spend 2 hours paddling a canoe in. 

We headed back to the Visitor Center for one last look...

And then we headed out on a smaller trail, the Trail of Time, which had callouts along the way showing how far the glacier extended over the 20th century. It was interesting -- and sobering -- to see how, in under 100 years, the glacier has retreated so far.

The path was quiet and lush -- and for the most part, we were alone.

One huge highlight ... we rounded a corner and saw three hikers. One of them made a scared, "Oh!" sound, then laughed -- she thought we were BEARS. Pity we weren't wearing our bear jackets!

Mmmm. Mossy.

But speaking of bears, we did come across this not long after.

yep, that's bear poop
A little farther along we crossed a stream that was FULL of salmon, all struggling to move up to spawning grounds.

Good luck, fishies. You're gonna need it. And then you're gonna die.

We then headed back to town, where we visited the Patsy Ann statue, a tribute to Juneau's "official greeter". This little bull terrier was deaf, but somehow always "heard" the whistles of the ships as they came in to port, and was always there to greet them. She had run away from two loving homes, and eventually slept every night in the Longshoreman's Hall, but refused to wear even the collar they gave her. She became the most famous dog west of the Mississippi, more photographed than Rin Tin Tin. She passed away in her sleep in 1942, and 50 years later this statue was commissioned of her.

Feeling peckish, we decided to check out Tracy's King Crab Shack. We found a nice spot along the rail, ordered some crab cakes, crab bisque, and local beers, and watched the cruisers get off their boats. We also watched the cooks prepping the crab legs in huge pots... and were amused that the crab legs were coming out of boxes marked "Trident Seafood" ... which is based in Seattle. (Yes, I know, it's CAUGHT in Alaska... but still funny.)

Then we really just wandered around town, poking around in shops looking at things we didn't care about and taking classy photos like this...

(Clearly, today's theme was "BEAR"...)

I bought a small fortune's worth of Glacier Silt Soap ... and then we went to the really handsome museum / archive. Though we were interested by a lot of things, this we loved this 3-story high eagle diorama in the lobby.

Finally, with only a little time to kill, we went back to the Alaska Fish & Chips Company hoping for another pint of the Cran-Spruce beer ... but no luck. So we consoled ourselves with an order of fish and chips and some Alaskan Ambers in the sunshine.

The trip home had a little suspense; we decided to take the bus to the airport, and were even taking an early one ... but it didn't turn up. I called the "help line" for the transit company and I think I might have actually spoken directly to the bus dispatcher... and he told me there had been an accident on the highway. Apparently a truck had overturned and spilled 21,000 pounds of salmon across the road. That's gotta be one of the most Alaskan traffic jams EVER.

We tried calling a taxi, and had just in theory secured one, when we finally saw a bus coming, and sprinted for it. Of course we made it to the airport in plenty of time, even picking up a bit of salmon there to bring home.

This trip was perfect -- we saw some good friends, ran a half marathon, saw beautiful nature, poked around in shops, went to a great museum, and ate and drank well. Already looking forward to our next adventure!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mendenhall Glacier Half Marathon race report (Alaska trip day 2)

This is all my fault. Really. I have never successfully worn ear plugs, and staying in a century-old hotel above a pub ... well ... I should have known that it would be noisy. And I was ready for noisy until 2:30 or so... just not noisy until 5. But there you go.

So I was less than fresh when we left the hotel a little before 8 in search of coffee and a dry place to wait for the ship, but I perked up pretty quickly. And then, ship ahoy!

It was surprisingly interesting to be on the shore and watch a cruise ship dock. There's some maneuvering, lots of ropes thrown, and gangways shifted. We were surprised that there wasn't a huge RUSH of people off the ship, more like a trickle. But we shifted over so that we could see the gangway and watched as Jenny herded her ducklings into a group on the dock before Mila led them up the ramp and over in our direction.

Amusing: we were inadvertently standing behind someone who was meeting the group. Mila saw her, waved, and then spotted us and started waving madly... and then had to explain that she was also waving at us and that she was excited to see us. ("And you, too!")

Quick greetings with John and Jenny and then we piled on buses for the drive to the race start. Our driver, Antonio, was ADORABLE and kept up a steady patter all the way there. One of his jokes went like this:

Anyone else ever drive a bus like this? Me neither. Just kidding. I drove it here. I just turned 16 yesterday and got my license.

I started singing "Happy Birthday", and the rest of the bus quickly joined in. He said, "No, wait -- I was joking" and then just let us go with it. Among other facts, we learned that there are 3500 people who live in Juneau, and 2500 eagles; that the Juneau McDonald's had the third busiest single-day operation, behind only Moscow and Beijing; and that the body of land visible from the Alaska Governor's Mansion, despite what we might have heard, was NOT Russia but was Douglas Island, our destination.
image by Google Maps

We arrived at the end of the road ... really, THE END OF THE ROAD.

image by Google Maps
Along the way we were met by enthusiastic members of the Juneau-Douglas High School XC team, who would staff our water stations and cheer for us during our run.

We gathered, adjusting layers and putting our bags into "gear cars" to keep it dry.

John gave a little talk, explained that there was a 5K turnaround, then a half marathon turnaround, and the half marathoners would run the course twice.

John addressing the troops
And then we were off and running. Because a lot of the people were running the 5K, we didn't actually see them after the start, except when the first bus headed back to Juneau as we came back in at the halfway point.

The course was along a quiet road, and opened up on some amazing views. We got super lucky in that it never more than drizzled on us while we were out running. Must be because I kept my Gore-Tex jacket tied around my waist, just in case.

We spoke to a few of our fellow runners, including Ernst whom we had met on our first Alaska Running Cruise and again on our Caribbean Running Cruise. It was pretty funny when people realized we weren't actually on the cruise, but that John and Jenny had let us "bandit" the race. But for most of the race, we were pretty much alone to enjoy views like this:

We finished just as a bus was loading to go back to Juneau, but decided that we would stay and cheer the runners in. It was nice to stand around and chat with people, whoop when someone came in, and just relax outside. We also had a few minutes to chat with John and Jenny, which is always lovely.

Oh, and we visited the "sauna truck" and quickly changed into fresh clothes.

A mobile sauna in a truck! What's not to LOVE?
Eventually, our final finishers came in and we all piled on to the last bus. As we drove back to town the skies opened up and it started POURING.

Then the real fun started! The four of us went to the Hangar, where we scored a perfect booth by the window and had a delicious lunch. We also walked over to the Bubble Room in the Baranof Hotel, which is much more "old money" than "bubbly", but a fine place to sit and have a quiet drink.

They had to go back to work, so we walked them back to the pier to say goodbye. All the while I was trying to convince John that he really should come to Africa with us. I told him that when I got the information about the safari-only option, I'd send it to him. (ha!)

After a shower and a quick nap, we headed out again to see "Juneau by night". It is astounding how quiet the streets are when the ships sail. And then there was MORE fish (and chips!), more pints different Alaskan Brewing beer, and then -- after a quick lesson on HOW TO WEAR EARPLUGS -- there was a surprisingly good night's sleep.