Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #11

Tanzania considered itself one of the frontline states in opposing the South African policy of apartheid. Tanzania was the first country to welcome the African National Congress (Nelson Mandela's political party) after it was banned in South Africa.

Shortly after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he visited Tanzania for the first time since 1962. Mandela visited the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College and met with then-Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #10

Hey Wazungu!  Image from
From The Rough Guide to Tanzania:
Mzungu (plural, wazungu) is a word white traveller will hear all over East Africa -- children, especially, take great delight 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,

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.