Scary Santa

Written by The Tembas on January 2nd, 2009

Esther never seems to mind who is holding her so she was relaxed for her Santa photo. I got these photos in an e-mail and found them hilarious. It takes me back to my days working at Santa Village as a college student. Good times. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Esther and Santa

Esther and Santa


Officially The Tembas

Written by The Tembas on December 29th, 2008

Can you tell where someone is from by their name? In America it helps us tell where people’s ancestors came from – Anderson, Andersen, O’Malley, Nguyen, Chang, Lee, Smith, Sanchez. Both Julius and I had names that don’t give away where we are from. My last name – Bloom – was bestowed onto my family when my great-grandfather came over from Norway and the clerk at Ellis Island felt that there were too many Andersons. Since he was from the village of Blom, the clerk changed his name to Bloom. Bloom is actually more common as a Jewish name.

Jacob is not technically Julius’ family name, it is the first name of his Grandfather. In Tanzania last names can be more fluid. Many people use their father or grandfather’s first name as a last name. However, it seems most also have a family name they can use. Julius’¬†family name is Temba. Just like Nguyen or O’Malley in the States, the name Temba lets Tanzanians know that Julius’ father is from the Chagga tribe. Even more impressive to me is that people who grew up in Kilimanjaro region (where the Chagga tribe is based) would know that his family is from the village of Kibosho, just by the last name. Does anyone know if this is true in other countries?

One Tanzanian we knew in America said that he made sure his children had their family name as a last name. He felt that it would give them that Tanzanian identity even though they lived in another country. We also thought this was a good idea. When Esther came along we gave her the last name Temba. I learned at my job that you can give your child any last name you want on their birth certificate – even one that is made up or one from a deadbeat dad who denied it was his kid (one thing I saw at my job).

This week Julius and I finally got around to legally changing our name to match hers. With a short visit to the county courts it was done. So, we are officially The Tembas! Julius is lucky in that his signature is illegible and he can keep using the same one. I will have to get used to Sara B Temba instead of Sara A Bloom.


Two Years Ago Today

Written by The Tembas on December 21st, 2008

While traveling in Italy we stopped by the city of Bologna to visit Lucia and Valerio, a couple we befriended at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Here we are in November of 2006 after one too many large beers

Beers with Valerio and Lucia

Beers with Valerio and Lucia

Julius told her that his favorite Italian dish was Spaghetti Bolognese and Lucia promised to make it if we visited them when we were in Italy the next month. Here we are in their dining room

Julius with Lucia and Valerio

Julius with Lucia and Valerio

The dish was, of course, fantastic! We still remember the meal as one of the best on our trip. We are still in touch with them and they now have a son, Marco, about a year older than Esther. We sent him a shirt for his first birthday. We received this photo this week.

Marco's Obama Shirt

Marco's Obama Shirt



Written by The Tembas on December 20th, 2008

Winter weather has hit Seattle! We have managed to get out a few times but have mostly laid around the apartment. There has been plenty of snow and ice. Seattleites are big wimps when it comes to winter weather. No one knows how to drive in it. It does not help that most of the neighborhoods in Seattle are hills – Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne Hill, Crown Hill, First Hill (aka Pill Hill for all the hospitals there), etc. Queen Anne Hill is incredibly steep with old maze-like mostly dead end streets obviously laid out before cars. It is one of the richest neighborhoods in the city which means that the streets are lined with very expensive luxury cars.

Why Queen Anne has rich people living there

View from Queen Anne during nice weather

Julius was up there today and reported that all the streets still open (the few that are big enough for melting/sanding) were now lined with dented and scratched luxury cars. Moral? Don’t drive on Queen Anne right now. It can be expensive if they catch you.

On Wednesday schools were closed because there might be snow (there wasn’t). After that embarrassment we were redeemed when snow arrived on Thursday. It was bad. The incident that got the local news really hysterical was today when two buses that went down a steep, icy street on Capitol Hill and came thisclose to flying through a barrier and flying who knows how many feet to the freeway below. This better put us on national news. If Spokane can be mentioned on Morning Edition for breaking some 120 year old snow record, we should be featured for this.

This could have been baaaaaad

This could have been baaaaaad

Forecast for Sunday Рsnow followed by freezing rain and 70 mph winds. Stay tuned.  I just hope we keep power.


The Double Freezer Challenge

Written by The Tembas on December 8th, 2008

After Esther was born my mom moved in for three weeks to help us transition into parenthood. It was great – a custom practiced around the world that has been often neglected in the States. On her first day in our home she quickly decided we did not have enough freezer space. She was right, of course. This problem was compounded by the fact that I cooked a huge pot of Mtori (a Tanzanian soup women eat post-delivery) and loaves of zucchini bread during my nesting phase. With a visit to she ordered us a half-chest freezer and Julius picked it up that day. It was fabulous. Relatives brought meals to stock it along with many trips to Costco and Trader Joes. By October we realized that things had gotten out of hand. Our freezers were both full and we were eating mostly out of the fridge! Thus, our freezer challenge.

Starting in October we decided that we would do no more grocery shopping until both freezers were emptied of food. The only things we were allowed to buy were condiments, milk, eggs, flour for bread and satsumas (they only come once a year and we need to eat them while they are in the stores). It turned out to be a lot more food than we thought. Now we are coming into mid-December and we have about a week and a half worth of food left. We have wittled it down to two packages of chicken, a severly freezer burned piece of salmon (hopefully no more than nine months old), a mexican dish from my cousin, vegetarian chili, shrimp scampi and tail-on shrimp. We also agreed to try and use all the dry goods in the cupboard so we have been eating a lot of beans, curry, coconut milk and rice. I even made a dessert out of the sweet sticky rice that I bought by mistake at the Asian grocery.

It has been a great challenge that has saved us a lot of money on groceries. I, however, am most looking forward to the shopping sprees that we will take to Cash and Carry, Costco and Trader Joes when it is finally over.


Bush in Tanzania

Written by The Tembas on March 3rd, 2008
 Urafiki Kitenge printed for Bush's Visit - Jason Reed/Reuters
During his six day tour in Africa last month Bush spent three nights in Tanzania. President Kikwete is a close friend of his and that friendship has paid off for the country. In Dar es Salaam Bush signed an agreement to give Tanzania over 700 million dollars for infrastructure repair (roads, electricity, clean water) and AIDS/malaria prevention over the next five years. It is the largest gift to date from the Millennium Challenge Corp. Tanzania has made good use of the money given in 2005 so they apparently have warranted more. Kikwete's recent firing of his prime minister and sacking of his cabinet for corruption has further endeared him to Americans and Tanzanians. Bush has been talking a lot about how only governments with strong democracies and less corruption will be getting donations. It is encouraging that the rest of the world is learning what a peaceful democracy Tanzania is. If anything, it will bring more tourist dollars as people flock there instead of their neighbor Kenya.
   In Dar es Salaam Bush made a visit to Amana Hospital in Ilala district. This was the hospital where I trained with the midwives in 2000. A new spiffy maternity unit was built in 2005 and apparently some of the Millennium Challenge money was used to make more units to help with the treatment of HIV and Malaria (hence the visit from Bush). The photos of the outpatient waiting area were impressive. Some good paint, tiles and scrubbing went into that place before his visit.
  Bush spent one day in Arusha to visit a bednet factory, district hospital (built with American funds) and the Emusoi Center school for Maasai girls (the Catholic version of the Lutheran's Maasai Girls Secondary School). He announced today that we were donating bednets for every child under the age of 5 in the country.
        Bush is smart for focusing on this part of his legacy at the end of his term. The money the US has spent on these development projects so far through the Millennium Challenge has made a lot of difference. 
        Here are some links to stories and photo slide shows:
Bush in Arusha
Article about opinions of Bush and Obama with a good gallery of photos
Story about impressive drops in Malaria rates on Zanzibar
        As we watch our tax dollars go to the government we like to tell ourselves that maybe all our money will go to these efforts. :)

Top Baby Names for 2007

Written by The Tembas on January 4th, 2008


Girls' names Boys' names
1. Sophia 1. Aiden
2. Isabella 2. Ethan
3. Emma 3. Jacob
4. Madison 4. Jayden
5. Ava 5. Caden
6. Addison 6. Noah
7. Hailey 7. Jackson
8. Emily 8. Jack
9. Kaitlyn 9. Logan
10. Olivia 10. Matthew


   For anyone in my line of work (Maternity Nursing) this top-ten list from was a no brainer. In fact, I could have predicted the outcome in July. Maybe now people will realize that we weren't kidding when we said all year Sophia is going to be the #1 baby name. Also, I will say that if Jack and Jackson were combined, they would probably be #2. We gets so many people naming their boys that name now. And, really, the Aiden, Cayden, Haiden, Brayden, Jayden, Zaiden trend has to stop (yes, I have heard them all from patients, in countless different spellings).The Addison trend does not surprise me either. The name came out of nowhere and I now hear it all the time.  

  Baby naming is a topic that I have become a bit obsessed with since I got this job. Nothing pleases me more than patients who pick fabulous names for their children. It is an equal downer when people pick ridiculous or super-common names. I do feel bad for the people who didn't realize that Addison would be so common when they picked it (Thanks, Grey's Anatomy).

   At my hospital they take photos of babies if then parents are interested and post them on the website. It is only about 10% of our deliveries, but it is interesting to see the trends. You can search out hospitals in any city to see what names are popular in your part of the country at 

Any of you who have read Freakonomics know how names become trends. For those who have not read it, you can read a summary of the baby name chapter on Slate here and here


Barack my World

Written by The Tembas on January 4th, 2008

    We have been closely following the presidential primary run-up and are very pleased to see that our candidate of choice, Barack Obama, won in Iowa by a wide margin. We have been fans of Obama since his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention. It doesn't hurt that he has some roots in the same part of the world as Julius. While his father has been outed as a drunk, egomaniacal, wife beating, polygamist, Obama never knew him and has embraced the rest of his extended family and many half-siblings in Kenya. Africans are all anticipating that his ties to their continent can only mean good things if he does become president.

    The big question now is if he can keep his winning streak up for the next few states. I am sure he will win here in Washington. Did you all know that his mom lived on Mercer Island from eighth grade through high school graduation? There is an interesting article about her here


Learning Kiswahili

Written by The Tembas on December 13th, 2007

There is an old joke told in Tanzania: Swahili was born in Zanzibar, it grew up in Tanzania, became sick in Kenya and died in Uganda. Julius has taught me that even within Tanzania there is a pecking order as to who speaks Kiswahili the best.

When the Arabs came to the East African coast (almost 1000 years ago) they called the people they met the "Coastal People" or "Sahil". As time went on the word became Swahili. All the tribes along the coast at that time spoke a common language along with their tribal languages. This language became known as Kiswahili (the language of the coast).

As time went on and more foreigners showed up, the language adopted words from Arabic, Portugese, German and English. On the islands of Zanzibar, Kiswahili became the main language for the Africans who were brought there as slaves by the Arabs. Hundreds of years later it is still the only language spoken on the islands. Up to today, Zanzibar's Kiswahili is still seen as the purest in the country, followed by the coast, then the rest of the mainland. Julius grew up in Tanga, a small city on the coast and he gets compliments from other Tanzanians here for his "good Kiswahili".

  I (Sara) have been dabbling with Kiswahili since I studied at the University in Dar es Salaam in 1996. Over the years I have bought loads of dictionaries, study guides, grammar guides, CD-Roms, CDs. I have everything at my disposal. Plus, my husband is fluent! I should be fluent at this point too. When a trip to Tanzania is coming up I cram like crazy, but once home my skills start to fade.

I once asked Uncle Phil how he got so fluent in Spanish (he is a priest for a parish with a huge Hispanic community). He said that he made the decision in seminary to study Spanish for an hour a day. It was so simple and made so much sense! If I studied Kiswahili for an hour a day, think of the progress I would make. I am making a challenge to myself to do just that. Hopefully I can blog about what I am learning along the way, just to make the lessons stick. Kiswahili is not a hard language for an English speaker to learn. There are many rules but unlike English, they are not broken very often.

   Some better sites on Kiswahili and learning Kiswahili include:

Kamusi Project (Yale's enormous Kiswahili site including Dictionary)

Page of Links from Stanford's Kiswahili Department       

Kiswahili Flashcards from the fun Flashcard Exchange Website

Mwana Simba's Swahili Lessons

Swahili Language and Culture

Once you have a handle on the language you can visit Wikipedia in Kiswahili

Wish me luck!


You Tube Makes the World Seem Smaller

Written by The Tembas on December 6th, 2007

Like the rest of attention-hungry world we enjoy posting our videos on You Tube then waiting to see who watches them. The first thing that surprised me with You Tube is how many people post the same videos of the same things. Some of our videos I assumed would be really original ("Wait until they see this video of traffic in Vietnam!"). Once the video is uploaded, however, You Tube will show a list similar videos. We learned quickly that we were not the only people to be entranced by the organic system that is Vietnamese traffic. Hundreds of people have posted videos of Vietnam traffic and many better than ours. In fact, we spent a fun two hours looking at them.

It does make sense that Vietnamese traffic warrants a lot of videos. However, an old street musician in Brussels? He had five separate videos (at least) posted by tourists like us. Lace makers in Brugge, Belgium have dozens as does the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia, splashing fish at the Hong Kong Market and a guy who sings at the Rarotonga Airport in the Cook Islands.

When we do post a video that is original it is pretty exciting. For example, we are the only people to post videos of singing Tanzanian and Ugandan nuns.

Some of our videos have become popular (relatively speaking, of course) and have earned us a fair number of views and comments. Most of this attention is thanks to some nice person posting our video on a discussion board or on their own websites. Our most visited videos are the lace making ones we took in Belgium (which are featured on a website for lace makers) and the videos we took of an Italian Bagpipe player and a Hurdy Gurdy player on an outing with our cousin Maria and her father in Italy. These videos turned out great and are very topic specific so they are posted on a lot of bagpipe and hurdy gurdy sites.

Our whole video collection is posted at

Our Most Popular Video (with 5,553 views so far) is this one of a lady making lace in Brugges, Belgium