Planning my Tanzanian Send Off Party

Hey World,

I mentioned a few weeks ago that before the US-based wedding festivities would kick off, there would be a party here in Iringa to celebrate with our co-workers. The details are all finally sorted out, and the shindig is happening after work on Friday, September 2nd!  

 A Send-Off Party is a common part of the pre-wedding celebrations here to kick off the wedding weekend. Although it seems hard to distinguish from a typical Tanzanian wedding reception, it's typically all about the bride, and getting everyone together and excited for the weekend festivities to come!

Our Sendoff invitation! (Written in Swahili by yours truly)


For the last few weeks, I've been working alongside some great coworkers who have helped me plan the sendoff party. Here are the top ten things I learned any good Tanzanian wedding/send-off party needs to have:

1. Easy-to-find Venue
While we are lucky that our office space is going to double as a venue, finding a venue which is easy for attendees to reach is an added bonus. I also realized that 100 guests is a "small" party, which made finding a venue easier for ours than most. Typical guest lists can range from 200 - 500 guests easily!

2. Interior Decorator
There are special event planners that have everything which you can rent for an evening (including set up and breakdown!) -- ceremonial chairs for the couple, head table decorations,  cake stands, and fabrics to decorate every corner of the room! According to my planning committee, the one we've asked to come is top notch.

3. Setting a Color Scheme
Tanzanian weddings are similar to weddings in the US where (often) the bride picks a color scheme for the day. Here, those colors (usually 3-5) are publicized in advance so attendees can coordinate their outfits to the wedding theme! Other groups of individuals may try to get matching clothing or use matching patterns to show affinity to the bride and/or groom. We've asked that everyone decorate with & wear kitenge, traditional fabric that comes in endless iterations of colors and patterns. Be ready for some outrageous colors in our pictures!

4. Selling Tickets
So here's what I think is the best part about weddings here -- the couple sets a price, and you have to pay to attend! Once you pay, you receive a personalized ticket to be used for entry. This helps offset the costs of the wedding, often by a lot! For our party, we are asking for a small contribution from attendees to keep to tradition, but not using it as a basis for our party budget.

A preview of our wedding kitenge with the tickets I'm decorating! 


5. Cake for everyone!
A great TZ tradition is cutting the cake...into small bite-size pieces for everyone to be served by the hosts! From there, the rest of the pieces are served more normally (though still bite sized). One of the best bakers in town is making a (hopefully colorful) sheet cake for our party.

6. Goat Cake
Another great TZ tradition that can happen at big parties like this is a "goat cakie" -- a whole roasted goat that's rolled out, and presented to the groom! B is SO excited for this. I am a little less excited, but roasted goat is delicious...

7. Dinner & Drinks
A large buffet dinner at parties here is served right at the end, as many leave after their bellies are full. We'll push up dinner a little bit so we don't get hangry, but will try to keep as much to tradition as possible. 2 drinks (beers or sodas) are usually included with your ticket! To put a twist on this, we are considering adding some western-style hors d'oeuvres so our Tanzanian friends can try bites of pizza or mozzarella with tomato, and offset our desire to eat dinner early!

8. Music & Emcee
No party is complete without a great sound system, good DJ, and loud emcee to keep the party going! Emcees are particularly important here because there are a lot of traditions to be managed, and lots of people to keep entertained. Two of our coworkers have offered their Emcee services, and I'm really excited to have them lead our friends through the night with their infectious energy. 

9. Champagne Dance
When the party is about to really start, friends of the groom take a bottle of champagne and dance/shake it ALL around the room -- it gets thrown from one to another, spun around, slid across the floor, and on and on until it's super bubbly then POP! Don't worry -- the back-up bottle will be poured for those who want a sip :)

10. Real-Life Music Video
I've saved the best for last, even though it is really the first even that takes place in the party. Bride & Groom get in the back of a truck and parade around town with music blasting from speakers and a procession of friends behind in other vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks, minibuses...whatever you've got!) for a little mobile dance party through downtown. At the same time, a videographer is getting the whole thing down on record -- including reactions of passerby. I hope it is as ridiculously fun as it sounds!

It's been a blast trying to put this together the last few weeks, and it's amazing how much my committee has been able to get done through some networking and well-placed phone calls! B&I have matching kitenge clothing for the party which we had made by local tailors in town, and the contributions from friends has been pouring in. Basically...it's time to party!

Tune in late next week for some pictures & party highlights!

xoxo,
M

#OhManWadiVacation

Hey World,

While this isn't a travel blog, I do travel a lot, and I have a lot of past trips I've failed to share well. SO I am slowly going to post pictures & short blogs on these trips over the next few months, and aggregate the links on a new page for those who are interested!

---

In the beginning of July, Brady & I went to Oman for a long weekend, and managed to have an insanely great time (and cover a lot of distance!) in just 4 jam-packed days of driving and sightseeing.

Also, in case you couldn't have already guessed...the desert is HOT! Like "I feel like I am a rotisserie chicken" hot. Like "Babe, check to see if I'm melting right now" hot. Like "Drinking four liters of water is easy-peasy" hot! Even though I was ready for 100+ degree temperatures, I don't think I was prepared for what that feels like in this particular climate zone. Thank goodness for our car, and air conditioning!

Oman is one of those countries that is definitely worth a visit, and is desperately trying to improve its ability as an 'easy' tourist destination! All points of interest are clearly marked, and the main road system is immaculate. Renting a car from the airport is easy, and the GPS we rented as well was 95% up to date, which made getting from one place to another a breeze...even in the desert!

Here was a quick rundown of our itinerary, with many of these stops a drive-through with 1-2 points of interest:

MUSCAT --> QUARRIYAT --> BIMMAH --> WADI TIWI --> WADI SHAB --> SUR --> WAHIBA SANDS DESERT --> NIZWA --> BAHLA --> JABRIN --> CHEDI @ MUSCAT

I can't imagine spending more than one week here, unless you trekked down to the south and back, and spent more time trying to get into the Jebel Shams (which we opted to skip out on), but to each their own! Faster travel seems to be our speed. 

Below are some snaps from our trip (in no particular order), and the link to our travel video here! If you want to know more about the picture, many have descriptions on my instagram.

Enjoy!
xoxo,
M




































One Month To W-Day!

Hey World,

Our wedding is now ONE month from today! <3 

I cannot believe how quickly the past eleven months have gone by...while a lot of the 'big' decisions have been made for a long time now, we've been keeping busy with the small, easy, last-minute decisions to make sure the entire NY weekend is near-perfect. I can hardly believe there are SO many things to think about!

(Don't worry, I've been keeping close tabs on all of it, and will riddle you with posts about the entire wedding celebration month after it happens!)


To continue with the wedding inspiration I posted a few weeks ago,  I wanted to share some pre-wedding purchases I've been making to prepare for essentially two weeks of wedding festivities AND our honeymoon in Belize! 

Basically, I decided that nothing in my closet here in Iringa is good enough for this momentous month, and therefore, went on a massive online shopping spree for sundresses, jewelry, shoes and not-so-casual casual wear.

Here's a sneak peak of what's waiting for me in Upstate New York:

immediately snatched these up after my Big posted these on her fashion blog!
 Keds + Kate Spade + Glitter = SOLD. 


I am slowly moving back towards longer necklaces, and took the jump with this Akola necklace during a recent sale. PLUS the company supports artisans in Uganda & women in Dallas! 


We all know it: J Crew makes a mean chambray. 
Cannot wait to bring this back to TZ to wear to the office!

Small circular statement necklaces have been my go-to all year -- this one is no different :)

September might not feel like summer to most people, but Iringa is in its winter right now, and I can't WAIT to get in a sundress like this one!


I 100% feel this way every single day...
except on September 17th; then I'm sure to be up and at 'em! :)

Ummm, statement cocktail ring in wedding colors? I think YES! 


This is going to be the "I am so sunburned!" coverup for Belize until the aloe vera kicks in. 
Plus I bought Brady palm tree print swimtrunks so we match! (shhh...don't tell him)


PLUS about a million other purchases. I'm still on the hunt for swimsuits though, so if you know anywhere to buy a few fun mix&match pieces online for a decent price let me know!

xoxo,
M




PS: Wanna match? 
Sneakers  // Chambray Dress // Marble Necklace  // Long Necklace (it's still on sale!) // Floral Sundress // Palm Tree Longsleeve  // Nightdress  // Cocktail Ring


Belize is Booked!

Hey World,

 We're going to be back in the US of A in less than a month to start our wedding celebrations....which meant it was finally time to book our honeymoon.

We'd been looking at Belize for a while as it seems to have an insane amount of all-inclusive packages, as well as adventure-y things to do, some tropical weather, and beaches along the coast to boot...so we finally said YES and booked our tickets!

The trouble then was figuring out how to maximize our five days of vacation in order to hike a little, cave a little, relax a little, and then our two requests: swim a little (Brady), zipline a little (me).

 So this is what we* decided:

Tuesday:
--> Arrive in Belize City @ 11:00AM 
--> Hop on the next water taxi to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
--> Fun in the sun on the small island while staying at a small beachfront hotel

The view of paradise  image source

Wednesday:
--> Half day snorkeling trip to Hol Chan & Shark Ray Alley to see nurse sharks, turtles & sting rays
--> Water taxi back to Belize City
--> Get picked up and head 2 hours inland to our eco-resort (which has amazing TripAdvisor reviews)!
--> Get settled in

Nurse sharks!   image source

Thursday:
--> Adventure #1 day trip (we're thinking temples & canoeing)

GUYS THERE ARE TOUCANS! image source 


Friday:
--> Adventure #2 day trip (we're thinking going to see the ATM caves + ziplining)

Macal River, where we'll be staying   image source

Saturday:
--> Spend the morning at Table Rock resort doing on-site activities (or visit the infinity pool via canoe at a nearby resort!)
--> Head back to Houston in the afternoon



If you've been to Belize/Ambergris Caye and have any recommendations on places to eat on San Pedro, we'd love to know! 

xoxo,
M





*By we, I mean I. I am now designated as the official #TeamGrimes travel planner, with a track record of success in #LetsLanka, #BaroqueButHappy and #OhManWadiVacation.

Tuning In: My Favorite Podcasts

Hey World,

I think I'm the last one on the podcast party, but now that I've joined, I cannot believe it took me so long!

Once I remembered my iTunes password, and then realized podcasts are free on iTunes (!),  I subscribed to over two dozen channels right off the bat -- talk about hooked. 

Since then, I've been "testing" those I subscribed to figure out which ones I enjoy listening to every week, and which ones I had to say goodbye to. The easiest test for me has been the length...I find anything over 40 minutes hard to dedicate time to listen which has made it easier to part with a few highly rated podcasts!

Below are the seven podcasts I've been able to keep up with over the course of the last two months (all of which I highly recommend): 


StoryCorps: If you don't know what StoryCorps is all about -- you should. Every episode has a theme, and each is only 10-20 minutes long, which is perfect for when you need to unwind or do something mindless. Here's the description from online:

"StoryCorps travels the country collecting the stories of everyday people, who get to take the microphone and interview each other about their lives. Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street. Learn more, including how to record your own interview, at storycorps.org."

Basically I now want to find someone in my life to interview for StoryCorps :)


99% Invisible: The description online calls it "A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99invisible activity that shapes our world", which is pretty accurate. Last week, I listened about earplugs that could prevent the prevalent occurrences of hearing loss from soldiers. A few weeks before, how cities/companies use strangely designed benches and odd lighting to keep people moving. This week, it was about a man-made lake in California that's slowly evaporating away. It's super interesting to listen to - and the lengths of the shows change every week depending on the content. 


Freakonomics Radio: If you've read the book, you'll be interested in listening along each week about one crazy thing or another. If you haven't read the book, then maybe the podcast is a great place to start learning about "the hidden side of everything".

 This is the longest podcast I tune into (often 45-55 minutes), but find it a great Sunday morning listen while I putz around the kitchen prepping for the week ahead!


Planet Money: This is a Brady favorite, and after so much exposure, it's made my top list too. What I like most about this podcast is that the show is rarely more than 20 minutes so I can almost finish it on my walks to work! They also have SO many previous episodes and often re-air episodes online, so I'm never at a shortage of having something new to listen to which is interesting. Think Freakonomics, but more succinct.



Smarty Pants from the American Scholar: I subscribed to this podcast to listen to a show that my favorite professor from undergrad was featured on in an interview about his recently published book, but loved the idea of re-visting American Studies, which I loved so much during college, in my working life!

This podcast I usually tune into while doing work at my desk at home - shopping online, paying credit card bills, making my schedule for the upcoming week. It's on average 40 minutes, and  while I sometimes tune in and out, I think it's more beneficial than watching Friends reruns in the background!




She Explores: This was a recommended "new podcast" when I was looking at iTunes, and I'm so glad I subscribed! It's a show hosted by women, interviewing women, who enjoy traveling and feeling connected to the outdoors. Insert #girlpower and rays of sunshine on dirty hiking boots emojis here!

It comes out weekly, and also is about 30 minutes. I put this on during work when I'm doing "busy work" such as data entering numbers, responding to simple emails, or between some Excel number crunching!

Placemakers:
I've saved the best for last because despite having only two full episodes released, this is a highlight of my week! I listen to this podcast while going for walks around my neighborhood, which is fitting, as it's also about urban planning, and the people behind changes in cities. It's hosted by Slate, so if you enjoy their articles, you might also like tuning in to this!


Podcasts on the docket to test that others have recommended:
Serial, Moth, This American Life, Invisibilia, Radiolab, You Must Remember This

What podcasts are on your weekly rotation? When do you find time to set aside for podcast listening? If you have any channels that you think I might enjoy -- especially any inspirational or motivational ones -- let me know!

xoxo,
M