The hunt for clothespins


Going shopping is a little different here at Msalato. The biggest change to adjust to has been that there is nothing like the one-stop shopping you can do in the US. Stores here are generally specialized – you can’t buy minor office supplies at the place you buy food, and if you want a printer, your best bet is to hunt down a printer store – not an easy feat! A big part of learning to shop here has simply been getting to know the city of Dodoma and finding all the different specialized stores.

A busy street in Dodoma

Another trick has been learning the names of more obscure items. Ben and I stopped at countless storefronts selling small household supplies and honed our miming skills trying to find someone who sells clothespins. Finally I had the brilliant idea to ask our house mama the Swahili word for clothespins. We are still on the hunt, but at least now we can figure out when someone is not selling them with relative ease!

After we had been into city shops a number of times, we were ready to step it up a notch and go to the city market. We went with our next door neighbor, a native Kenyan who speaks fluent Swahili, and that was a great help. He introduced us to all his go-to vendors for rice, bananas, and all sorts of fresh vegetables. Certain things like butter are extremely expensive here, but vegetables are not, so I think we are going to be eating a lot healthier for the next year!

I spent the night before our trip studying up on Swahili vegetable names and especially numbers, and it really paid off! It was great fun to be able to name most of the items we purchased and understand the prices people told us. Ben and I have been working on our greetings, but adding some marketplace Swahili means I can actually have a conversation of several sentences back and forth with someone. This is even more indispensable at the Saturday market in the village of Msalato A. Ben and I walked there this weekend and business is conducted completely in Swahili or the local language, Chigogo. We navigated the maze of stalls and blankets – still no sign of clothespins! – but my favorite part was that all along the 3 kilometer walk to and from the market we were able to greet our neighbors along the way. I think it made us both feel more a part of our local community to be able to talk and share the common activity of market day.

Navigating the market

The market sells a great variety of foods, from staples like tomatoes, onions, and potatoes to all sorts of spices and these enormous piles of dried fish and prawns. I love seeing all the colorful produced stacked next to each other and I love the sense of abundance when I see huge collections of bananas or pineapples hanging from all the rafters. Ben was on a quest to find hot peppers. We knew the word for peppers – “pilipili”, but we weren’t sure the ones we were offered would really be spicy. We bought a ton of them so we could try different types – an experiment that cost us about one US dollar in total. And they were certainly spicy! Ben drank about three glasses of powdered milk after taking a bite of the most innocent looking variety. Now I am just trying to find a way to cook with them and still be able to eat the result!

Author: Elizabeth Locher

Elizabeth Locher is a deacon and teacher at Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, Tanzania. She and Ben got married in 2010, after her first year at Virginia Theological Seminary. Now she is thrilled to have the opportunity to be walking with Tanzanian students through the rich spiritual formation of seminary!


  1. Dear Elizabeth and Ben,
    I would like to introduce myself – I am Lauren Salminen, Carpenter’s Kids Program Coordinator from the Diocese of NY. I am also a friend of Brian Orlay, who I believe you met at YASC orientation. I have been enjoying your blog and glad to see you are settling into Msalato. This year was the first year in five that I did not go to Dodoma, and also visit Msalato. I missed seeing all my friends, and it is fun to look at your pictures and experience your first impressions. I am in pretty regular contact with Sandy McCann, and absolutely missed seeing her and Martin this year. Right now I’m working on getting Brian ready for his departure and work with Carpenter’s Kids. Please let me know if you still need clothespins in the next month, and I’ll send some over with him! Hopefully I will be returning to Dodoma next summer, and will be able to meet you both.
    I was moved by your words about serving outside of our culture. On a visit to my link parish of Swaswa, I was asked to preach on Sunday. The lesson was we are all one in the body of Christ. Simple enough, but saying those words in front of those parishioners in their little dirt floor church was like being hit over the head. I never before felt those words in that way, and never have since. It is such a clear understanding that we are all one in Christ when you hug a woman and hold her child.
    Thank you for your blog – I am enjoying it very much.
    In Faith, Lauren

  2. Victory is ours! I found the clothespins! And the best part was that the entire exchange I had at that store was in Swahili.

  3. Dear Elizabeth and Ben,
    I am a VTS grad (MDiv 2009), a priest in the Diocese of Virginia, and like Lauren, am associated with the Carpenter’s Kids program. I was the mission chaplain for a group from St. Paul’s in Ivy, VA that visited our linked parish of St. Paul’s, Nzali (about an hour’s drive out of Dodoma) in June 2012. We had 5 adults and 8 teenagers! It was the third visit from St. Paul’s, Ivy but my first time in Africa. Not only did we have fellowship, roundtable discussions, and worship with our brothers and sisters, we also were there to teach English to the primary schoolchildren. Wow. I fell in love with Tanzania – the people, the Land, the worship, …and hope to come back. I am smiling as I read your wonderful entries as they bring back memories. You will be blessed abundantly by your time there. My prayers and thoughts are with you both. Bwana asifiwe!
    Ann Willms

  4. Amen! It is great to be hearing from people who have a connection to Dodoma. And we are glad you both are enjoying our blog! If you come back to the area in the next year we would love to meet up with you. We even have an extra bed here at the house if you wanted to come out to visit Msalato sometime.

  5. How are you my teacher, it is me Godfrey Challo, whom you taught the New testament in diploma one in 2012 to 2013

  6. It has been 1 year now, since you had left back to your home country from Dodoma in Tanzania. I will remember you all (Ben and Elizabeth), by Godfrey Challo your student at MTC Dodoma- Tanzania.

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