Monday, April 27, 2009

I rode one last daladala

Riding on a daladala is a new experience each time. But sometimes you're just more focused on the dala in front of your own, and giggling about the huge, flashy sticker on its back windshield.
Obama ni Bomba!
Home Boyz
Super Man
King of Glory
Bad Boyz
Sweet Animal

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Places I Have Peed

In the grass by the side of the road outside of the "Professor's Lounge" (it was dark).
With blades of grass poking my ass at a village bus stop outside of Iringa town (broad daylight).
Into a hole the size of two bricks that was somehow made in the middle of a slab of concrete.
In a hut that wasn't tall enough for me to stand up in (it was complicated).
All over my right foot, but I was aiming for a bus stop restaurant's squat toilet (this happened on multiple accounts).
It looked like a fun concrete winding slide for pee- I don't know where it led.
Lots and lots of times in the computer center :D
In the pool at our hotel in Zanzibar (so glad to finally get that off my chest!)
Below the cafeterias on campus- the absolute worst smelling place you can imagine.
On almost every floor of my dorm, usually on account of walking up stairs with a full bladder is painful.
With Mary listening.
With Mary watching.
With Mary talking to me.
All over myself when a half-squat over a western toilet went horribly wrong with ricochet action.
In the US Embassy (it flushed automatically!!! AND there were paper towels).
Everywhere I've ever drunken a Safari.
NOT in the ocean.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It Smells Like

There is your own personal crystal clear waterfall just one inch in front of your face. Behind that waterfall there is a bouquet of aromatic flowers, all the blooms facing the falling water. Every time an air pocket breaks the stream, a whiff of the pedals behind rushes through to greet your nose. As you breathe in, pause, and exhale, the water falls in a solid stream, and it seems just as you are ready for another breath a small bubble in the water erupts again allowing for the scent from the flowers to slip through. You know the flowers are there. For the most part you’re content seeing the water sparkle, but on occasion when you get a glimpse of the flowers beyond through a tiny air pocket… that’s when you can forget your desire for the next deep breath.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And Then, co-authored by Tacy and Adrienne

So we finally left the dorm after noon and went to buy provisions for later that night
and then we got on a daladala and headed to Ubungo,
and then boarded a daladala to Posta and I slept the whole way
and then Tacy held Adrienne's head so it wouldn't wobble around
and then, waking up in a daze, we all bought ice cream
and then we got on the ferry and crossed the bay
and then we awkwardly flustered within a crowd and a man had to walk us to the correct place to catch our next dala
and then we boarded that dala and lazily entertained the boys trying to speak to us in Swahili, Mary gave one her number
and then we walked and bought juice and water at a small storefront
and then we continued walking as the dirt road curved to the right and eventually came to the beach
and then we walked down a small path to the beach as grasshoppers hopped around our feet
and then we ended up following a dreaded rastadude, named Captain, to a half-built hotel
and then we saw a small room, with one bed, no water, but AC and a fan, and a mirror coffee table
and then we tried to bargain and failed
and then Tacy broke the fan, and we thought there was no light
and then we went to the beach and swam with all the jelly fish and Tanzanian men that had decided to latch on
and then Mary left and took a walk on the beach with the boy from the dala
and then Captain tossed a live jelly fish onto the beach... then everyone poked it
and then Tacy and Adrienne made chipati sandwiches by wrapping up parachichi with steer's salt on the beach
and then somehow the sun set and we decided we needed to find Mary. Captain smelled her out.
and then we drank safaris at a bar on the beach where we met a Canadian that is in the mining business
and then we drank a bottle of wine...
and then we...
and then I danced a lot to Bob Marely by myself on the dance floor... 'cept for there were two other people, though they weren't invited to dance with me
and then we moved the party to the beach, one man brought a jembe and everyone brought their voices
and then a man in a white wife beater, glowing in the moonlight, with fine dreadlocks pulled into a ponytail underneath a hat, rapped in Swahili to the beat of the drum
and then, for just a few moments, I was mesmerized by how bright the moon was and how I didn't think I had control over keeping the beat of the drum with my hips
and then we all decided to jump in the ocean again
and then we floated on our backs and looked at the stars
and then Captain threw me over his shoulder and ran into the water while I was kicking and screaming, Tacy told him to put me down
and then we swam to shore and danced in the moonlight just a little more!
and then the three of us girls began our trek back to the unfinished hotel where we were the only guests- two of the Tanzanians walked with us, how "sweet" of them.
and then we drunkenly ate bread with peanut butter by my flashlight and swiss army knife
and then we all went to sleep in the same bed, with our sandy feet hanging off the end
and then we woke up in a sandy mess of a bed and Mary had a headache
and then we headed back to the beach for a girls-only morning swim (plus the jelly fish)
and then we lathered each other with suntan lotion but were still convinced we were burning at ten o'clock in the morning
and then we began our journey home: the ferry, multiple dalas, and a good nap on the ride to Mwenge
and then we TOOK SHOWERS!!!
and then we looked back, tried to remember the events of the night passed, and narrated all that we could recall in "and then" format

Friday, April 3, 2009

Conversation of the Week

"Oh my god, did I tell you that I left toilet paper in a national park?! But... I figured it would disintegrate." -Friend to remain unnamed

"Yeah definitely, probably really fast too if it was touching your radioactive shit." -me

"It was neon green and yellow... Man, I hope my guide didn't see me shit behind that bush."-Friend to remain unnamed

Monday, March 23, 2009

Things I’ve Learned About Living in Tanzania

Riding in a bajaji is a cheap way to get an adrenalin rush

Men here know how to move their hips. Damn. But, even if they had hair, they wouldn't know how to flip it.

Running out of laundry soap is like playing with fire

Anything you consider your property is for communal use by anyone who enters your room

It’s hard to differentiate between groping and an attempt at “informal redistribution of wealth”

Salt is necessary with every meal

Sometimes the shower is dirtier than you

A Hot Pink Sports Bra and Gray Plaid Short Shorts

Today's rule: I can't go downstairs until I wash my sheets. Ug.
A set of twin sheets in a wet soapy heap stared at me from the bright blue tub, about one and half feet in diameter. I attempted to mentally prepare myself for the wrist pain ahead.
By the end of the scrubbing ordeal I had changed the water four times before it finally ran clean... I'm not sure which round of water landed me with soaked pj shorts, but I'd like to think that it was at least the water from the 3rd or 4th bucket. Success! My "clean" sheets are now hanging in the hallway outside my room, flapping in the wind against the dirty walls.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Did we just panda that mlima?! A week in Iringa

See the cross? Think we make it all the way up there?
...Might as well try.
Not only was there a cross, but an entire church was waiting for us at the end of our no-set-path-because-there-is-no-path hike.
Then the rains came.
At least we have shelter... fuck, stone shingles. They block the sun- the DO NOT keep out the rain.

We rented bikes:
My knees came above the handles bars each time I peddled and surely the seat was filled with rocks. Damn my butt hurts.
Rain. Again. One and a half hours of biking through the most beautiful place I've ever had a bike and a droplet hit my cheek. First we took shelter at a road side stand- ordered black current juice (sugar water) and waited. When it seemed safe, we decided to forge ahead (Isimila Stone Age Site was our destination). Ten minutes passed, I shifted forward and backward on the seat- no relief.
Seriously? Rain, again?
Quick! There's a cemetery, let's hide under the trees.
Woah, this really isn't lightening up.
"Karibu ndani"
We turned around and saw two young brothers motioning us out from under the tree. One took Samuel's bike and we followed them down a dirt path (that was quickly becoming a mud stream) to their home. A girl named Lilian greeted us- she looked no older than 20.
Lilian, Samuel, and I sat quietly in the living room. None of us having the same first language.
For over an hour Samuel and I looked around at the wall hangings and tried our best to decipher the meanings:
"Don't like it like a poor person"
That doesn't make sense...
More silence.
Our pants were damp, our bags were soaked.
The clouds still looked menacing but the thunder had mostly subsided. Back to the bikes.
We never made it to Isimila- maybe another day.

The trek back:
A peep of a horn would honk and moments later a huge bus would whip by within a couple of feet of our bikes, each spraying us with muddy rain water mixed with exhaust.
An opening in the clouds allowed for sun rays to illuminate individual regions on the mountain sides. With my eyes glued to one of these sun spots to my right, my bike drifted nearly running Samuel off the road.

Ah the sunflowers made the wet workout worth it. The mountains made it worth it. Lilian made it worth it.

Zanzibar as a slave port

The pit was about five feet deep. Rectangular in shape- 7ft by 4ft. Cement.
The tops of four stone statues with the most solemn of expressions, poked their heads above the rim of the pit. A chain link leash snaked around each figure's neck, binding all four together like draft animals.

I stood next to our guide, a Zanzibar native, looking down at the stone faces. I wonder what he thinks of all these white people wondering around this historical slave port site... taking pictures...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snorkeling off the coast of Zanzibar

So many fish! All sizes, shapes, colors and the coral formations matched them in variety!
Then there was the water.
The water was a color I've never seen before. I say that mostly because I'm not sure water has ever made me feel that way before. It was a color that surely nothing besides that water itself could replicate. Knowing that I'll never feel that way again, until I see that very water again, was... well, have you ever seen something so enchanting that it makes you feel the way it looks?
Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you know you won't understand its beauty again until it is physically in front of your eyes? Remembering, even looking at a picture, cannot replicate the emotion it provokes. That was the color of the water, the color we were surrounded by, it went for miles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

a weekend in the Usambara Mountains: Two American Girls get really lucky

My phone rang and I immediately peed on my right foot- squatting and answering my cell is a balancing act that I don't enjoy.
"The bus is leaving, like now!"- Mary
Shit. I hiked up my ankle length skirt above my knees and, with a roll of toilet paper in my right hand, sprinted past men barking "mzungu, mzungu!" followed by other muddled questions and exclamations in Swahili.
There it was, my bus that I had patiently waited on for one and a half hours after the departure time finally getting going. I hopped on, while it was rolling, and saw Mary's relieved face.

Not leaving Dar es Salaam until 2:30 was going to put us in Lushoto around 8:30, after dark- not good.
Across the aisle and one row up I could see English written in a notebook of another passanger. Perfect- a male that speaks English, couldn't have asked for a better scenario. After some hours on our Shambalai bus, without AC, I secured the notebook with English inside- a fair trade for my Lonely Planet Tanzania guide book. Mutual curiosity worked in our favor and our new friend personally escorted Mary and I all the way to the doorstep of our hostel.

Day 2
The guide books all recommend NOT accepting random tour guides... but, only 4,000 shillings? Eh, why not? Let's go.
Oh my god, is he running up this mountain? Why am I running up this mountain?!
Two hours later my legs were a little shakey and every muscle in my body was a bit confused as to what it could have done to deserve the abuse. Even my somach, and probably my dear worms, was twisting in rebellion to the cup of sugar cane beer.
My entire left leg dropped off the narrow path up there (and longed to continue down the clif to avoid flexing again) but I was able to catch myself. However, once on a semi-level, downhill sloping dirt road, a couple of pebbles managed to completely take me out.
Beautiful: I drank beer from a cup at a villager's house, ate raspberries off the vine without washing them, have dirt rubbed into open wounds and a trickle of blood headed for my once white socks. Nimechoka sana!
Damn that view was worth it. The vegetation, the people, the soil, the clouds, the air, and oh those mountains!- I cannot express the sight. Any description I would give could no do them justice. Visit the Usambara Mountains when you get a chance (and make sure to pick up a random guide).

Back in town we switched hostels and headed to find food- a banana milkshake never sounded so good.
Our friend from the bus met up with us while we were dining and then proceeded to give us a town tour of Lushoto. We recieved a speech on "developing and maintaining" relationships and soon found ourselves being served peanuts and chai at his parents' house.
The night came to a close with Mary and I clutching our stomachs after devouring two boxes of cookies. Happy Valentine's Day.

Day 3
By a tree
In a bucket
In another bucket
In the grass outside the toilet
In a toilet! (many times over)
Ugali tastes bad the second time around... I heard a voice in the back of my head, it was my professor back in Dar saying, "Oh, that's what they prescribed you? If you even think about getting near alcohol you'll vomit like hell."
Why am I only now remembering those words of caution? Was the sugar cane beer worth it? Was it even the sugar cane beer's fault? I may never know.

Day 4: We need to get out of here!
The Super Sketch:
Kweli? Our bus isn't coming? Just get on that one going to the village of Mombo?
Ok... We did as we were told.
Shit, that one has my bag!
So we paid 12,000 shillings each for pieces of paper with our names spelled Merry and Edrian with 'Fresh Coach' written across the top.
We waited.
I have to eat one of those (it's been over 24hours since I've kept food down). I blotted the greasy potato samosa with my "ticket".
The bus is full? What? You have a small car waiting?
Who are these people? I hope they're heading to Dar... they seem nice. Haha, they're eating "Merry's" fruit!

I woke up at the sound of a police man's voice at the driver's window in front of me. I had a dribble of drool dried to my left cheek.
"Woah, you look like you've been throwing up for days." -Mary
"What's new? Ug, is he bribing him?"
"Yeah, think so. I heard something about wazungu and how this isn't a taxi..."-Mary

And so we made it home to Dar! Few! I'm getting new pills for my worms today. And for those of you wondering, the vomitting has come to a close.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Have Worms

Ascaris- they can grown up to a foot long... hopefully mine don't.
Over the next 5 days I will take 30 pills and thus nitamwua!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Royal Waving Palm Trees and the Last Vegetarian Jelly Bean

I wanted to post some picture from our safari in Arusha
BUT this one of the entrance was the only one that loaded...
haha, internet in Africa- maybe another day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Red Soil, Albino Witchcraft Trade, Piles of Fire and a Man in a Tire: A Weekend in Arusha

It was my second hour of reggae accompanied by an African landscape. Scenes of Masai with herds of cattle faded and I finally took out my headphones upon our near collision with a group zebras- thus began my first safari.
Have you ever been in a vehicle without suspension? Only if you’ve felt the sensation of one of those vibrating belts (that women used to use on their butts to get rid of cellulite) on your FACE.
After ten hours of being jostled around in that safari vehicle none of us were in good condition… but we all had pictures of giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants, baboons, exotic birds- you name it, we have the pictures.

So that was our weekend- getting home is a new story:
Hotdog Farts.
The last time I literally tried to breathe less was during a teenage end-my-dependence-on-the-physical-world-FUCK-oxygen phase. Fat man, is it you? And yes, I would love to do some work for your NGO with you. See you Thursday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My mailing address!! You'll make me so happy if you use this.

Adrienne Birt Attn: Mama Kaaya
c/o Links and Projects Office Rm 225
Central Administration Block
P.O. Box 35091
University of Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Road Home From Bagamoyo

I felt a couple of hairs being tugged. Upon turning my head to confirm who was behind me, I made sure to spread a smile across my face. My hair is different than hers: glossy, fine, and straight. Joviette, my Swahili TA, giggled in admittance that it was her fascination I had felt.
I faced forward again and lifted my ponytail so it was resting on the top of my seat and available. "Very interesting," she said in a small voice as she let her fingers glide over my head and run through my pony.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mama na mtoto

don't let his cuteness fool you...

Did we just go off-roading in a 20 foot bus from the 70’s at 2am?

We did! And it was sketchy. And there were men with large knifes by the side of the road when we woke up.

So the day began with Laura taking us both down to the floor of the mall upon fainting. She’s anemic, I didn’t know that! After getting a woman to help Laura to her feet with me we made it to the bathroom. I gave money to a woman doing her makeup and asked her to buy us some juice- thankfully that worked, and I had Laura drinking mini apple juices within minutes. After sitting in a stall for about an hour, I called Tacy and Mary for backup. The four of us trooped across the street to the clinic and had a malaria test and a CBC run on Laura.

Then came the longest wedding of our lives. From four in the afternoon to two o'clock in the morning,

Mama Africa: Friday, January 16, 2009

The day began with a chase. The path to class was “fraught with danger” (haha dad) as Laura and I ran screaming in different directions from a disturbed vervet monkey… Not a pleasant way to begin the morning.

After our first Swahili exam, Silver and Sunday (a couple of Tanzanian guys that live in the hall next to ours) took five of us into town to go to the National Museum of Tanzania- where I got to a see a pretty amazing Leakey exhibit!!

That evening some of the girls and I went to see Mama Africa- contortionists, acrobats, and the strongest, most flexible men I’ve ever seen flipped around in ways I cannot describe nor thought possible for hours. What a show. Getting home went less than smoothly though- Julie brought Rukia, an orphan she’s been getting to know over the past five months, to the circus with us… it was at least midnight by the time we go her back to the orphanage after our bajaji broke down twice. She fell asleep in my arms and I carried her in and out of bajajis for at least an hour. A cold Safari couldn’t have tasted any better after that night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Things that made my mouth drop open

1) We were leaving Mwenge, an open air market, and moments after jumping into a daladala we heard a thud. Did the door really just fall off? Is that guy really carrying it while running along side the daladala?
Granted every daladala I've ever seen is in awful condition... but never had one of the sliding van doors completely fallen off!

2) Tanzanian TV: For the first time the girls and I got a glimpse at a TV when we went to see Todd off at his research flat. The first music video that came on was Ricky Martin and Christina Agulara.

3) Mary and I got really drunk at our dinner with our Professor's family on the beach. Conclusion to this event: discussing strippers and bachelor parties with our Prof's son and nephew.

My Kiswahili TA

"Chini or Japi? When you see them, you cannot tell the boys from girls... Much better not to bring it up." -Kiswahili TA wa Mary, Laura, na mimi.

He's a great guy, but there are certain serious conversions we have that I cannot keep a straight face. Once Mary, Laura, and I have sufficient enough Swahili to communicate about politics and religion, class will be amazing. As for now, the four of us digress each morning for at least 30minutes into English to discuss whatever topic is at hand- be it vegetarianism, polygamy, and communism.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mama Kaaya took my roommate Mac and I to church… we had no idea what we were in for- we certainly didn’t know that it would be an all day event, including lunch with the pastor’s wife and son! Our three hour long, outdoor service (complete with singing, clapping, and lots of crying) commenced around 12:30. Without expectation, I followed Mama Kaaya and the woman who had led our prayer songs down a few winding dirt paths; soon enough we figured out we were being served lunch by the pastor’s wife herself. All together the church consisted of maybe 15 people… I was officially the first white person to attend.

Lunch was portioned from a single large bowl- fermented milk with chunks of corn at the bottom (surely the dish was more complicated than that, but if you can imagine runny yet chunky, sour but plain, yogurt…). After Mac refused more than one bite, the pressure was on to choke down my entire serving- I managed my mission just fine after the pastor’s son, not speaking a word of English, approached me and sweetly dropped a spoonful of raw cane sugar into my bowl and motioned for me to mix it in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Salt stung my contacts, making my swim in the majestic Indian Ocean bitter sweet- similar to so many experiences I have had on this trip. The color of the water matched that of the sky; even the waves breaking reflected the white of the clouds. From the water, I watched my roommate ride a camel across the beach for just 2000 shillings.
And so our sixth day here in Dar es Salaam, our day at the beach, felt like our sixth week. There is no way I could possibly give an account of all that the girls and I have done and been through in our first week here… Seeing people smile, laugh, and hearing them welcome you to their country all while they are sweating more than you, carrying more than you as well as having much less than you hasn’t lost it’s element of awe yet.