Saturday, June 14, 2008
Wow, i can't believe this journey has truly come to an end. It feels like it has gone by so quickly and yet so slowly. When i think of what i have learned and done it seems like ages ago, but i am sad to see it over so soon. My last week in Tanzania was truly fantastic. Abdallah and i left for Mtwara on saturday morning and spent another lovely 10 hours seated on a bus. The drive was very beautiful. It followed the coast for a good chunk of the drive and most of the road was my favourite color of dust, richly tinted with red iron. When we finally arrived two of Abdallah's uncles were waiting for us and after we crossed the ocean to the peninsula where his family lives, there must have been another five uncles at least waiting with bicycles to deliver us to the village.
The ride to the village was a good 12 kilometers and unfortunately it was very dark, so i couldn't see much. But we did pass through a few very traditional villages. When we finally arrived in the village, Abdallah's mother and sisters were waiting for us with a steaming hot pot of ugali and some fish. We ate speedily as we were both ravenous and than tried to commence with conversation. But with my accent and their accents very little was understood with out the help of Abdallah and my part in the conversation quickly drifted. Fortunately it was quite late and we went to bed not to long after.
When i woke i finally got to see the true beauty of this amazing place i had arrived in. The buildings were all traditional mud buildings, some with thatch roofing and others with metal. The front room was usually white washed and used for guests with all the bedrooms in the back. The kitchen and toilet/shower were located in the back yard which was usually enclosed using palm leaves. Surrounding the village for as far as the eye can see were coconut and cashew trees, which provide the main source of industry to the people (other than fishing). Surounding all of this is the ocean which is the most beautiful colours of blue and green, changing with the depths of the water to make an incredible pattern in the ocean.
I got to explore most of this area going to Abdallah's mother's and uncle's farms; where Abdallah climbed the coconut tree in the most incredible manner trying to hunt down defu (young cocuonut) to drink the milk from. I also tried pepu, which is a delicious fruit that grows on cashew trees, which tastes something like plums, passion fruit and soursop all mixxed together. My explorations also lead into the ocean, which was the most pleasant temperature and incredibly salty.
Of course, i did not only wonder through the landscape, but met Abdallah's never-ending family. I have no idea of how many aunts, uncles, bibis (grandmothers) and babus (grandfathers) i met, it was truly astonishing. I do however know that i met four of Abdallah's six sisters and some of their children. Turns out Abdallah's grandfather who had recently died was the cheif of the village which helped explain the incredible number of family members in the village. His grandfather had been quite prosperous which a huge minazi (coconut) farm of at least 2000 trees and even had two wives. They were the most amusing women, one being older and much more serene and the younger women being very large and could not stop laughing. She thought i was the most amusiong thing ever and wanted my hair. So i took a picture of us and put my hair on top of her head (she would have made a great blond (picture to come)). Everyone treated me so nicely, though conversation was at a minimum. Luckily after a day or two Abdallah's sisters could understand my accent and i could converse with them relatively easily.
On top of visiting the village we went and checked out some of the surrounding areas. Msimbati, which was surrounded by a marine reserve that recently had gained a gas well and pipeline. Turns out the company that was incharge of the project was from alberta. Most people seemed relatively happy about the situation and there was no sense that anyone was worried about polluting the marine park. But then people have much larger worries and the gas was bringing jobs and electricity. We ended up hitching a ride back to Mtwara with an old man from alberta who was there training locals. It was quite a suprise to see another albertan and it was very nice to speak english again for an hour. We also went to Mkindani, which was used by the germans as an administrative site for southern Tanzania. There were many old ruins of colonial era buildings including the fourth Boma i saw during my trip. I could see why the germans had chose this spot, as it was directly on the water and was surrounded by coconut trees.
When we finally left Abdallah's sister was so sweet and insisted i needed a present. So i took a cute little woven basket that she offered me. Abdallah's mother insisted i write to her and his uncles all wanted my number in canada. It was a very cool experience.
We arrived back in Dar on friday night, with just enough time for me to arrange my stuff to leave on sunday. So i spent my last two days packing, giving away things and playing with the kiddies. The goodbye fortunately wasn't that bad as that day for some strange reason which i couldn't get out of anyone, there was a drag race through town which took everyone's attention away from us. Unfortunately, it wasn't all good excitement and a man ended up getting hit and killed by one of the cars. I saw my first dead body directly in front of me, as some men were carrying the body to the police station. It was very creepy and i felt rather sick afterwards. The strangest thing i found was that the race continued, no one stopped what they were doing except to try and get a peek at the body. Of course, it makes sense why would these people shut down everything for one dead man amongst 100's that died that day in other parts of the country. But i couldn't help thinking it seemed strange. And that was the end of my trip to Tanzania.
Our flights were all good and after 37 hours i found myself back in canada wishing i was still in Tanzania. How different and strange things are here. Everything is so sterile and devoid of life, without smells, sounds, or sights. Everything is so drab. Anyways canada is good, i have fast internet and a consistent power supply and hot showers.
So sadly my trip is coming to an end but definitely with a splash. I think I last left off on a bus to Kondoa, which any one who has been to a place with shitty roads and shitty buses they won?t have any trouble imagining what happened. The road to Kondoa was dirt of course and had lovely divits dug into it by the continual traffic of cars along it. On top of this the bus company decided to make a little extra money and sell the seats twice sometimes even three times. Therefor the bus was packed with people standing like sardines in the walk way. Fortunately we were there relatively early so we got a seat, not our originally assigned seat of course. Sometimes I feel bad about this because we most likely got the seats because we are wazungus but what can you do I definitely wouldn?t have wanted to stand. We finally arrived after 6 hours of being bumped up and down giving our internall organs, a gentle squeezing which we paid fpr late.
Kondoa is a lovely little town, again seeming a bit like a ghost town. As it is very dry and dusty with few people about except in the main market area. We stayed in a rather nice hotel, once again with squatting toilets which helped our squashed internal organs greatly. Poor matt was constipated for close to five days and thought he would die. Fortunately with a little ingenuity he finally built a toilet out of a bucket, so he could sit and fully relax. But not after having a hell of a night.
Now this lovely night actually happened after two days. The day after we arrived we planned to go to Kolo by bus. But when we bought our tickets they said 6:30am boarding. But when we should up in the morning the bus had already gone (it actually boarded at 5:30am). So we ended up having to pay to take a cab which in comparison to Canada was not that exensive but for here it was. When we finally found kolo. It was a very pleasant town up in the hills and was the most pleasant cool nice, like the early morning when your camping in the summer in the mountains. We sat in a cute little kitchen house and we had chai and chapattis while we waited for the guide to come.
The walk to the rock paintings was very pleasant and definitely not as gruelin as the hike to the waterfalls. The rock paintings were very neat. There are three main sites up some large hills in a perfect place to live, with a large over hang above to protect you from the elements and a perfect view of the valley and animals below. There are two sets of paintings, one which they estimate to be about 5000 yrs old and another about 800. We made it back to town in time for the bus and got to add a third bumpy ride to our list of bus rides. And of course this topped the cake and lead to a night of horrific pain and vomiting for matt.
We stayed in Kondoa another day as matt was unable to travel and on the following day we went to arusha, making it to the bus at the proper time and adding a nother bumpy bus ride to the list. In arusha we met Joseph who had gone to Mwanza with Robert. Arusha was a strange sort of a city. Seeming very much like a western city with wide streets and many wazungus. This of course meant that we got haggled a lot to buy things which of course were far to expensive. But it is a nice to town all the same with cool weather and a much more peaceful feel compared to dar. We went and saw the natural history museum and got to see a court case for the Rwanda genocide tribunal.
We returned to Dar the next day as we had little time and joseph had to catch a plane to return home. So now it is just me and matt and I have just left him in the hands of the residence of mbande and gone to Mtwara with abdalah. But that story aill have to wait.
So it has been a long time since my last email and I have been up to many terrific Tanzanian things. I guess my last adventure began two or three weeks ago, when matt and I decided it was time to go on safari. So we bought a train ticket and headed west to Udzungwa mountain park and after to mikumi national park.
The train ride was delightful with all the cabins divided by gender, I got to spend 7 hours in a cabin with three nuns. Which was actually quite enjoyable, as on the large part they left me alone to read and when we finally did chat we discussed Malaria and the difference between malaria in the west and in Africa. They were quite surprised to find out that we had no malaria and couldn?t accept that we just had no malaria and that we hadn?t eradictatd it some how. It is curious how so many people have views similar to this about the west. I can?t count how many times people have insisted that all poor people in Canada get money and don?t live on the streets and my particular favourite, that all white people are smart. God knows where these people are getting there info, well I guess I do American television.
Back to Safari, we arrived in Man?gula at 11pm and of course got suckered into paying to much for a cab and got taken to the most expensive hotel in town. But the king size bed I got to myself and the amazing breakfast in the morning made it almost worth while. Man?gula is a very quite little town in the mountains surrounded by lush forest and many rice and canola fields. The only tourists who come through are hikers who have come to climb the mountains and rarely go into town as everyone was excited to see us, but not in a jaded way like in Zanzibar.
We spent one day hiking up one of the mountains. We climbed five kms up to an amazing waterfall called Sanje falls which is actually divided into three sections and is the highest in Tanzania possibly Africa? It measures 280m in total and was breathtaking. We ate our luch on some rocks in the middle of the falls overlooking the valley, which made the very grueling climb all worth it. We had hoped to see monkeys and other primates but unfortunately it was wood collecting day, when all the locals are allowed to go into the park and collect fire wood. It is simply remarkable how these young women go up and down this mountain collecting huge bundles of firewood and carrying them back down on their heads. I wish I could do such a thing, although I can carry a bucket of water on my head, I am quite pleased to say.
After Man?gula we caught a bus to Mikumi, which is a peculiar little truck stop of a town again with hardly any tourists except the few who come to see the park. The park is rather small and inexpensive which is why we chose it and we ended up seeing all the animals it had to offer except for hyenas. We saw tons of elephants, giraffes, impala, zebra, water buffalo, duiker and hippos. We also got to see crocodiles, one warthog and a group of lions, mainly female with one juvenile male, at dusk hunting a herd of impala. It was pretty amazing. The park itself was very beautiful and very different from Udzungwa. The landscape was very dry and open but surrounded by mountains in the distance on all but three sides. There are beautiful trees through scattered randomly through out the park including some insanely massive baobabs.
We returned to Dar after five days of adventures to send off nearly everyone we know who decided to return to Canada early. Vinay left for India on the 11th to see his family, Melissa left on the 13th, Sze left on the 15th, Rachel on the 16th and Alex on the 17th. So now we are only three Matt, joseph and myself. After everyone left we returned to our little house in Mbande and played with the kids for a few days and then went on another adventure which I am currently on.
Matt and I went to Dodoma, kondoa and kolo, while joseph went with Roberti to Mwanza (robert?s home town). Dodoma, the nations capital (though it doesn?t seem it) is a strange little city that reminded me of a ghost town from some old wildwest movie. It is very dry and barren with low sand beaten buildings and very few people. Fortunately we were only there for a day and continued onto Kondoa the next day.
That story will have to wait till I get back to dar though as I don?t have enough time to type much more and this is a mighty long email.
Well i didn't go as long as i thought i would as i couldn't handle all the Wazungus (white people) and the inflated price of everything because of their presence. But it was still fabulous. I ended up going with Abdalla, who is the electrician at the Jeshi and has done a bunch of work for us at the house in Mbande. Maybe you were all right and i will come back with an African Husband. (Don't worry mom i will try to restrain myself) We went to Zanzibar on the slow ferry and saw whales. I think they were false killers.
When we arrived in stone town Abdalla seemed to know every other person, so we got a nice hotel right away for a decent price ($14 each). The hotel had beautiful carved Zanzibar beds and looked out on to the crumbling roof tops of Stone town. That evening one of his buddies took us for a walk and then we went to a sweet club. I am embarrassed to say that this was my first real party night in Tanzania and boy did i need it. We danced all night long outside at this roof top club, that played all sorts of amazing music from Bongo flavour to Hip hop, reggae to taarab. It was truly fantastic.
The next day we went up to the North beachs to a little fishing village called Nungwi. What a strange place it was. One half is a very poor, very muslim village which seems very jaded by the tourists who come strutting through town wearing bikinis and spend loads of money but not on local goods. On the other side are these huge hotels stretching down the beach as far as the eye can see, with Wazungus everywhere as well as Maasai and Rastas trying to make a few bucks of them. The hotel was definitely pricier ($35 US for both of us) but the beautiful beach and decent room made up for it. The water was crystal clear unlike near Dar and you can see everything.
That night we went to a neighbouring town called Kendwa for the big monthly full moon party (the main reason we journeyed into this tourist trap). But it was well worth it. We decided to walk along the beach to get there and it was quite an adventure. First we tried to negotiate our way through all the hotels and ended up in this area where new hotels were being developed. The ground was extremely treaterous as it was on the side of a cliff and consisted of crumbling rocks and weeds overgrowing them so you couldn't tell where the holes were or not. We finally foud a spot to jump down onto the beach and had a lovely walk in the moon light. Of course we ended up walking right past Kendwa thinking it must be farther and had to back track for nearly 20 mins. It was quite an adventure. The party was awesome with all sorts of debachery going on. Crazy white kids doing things they would never do except in a country far, far away. Tanzanians trying to get into the pants and pockets of every other tourist in sight. Oh and there was an amazing acrobatics troupe. At the end of it all we caught a Dhow (boat) back to the hotel which ended up costing $5 each.
The next day as you can imagine after two days of partying we were exhausted and it was not pleasant trying to squish onto a packed truck to return to stone town. The one saviour of the day was the amazing meal we had at one of the hotel restaurants. I ate octopus and Abdala had Tuna, it was so good and despite the fact it seemed expensive it was $8 each for a meal you'd pay $50 for in Canada.
After a good sleep, we spent the day wondering around stone town with one of Abdalla's friends who showed us around. Stone town is truly magnificient. Beautiful stone buildings with intricate doors and windows made of hand carved wood slowly crumbling with the very evident poverty of the people who live in them. Such a contrast between rich and poor, new and old on this island. It is a shame there are some many tourists. But i am super glad i had Abdalla and Sabit so i could go into the less touristy areas and not get lost, as it is a most confusing city.
We returned on the night ferry which left at 9pm and arrived at 6am. It was quite the crazy ride as the full moon caused the ocean to be incredibly rocky. Also unfortunately late that afternoon Abdalla got word tht his brother had died that day. Which made for a very long and sad journey home. Life is like that here though, i don't think i have met a single person who hasn't had a brother and sister die, not that that makes it any less sad.
So now i'm at the jeshi trying to decide what to do, travel some more or go back to Mbande and continue my research. Sijui.
The real Tanzanian adventure has truly begun. I moved into the village almost two weeks ago now and am loving it. Mbande, is located just north east of dar es salamm and takes about 1 1/2 hrs to get there by daladala. The ;ast town census showed the population to be 5000 including the surrounding hamlets. It is quite peaceful and very typical of a coastal Zaramo village with the majority of the population being muslim but still maintaining some of there traditional practices.
The first few days were tense and i was ready to pack up and leave, but i resisted the urge and i'm glad i did. The major concerns at first were of course not being able to understand anyone, as they don't speak as clearly as language instructors and the communal living. Being a person who likes my own space alot it was really hard with people continually coming into my house and staring at me or taking things. But i quickly learned to tell them i needed to work and they will leave me alone. (Of course i have become less of a curiousity as well)
The children are amazing they helped me through the first few days, which i mainly spent playing with them or drwing pictures of them playing. The adults are alittle harder to get along with as they are very stuck in their ways and like things just so. But a few of them partidularly Baba Maje (one of my "guards") and mama afidhi were exceptionally helpful.
Life is very slow and chill here. I usually wake up at about 6am and have some chai and read. After i play with kids, do my dishes and possibly wash some clothes. I read alot (Finished three books) and draw and write poetry (which i haven't done in years). On days when other students come to visit usually i help prepare a big meal with the women and we go for a nice long walk. The area is incredibly beautiful bordered by two valleys which are amazing, I would love to have a house in one of them. I definitely find myself getting bored some times but now that i understand everyone i can start my research comfortably.
Yesterday was Mama afidhi's sherehe for her marriage (althopugh she actually got married last summer) In preperation her and i went and got our hair done (I got braids and she got her hair straightened and styled) We also got our arms, hands, legs and feet painted with henna. Here they call it Chola (Literally to draw) and they call the ink piko. I am enjoying it very much as i'm sure you can all imagine and people are know calling me a Tanzaian or Zaramo (depending on where i am).
I also got some clothes made, called Kitamba, and i am going to pick it up this afternoon. I am very excited. This weekend i'm off to Zanzibar for the full moon.
HOORAY! I finished classes on Tuesday and am very glad. To celebrate Matt and I went to Kipepeo beach and spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing. Then we went to Bagamoyo on Thursday.
Bagamoyo is a beautiful little fishing town with a rather dark history. The name literally means “Where I lay my heart down” which is suiting as Bagamoyo was the centre of the slave industry for centuries. It was along the old caravan routes that stretched across Africa and all the slaves from the interior were brought here to be examined before being shipped off to the Arab world or later to
Despite this dark past Bagamoyo has an incredibly relaxed vibe which I needed so badly. Everyone saunters along the road holding hands and chatting with friends and loved ones. Many art shops play Bob Marley and it caught my ears floating through the air every time and gave me many opportunities for an impromptu sing along with matt. We stayed in an adorable little Banda. Traditional buildings built of clay and thatched roofs. Which are ideal for this climate and much more pleasant than my cement home at the Jeshi.
In the morning I walk at 6 and went for a walk down the beach to the mangrove swamps. What spectacular trees these are. The only trees that are able to survive in salt water, there roots grow up into the air and look like thousands of little spikes rising up from the sand. On my walk I bumped into many fishermen who were preparing to go out for the day. All of them cheerily and perhaps curiously responded to my greeting of “Habari za Asabuhi?” (News of the morning) and continued along their way. After my walk I sat on the beach and read and then did some yoga. I can’t say I have felt that revitalized in a long time. I could have stayed there forever but we decided to return to Dar in order to catch Saba/Saba (the national holiday of
It was quite a change from sleepy little Bagamoyo with thousands of people all converging on one spot, A large trade fair that really felt like I was back in Canada or another western country. There were massive coca-cola, Heineken, Vodacom, celtel, and other major corporations Pavilions where they were trying to sell their goods and convince people they were the best. Fortunately there were also many buildings that housed groups like WIPE (Women in Poverty Eradication) which provide micro financing and training for women and children in poverty to make their own businesses. This totally saved the event for me; it would have been far too much after Bagamoyo otherwise. It was definitely a very interesting experience and gave me a great view of the globalization of
We have officially found paradise here. Yesterday we decided to go and track down a beach, so we asked our mwalimu (teacher) Mama Jengo which was the best and she told us to go to Kupepeo. After doing some errands we started our journey, which was rather long and amusing. First, we took the daladala to the ferry which took about 30 mins and involved me being hit on by one of the bus employees for the millionth time. It is funny at first I really loved the attention but now it is just becoming annoying and creepy. What really topped the pile is once we got to the ferry a random very poor guy came up and sat beside me saying “because I, because I” and started kissing my shoulder and tried to kiss me. Fortunately I found out what to say next time from Mama Jengo. The ferry ride continued to be crazy as our boat slowly pooled out did a full circle and then pulled up to the beach, at which point everyone jumped off and went running to the next ferry which had just pulled up. Fortunately we just made that ferry and had a uneventful ride to the other side of the harbour. Once we got there we got a cab to the beach and the mad journey was immediately forgotten. The sand was so fine and soft, almost like sugar and the water was so warm. The beach is lined with palm trees and certain sections have fancy huts from hotels. It was definitely a different vibe though with lots of white people and everything was calm and clean. But it was so worth it we swam around in the water for over an hour amongst tiny little jellyfish and then we dried off for a while before the sun went down. I can’t wait to return on the weekend and spend a whole day there.
WOW, a lot has happened since I first got here. We have been to Mbande twice now and it is a really cool place. The people are incredibly friendly and fascinated by us, especially the children. It is very draining going there as no one speaks English and it takes a lot of work to try and speak Kiswahili with them. The children are definitely the best part. This past Sunday I took all of my hoola hoops (which I finally finished) and I spent all day playing with them with the children The little girls and a few boys just loved it and were so good by the end of the day. I can’t wait till we actually get to go and stay there.
I have been downtown a couple of times now and am getting very comfortable with it. I found a great little French patisserie and had a cappuccino and pain au chocolat on Wednesday and I can’t tell you how exciting that was. I can also converse well with the people at the market and the food here is amazing. I love being able to go to the market every couple of days and get fresh fruits and vegetables (I don’t know how I will ever be able to go back to shopping in Canada) I have also been to the Khanga market twice now and bought myself six Khangas. Khangas are the traditional dress of women here, they are beautiful pieces of patterned cloth with Kiswahili proverbs written on them and they are less than four dollars a piece for like 6 yards. I haven’t found much jewellery yet but I think
Yesterday I went to Kariakoo market with a meteorologist named Kurwa from Tabora who is taking a course at the airport. Kariakoo is the biggest and craziest market in Dar and it really is big and crazy. There is a huge section that is actually underground and everywhere there are little shops selling all sorts of things from traditional medicine, electronics, clothes and the coolest men’s shoes I have ever seen. (All the men here dress really well) After wondering around the market we went for lunch at a little restaurant on the main road. I had some really good samaki (fish) and mchele (rice). The fish here is sort of weird and creepy though as it is always whole with the head and eyes and fins all still attached. It definitely makes it harder to disassociate it from being a real animal. After lunch we walked back to the Jeshi, which is a really nice walk especially in the early evening when it is a little cooler. Along the way we crossed one major road that was lined with Mganga selling traditional medicine, which was a cool site to see. Being in a major city there is such a struggle between using traditional healers and modern medicine. Many traditional medicine shops are right beside pharmacies.
Today we had Kiswahili class, which is going very well. We have classes Monday to Friday from 8am until 1pm. It is a lot in one day but it is good. I am definitely feeling more confident in speaking the language. Later I think we are going to go into the city and check out the local Hookah bar and maybe go dancing (which I am craving immensely despite my hoola hooping everyday) Speaking of which I think it is time for my daily hoola.
After 34 hours of travel (22 on planes), three security checks, four airports, two hours in
By the time we made it to
After getting settled and having a good meal we crashed and had to get up early to go to school in the morning. Definitely intense right of the bat and I am very thankful we did some preliminary lessons. Our teacher Musa is very good. He is probably 30 and well educated with three wives and ten kids. We have now done two classes and it is a lot of information, but it is good. We are going to be doing classes five days a week, five hours a day for six weeks. I can’t wait to be able to speak more with people. There are many other people about who are very friendly and helpful including two research assistants who Vinay has hired Grates and Joli and Vinay’s long term friend and helper Robert.
We went into town yesterday with Robert to buy supplies and it was intense. I don’t know how anyone could possibly drive here, it is shear chaos. I have never seen anything like it. We spent the afternoon going to markets and stores and ate some amazing Indian food. Tommorow we are going to Mbande village, where we will be going to do our research, to see it and meet some of the people. But for now I must sign off because there is the most amazing music coming from somewhere and It is calling.
So in anticipation of leaving Canada, one year after i had originally decided to start a blog, i am on it. My original plans to begin this form of sharing myself with the world began when i had just arrived in tanzania and realized it might be really hard to email many people and upload pictures in a country where internet connections are slower than snails. As you can see it did truly hinder me and am only now doing it, as i prepare to venture to Asia to teach english in September. Because of this time lapse, some of my writings from tanzania will be attached a year after they were written, but that is the way it shall be. SO please ENJOY!!!!