Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tanzania Time

You quickly learn here that the "Manana" time in Mexico has nothing on Tanzania time.  Twice we waited two hours for meals at restaurants.  If they tell you the water  will come back on "in awhile" it could be ten minutes or two days.

We were supposed to leave for Lushoto Saturday morning at 9 and were all packed up and ready to go.  We eventually found out that the transportation manager had some "personal issues" and had not arranged a bus for us.  His boss said he would get us "a car" that afternoon but nothing appeared.  Luckily noone else was booked into our rooms, so we tried again the next day for 9 a.m.  At 11, the driver said he was at the ministry trying to get money for the trip.  He finally showed up at 2 and we left shortly thereafter.  We did not make it to Lushoto by dark, and instead of going up the twisty mountain roads we stopped at a hotel overnight.  We left the next day at 6:30 a.m and finally got to Lushoto Monday for a late breakfast.

We are in a compound run by a German nurse, Sabine, who came here in 1992, married a Tanzanian, and stayed.  They have four guesthouses with four beds apiece so we just fit.  She is known locally as Mama Deborah, after her daughter.  Her head cook is Mama Danny, named for her youngest son, who is usually seen swaddled on mama's back.  Sabine gives us three meals a day plus afternoon tea, cooking lessons, Swahili lessons, and HOT WATER!  Our field director, Ashley Crawford, gives us lessons in teaching English as a second language every day.

Melinda learns to cook Ugali, a cornmeal staple here

Ashley, head of WorldTeach Tanzania, in the classroom

Breanna Timlin, who will be my roommate for the year, gets a birthday cake for breakfast on her 25th birthday

Baby Danny gets a bath

Tanga province is in the northeast corner of Tanzania and this area is famous for it's hiking.  Yesterday one group was doing a five hour hike to Irente viewpoint and I didn't want to slow down the 20 year olds so signed up for a one hour hike to a farm.  The cook's son, David, is 12 years old and we followed him for 2 1/2 hours and found ourselves at Irente viewpoint.  After about 15 minutes the "long hike" people showed up.  We enjoyed the view and then walked back to the hostel.  My "short hike" ended up being five hours of almost continuous walking and I never saw the farm.  The area is beautiful, though, and it didn't rain.
View from the Usambara Mountains

WorldTeach volunteers conquer Irente Viewpoint

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dar es Salaam

I have been in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, for a week.  Ashley, the head (and sole) WorldTeach staff person here met me at the airport and took me by taxi to the hostel we will be staying at.  I arrived two days ahead of everyone else, one problem with travelling independently.  Some people got delayed by weather and other things and arrived even later.  But finally we came together as a group of 15.  Most are in their early 20's, some just graduated from college.  Their is one Canadian,  three Californians, and others from  Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Tucson, Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Charleston.
Our cooks at the hostel

Our hostel is at Msimbuzi compound, a Catholic conference center.  The big thing here seems to be weddings, as they have had one almost every night we have been here.  People dress up in suits and fancy dresses and the music goes on till about 1 in the morning.   We also hear nice singing during the day, which I assume is from church services.  We have our own rooms and bathrooms, though water and electricity have gone off at times.  I don't think there is such a thing as a water heater here.  Right now, I am sitting in my bed with the mosquito net all around me, having been wakened early by the call to prayer at the local mosque and the wake up bells that go off here at 5:45 every morning.  I am making a try for the internet, since it is almost impossible to get on in the daytime due to congestion.

Breakfast at the hostel

We spent the first week with some classes, getting cell phones, internet modems, etc.  One day  student volunteers took us in groups of three on local transportation to learn how to get around, order food, etc.  They have nice beaches here, but you don't want to walk off alone due to muggers.  One morning we went to the U.S. embassy for talks on health, safety, etc.  The ambassador is a former WorldTeach volunteer, so very supportive of the program.  The embassy nurse demonstrated how to do a home malaria test, which is a finger prick test similar to a diabetes blood sugar test.  They cost about $3 each and I got some because I am not taking prophylactic medication.

Alicela, a local finance student, took us through the market
Dar is a big city with over 3 million people but hard to get around.  I have only seen a few street signs the whole time I have been here.  The buses (dalla-dallas) only give start and end points, like Tembe/Posta, which does not help when you have no idea where those places are.  Buses have a driver and a conductor, who solicits business and collects fares.  People do not line up here, but all try to get on the bus at once, and there does not seem to be a limit to how many people crowd on, so you often feel like a sardine pushed every which way.  Driving is mainly on the left, as in England, but there seem to be a lot of games of "chicken" going on with cars and buses pushing their way through traffic.  There are also three wheeled motorcycle carts, and when I went on one we used the sidewalk also to get around a traffic jam.  There are very few traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, or anything like that.

A sign in downtown Dar es Salaam
All in all, not my favorite place.  I will be happy to leave today for Lushoto, a resort in the hill country where we will have our next two weeks of training before going to our permanent sites.  I will be in Ngara, near the Rwanda border and Lake Victoria.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

welcome to my blog!

I am now officially homeless.  My condo near Asheville, North Carolina is rented out and I am wandering around with one suitcase for a year.  My son has officially pronounced me "admirable" but thinks the one suitcase thing is "crazy."  After lugging it around for over two weeks I tend to agree with him, but I am thinking it is too much, not too little.  So many people in this world would be jealous of what I have in this one suitcase.  I also wonder why I spent all those years saving money so I wouldn't be a bag lady when I was older, and now have voluntarily put my self in that situation.

I always enjoy New York, and my week there in early June was no different.  My friend from Pacificare days, Kathy Lowery, came to visit for a few days and we went to several Broadway shows.  My favorite was Book of Mormon, about missionaries in Uganda.   The warlord who went around shooting people left some trepidation about what I am getting into in Tanzania, but overall I laughed out loud through the whole show.  I was happy to note that Scott Barnhardt, one of Matt's former classmates at Orange County High School of the Arts, was in the cast of the show, now winner of 9 Tony's and the hottest ticket on Broadway.

I have been in London for about a week.  I decided to do a lot of walking and have not used the "tube."  At the British Museum they have an exhibit of art made from weapons turned in after the civil wars in Mozambique, which is just south of Tanzania.  One inscription reads something like "The best decision you can make is to pick up a book instead of a gun."

My digs in London are at Grosvenor House, a 5 star Mayfair hotel overlooking Hyde Park that was formerly the home of an Earl.  I feel like I made a wrong turn and got lost somewhere, since I am more used to backpacker hotels.  I get fresh flowers, complementary wine, and fruit every day, but everything else seems to be an add on, like internet for about $35 a day.  They have a pullout clothesline in the marble bathroom, but apparently don't intend for you to use it, since they put out the box with laundry bag, price list, etc every night like a hint when they come to turn down the bed and no doubt see my hand laundry hanging to dry.  Also, my few clothes are geared more for camping than posh hotels, so I feel like I am creeping past the doorman every time I come in (which historically is more the case as I snuck into many hotels in the past to use the facilities).  My son provided this for me, so I have no idea of the cost.  I am very grateful, but fear it is going to be a huge transition to the $13 a night guesthouse I am booked into in Tanzania.

The main reason I am in London was to attend my son's first solo concert.  It was at the Hammersmith Apollo, where the Beatles previously performed, so he did some of their songs as well as his own.  It started fairly sedately, with him in a tuxedo, but by the end he was breakdancing and there were lots of screaming girls, everyone standing and singing along.  He has really missed performing for a live audience, so we all enjoyed it very much.

One of the highlights of the show was when Matt had his childhood friend, Rick Messina (also an OCHSA graduate) come on stage.  He did a great job proposing to his girlfriend, Rebecca, and the audience loved it!

Tonight I fly to Tanzania, the real start of my journey!