July 14, 2006

Beginning of our trip

I didn't get that much time to write the last time I was online, spent all my time uploading pictures. :P But it was worth it, so that's okay. Anyway. I'm doing really well. Two days ago was the first day of Wes's leave time, so after Wes finished crazy amounts of grading chem exams, we got a ride to Morogoro and spent the night, and the next day we hopped on a bus to Marangu, a town near Moshi (which is by Mount Kilamanjaro - unfortunately it's too cloudy to see the mountain from here at the moment) to visit another peace corps volunteer. The bus was, well, entertaining...not a bad bus ride, but mildly shady - on two seperate occasions they had everyone in the back of the bus get up and move to the front in the middle of the aisle, and then...duck. ???

But other than that everything was pretty normal, and we got to Marangu without much event...oh, here's something - when you get off buses here (in Tanzania), you are usually swarmed by people who want to give you a taxi ride, or direct you where to go, or sometimes sell you food, water, or completely random things like wooden spoons... anyway, we were surrounded by lots of people at the dala stand who were eager to tell us where we had to go and find out more about us; Wes somehow managed to charm them all. Seriously. I don't cease to be amazed by his ability in this country to make everyone around him almost instantly like us.

One person was talking to me a bit, and I discovered that despite the fact that I know enough swahili at this point to at least get through the beginnings of a conversation and impart basic information about myself and Wes, when actually having a conversation all knowledge goes out the window. I can understand at least the general subject line of what people are asking me, but when actually asked to respond it's ridiculous. The guy asked how many weeks I'd been in Tanzania and I couldn't even remember the word for three; I had to sit there for a few seconds counting on my fingers going moja...mbili...tatu! "Tatu!" Not to mention that I know how to say "He is a teacher" and "I am visiting" but instead all I managed was to point at Wes and say "Mwalimu" (teacher) and myself and say "Mgeni" (visitor). Yeah...welcome to the world of Tarzan. I might as well have said "Me Christina." *shakes head* But on the up side, some other guy was talking to us on the way to the teacher's college where Wes's friend lives, and Wes sat silent and let me talk for awhile, and I managed to speak in coherent sentences that time, so maybe I'm not hopeless after all. :P

Anyway, so yesterday we were travelling for most of day, so just kind of chilled out at Alex's house (the peace corps volunteer) and talked for a bit. I like Marangu, its a definite different feel than Morgoro, and the air is different, so it actually feels like we travelled somewhere. I like it. It's very pretty (not that Morgoro isnt, just pretty in a different way); there's a stream nearby with all sorts of tropical looking trees; I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. Today I think we're going to just relax a bit...our plans are kind of relaxed for the next week or so, but I'll keep you posted if I can. Just letting you know I'm doing well, if you were wondering. :)

July 4, 2006

Fourth of July in a country that doesn't celebrate it

Wow! Okay so I finally get a chance to sit down and write a little bit. This past week and a half has gone really well, with the exception of the lack of power all last week, but that wasn't a HUGE deal, just mildly annoying. I've been taking in a LOT and had a lot to process; this really is an amazing experience. (Not just because I get to see Wes. :P Although that's definitely the best part). But anyway. I'm not entirely sure where to start. I guess I could explain the last pictures I posted. Last Monday we had dinner over at the Igosha house, both the wife and the husband are teachers at Mzumbe Secondary. It was really nice; Mama Igosha was amazingly friendly and even showed me how to tie a khanga (finally!) which is what I am wearing in the picture. It never occured to me just how versatile a large piece of cloth could be. Seriously. Women use them for so much here. Skirts, dresses, shirts, shawls, they even tie them a certain way to hold their babies on their backs. Craziness. Plus I felt like people in Morogoro were a lot friendlier to me when I was wearing one. Not that they were UNfriendly before, just...friendlier. I like at least making the effort to show that I'm trying to respect the culture here. Same with the language. Although it's funny. People seem to vary between being surprised I know words like "hello" and "thank you" after being here for two and a half weeks, and seeming shocked that I'm not yet completely fluent in the language.

Anyway, Tuesday and Wednesday were good, Wednesday we played scrabble again with Wes's teacher friends (this time III won! It was really, really close though. Wes and I were neck and neck the whole time. And then we played again the next day and Wes beat me again. Rar. Just wait until next time! ) Thursday Mukama, Rugora, and Gosbert (the teachers) came back and came bearing meat, fried bananas, and drinks! They brought us dinner to welcome me to Tanzania. It was an absolutely amazing night. Everyone talked, and then we played this game where everyone wrote down questions to ask everyone else, not unlike questions in a fishbowl from camp or ASB, but sparked a two hour or so long, really good conversation. It was great.

The next day was amazing but for a completely different reason. We went into Morogoro and ended up going spur of the moment to this party at this guy Joel's house. (Joel isn't Tanzanian, I'm not sure what nationality he is, he works for a tabacco company). It was like a completely different world. Lots of rich people, hardwood floors, tons of food and , dancing...I had a really good time but I couldn't help being struck by the fact that it felt like we were lightyears away from Morogoro and Mzumbe even though we were IN Morogoro and only about a thirty minute drive away from Mzumbe. Anyway, Joel was really nice and even let us spend the night when it started getting late, and fed us awesome leftovers in the morning. :P

This week has been pretty good too, the power came back on, Wes has had a bit more free time, and we took a walk up the foothill of a mountain around sunset yesterday, which was amazing. (Pictures below)

Throughout everything I've been having more and more really interesting conversations; the culture's so different here. At the same time, I'm thinking that I'm pretty sure it's possible to feel at home anywhere. Cultures can be different but I think people are the same; you're always going to have the generous and the selfish, the outgoing and the shy, the rich and the poor, the kind and the rude, etc., and I think maybe it's possible to make friends anywhere if you can communicate. :)