August 24, 2006

Okay, making progress. I really want to write about this. Not only because I want to have a record about it to remember, and I want to share, but also because I've had so many new experiences and things going on within the past seven months that basically everything I've done is sort of in this huge knot or jumble in my mind. There's just SO much information in my head I can't really make sense of it all, and writing about it seems to be helping me organize it a bit. Anyway.

After the party at Clarissa's site we made dinner (fried rice and egg rolls! The egg rolls were amazing) and played Scrabble! The next day we left Clarissa's site and met a bunch of other peace corps volunteers for lunch in Moshi itself, then the other volunteers all left and it was just Wes and me again. We got a hotel in Moshi and stayed for two nights. It was nice; we spent some time exploring, and some time just relaxing, talked to some people, got my khangas sewn, went to a pretty cool rooftop bar...the rooftop bar was funny because we were the only people there that night, so we ended up having a fairly in depth conversation with some of the workers there about schools in America and various other topics. Moshi was also pretty good for my Swahili; I took every chance I got to speak it a little bit and I think improved a small amount. I like learning languages, and I like being able to understand - and contribute - to what's going on around me, and I also liked being able to show the Tanzanians that I had made an effort to understand THEIR language and culture instead of just assuming they'd know mine. I never learned all that much - six weeks, while it seems long, is sort of short for learning an entire language, even if you ARE immersed in it - but I was proud of myself for learning what I did.

The part that amused me most in Moshi, though, was when we went to get one of my kangas sewn by these two young women, probably around my age. They talked with us for awhile as they sewed and were fairly amused by us. Then Wes told them that I was his fiance (they don't really have a highly appropriate word for "girlfriend" that doesn't connotate "lover" so we figured we'd go with mchumbe instead) and one of the girls giggled and asked the equivalent of, "Do you want another?" Wes paused. "Uh...I have one." "Yes but do you want another?" Wes then explained that in America, you only have one, which sent them into gales of laughter.

After Moshi we took another bus to another village near Lushoto to visit another volunteer, Andrew. The bus dropped us off a couple of miles away from his village, since it was kind of small, so we walked up the mountain with our stuff. The walk, while kind of long and hot, was also pretty funny. We were greeted by sooo many people, and at one point there was this entire group of Tanzanian women all just standing there waving at us enthusiastically and all talking at once; I wish I could have taken a picture. And when we actually got to the site, the headmaster gave us sodas, and on the way back to Andrew's house, we attracted a following of a few children. Literally a following; they followed us almost all the way back to Andrew's house, and at one point started giggling and imitating the way I walked. It was hilarious. Cooked dinner at Andrew's house, and played Scrabble again, hehe.

The next day we stashed our stuff at Andrew's house and left early to go to Amani, which is a rainforest in the northeastern part of Tanzania. I'll write more about that later...

August 23, 2006

Tanzania trip, pt 1

So, Tanzania. I keep promising I'm going to write about it and it keeps getting further and further away from the date I actually came home, so I'd better do it soon before I forget things.

For our trip, we spent the first night in Morgoro, then the next day took a LONG bus ride to a town near Moshi where a peace corps volunteer named Alex lived. We ended up on a sort of shady bus; it was a perfectly okay bus ride but at various points in time they had everyone in the back of the bus get up, walk to the middle or the front, and then crouch down. Wha? Other than that it was a fairly uneventful, seven hour bus ride, just sat and listened to music for most of it. Arrived in Moshi and were immediately swarmed by people; Wes somehow managed to make friends with them all in about ten seconds, then they helped us get on a dalla (the public's like a large van almost into which they cram as many people as possible before going to their destination) where there was room for both us and our stuff, and even shooed away a crazy man for us. The whole scenario was somehow ridiculous, but made me laugh.

Alex's site was pretty cool; the next day Wes and I visited an amazing waterfall that was within walking distance of the site. It was interesting because it was really the first place I saw in Tanzania that wasn't Dar or Morogoro, and I had sort of grown used to the way things were in Morogoro. It's a lot more touristy in Moshi because Mt. Kilimanjaro is really close (unfortunately, we didn't get to see the top - it was too cloudy), and we noticed the effects pretty quickly. Everyone said "Jambo" when they saw us, which isn't actually what Tanzanians say to each OTHER, just what they say to the white tourists, and "Hello rafiki!" (friend), and "Hakuna matata" (which they ALSO don't say - they say it in Kenya; in Tanzania they say other things). It was weird. I don't understand why you would purposefully dilute your own language for the sake of the tourists. There definitely seem to be a lot of things in their culture that have either changed or developed because of tourists. I don't know what to think of that. There are so many things that can be said, both good and bad, of tourism. I think ultimately it's a good thing, obviously - I WAS a tourist there, so I can't exactly criticize the other tourists, but... I think that it can help break down stereotypes and better educate people about the world, but on the other hand, it can also CREATE stereotypes. So I guess the question is what's the good kind of tourist? How do you make sure that you make a positive impact instead of a negative one? Is it even possible to be sure of that?

Anyway, getting off topic a little...the waterfall was amazing, as I said; I posted some pictures...we went down this crazily steep path to get to it. The guide gave us walking sticks at the beginning and I didn't understand why I would need a walking stick, but I was extremely glad I took it once we started going down...we spent some time at the bottom just admiring the waterfall, then we were all ready to go when the guide asked if we wanted to go across to the other side of the river, which of course we did! That was probably my favorite part actually; we kicked off our shoes and walked across the rocks to get to the other side; it was Some inner child in me still loves walking across rocks in water for some reason. We even could have gone swimming - the guide offered to show us the area where we could - but it wasn't very hot outside and we would have had to walk about a mile in wet clothes afterwards through a lot of areas with people, so we opted out of that one.

That night we went to Clarissa (Alex's girlfriend, another peace corps volunteer)'s site, and as we got there they were having a party! Not Clarissa; her school - they had just had some British students come and build them a classroom, and the students were leaving, so they threw a party for them, and we got to go at the tail end of it. It was a really cool experience. There was music on and everyone was dancing and I even had a teacher there decide she was going to be my friend, lol. It was definitely something I don't think I EVER would have experienced had I just gone there without going to see a peace corps volunteer. I was really amused by the music selection though...sort of regular African music, and then Celine Dion, and then Shaggy! ?!!? The teachers were even singing along to that one!

K, I'm going to leave that for now, I'll come back later, at least I've made a start!

August 1, 2006


So yeah, I'm jet lagged...woke up around forty five minutes ago or so and couldnt' get back to sleep. But that probably has something to do with the fact that I slept for about five hours after getting home, was up for around four, and then went back to bed at eight. But can you blame me? I was travelling for about 37 hours. Who WOULDNT sleep a lot after that? Probably the weirdest thing though is having Jessy come home for the night about twenty minutes after I wake up. Seeing as she brought in the newspaper when she got in though, I'm not sure whose sleep schedule is the strangest.

The trip home was okay...really long, as you may have guessed. Flew into Heathrow Airport from Dar, arrived about 4:30, and met Helen...then Helen was amazing and camped out in the airport with me until it was time for my checkin for my eight am flight the next morning. I have said it before and I will say again that I have awesome friends. It was such a strange thing to see the entire airport shut down and then wake up again. Then hopped on another airplane and flew home, met my parents at the airport, came home and slept.

The remainder of our trip was amazing, although I will write about it later at a more normal time of day. Saying goodbye to Wes again was...hard. Of course. And getting home was weird. It's good to be home but I'm really disoriented. I think I'm on sort of an emotional lockdown at the moment; I'd like to be excited about being home but I just feel kind of zoned-outness. Yes I realize zoned-outness is not a word. It's five in the morning, give me a break.

Anyway. I figure once my sleep patterns return to a semi normal state I should feel normal again as well. I did miss home. Seven months is a long time to be away. I am looking forward to seeing the friends I haven't seen for that long, although you might need to give me a day or two to feel human again.

Back to sleep, maybe? Not yet. Soon though.

Trying to figure out if I have time within the next two weeks to visit camp...