September 19, 2006

Tanzania pt. 3 - Amani

Okay I will finish writing about this trip, even though it's getting further and further this point it sometimes seems like it never even happened. Like it was all some strange, amazing dream that I made up in my head. But it did happen, and I'll keep writing for the record of it.

We left Andrew's site extremely early in the morning, hiked a few kilometers to catch a bus going to a town that was close to Amani (I forgot what it was called). It was an extremely crowded bus and it looked like we were going to have to stand the whole time, but someone beckoned to me towards the beginning of the ride and I got a seat in the front; not too much leg room or anything but I had a seat, which was nice. (Wes wasn't so fortunate; he did stand for most of it). We arrived early afternoon and signed up for seats on a dala dala to take us up the mountain on a three hour ride to get to Thomas (the peace corps volunteer we were visiting there)'s site. We had lunch and then came back to wait by the dala stand. And wait. It turned out there was something wrong with the van that we were going to take, and they spent a long time fixing it. Finally, some really nice people offered us a bench on their porch, so we sat there, even used their bathroom, and...waited some more. Meanwhile, we met some other people who were traveling to Amani as well, who had arrived later and signed up for a different dala. We watched them come, and leave, as we continued to wait. I made friends with a few local kids who seemed highly amused with the fact that I spoke some limited Swahili, which was fun at first although after awhile I began to feel like a zoo attraction... I was sort of playing peek-a-boo/hide and seek with this one 8 year old girl, and then I talked to her and she screamed and hid, but then finally started talking to me a little bit after I asked her if she was afraid (with some help from Wes on the Swahili for that one). Shortly after she ran away and came back with a friend; I greeted her and ask her name and where she was from, she answered and then both girls screamed and hid. Shortly after THAT, they left and brought a THIRD girl. After I exhausted what little Swahili I knew, they got bored and left, and I started feeling ridiculously tired.

Several hours later, the dala was finally fixed. But still, they wouldn't let people in. First, they loaded the stuff. Beer, sacks of food, etc., it all went in there, both in the trunk and on the floor. FINALLY they let people in. We said goodbye and thank you to the people whose porch we'd been sitting on basically all day, and walked over to the dala. Wes and I discovered our seats were in the very back, and there was stuff both on our seats and underneath them. Some guy said "sit;" Wes and I looked around somewhat frustratedly and said, "WAPI?" (Where?). Finally, they moved some of the stuff, so that there were no longer any things on our seats, but there was absolutely NO leg room. The next seat was about two inches in front of ours, and there was stuff on the ground, and nowhere to put our feet. I ended up figuring out some odd, cramped position in which one foot was in a small hole and the other leg rested on top of the first leg and my backpack rested on top of THAT, and we were off. Fifteen minutes later, we got a flat tire.

Wes and I got out of the van, unable to sit where we were for very long, and paced around outside. They fixed the tire, and everyone started into the van again. I stared at it. "Wes, I CAN'T sit there again." Wes began some fast talking with the workers in the van, gesturing to where they were expecting us to sit. Some of the Tanzanians looked and you could see even they were suppressing some sort of amusement at our seats, because they were pretty ridiculous.

The van driver said something and people moved around a bit. Now I was in the middle of another row, and Wes was sitting behind the driver, leaning forward at an odd angle. We started off again. And the trunk popped open, spilling sacks out of the back. We stopped again.

Four men and I got out to help put things back in the trunk. When I got back, my space in THAT bench had shrunk to about half its original size as the guy next to me claimed more room than he should have had, and the woman next to me was a very large mama with a baby and her knees about as far apart as possible. Two hours or so later I'd lost all feeling in one of my legs and was starting to contract a headache. We made another stop, and I got off to try to regain feeling in my legs. Wes and I decided to try switching seats. It was slightly better in that it was a new position than the one I'd been in for the past two hours, but not much; it mainly just meant that my legs were burning in NEW places now. I glanced over and grinned a little; Wes had in no uncertain terms designated HIS space, and the guy who was intruding on mine the whole time looked decidedly less comfortable. I learned later that that's probably what I should have done in the first place, but was kind of stupid about it.

About a half an hour before we arrived at Thomas's site, the people in the front got out, and Wes and I moved in. Ahhh. I regained feeling in my legs.

It was dark by the time we arrived, and Thomas came to meet us. Somewhere along the lines Wes had made friends with the dala drivers, and told them we would be returning in two mornings. Thus ended the worst public transportation ride I've ever had in my life. But it was worth it...we were now in an actual rainforest.

Thomas bought us some sodas and led us to his house, served us dinner, generally took really good care of us. We talked a bit and went to bed fairly early, as Wes and I were both exhausted.

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