October 5, 2006

Tanzania - Kendwa Day 2

The next morning we slept in until we woke up on our own, which was wonderful; ¦it was nice just to have no place to be. There was something else significant about this morning - it was July 24, our two year anniversary, and we were on Zanzibar. What could be better than that?

After we got up we decided we would walk back over to Nungwi to buy some bread and peanut butter for lunches for the next couple of days so we didn't have to buy them, as meals on Zanzibar, while still cheap by American or European standards, are a little more expensive than the mainland. This time the tide was still out, so we kicked off our shoes and walked along the beach to get there.

Realizing that for the first time since I'd come to Tanzania we were in a truly and completely touristy place, I walked along the beach in just my pants and a bathing suit top. After five weeks of being careful never to show my shoulders or anything revealing, I even felt a little daring doing it, like I was finally breaking some unwritten law. It felt almost liberating, to say, I don't have to worry about that here, and not to worry about who I might be offending. For the first time in five weeks I reverted back to the rules of my own culture instead of someone else's, that say it's okay to walk in public with your shoulders showing, and definitely okay to walk along a beach in a bathing suit top.

Along the way we saw some pretty cool and random things. First we noted the random crabs on the beach; they were little, and white, and kind of fun to watch. As we walked we picked up a few random shells and pieces of coral to save as souvenirs. At one point we saw a Tanzanian hanging squid up to dry; they had been brought in with the tide and left, and he was taking them, probably to cook or sell.

Probably the most notable thing we saw on the way though was a very large blue jellyfish! It was absolutely huge and floating near the shore. It was extremely cool looking, although it made me very aware of where I placed my feet when we went swimming later.

Halfway there I could no longer stand looking at this beautiful water on this perfect, hot, sunny day, so I took off all but my bathing suit, handed my things to Wes, and ran towards the water and plunged in. One thing I was struck by was how warm it was, without being so warm it was uncomfortable. Amazing. I closed my eyes and dunked my head underwater, then went back to Wes on the beach, refreshed and content now to continue walking.

We got to Nungwi and walked past the souvenir stands and the hotels into the actual town; as we did I reverted back to Tanzanian rules and put my shirt back on. It was like there was some unspoken boundary between the beach and the village, like they were two different worlds despite the fact that they occupied the same corner of the same island. The further into the town we walked the more confused looks we got...I'm pretty sure not many tourists usually venture away from the touristy areas of Zanzibar. We got quite a few stares as we walked, greeted everyone we could, and eventually found someone who was willing to lead us to a place where we were able to find bread. We bought the bread and stopped at another store on the way back to buy some jam and some biscuits.

Afterwards we went back to the beach; again I shed my layers, and we began our walk back. The tide was starting to come in at this point so it was slightly more of a challenge; at some points the beach was entirely covered by water, so at times we lifted what we were carrying above our heads, but it was an enjoyable walk and kind of fun dodging the water.

When we got back to the hotel I looked at my arm and was shocked at what I saw: somehow, in the last three or four hours, I had turned about four shades darker. I knew that we were pretty much on the equator but I guess I just hadn't realized it would have that much of an effect that quickly. I had put on sunscreen, too! I was absolutely amazed at how quickly the sun could act when you were that much directly underneath it.

We ate lunch, and then Wes located a bucket so that we could do laundry, as we hadn't done any since Andrew's house and our clothes were pretty dirty. Laundry in Tanzania is done by putting soap and water in a bucket, then swirling your clothes around in the bucket, just basically agitating the clothes and water as much as you can, like a human washing machine. Then you put the clothes in another bucket (or the same bucket, except refilled) with just plain water and do the same thing, then wring them out with your hands and hang them up to dry. We sat on the porch for a while and read as our clothes dried outside.

Finally went out to the beach to go swimming for real, not just my random dip into the water. The water was perfect. We swam around for awhile, and then just kind of floated near each other. Eventually we got tired and went back to the beach, where we put out some towels and lay and read and enjoyed the sun for awhile. It was one of the first times on the trip that we just sat and relaxed.

We eventually went back to the hotel room and showered and got ready for dinner. We decided to go someplace different for dinner, as there were a lot of nice looking restaurants along the beach. So we walked down the beach (I took off my shoes again - I took them off as much as possible on the beach; the sand felt awesome) to a restaurant we had seen that looked pretty cool earlier. As we walked in, we were handed menus...¦in Euros. We took one look at the prices, blanched, and left to find a different restaurant.

We looked at a few before settling on another one on the beach, had an amazing meal and some wine, then walked back on the beach under the stars. The entire day it took some self restraint to refrain from pinching myself to ensure that this was real - a beautiful beach on a tropical island, with my boyfriend of two years, warmth, soft sand, water...it sounds like I made it up!

October 3, 2006

Tanzania, pt. 7 - getting to Kendwa

We planned to take a dala to the part of the island that we are going to stay at, Kendwa, but that's far easier said than done. The second we got out of the customs area we were bombarded with more taxis and taxi drivers. We walked forward quickly among "Hello rafiki!"'s (“Hello, friend!” – I didn’t trust anyone I didn’t know who called me “rafiki.” It generally meant they wanted something from me) and "Taxi! Taxi!" ourselves repeating, "Hapana, hapana, si etagi (sp?)" (No, no, we don't need), but a few latched onto us and followed.

One guy repeated, "But you can take this minibus, where you are among other tourists only." I looked at him quizzically. "Why on earth would we care about that?" It's sad though, because I'm guessing the reason he used this line is because it's worked in the past. I will never understand how you could really go to a place and see avoiding any and all locals as a good thing. Anyway, after he persisted for awhile, Wes told him to go away in Swahili, and finally he went. One guy actually made a pretty good sell for a...van? minibus?...though, and offered a price that we like, so we said okay. It turned out that he was not the driver of this vehicle but the guy who got customers for this vehicle, so he took us to an area along the street and made a call, which, if we were anywhere but Tanzania, I would see this as highly shady, so I was a little nervous, but Wes reassured me.

As we stood Wes negotiated, and the guy eventually agreed that we could pay almost half of what the other people in the van were paying, with the stipulation that we not TELL the people in the van we were paying that much as that would hurt their business. He was at least very honest about it. Finally the van comes, and we got in, then went to pick up another guy who was also an American, and asked us how much we paid. "I paid 7000, is that what you paid?" "Sure, about that..." Um, yeah...

And we're off. On our way we talked to the guy and he ended up giving Wes a book that he had just read, so that was kind of exciting. Finally we arrived, although apparently there was some miscommunication somewhere, because we were in Nungwi, not Kendwa. While Nungwi is NEXT to Kendwa, and accessible to Kendwa by the beach, it is not exactly where we were told we were going to be, but the driver insisted that was what he was told and that he was staying in Nungwi for the night and so not going back to Kendwa now. So now we had the small problem of getting to Kendwa, the small problem being that the tide was in so we couldn’t get to Kendwa from the beach at this moment.

We did walk over to the beach, and the sight took my breath away. The beach, and the Indian Ocean, is gorgeous. The sand is white, and made from coral, so it's insanely soft. I immediately took off my shoes and carried them, enjoying the feel of walking barefoot in the sand. And the water...the water is clear when you look at it closely, and a gorgeous blue when you look at it from farther away, and beautiful. As we entered the beach, we met a group of local people who were talking/working, and they asked us what we were up to. Wes engaged in conversation with them, and told them our problem. They seemed incredibly surprised and somewhat gratified that Wes spoke Swahili, and soon a man introduced himself as Said, and said he could help us out (which was appropriate, because Said means help in Swahili). He offered to take us over to the other shore in a boat for a small fee, and the fee being reasonable, we agreed, so just sat down to wait for a little while. The boat came, and we got in...The ride over to Kendwa was actually a lot of fun to me; the boat was a speedboat type of boat, and I received a lot of enjoyment from being over the water.

We arrived at Kendwa. Our next order of business was to determine somewhere to stay. We had reservations at one hotel, but we were only able to get reservations there for a night, and we decided we would rather go find somewhere where we could stay for all three. Said said he would help us with that too; Wes asked what he got out of it and Said explained that if he took us to a hotel and we decided to stay there that he got a commission from the hotel owner, so everybody won. Sounded good to us, so off we went.

We were first led to one hotel with a large group of workers sitting on the front porch; the hotel was extremely nice but kind of expensive, and could only guarantee us a room for the first two nights, and then could give us a different room for the third, but not the same one. Wes went to check out the room while I stayed and watched our things. One of the workers initiated conversation and I tried practicing my broken Swahili (they spoke far better English than I spoke Swahili, but I derived more enjoyment out of trying to speak in their language, and so, it seemed, did they). I did my best to explain where we were from and what we were doing here, although a few misunderstandings set them laughing, but not a mean laughter, more a friendly laughter. Overall they were kind of fun to talk to, although I found myself turning sort of red from my lack of understanding a few times. They were helpful in my mistakes though, and we continued to talk until Wes got back. Wes and I talked for a little while; they were highly amused when Wes said he wouldn’t make a decision unless I was okay with it. ("So she is the boss?").

We thought about it, determined that after so much moving around for the past week or two, it'd be really nice to just stay in the same room for three consecutive nights, so go off to look somewhere else. We looked at one or two more places before we found where we ended up staying; it was cheaper, had fairly nice rooms, and would let us stay there all three nights, so that won us over. By this time we were exhausted because we'd been on an early morning ferry, a long van ride, a boat ride, and then walked around an island for ages, so gratefully collapsed for a little while, got clean, and went off in search of food.

We didn't have to walk far - our hotel had its own restaurant on the beach. This was when it really hit me that we were on Zanzibar. The restaurant was outside, covered by a tent type thing, with tables and chairs on the sand. We ended the night eating a really good dinner, with our feet in the sand, looking out onto the beach. Amazing.

Tanzania pt. 6 - trip to Zanzibar

The next morning, luckily, all the insane amounts of sleep I'd been getting started to work for me, and I felt a lot better, still not completely well, but a hundred times better than I had felt the day before. We got up relatively early to catch yet another bus - this time to Dar Es Salaam, so that the next morning, we could catch a ferry to Zanzibar!

The bus ride was insanely long, but I didn't mind all the sitting as I was still feeling kind of out of it. When we got to Dar, we were mobbed by huge numbers of taxi drivers and people who gained commission for finding passengers for taxi drivers, which is pretty standard for the Dar bus stand. One particularly persistent taxi driver somehow got commission from us even after we shrugged him off and went to talk to the taxi drivers by ourselves, which I'm not entirely sure how that worked, but whatever... we finally got a taxi to the YMCA, which was where we were staying (it was a hostel).

We checked into the Y (next time we sing the YMCA song at camp I'll be highly amused), talking to a few random people along the way, and then went to find food. Which brought us to...SUBWAY. There is a Subway in dar. It's not EXACTLY the same, of course, there are a few differences...but overall it's pretty much the Subway we know. They even have the same napkins! And by the same napkins, I mean the EXACT same - there's a customer service number for the US on them. It was kind of expensive for a meal in Tanzania - it was about the same amount of money you'd pay for a meal at Subway in the US - but oh so good. By the time we got back to the Y it was getting kind of late, and, as we had an early morning again the next day, we went to bed.

The next day we set off for Zanzibar! First we had to go buy tickets for a ferry. As soon as you get to the street you are set upon by multiple people working for ferry companies who show you schedules of the ferries and prices and offer to buy your tickets for you. We made our way through these people with much less difficulty than you would think, and got to the ferry company that we wanted. Now, here's the odd part - we had to pay in American dollars for me. How this makes sense, I'm not entirely sure, but since I was not a resident, they would not accept Tanzanian shillings. It still kind of baffles me how a country can refuse to accept its own currency.

Anyway, we walked over to the ferry, had our bags searched before we were allowed to enter (they had security like an airport, sort of - the bag searching was a replacement for the x-ray machine, I'm pretty sure) and then waited around for a long time as they got the boat ready.

One of the things that awed me about the people waiting in line was just the sheer variety of people. You had people who were actually from Tanzania or Zanzibar, people from America, people from other parts of Europe, just...everywhere. Oh, and chickens. That's right, I hear squawking and look over and a person is carrying a chicken as if you might hold a baby.

Finally, we were allowed to board the boat; it was fairly crowded but decently comfortable. So we set off. I listened to music for awhile while Wes got into a conversation with someone from a country in Europe who had actually taught in the Moshi region of Tanzania for a few years, so they compared stories and ideas for awhile while I faded in and out of the conversation, sometimes contributing, sometimes just listening. At one point Wes got up to stretch his legs and came back, telling me I should try going up to the front.

There were some steep stairs at the front of the boat, so I walked up them and discovered a random space at the bow of the bow of the ship. There were already a lot of other people but I found a spot along the rail and closed my eyes. It felt...amazing. I always thought that that moment in Titanic where the girl stands at the bow and says she feels like she's flying was really cheesy and stupid, but...it really DID. There was just this cool, sort of breathless feeling I got while standing there that I couldn't get too much of. I went back downstairs briefly to see if Wes wanted to walk around more since I had left him guarding our things, and to tell him he was right about how cool it was, then, when he said he was all right where he was, I went back upstairs.

This time I talked briefly to a Kenyan. "Hello." I responded, "Mambo." (Kind of like, "what's up?") "Do you speak English?" GRIN. "Yeah, I'm American." "Oooh, okay." We talked a little bit about where we were from and what we were doing, then I found a spot along the front to just sit and enjoy the wind and the feel of movement for as long as I could.

When the boat docked, the craziness began. Coming to Tanzania from England, where they make nice orderly queues for, well, pretty much everything, it was even more so. There was a huge crush of people all trying to get their bags which were all stowed in the same place, then other Tanzanians trying to make a quick buck by helping tourists get their bags off. One of them stepped in and helped us. Wes gave him a tip; the man looked at him and said, "No, it was ___ shillings," naming some outrageous amount. Wes shook his head, and the guy went away. We took our bags and went through customs to get our passports stamped.

We were in Zanzibar!

October 1, 2006

Tanzania Pt. 5 - Lushoto

We got off the bus in Sony, a town near Lushoto where a Peace Corps volunteer named Jen works and teaches. She was working when we got there, so we dropped our things at her house and left to explore a little bit. After such a great experience with the Moshi waterfall, we went in search of the "Sony Waterfall" that we heard was nearby. There was a very cool looking waterfall that we had seen when we first got off the bus, but we didn't think that was it, and even if it was we weren't sure how to get down to it, so we just wandered. Finding very little in the way of direction, though, we found ourselves near some workers and Wes where the waterfall was. Either they didn't completely understand us or the waterfall really WAS the waterfall we saw when we got into town, but they directed us downwards and we found ourselves at the bottom of the waterfall we'd seen upon arriving. It was larger than the Moshi waterfall but not quite as cool, but it was still nice to get a little bit of alone time and just sit by the waterfall for a little while. With all the moving around, alone time had been sort of lacking, so it was nice to just sit and enjoy each other's company for awhile.

We sat by the waterfall for a little bit and then wandered back to Jen's, where we sat and talked for a little while. While we were making dinner I started feeling extremely sick, so wasn't very helpful with the dinner making. We had dinner and I felt a little better and we just sat around and talked for awhile, played Dominos and listened to music. It was a very chill night but it was nice. Went to early because I still wasn't feeling well.

The next morning, I felt awful. I got up and ate a bit and then went back to bed. We tried taking my temperature with some tempa-dot things, but discovered they weren't good anymore when one said my temperature was 93 and the other said my temperature was 105.8, which, as I was conscious and still alive, made us figure that neither was correct. So much for those. Finally we located an actual thermometer, with which we discovered my temperature to be around 101, which made far more sense. Regardless of what it was, I still felt like crap, so spent most of the day sleeping and/or lying down.

Then we had to figure out what to do about our stuff. Half of our things were still at Andrew's, which was a dala ride and a five kilometer walk away. I felt shaky just standing up, let alone walking five kilometers uphill and carrying a backpack and a shoulder bag, and the original plan had been to go pick up our things at Andrew's and then go to Lushoto.

Wes solved the problem by being wonderful and going to collect our stuff himself, and I went to Lushoto with Jen on a dala.

Meanwhile, Jen hadn't been feeling well for awhile either, and she called the Peace Corps office and they told her to go get tested for malaria in Lushoto. She met Josh in Ness's house (the girl who we were visiting in Lushoto) and he went with her to the hospital to get tested, and I...slept some more. Finally, Wes and Andrew got there, and Wes expressed his wishes that I would go and get tested too.

To put him (and my family) at ease, I agreed to go, and we walked to the hospital. Upon arrival, we were told that they had just closed, but Wes again did whatever he did the whole time we were there to make random people help us, and they agreed to test me anyway. There was an extremely nice nurse there who told me exactly what she was doing at every point - well, she told Wes, and Wes translated - explained what she was looking for in my blood, and even let us look through the microscope ourselves. No malaria. Blood looks cool through a microscope, though.

As we left, all the doctors were sitting on the porch outside the building. We asked them whether or not we needed to register and asked how much we owed them. Looking around and determining that the person who usually dealt with that wasn't there, they decided that was too much trouble and just let us go without paying or registering. Score!

Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the people who were visiting Lushoto, bought some supplies for dinner, and came back to make it. I, again, went to sleep, and woke up feeling okay enough to socialize for awhile. We played a game of Texas Hold 'em, which was fun. I ended up coming in second, and in the middle of it we had some amazing spaghetti.

I also took a "shower." Sort of. There actually WAS no shower, since there was no running water, but I took a bucket bath with some heated up water, which was entertaining, although afterwards I couldn't stop shivering. Seriously. It was ridiculous; my entire body was shaking. I went to bed early, while everyone else watched a movie.