While my short term memory has been frightfully bad lately, I have been having all these wonderfully vivid memories of past events. So it’s flashback time again. This time it’s thanks to the song “Un Beso” by Aventura. A song I’d never heard before on a CD given by my boss at PPLA. Someone else’s favorite song. As soon as I heard it, I was back on the lawn with Danio watching “Motorcycle Diaries” at ViaVia. The temperature and climate were lovely, as always was in Tanzania. I was worried about mosquitoes, being out after dark and all, and we had to sit on chairs to keep from being eaten alive by ants. But it was wonderful being together, watching a great film under the stars, with the river providing some background music in the quiet parts of the film. ViaVia was my favorite place in Arusha, just the sort of place you’d imagine hip African people would hang out at or that you’d see in CelTel ads. Good food, drinks, cool, friendly, open to everyone, not just wazungu (foreigners) or Tanzanians. I like being in a mixed crowd, so this was a good place for that. They show movies outside on Thursday nights, and have bands many other nights of the week. So many other great memories from ViaVia, the second date with Danio, the wachapaji encounter (see earlier post), meeting other volunteers from other parts of the developed world, hearing a Congolese band play classic Mexican party songs like “La Bamba” and “La Cucaracha” I even videotaped that, as it was too funny. But it was on the treo, so it didn’t turn out so good. Imagine traveling halfway across the planet to hear music I can walk down the street to hear!
Well, after a week of running around like a madman, trying to get a million things done, I was stopped dead in my tracks by what may very well be an intestinal parasite. Blech. It’s been nice to be home, back on the bike, seeing the old friends, etc. And of course the side benefit of a parasite is that now I can wear all those pants that were too tight before. But then, all my other pants are now much too baggy in all the wrong places. Nothing really profound to say, perhaps later. I’m just grateful I got to eat brunch at my favorite restaurant and keep it down. It’s the little things that mean so much. Like seeing Ravens in wife beaters.
It is Giardia, or “beaver fever” as the mountain men are fond of calling it. So I got the right drugs today, which should keep me from getting sick again. I got deathly ill again last week, then it seemed Cream of Wheat miraculously cured me. So I have discovered all kinds of delicious gourmet ways to prepare it. I finally found a real doctor, after my quack GP kept telling me “it’s probably something you ate.” This also led me to decide I should stop going to immigrant doctors since they’re only here to get rich. My gastroenterologist (chosen based solely on his last name, board certification, and affiliation with Cedars Sinai) is a sweet old Brooklyn Jew who still treats his patients the old fashioned way, with concern and care. Instead of me having to call his office and wait a few hours to hear back from a nurse, he actually called me as soon as he had the test results, left me a message and everything! Amazing. I wonder if Cedars subsidizes their doctors so they can continue to give pre-HMO era quality care. Cute lil bugger, ain’t he? After a little research, I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t get it here. Some people have told me that a stomach flu is going around, and there have been cases of giardia in US drinking water….
is certainly a pastime enjoyed by boys the world over. After I took this picture, I explained to the boys what it signified. Highly amusing, given the depth of discussion we had regarding the practice, espeically with our translators. Some of them refused to beleive that it does not have any damaging side effects, no matter how many times we told them that quite the opposite is true. This week’s class was mostly boys, which was interesting, after two weeks of teaching mostly girls. What I liked about that, was being able to urge them to go home and practice putting on condoms themselves, something the girls can’t really do. There were some real class clowns in this group, which made for some highly entertaining role plays.
Phew! Feels like I escaped Arusha with a million hands clinging to my ankles, begging me to stay and help some more. I want to help as much as I possibly can, but there’s only so much I can do. It’s really overwhelming. I’m glad that Danio is not asking for help but just accepting what I give him, and even tolerating my tantrum over my embarrassing luxury problem as if it were a real problem. But then, Tanzanians don’t complain or express any sort of negative emotions. Waow. It makes me nauseous to think that the money I spent on shipping is two month’s salary of his dream job. Two month’s salary of a middle-class income in TZ. and I complained about having to go to the ATM twice to get it.
I came hoping to get perspective, but if anything I suspect this trip made me want to retreat deeper into my American Princess lifestyle. Poverty scares the living shit out of me. Danio and I ate at a nice Ethiopian restaurant, and they had a fireplace. When I mentioned I have one too, D asked me if I cook in it, and when I told him I didn’t, he replied “You know, if you were cooking, working over a charcoal stove every day and taking care of the kids and all, your color would change, maybe you’d turn black too…” Wow. I told him there’s no way I could live like that, the village life is not for me. If I moved back here, I’d have some huge house with a full staff to do all that stuff. I’d be too busy making money to cook all day and take care of kids. Yes, everyone here seems to be handling it quite well, but I have never known what it’s like to be poor, and the thought of being poor in a country as poverty-stricken as TZ scares me much more than the idea of being poor in the US. Yes, poor people, at least in TZ, seem to have richer social lives, the TZ people are so incredibly friendly and charming. But do wealth and compassion have to be inversely proportional? I know I want to help people, even when I do have money, but I don’t like being around people so much, especially when I feel like some kind of celebrity, being pulled in every direction by so many people who see me primarily as a potential source of income.
It’s a relief to be away from all that desperation. In Arusha, much of it is contrived, as their vendors, streetchildren (many of whom are runaway drug addicts) and flycatchers are known for being exceptionally aggressive. And with the wealth of food readily available there, I know those people aren’t actually starving, as evinced by the rarity of emaciation. Everyone keeps cows, goats and chickens, plus banana, corn and avocado practically grow wild, right in the middle of town. The big problem is school fees, I read that something like only 5% of the TZ population goes to secondary (Jr. high and high) school, and that even those who do, face tremendous difficulty finding work. On a lighter note, here’s one of my favorite memories; when the monkey snuck around behid me and snatched the mango piece right out of my hand. Whitney has great timing with her camera!
Well, on the penultimate day in Arusha, I am hoping to finally buy some souvenirs, and am trying to make sure I am prepared for my trip. I am flying to Zanzibar tomorrow, for 5 days, because I am too much of a princess to sit on the bus all day. I can’t wait to sit on the beach, go snorkeling, and just RELAX! I’ll post more pix later, as there are additional ones from Ngorongoro, and such. I’ve been in the middle of a real soap opera here, it turns out my Tanzanian boyfriend is NOT married, after all. He does have a 5 yo daughter, named Happy. Apparently she was one of those happy accidents that happens when people don’t use condoms. hahaha. Anyway, the person who told my friend that Danio’s married is a guy who has a crush on me, but never had the cojones to do or say anything about it. So he was particularly mad when the boss wouldn’t let him be the driver for our safari, and I wound up dating the driver we got. Alex is a wachapaji anyway, I’d rather be with Danio. OK, almost out of time at the internet cafe here, got some shopping to do.
Instead of accompanying anyone to their church, or going on Safari, I simply stumbled out of bed and wandered to my local tourist hotel, L’Oasis. They have all the requisite spoorts channels from South Africa, and this time I checked the schedule first. So I got to see the 250GP and MotoGP…in damn near hi-def, LIVE and commercial-free!!! w/ more pre & post-race commentary than imaginable! That’s it, I’m moving here. Sorry mom, dad, but unless you can talk Speed Channel into airing MotoGP as beautifully as S2 does, and commercial free, I just may have to remain here. Well, I guess I could settle for a MotoGP subscription, so I can watch it on my computer. But I don’t think it’s as good. For the benefit of my friends who can’t watch the race until tomorrow, I’ll keep my trap shut. But damn, it’s not easy!
I went to Boma Siara to teach the girls how to do a rub off. This is a popular trick used by every major designer I’ve worked for, because there’s always some amazing garment one might want to have a pattern of. Because said garment is often rented from a vintage purveyor, or bought from a store to be returned shortly, it’s best to be able to copy it without taking it apart. This is called a rub-off because you literally rub wax chalk or pencil on muslin laid over the garment, to transfer its seams to the muslin. The muslin is then used to make a pattern. I figured this would be a great lesson for the girls, as they could copy any client’s favorite garment, which is much faster and easier than making a pattern from measurements. The students were overjoyed to see the process, and I was overjoyed to be showing them a marketable skill. Especially when one pointed out that they could use it to copy a popular used garment, as pretty much all the non-African style clothing sold here is used, and there’s a really interesting documentary about that whole process, called “Travels of a T-Shirt” or something. Anyway, I copied a lovely leather jacket I’d gotten from a Rozae Nichols sample sale, and cut it in a Tanzanian Kitenga fabric printed with Giraffes and Zebras. I’ll know later this week if the girls remembered the lesson well, as they did not have time to practice the method themselves. Lucky for me, the sewing teacher was also there, and she sewed up the jacket, since I have never used a foot-powered sewing machine and didn’t want to try just yet. I find it very amusing that here I am surrounded by Husqvarna (non-electric, at that!) sewing machines, and back home I have a Husqvarna motorcycle!
So I was telling Mama Siara that I chose the giraffe/zebra print because my favorite animal is the zebra, and my Tanzanian boyfriend’s favorite animal is the giraffe. She asked me what tribe he was from, and I told her I didn’t know, but that he’s from Karatu. She said “I’m from Karatu! That’s my tribe! Wow, this is really something special!” Mama Siara and I both think I have some sense of kinship with the Karatus, anyway, it’s a very interesting coincidence. Mama Siara is really impressive, she uses a significant part of her salary as Headmistress at Help to Self-Help to build the Faraja Vocational Training Centre, which is at her home. It started out in a small room in her house, and she has since expanded into two large, airy classrooms in her yard, one of which we held class in. She is working on getting the school registered, and desperately needs volunteers to come and teach, as she’s providing the education free to the students. Many of these girls are orphans, and at high risk for living as street children, and she told me it was very hard to get through to them at first, as many of them had been abused as well. They were all so happy, it’s hard to imagine. At lunch we played some game like “monkey in the middle” where we throw a ball to each other and the person in the middle tries to catch it, and the grandkids wanted to play too. I fell in love with the littlest one, Amani, because he likes to wear his flip-flops on the wrong feet.
All the kids here are adorable, so loving and happy to see a Mzungu they can practice their English with. At the end of the day, her students always sing a few songs, then pray. They had this heartbreaking song about being AIDS orphans, but they sang so brightly it was hard to cry over it. Then they said a prayer, and Mama Siara asked me to say my favorite English prayer, so I said the Serenity prayer, in the plural, and she translated it. I offered to pay the girl’s bus fare, as many of them lived far away, and we let two Dala-Dala’s go by because they were both full. So then we started walking toward town, to at least get a start, and the 3rd Dala-Dala was also full. At a narrow bridge we paused to let the cars pass, and one was a pick-up truck, with only one guy in back, so as he passed I jokingly put my hand up and said “Taxi!” We were happily surprised when he actually stopped to let us all pile in the back! So we got a ride halfway to town before he had to turn, and he let us off. He was so nice, he wouldn’t even let me give him some money. So I went up the road toward my place, and gave the students money for the rest of the trip home. Dala-Dala’s cost 200 TShillings for adults, 100 for students, so the equivalent of 80 cents was enough to get all 8 of them home and then some.
Tonight Beth and I went to Via Via for dinner and music. It was fun, but the band called “Sounds of the Serengeti” which was billed as “African music” played about as many Mexican songs as they did Congolese! So rather than just walking to my local Cantina to hear “La Bamba,” “La Cucaracha” and other Mexican party hits, I flew halfway across the planet to hear them performed by a 5 piece rock ensemble from the DRC. These guys sat down at our table and started running game, but it was about as developed as Tanzania, so I had no problem shutting them down. Beth had a little more difficulty, as her predator was even more relentless. He went so far as to whip out his HIV test results, to show us that he’s negative. Which I think is actually a really good idea, but hey, why not wait until the 1st date, at least? He was explaining to her that they live together and have their own rooms, and that we should come home with them tonight. Ernest asked why I don’t like men in Los Angeles, and I told him because they’re all playahs. He was the first Tanzanian who understood what I meant, everyone else thought I meant athletes. Which of course are playahs too, but not just in the sense I’m talking about here.
So I asked him what the Swahili word is for that type of guy, and he told me it’s wachapaji. As he said it he kinda snapped his fingers, in a very “Fonzie” kinda way. I asked if the hand motion was necessary to the definition, and he said yes, it helps. So I said “Wachapaji hapa!” (There’s some playahs here!). Takes one to know one, I guess, and his game was relentless. His friend was even more insistent with Beth, but we both escaped safely into a taxi, after two free rounds of drinks. They even wanted to share the taxi, having us dropped off first. Knowing where we live is not the sort of information these guys needed, so we insisted on our own cab, and as we drove off, they went back into the club to try their luck with some other girls.
Amani, Mama Siara’s grandson, whose really got good game. I think more guys should try the ol’ shoes-on-the-wrong-feet trick, works every time!
Pix from Ngorongoro crater are here:
Well, I have been having a lot of fun getting to know Danio, the driver from our trip to Ngorongoro. On the 4 hour drive home, we talked, while everyone slept, or seemed to. He’s from a small village near Ngorongoro, where people often bring the farm animals into the house for the night, and his mother owns a small farm. He’s learning Italian, and it was fun trying to see how much I could understand, based on my Spanish and French. He asked me about my family, and when I told him that my brother David had covered the task of creating the next generation, and that my brother Gary and I didn’t want kids. He found this absolutely shocking, having never before met someone who didn’t want kids. He expressed concern for the state of humanity, when I told him that many, not most, but a lot, of Europeans and Americans feel like I do. I explained that some of us have other interests we find more compelling than making and raising children, and that as societies become wealthier, and women become more educated, the birth rate drops. He was still shocked. I explained the situation of exponential growth of the human race, and how we are running out of resources, especially clean water. To illustrate this, I referred to the big river that runs through Arusha. He agreed that people bathe, defectate, toss out trash and drink from the same river. I explained that that is why so many children die of preventable bacterial diseases in places like Tanzania, and that until the infant mortality rate drops, people will continue to feel compelled to have many children.
So then, I asked him how many kids he wants. He said two, a boy and a girl, and asked if there’s any way to tell if it’s going to be a boy or girl. I said no, not until the mom is well into her pregnancy. It’s so weird thinking about the vast chasm that exists between us, culturally. On the safari, the other girls and I broke into song occasionally, my personal favorite was when we’d see the backside of an elephant, we couldn’t help but sing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “I like big butts…” We asked him if he knew it, and he replied that he wasn’t much into that stuff, as he’s a cultural dancer, and thus focuses on traditional music. Wow. When we went out to dinner last night, he just came right out and asked “…not even one kid?” Talk about turning the tables! I reminded him of all the orphans living on the streets in Arusha, who are just as worthy of a good home as any newborn. I’m trying so hard to adapt to Tanzanian life and culture, but certain things have such universal repercussions, they need to be changed. Like condoms, for example. Apparently, someone’s daughters were practicing putting condoms onto some guys and their mother found out, and complained to the school, so we had to have a big talk with them. There used to be a PSA on tv here showing how to put on a condom (something many adult TZ men don’t know how to do!) but the public outcry was so great, they pulled it. Well, yes, abstinence is good, and can be practiced by some, as well as monogamy, but hey, for the rest of us, condoms are essential. So teaching was really frustrating today, also because this week’s students are not as focused as last weeks, and I was feeling like the whole thing is pointless, they’re not listening anyway. Well, we do what we can. But it seems like every time we tell some grown man about what we’re doing, he wants to know more. It seems like the info just isn’t getting out fast enough.
I wish I could be a good sport, and just go hey, c’est la vie!, but I have found it really difficult to adapt to The Simple Life… I’ll try to post a video of the street I walk down each morning, because it’s quite interesting. While there many people, animals, and businesses to look at, all I really see is the ground, because if you look up for even a second, it could mean a broken ankle, or a fall into mud. It’s fun, actually, it’s just that I’d like to be able to look at the people and stuff too. The place I live is great, I’m really glad I got the nice middle-class homestay, some of the others are very spartan! So now we’re off to dinner at my Tanzanian Mama’s house.
So this weekend we rounded up the girls from Oregon, and went to Ngorongoro Crater, the most beautiful place on earth, often known as the birthplace of humanity. We drove out early Saturday morning, arriving in time for a nice lunch and plenty of time to explore the crater. It looks like an empty plain from the rim, as it’s hard to gauge the distanct. The crater floor is 5,100 square miles, so about 72 miles across! The rim is very high and steep, and we had a lot of fun getting into and out of it. Once on the floor, there were plenty of animals to see!
More pix will be posted soon, but here’s a link for the few up now. I saw enough Zebras to never feel guilty about buying Zebra skin, that’s for sure! And we had a great time, although I desperately wanted to sleep at the $600 a night luxury resort, and not in a cold, but stuffy tent. Sarah and I both got up at 2:30 am to pee, cuz we were freezing too, and when we went outside we were blown away by the number of stars! We could even see the Milky Way, clear as a bell. It was so magnificent, I didn’t want to go back into the tent, but knew sleep was necessary. Next time, though, this is where I’ll be staying: http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-12