Week Four in Tanzania

THURSDAY August 4, 2005

Most of today was good. We went to the National Museum, which was different but still pretty cool. There were some neat things there and I'm glad we finally got the chance to go. Then, the inevitable happened. We had to sit and wait for dinner. We were supposed to have dinner at Salma's aunt's home at 6pm. Hendrik had a meeting at 4:30pm and he was supposed to go with us. This, of course, changed to we were leaving at 6pm, meaning we finally left at 6:4pm, without Hendrik. So, we sat at this opulent house until 8:45pm when dinner was served.

By this time, everyone was cranky, especially Meinderd and Hanna who had specifically told Hendrik, several times, that they wanted to be home early so that they could pack their stuff. When we were told that dinner was at 6pm, we thought it would really happen. We had even gone to the internet cafe for an hour and were quite happy with the way the day was turning out. Paul, who was now literally falling asleep at the dinner table, spilled his beer all over my plate and my pants. Now, I was already cranky because it was so late and now I got to sit for a few hours stinking of beer. To make matters worse, Paul has informed me that he wants to leave tomorrow and go home. I can't really say that I blame him. He has been the most patient of us all during this trip and I think he's finally had it.

Hendrik finally shows up around 10pm and has his dinner. Meanwhile, the rest of us are cursing under our breath and just want to go home. Meinderd and I were going to review our photos tonight and then I was going to burn him a copy. This plan, as well as any hope of packing is now gone as we simmer in anger. We finally got home just after 11:30pm and everyone just went straight to their rooms and went to bed.

FRIDAY August 5, 2005

Today was a pretty good day for me. Paul and I stayed at the rental house until 5pm when Hendrik took us to dinner. We had said goodbye to Meinderd and Hanna earlier as they were packed to leave and had to spend most of the day sitting at Salma's parent's house waiting to leave. Hanna was supposed to get more henna done but, surprise, surprise, the woman never showed up to do it. Although their flight left at 11:10pm, Hendrik's father was at the airport at 4pm. He was paranoid he wouldn't be able to leave I guess.

After dinner, we decided to go with Hendrik to the airport. We waited there about an hour before everyone was allowed to enter the airport. It's weird because you can't actually enter the airport until your flight is called. So you sit outside on benches waiting until they call you. You also have to pay $8 in American dollars in order to leave the country. It's all very bizarre to me. Anyway, their flight went off okay and we headed to Best Bite for some ice cream. I paid for everyone and then, when it was my turn to get my cone, they were out of vanilla. Typical. I swear this country hates me. Salma was nice enough to give me hers and she shared with Hendrik. We were home early, 9:30pm.

SATURDAY August 6, 2005

Today we are heading out to Tanga, which is the name of the country's third largest city as well as the name of the region of the country. It's also Salma's birthplace and her home for the first 17 years of her life. We're going to be staying with Nganya's parents once we get there and I imagine we're going to do lots of touristy things. Hendrik keeps saying it's a four hour bus ride but I'm convinced it's going to take at least seven hours. So, here we go again. It's almost comical by now. The bus was an hour late so we left at just after 4:30pm and arrived just after 10:30pm. Of course, we also couldn't have just one thing go wrong, not when your traveling with Hendrik. Like I said, this country hates me.

Our bus was supposed to be a first class bus, have a TV and a movie and air conditioning. None of this came to fruition. On top of all this, it had to be the shittiest bus ever made. Half the seats were broken and, as my luck seems gigantically crappy, I had the worst seat of them all. The cup holder on the seat in front of me was broken. It seems someone must have really needed the magnet that held it up so they unscrewed it, took the magnet and then put the screws back in. The footrest was also broken, happily bouncing around and whacking my feet.

The best part, however, was my broken seat. It leaned halfway back to the seat behind me and, whenever we hit a bump, joyfully flapped around, making my head bounce along with it. This only lasted about a third of the way through the trip because the seat finally broke on a large bump, leaving me sitting very uncomfortably with no back rest and the poor lady behind me with a back rest practically in her lap. Now, one would think that this was enough of an adventure, but no, there was more fun to be had on this death trip. We approached the weigh station just outside Dar and were told that 25 people had to get off and walk a quarter of a mile past the weigh station because the bus was overweight.

Now, normally, it wouldn't have been, especially since the bus wasn't full. However, we found out that it was likely that the driver was transporting something that he shouldn't have been carrying. We didn't ask what that was. It's better that way. So, off the people go and we drive up to and onto the scale. A lady two rows ahead of us is on her cell phone, yelling and swearing in swahili at the owner of the bus company. I call it the shittiest bus ride ever, but that is being polite compared to the things she was saying. As this is going on, we get off the scale and start to turn around.

Everyone that was left on the bus had to move to the front of the bus to make the back lighter and get back in line to get on the scales again. This time we passed, although we had lost a good 30 minutes. Then, we drove up and picked up all the people who had been kicked off earlier. Shortly after this, we were given a packet of coconut wafers and soda, then they gave us a bottle of water. Paul and I stuck the water in our bags because it was way too much liquid to drink.

About an hour later, we stopped to go to the bathroom, or short call. I really had to go but I decided to wait. I had no toilet paper with me and I didn't want to pee in a pitch black field in the middle of the night with 40 strangers around me. So, off we went again until we finally reached Tanga.

Ngangya's parent's home is really nice and so are her parents. Even though it was late, they gave us some food, which included cow's intestines. I passed on those but ate some of everything else.

SUNDAY August 7, 2005

6am - damned rooster woke me up 7am - damned rooster is still at it 8am - damned rooster is going to die, but after I've had a shower.

9am - cold shower, again. You can only get hot water by boiling it and taking it into the shower with you in a bucket. This is common in nearly every home and I'm far too polite to wake someone up just so they can boil me some water.

11:30pm - today ended up being a very busy day and I am quite tired now. Paul and I are getting ready for bed as we opted to come home and sleep while Hendrik, Salma and Dina are off at the disco.

Today we went to see the Amboni Caves, which are limestone caves and one of the most extensive cave systems in East Africa. The caves were used as a hideout by the Mau Mau during the 1950s when they were fighting the British. It was really cool and really hot inside the caves. There are lots of natural formations that look like other things. There were also a lot more bats than I had expected but they didn't bother us at all. It was fun, especially all the very tight spots we had to maneuver around that required us to squat and walk, sometimes crawl to get through some areas. A flashlight was definitely necessary and, as I was at the back of the line and away from the light, I saw much of the cave in near total darkness. It was still a good trip and a fun experience.

Next, we went to the Tongoni Ruins, which were also interesting. They are what remains of a mosque and its tombs from the 14th century. They are also the largest collection of Shirazi pillar style tombs in East Africa. At high tide, the ocean comes up to the edge of the cliff that the ruins lie on. There are many mangrove trees at the bottom of the cliff that get partially covered as the tide comes in.

After all this, we went on a drive to Pangani. We mostly just drove around but we also passed through a very large sisal plantation estate. The sisal was on both sides of the road. Some of it had already been harvested so I saw plants that were just beginning, all the way to being cut and bundled and packed onto trucks. We also crossed over the Pangani River and had lunch at a new hotel on top of the bluff. It used to be some other hotel but it closed, was bought and has now been redone. It was very nice but we waited two hours for lunch to be served. We also had to wait over an hour for dinner (with signs marked "minimum 45 minute for dinner") so I am assuming that this is typical in this area of the country.

I also saw my first two-story mud-brick house today. I had always assumed that it wasn't possible to build more than one level but there it was, standing on the banks of the river.

MONDAY August 8, 2005

Today is Nane Nane Day (Farmer's Day). Essentially, it appears to be similar to our Labor Day. Some shops will be open for a short time but almost everything will be closed. We're supposed to go to the Galanos Sulphur Springs today but I'm not sure if this is going to happen because it's after 8am and Hendrik and Salma are still sleeping.

10:30pm - Okay, we got a tour of town today, which is smaller than I thought but also very laid back and nice. We also stopped into the local market where I discovered topatopa fruit. It was very tasty and I wish I could bring some home but that's not possible. So, I will just eat lots of it here. Afterwards, Hendrik and Salma left us because they had to do the rounds of the relatives. So, we went back to Nganya's parent's home and had lunch, then took Dina with us to the Sulphur Springs.

The Galanos Sulphur Springs is an interesting trip. The springs themselves aren't all that impressive, thought Paul and Dina enjoyed them. They both drank the water there and washed their faces. Getting to the springs is difficult, at best. I don't know how or if anyone can visit them in the rainy season. The road goes from normal dirt road to "how the hell do you navigate these holes and ruts" to "what the hell were we thinking?" to "what the hell? That's the road?" Then, you have to get out and walk a good mile to the springs. You're basically walking through a forest of coconut trees with small footpaths. Occasionally, you pass someone. They are always polite and say hello but have the puzzled, "what are white people doing here" look on their face. It's very evident that not many people ever come here.

Anyway, it was interesting and Paul was happy so that's all that counts. On our walk back out we saw a man climbing a coconut tree with the same speed and precision as most people walk on the ground. We met up with Hendrik and Salma back in town but they still had 3 or 4 homes left to visit, so we returned to relax a bit before dinner. Relax we did. For four hours! I swear, I will never get used to 10pm dinners!

TUESDAY August 9, 2005

8am - Well, I've been up for four hours already. That damned rooster needs to die! If this was my home, we'd be eating rooster for breakfast today. Oh, Hendrik also told me that they bought the wrong tickets to get here and has assured me he got the right ones this time. I still don't understand why people put up with such shoddy service.

10am - So, one of the taxis didn't show up and we had to cram into one car to get to the bus station. Of course this was the car that Salma had already given some money to last night so that he would be on time this morning. Hendrik and Salma dropped us off the station and went to buy some ubuyu (boab fruit boiled in sugar, with red coloring). This stuff is very good and tastes a bit like a mounds or bounty bar minus the chocolate. Salma's mom is going back to Tanga on Saturday so I will be sure to give her a buttload of cash to get me some more.

As usual, the bus is 30 minutes late. I am no longer surprised by such things. It was an okay bus and was definitely better than the last bus but we still didn't have any a/c. They claimed it was running but all I was getting was hot air. We did have two TVs, one at the front and one at the back and we got to watch Home Alone 2 and K2. Nice wintery movies in the middle of summer. This bus ride, however, was uneventful and we arrived safely back in Dar.

We got off in Ubungo because it was closer to Salma's parent's house. Dina went to get a taxi, which ended up being a death rid with a road raged driver from hell. I swear, I have never seen so much flipping of the bright light switch in my life. I really thought the guy was going to break it off. First, the driver was angry because he thought Dina was alone. There were really five of us, meaning he couldn't make a lot of money so our taxi ride went from 8,000 shillings to 10,000 shillings.

The people at the bus station also wouldn't let him out of the usual exit because he was about five minutes past time so he had to take the other exit and pay extra. This did not make him any happier. In the end, we made it home but not before we were entertained by the most impatient driver ever, shifting and switching lanes frantically.

WEDNESDAY August 10, 2005

Today we did a crapload of running around to get a bunch of minor stuff done. First, we went to the Dutch Embassy to pick up Hendrik and Salma's marriage paperwork. There's too much legislation, I think, in filing all that stuff. First, they signed stuff at the wedding, making it legal in Tanzania. Next, they had to take it to the embassy for some official stamping. Now, they have to take it back to Holland and file it with their local council, making it valid in Holland for six months. Then, finally, they have to send it off to The Hague to make it permanently official.

So, with all that done, we headed over to the photographer's place so they could get some more things taken care of. Salma ordered some frames from a shop across the street, which were cut there and delivered to her house later in the evening. After that we had lunch at The Alcove, a very good indian restaurant. They had chicken korma and garlic naan so I was all set.

When lunch was finished, we went back to the photographer's shop, got Paul and Hendrik's shoes shined and bought some African music. Still more was to be done, so we headed off to finish buying gifts for everyone and then went back to Salma's parent's house where we finally got a taste of some ugali. The best way for me to describe ugali is that it looks like a mound of mashed potatoes but a lot thicker and tastes a bit like bland oatmeal. It's usually served with some different types of sauces but their homemade pili pili sauce is way too dang hot so I ate it plain.


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