Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 16-24

June 16, 2010

Today was amazing.

The morning began at a dark 6 AM. For the first time in my life I washed my clothes. Not only did I wash my clothes, I washed them in buckets and hung them out to dry on a line. Can you believe it mom?

Next, another morning of pancakes and eggs, but today they threw a little cinnamon in the pancakes. Along with the cinnamon, Ms Bottoms also found a match in hers.

But the day really began when we went on our first of two field trips. We first embarked on our journey to the Upendo Leprosy Home. When they told us we were going I was actually really afraid. I had no idea what I would see, and I could only imagine everyone laying in beds, miserable, with scabs or something. But it was so much different. A sweet, elderly, German nun came to greet us at the entrance. There she explained the disease, and how everyone at the home was cured of leprosy. They lived there because they couldn’t live on their own. Leprosy effects nerve endings, so about 95% of people in the home were missing fingers and toes which made it difficult for them to walk or do things like eat on their own.

We walked into an outdoor corridor and as we talked to the sister, everyone began walking out of their rooms and sitting in chairs outside their rooms. The people were so joyful and happy to see us. They loved getting their picture taken and looking at it after. That’s how everyone is here in Tanzania. I guess they never get to see themselves and so they are so fascinated by our cameras and practically swarm us when we come outside.

The children here are so precious they just run up to us and hold our hands. It doesn’t matter that we can’t speak to each other they just want to be around us. They will walk with us for miles and miles to wherever we go and then just turn around and walk home like it’s nothing. Most of them wear broken sandals and the rest have nothing. The roads are all gravel and I feel like my feet are filthy and beat up when I wear tennis shoes.

Later that day we had students visit us from a special school. Once again I was nervous to meet them and I thought we wouldn’t have anything in common or anything to talk about, and once again I was proved wrong. There are 6 kids and they are all around their 20s but they are just like us. They crack me up! They laugh at our Swahili and try and teach us new words but I've pretty much given up now. They are so cute and the almost fell out of their chairs when we told them we have 4000 people at our school. I showed them pictures of my family and they asked me where the rest of it was. They couldn’t understand that we all only have 1 or 2 siblings because most of them have 10 or 11. There is a precious boy named Shamse, I still cant see it, and he hangs out with me and Camryn, but he calls her Camera because he cant pronounce her name… and he just doesn’t even attempt to say my name.

We walked around town with them and eventually came back to have dinner at the compound. It seemed to be a usual evening full of photography lessons and critiques, and then it got scary.

At around 10:15 pm, Peter, Cade, Kevin, and I were walking in from the back yard where we were hanging out. As we turned the corner we saw a truck headlights coming through our gate and heard lots of yelling. Peter told us to go inside and lock the doors from the inside he is going to go see what is going on. He came back in and woke everyone up asking for our passports. I peeked through the window to see about 15 or 20 men standing around the door with AK47s and a man in a uniform talking to Erin and Peter. Peter was speaking Swahili so we couldn’t understand anything, but when Erin walked out she spoke English with the men. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid in my life. People were crying and nobody knew what was going on or what could happen. I could only imagine us all piling into a truck and them taking us god knows where. They asked what we were doing with the pipes that we used for our community service project and all sorts of question, but eventually Peter told us that they were here because they were worried about our safety. It’s not hard to spot 15 mizungus (white people) here so when we went into town earlier that day they asked around and found out where we were staying. Babu, an ancient man that is here and opens the gate for us but we're not exactly sure what he is doing, was hiding in the bushes with a ponga (machete). What a guy.

Everything turned out okay, but we were all a little shaken up. This will for sure be a night to remember.

June 18, 2010

I'm not sure that there has ever been a time in my life that I would rather be filthy than have to endure a shower, until now. The showers are just so unbearably cold! Which I'm assuming contributes to the fowl smell that most of the natives sport.

On another note, we began the day by going to the “Happy Watoto Home” (Watoto means children), which was an orphanage. I am in love with those babies! If you read this Margaret, I found the most precious little girl there named Margaret, a little boy for you to adopt named Mikayel. I really do want to adopt now. These kids are so amazing and smart and they just need a home and someone to love them.

Recently we have been running into more and more people saying that we have to pay them to take their picture. Yesterday a woman said “you will take my picture and put it in your movies and I will get nothing from it”. Some people even get upset if you take a picture of their livestock. It hasn’t been that big of a problem in Maji Ya Chai but today when we went out to different places in town it was really bad.

We are having a party tomorrow so we had to go to this Maasai market, which is more like just a field, and we had to buy two goats for dinner. We named them Appie and Trée, short for appetizer and entrée. They rode in the bus all the way back from the market, and they are just sleeping peacefully outside. It will be interesting to see how I react tomorrow. The Maasai market was…interesting. It was sooo crowded and everyone just swarms us. That happens everywhere here. It’s like we are breadcrumbs and they are the seagulls, and everywhere we go we are bombarded and stand out.

There are many things I’ve noticed about the culture here. Like staring is not considered impolite and people just stare and stare at us like we are aliens. Also, people pick their noses a lot. As much as people do lots of things in public they are very private people. You are not allowed to eat in public, it’s considered so rude. Everywhere we have been there is just an abundance of children everywhere, but it’s not nearly as common to see adults. Usually you see them behind or inside their houses.

Next we decided to go on a little adventure to waterfall. For a while is was just a bumpy bus ride. Eventually it began getting steeper and steeper, so what do we do? We get out and push. We pushed up hill for a while and the, zoom!, off goes the bus! I was just certain I was never going to see my things again, but no, he didn’t go too much up the hill and around the corner. We trekked up the hill and got back on the bus. Not even 5 minutes later it was time to push again! This happened several times. Eventually we got stuck in mud, and because it was going uphill there was just no getting out. We ended up taking out our backpacks and cameras and walking the rest of the way. I would say it was around 10 miles of the steepest climbing I’ve ever seen. There was no way that bus could have gotten any further. Of course on the drive home not only did the bus have trouble on the steep rocky roads, but it fell over and almost the whole village had to come over and help up push it back right side up. Luckily no injuries!

It was sad because where we were not only did nearly every adult ask for money when you asked to take a picture of them, but even the children asked for money. They have just been trained to ask for money if they see white people. Eventually we gave up asking to take their picture, but they would still just come up to us and ask for money. That happened at the Maasai market also. I'm glad Maji ya Chai people have been so welcoming and friendly.

Anywhoo, we left for the waterfall at 2 and it was supposed to take about two hours. Instead, we got home at 7:20. I'm exhausted, as usual and about to crash. That’s something I love about being here. Everyday we do so much and I feel so accomplished and exhausted when I finally am able to get to go to bed. So goodnight!

June 19, 2010

Today was a day to relax. We just hung out all day because its our last day in maji ya chai.

It was fun though because we were trying to help the mamas cook but that wasn’t working to well.

All day Camryn and I were trying to like gypsies like Rachel, but that didn’t work too well either. At night we had a party at the house. There were supposed to be about 60 people there, like village officials, but because Tanzanians have different times than us it didn’t work out as planned. Tanzanians start counting their day by the hour that the sun comes up. We ended up having about 30 people including the village councilmen and our group.

Oh! Also, for dinner at our party, we ate two goats that we killed that day. Well Mkala killed them, and Cam and I tried to watch but we kept running away because it was hard to watch. He cut their throats, and they kept moving. People said that that was just nerves, but it was still sad. I didn’t even like the goat meat. It’s really tough and chewy, not to mention the uneasy feeling I had because I saw it running around earlier this morning.

June 20/21

I would just like to begin this entry by saying that I have not showered since Friday, today is Monday, and I wont be able to shower until tomorrow. Yumm.

On another note. Yesterday began our safari. This HUGE tank thing came to pick us up and drive us on our 9-hour journey to the safari campsite. It was ridiculously bumpy and it rained for the first couple hours, there were no sides on the truck.

It was only our initial drive in and we already began to see animals! First we saw a wildebeest, which by the way, we say a half eaten dead one on the side of the road that a cheetah had killed, so Killerai, our guide, cut some meat off, grilled it, and we ate some for dinner. It was actually like amazing. Better than steak. I hope we find another dead one.

Next we saw like a heard of giraffes they were so cute! AND, I found out something amazing. The name for giraffe in Swahili is twiga, and the name for my stuffed animal giraffe is twigs! Who knew?!

Later we saw zebras, gazelle, vultures, ostriches, and this dead snake called like a puff adder and it’s supposed to be one of the most deadly in the world. I held it by its tail but I screamed a little because I swear it moved.

We arrived at camp to find our tents and dinner ready. Dinner was aaaamazing. The Maasai cooked it, and we ate it around the campfire. I though I was going to for sure drop like at least 10 lbs here, but nope. The food it so good!

This morning I woke up by ripping a tick out of my hip. Skin in its mouth and all. Needless to say I was freaking out…a little… and the tent walls aren’t very thick so everyone heard about my tick. It’s weird here because there have been so many bugs around us all the time they have stopped bothering me and I have even stopped really acknowledging them, but this one I noticed, and it gives me shivers just thinking about it.

It’s about 3 in the afternoon right not and we are taking a little siesta because we had a vigorous hike up a mountain this morning. It took about 4 hours to get up and it was super steep. We say like 20 baboons on it when we were walking up and that freaked me out a little but all was well! There was a part where we had to go through a cave but like scale the walls with our feet and arms stretched out and a big drop below us. It was scary but I liked it. There were so many times where I could feel the blisters on my feet, or my legs were burning and I didn’t think I could walk up anymore but I just kept pushing myself. Once we got to the top I was so proud of all of us. We went up to get a great view of the land, which we did, but it seemed like it was more than that. It was a way to prove to ourselves that we can do things if we push ourselves and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

June 22-24

Fact: About 80% of the trees in Tanzania are spiky

Fact: Majority of roads are more like paths, and the trees are not pruned

Fact: Our bus doesn’t have walls.

Fact: Every bus ride is a battle.

One would think that 5 hours or walking through a field would allow one to see a plethora or animals. One would be wrong. We walked for so very very long, and all we saw was a heard of buffalo about a football field away, and a burnt turtle shell.

The first few days we got to the safari, my hopes and dreams of seeing animals, was replaced with their feces. I could tell you a lot about animal poop. About how giraffes have little pellets and the water is sucked out of them as they go to the restroom. Hyena poop is white because they chew on bones all the time. Elephant poop is nearly all grass, and because they do not digest much of what they eat other animals riffle through their poop to find bugs and such.

Later that day we drove several hours to our next camp, which was across the field from a Maasai Boma. A Boma is an area where a Maasai leader man lives with all his property. Each wife has their own house and the cattle and goat live in the middle. They gave us a goat to eat for dinner, and then I endured something I will never forget. Earlier I watched two goats be slaughtered by a quick cutting of their throat. This time however, a warrior held down a goat, and suffocated it by keeping his hand over the nose and mouth. It yelped and struggled and everyone just sat silently and watched. It was horrifying. In silence, he made a slit and drained the blood into a bowl where several of the other students tasted it but I couldn’t. Later we had the goat for dinner, and during dinner we were able to talk and ask question to a Maasai leader.

He told us the customs and that he had seven wives. The man’s father, but the rest of his wives he can choose choose the first wife. He can even choose a 13 year old to be his wife no matter his age, or what was even more interesting, a man can see a 3 year old and choose her to become his wife when she turns 13. It’s wild how different their culture is from ours.

Bargaining has become one of my new favorite things, and they are easy to bargain with. Example, today Cade traded a man a pair of 2$ wal mart sunglasses for 7 necklaces and 2 statues.

The next day we drove a few hours to a large national park where we would be staying. When we first walked in we encountered elephants about 40 feet away it was surreal. A teenage boy elephant was trying show of and starting trumpeting and acting like it was going to charge, which was quite frightening! But, all was well and we continued on.

I never thought I would say this but I could never see a Zebra or Baboon again and I would be completely fine. Same with impalas, which are like deer, and giraffes, which are rather boring and still. Swahinglish has become our language now and every time we see a native we say as many Swahili words as we know.

Last night we met or National Geographic photographer, Massimo. He is super precious, and he’s from Italy. Turns out I have been holding my camera completely wrong, and I have no clue what I’m doing. Actually I already knew that second part. He has already taught us so much and we have only been with him a day. After we all began to get a little bummed about our pictures, he reassured us that animals are not photogenic. Also, photos are all about contrast. A beige gazelle will almost never look good against the beige grass because photos are about contrast. You may have an amazing emotional moment, but those moments are not always photographable. I think that helped me a lot because I feel like sometimes I have an amazing scene right in front of me and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t photograph it.

Toilets here have become an adventure in themselves. Sometimes the are holes in the ground, and sometimes they are stools over a hole in the ground. Rarely do they actually look like toilets and even more rarely, they flush. When it comes the hole in the ground, many of us opt to use the wild. Also, when we have to go to the bathroom on the truck we ask to “check the tire”, and they pull over and let people to their business. We’ve all become ridiculously comfortable with each other, as one would predict.

I go through each day and look forward to the adventure that awaits for my next day that begins at 5 AM, which is when we wake up. As for tonight, I will worship the luke warm shower that this new camp we are staying at is awaiting my filthy body. We joke about our “dirt tans” because when we take off our socks there are solid lines, even when we have been wearing pants all day.

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