The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello Tanzania!

September 23, 2009

I’m actually writing this early on the 25th (its about 3 am right now), but for unexpected reasons I suddenly have all sorts of free time…will explain that later and thought I might catch up on what I’ve been up to these past couple of days.

On Wednesday morning, we all loaded all of our bags into the bus once again to head for Tanzania. Every time we have to do the reloading thing, I wish that I had brought fewer things with me! Lisa has told me more than once that when I carry all of my things (backpacking pack on my back, black backpack worn across the front of my body and using my hands to hold onto my blue duffel below that) at once she can hardly see me underneath them!

We left around 10 and drove and drove and drove. Even though Lewis and Clark had rented the whole bus, our drivers were trying to make a little extra money and we ended up with a couple of extra Africans and a chain smoking middle aged Spanish woman along for the ride.

We had to take a large ferry in order to get out of Mombasa. For whatever, reason our driver told us we had to get out of the bus to take the ferry (you don’t have to really, as we saw several other bus loads of wazungu still in the bus). But I’m glad we got the chance to get out as the view was really pretty, the air smelled all salty and like the sea and we were able to stretch our legs at least for a few minutes. We waited on the other side for what must have been at least ½ an hour for the bus to get on the very and come join us, but eventually we made it back on and took off again.

The next place we stopped was at the Kenyan border where we had to show our passports and drop off completed exit forms for leaving the country. The guards were very cheerful and were telling us all that we should “Say hello to Obama!” when we went home.

We drove for a while longer on a dirt road in what is kind of a “No Man’s Land” between Kenya and Tanzania before we reached the Tanzanian border. Again, we all had to whip out our passports and those of us (most of the group) who didn’t have Tanzanian visas had to wait in line and pay our $100 US for those.

Then back in the bus we went and onward to Tanga and the Tanga Airport! We made one stop in Tanga to purchase snacks, though Rachel and I were so well supplied from our Tusky’s trip the day before that we just finished that for lunch. We all climbed into the bus again and made the last little trip to the airport. Though the drive was long, Tanzania is for the most part, a very rural and very beautiful country and I spent most of the drive either half dozing or looking at the scenery so it was quite pleasant. However, most of the roads in Tanzania are not paved and the bus driver was driving quite fast, so there were a few turns that were a touch frightening!

We arrived to the airport about two and a half hours before our flight and I think it’s a great testament to how well we get along as a group that everyone just waited patiently. Either that or we’ve all learned the true meaning of “haraka haraka haina baraka” (hurrying brings no blessing) a lot better than our Kiswahili teachers think we have.

Eventually we brought our big bags (all weighing less than 15 kilos) into the airport to check in and shortly after that, the first plane load of us (13 students) boarded one of the tiny Cessnas and we took off for Pemba Island. It was a beautiful, beautiful flight and I took some amazing photos. From the air I could see the most amazing coral reefs both along the coast and surrounding the islands and once again I was wishing it was time for the safari/biology part of the program because all I want to do is go snorkeling in them.

Shortly after arriving on Pemba, while waiting in the airport for plane #2 to arrive with the rest of the group, I started to feel quite sick and ended up laying down with my head on my backpack and almost but not quite falling asleep. Once the others arrived, we all crammed into one not so big bus. I was sitting in the middle on a pull out seat with Natalie and Heather on one side of me and Nicole and Heather on the other. I was also kind of being pushed backwards off of my seat into the row behind me, but was kept helpfully propped up by Anton’s knee – I still actually have a faint Anton knee sized bruise mark in the middle of my back! :P Poor Heather was feeling really sick and ended up vomiting out the window of the bus. She was such a good sport about it though and five minutes later was laughing about how it had happened just as we drove past a group of about twenty young men who were all staring and waving at us. After that, the group made the rest of the slightly less than an hour drive to Wete village without mishap.

We arrived at the beautiful lodge we spent the night at just as the sun started to set and after dumping our bags in our rooms we headed up to the rooftop balcony to watch the sunset and see the flying foxes (rather large and beautiful bats) emerge in great numbers from their hiding places. Then I went to take a nap as my stomach was not feeling so great.

Rachel R. was nice enough to wake me up for dinner and on the way up I took a quick look around the downstairs area where most of us girls were staying. We joked that it felt like the first ever L+C sorority house with so many of us sharing large rooms and a couple of bathrooms. I shared a room with Rachel and was mostly just happy that I had a functional mosquito net this time around.

At dinner I had “tree tomato” juice. None of us were really sure what a tree tomato was, but we all tried it and it was delicious. I also had rice, but decided to forgo the fish, fried potatoes and other excellent looking foods laid out buffet style for us. I didn’t even want to eat rice, but I thought that eating something plain might make me feel better. It didn’t really and I had to tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to go sleep until I’d eaten every bite of my rice, so I did. Right as I was leaving Alex announced that she wanted to have a meeting with all of the people who were feeling sick. Once again, Rachel was the sweetest person ever and despite the fact that she’s healthy as a horse (how she manages this after being my roommate so frequently, I don’t know :P!) she stayed for the sick people meeting so that I could go get some sleep and she could tell me if there was anything important said.

Before I went downstairs, I did stop to talk to Prof. Sperling about how I was feeling sick and what I should do about the upcoming Tumbe village homestay. Before long, others were asking them the same question too. He assured us that whatever we had was likely a 24 hour bug and that we should still go to our host families and that if necessary we knew how to tell them “I am sick!” (Mimi ni mgonjwa!) and “I would like to sleep now!” (Ningependa kulala sasa!). So I went to bed, hoping to feel better in the morning.

About ½ dozen of the students (the really hardy, healthy ones), went out to a carnival in Wete during the night with Prof. Sperling. Rachel said they all had a great time – took a photo in one of the silly photo booths painted like a wedding scene and ate tons of sugar cane. I’m really sorry to have missed it.

- Hill

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