October 11, 2009
So, yesterday’s bus ride ended up being a touch more than eight or nine hours as the journey ended up taking almost exactly twelve hours. Though Tanzania is as beautiful as ever, staring at it out the window of a bus was less than thrilling. Luckily, Rachel and I were able to pass the last hour or so sharing my iPod and drowning out the complaints of our fellow travelers with Shakira, Cobra Starship, The Swell Season, Blitzen Trapper, Nickel Creek, Joshua Radin, Cute Is What We Aim For and the Dr. Horrible Soundtrack.
We arrived at the Petersons’ compound in Olisiti, just outside of Arusha and after a much appreciated pasta dinner and some time around the camp fire, we all spent the night in tents.
Laila, Alex and I went for a run this morning and were joined by three of the Petersons’ four dogs. They hated it as the dogs weren’t the most courteous and would run directly next to or in front of you with little warning, but I loved it. It wasn’t as good as running with the Lance of course, but it was still fun and the run itself was beautiful. Our route up the dirt road actually contained a hill (we’d almost forgotten what those were) and we could see Mt. Meru very clearly in the distance.
After breakfast, we all piled onto a bus again and were dropped off in downtown Arusha with 100,000 Tanzanian shillings (really not as much money as it sounds like) and the instructions not to get into too much trouble in the next couple of days. I checked into the Meru House, a place very popular with backpackers, with my two excellent roommates from last week, Lydia and Rachel R. Many of the other wanifunzi are staying here too, though Sam, Meryl and Miles opted to splurge on a fancy hotel and I think a few people might have ended up at the Arusha Backpacker’s Hotel across the street.
Our room is spartan, but seems pretty clean. We each have our own bed with real mattresses and pillows and even an ensuite bathroom. We decided that each of us paying an extra $2 a night was worth it for that. As it is, we’re each paying about $20 US total for the room and bathroom for two nights, so that isn’t bad at all.
After an hour in the net café, we went to lunch at the Indian/Chinese/Everything restaurant below our hotel. It was the most fabulous meal any of us have had since leaving home. Rachel had an Indian chicken dish of some kind, Lydia had a Chinese chicken with black beans dish and I had vegetable korma with a fruit lassi.
Then we wandered down to Shop Rite to do some pre-safari shopping. I made a list but didn’t find much of it. I did purchase some dried fruit to take on safari (trying to avoid those cookies at snack time so my pony friends will still like me when I arrive back home) and some apples for breakfast for the next couple of days for Rachel and I to eat with her remaining jar of peanut butter. I also bought my own roll of toilet paper just to be safe. I even found gum, which is very exciting because I’ve been missing it an awful lot.
After that, we went back to the hotel and hung out for a few hours. There was some discussion of taking taxis over to the shopping mall for a few hours in order to see a movie, but there was no guarantee that the movie that would be playing would be an American film instead of a Bollywood one (though I personally would have enjoyed that just as much), so we abandoned that idea in favor of just having dinner as a group. We went back to the same place, but I was still so full from lunch that I opted for a smoothie and an unwanted piece or two of naan bread from someone else’s meal.
Though today has been a good day, I’m already depressed at being back in the city. I’m so glad its only for two days. I hate the city. Especially the cities here. I hate being told I’m beautiful and then having people try to sell me stuff or drag me onto their dola dolas (the Tanzanian version of matatus). I am, however, quite glad that I was able to make it to a net café and get e-mails from home.
I was so excited to hear from everyone and especially loved getting an e-mail from the Arbor Grove crew about their upcoming Halloween Horse Camp. My friends here were having a good time laughing about the fact that in the picture of me with all of the campers and one of the horses, Lady Di, all covered in stickers to label the parts of the horse, I look no older than the camp kids and am still wearing a wool sweater even though everyone else is in summer clothes. It was decided that it was “Classic Hillary”, now that they’ve had an entire month to observe the fact that I’m in long sleeves or a sweatshirt almost constantly, even in the warm East African climate.
I can’t believe that I’ve already been here more than a month. Although this is a bit belated, I think given my recent lack of internet access it can be forgiven…so without further ado, I present to you “You Know You Have Been In East Africa With The L+C Group When”:
1. Bowel movements (or lack thereof) are a completely acceptable and indeed, expected topic at meal times.
2. You will struggle into particularly unflattering under armor within the confines of a tent or baanda no matter who else may be watching.
3. You can catch crabs on the coast with your bare hands and then determine whether they are male or female.
4. You congratulate your fellow students on particularly loud and impressive belches, knowing that the bigger the belch, the more relief it will provide to your friend’s stomach.
5. You have been last in the lunch line and had to eat peanut butter and jelly and dessert.
6. Tang has become your preferred beverage of choice.
7. You have tried Kilimanjaro, Tusker and Safari and still aren’t convinced that any of them is actually beer.
8. You have tried “Russian Bear”, or at least smelled it – either way it puts you in mind of rubbing alcohol.
9. You smile so big that your face begins to ache when you enter a bathroom and find that toilet paper has been provided for you.
10. You have developed a preference for either Stoney Tangaweze or Crest Bitter Lemon Soda.
11. You think that “being alone” means closing your eyes and listening to your iPod while you are surrounded by the entire rest of the group.
12. You being to believe Ken’s mantra that “Food, Sex, Death” is what determines life, the universe and everything.
13. You know or have met at least five men named Daudi.
14. You have been proposed to at least twenty five times (if you are female) or you have been offered at least three daughters of various acquaintances of yours as wives (if you are male).
15. You have spread Natalie’s culinary creation of “Peanut Butter Crunch” (peanut butter with granola sprinkled on top) on some item of food during at least one meal.
16. You think that buses nearly fishtailing off the road and sliding in to ditches and matatus nearly hitting each other, pedestrians and other traffic are just part of the everyday nature of travel and are no longer all that concerning.
17. You are startled when you pass by a mirror or glass window and catch a glimpse of your reflection – you’ve started to forget what you look like.
18. You know most of the first verse of The Jambo Song (even though you’ve never heard the actual recording) because of the number of times street vendors have sung it to you.
19. You’ve either been part of the early morning East African running team or told them they are insane while you drink your coffee and eat cinnamon rolls.
20. You’ve told your friends in the other group (general culture/bio) they were absolutely ridiculous for not being in your particular part of the problem because you will miss them way too much when the group splits.
Miss you all so much…
I’m feeling crazy homesick again due to being in the city again. Its all crowded and smelly and loud – I want the waves and the bushbaby noises of the coast back again!