November 19, 2009
Catching up on the 21st, due to the craziness of the last couple of days. The 19th was a crazy whirlwind of a day. We packed up and left Oldonyo Sambu quite early in the morning in the hopes of avoiding mud pits and traffic so that we could get to Arusha in order to have time to go shopping and use the Internet before heading off for our week of research in remote and beautiful Pembe Abwe.
The drive was breathtaking and bittersweet – our last trip through the bush and in Land Rovers. Just before we stopped to fix a flat on one of the vehicles, we saw what must have been hundreds of wildebeest galloping in the distance, weaving their way in and out of the trees. It was quite a formidable sight – “The Lion King” certainly had the wildebeest depicted correctly, I think.
Eventually, we did make it to Arusha. The Dorobo drivers dropped all of us wanifunzi off at the group’s favored dining establishment “McMoody’s” (or as its advertisements say “McMoody’s – the taste to taste”), where most people ordered shakes, burgers and fries. I opted for just an ice cream sundae because my stomach was feeling particularly hivihivi (so-so/iffy), but I was kind of jealous of Lisa and Rachel’s mocha shakes when those arrived.
Next, Lisa, Kai, Rachel, Lydia and I walked down to the Maasai market. On the way to the market, we met a very smooth talking man who introduced himself as “Mr. Professor Simba” and informed Rachel that she was his “sister from another mister” and Kai that he was his “brother from another mother” and that he would help us find good prices at the market. Oddly enough, this did turn out to be true as he did help Lisa find a very nice pair of sandals for half the price another vendor wanted to sell her.
I was really quite feverish and out of it, so I was pretty proud of myself for managing to talk down the price on two beautiful scarves from 20,000 shillings to 12,000 shillings. They are quite nice and though I initially thought I might give them as gifts, now I think I may keep them to wear because unlike jewelry, I will actually wear the scarves and it would be nice to have something in my wardrobe to remind me of this trip whenever I wear it.
Lisa, Lydia and I ended up sitting and talking to some very nice Maasai women who were out in front of the main market area, beading and selling their wares. They were quite taken with Lydia’s gauged ears and with out attempts at conversation in Kiswahili and Kimaasai. The even brought out extra stools for us to sit on so we could join them in the shade and really have a good conversation. Lydia even helped bead for a while!
Once again, I was so struck by how warm and welcoming East Africa women are. While the men selling things in the market were really aggressive and unpleasant (one man even grabbed me by the arm and tried to drag me back into his shop after I left without buying anything), with the women sellers, the bartering felt like more of an exchange and an integral part of the process, rather than an unwanted ordeal.
I was so surprised, in such a positive way, the women we chatted with were genuinely interested in us as people, not just as wazungu customers. We told them about our Maasai homestay experiences and the were thrilled that we had enjoyed ourselves and loved our Maasai mamas. There was never once any pressure from them to make a purchase or exchange anything at all of monetary or other value and I just couldn’t believe how at home I felt perched on a stool in the middle of a bustling market, despite the fact that I was sick, white and so dizzy all of the colors of the brightly beaded bracelets and baskets were kind of weaving themselves together in front of my eyes.
Eventually, Lydia, Lisa and I left in search of internet. They found good connections at the place under the Meru Guest House, but my laptop wouldn’t connect so I parted ways with them and went to the upstairs of the Arusha Backpacker’s Hotel. After updating my blog and sending some e-mails (most of them pathetic, sick sounding ones to my family, I think), I hiked down to Shop Rite and picked up some more dried fruit, new pencils, gum and an ice cold Stoney Tangaweze (my favorite East African soda).
I waited in the parking lot with the other wanifunzi until Douglas and Killarai came to picks us up in the Land Rovers. We went back to the Peterson’s compound in Olasiti to spend the night and to have a barbeque with out friends in the general culture program who had come over for the night from their Olasiti homestays.
It sounds like they are having a fabulous time and I’m a bit jealous of them for getting to spend so much more time with the amazing Petersons, but I’m still glad I’ve been on extra safari. It sounded like all of their projects were going really well and everyone seemed to be loving their homestays, though poor Meryl was sick!
Devin also helpfully supplied me with sleeping medication, which ended up proving to be an adventure in more ways than one – starting with the fact that when I took it that night, it started working and I could feel my heart rate and breathing slowing, which made me panic and not want to fall asleep, so the resulting adrenaline rush actually kept me awake, fighting the medication!