Saturday, 25 December 2010

Amsterdam, Africa and Arusha

Africa, a continual overload. Masses of people standing, walking and sitting at the side of the main road. Bundles carried on heads, on carts, bicycles, donkeys, trucks and two wheeled carts. Piles of grass, sugar cane, bananas, sticks, bags of charcoal, furniture and buckets of water, endless buckets of water. In the city there are hundreds, likely thousands of vendors carrying shoes, shirts, pants, maps, knives, sunglasses, kitchen gear, you name it , it's for sale from a kiosk, bicycle or someone's back.
I've been shy about taking pictures. It seems like some kind of exploitative voyeurism, but how else to describe the riot of colour, the incongruity of items, the sheer volume of everything? And traffic! As we careen down the road, inches from the approaching suv's, cars, trucks, Landrovers, safari buses, transports and the mini buses pulling out, passing on the inside, the outside, between us and oncoming traffic flashing lights and tooting warnings we weave back and forth dodging crossing pedestrians and imminent collisions. Once in the stream no one seems to give way, no prisoners taken and no quarter given.
That's the impressions from the moment. Earlier today we visited the Maasai market, where I did eventually take some pictures after my first haggling experience. Bead work, carvings, drums, musical instruments, baskets, jewelry, shoes, fabric, clothing, bowls and paintings just to scratch the surface. Granted, among the many "stores'"there was a lot of repetition. It all became somewhat overwhelming, every vendor insisting we enter their small space to look... any interest shown in anything ,they are ready to do business. Hungry.

I bought a shirt for myself and some fabric for Elke, she picked up earrings, a beaded choker, a shirt and belt for me and tyre shoes for her son Leland. I looked at and considered many, many baskets, large gourds/calabashes, wooden bowls, beaded bands and earrings, African harps, shakers, mbira and so many different fabrics. Elke tells me to wait till Bagamayo.
This is Arusha, second largest city in Tanzania. We go out for lunch with Seppo our host, his wife Juliet and three yr old son Roni after our shopping experience, then retire to the Arusha Masai Italian restaurant, where Seppo has his Gallery, to sit in the shade and catch up on writing and email. I've had a few meals here since I arrived 6 days ago.

The flight from Amsterdam was much more comfortable, I managed to grab an empty seat at the front didn't watch ANY tv, read, dozed and watched people and the map. (OK so I did watch a screen!) The sun setting over Africa shining through the porthole was quite magnificent. An incredible red stretching across the horizon for about 20 minutes seen from the centre of the plane, took my breath away. The entire traveling was easy other than the time crunched into the seat from Seattle, when I did watch a couple of movies. However I couldn't hear the dialogue. Too bad there wasn't a Swahili language option.
Landing at Kilimanjaro my bags arrived safely, albeit last journey for the red suitcase. US$50 for the Visa, I declared the Gouda I bought for Elke in Amsterdam, stepped through the door and there was Seppo folding out a sign with CM on it. As we walked outside the air, the scents, the temperature embraced me. Africa, I've arrived.

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