Friday, 10 February 2012

Into inner Tanzania

Africa is not a country. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Burundi, Mozambique, those are countries here in East Africa. Most people here speak Kiswahili. Some English is spoken, French, German, Arabic and hundreds of tribal languages. The best option for being understood though is Kiswahili.
My efforts to learn the language have been spotty at best. Tomorrow though, we head back to Kolo and Mnenia, the village Elke worked in with Twiga women's group. Maybe one or two people there speak English, I intend to volunteer at the school teaching English and I know I'll be learning Swahili from the children. I have a few phrase books to assist me, Elke learns new words every day, so by journey's end I should be speaking.
We've had much fun in the past few weeks wandering around Arusha, visiting Moshi,  tree nurseries, sampling local cuisine; Chinese, Indian and Tanzanian.
I volunteered for two days at a new school up the hill north of Arusha. The children were eager to learn and I was naive enough to think I could teach them. My inexperience had me expecting too much and by the second hour the class I had were jumping off the desks, running around the room, laughing and shouting, completely ignoring my entreaties to "sit down".
They do understand some English but were very aware I didn't understand Swahili. I got  help from another teacher, getting past my concern that I look like I don't know how to manage 9 year olds and they settled down till recess.
Later I saw that after first lesson they get a break...
 The little ones, "the baby class", 3-5 year olds were like limpets, all over me. Stroking my hair, my arms, pinching me and wrapping their arms around my leg fighting over who got to hold my hand in circle. Yikes!
The folks running the school have next to nothing for resources, I made some boundaries around what I had to offer, it would have been easy to go out and buy what I thought they needed, spending everything I had.

A last walk into town to buy supplies. Only what we can carry in my backpack. At most corners there are young men eager to sell us a giant poster map of Tanzania or a Masai knife, belts, hats, shirts, art work or the ever present offer of Safari. I've learned it's not rude to ignore them, in fact I'm doing them a favour so they don't waste their time, cause I'm not buying!
With Seppo's help we purchase an ancient looking wheelbarrow, 13" very used tire and wooden box, renailed numerous times, a bag of flour for making bread in the cob oven and lots of peanut butter. The honey is amazing, yogurt (no fridge so gotta watch that one) buckets, bags of rice and beans. It all goes in the LandRover or on the roof and we're off.
This time the police checkpoints slow us down, I get a fine for not wearing my seat belt. I wore it every other time! Everyone agrees it's bogus as no one in the back seat has one to put on and the driver wasn't wearing his.
Basket makers displaying their craft at the side of the road , massive mats, round square and rectangular as well as coiled baskets all made of local  palm leaves or is that fronds?
We drive past Masai herders,  their goats and cows crossing the road to get to pasture or water. This year is an Initiation year and several young men have masks of black and white with huge plumes rising off the back of their heads.
Stopping briefly in Babati for supplies the vendors at the market are amused by the sight of us attempting to haggle over the price of a watermelon, 3000 shillings about $2C.
The road is still under construction but soon we are onto the familiar red dirt road passing the farmland South of Babati.
A climb into the hills past banana plantations, fields of corn and sunflowers just started and then fields of both in flower. Snaking along a ridge, down into valley back up and around.  We see log bee hives suspended in trees and gigantic cactus trees- Euphorbia Candelabra. Many types of Acacia, Sausage trees, Baobab, Mangos and so many more species to investigate.
 This is where we all came from. The Rift valley over to the west, Olduvai gorge to the north. On some level, I've come home.

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