Here I am in Dar es Salaam again, ready to go back to the Deep and Dirty South. Am luxuriously in the Peace Corps Office Volunteer Lounge enjoying free unlimited internet and computer usage as well as lovely air conditioning, although today it is rather cloudy in Dar so its not quite as hot as normal.
So since leaving my site about two weeks ago, I spent one week in Morogoro/Dar for training and this past week travelling a whole lot. A few friends and I did a whirlwind tour of some of our friends' sites. We went to see four people and had a super time. A large chunk of this week was spent in Arusha region - a very touristy part of Tanzania because it is near such attractions as Mount Kilimajaro, Serengeti Desert (Lion King, anyone??), and Ngorongoro Crater. We went to visit our friend Matt who teaches upper level chemistry at a Secondary School in Karatu Town, about 2 hours outside of Arusha Town. He lives on the school grounds and replaced a married couple who just finished their Peace Corps service. His house is super nice! It is all pimped out with tons of furniture, electricity, fireplace (doesn't really work), running water, hot showers, a real kitchen, western toilet... It was awesome to stay there for a few days. The weather was beautiful and oh so cool. We had to use blankets in bed!! My friend Erica wore a fleece to sleep! Luckily I brought a sweater with me. It rained quite a bit and his town is REALLY pretty - rolling lush hills and huge expanse of sky. The rain caused for some crazy mud and fun walking experiences (barefoot for me one time), but such is life.
One day when we were there, we were in Karatu Town and saw a huge group of tourists at the local internet cafe/non Tanzanian food place. It was the strangest thing for my volunteer friends and I. It has been a really long time since we've seen such a large group of non Tanzanians. We sometimes just see a few walking here or there. Or in the South where I live, we basically know all the non Tanzanians (other volunteers, missionaries, etc). We felt so strange seeing the group of teenage Americans and somehow felt like we belonged more because we were dressed respectfully (they were wearing short shorts, tank tops, etc) and knew the language and weren't just here in the country to safari and leave. I don't know. I'm probably not making much sense, but I came away from that experience feeling like I don't think I would ever really want to live in a touristy part of the country, because Tanzanians treat you as a silly tourist with lots of money to blow and no interest in the local culture aside from souvenirs.
But, we do stand out nevertheless and regardless of our language skills, people still assume sometimes that we are tourists. So of course we got ripped off. It was bound to happen at least once during this trip. It was in Arusha and we were leaving. The second we arrived at the bus stand and got out of our vehicle, we were bombarded by people wanting to know where we going so they could pursuade us to get on THEIR bus. This one guy was particularly adamant, even after we told him not to bother us and we started walking away, but we saw that his bus seemed to be one of the few left in the stand, so we decided to go with it. He of course started off with a ridiculous price, and we argued for a bit and he brought it down. He boarded the empty bus with us and came back with tickets and asked for our fare. We gave it to him, not really thinking and he left to bring us our change. He of course never came back and the bus started to take off. We soon realized that nobody else on the bus seems to have paid. This was confirmed when the REAL ticket collector came to get our fare. We felt a bit silly, but there was not much we could do about it. Two of us paid again and one of us refused. They finally kicked us off the bus and paid for us to get onto another one, after a brief stint with a police officer. That was the start of probably the worst day of my TZ life so far. From point A to point B, it took us 11 hours and 8 moving vehicles when it should have been around 7 or 8 hours. I'm not sure how that happened, but no questions asked. We were so incredibly tired and frustrated by the end, but luckily our friend Jon has a really nice place (it seems like the Deep and Dirty South people are the only ones WITHOUT fancy homes) and had dinner ready for us when we got to his house finally at like 9:30pm.
I am flying out of Dar es Salaam tomorrow and going back to the South. Last night, I had an amazing food experience (milkshake, burger, prawns, noodles, 2.5 sodas, fresh passion fruit juice) and came back to the hotel room stuffed and so so happy. I took a HOT shower and felt the cleaner than I have in months. I laid on the bed under the ceiling fan and thought about how much I would give up to have a fan at my site. Fans are a beautiful thing.
This morning I went to ShopRite. Yes, ShopRite. Yes, it was like being in America. I bought a lot of stuff and spent a buttload of money. But its all worth it. I picked up things I could not get anywhere else easily in this country. It was heavenly. It had aisles, display cases, air conditioning, music, selection to choose from. I got CEREAL!! I will have to eat it with lukewarm powdered milk, but Special K for breakfast! How awesome. :) Tonight we are going to attempt to see a movie - either Miss Congeniality 2 or Hitch. I am so excited. I don't even care about what movie it is. It's been six months since my last movie going experience and I am ready for one.
I think I am also ready to go back. The other day, I called my village "home." I think it may have been the first time. I am feeling better and better about it, though it lacks many of the luxuries I have seen other volunteers have. It is my own and I feel comfortable there and I don't have to live out of a bag. And besides, I am beginning to think that flush toilets are more trouble than they are worth. I actually think I prefer my hole in the ground (especially when one has diarrhea!!! - I had it for 8 days during this trip... but won't go into too many details).
So there it is. A brief recap of my first vacation experience. It was fabulous, but I got frustrated a lot travelling. Am ready to head back, but not before filling up on some great food. Love and miss you all, Happy Spring! Happy Easter Bunny! :)