Hey! So it occurs to me that perhaps in the time that I have spent here in TZ, I have nearly forgotten what is so different or interesting about my life here and perhaps my blogs of late have been a bit boring. So I apologize! And thought that hey, this ride to town the other day was pretty cool and VERY different to anything I ever experienced at home, so why not explain it in detail? So here it is!
Okay, so the other day I wake up in my house in my village at 5:30am and am ready and out of the house to wait for a bus on the side of the road by 6:15am. I have discovered that more vehicles go by on the road earlier in the morning and it is thus easier for me to get to town faster. So I walk a very short distance, sit and wait and try to listen for cars. Its fairly quiet but I hear a bustling of people nearby and I look and see around 30 women wearing colorful kangas (multi purpose cloths) with buckets at the well located at my health center. The water is off again. I have a pipe behind my house so I knew that already. The women have woken up bright and early to come wait to fetch water from the well with plastic buckets, which they then will carry on their heads back to their homes (some far, some close). So back to the vehicle waiting. I'm not waiting for long and by 6:45am I hear the rumbling of a large car coming my way. Its a lorry. Or a canter. A big giant cargo truck more or less. They stop when they see me on the side of the road with my bag and at first a guy from the front of the truck in one of the seats next to the driver gets out to give me his seat. I refuse and tell him I can ride in the back. The truck is not one I have been on before and because there really aren't that many vehicles in my area I get to know the ones that do come down my road. So the guy probably thought hey, here's this young "white" girl whose not used to riding trucks so let me give up my seat.
Anyway so I climb into the back and just hang on to some bars. Its wide open and to be honest, I've grown to enjoy riding canters a lot more than buses since one can feel the wind blowing and the fresh air. Its not nearly as comfortable or safe as a bus ride, but being crammed into a bus like a clown car can get very stuffy and very old very fast. So we are riding along. A few people are sitting on the floor, mostly older bibi's and babu's (grandmas and grandpas) and young kids. And we go. Canters don't go very fast cuz of their size and when they do go fast, it gets to be pretty bumpy. We all need to watch out for trees and branches and duck appropriately.
The canter keeps going until it sees another passenger on the side of the road and it stops for just enough time so the person gets on in the back and then we're off again. Thats the thing. I remember how in the US there are bus stops. No such thing here! You just wait along the road, hear something coming, go out, and hop on in.
We go for a little while and stop off at the side of the road and the back of the truck opens and we wait as 10 planks of wood are loaded. A number of men are helping so it doesn't take too long, but I see a bus pass us by.
About 45 minutes later, we hit Chiungutwa - home to my friend Erica. We drive off of the road and INTO her village and I wonder hmm, what are we gonna do now? We stop off at someone house and there's a bit of movement and craziness and lots of men around and then they start loading these giant bags of cashew nuts. I count no less than 10 bags, each 100lbs or more being loaded onto the canter. People have gotten off to help, people who stayed on are moving from one side to the other to make way for the bags. You see, its cashew nut season in my region of TZ. Cashews are what most people make their income off of, once a year. They grow off trees and bud off these small yellow semi bitter fruits. The raw nuts are then cooked, giving off a horrible odor and cracked open to reveal what we know as the pale tan cashew nut. Its quite a bit of work. What they were loading that day were raw nuts going to be sold in town. So after those ten bags were loaded, we drove around to another house nearby and picked up five more bags. So 15 bags of cashew nuts and about 25 passengers later, we are back on the road and on our way to town.
The bags are enormous and people end up having to stand and sit on top of them and we are driving even more slowly than before. I see another canter pass us on the road. I think about how strangely patient and calm I've become in TZ. And how just a year ago, I would have become restless and annoyed at travelling in this sort of manner.
When we are finally closer to town I grow joyous inside and then realize that there are people working on the road. Time for a detour. We take these massively long winded narrow paths in and through town before stopping some yards and yards away from the bus stand (final destination for most vehicles upon arrival to town and where I needed to go). The conductor (they are actually called that - no special Swahili word for em) tells us that anyone wanting to go to the bus stand should get off here and walk cuz the canter is headed here and there to drop off the wood and the cashew nuts. Lovely. So I get off and walk to the bus stand.
At the bus stand, I get harrassed a bit by guys wanting to know where I was going and trying to get me on their bus, but I know which one to walk towards. After awhile one kind of just knows which buses go where and where in the bus stand they are parked. I get on and the bus looks empty. The guy assures me that it is leaving soon and I protest that its empty and he says to me that it will fill up. I sit because I'm pretty tired from standing during the two hour canter ride and about 45 minutes later people start streaming onto the bus and we start to move. The bus gets loaded with stuff on top (bags, food, crops) and I notice a chicken sqwaking underneath a seat close to me. Its in a bag and wrapped with a cloth but its head is sticking out. By now, I've learned to not get TOO excited when the bus first starts going because I know that it doesn't necessarily mean we are on our way to the main road and to our destination. And we're not. We drive at a snail's pace picking up a few more passengers along the road in town and then stop for a while near the market in town waiting for even more people.
And so this continues. The bus drives on the road (this time its actually paved, unlike the road that runs by my house) and goes quickly or slowly depending on if we are driving by a village or just woodsy areas. If it is a village there is a chance there might be a person waiting to get on so we go slowly. I think you get the idea. Then I reach my destination.
So thats one account but it gets replayed over and over in my fun adventures in travelling, sometimes worse, sometimes easier. I only tell myself that after travel in TZ, I can now go ANYwhere! Cuz it can't get much worse than this, right? What do you guys think?! :)
I hope everyone's well. I miss you all. Things are good on my end. Till next time, peace!