Sunday 7-12 continued…. Spent the entire day sitting on my butt typing up papers, watching Swahili soap opera dubbed in English and feeling like I was going to throw up all day…nothing exciting Monday
7-13 – Went to morning mass at the church for prayer, singing, and the nightly report. Afterwards, Lucy and I headed to the maternity ward where there was a woman who 6 cm dilated. The head Mama asked us to stay with her, so we spent 2 hours rubbing this woman’s back, and repeatedly telling her to ‘hema’ – breathe. But she didn’t want to so we didn’t press the issue haha Lucy and I played games while I was holding a cold cloth to the woman’s neck and she was holding her hand to keep us occupied. When her contractions grew closer together and stronger, we moved her into the delivery room and set a direct rubber mat (they said it was clean) and a scrub gown underneath her…that’s all that was available. When the deliver commenced, the Mama pointed out to us that this woman was circumcised…which is something I’ve obviously never seen before. I can’t even imagine having that done…especially here, I can’t even watch the surgeries due to lack of sterilization, I don’t want to even think what it’s like doing a procedure like that out of a hospital setting. Anyways, since the woman was circumcised, she was not able to pass the baby through her vagina; consequently, we performed a episiotomy. The mid-wife did not use anything to numb the area, but just took a pair of scissors and cut open the woman’s vaginal wall. I really thought I was going to faint…not because of the amount of blood or the baby coming out, but because while she was screaming in pain so was I. All I was imagining was how much that must have hurt and it made my stomach curl. The Mama then got next to the woman’s side, leaning over her stomach and placed her forearm on the top of her stomach. She pushed down with her forearm with great force…I’m assuming in attempts to push the baby out because after a few swift but powerful compressions above this woman’s stomach the baby basically flew out of the woman’s vagina. Definitely not the way I’ve seen any delivery performed before, but here apparently its common and effective After the baby was out I watched the mid-wife do a hack-job of stitching to fix up this woman, slightly barbaric, the mid-wife basically stitched this woman up with thick line that was thicker than fishing line. We didn’t get out of the maternity ward until 1:30! After the woman was all stitched up, cleaned off, and the baby was okay, Lucy and I scrubbed out and headed to the canteen for an overdue lunch. At 3pm I went for a run down the mountain in the scorching African sun, the road down the mountain is so steep that while running I felt like a gazelle due to my extremely extended strides. When I got down to the bottom of Kilala, I could only imagine the color of my face that made all the Tanzania’s ask me if I was okay after running, but I was thinking it had to be like a bright red tomato haha. I decided to walk back up the mountain…pole pole, which was definitely a good choice on my part so I didn’t look so red and to enjoy the gorgeous view of Mt. Meru. When I got back home, I raved the outdoor bathroom…..in the wooden hut….in the dirt and took a freezing cold bucket bath from stream water, but it was either stand in dirt and bath in frigid water or sit in my sweat. Needless to say my feet looked like a local child’s after the bucket bath, black and covered in mud, not sure how effective the bucket bath was for the cleanliness of my feet. Had a massive headache all day that made me feel as if I had been hit by a mac truck and my skull had been cracked open…really wish I knew what was wrong with me, especially with my stomach. Bed early tonight, hopefully to feel better in the morning.
Tuesday 7-14- This is about the fifth day with diarrhea. I feel like crap, literally. Went to the lab early in the morning, pricked my finger and made a blood smear to check for malaria and made a stool sample on a slide to check for basically anything else. Left my samples at the lab to be checked later and then went to work. Today I worked in the HIV clinic where on Tuesday each week, all the HIV positive patients come to get their medications and monthly physical examinations. The patient that were on their 6 month visit needed to get their CD4 count checked, so the nurse drew blood and I brought it over to the lab to do a full body picture. Patients had CD4 counts like 664, 356, 221, 134, 61 and so one…..the worse part about HIV in Tanzania is that they’re not allowed to obtain ARV’s until their CD4 count is lower than 200…a.k.a not until they have bull blown AIDS…not so effective. After working in the HIV clinic for the afternoon I went back to the lab to check my results before lunch. Well the good news was that I didn’t have malaria….bad news was that I had a worm, ascaris lumbricosis to be exact. Luckily, I learned about this microscopic helminth in parasitology this past semester and knew what is does, where it lives, and what to take to get rid of the little sucker! This round worm is obtained due to fecal contamination and chance of me contracting this worm through that route was more than highly probable. I was not surprised at all because my Mama and house girl, who I’ve never seen them wash they’re hands once and sit outside and touch dirt all day long and change the babies diaper, prepare all of the food. Good thing that this worm is very easy to dispose of. Took one 400 mg dose of Albendazol and pray to God it does the trick. Will just have to hope for the best and then check my stool sample again in a few days. After lunch, Lucy and I went to the pharmacy to teach our Mama how to use the computer and installed a typing program on all the computers in the hospital to help all the workers learn how to ‘not’ hunt and peck haha maybe I should have my dad use this program haha I can’t even imagine him trying to type on a computer….love you daddy :) Headed home around 3:30 and played with Gertrude. At 4:30 our Baba and his friend came to get Lucy and I to bring us to a witchdoctors home up on the hills of Meru where we could talk to her about treatments for malaria and HIV to help future write my papers for school. Up a thin dirt path on a steep hill, lied a small house surrounded by banana trees and an array of colorful crops. Her home was made of pieces of wooden slabs held together with rusty nails and mud for cement. We were greeted by a stout African woman, wrapped in deep red kangas, a tremendous smile filled with decayed and spaced teeth greeting us warmly into her small home. No such thing as a stranger in this country. She sat us down on a few wooden chairs, disappeared for a few minutes and then returned with a large bag filled with unknown materials. One by one she pulled smaller bags filled with shavings, powders, and seeds from the large black bag and placed them upon the table top. Through Baba’s friend, who acted like a translator, the woman told us that she makes treatments against three illnesses: malaria, amoebas, and typhoid. All of the medications were from shavings of trees, seeds of trees, and crushed plants. She then proceeded to show us how she created the concoctions for treatment of each of these diseases. Very interesting! After meeting with this woman we went to our Baba’s uncle’s house where we met his aunt and 3 younger cousins who gave us bananas and chai. After we finished chai, we went to his mother’s house where we met his youngster sister as well. They fed us nuts and chai…..apparently you can’t visit anyone where without receiving some type of snack and chai, and you not allowed to…well not supposed to leave until your finished with everything they leave out for you. After we finished out chair, we headed back through the thick forest trail to our home. When we got back Lucy and I taught our Mama and Baba how to use the computer, which was really funny because they were taunting each other when the other made a mistake and teasing each other on who was the better operator of a computer than the other haha Oh yeah found out our 7 month old baby sister has malaria, poor thing! Wednesday 7-15 Still don’t feel right this morning, severe cramping pains. Went to work in the laboratory all morning. My Grandma Mahoney would be so impressed with my newly acquired phlebotomy skills! I love working in the lab here because there are so many different test you can perform with blood…yes I love blood, I’m a freak I already know this! Surprisingly, the urine and stool samples don’t bug me at all either, its really incredible to see an assorted selection of microscopic life forms living in front of you in a radius of only a few centimeters. Working in this hospital, as crazy and unethical and it may be, only confirms my love for medicine even more. After the lab, I went up to the dental office to watch 2 Canadian dental students perform extraction on a couple of patients. Apparently, that is the only thing performed on individuals who’s teeth hurt or are decayed to a certain point in Tanzania…the worst part about the extraction with the tools they were using. Covered in rust, the dental students were forced to use the instruments at hand…yuck! When Lucy and I were heading to the canteen for some chakula, we were stopped by Dr. Mollel who informed us that the immigration officers were here and they wanted to see out paper. When he said this is kind of laughed a little, because while it may be apparent that I’m not from here from my unmistakable flamingo skin and bright white hair, but it didn’t really occur to me of my foreign residency until today. I felt like a Mexican without a green card in the U.S…slightly humorous…at least to me this was. Since I didn’t have my passport or resident permit on me I had to plead with the officers to let me go back to the house to retrieve them, but eventually they let me go. When I came back with my papers, they only asked me with organization I was with, what I was doing here, and how long I intended to stay and then let me on my way. After work I finished typing up another paper on Lucy’s computer and when out Mama got home she showed up how to make chapatti!!! Such a tedious process to make this pancake like food, but worth every second for the sweet deliciousness that comes after all the hard work…even though one feels as if they gained a 100 lbs from eating this because it’s covered in oil, which never settles good with my stomach. Headed to bed and continued reading “African Nights.”
Thursday 7-16 – Woke up with severe pains again and felt completely drained! Went to the hospital and did another stool and blood sample to see if I was rid of my worm or find out why I still felt so awful. I had the elder man who works in the lab check my samples under the microscope because he’s supposed to be a real laboratory technician, unlike the other two girls who have questionable tactics….even though I’m pretty sure his job is hiding all day from work haha. After being diagnosed as free of worms, I headed back home to get a little rest to see if that would help me. Took a short nap and then headed up to the volunteer house to help Susan and her girls pack for their trip back home today. So sad to see them go, such sweet and amazing people! Went back home at noon to wash some clothes, but the house girl was already doing laundry so I threw in a few of my shirts to be washed. When I walked inside the house, all you could hear was a screaming baby…and the house girl was just outside, not even acting like you could hear the baby screaming. When I lifted the bed net off her crib and picked her up I noticed that she was holding a fork!!!! WHO THE HELL GIVES A BABY A FORK….especially to sleep with I could have killed the house girl for this. I took the fork away from Gertrude and then the house girl appeared in the doorway of the house to take Gertrude, but I said I got her and took her in my room with me. I just don’t get the whole leaving your infant with a house girl, who force feeds your baby until it starts choking, leaves the baby unattended, and give them a friggen fork to play with. Another one of those practices here that I refuse to understand. At 2:30 I headed into Makao mapya with my Baba to get food for the canteen, his shop, and home. First we took a car down the mountain and I sat in the front, pretty much on the center console with a 70 year old man on the left side of me and the driver on my right. In the backseat was my Baba and 4 other people….i mean these cars are literally the size of my Subaru….so to fit 5 people in the back and 3 in the front is just clearly insane, but in a country without any form of safety regulation….any thing goes. We got down to Kilala and hopped on a daladala to our destination. We traveled father then I’ve ever been in Tanzania and when we stepped out of the dala we were on a tightly packed street bustling with Tanzanians, dalas, street sellers and more. First I followed my Baba to an electrical shop where he dropped off a phone to be repaired. This shop was packed with an astounding amount of electrical equipment in such a small space and outside the shop on the stoop was 3 men huddled close to a table covered in an assorted collection of electrical supplies, broken open phone and a computer with its hardware exposed to the world with wires sprouting out of it as if it was a bean stalk. Secondly, we went to a shop 15 minutes away where Baba placed an order for things to sell in his shop back up on the mountain. Then we went to a produce market hidden away by a wall of destroyed shops and covered by dark tarps, only letting in sunlight from small tears and holes in this canopy. We bought an assortment of fruit for home and when we were about to leave, I ran into my last home stay Mama, Mama Ruth…you know the crazy one that left me to fend for myself in the darkness of Africa…yeah that one. She said she was said I have not come back yet to see her old Mama, so I told her I would come there Monday for lunch and she happily went on her way….maybe this time she’ll actually sit down and eat with me, but probably not if I know this woman haha. After the market and picking up packages for his shop, Baba and I dropped all of our purchased items at his friends shop and went to find a person to make a bongoflava, which is just like a illegally ripped CD at home. We walked until we came across a large 5 story building that I thought was surely either under construction or on its way to falling down…but I was wrong. We headed down a short ally and entered a cement doorway and climbed 5 flights of stairs where each flight had people sitting in the hallways and on the steps themselves…slightly sketchy, actually no sketchy is the perfect word for this place haha what the hell am I doing! We got up to the 5th floor where we were greeted by a really nice man who told us to wait on the bench at the end of the hall…mind you this bench was not in a hall but in a crawlspace large enough for the bench and us to sit on it facing the way. After 15 minutes of staring at the pink wall the guy invited us into his “computer room,” and we made a bongoflava of Swahili music. 156 songs of pure good music…definitely worth it. We went back to pick up all of our things afterwards and hoped in a dala with hopes to get home for dark. We left this town a little after 6 which is way to late to be leaving anywhere, especially a place as far away from Kilala as where we were with all the stops we would have to make on the way there to drop off and pick people up. On the way to Kilala as well as stops for people, the dala made a stop for itself at a petrol station, where the driver pulled in to fill up on gas even though there were over 20 people in the dala….priorites??When we finally got to Kilala it was quarter to seven, 15 minutes before the darkness of the night begins to seep in. It was when we were waiting on the dirt hill before a dala, supplies occupying both our hands that a ‘white’ man in a safari car turned up the road and saw a little mzungu girl and stopped. He called over to me and told me to get in the car because it was getting dark and I should not be out this late….this I knew. Baba and I hoped in the car with this gentle man who turned out to be a German missionary who’d lived here for 4 ½ years. Sometimes it pays to be a mzungu here haha. When we got back to the house, we both thanked the German immensely for the ride up the mountain and headed inside the house. We popped in the newly made bongoflava cd, and sang to the songs we’ve all come to love with their recent release onto the radios and television here! Lucy and I drank a 6 pack of Kilimanjaro beer that Susan left to us…I can’t even drink 3 light beers without becoming slightly drunk…going to be beyond a cheap date when I get home haha. Had makande and pineapples for dinner tonight and watched Sleepless in Seattle on TV…
Friday 6-17 – 10 days until I climb Kilimanjaro!!! So excited!! Went to the hospital for a few hours this morning and then headed into town since no one was around and there was no work today. Went to Mama Linda’s first to attempt to pick up the purses I was having her make, but she said to come back tomorrow morning for them so I headed to the United Nations building to check out the schedule for the Rwanda Tribunals, but found they were in recession until August 17th…that was a huge bummer, I was really looking forward to going to watch one of those. I went to the craft market to find some Masai sandals and waste some time and then headed to the GSC office to finalize a few things before my departure from the program on Friday. At 5 I headed back on a dala to Kilala where I was forced to stand in the isle of the packed tiny bus for 15 miles…definitely cannot be good for anyone’s back. When I got to Kilala it was getting dark and I didn’t want to wait for a dala to fill up so I hoped on a motorbike for 1,000 shillings up the mountain. Such an incredible ride up the mountain…..i’ve definitely caught an undiagnosable disease here, one that instills a deep and strong love for Africa… Tanzania in my case that makes me know that if given the chance I would follow my heart back here in a minutes notice. Watched Hellboy with my home stay family tonight and am now finishing my journal to create an over due blog. Heading to bed now (12pm) to get some rest before a nice long weekend in Arusha with the other volunteers!
Saturday 7-19 – Headed down the mountain at 8:30 am to Kilala. When I was waiting at the Kilala station down the mountain for a daladala, a few stopped but they were all full so I didn’t get in them. One of the attendants of one of those dala’s grabbed my bag and me pulling me towards the dala even after I said no (they really want your money so they’re willing to pack up to 30 people in these things, but I don’t get on them when they’re that full….or I try not to at least) so I wacked the guys arm off my bag and me and the older woman in the dala scolded him…kinda of funny. Finally got in a dala with a little room, hopped in the front seat next to an army man and the driver and got off at the stop near Christine’s house. Following her directions I ended up down a narrow path where I ended up in front of an opening to a river. Realizing where I was and that I should now be there I immediately turned around and high tailed it in the opposite direction. I ran into a large woman who asked me where I was heading…obviously she also knew that mzungus should not be where I was and pointed me in the direction where the only other mzungu lived in the neighborhood, so I crossed her lawn and knocked on the door to the house hoping it was Christine’s house haha We headed down to Mama Linda’s picked up the bags we had her make and then went to the Patisserie for a well deserved donut haha The Patisserie is an Indian run internet café and small restaurant that always has Tanzanian donuts covered in chocolate glaze or chocolate éclairs….all of which are basically made for the American mzungus because who else would eat that crap. We dropped our bags of at center house hostel and headed to the African Tulip to lie out in the sun!!! When we go to the pool we met up with two safari guides from America, Deb and Chris. We all shared stories of our different lives here during our stay, very interesting to hear about the Kili climb from Chris. Deb and Chris pretty much just travel all over the world serving as guides for people on vacation…can you say what a life! So nice to just lay out in the sun and read and just relax…makes me miss the lakes at home soo much. When the clouds rolled in around 3:30, we went back to center house to change into pants and sweaters since it got colder out and headed to the Patisserie to use internet, grab and ice cream and meet up with Lucy and Nick. All of us headed down to the Arusha backpackers hostel where they were staying and went up to the Rooftop Bar there for a few drinks. It was such a gorgeous clear day that from on top of this hostel you could clearly see all of Meru. I think its funny how I come here and look forward to the view of this gigantic beautiful mountain everyday and all the habitants of Tanzania never think twice about it being there. The 4 of us and Ryan a new volunteer met us and we all headed to Big Bite for dinner, which was up one of the side streets in Arusha…basically where all the building look really run down and sketchy, but we left early enough to get there before dark in this area of the city. The outside of Big Bite is nothing special to look at, but inside the small restaurant there are 4 hand-crafted tables with eccentric table cloths and dishes and utensils. We all ordered a different Indian dish…don’t ask me to remember the names of anything we ordered because first off I couldn’t even pronounce them that night and I had to ask what everything was before we ordered haha All the food was so flavorful and worth every shilling, even though this wasn’t really a mzungu restaurant, it was nice to have something to eat other than pure starch. After dinner Christine, Ryan, and I got a taxi back to Center House Hostel where Chris the guide we met in the afternoon was going to pick us up to head to Masai camp for drinks and dancing. We got to Masai camp at 9pm and all sat around a warm fire and chatted until about 11. While we were waiting for the club to pick up one of Chris’s porters joined up, a local Tanzania from the Chaga tribe, who’s name was Arnold. He was a skinng, dark, Tanzanian with an unknown age because everyone here looks so young, Christine and I guess that he could have been any age between twenty and forty…no idea. We all went out to the dance floor for a solid two hours dancing to western music such as lady gaga, akon, nelly (when is the last night anyones head shake you tail feather…I’m pretty sure the last time I head this song I was 16 haha), kat perry, and so much more and to Tanzanian music in Swahili, including my new favorite song Pii Pii (which means beep beep in Swahili)…so much fun. I love going out here because unlike in the US where guys creep up behind you and try and grind on you and it’s like uhh did I invite you over here to grind on my backside…I don’t think so haha…here they’re really polite and keep distance between themselves and you and you have a semi dance of between a bunch of people. Basically you can dance like an idiot (which is pretty much Christine and I were doing ) because no one here can dance surprisingly….except a select few that I’ve seen, but I’ve found they can either dance or not dance, but the ones who can dance boy can these guys dance. It normally ends with them doing acrobats in the middle of the dance floor with the whole club in a circle around them watching in amazement. We left the club around 1:30 and headed back to the African Tulip for one more drink and to sit out by the pool under the stars. The night sky was so so incredible tonight…words can describe how much I’m in love with it here! We got back to Center House Hostel around 3 am where Christine and I reached our beds and completely passed out.
Sunday 7-20 – 1 week til Kili climb!! Christine and I woke up at 8, ate the typical Center House breakfast…toast, plum jam, and an egg and then headed into town to walk around and take a few pictures of the town itself. On our way back a man was following us for a while (mind you on Sunday there is barely anyone in town and on the streets, because they’re all in church for a good 4-5 hours) so needless to say we got a little sketched out by this mans stalking presence. When he came up closer behind us and then right next to me and grabbed my arm, I asked him to leave us alone in Swahili and then he got really mad at me for saying that and told me I’m supposed to be nice and want to talk because I’m from America, but I told him that we didn’t want to talk that we were just going back home and Christine and I started walking faster….apparently this man didn’t like us completely ignoring him and said ‘you’re from America your supposed to be friendly, come here’ and saying ‘you do what I want when you’re here’, so basically our pace was between a walk/run back towards center house hostel as he followed us screaming ‘hey bitches from America come back here’ over and over again. When we got close to Danger Bridge we heard a woman let out an ear piercing scream and then realized 3 mzungus on the other side of danger bride, at the end of the bridges side where people pull you down to the river. We saw dozens of people running over when they heard the woman scream and her friend yell for help. Christine and I stopped and stop next to a Tanzanian family on their way to church (the only reason we stopped was because we realized the crazy man that was following us went to go help in the beating activity…or we would have continued our swift paced walk to the hostel) This family told us that a thief tried to take the woman’s bag and pulled her down on the side of the bridge. Luckily there were lots of people around, which surprises me why this man would even try a stunt like that in the day time with people traveling to church) but tons of me were running after the man and when they finally caught him, they continued to beat the man. I’d already seen this brutal and barbaric act, and while I was curious to see more I don’t think me stomach could have handled a second witnessing of beating and burning a man to death. Christine and I continued to center house to gather our things after this eventful morning and headed to the African Tulip again. We sat down on chairs to read by the pool and had our first real coffees since we’ve been here…boy did I miss the taste of rich strong coffee. We hung out by the pool and met up with Chris and another one of his local Tanzanian guides, Arnold, who proved to be very resourceful when it came to our upcoming spontaneous decision. During the day Christine and I decided that we have not been anywhere except Arusha on weekends and that we wanted to see more of the country and culture. So when Chirstine suggested we take the 6 hour bus ride to Nairobi, Kenya tomorrow I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. A very spontaneous decision, but I was looking forward to every minute of this adventure…tomorrow. The only thing I was worried about was getting the Kenyan visa and then being able to get back into Tanzania, which I’ve heard can be a problem sometimes, but I’m just going to hope things work out fine and go with that. Headed back home to pack for our ‘safari’ tomorrow and get some good sleep.
Monday 7- 21 – sorry Mom I left the country without letting you know! Talk about a spontaneous decision with only 1 week left in Tanzania…hope it all works out okay. I got up at 5:30 am, still incredibly dark out…the creatures and animals own the darkness here… left the house at 6 when it was still twilight out…probably something I should have not done, but I needed to make it to Arusha in time to catch a bus. So I ate a little breakfast and headed out at 6, as I was walking up the road to the dala station at Nkoraranga, a man on a motorbike was driving by and I flagged him down for a ride down the mountain. The ride down was soo cold, glad I was wearing a jacket this morning. When I got down to Kilala I hoped on a dala to the Phillips station. This was the most packed dala ride I’ve ever been on in my 9 weeks in Tanzania…they fit 32 people on this dala, kind of impressive. There were kids standing on the edge of seats, sitting on top of the seats with their feet almost kicking you in the faces, and about 4 people with their butts hanging out the door of the dala as the driver drove an average speed of 85 mph, not even slowing down over the road bumps…so crazy. When I got to Phillips I walked down towards the Impala Circle to the bus station. I waited for Christine for a little while when I arrived there and then we decided on a bus company to take after bargaining for a good price. We settled on 15,000 shillings for the 5-6 hour drive and hopped in the bus. The bus was about half the size of a typical school bus in the US, with small seats and collapsible seats in the isle, incase they needed to pack the bus, just like they do with dala’s. About 2 minutes into the ride out of Arusha, we realized that we got on the bus with quite possibly one of the most insane drivers. He was flying….passing cars, trucks, and buses, at lightning speed with no acknowledgement that anyone else was on the road except for him. The drive to Nairobi was the most incredible drive I’ve ever been on, most beautiful than anything. The only bad part about it was the road we were driving on which was construction for 5 hours…aka…dirt and large stones and pot holes everywhere, not to mention that we went between 80-90mph on this skinny dirt road. I felt like I was in one of those Subaru commercials to prove the terrain it can drive on but this was a bus, not an outdoors car haha. You know how in the US when construction is done on the roads and they do a little bit at a time, not here…the whole road from Arusha to Nairobi was torn up with bit and pieces of a foreign black highway that was blocked off. The ride there could have won best award for the best amusement park ride or the most insanely dangerous ride in the world. You know when you go over continuous bumps and open your mouth to say ‘ahhh’ and your voice vibrates….imagine that for over 5 hours…Christine and I laughed hysterically during the whole trip because first off we didn’t know if we would make it there in one piece and secondly because every time we talked to one another you couldn’t understand what we were saying. The drive started through the city of Arusha and then through small towns and eventually to very small villages. As soon as we left the boarder of the city the lands began to change immensely, even the plant life changed. There were round houses about 8 feet high made completely of mud and sticks in the middle of a dry open field, all of which were surrounded by a branches twined together as a fence to keep out any unwanted visitors. Some of the buildings in the small villages resembled housed from ‘Little House on the Prairie’, like pioneer houses, others appeared a very, very old run down Mexican villages that one only sees from movies. At one point in the beginning of our journey the land was so dry and desolate. There was sand for miles and miles, if grass was present it seemed burnt from its dry brown color, there was no plant life. The only life present was left as foot prints from Masai through the white sand of the desert. You could see nothing for miles and miles, only the dark outline of the mountain is the distance. Talk about wide open spaces! After spending 1 ½ hours on the bumping, dry road we reached a point where you were able to drive up on the newly paved road. Christine and I were both so exicted for this because we then felt like we weren’t going to throw up…but our smooth ride only lasted for 15 minutes and then we left the dark black road surrounded by starved plants and sand and ended back up on the sands of the unfinished road again. Throughout the ride, Masai men and woman stuck out like sore thumbs with their plaid patterned draped around their waists and chests in dull shades of blue, red, and purple. But against the white sands of the desert, it was hard not to point them out. The men carried wood or clubs in their hands, and the woman were stunning with their draped cloth and eccentric white beaded jewelry dripping in silver charms that shined in the bright sunlight around their necks, ankles, and wrists. All of their ears hung low, sometimes down to their shoulders and the woman had matching earrings hanging so low from their loose ears. Farther towards Kenya the last became flourished with Masai men and children herding more livestock than I’ve even seem in my life and their small villages composed of the round mud houses with a thick straw roof over head, maybe 5 or 6 in each branched entwined fence. There were hundred and hundred of these small compounds, each constructed differently from the next, such a unique area. As we grew closer to the Kenyan boarder we passed through and area with miles and miles of trees sparsely placed throughout the plains on the left of the bus where we saw antelope, dik-dik, ostriches, and more…I felt like I was on a real safari. On the right there was a thick forest that led all the way up Longido Mountain, but ended up towards it crater peak that was covered in thick clouds that were being chased away by the scorching hot sun. Right before the boarder drove above a valley that was filled with houses made strictly of rippled tin material for the siding and roofs of all the houses. (If anyone has seen Slumdog Millionaire, it looks like the beginning seen when the kids are being chase by the officer) We reached a town called Namanga where we got off the bus and went into the Tanzania immigration center and an officer placed an EXIT stamp in our passports, we then walked through a rusty gate opening to cross the boarder into the Kenya and went to their immigration center where we had to fill out paper work to obtain a Kenyan visa. This whole process took about a half an hour and when we both got a Kenyan visa and stamp into the country we boarded the bus again to continue on our journey to Nairobi. Kenya was full of wide open hills, green trees, livestock and donkeys covering the land and roadsides, red ant hills next to nearly every tree as high as a 10 year old child…some even taller than me, aloe plants as high as a grown Masai man lining the road, homes made of only sticks open to every swirl of dust and creature that would desire to enter, homes made of mud and rocks for structure, and sand that had changed to a deep red after crossing the boarder. The mountains so vast and differently sized looked like the backdrop to a movie, absolutely gorgeous. The sun was incredibly hot on my skin through the bus window that I felt as If I was melting. The Masai in Kenya were even more distinctive than in Tanzania. They still wore the same red, purple, and blue plaid materials for clothing, but in addition the women were additionally wore a florescent of pastel colored large scarf that covered them as if wearing a shawl. There large necklaces that covered from their necks to the beginning of their breast were not limited to white beading, but all the colors of the rainbow and were also dripping in different colored charms. Their earring consisted of a single line of beads that hung a basket like shape on the far end, which pulled their ripped ears farther downward. As we neared Nairobi, the land changed from wide open plains full of plant, wildlife, and culture to fenced off plots for agricultural aspects. However, this land looked as if there was a serious drought. The grass appeared starved and then further sucked of life from the intense heat of the African sun, even the dirt that was rooted upwards that held seeds of unborn crops appeared dry and light in color…not appearing as if any life would penetrate through the soil for food of the famine ridden population of these lands. Ponds were present along the way but only the remains of their shaped was left. Deep and dry, only a small oval of dark mud remained in the bottom of these has beens. Where the roads were being constructed and lands dug downward into the soil for cement tunnels for the unforeseen water, woman and children were gathered with buckets around a small hose that was used by the construction works in hope to gather the drops that came out. When we finally reached the city of Nairobi there was traffic as far as one could see…I couldn’t believe it…traffic jam, especially one as intense as this in Africa…I was definitely not in Tanzania anymore. All around this highway, called Uhuru Highway were factories and power plants surrounded both side and the closer you got to the city of Nairobi the more and more skyscraping building you could see. Where was I? This scenery seemed so foreign, yet so familiar…a mixture of two worlds I’ve lived in. It took over an hour to be released from the traffic trapping us right outside of the city until we were finally able to move again. We got dropped off at a shanty hotel called Parkside and when we asked for a cheap hostel to stay at and were given directions …the driver just told us to hop back in the bus and he would take us…apparently we looked really confused or like we would get lost haha He brought us to the YMCA hostel…who knew there were YMCAs here. The hostel cost 1,800 Kenyan shillings which is about 27,000 Tz or 23 American dollars…she told us to put our passports and money in the safe because of ‘the people’ haha we didn’t ask questions just placed our things in there even though we were a little uneasy about it at first, but we figured they offered this service for a reason. When we got to out room down a skinny hallway that was open to the outdoors, we reached room 21 and there were two locks…one was a pad lock that looked sturdy, the other lock was loose as its nails were falling out of the door haha. There were two beds, a sink and two closets in a very small space, but the bed in this hostel as sketchy as they looked were the most comfortable beds I’ve laid upon since I’ve been here…soo sooo happy. After we dropped off our bags we left the hostel to explore the city of Nairobi. We headed back towards the Uhuru highway that runs through the center of the city and found a hidden Ethiopian restaurant, where we ordered spiced beef with an assortment of whole and mashed vegetables that were spread out on a large circlular try lined by injera, and a basket full of injera on the side (Injera is a really thing Ethiopian break…kind of like a pancake) We thought the dark shriveled things on the injera were chillies and when I got all excited to brave what I thought were steaming hot chilies, they turned out to be beets … go figure. After lunch we headed to the large park in the Nairobi City Center, the park was full of people sleeping in the lawn, tons of people dressed up professionally walking to and from work, kids running around playing futbol, and people riding around in paddleboats in Uhuru pond…..wait a second PADDLEBOATS!! Christine and I couldn’t resist going paddleboats and for only 150 shillings….so American of us, but we had to. After a 20 minute paddleboat ride around the pond we continued traveling around the city and looked at all the government buildings, churches, schools, local shops, hotels, restaurants, bookstores…and even went to check out a movie theater!!….We went to see if Harry Potter was playing but out search was in vain for they were showing movies that came out a year ago in the states like Marley & Me, Transformers, and Valkarye haha. At least we tried. The city was so large there were even fast food restaurant, Mercedes-Benz dealers, more billboards than I’ve seen since I left home, sky scraping hotels buildings, up-scale clothing stores…and a real friggen highway. Nairobi reminded me of a smoggy African style NYC. We went to the Nairobi City Market where we were expecting to see crafts and such but when we walked through the door it turned out to be a fish and meat market, that was filled with pungent unbearable smells and people covered in blood….we bravely, but cautiously walked through the market praying that no one bumped into us or touched us. It was growing dark out after the left the market so we went to the restaurant and bar that Allan had recommended to us on Sunday. The place was called ‘Simmers’ and was an outdoor bar covered by canopies. There was a live band playing, cheap beer, BURGERS…needless to say the two of us hung out there for a few hours before headed back to the hostel at 9pm. We got a taxi ride back to the YMCA for 250 Kenyan shillings and then went to the room to read before bed. So when we first arrived in Tanzania, our Swahili teachers were telling us how rude everyone is in Kenyan and how awful the men are but they were the complete opposite. Here in Tanzania the men hassle you, treat you disgustingly, and are so rude that the men that do this to you almost make you never want to come back again…but in Kenya no one hassled us, they opened doors, moved out of our way on the street, and just greeted with a smile….we were totally not expecting this but it kind of made us not want to go back to Arusha and deal with all the street punks and mean men haha
Tuesday 7-22 – Christine and I woke up at 6:30 and headed to the dining hall for breakfast…this is when we realized that this hostel that we thought was small was actually huge. There was a huge restaurant that had an attached outdoor dining area that over looked a pool….who knew. Breakfast was amazing….there was real sausage, eggs not covered in oil, papaya, oranges, watermelon, pineapple, and wheat bread!! After breakfast we checked out of the hostel and 7am and went exploring a little more before heading back to meet with the bus at the Parkside Hotel. The bus ride back was full of people from Germany, France, Belgium, Kenya, and Tanzania….a lot more full than our bus ride to Nairobi that only has 3 other people besides Christine and I. While leaving the city we saw the largest birds I’ve even seen in my life, they were by far way taller than I was and while I didn’t know their name the only thing that I could associate them with were taradactles (sp?) from Jurassic Park haha. The ride back was just as gorgeous as the ride there, even though I slept for a little of it since the bus was so incredibly hot and there was no air conditioning. We left at 7am and didn’t arrive in Arusha until 3pm, talk about a long, bumpy bus ride. When we got in Arusha, Christine and I went to my second home stay Mama’s house for lunch (since I ran into her last week and promised I’d come back and visit) So glad we came for lunch, she made chapatti (my favorite…I mean she may have been MIA everyday and night of my home stay there but at least she remembered my favorite food)…also with beans and kale as usual. After lunch I headed back to home in a daladala, which was the worst dala ride I’ve ever been on everyone in the dala was obviously making fun of me in Swahili (which I understood a litte of what they were saying and it wasn’t nice) and they were being really mean and rude. I was sitting in the on of the seats that faces back towards everyone in the dala where you have to hold onto a pole behind you to prevent yourself from falling into the laps of people facing forward the kept hitting my hand and then saying sorry but laughing and the door operation pushed down on my hair and pulled it. I didn’t understand why they were all so mean, but I couldn’t get off that dala fast enough. When I got off the daladala at Kilala (so happy to get off that dala), I went to get in one of the cars heading up the mountain. When I was next to the car asking the guy the price an old man in the car that I was going to get into hit me in the arm really hard on purpose…I looked at him really confused as he said something in a mean stern voice in Swahili, which I obviously didn’t understand and just turned around to leave….the driver of the car was asking me to come back, but my attitude towards that was F*** that and hopped on a motor bike for 500 more shillings than the car ride would have cost but I didn’t even care at that point. I was super confused as to why the man hit me but I just assumed he didn’t like mzungus but damn did my arm hurt. Seriously, what the hell is up with people today I can’t stand it, just makes me want to go home! When I got home I washed my clothes for the last time until I leave…basically so I have clean socks and underwear until the trips end…I hope at least. And the walked up the mountain farther to Deb and Tanya’s house to say goodbye to Deb who was heading home today! That night Lucy and I watched Burn After Reading on her computer…awful movie haha Then headed to bed after dinner!
Lots more to come about the rest of this week but i have no had the chance to use the internet in a really long time, but hopefuklly ill be able to post about the rest of this week before i head to climb Kilimanjaro!!
Tomorrow – Friday- is my last day up at Nkoraranga then i am staying in Arusha for the weekend before i head to Kili on Monday! Wish me luck on the climb!!
Cant wait to see everyone at home!