Long-winded post #1:
So the flight over was about what I expected. It was a long trip, but Ethiopian Airlines is better than you might expect. Service was great, they just kept sending meals our way, and then told us that there were snacks and drinks at the front of the section and we could help ourselves whenever we wanted. This included beer, so I downed many a Carlsberg on my 12 hour flight across the Atlantic. They had little tv`s in the back of all the seats so we got to watch whatever we wanted. I watched a couple nature doc`s, and then put my MP3 player on while I watched James Franco cut off his own arm with a pocket knife on the tv beside me. Pineapple Express 2 is a real downer compared to the first one. For anyone wondering, my route was: Toronto – Washington DC – Addis Ababa – Dar es Salaam.
I spent a couple hours stopped over in Addis Ababa, and kicked off my African adventure the right way by having a beer at the bar with the Ugandan national soccer team who was also stopped over (half of them were asleep on the floor, so I figure they`d been there a while).
On the flight from Addis to Dar I sat next to a Tanzanian girl named Anita who now lives in the States and was back to visit family. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Seriously. So having been born and raised in Dar es Salaam, I put her in charge of teaching me Swahili. I got to Dar es Salaam sometime around noon on the 13th.
Customs in Dar went pretty smoothly, all things considered. I applied for my entry visa and work permit, at which point a man in a uniform took my passport and $150 USD and handed it through a window while I stood there worried I`d never see it again. But obviously I got it all back with a two month work permit inside. And my luggage made the trip with me this time. Ethiopian Air: 1, British Airways: 0.
I was met at the airport by Domatila, the sole member of YCI stationed in Dar. She was great, and had booked a room at the Safari Inn for me. Myself, her, Anita, and Donald (the country director) all went out for dinner at a local place. The hotel is pretty well hidden down some back streets and alleys somewhere in Dar. There`s not a chance I would ever find it again on my own. It had a bed, shower (a tap coming out of the wall), a western toilet, and a finicky AC unit in the window, so it was good times. No animal heads on the walls, as the name might have had you believe. Turns out “Safari“ is a just a Swahili word for Journey or Trip. I fought Jet Lag until about 8:30 by watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica (you heard me) on my computer. By that point I had pretty much been awake for 36 hours.
On the morning of the 14th Donald and I went to the main bus station and caught a bus to Morogoro. It was actually a really good ride. It was a full sized coach bus, with rows of 3 cramped seats on the right side, and rows of two cramped seats on the left. Donald and I were on the left. The windows all opened and we had a great breeze the whole way. For anyone wondering, there was not a single piece of livestock on this bus. There was however a bag in the overhead racks that sounded like it was full of small birds, especially when we hit a bump in the road. For the most part though, the roads were great. It took forever to get out of Dar with all the traffic, but it was smooth sailing from there on out.
At some point, somewhere in the world, someone decided it would be a good idea to make a dark green `Murder She Wrote“ baseball cap. I know this because the man trying to sell me peanuts on the bus was wearing it. I doubt he knew it was a show about a meddling elderly woman. At every stop (there were 3 I think) there were people running beside the bus selling eggs, pineapples, wallets, bags, neck ties, etc to people through the windows. As we got closer to Morogoro the landscape started to become more hilly, and then we started to see the Uluguru mountains in the distance, which Morogoro sits at the foot of.
Donald and I were picked up from the bus station by Mahkoti, who runs the show for YCI in Morogoro. He`s my age, and we`ve been getting along great so far. He was super excited to learn that I have a hard drive full of movies. We went to the YCI office (a tiny little room) and met Lonny, the other Canadian I`ll be working with. Despite his questionable taste in hockey teams, we`ve been getting along really well. We also got to introduce ourselves to a member of the Faraja Trust, the organization we`ll be working with over the next month.
From there we went to our homestay in a neighbourhood at the southern end of Morogoro called Misufini. We`re staying with a local (extended) family. The matriarch of the house is Mama Abdul (from what I can tell, the woman of the house takes on the name of her first born son, in this case Abdul). There are quite a few people who live or stay at the house, and I`m not sure I`ll ever figure out how they`re all related. Mama Abdul`s children are all off at school, but there are still kids around. There are two girls named Fatuma who live here, aged 8 and 3 (Fatuma1 and Fatuma2). Her (adopted?) son Irshad has come back from university for holidays for two weeks, and there are at least two household workers who do a lot of the cooking and cleaning. Her deceased husband’s brother also spends quite a lot of time around, and I think he’s in charge of the dog. It’s not a pet, and when I asked him what it was called he just said “mbwa”, which means “dog”. It’s basically a ferocious killing machine that they let out in the yard after everyone has gone to sleep to deter burglars. If you hit your baseball over the fence of the sandlot and into our yard, just let it go man, because it’s gone.
The house itself is pretty nice, with a big living room with 5 big stuffed armchairs, as well as a small table for serving food. There is a small kitchen which is basically used to house plates and cooking implements. All the cooking happens over a fire in a small building beside the house. The food has been really good so far. Lots of stewed fish, rice, beans, maize meal, etc. They boil water for drinking, although we’ve been buying it bottled in town for convenience. Everything is pretty much eaten in bowls with either a spoon or your hands. You’re only supposed to eat with your right hand, so it’s been an adjustment.
The washroom is a squat toilet, which is actually a lot easier to use than it may seem. I don’t mean to brag, but things have been going very well in there. The shower is a room with a tap on the wall and a drain in the floor. There’s no temperature settings, just an on and off knob. The water is cold, but that’s a good thing. Yesterday I (foolishly?) left my Adidas Hair and Body wash bottle in the shower room. In the morning I saw Fatuma1 come out of the shower room wrapped in a towel with a big smile on her face. Half of the bottle was gone, and there were soap suds everywhere. I have no idea what went on in there, but the results can only be described as a shampoocalypse.
Our room is medium sized, but is mostly filled by the gigantic beds we’ve been provided with. Mine must be a queen, and I think Lonny has a double. When we first arrived there was just one bed in the room that I swear must have been 7 feet wide. Even though it was Valtentines Day, YCI decided that we should still have separate beds. Temperature-wise it hasn’t been to bad at night. A little warmer than I’d like, but definitely bearable with the fan on. All in all the temperature is a little cooler than it was when I was in Zambia, and a whole lot cooler than it was in Dar es Salaam. So sleeping has been ok except for the fact that I seem to be allergic to the chemicals my bug net has been sprayed with. I’ve woken up two nights in a row with painful redness around my eyes and forehead, and a faint smell of ammonia in my nose. So last night I just took the net off halfway through and was fine. My five-step plan to avoid getting Malaria at night is as follows:
- Take my pills
- Put on bug spray before bed
- Have the fan blowing on me at full blast
- Sleep in a super thin silk sleeping bag that I borrowed from my brother
- Pound Gin and Tonics like it’s my job
I really hate bug nets with a passion. I stopped using mine in Zambia after a night because it was so warm. I remember one night the German guy in our room was having night terrors and screaming about `mein moskito netz!. It sounded like he was wrestling a bear, and in the morning he was all tangled up in his net. “Yes,“ he said with that expression of solemn understatement that the Germans do best “I sink I had a small probelem with mein net last night“. Aaaanyhow…
Our house is right across the street from a really beautiful Arabic-style mosque, and with the mountains always in the background it makes for some nice pictures. Morogoro is about 50% Muslim, including our host family. Between the morning call to prayer and the gigantic rooster that gives me the stink eye whenever I leave the house, there won`t be much sleeping in. We start work early anyways though, so that won`t be an issue.
Today was a Muslim holiday, so a lot of the stuff in town was closed. We were supposed to meet with one of the directors of the Faraja Trust today, but he had to rush off to Dar to visit a sick relative. Hopefully he`ll be back tomorrow. Our task over the next month is to assess the administrative capacity of Faraja and design a capacity-building plan for the organization itself moving forward (we`ll be dealing very little with their actual programming). One major area I know we`ll focus on will be I.T., and I`m sure there will be other sectors brought to our attention when we start talking with the staff and beneficiaries.
Our neighbourhood has been great so far. This morning Lonny and I played a game of soccer with some local Misufini kids at the side of the road while we waited to meet Mahkoti. I can confidently say that I`m a better soccer player than any child under the age of 5. The ball was a bundle of old plastic bags tied together, so we`re gonna try to find a real ball for them in town. I got a shave at the local barber shop for about 40 cents yesterday, because it`s just not doable in the house. There isn`t a mirror in either bathroom, there`s only cold water, and the only sink in the house isn`t attached to anything. Unlike my good friend Ryan Metcalfe, I have chosen not to put liquids into a sink that doesn`t lead anywhere.
This weekend Lonny, I, and a couple of the local staff are planning to hike up to the communications tower at the top of the highest mountain. These aren`t exactly the Himalayas, but they`re a pretty fair size. I think the Uluguru tribe still lives on the mountain, so that`ll be cool. And I`m sure the view will be amazing. I hear the hike should pretty much be an all-day excursion. If you don`t hear from me after next week, it probably means my fat whiteness was the death of me. In the coming weeks we`re also planning to visit a nearby Maasai market and possibly do a game drive.
Now that I`m in a neighbouring country, I`m hoping to be able to get in touch with my friends back in Zambia. I`d really love to visit the school there, but the airline logistics of it would add another $1000 or so to my trip that I don`t have. I`m going to look into small local carriers that might not advertise online though, and see if anything is do-able. If anyone wants to give me $1000, I will be forever grateful. I will build small statues in your honour wherever I go on this earth. At the moment, the plan for after project is to spend a few days in Zanzibar, and then fly home.
I guess that`s about it. On top of our bi-weekly stipends, YCI will be providing us with a USB modem so we should be able to go online pretty regularly from here on out. I`ll try to keep this updated, but I can`t imagine my subsequent entries will be this long. This has kinda turned into an essay, and I`m usually a pretty lazy guy. I have a cell phone here, and it`s really easy for me to call overseas, and fairly cheap. If any of you want to call or text me, let me know and I`ll give you the number.
Until next time,