First Taste of Arusha

May 1, 2012, 7:50 pm

I woke up to the sound of obnoxious birds this morning. They sounded like a mix between a goose and a turkey. I didn’t mind it though. I got up and took a quick shower (We must be water conscious here). The shower is very big and open. Windows line the top of the rooms which makes it seem not so private, but I enjoyed all the natural light. After getting ready we went to Café Mambo for breakfast. The buffet has staples like corn flakes, oatmeal, and coffee. I had a delicious made-to-order omelet.  I also tried drinking some coffee to make me more chipper in the mornings. Though I don’t know if you can really call it coffee it’s filled over halfway with milk, honey, and sugar.

At about 10:45 we left the Outpost for the first time. I was in awe just walking down our little lane of a road. The trees are SO intriguing to me. Some are huge and intricate like what you think of from Tarzan. Others are like low umbrellas. Flowering bushes cover every fence and gate. There are flowers everywhere you look really. Red, orange, purple, pink, yellow. One of my favorites is called the African Tulip. The first major road we got on had dirt pathways as sidewalks. Here and there we saw men trying to sell things like bracelets and hats but none were invasive.

Our first destination was The Blue Heron restaurant. It was absolutely gorgeous. Like a huge garden with a large fountain in the center, surrounded by wooden tables and chairs, benches with large colorful pillows, and even a small playground for children. It is honestly the kind of place I imagine my wedding reception to be one day. I was so mad at myself for leaving my camera at home because I could’ve gotten some great pictures. We’ll be going there three more times throughout the month so I’ll have time to then.  My friends shared some of their photos from the day with me. Coincidentally, there was a Gibbs Farms sign that I got a photo with. The food itself was incredible, though it did take a long time to arrive. I liked that. It gave us time to relax and take in everything around us and communicate. Many things here are slower than in America. Hakuna matata really is one of their mantras. Back to the food. A half portion is enough to feed two people. I got a sweet chile chicken Panini which came with a fresh salad. I ordered a passion fruit juice that was very tart, which I personally like. All of the produce is so fresh here. I know my mom would love it.

After lunch we went into town. We saw more and more people the deeper we got into it. Our two guides, Juma and Donny, were very kind and helpful. Other men walked along with us two who were very nice. They taught us a lot of Swahili which was great practice, but then they would eventually try to sell us something whether it be paintings or bracelets or sunglasses. Our next stop was at a money exchange place. We had our first…misunderstanding here. If you use smaller bills like $20’s or $10’s you would get less shillings in return as compared to using big bills like $50’s or $100’s. Some saw this as unfair because $100 is $100 no matter what bills you use to pay it. I kind of get it though. I’m sure it’s more of a hassle for them to deal with the littler bills. As we crowded in this small room, a crowd of men gathered outside the window. Probably about 20 of them. All waiting for the Americans with money to come back outside. That’s when it got a little crazy. I quickly learned to say “Hapana asante” which means “no thank you”.  From then on we had a huge entourage wherever we went. It’s hard enough traveling with a group of 18 people, adding ten or more men made it even worse. Juma and Donny knew right off if we were approaching shady characters. They warned us to hold tight to our belongings. At times they tried to separate one or two people from the group that we they would have a better chance to grab something and run. However, with the help of our guides and Dean Clay we all stayed together pretty well.  Dean Clay is the Dean of the College of Education. He got this whole trip started for Mizzou because he knew Lisa Kasmer from working together in the past. Lisa is the professor from Grand Valley State University who has been on this trip twice before now with other groups of students. Dean Clay will only be with us for a week. Lisa will be here the entire time. Dr. Chval, Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Education, will join us for our final week here.

As we got deeper into town, we saw more and more people. Eventually we made it to the market where they filled the streets. Men, women, and children selling everything from old shoes, to fake designer watches, to roasted corn, to avacodos bigger than a softball.  It was so crowded and difficult to navigate. The scariest part was the vehicles driving on the people-filled roads. They are very aggressive drivers here. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way. One girl in our group had to be pulled to the side by one of the friendly men walking with us, and she STILL got hit in the back with the side mirror of a large van. Close call.

Our destination in the market was the kanga shop. Kangas are brightly colored, patterned yards of fabric with Swahili sayings written on them. The shop also had kitangas which are basically the same thing but without the sayings. I bought a really pretty floral print kitanga, and my friend Morgan and I split a kanga. The message on the kanga means to live peacefully. Almost everyone in our group bought at least one. Next week a Tanzanian woman is going to meet with us about them. We can pay her to create anything we want out of the kangas and kitangas for a very small price. My plan is to get some kind of bag and a skirt made.

After the kanga shop, we made the long trek home. It was quite a walk and everyone was pretty hot with the sun shining down on us all day. I’d say the temperature was in the low 80’s. In the mornings and nights it’s cooler. A light jacket makes it comfortable. By the time we got back to the Outpost it was about 4:00. We met in our classroom and talked about our impression of being in town for the day. Then we organized all of the school supplies and toys we plan to donate. There was a LOT. Each of us brought close to 50 lbs worth. Big thanks to my mom, Dad and Vanette, and Karen and Kevin Schnieders for all of their contributions. I can only imagine all the good these things will do!

Next we had dinner at Mambo Café. It was buffet style again. I really enjoyed the chicken and fish they served. I think it was cooked in grill-style fashion because the outsides were slightly burnt and tough. I don’t even know what kind of fish it was, but it was worth picking the bones out of my mouthful for. There was also a rice and beans dish, not my favorite. There was a spaghetti-type dish too with noodles and a meat sauce that wasn’t bad. Probably the most interesting thing they had was cooked bananas in some kind of sauce. Their gray color wasn’t too appealing, but they tasted a lot like potatoes.  After most of us finished eating, the staff showed up with a beautifully decorated heart-shaped cake for us. It had chocolate icing and filling so I was totally down for it.

I’m very anxious for tomorrow. It is the first day we will be in our schools. I’ve been assigned to Prime which is a Muslim school. I’ve been trying to learn more about their customs and practices, but it’s still scary. Lisa said what will most likely happen is we will get assigned to a class. The teacher will tell us what they have been working on. Then the teacher will leave…That means we will have to teach a full 6 hours to a class of kids we don’t even know with barely any knowledge of the content they’ve been working on. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants.  I know I’ll get through it though.  After I do, I get to visit an orphanage for the first time. I’ll let you know how much I cry tomorrow night.

Lala Salama

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~ by Allyn Michele on May 3, 2012.

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