We are now in what is supposed to be the fourth week of classes and I’ve hardly had any real lectures or assignments thus far. The teachers generally do not show up for class unless you call them and pester them about it, and even when they do come, it’s been hit or miss. I had to drop that development class because the teacher did not really speak enough English to lead discussion or answer questions, and a couple other classes I wanted to take fell through. So as it stands, I’m learning how to be flexible and adjust my expectations while still trying to take initiative and make things happen.
I also started my internship at a local microfinance organization, every Tuesday and Thursday. The office is quite far away, and I have to say that the commute there has been one of the biggest challenges of my trip so far. Even if you know exactly where to go and which daladala to take, it takes 2 hours getting to the main office plus up to an hour getting to the field site from there. (Daladalas are the buses here, which are actually leftover old passenger vans from China, privately run by crazy drivers and “kondas,” or conducters. They cost about 20 cents to ride, but you pretty much get what you pay for.) The first day, we tried to come back to school during rush hour, which was absolutely absurd. People were pushing and shoving trying to get on the few daladalas that came, which would stop all over the place trying to avoid the crowds, so we spent an hour alone just trying to catch one. Once we finally got on, the daladala drove for about 10 minutes, must have done something illegal, than was stopped by a policeman, who swiftly took the keys from the ignition and we had to get off without having any idea where we were. I made a desperate plea to the girl sitting next to me to let us follow her back to our destination, and she kindly shared a cab with us, although it still took another couple hours to get home in the traffic. Since then it’s gotten slightly better, but I still spend more time on the bus than actually doing anything at my internship. Hopefully it will get better and we will come up with some sort of project to work on. All I have to say is that I will never complain about Seattle traffic again.
One of my favorite things that we’ve done since my last entry was a bike tour of some of the neighborhoods in Dar. We biked all around the low-income areas that tourists don’t normally go, seeing the secondhand markets and stopping for chapati (kind of like a flaky tortilla), kahawa (coffee), spiced tea, and freshly made kushada (soft peanut brittle). The roads (if you can even call them that) are insanely bumpy and littered with rocks and trash, plus it was really hot out, so the ride was a bit intense. But I really enjoyed it, and I learned a lot about how the poverty here can really be hidden, tucked away in between more developed spaces. One of the coolest stops was a small project where they turn trash into art, making paper mache sculptures out of old tire rubber. We also visited a local herbalist, learning about the medicinal properties of various plants and the random ailments that can be treated naturally. We also saw about a million adorable kids, most of which obviously didn’t see white people very often because they made a huge fuss, running and chanting “wazungu” as we passed. It was sad to see the conditions that many of them were living in.
Another Saturday we spent the whole morning cooking a meal with a small group of women. It took about 4 hours to prepare everything, but it was amazing to see how everything is done. I had no idea how much work went into a big meal here. We learned how to make fresh chapati (definitely bringing that one home), ugali (a sticky starch made from boiled flour), beans cooked with coconut milk (made fresh from real coconuts, not a can), pilau (rice with spices and potatoes), beef stew, etc. It was absolutely delicious, but I definitely overdid it. I was the fullest I’d been since Thanksgiving, and trust me, that’s saying a lot. I can’t wait to try cooking Tanzanian food at home!
Last week we were blessed to share another meal with a Tanzanian family, who invited us all over for dinner. People here are so hospitable – they all want to have you over to their home and cook you a big meal. I can’t complain! Plus I love getting to try out my Swahili with them. I definitely learn the most from one-on-one conversations, especially when their English isn’t the best and it forces me to try harder. This family was so kind, I bonded with one of the aunties and the bibi (grandmother) was awesome. I hope we can go back to visit again soon.
In other news, we recently went 6 days without running water in my dorm. They have it in big reserve tanks not too far away, but you have to take your bucket down and bring it back upstairs, which is kind of a pain. Bucket showers aren’t too bad but it’s way too much work to try to do laundry with only a bucket of water at a time so I just hold out. The toilets can get pretty gross too, because it takes a lot of effort to go get water just to flush. It’s annoying but it at least makes me feel like I’m getting the full experience of what it’s like to live in a developing country.
Alright, that’s the short version of the past few weeks. I will try harder to keep up and get a little more detailed. It’s weird, it almost feels like the less I have to do, the lazier I get, and yet the more time gets filled up somehow. I think part of it is that is always takes so long to get out on the daladalas and go somewhere or buy something. We’ve been trying to venture out to try new restaurants, which has been great. We found an authentic Chinese spot (I was loving it) and this weekend I had the best Indian food of my life. We also went to an Ethiopian restaurant way off the beaten track and it was delicious, plus I had an amazing cup of coffee to top it all off. That’s definitely a treat for me here, since you can usually only get instant coffee. I was actually really looking forward to Tanzanian coffee, but it turns out they export most of it, so you can only get the good stuff from street vendors here and there, and it’s nowhere on campus. It’s a bit of a disappointment, but at least I’m getting weaned off my caffeine dependency, and it’s usually too hot to be drinking coffee anyways.
A final word on what you can look forward to reading about… coming up is our group trip to Zanzibar! Also, more big news… I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! Yep, it’s crazy, but I’m actually going for it. It’s costing an arm and a leg but you know, I figured, how many chances do you really get to do something like that in a lifetime? Can’t wait to post my picture at the summit!
Tutaonana marafiki, until next time.