Eating my way through Dodoma, Arusha and Moshi
12.03.2012 - 15.04.2012
I went away over the Easter break which came at the perfect time, really needed to get out of here for a bit. I arrived in Singida town on Saturday with M & we met J and his gf to take us just out of town to this huge weekly market I didn’t know about, but wish I had sooner. It is located overlooking the Rift Valley, lovely views but even better through the haze of endless meat and beer, courtesy of J. Within 15 minutes of arriving, while lining up for first drinks, J had slapped some guy on the mouth for saying something rude about wazungu (white people) and as he said, the bad words came from his mouth so that is where he had to slap him. Nice to know he had our back. So there are rows and rows of tables with any part of the animal you can imagine sprawled out, one table will have the stomach laid out, another the intestines, and you can choose which part you want and they wack it straight on the barbie for you. Tempting as it was, I went for a steak and it was so good! No crushed bones or anything! Tried a piece of cow heart but that was difficult to get down and keep down. The day turned into night and we again ended up on the dancefloor at the usual Karima bar with J carrying my handbag. E came with her boyfriend as she had just arrived back from over west and she has had to return to the UK. I think my visa is now sorted after being an illegal alien for about a week. Nothing like efficiency. (Have actually just received it and the start date was 2 months after the previous one ended.
Next day M and I went to Dodoma. This was the beginning of my food safari. The last stop before Dodoma most people jump out to buy live chickens and then the journey continues to the squawking of all of them. I just needed to binge on good food. First stop Chinese, then pizza at a proper restaurant owned by Italians….Plenty of meat, cheese and good wine and even a round of mini golf. We stayed with another PC volunteer in Dodoma for the night, to get to his house we only had to tell the taxi driver ‘you know the old Somalian man? Near his house” and he knew where to go – and this is the capital city! I was off the next morning at 5am for Moshi. Dodoma is too hot, my heat tolerance has reduced drastically and everyone is surprised since I am Australian.
I was nervous to arrive in Moshi as the guidebooks states “Welcome to Hell” and describes it as “Hell on Earth”. I took the Arusha Express bus and turns out the reason it is express is as it does not stop! Only to let people on and off, no food, no loo breaks for a 9 hour journey. I could not wait any longer and jumped off at one stop. When I came out from the toilets a man grabbed my hand as he saw my bus driving off and we had to chase it down to stop it. I jumped on saying “UMESAHAU MZUNGU”… “you forgot the white person!”. It’s a really beautiful drive, through boulder scattered Singida to the green & mountainous Katesh and then the dry flat Manyara region driving by the camp site I stayed at on my tour last year. As the scenery changes and the landscape, the houses and their colour change from Singidas red clay, then Katesh’s deep, rich brown, to Manyara areas sandy grey houses. I saw a bus with photos of Presidents and quite historically important people along the side – Mandela, Mother Theresa and then amongst all these photos was Lionel Richie. Switching buses in Arusha and then arriving at an unexpectedly calm bus stop in Moshi - no problems at all to my relief. If anyone starts to hassle you as soon as they know you understand Swahili they stop hasseling you and instead just want a chat. Only when E and I returned to buy tickets to leave and I found my leg bleeding did we have a problem. People rushed to fuss over my and one guy, I think innocently, lifted my skirt a bit to see where the blood was coming from so E hit the hat off his head, much to everyone’s amusement besides his own. We left pretty quickly. E & I had 3 days of binge eating Pizza, Indian, Burgers, Waffles, Ice Cream, Coffee, Milkshakes, Yoghurt. Anything but rice and beans (though to be honest beans was the first thing I wanted when I got back to Ilongero). I really like Moshi, the view of cloud covered Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, from the streets is always nice to see. Moshi in Swahili means smoke, so it is as if the mountain is always covered by smoke. Also very clean, unlike elsewhere in Tanzania where when you finish with something you just drop it on the ground or out the window (I still can’t) there are huge littering fines in Moshi, and bins! We did have difficulties crossing the busy roads and would ‘ghost’ an unsuspecting local to cross safely. Had a good view from the Indian/Italian restaurant (was loving the mixed cuisine restaurants) watching the world go by, women walking by with 2 free hands and just one shoe carried on the head, other travellers being annoyed by street touts, nice not to be yourself. When the clouds did clear from time to time, we ran like crazy to any tall building we could see to ask to go up top and get a good view. Finally someone let us up to the top just in time before the clouds covered the peak again. We were real tourists, pretty much not leaving the guidebook and shopping knowingly being ripped off at nicer shops rather than try barter at the market. I even got a couple of local beer logo t-shirts…I especially like the Kilimanjaro beer one ‘if you can’t climb it, drink it’…that I did. We had a night out and met some English boys so that was fun as they were on night one of their trip and had obviously not yet hit tight budget. The rain came down hard and in the end it was raining inside the club. Even in the toilets, I went in dry & came out drenched. Sometimes it feels like Bangkok in the streets as vendors lay out all of the pirated DVD’s. Movies such as ‘TheBodyguard’ but a Korean version seemed popular and tempting to buy.
E left and I headed back to Arusha just for one night. Arusha was ok, bigger city, bit dirtier, so I just wandered around the market – a street back from the main road but like being somewhere completely different – I left covered in mud. I continued my food quest and had meat and chicken pies (after spending 2 hours walking around looking for Steers, a South African burger chain which I came to love though must have sadly recently closed in Arusha) and for dinner a mix of Chinese and Ethiopian. My piki piki (motorbike) driver couldn’t find the restaurant and after we drove around for ages we finally started calling his friends, dropping in places he knew people, anything to ask where it was. I was determined. It was worth it, especially for the Heinz tomato sauce, the never-ending quest. Most tomato sauce is this pinky coloured watery version of sauce so I was very disappointed when during dinner my stomach bloated to the size of an 8 month pregnant woman, sulphur burps returned and I could literally eat no more. Had to unbutton my pants at the table. Always disappointing to leave chips and Heinz sauce unfinished on the plate. I had to take the labour position in my room for a while, those birthing classes have come in handy. My room in Arusha had no window, only an opening above the door covered in mesh – directly where the fluorescent hallway light was. At midnight when I couldn’t find the switch, any staff, or sleep I decided to check myself into a much nicer, darker room I had seen vacant and unlocked earlier in the day. Most lights in Tanzania are the fluorescent type. So no drama about still not having electricity at my house almost 5 months after wiring was completed.
I tried to attend the Rwandan genocide tribunal but they were off for holidays so will go back for that but all in all I returned to Singida feeling refreshed and ready to continue without going mental at someone. And managed to pick up 6 hotel soaps. Hurrah! I was disappointed to have missed the special performance in Ilongero by Bacon Boy, the local rapper. A shame to miss this, though I saw Bacon Boy the other day and he asked me to “give him some love”….he’s repulsive and sadly leaves me with bad thoughts of bacon.
I have been meeting up with a local lady who is going to do some freelance work with us for certain projects. First will be a week long Life Skills Seminar in the June school holidays so we are going to Singida this Friday to meet with organisations who can teach this. The hostel is still going over budget and none of the students returned from holidays with their next payment so M and I have been going around begging for favours to get food until we can pay back as G is still pretty out of touch and has not sent funds. Those days have been good for M and I to ‘re-bond’ as we had a falling out over the next incident at the site where the guard….yes the same guard who had previously beaten his wife and on chance number 3 – this time hit A the girl my age who lives up there with her young daughter and looks after the chickens. Surprise! He hit her with the handle of a machete. So anyway, no one saw that it was a problem that he was being locked up in the day but at night returning to the site for work where A was still staying. Anyone I told, M and eventually when she sent me to the police, them, simply said if he does something A can call and they will go. No thought to prevent the issue. So I had an argument with M, told G I was telling A to stay at my house which she said was ok, then when A didn’t turn up it was because M told her she had to stay. When I couldn’t get back in touch with A by phone M and I went up there to bring her back. Sadly his wife is still with him and chose to return home so I felt a bit awkward seeing her there with him, and sad for their kids. I armed myself with a stick, mostly in case of hyena’s, but once again the stick I chose oozes poisonous stuff so I ended up covered in that. Why is everything her dangerous? A couple of weeks ago I was playing with A daughter and pulled of some big leaves and stuck in my hair like elephant ears….turns out they were poisonous also. No more trees.
A bit of Ilongero gossip, yet to be confirmed and I am sure untrue. One of the ladies apparently tried to kill her husband by lacing his food with poison. Pretty sure untrue...she does seem sweet. Then a girl at the hostel was ill with headache, I noted down a couple of words I heard mentioned and when I later looked them up it was ‘genie’ and ‘spirit’ so apparently she has been possessed. Apparently some ship dropped an anchor on some sort of wiring system off the coast of Kenya which affects phone and internet connection in Tanzania and it has reduced it by 20%. Mama Shayo is as lovely as ever and has offered me the service of sending a child with my loaf of bread. Also we can call her before going for a banana beer and she will throw some in the fridge. My neighbours have been told to keep aside eggs for the white girl and Martha is always happy to go straight to the udder and get me some milk. Just some of the perks of being white girl alone. Also, everyone thinks our skin is just so different, so when you have a pimple people just tell you you need a mosquito net, and everyone is very concerned about me in the sun. I’ve been asked to sell my hair. Have to tie it up at one bar though as a guy that works there always strokes it as he walks by. creeeeepy, although I do love having my hair played with.
I had a great day in Singida a couple of weeks ago, being dragged around by M like when we first arrived but it was nice to do again. It was so hot, so we stopped at several friends of hers for free soft drinks on the way going between educational institutions to find out about ongoing education for one of the sponsored girls. I had a really good afternoon when M and I parted and I found out all I needed to know about courses and programs in Swahili. So for a day which started off with my dalladalla hitting a baby goat (leaves the score at Nicole 2 – Baby goats 0) it turned out well. I was sitting up front in the dalla so when I screamed and was left gap-mouthed for quite some time as the driver didn’t slow down before or after hitting it, everyone had quite a laugh. Then arriving in Singida went to the council office and met some people who ended up offering possible assistance for the hostel if I write a report (will be happy if I can just do this before leaving) and they bought me breakfast of goat soup which wasn’t all that appetising so soon after. Besides at the market, I tend to steer away from eating meat as when you do get a bit you think is nice and tender, it generally turns out to be an organ and by then it is too late. In the afternoon J picked me up and we cruised around to his ‘love song hits’, a staple in any true Tanzanian man’s collection. Amongst the hits by The Corrs, Westlife, Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias and Whitney Houston was the huge hit Sexual Healin by, as credited, Marving Guy. What a laugh. I may have been a Tanzanian man in another life, with a love of bad love songs (I am often sat down to watch film clips on a love song dvd), and soft toys (they will be all over the lounge room). We went down to Lake Singida for some food and drinks on the shore which was lovely as the sun was setting. From a distance the lake is looking such a bizarre milky blue colour at the moment. Saw someone being beaten, pushed to the ground and continually kicked on the street by several other men. This happens to thieves, rather than go to the police people will just beat them until they think it’s punishment enough.
Before leaving for Easter I went to the rocks for the day to read and get some good sunflower pics before they are all chopped for harvesting. I got up there, stripped down to my singlet and lay in the sun! Lovely. On the way I stopped in at the house where the people who owned the goat my dogs had killed live. I told the lady I wanted to pay for it by she told me “ACHA BASI!” “stop, enough’ and instead invited me to try milking her cow. Big fail.
The teachers at school seem to be on a beating rampage lately. They make the students go and find the sticks first. It’s funny from the view of M office, out one window is the teacher walking around with the stick, through the other window a bunch of students hiding behind a wall. Especially funny on the last day of school, as in all schools, kids literally run out of the classrooms. I was at the hostel kitchen and would see a group of students running by, then a minute later one of the teachers, stick in hand. Wait...that's not funny is it?
We met this old man the other day who gave M and I a pumpkin and then invited us into his yard. Something like entering the ‘secret garden’ with huge orange trees, papaya trees even grape trees. His house is ok from the front but when we went to his garden it had all collapsed and is open. But it seems he puts all his care into his yard, showed us his old photos from when he had a good job with the government and says now listening to the radio is his work.
I arrived back in Ilongero Easter Sunday, timing the journey quite well to miss any form of church. I had my gifts of 2 apples and packet of potato chips from my fiancé in town. Believe it or not apples are an exciting gift as at TSH800 a pop (about 50c) they are far too expensive. One of the teachers has been wooing me with boiled nuts and brandy, things you can’t get in Ilongero, so I always seem to have snacks in the house. I spent the afternoon with HM and their family for lunch which was lovely. Their kids are so nice and in the end were calling me ‘dada yangu’ ‘my sister’ or ‘dada Nicole’ only pronounced the usual Nicoleee. (Ellie now introduces herself as Helen). Then drinks with another teacher and his wife. Mama Willie got a bit tipsy, wishing someone a happy Christmas, but the highlight was HM asking about homosexuality. He explained he understood what men can do, but not women so I found myself explaining lesbian sex toys to him. This conversation was pre-beer! In Tanzania, the more lounges and seats you have in your living room the more important you appear to guests, as you obviously have many to need so many lounges. He has 6x2.5 seaters and 2x2 seaters. Whether they fit properly or are double parked in some cases does not matter. After drinks we returned to their house for dinner and I unfortunately as guest I had to finish off the meat…and ofal. Sat and watched more gospel music film clips and then they walked me home. The nice thing here is that no one will let you walk home alone.
The rains have stopped now. Had a final huge storm a couple of weeks ago. Funny how here the weather completely affects your plans as it was Saturday night and drinks were planned. By 8pm I had had enough, there was a river in the lounge room and I wanted a drink so when it looked to be dying down I got up to leave then it hit harder than before. The wiring out the front of the house was flaming so I put on my thongs and went to bed. Have some new visitors around the house. A welcomed one is a little hedgehog, which even though eats the garden (which never really grew after our unsuccessful attempt) is too cute to resist. Less welcome are the toads I find in the bathroom, having jumped out of the toilet bowl leave disgusting poo footsteps around. Also these armies of huge black ants, apparently if you get bitten by 15 or so you can die. One got me on the foot and these HURRRRRT, makes the entire foot pound with pain. I am reading a book ‘The State of Africa’. The neighbours son was looking through the photos and only knew the ‘villainous’ characters…Mugabe, Gadhafi, Amin etc. In an mgahawa here I noticed a calendar poster dedicated to Gadhafi as a hero. Funny how news obviously differs depending on where you are.