Sunday, July 29, 2007

Part IV: Welcome to Arusha, Tanzania

Being only one of 3 people to get off the plane, it was not a long wait for my luggage or for visas. The airport was extremely small (one small building about the size of a big ranch house) with one landing field. However, I did see a humongous plane with the nose cone opened from the rest of the plane… apparently a private plane of some really rich dude from the Middle East! It was quite neat, but I wasn’t sure what the photo policy was at the airport… and I didn’t want to risk being whisked away into a foreign Tanzanian prison, so I resisted my urge to take out the camera and shoot.

I should mention that at the airport, I met 2 professional wildlife photographers working for the Jane Goodall Institute who were on their way to shoot gorillas on Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania that I may have the chance to go to as a slight detour next week. I was surprised to find they shoot only in film, and they did not carry too much equipment with them. I also kept on running into 2 gentlemen from the check-in counter all the way to the shuttle to Arusha… and then saw them again at Tish’s apartment later on, though I was on my way out and couldn’t stop to say hello. What a small (yet big) world!

Arriving in the town (they call the main part of the town “town”) of Arusha, I got off the (free) shuttle run by Air Tanzania to find a wonderful sign awaiting me and a smiling face behind it. I met Tish and we exchanged stories all evening, going out to eat fried chicken (cuckoo) and fries (chips) at a favorite restaurant of hers. It was delicious. The chicken is more chewy here than in the states for whatever reason… and fried chicken isn’t KFC-like fried, its more just fried without the batter. Very tasty (people seem to use the word tasty versus delicious). It gets quite chilly in Arusha because of its high altitude, so I had to borrow a silk cocoon-like bag from Tish to sleep in. I thought Africa was hot…. Boy was I wrong.

Arusha itself is an absolutely gorgeous area. The banana trees definitely add a je ne sais quoi, and the luscious green mountains and trickling brooks are the scenes you dream about or see in movies…. I didn’t even know where to start with pictures, because I saw all this driving to the workshop… and couldn’t really get out because the dala dalas (the bus/taxi of Tanzania - basically… cheap public transport that crams in as many people as will fit… and more)… but I tried my best to capture the beauty.

Tanzania overall is very peaceful and beautiful, and on top of that, it’s very stable in terms of development. There are still many things that could be improved and “developed,” but strangely it feels just as developed as the U.S., just different. It feels like Tanzania needs about as much work, maybe less, than the U.S. does, but it is still very different. The locals are proud to say that, “noone dies of hunger in Tanzania,” and it doesn’t get too cold or too hot, so noone dies from the weather. The poverty levels and unemployment levels are relatively low, and much progress seems to have been made in many different areas. The technology is far behind and everything is much less modern (including their views on roles of genders and persons with disabilities in society), but the progress on solving problems on disabilities and waste and poverty etc seem to be very well developed.

The people are amazing. Extremely friendly, and much less intimidating. They do not have a personal bubble whatsoever, which can be a bit too much at times, but I’ll be walking down the street and they just come up to you, shake you hand, introduce themselves, and just start an animated conversation with you. And everyone knows someone that happens to be walking down the street, so these exchanges are happening everywhere, and you just meet so many people, and they want to invite you over for dinner and buy you a drink and just hear all about your life! Such a big contrast from the other places I’ve been to where they call out to you or try to sell you things or harass you but few actually come up and introduce themselves just because they’re interested in hearing your stories and learning more about you. Though even here marriage proposals are rampant…. One person today was very persistent, showering me with compliments which is always a very awkward situation. Perhaps the good work that the foreigners working for ngos are doing here has something to do with their percept of foreigners. There are many foreigners that come for safaris and do waste money and act obnoxiously towards the locals, but they are often in their own groups and do not integrate themselves with the locals. So I think by us walking around the town, taking dala dalas instead of taxis, eating where the locals eat, and hanging out with locals, they know that we are here to work, and are much more curious and treats us like people and not like tourists.

My first day at the workshop, I was met with both exciting and depressing news... 2 dogs had recently had puppies... 1 family was doing extremely well... the puppies getting big and wriggling around blind.. crawling all over each other... but the other family, the mom just didn't know how to take care of her pups. I nursed one while I buried 5 dead ones... Then I put the one I had nursed back after washing it, drying it, and feeding it some millk.. but when I returned a few hours later, he was dead too...

1 comment:

Ella said...

I really appreciate this blog. 3 years ago I spent over a month in Arusha, volunteering for an orphanage (NGO) I have a huge love for Tanzania and felt more at home there than I've ever felt in the states! Thank you for appreciating it just as much as I do! Cheers, Ella