16 May 2010

saw a chicken cross the road for the first time. my life felt complete.

The main thing i've had trouble with over here is the logistics and infrastructure. It's something I take for granted at home-- paved roads, internet, air conditioning. It has been pretty awesome though, just living rugged and simply. Of course, we're staying in one of the nicest hotels in Dar Es Salaam, so I'm not complaining at ALL.

Being in a market in Tanzania is quite an experience. Over here, I'm a mzungu, or Nini mi mzungu, a white person. I get stared at a lot everywhere we go, which is not something I enjoy, but I'm getting used to it. The markets are where people buy almost everything. In the small towns, there are no department stores, or grocery stores. So the markets are the center of life. You buy clothes (mostly used tshirts, most from America. A lot of college or touristy tshirts, sweatpants, underwear, LOTS of shoes) electronic items (fans, batteries, radios) and of course food. The food over here tastes great. Bananas, for example, are 100x better than in America. Oranges over here are green, which is the completely natural, just a different variety. And my favorite--- mangos. We have mangos every morning, and sometimes even mango juice. I don't know what it is about the mangos here but they are also 100x better than in America. Always at the right ripeness and FOR SURE not 2.99 a pound. Rice is a staple. I eat rice at every meal and other than that everything is steamed with spices. Green beans are fantastic, carrots, chicken, beans, spinach, sweet potato, cabbage. So no, I'm not starving in Africa. At the Springlands Hotel every meal was buffett style, which was awesome. Springlands was like a home. The owner Mama Zara (all women are Mama) has this incredible tour company with 2 hotels. Great lady, so is the staff. I kinda miss it now that we're in the big bad city with pollution and traffic. Not as many trees here.

Anyway, we hiked to a waterfall the other day that was in the foothills of Kili. Its really breaktaking (literally its hard to breathe) when you're standing below a 50 foot waterfall. Later that night consisted of reading my Contemporary African Studies textbook and summarizing chapters. Yes, I unfortunately actually AM doing academic work.

Friday, I stepped WAY outside my comfort zone and went to a mosque for Friday prayer service. I had bought a ketanga (the 2 piece cloth worn on the head and as a skirt) in Arusha, but putting it on and wearing it was so bizarre. Our entire group went to the service- 9 girls and 3 boys went with our bus driver from Zara and his family. His two daughters helped all the girls get dressed then we got split up, men and women because in Islam, they don't pray together. So we went upstairs, and did the ritual of cleaning your hands, feet and face then sat in a large empty room and listened to the sermon through a speaker. Every woman was staring at the mzungus, especially when it came time to pray. The service lasted about an hour and I didn't understand anything that was said. Mostly I just sat there thinking, mostly about how grateful I am that I have the freedom to practice the religion of my choosing. It was a very humbling experience, especially as the nonsubmissive woman that I am. There was a grace to it all that I appreciated though and I'll never think that Muslim=Terrorist (not that I did before this, but many people do. In Tanzania, Christians and Muslims get along peacefully) because the people were very welcoming and respectful.

After I took my katenga off, we went to lunch and then to the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Now THERE'S SOMETHING I was familiar with :) All the bottles over here are glass, so there's a whole warehouse of glass bottles that get cleaned and sent back out with a new bottlecap and some good ole coke (made with real cane sugar, not that fructose corn syrup junk). They produce about 7 drinks, some made in America, some not but the factory, landscapes and labs were really top notch. Atlanta should be proud. Plus, they gave everyone in the group Coke World Cup tshirts and hats. For the rest of the night, we just packed for the trip to the coast. We have to pack very lightly because we're taking a plane from Zanzibar back to Arusha for the safari in about a week.

So Saturday morning we woke up at about 5, had the usual breakfast of potatoes, mango, crepes and juice. The whole trip, we've been driving around in a 25 person bus but because of the length of the trip and quality of the roads, we took 2 safari Land Rovers instead. We left Moshi at about 6.30 and got to the hotel in Dar at 5.30PM................ yeah. Long trip. but, I saw some of the most interesting things I've seen the whole trip. It was like 11 hours of slideshow pictures. 90% of the houses were mud huts and the other 10% were 1-2 room cement buildings. We drove around beautiful green mountains, saw farmers harvesting their lush plants and all around simple, raw, life. We stopped twice for gas, once for lunch. The last 2 hours, we were on a dirt road. It was pretty bumpy, 1 lane in most parts. Then as we were approaching Bagamoyo, a coastal city with a big Italian population, we hit a paved road that was done by the Italian goverment because of its bad condition before. After about another hour in traffic, we got to the hotel.

The hotel (Protea Hotel) in Dar reminds me of European hotels. The rooms, bathrooms, lobby and services are all very similiar. Plus WE HAVE TV. We have a buffett for breakfast and lunch then a crazy big menu for dinner. Dar is a very culturally mixed town, as is most of the East Africa Coast because of the influence from the Middle East. Its a predominantly Islamic culture, though I did see a bunch of people heading to Church earlier this morning.

This morning, we went to a textile co-op. A man that had been in the textile business for 20 years created this company with his wife and about 12 other employees. They used handlooms to make beautiful fabric thats made into clothes, tableclothes, sheets and numerous other things. I bought some fabric to make pillows. Mammaw, get ready to teach me to sew :) Its really inspiring to see peoople like that couple that use their skills to teach and help other people in the community. Every little bit counts.

Over here, people love Western entertainment. In the paper the other day, I read a story about Sandra Bullock and the 'real mom' from the Blind Side having lunch. Like really....... is that necessary? Pictures of Jay-Z and Mickey Mouse are everywhere but bigger than anything else is President Obama. People have huge murals of his picture with the American flag and other patriotic symbols. It's a really big deal for the people over here, who love America, that he's our President. We went to the mall today to get some stuff and I literally felt like I was in America. Everything was in English. There were two department stores and about 20 others, like a book store, pharmacy, tech shop, clothing, banks. There was a movie theater where Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood were playing.

By this point, I'd hope you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking... It's really hard to describe Africa. As soon as I think its all thatched roofs and elephants, I hear Lady Gaga singing in the market. That's something that makes me smile and shake my head at the same time. How good is it that other cultures are slowly permeating through here? Luckily I have more time to think about that question.

I just wrote a lot. I'm kinda tired now. Maybe I'll go watch American Idol, it's on TV in about 15 minutes.


  1. its nat, mom and i just read that together and shes cryin her little eyes out. your writing is beautiful and i have no words to describe how much i love you. moms comment didnt work before so here is hers now:

    Well, I just wrote a beautiful story to you and can't find it!!! Reading your description of the prayer service made me swell with pride, you know how God makes me feel and the fact that you have embraced that culture and yet appreciate your world here is so wonderful. Can't imagine you draped in cloth, but hope you have a picture. Hearing the narrative ofthe car ride was so interesting, you seemed fine on 12 hour car ride, even though we hate car rides. WIsh we could be with you on this journey but am so proud that you don't NEED us because you have so beautifully prepared. I feel like I just had a beautiful conversation with you yet didn't say a word. I have a cold and don't feel very good so this helped ALOT. i LOVE AND MISS YOU AND AM SO INCREDIBALLY PROUD OF YOUR SUCCESS

  2. I misspelled INCREDIBALLY, INCREDIBLY, sorry, Jordan Thompson, Wheat, and Mrs. Burndrett would be so proud of this writing!!!!!

  3. I keep remembering things to ask you, how are your clothes holding up? Any special things you want to have on the Amsterdam trip in a clean new suitcase? ARe you still good for us to meet you there? I love you Mommy

  4. It's mamma again I am testing because we loove you ..more later

  5. Hey our darling Clare;I am making another attempt at sending you a love note. Hope this one goes thru.
    LOved reading all the interesting things you wrote us--I found a 2005 issue of National Geographic today and entire issue is AFrica. Was interesting for me to see just where you are and will be. I decided I needed a little more knowledge rather than show my ignorance. Va. Allen (wife of our former Ben Hill Church pastor) called today and I told her about your trip - she wanted to know if that was the personality kid I assured her it was also the interlectual one also.(smart too).
    We went to help Natalie celebrate her 17th last Wed. Your bed still sleeps soooo good. If this note goes thru I will be saying LOVE AND KISSES often--don't want you to forget. I will look forward to helping you sew your pillow covers-that is a great way to have a keepsake that will be useful.
    Bout bedtime so all for now love ya Papa and MamMa

  6. CLARE! this trip sounds absolutely incredible. i know the overwhelming feeling of being in a place unlike anything else to compare to. I am SO proud of you and I hope the rest of your trip is this incredible! Can't wait to hear about it all when you return to the mainland. Miss you lots, be careful, i love you!


  7. Clay-bo! Thanks for taking the time to fill us in. You write beautifully, I felt as though I was there with you on the drive, in the mosque, at the buffet.

    Stay safe and enjoy!


    Aunt Leah

  8. Clare,
    Wow! What an awesome adventure you have shared with us. I would love to taste some of the fruits you write about that have not lost all their flavor. Have so much fun!!!