Sunday, October 10, 2010

Watoto Watatu

One of the first things that struck me about Iringa were all of the children that seemed to be out on the town without any adult around.  There are many that look no older than two, with backpacks twice their size, navigating the kamikaze downtown market scene.  There are children playing, children making their way to school and children hanging out in just about every corner of Iringa.

My friend Madeline even told me a story about staying in Makambako. She awoke one morning to see a couple of children, who appeared to be under the age of five,  lighting the back yard on fire.   Alarmed, she quickly called her boyfriend before the house went up in flames.  But she was reassured that they had come to cultivate the land.

On the way home from the market one afternoon, I heard three little babies trapped in a rain gutter next to our apartment.  They had some how climbed down there to play, but then couldn't get out.  I had to drop my bounty of tomatoes in order to bend down and scoop them out.  Their arms stretched out over their heads even though they looked a little doubting about who I was.
A road sign in Port St. John's, South Africa

There are quite possibly many very sad circumstances that contribute to the ever present watato (child) population.  But it also beautiful to see everyone has a genuine concern for one another, and children that are cared for beyond the confines of their own home.  Perhaps  the idea of home in Tanzania stretches far beyond they way I traditionally think of it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chief Mkwawa... Hopefully Here to Stay.

One of our first journeys out of Iringa was to Chief Mkwawa's museum just a short jaunt down a bumpy road.  I am still learning loads about Tanzania and African history.  Sadly, I had no knowledge of Chief Mkwawa before we came to Tanzania, but was excited to see the museum because it was touted as one of the 'must see' things to do around Iringa.

Chief Mkwawa was the He He tribal leader that opposed the German colonization of Tanzania.  In a small one room museum, there are a few relics of Chief Mkwawa, including his skull.  The story goes that Cheif Mkwawa put up a formidable fight against German occupations, but his warriors eventually lost in the battle and Cheif Mkwawa took his own life rather than subcomb to the Germans.  The Germans did manage to capture Chief Mkwawa's head and it was held captive in Germany until the Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany return it to Tanzania in 1919.  Finally,  Chief Mkwawa's remains returned to his homeland in 1954. 

When we visited the museum, the curator was first concerned that we might be Germans.  He was wary of any tourist from Germany because they might attempt to take the skull back.  After the reassurance that we were not German, the curator proceeded to show us the hiding place for Chief Mkwawa's skull under a trap door in the floor just in case their was an invasion.  I tried to imagine the anxiety that a bus load of German tourists might cause our cheerful museum guide.  But hopefully Cheif Mkwawa is in Tanzania to stay.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Karibu! Habari! Haribu???

One of the things that I love about Tanzania and Tanzanians is the long extended greetings that everyone gives to each other.  You ask about one's health, family, household... you name it.  It is really sweet and wonderful, and I really appreciate the care and joy that goes into each greeting.

I was anxious to figure this out upon arrival in Tanzania.  Although we had been proud owners of the Rosetta Stone Swahili for months... I sadly only could remember the word for "woman" in Swahili.  I also later figured out I was also pronouncing that wrong too.

I have been the jack of all trades master of none when it comes to languages.  I have halfway learned how to speak Mandarin and Spanish, and I am perhaps the only one in the world who has a tendency to get the two confused.   Now throw Swahili in the mix, and the language side of my brain is completely muddled.

However, one advantage that I do have with language is that I am not afraid to make a complete ass out of myself.  I have proven this numerous times before; one particularly memorable mix up was my ability to confuse the word for "sex" and "banana" in Mandarin.  I am still sheepish about saying either of them... because after so many mix-ups, I just have it permanently confused.

So, here I am in the market in Iringa, Tanzania.  Simple hellos should not be a problem, and I wanted so desperately to participate in the beautiful greetings.   In Swahili, "Karibu" means 'Welcome" and "Habari" is more or less "How are you?"  Both are easy enough.  Except I managed to mix both Karibu and Habari together to make "Haribu"... which essentially means-- destruction.  So for two weeks I went around telling everyone I was going to destroy them.  At least I did it with a big smile.

These are just a few that I promised to destroy...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Arriving in Iringa

"Iringa." Wikipedia. Web. 11 Sep 2010.  .
What will Iringa be like? We really had no idea. It is funny when you move to a place cold turkey. I had one picture on wikipedia, and a small blurb in the Lonely Planet which was my reference point for Iringa.  Luckily, Iringa turned out to be even BETTER than expected!

Beautiful flowering Jacaranda trees line the streets. There is a bustling food market in the center of town where women wearing colorful kangas sit atop mountains of vegetables.   The city is surrounded by beautiful hills and incredible rock formations.  It is home to extremely kind people.  And perhaps best of all, it is not super hot and humid.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Karibu Tanizania!

Upon arrival in Tanzania we were picked up by a very soft spoken, gentle man holding a sign with our names neatly printed in marker.   We were overjoyed to finally make it to Tanzania, but also excited that we weren't going to have to navigate Dar in the middle of the night with all of our luggage.  We had been waiting for this moment for a long time. 

Immediately after stepping out of the airport, we saw a large mob of people chasing a Land Rover down.  They eventually caught up with it as I wheeled my bag up to the car.   We asked our driver what was happening and he said in a very casual voice "He has stolen a car, maybe they will kill him."   Surely he must be making some kind of joke lost in translation right?

Turns out, thievery is not taken lightly in Tanzania.  I hope that is not the way that it ended in this story.  Fortunately, were were not around long enough to find out.
The helpful museum guide pointing out the murder of a thief in a mural at the Chief Mkwara museum

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tempting Hammocks Swallow Tourists in the Transeki

We made a run for it. We broke out of the Garden Route and braved the long road to the wild coast of Africa. The east coast of Africa had a completely different feel. Although we were still on the beach (Micah and I hung close to the coast the entire time in S. Africa) we felt that the wild coast of S. Africa was just what we were looking for-- completely laid-back, incredibly friendly and exceptionally beautiful. We only planned to stay 2 days which stretched into 3...4...5 & finally six days.  We would have stayed even longer if we didn't have such a long trek back.  I think we both hit our hammock time quota for the year and enjoyed some great hikes with an exceptional guide.