Every morning my ears and body are surprised by the tractor gears as the giant grass-cutter drives the farm road which crosses directly in front of my window. As the black Tanzanian farmer passes, I always wave. One day he’ll see me here in my living room waving, grateful to have his company at this early hour. He drives straight on. I hear him pause at the gate where Irispa awaits his arrival each day. She signs him in and he gets on with job of cutting the knee-high molasses grass. He’ll cut four passes, enough to feed the cows today, and return with four young men to pick up the prickly grass barehanded and toss it onto a tractor trailer. Some days I am out walking when they pass with a full tractor bed; all four young men atop the skyscraper of molasses grass. I wave two-handed, the Swahili way, and I am met with smiles and at least of two, sometimes three, Swahili greetings, “Mambo! Habari?” and they are gone. All of us going about our day. Gail Gettler, 22 June 2015
We recently returned from a trip to see the Hadzabe Bushmen near Lake Eyasi. We drove four hours west and south of Arusha, to a large valley that is the home to several groups of people that lead more “traditional” lifestyles. These bushmen live in large family groups. They are strictly hunters and gatherers and live a nomadic lifestyle. Their shelters are temporary and made only of local materials. Most of their food is gathered by the women. Some meat is hunted by the men.
We stayed in an incredibly beautiful tented camp on the shore of the lake. Before sunrise, our guide took us to a crusty little camp where we found the bushmen sitting in a circle around a smoldering campfire smoking various types of tobacco and marijuana. They barely but not rudely, acknowledged our arrival. This did not interrupt them repeatedly passing joints rolled in any type of paper… receipts, newspaper, paper bags. There was also a crude pipe that they were huffing and huffing. The girls were speechless and a bit bewildered by these noisy, full-bodied convulsions. We stood around for about twenty minutes getting some information and explanation from our guide. The men continued to smoke the whole time. There were some crude introductions in which we attempted to say hello in their language, utilizing clicks. We all smiled and laughed together and then it was time for one more pipe before the hunt. They invited us to help create fire for their pipe with traditional sticks. Layla and I made some semi-productive attempts.
Then four of these guys scampered off into the bush wearing baboon skins and carrying bows and arrows. We followed but were quickly outpaced. There were occasional hoots and hollering that we attempted to locate. It was hilly, scrubby terrain with thorny trees. We would see a guy in the distance launch an arrow and then run after it. I was a little skeptical. However, a while later one guy comes running back to show us a ring- necked dove skewered with an arrow. There was definitely some wind, so this must have been an excellent shot. A while later, there were more noises and several guys excitedly crossed our path. We had been slowly walking and talking more about local politics and current events with one of our guides. Their mood renewed our enthusiasm and quickened our pursuit.
We met up in a clearing where they appeared triumphantly with a full-grown female Vervet monkey riddled with wounds. Pictures were taken and then we returned to their camp. The monkey was hung in the V of a small tree. The dove was quickly consumed. A dance and song were shared. We bought some beadwork form the women. The men started getting high again and we left.
Totally odd and totally worth it.
Alex Eby, April 10, 2015
The Game Continued
You meet the most interesting people when traveling. For instance, our neighbor directs an organization involved in Private Diplomacy. He and his colleagues assist with negotiations and discussions between countries, nations or tribes, etc. He travels in Africa and Europe mediating with high-level officials of all types. He has worked directly for and with numerous presidents. His stories are fascinating!
Several of us were playing Scrabble on Sunday afternoon. During the game, and while it was his turn, (the timer was running) his mobile phone rang. He quickly checked the screen, took the call, said he’d have to call back and hung up.
“Who was that?” someone inquired.
“The Ambassador,” he replied.
We all laughed and the game continued.
One of my favorite things about travel is all of the little interactions with local people. They usually begin with a smile, a question and too much gesturing. They usually end with two smiles, a thank you and too much gesturing.
While traveling, these can be enjoyable. But at home they might be categorized as inconvenient and annoying. Asking directions, running errands, making reservations, paying a bill, etc.
This last one is extra funny here. The largest currency denomination is 10,000 TSH (Tanzanian Shilling). It is said that this is because the government wants to deter corruption. The logic goes that the worth of this bill is too small to want to counterfeit and secondly, it is so small that if you wanted to bribe someone you would need LOTS of them. Whether this is true, I do not know.
But it does make bill paying kinda funny. You see… 10,000 TSH is about $5.50 USD. Imagine your pocket, purse or wallet if the largest bill you have is $5.00 USD. There are times that I’ve been walking around a millionaire here. ATMs, which are scarce, and often empty when you do find one, necessitate stocking up! I might have the equivalent of $500 – $600 USD, a thick stack, in a small pocket of my shorts.
I challenge you. A little travel experience at home, perhaps. Try and pay a few bills this month with nothing larger than $5.00 bills, a fin, a fiver an Abe, a five-spot. Report back with the puzzled looks, the wind blown stacks, the awkward bulges, the repeated counting…
“Girls, you might want to wear shoes (as opposed to flips) tonight because we’re going to the auto repair shop after the show for chicken-on-the-bonnet.” Gail, February 28, 2015.
Around the World
People often ask me ‘Is school in Africa different than in Montana?’ I often smile, laugh a little bit and proceed to tell them that Headwaters Academy in Montana is smaller, and that International School Moshi has an outdoor campus, a pool and an actual outdoor space to do something beside Fight Club, knee tag, and the occasional game of three on three soccer.
But, if I actually sit and think about it, school here in Arusha isn’t all that different than Headwaters or Sacajawea. The only thing that really does stand out the most is the fact that the kids in every school are the same. In every class there are those kids that mess around all of the time and the other kids who are blamed for it. There are the popular kids that sit at their own little table in hunched circles, their goal to make everyone feel lesser. There are the teachers that don’t teach but yell, and the teachers that teach, and the teachers that sit at their desks and answer the class’s questions as vaguely as possible. There is always the hurried rush to the lockers after lunch, and the rush away at 3:30.
It’s timeless, at least Mom and Dad told me so. They say that it was the same when they were younger, and it will probably be the same for everyone else in the future.
It’s a little strange, being around the world, yet almost everything is exactly the same. Mom wakes me up at 6:30 every morning, I go to school, doodle in class, wait in the lunch line. Mom and Dad pick me up from school, I come home and eat a huge bowl of cereal while I do my homework. It makes you think a little bit about how similar humans are. No matter how different something may seem, the reaction of every human is almost exactly the same. Anna, February 20, 2014
New School Drama
When my parents first told me that I was going to a new school in Arusha, I decided to see how long it would take before someone told me about all of the drama in their school life. This test lasted a day and a half. I was sitting eating lunch with Hannah (U.S.), Jackie (U.K) and Bella, (U.K.). Hannah told me that her best friend Cheyenne (U.K.) had been invited to JoJo’s (New Zealand) sleep over party. Since then, Cheyenne has left Hannah and hung out with JoJo everyday at lunch and break. Knowing the drill, I sighed and nodded along with Bella and Jackie, sadly agreeing with Hannah as she told us about her break-up with her old best friend. From then on, the drama about Cheyenne, JoJo, and Cheyenne’s new boyfriend named Jack. I tagged along with Hannah, feeling the same awkward tension in the air that the entire class felt, but it’s the same everywhere, isn’t it? Anna, February 20, 2015
10 Grand for deGrunch with the Polisi?
I bribed my first policeman today. Gail and I were on our way to the grocery store, the kids were at school. Polisi checkpoints are common. We have seen them but never have we been given the simple wave that means pull over, until today. A young smiling officer dressed in all white approached Gail’s side of the vehicle. He asked for my driver’s license. “This isn’t an international driver’s license,” he stated.
“Yes, it is from Montana,” I replied. Agreeing with him while disagreeing… a surprisingly effective strategy in many cultures.
“How long have you been in Tanzania?” he asked.
“A couple weeks.”
“How do you like the people?” he asked.
“We love Tanzania and the people!” we both chimed.
“How about something for degrunch?” he nodded.
“How about something for degrunch?” again.
“I don’t know this word,” I stated as Gail looked at me with a grin.
At this point I think he just gave me a look. I then deduced his intention and his words. He wanted $omething for “his lunch.”
We had placed a few bills in the ashtray of our Rav4 J V (see the gallery for a picture) just for this occasion. I handed him a 1,000 TSH (Tanzanian Shilling) bill. He scoffed as he took it. Gail and I laughed with each other and I exchanged the 1,000 for 10,000… for degrunch. He waved us on our way.
Point of fact 10,000 TSH = about $5.42 USD More than enough for degrunch.
With a grand smile, our dreadlocked camp manager Cliff said, “Welcome to the ocean with no water.” The Serengeti Plain really did look like that from midway up this hillside where our camp was nestled among the acacia trees. The vast, uninterrupted expanse before us generated stares from all of us, from all of the guests as they arrived.
We were at the Wayo Green Camp on Naabi Hill. A collection of about ten tents on what really felt like an island. (There are pictures in the gallery.)
The third night at the camp was the busiest. And this was the night that the continents re-converged as one in this ocean. Among candles and stars, twenty-two people squeezed together for dinner around one long table. Most of the words spoken were in English, albeit with many different accents. Asia was represented by Malaysia, Europe by Switzerland, Central America by Honduras, South America by Chile, Africa by South Africa and of course Tanzania, North America by Canada and the United States… Pangea. Alex, February 16, 2015
We are packing for our safari… Which is an interesting idea… Packing for a trip while on a trip.
There has of course been some stress this week and moments of family wide laughter are golden on so many levels!
While preparing for this hot and dusty adventure using our Swahili dictionary we came up with this statement.
The girls must have their chupa maji in their mfuko or they will be drinking out of their chupi.
The family wide laughter came during the grand decipher of this sentiment which after a weird bottle of wine basically came out as:
Your water bottle better be in your fuckin backpack and you better drink out of it or I will make you drink water out of your underwear. Alex, February 08, 2015
We have a washer on the patio of our apartment. Then hang all of our clothes on a line. We must then iron EVERYTHING in order to kill the possible mango fly eggs that have been laid in the clothes… And will then hatch and crawl into your skin. Well, all of our new fangled travel clothes say do not iron because they are all basically plastic. Which is nice.
This is from the Google Group advertising all sorts of items, deals, services and events in Arusha, Tanzania. Our airplane happens to land at 1:40 am on 2 February. The entry fee is about $8.40 USD
In Arusha you can watch the exciting match-up between multiple Superbowl winner and current champion at The Arusha Hotel, Hatari Bar.
Space is limited because this is a rather cozy bar. We’ve got ca 5 more seats left, so email me immediately under karsten…@gmail.com with your name and those in your party to reserve your seat.The hotel charges an entry fee of TSH 15,000 which includes breakfast buffet, coffee & water. A cash bar will be open all night!
“Are you Americans? Are you from California?” I turn around, seeing a short man with darker skin standing behind us, his hand stretched out.
“No thanks,” Dad says to the man. All four of us know what this man wants.
“Would you like to come to my shop?” We smile and shake our heads and hurry forward, towards the Aya Sophia. Mom grabs for my hand as the man calls after us.
“Are you from California?” I mock. Layla laughs.
-Anna, o2 February 2015
Handsome and impeccably dressed rug merchant outside of the very touristy Blue Mosque, Istanbul. He approaches with a radiant smile, “Are you democrat or republican?” We return the glow and giggle, “Democrat.” “I knew that, you are nice and you’re not from Texas.”
We see him the next day in a gorgeous, long camel hair coat, and are almost past him before he sees us. I open with, “Looking sharp!” Gail quickly chimes in “we are the democrats.” He smiles and allows us by without asking again to come back to his family’s eighth-generation rug shop. – Alex, 30 January 2015
Busy, large fish restaurant on Friday night, the Muslim Sabbath. We are seated adjacent to seven native, twenty-somethings festively eating whole fish and drinking the local alcohol on ice, Raki. The man sitting closest to our table is noticeably removed from the revelry and focused on his over-sized smart phone. As we stand to leave, they hoist their small glasses together and they clink them in celebration. They acknowledge our passing by and I ask why the reticent man is behind in his consumption. He offers me his drink, as do others. I take the fresher and icier looking glass of the more raucous young man next to him, and drink. It was cold and delicious. The reticent fellow looks at me and says, “You are good drinker.” I grin, Anna laughs and we depart. – Alex, 30 January 2015