Thanks to "Memories" on Facebook, I have been reading my Tanzania updates again - 8 years after the fact! You would have seen a few of the photos attached to some of the other blog posts, and I will post some of the notes I made when I was there working for the dental charity Bridge2Aid. I will have a link to their page at the end of the post. And of course, it begins as all of my travel stories do...
Thank you for the wonderful responses I have had so far. Believe that when I wrote that note, I was in high frustration, and most likely a bit shell shocked and culture shocked. You are all correct of course, especially the one that pointed out that I am indeed a chatterbox and so find it difficult when I can’t do what comes naturally. Unfortunately for you my having less conversation than I am accustomed to has given me plenty of time to think up stuff to put into these emails. However, after all of the “comments” about the length of the emails, I have adjusted them and start off with a shortened version for those of you in a rush, who don’t feel as if you can read the entire thing in one go. That being said, I would love it if you read the email in its entirety at some point, and it will also save you from having to buy the book when its released (wink wink).
Abstract – Life in Tanzania very similar to life growing up in Barbados. Joys of flying on a light aircraft. Working in the mines. Losing some luggage. Kesho (tomorrow)!!!
So – things have definitely improved. I have been able to sample some of the food and experience some of the Tanzanian hospitality that I have heard so much about. I have also been learning a bit of Swahili, although I am told that I have a “typical Tanzanian shape” and so not being fluent in Swahili just seemed to be causing confusion. I finally started telling people that “Barbados is near Jamaica” and they at least have heard of Jamaica and that seems to quell some of the confusion. That being said – it seems as if Black West Indians are an Urban myth in Tanzania! A guy said to me today (and this is the quote of the week) “Someone told me once that there are black people in Jamaica but I did not believe them until now!!” So there you have it! Even the geography and history teacher here had not heard of Barbados (although he knew where Tobago was... strange!!) Makes me wonder how this could be true. As it is, I have been walking to work since I arrived – about a 20 minute walk: enough time to work up a sweat and clear my head. On my walk, I have been struck by the similarities between this walk and walking to school in Barbados when I was growing up. People call out greetings to one another – something I love and miss when in the UK. I have figured out quite a few of the greetings in Swahili and the children say to me Shikamo: this is the greeting of a younger person to an older one and the older one responds Marahaba. Sadly I am told this is a throwback from slave times and Shikamo literally means “I wash your feet” however it has stuck here. (that is nothing like growing up in Bim, but I needed to get it in there). I love to see the ladies carrying their market load balanced on their head! It reminds me of the lady that used to sell sweets, suckabubees (LOL!!!) corncurls and other highly inappropriate sweets at our school gate when I was in primary school. Our poor teachers!!! Anyhow – she used to have that tray balancing on her head. Anyone (from Erdiston) who can remember her name let me know!! All of the fruits on sale – figs (ndizi kidogo as they are called over here) manoges, guavas. I know they are all tropical but it is a nice feeling to see them on display. They have vans over here called Dala dala – basically a ZR! They even have ridiculous names and conductors hanging out the doors trying to entice the school children in! (although I know that school children catch the big buses now... sigh!) Even some of the music sounds almost like Calypso and I feel like I should understand the lyrics (although I don’t always understand some of the calypso lyrics back home – go figure!) Anyway – it made me wonder at the many similarities between the societies and how 2 places so far apart have developed so similarly.
It was also with great interest that I learnt about 2 very Tanzanian dishes. The first one – rice and beans and fish (sound familiar?) The other one – mandizi – looks and tastes very much like bakes – I had some for breakfast this morning and bakes are not eaten enough in my books! I had the rice and beans for dinner. There was some sort of mix up at lunch time because I asked for rice and beans and got chicken and chips – very NON Tanzanian. Hmmm...
Anyhow – moving on. I have had several comments on my mention of my trips to the mines. I flew down in a “light” aircraft (4 seater) to one of the nearby gold mines, and had an extremely busy day there. I am endeavouring not to talk dentistry and bum you all out – all of you that spent a few days looking up fluorosis, so suffice to say that the day was busy and unpleasant, and fortunately I will not be visiting that mine again. Flying in a small 4 seater plane has done nothing to assist in conquering my fear of flying. Those of you who know me well know my views on flying – I feel its akin to attaching 2 lolly sticks to a sardine tin and hurling it through the air! Even A-level physics has not given me any understanding of the phenomenon. I used to have a friend who tried to explain the aerodynamics of a plane to me. Sadly he was unsuccessful – happily we are no longer friends (another story for another time) Alas – I digress! There will be lots of flying on this trip. Its almost worth it for the arial shots .Coming from a small island, I am always fascinated flying over the continents and seeing land as far as the horizon. In Australia it was the red desert with the sun bouncing off the dunes. In North American midwinter it was the rockies – and the white peaks – and in Tanznia its lush greenery and the little rectangular patches marking out agricultural territory. Flying over the gold mines was an absolute sight to behold as well. The photos don’t capture it very well. Its a wonder how a country with so much natural resources can be so poor. I spent Sunday with one of the locals handing out sandwiches to the street kids, and it was a real sad one! Especially after spending the afternoon with some ex pats in a lush house on a hill with a pool and more food than we could possibly eat! It was definitely an eye opening weekend – always the great extremes of poverty and wealth.
Well – I think I have written enough for now. I am going on Safari this weekend, although the airline lost my bag today and I have no toiletries, so I might smell and the animals might run a mile. I use the word airline loosely – there were only 4 of us in the plane and 2 of the 4 were the pilots, so I wonder whether it dropped out of the plane and somewhere between here and the mine is probably a lion or tiger in a pair of New Look Jeans wearing the game perfume (by Davidoff) and watching felicity season 2 on DVD, or bopping along to the itunes. Alas – for those who asked, I have not been able to fix my MP3 player, although I have solved the problem. It seems that itunes does not like any rival software on the same computer, so I have got a friend to put on her laptop for me. Sometime over the next few weeks, I should be able to get the music sorted. Until then – I leave you to think of me singing “No woman no cry” in the surgery just to convince the patients that I am from near Jamaica, or haggling for some papaya in the market. I will put some more dentistry in the next email for those who are interested, as I am going to visit the site on Friday where there is a lot of training going on with the team of volunteers that had just arrived from the UK.
Big love from Subsaharan Africa!!
Kesho!!! (until tomorrow)
Here is the link to the Bridge2Aid organisation. It is a fantastic project so check it out!
Ps - the photo above was one of the ariel shots I took while in the light aircraft