Wednesday, August 21, 2013

July 21: Dar Es Salaam to Iringa, Part 2.

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

On the radio, we learn a new phrase. "Drop it hot!" the DJ says. (Mom, that should be "drop it like it's hot".) Meggie and I giggle (she finally woke up!) and claim we're going to start saying, "Drop it hot" at home on the dance floor.

We stop for lunch at a nice but creepily empty tourist hotel and though it has changed so slowly, it hits me that we're in the mountains now, past Morogoro (not Ngorongoro, please, how could you confuse them?!), and when we comment that it looks like rain, Mohammed says, "No. No rain. No rain while you are here."

We drive. We get tired. People are nodding off. My dad told me an African sunset is so fast - from light to dark likethat - but our climb into hill country extends a long sunset that just gets better, and better, and better, and then - gone. (I didn't take any pictures.) It's so wide - it's a sunset that spans a horizon of two normal sunsets at home. I actually look all the way behind me to see if it meets on the dark side of the horizon.

The final 2 kilometers into Iringa Town are uphill and there's a vicious speed bump every 20 yards or so - that government again, keeping the cars slow but not thinking to put in stoplights or streetlights or sidewalks or crosswalks most of the time.

This is Iringa Town, but the photo was the next day; we arrive in the dark:

Iringa Town suburbs, headed down the hill out of town, over the speed bumps but again, taken the next day:

We arrive at the Lutheran Center of Iringa and when we step out of the car - brrrr! It is not just chilly, and we're not just road weary. It is downright COLD. We're at 5200 feet elevation and it's not more than 51 degrees with a big gusty wind. I almost didn't pack a coat, and boy I'm sure glad I did!

The Center is like a little hostel or dorm, run by the church, where each double or triple room has a private bathroom, and there's a little dining room/cafeteria. We're served the best chicken cashew curry I've ever had, over rice with a semi-crunchy slaw (ah! crunch! the satisfaction!). Cashews are one of Tanzania's main exports,  and the only street food we've eaten so far, purchased through the car window. Edward warned us last night. "I know my people, and they do not know how to cook scientifically like your people. Do not eat street food. You'll get sick. No street food." He will repeat this almost every day while we're here - no street food! And street food includes food cooked in peoples' homes. But the cashews, oh, the cashews. Roasted, totally plain, and still almost a little springy - this freshness not found in a super-roasted-to-a-crisp-for-the-trip-around-the-world-tkind at Trader Joe's.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania - ELCT - is the country host for Global Volunteers. So while GV is the 501 C 3 non-denominational program we've paid to be part of, GV works in many countries and in each one, they are hosted by a local organization who helps identify the needs of a given community, and run the daily schedule of volunteers. It's a serious attempt to avoid the dictatorial American approach, and in many countries, including in Tanzania, the local host is a church. Churches, after all, are used to desperate need and trying to do a lot for a lot with a little. None of our volunteers are Lutheran (I'll later find out the family is devout Roman Catholic and we so have one more Unitarian Universalist, along with Meggie and I, who dabble in UUism). But the host organization is Lutheran, and so we know we'll be asking for permission and a blessing tomorrow from the regional Bishop, and we agree to abide by the rules. From what I can tell, this is actually just one rule - if you drink alcohol, do so in the house or private fenced backyard of where we'll live in the village, but not on the front porch or in the front yard. Beyond that, blessings and prayers and gratitude to God exist and are expressed, but are far from in our face, and this little church center seems more focused on feeding us well and switching on the mini hot water heater in our bathroom than trying to convert anyone evangelically. Perhaps it's because they think we're already saved, since we're staying there?

We find out that the majority of our bags won't be coming down off the roof of the vans tonight - and tempers flare. People's politeness begins to fade, shit starts getting laid bare, the first snappy words are exchanged. I decide to not engage in one exchange when their exhaustion from 12+ hours in the car turns to pettiness, and of course my favorite co-volunteer, Leslie, has a good natured laugh at us all. She still has no bag, and no word from the airline or the Dar airport on when it might arrive. It could be, as far as we know, gone forever. And here we are, worried about one night!

That said... I keep my mouth shut and refuse to complain but, oh, on the inside, I'm incredibly grateful to have stuck a pair of underwear, a tee shirt and toothbrush into my backpack, sitting in the van with me, and not up on top! I am sad to not have my mouthguard (I never sleep without it) but the consolation is that Meggie's bag is one of the minority to come down, so I'm treated to the kinds of nice-smelling lotions and good hair goop that I often don't even have at home, and so after a hot shower, I begin journaling, under my mosquito net, but am ready to crash.

Breakfast will be at 7:30. We will buy most of the supplies and food we need for two weeks - and then we'll travel another two hours by dirt road to Pommern, our village home. The real Africa, Edward tells us. "My Africa."

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