Wednesday, 30 June

Endasak to Arusha

We had to catch a bus that left Endasak at 12:45 Tanzanian time (sunrise equals midnight), which is 6:45 "normal" time. A little fruit for breakfast would tide us over.

We decided to take a Sombi bus instead of an Mtei. That may have been a risky game. David told me that a while ago another company started up to challenge Mtei. One night their busses mysteriously got fire bombed. Is Mtei owned by mobsters? I don't know. But it's awfully suspicious.

As the bus neared our stop, we could hear its horn from far away. It was no regular horn. It had a pattern that's impossible to put into text. A few longer bursts followed by a bunch of rapid bursts. It was absurd. If you see me face-to-face, ask me to demonstrate it for you. No words can do it justice; only shrill shrieks can properly emulate the sound.

The bus was full. Every seat was full and the aisle looked full. It had filled up at its first stop, Katesh. David asked a local who sold us the tickets, who also happened to be a student of his, "What happened to our seats?" The boy squeezed his way onto the bus and made some people get up for us. "That's why it's good being the one white teacher in the village."

The window wouldn't open. David had the window seat. We both groaned at the prospect of hot, stale, unmoving air. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A woman in front of us stuck her head out of the window...and threw up. Streaks of vomit ended up on our defunct window. David and I exchanged looks. If our window had been functioning, that vomit would have been on him!

This ride was fun. People in the aisles spilled into the seats. At one point, a baby was right in my face. The mother had to ease the baby over my seat so that she could fit in the aisle. I did what anyone else would do when a baby is put in their face: I made faces at it until it smiled at me.

A few stops later, when they dynamics of the aisle had changed, the baby ended up face-to-face with the back of my head. It did what any other African baby who had never seen blonde hair before would do: it grabbed and pulled at it. I appreciate a baby's curiosity so I just laughed it off.

At the halfway stop, we ordered some eggs and chips: a scrambled egg cooked in oil with slices of potatoes. It was good, but there was a puddle of grease in the bag when it was all said and done. To be continued.

When we finally stopped in Arusha, I led us off of the bus. If you recall last time, I was intimidated and just hid behind David. But this time I was ready. When we were mobbed by taxi drivers and safari salesmen, I had a plan. Whatever the drivers said, I parroted back to them. I mimicked their accents as best I could.

"Hello my friend, where are you going?"

"Hello my friend, where are you going?"

"Come with me, let's go!"

"Come with me, let's go!"

I dropped in some real Swahili, not pidgin like jambo. "Habari! Salama! Habari! Salama!"

They seemed baffled. David complimented me on my handling of the situation. I was grinning like a kid in a candy shop. It was fun!

We arrived in Arusha right around noon (is the road getting better or are the drivers going faster?). We checked back into the Meru House Inn and went to find some lunch. We settled on Swagat Restaurant, a great Indian place with a sweetheart of an old lady waitress/owner. I think our main dish was chicken masala. With no girls to keep things cool for, we ordered it spicy. The food was amazing. I was loving it. But spicy on top of greasy...to be continued.

Then we went souvenir shopping. By the end, we were (well, I was) really getting tired of being hassled. Everyone wants you to buy whatever they're selling and they are not shy about it. I picked the person I ended up buying from because she didn't approach me. We walked by, I liked what I saw, and she just let us walk by. So I came back and shopped there. Positive reinforcement, right? David did a marvelous job of haggling, though he contends that I paid too much. What can I say...we were white kids shopping in a touristy town. But it really seemed reasonable to me.

Under Control

In downtown Arusha, I took a picture of this advertisement on a roadside. Look at what's happening: people getting shot, people getting run over, people getting beaten with nightsticks...but don't worry...Secularms has it Under Control! After taking this picture and feeling the eyes of people looking at my camera and me, I decided that it would be the only picture I took on the street. No Happy Sausage sign photo. No House of Lubricants sign photo. They will forever exist in my memory.

When we were buying tickets for our trip back to Dar Es Salaam, I heard an American behind me. "An American accent," I said to him.

"Yeah, I'm from Detroit. I'm here in the Peace Corps."

David spun around. "So am I. I'm David."

"Oh, you're 'the other' David! I'm David!" I'm telling you, it's a small world there in Tanzania. We chatted for a bit. We even ran into him on the street a while later.

Back at the hotel...it continued. My first bout of diarrhea in Tanzania. The incredibly greasy brunch with a good and spicy lunch on top of it didn't sit well. So I had to spend some time sitting (I said sitting) it out.

For dinner, we met up with Heidi, another PCV who lives on the ocean front. Her parents and her friend, Jenny, were in Tanzania for a visit. They had just finished up their safari. They got to see a leopard and a rhino. Heidi's mom sends care packages to all of the PCVs there. David gets computer magazines from her regularly. We ate at Stiggy's, the place that serves Western food at Western prices. Heidi's parents are sweet. They both gave me a hug when we parted and told me to "keep up the good work." When I reminded them that I was just visiting a PCV, they said that's fine, just keep their spirits up.

And that was day one of my journey home.

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All content and photos Copyright 2004 Travis Pettijohn.