Monday, July 12, 2010

This is Africa 2

If you have ever seen the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio, you will know the phrase T.I.A. (This is Africa). I have heard it here a few times so far. How true it is. Being here is like being in another world, a very friendly world where children walk up with huge smiles on their faces and shake your hand without fear. Where people have a positive outlook on life even though conditions may be horrible. This is Bagamoyo where I am calling home for the next four weeks.

Bagamoyo means lay down your heart. Originally, it meant that the slaves would lay down there heart here before being sold into the slave trade. Today though it is said that there is something special about this place where people do lay down their heart here and frequently come back. Every person who I have met here from outside of the country has said that they wish they could stay here longer. Who knows what will happen to me.

Today's breakfast started out with some crepe like pancakes and some other assorted things. Then we went on a bit of a scavenger hunt to find some places nearby to get our bearings. For most of you who know me quite well, I get lost all the time and I don't do well with directions. No streets have names and most of them are dirt. Buddy system for me is key especially since my room is not at the main house. With my scavenger hunt group, Brooke and Virginia, we had to find the only bank in town and the only pharmacy in town. We could all barely fit in the pharmacy. After doing a bit of research about what kind of meds to take when one gets malaria, we were back to the main house.

We then took a quick visit to the comissioner's office where we learned about all kinds of government stuff and were officially welcomed as volunteers. The jet lag was kicking in for most of us, so I don't really remember much of what was said except for the issue with the fire truck. So here is the story. Apparently Bagamoyo has a fire truck, but no one knows how to use it let alone start the thing. Because there is really no official trash collection, many people just burn it, so there are frequent fires (controlled of course) and it can be quite smoky in places. So the fire truck sits until they can get training in Dar es Salaam.

After a lively discussion about local snakes or lack of them thank goodness, we were off to our first Swahili lesson. It basically consisted of a group of us frantically writing translations for words and repeating after the teacher. I pretty much know nothing but when someone says Mambo!, you say Poa! It is really common to have tons of kids yelling this as you walk down the street. We are the wazungu, or white people. We are instructed to tell taxi drivers to take us to Mjengo Nyumba ya wazungu. Roughly translated "the house of white people." Love it!

After Swahili and a nice lunch and soda! (Cheryl, I remembered to take a picture of it for you) we got to meet the leaders of the projects that were were going to be volunteering with. I am at a place called Twisuka where there are all kinds of classes for different arts and handicrafts. I found out from Lucas and Maria that I am going to be teaching English three days a week, writing government proposals, helping to create a brochure, and anything else they can think of or I can think of to do. What I am really excited about though is learning all of the arts from them. Tomorrow I will be taking a batik drawing class (I think). I will be learning about painting and sculpture from artists...so poa! It sounds like a great position, so excited! I start tomorrow!

I was also able to figure out what I will be doing on the weekends with the group. This weekend we are going to hang out in town, but the following weekend is a trip to Zanzibar, and the weekend after that will be a 4 day Safari!! And I think we are even going to stay in those big tents with full plumbing of course. I made sure to ask about that. I am not in a hurry to have another "experience" like the last one.

That's about all for now. The internet cafe is right next door, so I should be able to get here every couple of days to provide you with all of my stories. Miss you all. Don't forget to post comments, I love to read them.