Monday, July 12, 2010

This is Africa

I had the afternoon off today, so I thought I would take some time to catch everyone up on what in the world I have been doing since I left New Jersey in quite a frenzy.

My plane rides were pretty uneventful, and I met a few fellow volunteers while I was at JFK, so I was never really traveling alone. When I got to the Tanzanian airport and cleared customs which wasn't much of a process at all, Didas was waiting for all of us to whisk us away to the CCS main house. I use the word whisk very lightly because we were in a small bus for what felt like hours and got to the house in the dark, had dinner, and went to bed. I am staying at the summer house with most of the other volunteers which is a bit of a walk down the dirt road and around the corner. I have to make sure to remember to turn where there are old tires on the roof of a house. Anyway, my roommate's name is Brooke, and she is a social worker from Maine. She has been to Africa before, so she has been super helpful.

The next day we had an orientation in the morning after breakfast and got to know each other a bit. I am traveling with a really great group of people from all over the world. There are a couple teachers, lawyers, and even an event planner of a variety of ages. We talked about expectations and concerns and learned a song which I can't remember. As I'm sitting here I am realizing that all of this happened yesterday, Sunday July 11th, but it feels like it happened a week ago.

Moving on, we all spent the afternoon visiting some sights around town including the Kaole Ruins, a house that was the resting point for slaves and slave traders before the trek to Zanzibar, and the Catholic museum. It was so much information to take in, and I kinda wish I was better about taking notes while I was there because I am having a hard time remembering anything I learned yesterday. But I did see some monkeys playing in the sand near a huge area of mangrove trees at the site of the ruins. It used to be the main port until all of the mangroves basically took over and made it impossible for boats to get in. That's the fun fact of the day...enjoy it. The Catholic museum was interesting because it had all kinds of things to look at including some carvings and information about slave trade, and there were even some examples of what some record books looked like. Oh and I also learned that the east African slaves were transported through Zanzibar to the middle east and India whereas west African slaves were transported to north and south America. West African slaves were allowed to reproduce and have families, but east African slaves were not which is why you do not see many Africans in the middle east and India. Amazing stuff. We finished up the excursion with a short trip to an outdoor market which was more like an art gallery. I think I am definitely going to bring some art home with me and maybe a carving of a hippo or many things made by such talented people.

Since it was the day of the finals of the world cup that just happened to be taking place on the same continent where I am currently residing, we just had to find a place to watch it. After dinner, a few of us walked over to an outside bar called Hillside where we enjoyed some Killamanjaro beers and some of the game. The highlight/ frightening moments of the night were the bathroom encounters. I use the term bathroom loosely because while there were sinks and running water and locking doors on the stalls, inside the stall was nothing more than a hole in the ground. YIKES!! There was no way I was going to be able to make this happen. So I went in the first time and got as far as locking the door. I came right out and thought that this was just not going to happen. Unfortunately, I had to face my fear several minutes later when I just could not wait any longer. Luckily, Sheila saved the day in true Mighty Mouse style and walked me through the process with encouraging words the whole time. It is an amazingly triumphant feeling though to survive and be somewhat successful at a task like that. Hooray for me. I didn't watch much of the game, but I got to know some of my tripmates quite a bit. It was just a beautiful night. The sky is so black here at night and you can see so many stars...unbelievable. So picture this, beer in hand, good friends, perfect temperature, outside under the stars, and world cup finals in the background. What a fantastic second night. It is only going to get better :o)