Saturday, February 23, 2008

WC: Arusha, Tanzania

First let me mention that I am as tired as I have ever been in my life, following red eyes two nights in a row and very little sleep on either flight (but I did get some, for which I am quite grateful). I'm trying to stay up to 9 tonight, to get on
Africa time, but it's a challenge.

We're all exhausted, and punchy. We just went birding in the garden behind our hotel, and we were bumping into each other and tripping over our own feet. We did see some amazing birds, though. We saw hornbills, which are huge and make you really get it that birds are descended from dinosaurs. They look prehistoric. (I'd add a picture, but I'm on a very slow connection.) We also saw these irridescent birds with blue and green and purple and yellow, I think. (It was only 10 minutes ago, but my brain is fried.) Everyone has been very nice about my neophyte-ness.

I'd like to share some impression from the 45 minute ride from the airport to our hotel. Much of the ride was in a rural area, which gradually got more populated, and then led to the city.

But let me start with the airport in Kenya. It's small and warm and crowded. And it smells different than a U.S. airport. It's got a warmer smell, a more human-based smell, with no hint of fast food and old cooking grease. (The only recognizable brands I've seen here so far are Pepsi, Coke, and Camel cigarettes, which puts out huge billboards.)

In the rural area, people walk and ride bicycles--old, beat-up bicycles. Often it's two people to a bike, with the peddler working very very hard. This area doesn't have water, and we saw a young man on a bike with a bunch of huge water containers--the size used in water coolers, only these were yellow and dirty. Most people can't lift one of them, and he was biking with at least four of them.

The people walking are often women, in very colorful drapped clothes, carrying amazing things on their head: water, boxes, bundles of wood. Some had kids papoosed to their backs as well. And they walk and walk and walk.

This area didn't have all that much in the way of greenery. A lot of animals were around: cows, donkeys, goats, some being herded, some wandering. The animals are much smaller than our domestic animals, just as the people are much smaller than we are. Some of the herders are Masai, in traditional garb.

When we were in the most rural area, all the kids we passed waved, which was fun.

As we got into a more populated area, the two-lane road got more and more populated. (They drive on the left here, by the way, and pass each other with an inch of clearance between the passing car and the oncoming car.) It was a market day, so people were bringing their wares. We saw women with branches full of bunches of bananas on their heads and guys pushing metal wheel-barrows. They work hard.

On the side of the road are many unfinished brick houses. People build them for themselves in their spare time. But they don't have a lot of spare time, so it can take five years to build a home smaller than my apartment.

In contrast, Arusha is a city. It's an African city, with a lot of people trying to sell stuff to tourists, unfamiliar brand names, and a completely different look. But there is a tall glass building ugly enough to go up in the Lower East Side.

I actually just drifted off to sleep writing this. Weird!

While we were birding, the head gardener came and started showing us all the plants and flowers, many of which I knew from San Diego. He is a cheerful man, very proud of the work he's done, proud to be as successful as he is despite his lack of education. He's so thin that his cheekbones dominate his face as his skin is molded around them. His eyes are rheumy and he's missing teeth, but he was overall attractive, mostly due to his enthusiasm and friendliness.

When you meet someone here, the appropriate greeting is Jambo. Last night, when we got to Tanzania, I said Jambo to the customs woman, and she rolled her eyes and said Hello.

At the bank today, however, they were much friendlier.

I just fell asleep again. Damn. I've got to stay up for dinner and to repack my bags--everything is out on my bed.

The hotel is gorgeous, by the way. Our bathroom is lovely and we have mosquit nets over our beds.

Tomorrow is our first safari.

1 comment:

sezhoo said...

so exciting, wendy! i hope you managed to stay awake, but even if not, have a magnificent time! and tell us *everything*!
-av-