First days in Tanzania

Bagamoyo Travel Blog

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14 Jun 2007 (Thursday).

Well, I made it to Tanzania!  I thought I should write another blog before all my surroundings start to become “normal”.  Robbi and I arrived in Tanzania already 3 days ago on Thursday at 2pm.  We were really confused when we got in because we saw a sign that said, “For Visas”.  The Zukri Foundation (who we’re doing our volunteering through) had us send all our information so that they could get our visa.  They called it a Class C4 Permit though, so we weren’t sure if it was a visa or what it was.  The Foundation said all the paperwork would be at the airport for us to get in.  We went to the immigration officer, and tried to explain that we already had a visa, but there was nothing in our passport, so she told us to go in the (long!) visa line.  We stood in line for about 2 hours, and tried ask another immigration officer if we were really supposed to be in that line because we already had a Class C4 permit.  He didn’t appear to be listening very intently, and then said, yes, stay in this line.  We finally got our visa, 2.5 hours and $50 later.  We went outside to meet Douglas and Kristin, the directors of the Zukri Foundation.  (Douglas and Kristin are engaged…Douglas is a Tanzanian and Kristin is from Norway….they are both very sweet!)  We apologized for making them wait for 2.5 hours, but we said that we had been in line to get our visa.  They said, “But you already had a visa.”  Oh really….!  J  They had us go back in and talk to the immigration officer (again) and explain that now we had TWO visas…Could we get our money back for one of them?  After talking to several people, they finally agreed and gave us each our $50 back.  We were on our way!  We exchanged money at the ATM and got some big jugs of water to take back to the house (since the tap water is undrinkable).


Douglas and Kristin drove us to Bagamoyo, which was about 2 hours from Dar Es Salaam (the biggest city in Tanzania, and where the airport is).  I think I had a little bit of culture shock on the drive from the airport.  Everyone was outside of their houses, and there was just people everywhere…walking around, playing, using machetes to chop grass, plowing fields with hoes.  We stopped at a stand to buy some roasted corn.  I saw these shoes handing from a tree.  I asked Kristin why there were shoes hanging from the trees.  She said they were selling them.  We got to the house, and had a quick tour.  The house we are staying in has two separate parts with two rooms in them each, a kitchen, and a small lounge area.  There is also a bathroom in each place.  There is also another house a few houses away that has two rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen area.  Two people stay in each room.  (I am staying with a girl from England named Amy.  She’s been here for about 6 weeks already, and will be in Africa for another 2 months.  She loves it.)  We eat outside in a little hut-like structure.  Right after we got here, we had dinner.  Each day we have three meals made by Happy and Elisa, our house cooks.  At my first dinner, I noticed something scurrying around me on the walls….geckos!  I have a really hard time with anything small and somewhat slimey, so I was pretty quickly uncomfortable that they were so close to me!  I’m starting to get used to them, as they are always around, even in the house.  After dinner, we went to BagaPoint, a local bar a few minutes from our house.  It was one of the girls from the last group’s last night, so they wanted to go out and celebrate.  We had a really good time!  The girl that was leaving, Leslie, had been working with about 12 artists from the village at their gallery, Sea View.  She was helping them market their artwork, learn business bookkeeping and techniques, etc.  Robbi will actually be taking over for her now during this month.  We met a lot of those artists.  They are really nice guys.  We tried some local Tanzanian brew called Safari.  For about a .75 liter bottle, it cost $1.25.  We also tried the Tanzanian “vodka” called Kunyagi.  It was funny.  We ordered a Kunyagi and Coke, and the guy handed us a glass bottle of Coke, an empty glass, and an IV-looking container of Kunyagi.  It all cost $1 and ended up making 3 drinks once we mixed them!  It was pretty good…couldn’t taste the Kunyagi after it was mixed, but tasted a little bit like soju (from Korea) before it was mixed (Yeah, maybe a little better than soju) J  We had a fun night of talking about the art program, learning new greetings, and even doing a little African dancing on the “dancefloor”.  It was a good first night.  We went home, and crawled into our bug net beds. 


15 Jun 2007 (Friday).

The next morning, we woke up and had breakfast (is usually bread made by a local baker…so good! with peanut butter or jelly, and an egg).  Then Lynn (one of Crystal’s friends that is doing the program with us) and I walked to the school that we’ll be working at to meet the kids.  The school we’ll be at is called African Child Care.  The kids range from 2 ½ - 9 years old, but most of them are 4-6 year olds.  They look a lot younger because they are all very small and malnourished.  The school was created for the most vulnerable children in Bagamoyo, those that could not normally afford to go to school.  There are between 70-90 children, and only 2 teachers there all the time.  They children are so sweet!  As soon as we got there, they ran up to us and were hugging us, holding our hands, and climbing on us.  They were so joyful!  You should have seen the run for the swings as soon as the teacher was taking the swings down.  Every Friday is Beach Day, so we took the kids to the beach (about a 25-minute walk from the school).  The walk to the beach was so sweet.  The kids were all fighting over who got to hold our hand.  The beach was pretty nasty.  I was surprised because from all the internet pictures of Bagamoyo, the beaches look wonderful.  Even one of the little boys put his finger up to his nose because of the smell.  Hehe, it was pretty cute.  The tide was really low, so I’m thinking that’s why it was so smelly.  One of the volunteers had brought the kids kites, so they were all into those.  They pretty much just created their own fun…sang songs, jumped on each other, ran around.  They were playing this game, and were all yelling “Nyama, nyama, nyama.”  I was thinking…I thought that meant “beef”.  Why are they yelling that?  Tamela, one of the teachers, tried to explain it to me.  One kid was on the outside of the circle yelling, “Where’s my wife?  Where’s my wife?” (in Swahili, of course).  Then (something that was lost in the translation….I know I’m bad, shouldn’t nod and smile so much)…Then all the kids rush the one kid in the middle and shout “Meat”…….Strange.  J  Maybe I’ll figure out what was lost in translation later on.  After we got back to the school, the kids had a cup of porridge which looked pretty gross, but they seemed very happy to eat it.  Some of the teachers before us have said that this meal at school is probably the only meal that some of them get.  Sad.  I am really looking forward to working with the kids.  It sounds like there is not a lot of structure at the school, so hopefully we can make some positive changes.  The kids will be on holiday for the next two weeks, but we will be going to the school to paint, fix up classrooms, and design some curriculum that can hopefully be used for the next year.  It sounds like some kids will still be coming while we’re working, though.  Yay!  After school, we came back for lunch, and then checked out the beach that was a lot closer to our house.  It’s only a 5-minute walk, and is a beautiful beach!  This must be the one that is on the internet.  Its right next to a resort.  Actually, we walk right through the resort to get to the beach, which we all felt bad about, but they told us today, “Karibu”, which means “You’re welcome.”  Tanzanians are so sweet.  How often would a fancy resort in the U.S. let 5 sandy and nasty sweaty girls trapse through their clean resort?  Then we took a walk to downtown Bagamoyo and checked out some shops.  We went into Sea View, the art gallery that Robbi will be working with.  The guys are really talented, and have made some really impressive stuff.  They do a lot of wood carvings (masks and statues), paintings, jewelry, cards, etc.  It is a fun shop!  We also found a shop with congas (the traditional cloth that women wear either as a skirt, dress, headwear, etc).  I bought a really cute green one for about $3.  It’s huge!  I think it will made a dress and something else, or two skirts.  A lot of people take the congas to a seamstress and have her make it into a dress for another $3.  It is crazy how cheap everything is here.  Then we came back, had dinner, and then went to a beach fire near the beach we had been at in the afternoon.  Some people we had met had a big fire on the beach and were playing drums, dancing, singing, etc.  It was a great time.  The funniest song they played was almost like a chant…They kept repeating the same phrase over and over in the song, just in different tunes.  I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying…I finally asked, and found out they were singing, “Beach-ee Fi-ah”  Beach Fire J  Sooo cute.  We didn’t stay too long because we were all super exhausted.  Earlier today, I was telling one of the other ladies about my fear of the geckos.  I was telling her I have a hard time sitting in the chairs inside because I imagine them just ‘accidentally’ crawling on me.  She was trying to assure me that they wouldn’t harm me, and I finally sat down in the chair to start my journaling.  After about a page, I look over on the floor, and see this beautiful frog figurine.  After staring at it for a little longer, I ask, “Is that a real frog, or a fake frog?”  It was really pretty…had colourful markings, and really looked fake.  She assured me it was real, as it is ribbited away.  In our livingroom J  Soooo excited about my bug net.


16 Jun 2007 (Saturday).

My day today was pretty packed again.  I woke up early to go for a run (on the beach, yes!!).  It was really wonderful.  Shayna and I just ran for about 40 minutes... it went by so fast.  We ran barefoot, it was awesome.  Then we had an orientation where the directors told us more about Bagamoyo, what to expect on Monday when we started working, gave us a quick Swahili lesson, and then took us on a tour of Bagamoyo.  There is a lot of the city that I hadn't seen yet.  There are some really poor parts.  I guess the area that we are living in is the wealthiest part.  Kristin (one of the directors) said we probably have one of the nicest houses in the village.  It doesn't surprise me since we have running water, real walls, bathrooms, and even internet (which is absolutely crazy that we do), but yet our house would be pretty bad by American standards.  Kind of crazy.  On our tour of the village, we ran into one of Douglas' (the other director’s) friends.  He was outside the local bar having a beer, and walked over and invited us to HIS wedding later that day.  haha.  We met him at about 1pm, and he was getting married at 3pm.  We ended up going with Kristin and Douglas!  We didn't arrive until about 6pm, and the wedding was just getting started.  They call it "Africa time".  I know what you're thinking -- Tara would be really good at Africa time :)  I know...I’m always late.  Maybe I should move to Africa.  haha.......kidding.  It was absolutely hilarious.  It turns out that the groom had invited another couple to the wedding that he had just met earlier that day in his drunkenness…an old German couple.  It was so funny.  At first I thought this couple was the bride’s parents because the bride was from Norway, and the groom was a Tanzanian.  I thought this because the old German woman was taking soooooo many pictures.  She was following the couple around the entire time.  Then the German man volunteered to be one of the 3 champagne poppers.  It was hilarious after we found out this couple was just as randomly there as we were.  Anyway, I will have to tell you more about the wedding when I talk to you...It was so interesting in a lot of ways.  It was weird though… they still made us feel so welcome!  haha.  The groom made a point to come over to our table, and was like, “I met you earlier today, didn’t I?  See, I remember.  I’m so sorry if I don’t get a chance to talk with you much.  I think I will be very busy talking with many people tonight.”  Of course!  Its your wedding.  It was so funny.  Maybe you had to be there J   And now I'm back home.  I just finished my first load of laundry.  I put it in a 5-gallon pail with a little soap and let it soak for an hour.  Then I scrubbed it, and hung it on the line to dry….Except my underwear, which is hanging all over my bathroom.  Hopefully the geckos don’t get to them J  This is really a great reminder for me of how good I have it at home.  I am so thankful for all the experiences I’ve had so far. 


I think we're going into town tomorrow (the big town...Dar Es Salaam, where we flew into).  Should be good.  Its about a 1.5 hour bus ride.  We’re going to take a ‘dala dala’.  It’s about a 15-passenger bus.  There is no schedule for them.  They just wait until they have a full one, and then take off for the city.  It will be interesting to see what time we do get rolling….We all just have a few things we need to get that we can't get in alarm clock, a towel, a watch (mine broke) etc...  Another sad thing of mine that seems to have broken: my camera L  Super crappy.  I uploaded a bunch of pictures this morning, and now when I try to turn it on, it acts like it is going to turn on, and then shuts down.  I will keep trying, but I have no idea.  At least I have 4 other girls here with cameras that are going through the same experiences.  Blessed again J
tango987 says:
Wow! Sounds like you are having a great time! That's awesome that you got to attend a wedding on just your second day there! Don't worry too much about the geckos, they really do stay away from you--if you have mouse-sized cockroaches, though, you may need to beware:) Just putting your mind at rest:) I love reading your journal--keep on posting here--sounds so exciting!! Love it. Have an awesome time and enjoy it all!
Posted on: Jun 16, 2007
cnd says:
Great update, Tara, I can just see you and your cute little gecko friends! I'm so sorry to hear about your camera!!! Hope it is nothing serious and easily fixed. The wedding sounds like great fun, can't wait to hear more about your adventures. Love ya, Carol
Posted on: Jun 16, 2007
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