Yuppers... That's Mt. Meru
I am thoroughly enjoying my Christmas Holiday from school. As I said last week, I have traveled to Arusha with Maria and we have been staying at her dad’s house. The view is AMAZING. It is on a hill above a great little village full of very nice people. When you picture an African village in the jungle, it probably looks a lot like the one in which I’m staying. Photographs in small villages like this one are hard to get. People are sensitive to them and you have to be careful, so I have not risked taking one. We asked one woman if we could take a picture of her produce stall with a lantern lighting it up last night, and she said we could if we paid her first, which from what I understand is a normal reaction.
I have been able to take some pictures from the front veranda, although they don’t quite capture the beauty in the village itself.
Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance.
Snow in December! Never thought I'd seen that in Tanzania.
Houses down the hill.
Up and to the side of the house.
Over the wall
I could get used to a view like this.
More houses in the village.
A couple of the local children.
Someone left the door open on the gate.
Out the back door. The small tree on the far right is pomegranate.
We have been keeping ourselves quite busy this week! We have spent quite a bit of time in Arusha shopping and visiting a museum. We have been swimming twice at different pools and I have met some new friends. With all the travel around Arusha, I’m getting more confident about riding the Dalla Dallas (small city busses, which are about the size of a VW bus, but hold about 20 people, depending on how many people are willing to stand, and how many goats they’ve put on.)
On New Year’s Eve, Maria and I had a special treat. We went to a movie! An actual movie. Complete with cushy seats, popcorn, and a can of Coke. There is no theater in Dodoma, so we HAD to go see something here. We were disappointed because The Hobbit is no longer showing, but we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty instead. The movie theater in Arusha is located in a shopping center and felt very western. There was a hair salon, ice cream shop, restaurant, and a grocery store with things a pretty big selection of things to choose from. We went into the grocery store and picked up a couple of things for a New Year’s celebration.
Popcorn and a great time. Yes, I realize that I'm a little pink... The result of a full day at a swimming pool, even with sunscreen with SPS 50. I've always said that I don't tan... I turn pink.
When we returned home in the evening, we joined Maria’s Dad and sister on the front veranda. There was a power cut on our section of the mountain, and it had most likely been going all day long. We cooked up a few packets of noodles for dinner on their gas stove and ate them with an amazing view of the lights in the village and the surrounding valley. Unfortunately, it is difficult to capture good pictures of barely lit landscapes in the dark, so you will have to take my word for it. It was stunning.
After we enjoyed our noodles, we decided to begin our celebration a little early. Maria and I had purchased some sparkling candles and a pre-packaged cake in the grocery store earlier. We placed 4 of the candles in the cake and lit them on the veranda, then shared the cake between us. Slowly, the other member of the house fell asleep waiting for midnight, leaving me about 45 minutes to sit and watch the stars by myself once they all nodded off. It was a fantastic evening! Then, at about 2 minutes to midnight I woke up Maria and her sister and we were able to watch the firework celebrations coming from all around the valley. It was a great way to bring in the new year!
So far, the New Year has been great. We’ve visited some of Maria’s friends and gone swimming. Today, we got an extra special treat. We visited Shanga River House just outside the city. Shanga is the Kiswahili word for bead and is a company that started with one woman as a small side business selling beaded necklaces. It has turned into an apparently thriving business that employs physically handicapped Tanzanians to create things to sell using recycled items. They sell beaded jewelry, hand-blown glass items, clothing, artwork, small cut aluminum pieces, and other beautiful things. Check out their website and see some of the fantastic things they make. http://shanga.org/
While at Shanga, we spent a little time lounging on some of the couches in the shade on the lawn. There was a family of cheeky monkeys hanging out in the trees and causing trouble for the staff at the open air restaurant on the grounds. We also met a chameleon hanging out on the tree and a praying mantis that decided to relax on the couch with me. After a bit of a rest and some monkey watching, we went around to see them make some of the things they sell in their shop. I got to see some men making some blown glass, weaving looms in action, necklaces and earrings and bracelets being created, and some cut aluminum being polished.
We stopped by and chatted with the women who were making the necklaces. They were deaf women, but it was easier to communicate with them than other Tanzanians have been. Since I work in an English Medium school, with other English speaking teachers, my Kiswahili isn’t exactly fluent. In fact, I still speak “kidogo sana!” (very little) The cool thing about communicating with deaf Tanzanians is that Swahili Sign Language and American Sign Language share the finger spelling alphabet. I may not know the individual signs, but as long as I have someone there to tell me the words, I can spell them, and speak with someone!
After checking out all of the fundis (artists,) we went inside to do a little shopping. I got to see some really pretty Tanzanite, which I will never consciously be able to buy, only partially because of the cost. The smallest and least expensive stone they had was $90 USD, and it wasn’t set in anything. They had some Tanzanite set in white gold rings in the range of $10,000 USD. It was sure pretty to look at, though!! While I didn’t buy any of this, I did pick up a few mementos to bring home. Overall, it was a pretty amazing day!
Ok, these pictures aren't things I took home, but they are all things I saw there... so I took their pictures.
One more little note on a totally different subject. The application deadline for next year’s YASC crew came up this week. I wish all future YASCers the best of luck! Whether you head into the great unknown or stay somewhere closer to home, you’ll be forever changed!