Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Lots of old posts... finally posted!

As promised... here all the entries that I have been writing... and now I can finally post them! I found a nice internet cafe (I use the term cafe loosely) where I can plug my laptop in, just around the corner from my new hotel. Hopefully this should be enough reading for you all! Pictures will be coming soon!

June 5, 2007- Second Day in the Workshop

Today was my second day in the workshop and it was another great day. This morning Daniel met me early to help me move to a new hotel. The one I was in was good, but it was on a main road so it was very noisy throughout the night. I swear this city never sleeps! So this morning I moved to a Kitundu Guesthouse, which is cited in the Lonely Planet Guidebook so it must be good!

Then we went off to the market to buy some food to bring to the shop, because they have a big refrigerator but nothing in it! I got to sit in the front on the dalla-dalla again this morning which is really fun, because you have the best view. To my Land Rover fans out there, they are everywhere! I pass a dozen or so each morning, maybe more. I even saw a Land Rover that was being used an ambulance!

It was quiet in the shop today because Beat and Lucas were not there. They were off on business, buying some materials for the wheelchairs in Nairobi. But we did a lot more work on our prototype which is coming along very nicely. I think we should have it working by the end of the week and ready for testing. Right now business is very slow in the shop, so we have lots of time to work on our project.

Today Agnes made omelettes with potato for lunch. I must have been looking at it funny because there was no silverware, so I wasn’t sure how to eat it. Agnes found a spoon to offer me, but once I realized that everybody else was just eating with their hands, I dug right in! Today’s lunchtime conversation was politics. They wanted to know if I liked Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton. Apparently Bill came to visit Arusha sometime in the late 90s and he brought his long American car, which I think must have been a limo? Wonder how he got that on Air Force One?!

For dinner we went to Pizza Arusha, which boasts “the best damn pizza in Africa.” It wasn’t quite like Bertuccis, but it was very good. I think even Daniel enjoyed it! He has been soooo helpful since I’ve been here. Our day starts in the morning when he meets me at the dalla-dalla, and it ends in the evening over dinner. Tonight his younger brother joined us which was a nice surprise. He had just been in Moshi at a meeting at the medical college. He wants to be a surgeon, even without watching Greys Anatomy! He was great company, but I have to say, it was very surreal talking about mitochondria and Newton’s laws with him over dinner!

Now I settled in my new hotel, which should be much quieter tonight. The only problem so far is the lack of toilet paper. Not sure I can go two months without it!

June 4, 2007- First Day in the workshop

Today was my first day working in the workshop, and boy what a first day it was! Daniel met me this morning and first we quickly stopped at a store so I could buy a new charger for my cell phone which seems to have gone missing. Not only did they have exactly what I needed, it was only 5000 T. Shillings (or about $4). Once that was taken care of, it was time to head to Mobility Care, via dalla-dalla.

The dalla-dalla is what they call the public transportation system here. Each one is a like a big mini-van that can seat upwards of 16 people, and it only costs about 25 cents each way. I wonder what the MBTA would make of that! All the dalla-dallas start in the middle of town calling out to people to get on board. They keep driving around town until they are satisfied with how many people they have, so if you get on an empty dalla-dalla, you might be idling around town for quite some time!

After about 15 minutes we got off the dalla-dalla and started to walk up the street to Mobility Care. It’s up a long, muddy road, but it’s a beautiful walk with coffee trees lining the sides, and it smells amazing!

The workshop is so cool! It’s a beautiful building with great machines and tools inside, and the other people are so nice! There are four people working there, my supervisor Daniel, two other guys Beat and Lucas, and one woman named Agnes. There is also a gardener who takes care of all the plants (hint hint Dad) and a security guard who watches the place at night.

Today we took things slow and just got to know each other which was really great. We showed them pictures of our idea and then we worked on making our first prototype. Wenxian had worked on it a bit at the workshop in Moshi, so we only had a few more kinks to iron out. Agnes made a nice lunch for everybody and we all ate together under a little thatched hut also on the property. Mobility Care has a beautiful piece of land, with banana plants, papaya trees, and even avocados growing on it! There was an avocado seed lying around in the grass, so Agnes helped me to plant it. So I’ll have to come back in a few years and see how big it is!

Over lunch we had a lot of interesting conversations. All the people in the shop are eager to teach me Swahili which is great, so I’m learning lots of words and phrases, and in turn I’m teaching them about the United States and little things about history which they like. Daniel was curious to know about “these red Indians living in USA” so that made for interesting conversation!

After lunch we got back to work, continuing with our prototype. We’re almost done with the most critical module and it’s looking good so far. They are very skilled with the machines, and can make the parts very quickly.

After work we all took the dalla-dalla back to town, and then Daniel, Wenxian, and myself went for dinner. I had samaki and chips which is fish with French fries.

Just after we returned to the hotel the electricity went out, but I was lucky to have my awesome wind-up flashlight courtesy of M+D’s trip to the LL Bean outlet. It has flickered back on a few times but I’m not sure it’s here to stay, so I’m taking it as an excuse to go to bed early! Goodnight!

June 3, 2007- First Full Day in Arusha

I met Daniel and Joseph this morning for breakfast. Maybe I just wasn’t that hungry, or maybe I was still jet-lagged, but I just could not finish my breakfast! Luckily Daniel was happy to help me out ;-)

After that we headed to this amazing craft village where I could have easily spent the entire day (and my entire life savings). I decided that I wouldn’t buy anything today, as I have two months to do so, but I started making a big list of things I want. It’s just so cool!
We made one more stop in town at the ShopRite, which is essentially a large supermarket. Ironically, this was the first place that I saw other tourists.

Next we went to pick up Wenxian who had arrived by bus from Moshi, and went to the hotel to drop his things. After taking care of that, we headed to a cultural museum where I learned all about the evolution of man. At least the Africans believe in evolution! Then we came back to the hotel for a small lunch, which Daniel would later tell me had really filled him up!

Daniel took us to an internet cafĂ© just up the road from our hotel which was good, but they didn’t have wireless, so I had to use their computer. Which is why all these blog entries will be posted very late, and I have not been able to send pictures yet. Here I am in Africa wondering where the wireless internet is. Pretty funny.

I had asked Daniel if I could meet his family sometime, so off we went up through the mud to his house, where we met his wife and his one-year-old son also named Joseph. His wife was soooo nice! She didn’t speak any English, but I did my best with my limited Swahili and she was all smiles. And their son was so cute! I had brought some small matchbox cars, which he loved and raced around the room. We soon found out that Joseph loves cell phones and will do anything he can to play with one.

We enjoyed their company for quite some time, and then Joseph (big Joseph!) came to take us out into one of the villages. We visited a Masai village where we got to go for a ride on a camel which was totally awesome! Unfortunately, the other highlight of this village is it’s famous snake park. Yup, snakes. I was brave enough to walk around and look at the snakes behind the glass, but when it came time to put one around my neck, I think I was hiding behind a tree!

By this time it was getting dark, so we headed back into town for dinner. Daniel and Joseph took us to a nice restaurant that was part of a very nice hotel (La Bella Luna something?) where they had a live band which was very entertaining. Daniel knew one of the band members, so he was very excited to play for us. He kept calling me American Woman which made me want to break out into the Lenny Kravitz song, and I even went up and danced with him! Incriminating pictures to follow.

I’ve noticed that it takes a really long time for the food to come out, once you have ordered it. Maybe I’m just used to getting my food quickly though. In any case, it’s nice because you have lots of time to talk with your fellow diners while you wait. And then when the food comes, nobody talks, everybody eats.

I’m now back at the hotel, showered, and ready to go to bed! Tomorrow will be my first day at Mobility Care and I’m very excited! Daniel will meet us in the morning to help us with the public transport (the dalla-dalla) bright and early! Unfortunately I can’t find my cell phone charger anywhere so I’m a bit worried. I had it in my hand this afternoon and now it’s gone. Hopefully it will turn up in the morning.

More to come tomorrow!

June 2, 2007- Arrive in Kiliminjaro

It was the most amazing smell—so clean and pure. We finally landed at Kilimanjaro, an hour late, and then it took almost another hour to purchase my Visa and make my way through immigration. Luckily my bag was waiting for me, so I picked it up and headed out into the waiting area to find Daniel. There were about 30 people all waving signs of different safari companies and I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly, off to the side I saw a sign that looked familiar. “Tish Scolnik.” Wait a second, that’s me! There was Daniel waiting for me! After a very warm welcome, he introduced me to two friends of his—Zachary and Joseph—who had also come along to welcome me. Joseph has a car, so when Daniel needs a ride, he’s his main man.

We ventured out into the warm Tanzanian night, bound for Arusha. I entertained Daniel and his friends with my very limited knowledge of Swahili, and before I knew it we were in town. After a quick stop at the ATM so I could get some T. Shillings, we arrived at the place where I would be staying, The Annex Hotel. It’s a very simple room but it has everything I need, including my own bathroom and shower, all for under $10 a day (and that’s for a double!)

I asked Daniel about getting a SIM card for my phone, upon which he promptly pulled several from his pocket! I picked the prettiest one and put it in my phone. Then we added minutes by purchasing a card from the hotel reception. Crazy!

I was all set to just unpack my things and rest in the room, but Daniel insisted that I must be hungry and I think he was right! So off we went again, this time in search of a meal. Mind you it was close to 10:30PM by this time! After a short drive we arrived at a lovely local place, where I advised Daniel that perhaps he should just order something for me, as everybody was babbling away in Swahili and there was not another tourist in sight. Talk about cultural immersion!

The four of us shared a large platter of kuku (chicken) and chips (French fries). Before the meal started a man came around with a large pot of hot water which he poured over your hands so you could wash them (he did this again at the end which was perfect seeing as I had just eaten chicken with my bare hands). They were very excited for me to try a real African beer, so I indulged and tried the lightest one, Tusker, complete with an illustration of an elephant on the bottle. (I kept the cap as a souvenir).

I wish I had taken my camera with me! Our waitress was the sweetest woman who didn’t speak a word of English, but who (through translation) I found was super excited to be serving a tourist like myself. I even got a special handshake from her when the meal was over!

Now I’m back in my room, trying desperately to figure out how to dial internationally. Mom and Dad, I’ve been trying forever to call you but it doesn’t seem to work. Maybe I have the country code wrong? Nobody at the hotel here can figure it out, so it will have to wait until the morning. Hope you aren’t too worried!

For now I think it’s time for bed, even though it’s only 7PM at home. Daniel is coming for breakfast at 930, and Wenxian will arrive at 11 so I will have lots of company tomorrow!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Welcome to Amsterdam! I finally arrived here at Schipol airport after a two hour delay in New York. I managed to fall asleep shortly after boarding the plane, and when I woke up an hour later we were still sitting at the gate! Then the captain announced that he didn’t know how much longer we would be, but if he had to make an estimate he would pick one hour. They had to turn off the engines to conserve fuel, upon which it became stiflingly hot. That’s when I met Incredibly Smelly Dutch Woman. ISDW was seated across the aisle from me, but decided to put her things in the bin above my head. Unfortunately for me, ISDW was wearing a cut off tank top, so every time she went into her bin, her incredibly smelly armpits stared me in the face. Luckily we took off after about two hours of sitting on the runway, and I was on my merry way to Amsterdam.

In about an hour I’ll be boarding my plane to Tanzania, and I can’t wait! I’ll write more when I get there!


JKM said...

OH YAY!!!! Africa sounds absolutely amazing. Good luck on the quest for toilet paper....I don't even want to KNOW what you are using

Dad said...

Sounds like with a little t-p and a phone charger you will have all the comforts of home. Pls teach me the Swahili for "amazing" so I will be able to talk to the gardener. "So huge" would also be good to know. Keep the reports coming!

panthergirl said...

WOW Tish!!!! I'm so incredibly proud to know you. Keep the reports coming. You're an inspiration to all.

Oh, and regarding the t-p. Did you ever hear the story of Tallulah Bankhead, in a ladies'room stall with no t-p? She asked the woman in the next stall if she had extra, and when the woman said no she growled, " you have 2 fives for a ten?"

panthergirl said...

OH.... and in case you don't recognize my blog name, it's me...Marian.

'B' said...

Hi there Trish,
Was sent to Panthergirl to say hi, and she sent me to say hi as well.
Love the work you're doing and wish you the very best and hope you have fun doing it as well.

mary said...

Hey Tish- Found your blog through my cousin Marian's blog. Congrats on your work! What you're doing is amazing. I did volunteer work in Tanzania with Habitat for Humanity and loved the people and the country in general. I recommend climbing Kili if you get a chance! Also, I have a friend who lives in Arusha...I'll direct her to your blog, in case you want to get together. Good luck with everything!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Tish, Marian (Panthergirl) sent me your way. You have a delightful blog. I enjoyed reading your entries.

Dad said...

ISDW? I would have thought the KLM plane would have been festooned with delightfully fragrant tulips! Did they at least have some tasty cheese? Clogs? Anything Dutch?

Mchaga said...

Mambo Vipi Tish?

What an amusing story... I assume you are in Bongo now? I was born and raised in Moshi, now going to Portland State University (Oregon)

I am curious to know how did it go with your last visit.