July 1, 2007- All Around Arusha
My guesthouse is very nice but after being there for a month it’s starting to lose its allure. So I decided to see if I could find an apartment to rent, perhaps something that will feel more like a home and less like a motel. A friend of Joseph’s who I had met at the birthday party last night knew of a good place so I met up with him to check it out. I should have realized that being Sunday, nothing would be open. So the office at the apartment complex was unfortunately closed but from the outside it seems really nice! He’s going to make some calls for me and hopefully I can figure it all out by the end of the week. I’m pretty sure my adventure in apartment hunting can’t even compare to what my brother will soon be doing in Manhattan! Good luck Alex!
In the afternoon I met Joseph and we went to have a very late lunch with one of his brothers who is a chef at a restaurant outside Arusha. I told him that when I open my East African restaurant at home he has to come and help me! After lunch I went to visit Mr. Daniel at his home because I had not seen him much this weekend. His wife and son gave me a very warm greeting as always, and I was also happy to find that one of his sisters and his brother were also there. After the sun had set it became very dark, so Daniel set up a lantern and we all sat around and talked. It reminded me of those rare nights at home when the power would go out and we would all sit around by candlelight.
Joseph’s friend Tony—affectionately nicknamed Tony Blair-- was having a problem with his car so we went to help him out after leaving Daniel’s house. After we gave him a lift to his house he insisted that I come inside and greet everybody, including all the neighbors and their children! I must have met half the population of Arusha by now. I love it!
June 30, 2007- Saturday in Arusha
I’m planning a trip to Zanzibar hopefully very soon so I had a chat with the agent who is helping me with the booking this morning, and then went to one of my favorites, Dreamers Café, for breakfast. They have the best donuts in town and they always have plenty of fresh passion fruit juice. But that might not have been the best choice for food given my sick stomach, and I’m pretty sure I ended up paying for it this afternoon!
Amos Winter, the instructor of the class at MIT where I learned about wheelchair technology in developing countries and a really amazing guy, had put me in touch with a friend of his who he had met here in Arusha. Boniface had been away for a few weeks but was back in town and wanted to meet me! Now is probably a good time to mention that in Amos’ description of Boniface, he said “this guy looks just like Taye Diggs.” So I set off into town looking for Mr. Diggs’ long lost twin.
After meeting Boniface I have to say that was a pretty good description! He doesn’t know what Taye Diggs looks like so I promised him next time we would go to the internet café and I would show him, or he could just look in the mirror. He was really great company and he was born and raised in Arusha so he knows all the best places to go. Needless to say we will be hanging out again soon.
I got hit with another wave of stomach pain this afternoon, maybe as a result of my poorly chosen breakfast, so I went back to the guesthouse to rest some more. My mom told me to make some toast or oatmeal which would be a great idea if I but had a toaster or hot water! Thank you mommy!
When I was feeling better Joseph came to take me to dinner. We went to the Triangle Polygon Restaurant, which brings the number of restaurants I’ve eaten in here to well over 30. When we sat down there was one of those little stand-up menus on the table that you would find at many American restaurants—you know the kind that lists a couple specials or something and has very appetizing pictures of the food. I was completely overwhelmed when I picked it up to find that it was advertising tempura shrimp and vegetable springrolls on one side, and apple pie and tiramisu on the other. It was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert! But like an oasis it wasn’t real; the restaurant was just using it as decoration because they liked the pictures. Nevertheless the meal was still delicious. My chicken was served with a border of fresh cucumbers which the waitress saw I was really enjoying, so she had the chef prepare me a whole plate of chopped fresh veggies. Sometimes I think they spoil me too much!
Joseph’s supervisor was celebrating his 40th birthday so after dinner we went over to the party. He had an adorable little house with a small garden bordered by tall banana plants, that had been filled with tables and chairs, each decorated with a small bouquet of flowers and candles. I felt bad that I was kind of crashing this party but I was greeted with nothing less than the warmest hospitality (although that seems to be the case everywhere I go here!) A few guys were very excited to talk about American politics with me which has actually happened a few times before. Barack Obama’s father is from Kenya so everybody in East Africa seems to very excited for his campaign, as am I!
June 29, 2007- Back to Work
Sometimes it’s just nice to have some company, so I decided to go back to work today even though I wasn’t quite 100% better. Everybody was so happy to see me, and I couldn’t have been happier to see them too! They filled me in on all the things I had missed and I told them entertaining stories about my past few days, most of which involved me trying to speak some muddled Swahili.
Agnes cooks lunch out in this little gazebo/hut on the property using an old skillet over a gas flame, and I’m always amazed at how delicious the meals are that she prepares. I decided to join her today even though my culinary skills are limited to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot pockets. I think she must have been happy to have the company out there because she engaged me in conversation for quite some time! She’s only a few years older than I am so it was really interesting to see what her life is like, and what life is like for women in general here.
Whenever I go out to eat at the restaurants I’m usually surrounded by men, and if there are other women there they are usually accompanied by a husband or boyfriend. Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely have seen small groups of women at restaurants before, but they usually seem to be just having a drink and not eating. When I asked Agnes about this she thought it was pretty funny. From her explanation it seems that many women don’t like to eat in restaurants because they themselves cook all the time. It would be like Ralph Lauren buying clothes from J. Crew (or something like that). When I open my East African restaurant back in the States I’m making Agnes my head chef!
As usual we were making wali (rice) and vegetables, but I had also bought some pasta which Agnes wanted to cook. The brand of pasta is called “Mr. Pasta” but Agnes decided that they had made a mistake and that this was actually “Mrs. Pasta” because in her words “they are so beautiful.” I think they were the Farfalle butterfly shaped pasta, but it was just so adorable to listen to her talk about them!
In the afternoon we were all outside working—Beat was painting, Lucas was cutting footrests, Agnes was assembling sideguards, and Daniel and I were discussing something with Dr. Nyamubi on the phone. KASI periodically receives funding from outside sponsors to build wheelchairs, so Dr. Nyamubi wanted Mobility Care to build 10 wheelchairs! The only problem was that he needs pictures of the users to send to the sponsors so we were just discussing how I can help them out this time. (And there just might be a special gift waiting for Daniel before I leave that will help them to do this in the future after I’ve gone! But shhhh.. he doesn’t know yet.)
As we were packing up at the end of the day Daniel and I hurried off to meet Zachariah, who had been testing our chair this week. His feedback was really fantastic and he was so excited about the chair! He had taken it on the daladala without any problems which was great to hear. He also found the design particularly useful at night for when he needs to “park” his chair. Usually he has to leave his chair outside of his home because there is no space to bring it inside, but this is dangerous as somebody could easily take it. With the space he saves by folding the chair, he was able to bring it inside and store it safely overnight without worrying. So cool!
It was already late so I decided just to take the wheelchair to my guesthouse rather than drag it all the way back to Mobility Care. I wheeled it back to Kitundu and then set about folding it. Let’s just say I attracted quite a crowd! Everybody wanted to see what I was doing and it was really fun to show them, although I’m sure I looked pretty ridiculous. Several people wanted to help me carry the chair down to my room, where it is now safely “parked” for the weekend.
Joseph took me out to dinner but I haven’t quite gotten my appetite back yet so I’m not sure how much fun I was. He decided that what I really needed was a steaming cup of fresh milk, to which I tried to explain that dairy products usually make me feel worse, but “lactose-intolerant” isn’t part of my Swahili vocabulary yet. This restaurant had a small menu with mostly African food, but a few American items listed like hamburger, hot dog, and pizza. I’ve been to a few restaurants that boast these delicacies, but they never seem to have them available when I ask!