The views expressed herein are mine and not those of the Peace Corps.



Useful Acronyms

PC Peace Corps
ICT Information & Communications Technology
PCT Peace Corps Trainee (pre-swearing-in)
PCV Peace Corps Volunteer (post-swearing-in)
PST Pre-Service Training
CBT Community-Based Training


After spending two weeks away from site in Njombe, I headed to Dar to see Kit, his father, and my father. The bus ride is ten to twelve hours from Njombe to Dar. The countryside is beautiful but that’s far too long to spend on a bus comfortably. It’s on bus rides that I’m especially happy to have my iPod shuffle, with its twenty-odd-hour battery life.
From Njombe we drive north through the southern highlands. Until we start to descend there’s no way to tell how high up we are: there are some sort of wimpy mountains but nothing serious. After a few hours we begin to wind our way down out of the mountains. The temperature starts climbing.
Out of the mountains, we drive through the lush plains of Morogoro. After Morogoro town the soil gets sandy and farms scarce. It’s on this section of the trip that I always see a bright, all-yellow bird, scared by the passing of the buss, fly out of the brush. With my cat’s eyes for brilliance and movement I can’t look away from it until it hides itself again.
As we approach Dar our pace slows. Traffic gets worse and stops get more frequent. The bus made good time, though: about ten hours, Njombe to Dar (the return trip was twelve. I guess it’s faster to go down the mountains than to climb back up again…)
From the bus stand I took a cab to the YMCA. As I was walking through the canteen to check in, someone yelled my name (my real name, not “Mary” or “Maria”). I turned and was surprised to see Eddie and Andrew(Zanzibar) having a beer near the bar. They were on their way to their training, stopped in Dar for the night. So I went to check in and then we hung out for a while. As it got later we decided to go out for food and spent about an hour hunting for the Badminton Institute, a good Indian restaurant. It would probably have been easier to find if we hadn’t been asking for the Badminton Club. We made it eventually, and were the only non-Indian diners there. It was bingo night, and the playground was swarming with kids. The whole thing was somewhat surreal but the food was good.
In the morning I waited for a while for a phone call from Kit and his dad, then decided to take matters into my own hands and go ask at their hotel. I was accompanied by Eddie, Andrew, and a sweet Indian forestry grad student who the concierge had set me up with as a roommate. So we headed over. They were still at the hotel, jet-lagged, and somehow hadn’t been able to call my phone from their room phone.
The time I spent with them blurs together, so here’s a synopsis of what we did: had lunch with relatives (I was invited to the birthday party they’d come to attend); visited several tourist markets; went to the Village Museum; spent time in the air-conditioning of their hotel room and talked; ate delicious food.
After a few days in town they moved to a beach resort where the party was held. The morning of the party I went up to the resort early and met the rest of the family who’d come in for the occasion. Kit had been lethargic with heat and humidity but that morning it rained and he perked up like an underwatered flower. We sang and swimmed and walked on the beach. In the evening was the party; Kit and I hung towards the back and talked. We did have some good conversations with the Dutch ambassador, who was an interesting guy and reminded me of a cross between a Bond villain and my favorite college professor.
I’d had an offer to stay that night in the guesthouse of The General, a cousin of Kit’s relative who is, as his name might suggest, a retired army general. All the Tanzanians at the party seemed to think that Kit and I were dating, so he was talked into coming, too. We arrived around eleven. The guesthouse was beautiful and luxurious: huge flat-screen television, crazy shower with a remote. We couldn’t get the air conditioning to work, though, so it was rather warm. We lay around talking for hours. It reminded me of the time we used to spend in my dorm room, not doing work. Kit is like the brother I never wished for as a child but who I am very glad to have found as an adult.
In the morning we had a relaxed breakfast with the General (at which I was introduced to a daughter as Kit’s girlfriend, rendering proof positive of the Tanzanians-thought-we-were-dating theory). Then we tagged along on his visit to the bank and loitered outside for an hour and a half while he transacted business. We’d arranged to meet Kit’s father and aunt in town for some last-minute fabric shopping, so after an abortive attempt to get to the bus stand so I could change my ticket (the traffic was too awful to get anywhere: we sat in it for an hour before giving up) we said goodbye to the General. After lunch I said goodbye to Kit and David and then went back to the Y to kill a few hours with crosswords. My father called in the evening: he was in a cab on his way in from the airport. He’d said he would be staying at the Kilimanjaro Kempinsky, so I took a cab over and waited in the lobby.
And waited. And waited. Eventually my father called again: “Where are you?” “In the lobby.” “What hotel?” The cabbie had taken him to the Mövenpick, and rather than change hotels he’d just changed reservations. So I took another cab over there
We spent a little more than a day together. I dragged him to the bus station to change my ticket (I’d been confused about departure date), went to a souvenir market, and then toured the Peninsula, the area where all the rich expats live. A work friend of his will be moving to Tanzania, so he wanted to see what his friend’s life would be like. We had drinks at a couple seaside tourist bars and walked on the pier at Slipways. As we were both photographing some dugout canoes moored by the pier, I looked over his shoulder and commented that I thought our photographic eyes were very similar. He showed me the last picture he’d taken: “That’s the picture I would have taken,” I told him. I showed him mine: “Yup,” he said.
We moved my stuff from the Mövenpick back to the Y and had dinner, then said goodbye. I went back to my room and fell asleep, exhausted.
I slept through my alarm the next morning: luckily the night watchman pounded on my door to wake me up and I still made my 6.30 bus with no trouble. An uneventful trip back up.
There were a number of other PCVs in town, so I had dinner with them, handed off the parcel I’d picked up for Aleisha in Dar, and then repacked my bags. The next morning I caught the dala-dala back to Makete. I picked up two kittens from another PCV at the bus stand and put them into a basket I’d bought for the purpose. Mostly they were pretty good, but in the last half-hour they started making noise. The road from Njombe to Makete is supposedly being improved, but so far it seems worse to me. We made a pretty good time of a little more than five hours (to go 110 km: that comes out to 22 km/hr, or less than 14 mph).
And that was my trip. I got home, unpacked, started reassembling my house, went to bed. Site had slipped my mind in my time away, receded into a dream-like place, but as soon as I arrived it was real again. I’m happy to be home, happy to be spending some time alone to unwind and recharge.
As I type this, there is a kitten hiding behind my computer screen, watching my hands, wondering if she should pounce.


Comment from Daniel
Time April 2, 2009 at 7:00 am


Comment from Chris
Time April 2, 2009 at 7:12 am


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