Life in Arusha after more than two months

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I feel like I have got used to the life here quite well already. I actually like it here more and more. I am eager to go back home as well, of course, but it feels like I’ve gotten to know some people here, and I’ve established some kind of life here now. And life here does have its own special moments, which I’ve gotten used to by now, and which I will surely miss (for the first week or so) when I’m back in Finland. For example, every night when lying in bed you can hear the mosquitos circling outside your mosquito net and you know that they cannot bite you (except if your mosquito net fails to cover the whole bed properly, there was one night when I got more than 20 mosquito bites, just on my arms and hands!). And after several black outs and ”empty-water-tank situations” you realize what the necessities of life really are. It is hard to cook something if you don’t have any electricity, so you always have to make sure to have something that you can eat without actually having to heat it up (e.g. I had avocado, red onion and bread last night for dinner). You also notice that cold showers can be quite refreshing! And that you don’t necessarily need 2,5 dl of water to brush your teeth (I’m down to about 1 dl per time at the moment). In short, life is a lot simpler without electricity, hot water etc. – on the one hand this is absolutely annoying to someone used to having all these luxuries, and on the other hand it is actually quite cozy reading a book in the light of a few candles.

What I do miss about Finland, however, is the freedom you have there. Here you cannot go out after dark, even in larger groups – you have to take a taxi. Even during day time you could get mugged. As a Finnish person, used to a six-month long darker period every year, this is so hard to get used to. I really want to go out for a walk in the evening, but that is just not an option here. I’ve heard about people getting mugged in the most brutal ways here, so I do try to avoid danger. One local woman refused to give away her purse, so the mugger (who was armed with a machete) cut her hand off. Another local woman got killed in a muggery. Those are, apart from the few rapes you hear about, the most brutal muggeries I’ve heard of though, and so far I’ve been fine. You just need to use your head and be very careful with where you go and what you carry when you go there. A good tip is actually to put the things you need to take with you in a black plastic bag. That’s a really good way to reduce the risk of getting mugged, because the muggers weigh their options as well. If they attack somebody carrying a fancy shoulder bag or purse, they know they’re going to get something of value. But if I’m carrying a plastic bag I might have just done some vegetable shopping at the local market. There are, obviously, a lot of good ways to reduce the risk of getting mugged, and I try to adopt them all.

And I’m not going to lie. I will LOVE to come home and put my clothes in the washer. It feels like my clothes are always dirty. Hand washing just isn’t as effective as machine washing. And it’s not as gentle as machine wash either! And I won’t miss the dust, which is everywhere! And since it’s so hot here you always wear sandels, so my feet haven’t been completely clean in two months now! I also won’t miss the beggars. Nothing wrong with that itself, it’s their only means of surviving, but it is so emotionally draining walking past beggars everywhere you go. I want to help every single one of them, and I can’t. Usually it’s women and children, other times people without legs, fingers etc. There’s one guy in wheelchair who sells Vodacom/Zain vouchers – he makes a small profit. In Tanzania it’s virtually impossible to buy something on credit. Here you pay up front. So for your phone you buy vouchers and for each 1000 TSZ voucher they make 100 TSZ in profit, 2000 TSZ – 200 TSZ etc. So totally selfishly I can honestly say that I won’t miss the emotionally draining walks through the city, where someone asks you for money or food every few minutes!

I’ve talked to my taxi drivers a bit about the new mototaxis available all over the city. It’s a new thing in Arusha, these motorcycle taxis. Motorcycles cost around 1 500 000 TSZ (750 euro) whereas cars cost a couple of million shillings more than that, so ever since the cheap Japanese motorcycles became available here a lot of people have bought them to make a living as motorcycle taxi drivers. They are not at all safe though, mostly because you don’t wear helmets and they drive like nuts! I have already seen a few motorcycle involved accidents, including them sliding off the roads into the small but deep canals running beside the streets (they have canals approximately 1m wide and 1m deep running along the streets) – this happens to cars as well, and it does not look pleasant. Once, when I was walking with one of my friends and it was dark, I actually managed to fall down into one of these canals, and they are surprisingly deep! Thank God it’s the dry season though, the canals are totally dry.

There is a big difference in shopping manners between Tanzania and Finland. I would even like to generalize and say that there’s a big difference between shopping in Africa and shopping in any Western country. They don’t display their products in the same manner here. Here you would have street vendors selling nearly everything, and only for rare buys do you need to go to a shop. This is both good and bad, however. For one thing, when walking down the street you can randomly find someone selling something you actually need. On the other hand – if you’re a foreigner here, meaning you don’t KNOW where to look for a certain thing, it can be very hard to find what you’re looking for. Usually when you ask someone local where to buy a certain thing, the answer is ”there’s a guy on XX road…” The big difference lies in that here you don’t ”go shopping”. Here you buy something when you need it. So, you can actually find a lot of great things at the small stands next to the streets, but the products are so hidden in the ”mess” that they don’t catch your eye. What is with us Westerners that makes us need big shop windows displaying the products for us to even think about buying it? In short: window shopping is a concept unknown to Arusha.

Random facts:

In more rural areas they bury their dead family members right beside their houses. I must say it felt really weird to drive past gardens with graves on them.

On a more positive note: Did you ever notice bananas grow upwards? And the plant, or the tree, itself grows really fast. In six months you would have a full grown tree, which then bears fruit and after this the tree starts to die. What then happens is that the tree itself starts to rot, but it gives birth (that’s actually the expression you use, yes) to new banana plants through its roots. So, banana trees are actually really easy to have, and you get a lot of food out of them (like I’ve told you earlier, you can actually cook and eat the green bananas just as potatoes, or then eat the sweet ones as fruits etc etc).

The cars here are different from cars elsewhere. And now I’m not talking about the remnant of the British (left side traffic) but about the cars in general, and the colors of them. When you walk the streets here you start to notice that almost all the cars are white. There are a few black or dark blue cars as well, and you might be able to see the occasional red car, but other than that options are slim.

We watched the movie The Lion King with some friends the other night, and after having spent some time here in Tanzania you see the movie with totally new eyes. For example, they use a lot of Swahili words: Simba = lion, Naala = female lion, Rafiki = friend, Pumba = dirty/stupid, hakuna matata = no worries, asante sana = thank you very much etc. Plus, the scenery from the movie is almost identical to the scenery in Serengeti or Ngorongoro (two national parks here in Tanzania) and the animals are the same. They’ve manage to capture the characteristics so well! Anyway, when watching the movie as an adult, in the company of adults and more specifically, in the company of an Israeli who kept saying the Walt Disney himself was antisemitic, you realize certain things about the movie that you wouldn’t notice as a child. Scar is obviously made out to be Arab, with his dark lines and all. And – during the two songs he sings in the company of a bunch of hyenas he is twice portrayed standing on top of a cliff with the big moon in the background. Nothing wrong with that, except the moon is shaped like a crescent. The crescent is a symbol for the Arab world (for example, the Red Cross is called the Red Crescent in Arab/Moslim countries), so this makes their (the movie makers) intentions really clear. You would think that Disney wouldn’t have made movies like that in 1994, but true it is! Oh, and just as a final point: apparently some pervert computer geeks had some fun while making the movie. At one point in the movie Simba falls down in a big ”sigh” and some leaves fly up. These leaves supposedly spell the word ”sex” if you pause the movie at the exactly right time.

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The Tanzanian elections

•November 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This last Sunday (October 31st) the Tanzanians voted. Arusha had to elect one parliamentary representative and then the whole country also voted in the presidential election. Before the election Kikwete was president. Kikwete is from the CCM party, and this is so to speak the ruling party. In this election, however, Chadema, the opposition party, managed to get a majority of the parliamentary seats (including the seat from Arusha). This doesn’t change much though, since Kikwete is almost certain to rule for one more period. The president has a lot of say here, and if he doesn’t like the propositions of the parliament (which he surely will not, since the parliament will be full of Chadema representatives) he can refuse to sign them. And if he gets really unhappy with the situation he can just dissolve the parliament and create his own parliament out of CCM members, an action which would totally overrule the result of the democratic elections just held. Seems weird that a president elected only by the 30 % of eligible voters (yes, only 30 % voted in this election) can have so much power in a supposedly “democratic” state. Speaking of democracy, the day after the elections was a bit messy here i Arusha. Not too violent or anything, but there were some issues at the municipality building here. Inside the building they were keeping the voting ballots, and people were saying the ruling party, CCM, was trying to rig the election, so people were demonstrating outside the building, putting pressure on those inside to announce the results. And after the results were announced, the former representative from Arusha (a woman from CCM) had to sign some papers to pass power to the next representative, which she refused to do, so there were some problems regarding that as well. So, a lot of people stayed inside the whole weekend, to avoid all the traffic jams and possible violence in the city. Mostly people were celebrating that the opposition had won, though, so there weren’t any major disturbances. In general Tanzania is a very peaceful country. They have hundreds of tribes, but one major language, which I think helps. All tribes have their own tribal language, but swahili is the language that connects them all – so they have at least one thing that unites them.

When talking about the political system here you might wonder how the people here can just accept something like that going on (the rigging of elections, the president’s power to overrule the results). People here seem really accepting of almost anything. Apparently there were people trying to vote who found themselves marked as dead on the lists of people eligible to vote, and others couldn’t find their names at all on any of the lists. Just those things would be enough to set people off in my country, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.  One theory for this acceptance, or lack of reaction rather, that I’ve heard is that because of the communist system they used to have here people were not taught how to think for themselves, they were not taught to question the social situation. This actually seems like a logical explanation, but I’m sure this is only partly true, and it seems a bit exaggerated. Funny thing is, a lot of people here seem to have liked the previous (socialist) system. At least then everyone was guaranteed work, education etc. I’m not going to comment any further on this issue, it’s up to everyone to form their own opinions on this matter.

I think the lives they lead here also make the Tanzanians more acceptant of bad things happening than we would be. Here, for example (and unfortunately), deaths are quite common. My favorite taxi driver here is an orphan. Well, he’s an adult now, but it’s been many years already since both of his parents died (his mother died from kidney problems I think, and his father from AIDS). I also have a friend working here at the tribunal whose both parents died of AIDS when she was young. Luckily enough family is very important in this country, so if something like that happens, there’s almost always someone in your family who will make sure you’re taken care of. But compared to tragedies like that political issues do not seem so important. I think it should work the other way around, however. I think that just because of the lack of knowledge of AIDS, the lack of free health care for everyone etc. politics should be a priority. Only then could you start preventing tragedies like that from happening. It doesn’t work like this however, and according to one of my friends here people have just given up. They don’t care anymore. If they would care they would go crazy, because there’s nothing they can do about it. To me this certainly seems like an impossible thought, living like this.

Something about women’s rights in Tanzania

•October 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have a good friend here in Arusha. We talk about nearly everything, and we also disagree on nearly everything. But we both enjoy our conversations, so we keep debating!

I’ve come to learn quite a lot about the position of women here in Tanzania. It is interesting to hear about life here, but it is shocking to realize that people here actually think men and women are equally treated here. To those who think that, equal has a totally different meaning from what I’m used to. To me it’s discrimination as soon as there’s a difference in treatment only because of what sex the person is. But here, it’s fair treatment to treat women and men differently, with the claim that God made men and women different for a reason, and the sexes can never be completely equal.

Before saying anything else I really want to thank my wonderful fiancé for letting me be my own, demanding self! After being here for nearly a month and a half I have come to appreciate him and what we have so much more!

I cannot, of course, speak for all women and all family situations in Tanzania – but these are some of the things I’ve learned.

Dating.

It’s ok to date and meet, but obviously sex before marriage is not something you’re supposed to engage in. Parents choosing future spouses for their children is not customary anymore, although it does sometimes still happen among the Christian majority. However, part of the population is Muslim, and in that culture/religion arranged marriages are still daily occurrences.

Getting married. 

Getting married is a big deal here, especially since you cannot get a divorce (I’ll get to that later). They still do it in a very traditional way. Once the couple has discussed marriage and all that it includes (this is the part that I like – they actually put a lot of effort into discussing things beforehand, to make sure they’re on the same page and to avoid future problems), the man writes a letter to her parents, asking for permission to marry their daughter. The letter + some money (including money is a way of showing respect and does not symbolize the man “buying” the woman from her parents, believe me, I asked) is then folded in a special way by an older male relative, who is also responsible for bringing the letter to the girl’s parents. The parents then sit down with the girl and asks her whether she knows this man and whether she wants to marry him. If she says yes then that’s final and they’re getting married.

Marriage.

During marriage it is obviously very important to show each other respect. However, the word respect tends to have a different meaning here than it does in other cultures. The bar is set much higher here. A woman is never allowed to raise her voice to her husband. She is also not allowed to refuse him sex. This means that she should never sleep on the side of the bed which is against the wall – if a woman sleeps next to the wall she could turn her back to her husband, which would mean she’s refusing him sex. The only reasons for a woman to deny her husband sex would be illnesses or any temporary inability to have sex. Otherwise the husband has a “right” to go looking for sex elsewhere (=he’s allowed to cheat). There are also clear roles for women and men in marriages here. Women have an obligation to take care of the home, the children, the cooking etc. Sounds “harsh”, right? But the men also have obligations, albeit different ones. It’s the man’s obligation to provide for his family – which in this country is not always easy – and this is undoubtedly a lot of responsibility.

Marital problems.

Whenever there’s a problem in a marriage you’re not supposed to fight over it. You have to try to solve your problems by discussing them. If the couple cannot manage to solve their problems themselves, they go to the next “level”/stage – which means that they sit down with their parents and discuss their problems. And since family is a very important concept here it is very important that they listen and respect their parents, and take their advice. If the problems cannot be solved, the couple can, as a last resort, separate.

Divorce.

Divorce is not allowed. The majority of the population are Christians, and according to their religion (which is way more strict than Christianity in Finland for example) it is not allowed to get divorced. Legally it would be possible, but nobody ever gets a divorce here. Instead you can separate. However, since marriage is meant to be for life, it is very immoral to separate. If you’re separated you can get a new partner, and live with that person as if you were married (i.e. live together, have children). This is, in my opinion, a bit of a paradoxe. First you’re not allowed to live together before you get married. This undoubtedly raises the possibility of more problems coming up once you’re married  and living together. If you then notice that you’ve made a mistake by marrying that person, you’re forced to do something totally immoral and separate. And even after this there’s no possibility for you to marry someone else, who could possibly be the love of your life. Instead you’re forced to continue leading an immoral life by living and starting a family with someone who’s not your wife. And apparently separations are getting more and more common – but the religious believes are not following. Instead of accepting that this is the development and this is where it’s headed, the culture here forces people to live immorally. Among Muslims there is a possibility of getting a divorce. A man can always get a divorce – even if a divorce includes three different steps, which take time and during which the man is still responsible for supporting his wife.  A woman, however, can only get a divorce under certain conditions. If she was underage when they married and it was her parents decision, and she, when she reaches majority (when exactly this is is debatable, there is no specific age limit), does not want to  continue the marriage, she can demand a divorce. Other than that the only possibility for a woman to demand a divorce is if she has proof of him behaving badly (hitting her, etc.). Prooving something like that is very difficult, so it must not be easy for a lot of women.

It is still very difficult for women to get any property in a divorce or separation. The Law of Marriage Act from 1971 establishes that the work done by women in the homes (child care, taking care of the home etc.) should count as a contribution to their joint property – but before 1983 there was not a single case where the wife had been awarded part of the property. And even today – even in cases where the wife has substantial evidence of her being the one paying for the house e.g. – the courts award the husband everything on a very regular basis. The law did, however, improve the situation for women substantially, and it was the first law to ever even give them some basic civil rights in marriage and divorce.

The Law of Marriage Act can be found here:
http://www.tanzanet.org/downloads/laws/the_law_of_marriage_act_1971_(5_1971).pdf

Inheritence rights.

My roommate is planning to stay here and start up an NGO helping women whose husbands have died. This is an extremely important cause, because women in rural areas can experience a lot of difficulty claiming their rights to inheritence. In order for a wife to inherit her husband she need a proof of the registration of their marriage, and the husband needs to have written a will. There are a lot of cases in front of the courts here, where the husband’s relatives refuse to allow the wife (the widow) to inherit the land of her husband. And if she is unable to present the court with the correct paperwork there is a problem. There are several NGOs here helping women once the case is already in front of a court -but my roommate came up with the brilliant idea of starting an NGO which helps women get the correct paperwork in order even before the husband dies.

Random facts.

A woman is never allowed to throw any object to a man (just tossing him a pen would not be accepted). And, only bad girls whistle, but you knew that already, didn’t you? 😉

Tribes.

In Tanzania there is an endless amount of tribes. Which also means that there’s an enormous amount of different cultures. Apparently there are patriarchal cultures/tribes as well as matriarchal tribes – so women are not “oppressed” in every single corner of this country – in some areas women might actually enjoy a higher standing than men!

Interesting.

On google books the following research report is published:
The Legal Status of Women and Poverty in Tanzania

Just as a comparison, have a look at:
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Lesson learned: there are insects in Africa

•September 21, 2010 • 2 Comments

Lesson learned in Africa, no. 1.

Do NOT take off your glasses before checking that there are no animals in the shower. I nearly stepped on a HUGE cockroach today, gross!!! I doomed it (there’s a spray that kills insects within seconds) – i.e. normally it would have taken seconds, but this little fella’ held on for minutes… Yuk!

“Oriental Cockroaches probably get their names from trade ships but they are actually from Africa. They are large and very dark compared to other cockroaches. They usually travel through sewer pipes and drains. They prefer dirty places and cooler temperatures than other cockroaches. An Oriental cockroach creates a strong smell and is considered one of the dirtiest of all the cockroaches.”

Arusha central market

•September 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

These are some pictures that my friend Marco has taken. I usually avoid taking my camera with me (there’s a risk it’d get stolen) – so I’m borrowing some pictures of him – they are great!!

Photos: Trip to Moshi and Lushoto

•September 19, 2010 • 3 Comments

When Ramadan ended it was celebrated, and all the kids got the day off school.

Entrance to the market in Moshi, these green bananas are cooked and eaten - they taste just like potatoes, they're just a bit more dry.

A nice salesman at Moshi central market

Moshi central market

This plant grew all along the road to Usambara mountains - the fibres in the plant is used for mats and bags. The plants are actually just as high as a person!

A small town on the way to Lushoto.

A very tempting beauty salon in Lushoto...

Up at Irente Viewpoint - the clouds moved really fast and sometimes we had a great view, and other times we were right in the middle of the clouds.

Wonderful view from Irente Viewpoint

There are people selling vegetables all along the roads everywhere in Tanzania!

Getting to know Africa

•September 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

It’s been almost three weeks since I came to Arusha, and I have learned how to live here, how to walk through town undisturbed, whom to greet and whom not to greet etc. I actually like living here, even though I have days when I wish I was back in my apartment in Finland. I thought I’d just give you a little taste of what daily life is like here.

Ok, so firstly, when you wake up in the morning, you go down to the kitchen to put some water on the stove (you can’t drink the tap water here, so you either have to buy water or boil it for 15 minutes and let it stand for a while). While doing this you kill about 20 ants that have taken control of the kitchen at night. You go take a shower while the water boils. Well, this means turning on the instant-heat in the shower head, and then, after about a 3-minute shower, turning it off again ’cause you can’t stand under the steaming hot water anymore (the instant-heating shower head gets a little overly excited after a few minutes) – so you shower under cooling water for about a minute, and then you go turn it on again, so it becomes perfectly warm (hot) again by the time you stop showering. The catch: the on/off switch for the instant-heating is just outside the bathroom door!

Then you go down to have breakfast. You shake out all the small ants from all the pots and pans you’ll need, and you check the ingredients for ants and throw away the foods that have gone bad (i.e. in which there are ants – do you notice how I keep coming back to the ants?). Well, then you make breakfast – usually fruits, and pancakes (I love making American pancakes here! Especially if I’ve bought some of the really expensive Western raspberry jam from the store) – the bread here tastes sort of sweet, and the butter is not even to think about, the cheeses they have are imported and usually not the good kind of cheese and the sandwich hams are very expensive, so traditional Finnish breakfast (which, in my case, would be sandwiches in different forms) are not really an option. After breakfast you brush your teeth, with bottled water of course. Oh my, I just realized that after 4 months here I’m going to be so used to this that it will go against my instincts to put my toothbrush under the tap when back home. Useless trivia: it takes me about 2,5 dl of water to brush my teeth, so after two times of doing that, I need to refill my 0,5 l bottle.

Before leaving to work you empty your bottle of water and take it to work. I.e. I have a 1 l bottle that I carry with me, at work they supply us with drinking water so at the day’s end you fill your bottle and take it home, which saves you a lot of money!

You walk out to the road to take the UN shuttle to work. Our shuttle comes at around 8 am – ish. You can never be too sure. Sometimes it’s ten minutes early, sometimes it’s ten minutes late. If it’s a Monday we pass by our neighbors Christina and Jimmy, whose maid Susan works for us once a week (on Monday) – so you’d have to go pay her (we pay her 7,50 € a week, she washes all our clothes except underwear, and cleans the floors). Uh, regarding cleaning the floors, my mother will enjoy reading this, she’ll love her job after hearing about cleaning in Africa: here, you don’t use mops. We have a mop at home, but we ourselves are the only ones who use it. Cleaners here use towels that they soak and then they use their hands to sweep the towel along the floors. Sometimes (usually on terraces) they use a brush and water. Useless trivia no. 2: African women interestingly enough don’t bend their knees when they bend over – no matter if they’re picking something up, cleaning or doing something else. So they keep their legs straight and just bend all the way down to the floor – that’s something not all middle aged people in Finland could do!

Anyway, on our way to the bus we greet the guards in Swahili, and we walk out the compound where our house is situated (there’s a lot of “town houses” inside a fenced area, which makes it way more secure. There are a lot of Asians (Indians) and Middle-Eastern people living here, at Sun Park Estate. The bus ride to work takes about 15-20 minutes, and is really dusty and bumpy. Here you drive on the left side of the street – on principle. But there are no exact rules. If there’s a lot of bumps on that side you just drive on the other side, and somehow the bus manages not to hit any person or any thing along the ride to work. The margins are always counted in centimeters though, and once we did scratch another car – and there was a lot of yelling and shouting before we just drove off. On the way we pick up other people, and I don’t know how they do it, but a few people actually get on the bus on a different location and they still manage to find them! Somehow the system just works. And oh, when I said bumpy – I mean b-u-m-p-y. After my stay here I am convinced that there are no bad roads, only bad drivers.

At work you go through the security check to get into the tribunal, and you use your key card to open doors on your way to your office. Interns always share their office with other interns – so there are one interns’ office in every department. You do your tasks, whenever your computer works. Everything might crash just whenever, there are frequent power cuts and everything just works so slowly. And whenever there’s a computer related problem there are different guys you need to call – and they promise to come fix it shortly. However, TIA (this is Africa) – which means you have to call them several times and you MIGHT get the problem fixed within a few days.

Well, during lunch we always go to this local canteen, which serves great food for 1 €. You get rice, beef, spinach and cabbage (that’s what they refer to as “vegetables” in these places), ugali (similar to polenta), beans and sauce. It’s the same food every day though, so you get bored with it after a while, but the other lunch places in the area are obviously targeting the foreign staff of the tribunal – which means that prices are just a little bit lower than the ones in Europe, but you get great food. Almost all of us have language classes during lunch though (I’m taking Arabic while others are taking Swahili or French), so you usually only have time to have a sandwich at your desk.

You get off work at 5.30 pm, and take the shuttle home. On Fridays we finish earlier though (if you don’t have a lot of work to do, that is), at 2 pm – so then you have time to go into town to do some shopping.

There’s the central market which is lovely! They have an abundance of fruits, vegetables, spices, chickens – whatever! There are different corners for everything, it’s not all just mixed. So there’s the watermelon-section, the fruit-section, the meat-section etc. I saw a guy in the fish-section today, preparing some fish. And if I say that the conditions where the same as in the place where my father cuts and stores firewood (“vedlider”) I think I’ve said enough. The guy actually used a machete to cut the fish on a stump of wood. Hmm… Not buying fish from there! And you know, the market is busy, noisy, smelly, muddy and crazy – but I love it. There are children actually helping you out – if you buy fruit you’ll have to buy the plastic bag separately from them, and for a small fee they actually carry your stuff when you walk around the market. There are also children giving people (usually female sellers) manicures in the midst of all the craziness. And then, of course, you bargain and try to get a good price (Swahili is needed)…

While walking through town you get called mzungu (meaning “white person”) at least a dozen times, and you have to watch out for pickpockets and avoid people trying to sell you stuff, offer you a taxi ride or just begging for money. You get used to it, you don’t carry around valuables and you just learn how to interact with the people here – you greet them and you say no politely but firmly. Today I took a dalla dalla home from town. If you take a taxi you have to make sure you use a taxi driver you know and trust – I already have a few taxi drivers I use, so I just call them whenever I need a ride – but that’s only in the evenings. A taxi ride home costs 5000 Tanzanian shilling, which is about 2,50 €. There are motorcycle taxis, which apparently are a new thing, there’s been a big boom during the past 6 months or so of people buying cheap Japanese motorcycles and driving them as a taxi. Well, motorcycles here drive however you want, and there are no helmets, so you’re very vulnerable in the traffic – and you are at risk of getting robbed or even raped by the driver (that happened to an intern earlier this year). So, you want to avoid taking motorcycle taxis! So during day time I take a dalla dalla, which is a bus, home. The buses used in cities here aren’t big though. They’re vans, into which you surprisingly enough can fit about 20-30 people, if you try hard enough 😛 They only cost 0,15 €, so they’re a lot cheaper. I only take them during day time though, since I have to walk the last bit to the compound, and there are no street lights. The area where I live, Njiro, is also kinda’ remote, so it’s not safe to walk outside at night, especially not if you’re alone – and a mzungu! There are still some things I need to learn about taking dalla dallas though – cause today I wanted to take one from the “bus stand” in the city, and apparently they go to different places, even though the ones I asked where headed for Njiro – the vans are marked differently (color + text) depending on where they’re going – but there must be some other difference, cause the dalla dalla guys had to help me find the right bus out of all the Njiro-buses. Hmm, my Swahili is not good enough for me to have understood what they meant – they just showed me to a bus, I got in – and I got a really good seat as well – the front one. With all my bags of fruits and vegetables that was really nice, I got a really comfortable ride home! Usually you’re crammed in the back (you can’t be afraid of human contact here, you’re basically sitting on top of each other), and whenever you wanna get off you just shout or make a sign to the guy at the door. There are two guys working on each dalla dalla – one of them drives, the other one stands/sits/leans at the door, letting people on and off, shouting for more passengers, and charges people.

There are a lot of dogs living on the streets in the city. There’s a lot of garbage lying around, and a lot of people on the streets selling all kinds of stuff. They just spread their goods out on blankets or in baskets on the streets – be it souvenirs, dvd’s, fruit etc. You can find anything to buy on the streets! There are obviously markets for clothes, food (that would be the central market) and handicrafts (it’s called the maasai market).

Once at home, after dark, there’s not really much to do, because you can’t go out. So I basically just socialize with my roommates, we cook, and then we study or read. Later the mosquitos arrive, so I usually just sit on my bed, reading or surfing the amazingly fast web here (actually internet here is terrible, but at least I have internet at home – it costs me about 15 € a month, for unlimited, but it works when and however fast it wants to :P). Sitting on my bed means protection from the mosquitos because I have a mosquito net. It’s crucial to have one of those here, because there are a lot of mosquitos at night (you can hear them at night, they’re desperately trying to get inside the net), but hardly any during the day. I don’t eat any malaria medicine, so I’m happy I’ve only got bitten once so far!

Well, there’s a lot more to tell about life in Africa – and I will, in time. I’d love to talk more about cultural differences etc – but I have a feeling this blog post is long enough as it is! So, I’ll leave you with this, and hope that you’re all doing very well back in your respective countries!