travel

That time I almost died from typhoid fever in Tanzania…

“Do you believe in God?” She was earnest. She wielded a clipboard.

A grin skipped up beside. “Ca va?” He sounded young. A green mask covered half his face but I remember him grinning. From my back, on a bed, in a hallway, I replied automatically. “Comme ci, comme ca.

The doors opened. “It is time, Miss Tankard.”

Lights, white tile, stainless steel. I remember the windows. It hurt, so they found another vein. An older voice told me to picture a happy place – to imagine my family – and they counted, backwards.

The grin on the left waggled a vial. “Maziwa...”

I swam upwards to translate. “Milk?” Split second having managed it, before she came in from the right, put her face to my ear, and whispered through her mask.

“Believe, Miss Tankard, believe. He is real.”

And then I was out.

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Sunflowers and stuffed animals.

I went back to Kikatiti. We found the kikaiti Happy Watoto Home.

I took my brother – three years younger than me, exactly the age I’d been when I went there three years ago – to find the orphanage. We just dropped in; none of the contact info that I had was still working. I’d seen the orphanage, or at least the gate and the building from the bus when I’d come up from Dar – between Chem Chem school and the sunflower fields – and at least it was still standing. It’s impossible to walk back in time, to think that things will hold still, the way that you remember them. I’d hope that it would be at least as well as I’d left it, had braced myself to find it gone or forgotten, delapidated and ruined. Instead, we found it better.

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“No get-up stand-up for your rights, here in Zanzibar,”

“No get-up stand-up for your rights, here in Zanzibar,” said a tall dreadlocked man who invited himself to join us three days running at a habor-side restaurant that seemed to be the closest thing to a Reggae bar in Stonetown, and one of the few places that locals and tourists interacted outside of the salesman/customer, hunter/prey relatonship. We never learned the name of the restaurant; the man was called Rashid and wandered through the days seeminly stoned and the nights slightly drunk.

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“… culture… is an ensemble of texts…

…which the anthropologist strains to read over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong.” – Clifford Geertz

—-

I ate dinner last to the Muslim call to prayer, heard in surround, from the roof of the Pyramid Hotel. The calls came from three different mosques. They started on a slight delay, one after another; out-of-sync, nearly harmonizing. Ascents and vibratto wrapped around each other. The crackling bull-horn speakers turned the male voices into horns – deep trombones and lilting saxophones playing minor, off-key, beautifully. They grew in strength and more seemed to join in – there may have been more than three to start with, it’s hard to say; there seems to be a small neighborhood mosque on every third corner – until they washed out, receeding, drawing back to fade away. I missed the last notes, only realizing it was over when the dogs and laughing children returned to the foreground.

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Oh yeah – I should be writing home!

I’ve been in Tanzania nearly a month now. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long – that it’s been only that long.

I’m in Stonetown, on Zanzibar, which is gorgeous. It’s all of the white plastered walls and arches, heavy wooden lintels and ornately carved doors, winding mazes of unnamed streets that everyone promised. I took the ferry from Dar yesterday.

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It was confusing, it was dirty, and it was absolutely wonderful.

The dig at Songo Mnara already feels like another lifetime, or another world.

It was amazing. The site was incredible, the island was gorgeous, the people were great. The sun was unbelievably strong, straight down on us, and if the wind wasn’t blowing sand and dirt straight into your eyes, it was only because you were downwind of the sieve and getting mouthfuls of it. The minute tonal difference between the types of soils, trying to identify them, to distinguish between them, was infuriating – almost painful – and hours spent looking for traces of decoration or finished edges on pottery fragments had me hallucinating bases.

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Karibu sana, karibu. Just you not worry. Karibu.

Kawe seemed smaller and calmer than I remembered.

I don’t know if it changed or I did.

They tell me that Kawe has grown in people and expanded geographically, but everything seemed to have shrunk. I remembered an insane flurry of color stuck in a deep mud pit, straining to hold the people in – and we drove into a sedate, seemingly organized, relatively broad street that was as much dust as mud.

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Nakwenda Tanzania

I have not seen Africa. There are few gross generalizations as odious as the Western simplification, amalgamation, of an entire continent’s cultural plurality, socio-political diversity, ethnic multiplicity and historical discrepancy to a single noun. I have not been to Africa; no one has; there is no Africa.

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travel

Trowels and tape; hangovers and side-streets.

I’ve always tried to keep my travelling mixed up – a party here, a home-stay cultural immersion there; volunteer placement and aimless wandering – but, as I’m faced with a trip a bit different than what I’ve done before, I’m beginning to wonder about how to mix – authoritatively, presumptively, intentionally – work and pleasure. It’s one thing to step out of the office and into your social circle; it’s one thing to take your spontaneous adventure and twist it back, folding and editing, into a story – or even a study – when you realize in retrospect that there are larger ramifications; its wonderful to have a private room or two that isn’t fodder for analysis and its shielding to be fortified within a uniform as you work; it’s entirely a different thing, a wonderful and lucky thing, to be have your “work” and your “passions” so intertwined as to be the same thing.

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Back home

Mahale was the most incredible place I’ve ever been, and one of the most incredible that I can ever imagine going.

I’m home – and have been home over 48 hours now – and adjusting to being back here. I refuse to admit that I am jetlagged, or to give into it.

It was hard to leave. I really wish that I could have stayed in Tanzania longer – more time at Mahale, or even more in Dar, and I’d felt the same way leaving Kikatiti. Each place that I was at felt like home to me. I’m planning on going back (for longer!) one day.

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SO MANY CHIMPS

Nkungwe camp is wonderful. Mahale is amazing. SO MANY CHIMPS. Chimps everywhere. It’s fabulous. I never ever want to leave. There’s internet here but I’m not planning on using it much – just wanted to let you know that I’m here, safe, and happy.

(We saw so many chimps today! We walked out to them and then got back to camp and they all followed us back and were here! Alofu and Bonobo and Darwin – who came within two feet – and Fanana and tons of females and… it’s amazing.)

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And… I’m off again (almost)

I’m leaving tomorrow morning, very very early, for Mahale. I’ll be there for five days. I’m going with a tour group and paying a fortune to stay at the luxury camp and spend half my time doing random silly things (like snorkeling, fishing, and bird-watching, instead of chimp-tracking the whole time), rather than just going on my own to Kigoma, renting supplies, hiring a guide and a cook, and going in on my own because dealing with medical issues in Arusha ate up tons of time. I’m very glad I’m able to go, that I am finally going, and I know that it’ll be an incredible experience with the tour group…

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I’m still alive and am fine!

Apparently, last Thursday I fell off of the top of the moving Land Rover and hit my head. I had a concussion, I was unconscious for a few minutes, and I do not remember any of that day until the evening. I’ve seen several doctors – luckily, I was traveling with a doctor, as well – and I’ve been getting better, but it still hurts a lot.

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Habari tena – from Arusha

Habari tena – from Arusha

I wasn’t really ready to leave Kikatiti – it had just begun to feel like home – but I’m excited about going to Mahale. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here three weeks, either.

I’m in Arusha now. I’ve got a private room in the Meru House Inn (I splurged and spent a whole extra dollar for the luxury; at $7 I thought it would be ok with my budget) which is a great place. Arusha is a lot smaller than Dar but it’s quite international (it’s the stopover for all safaris and climbs) and even seems to have a large traveling-volunteer population. (All of the internet cafes and bakeries have discounts for volunteers, too.)

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Mambo!

(I’m not going to run out of greetings to start emails with.)

I’ve been given a Tanzanian name – or at least pronunciation. “Noelle” is pronounced “Noh-ehl-lah” and the kids (and teachers) all know it quite well. (Elaine, Claire, Sheila, Deidre – the Irish girls – and Cory have all had their names altered as well.)

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Hujambo

One of these days I am going to be in an internet cafe long enough to respnod to mails as well as to just send them out – but it’s not today.

I am in Kikatiti now (well, the internet cafe is in Usa but I am staying in Kikatiti) at the Happy Watoto Home. It’s a great place – the kids are wonderful and the surrondings are really beautiful. The are five other volunteers there; Cory, an American from the Bay Area who has been there three weeks already, and four Irish girls who only just arrived this afternoon (and who have only been in Tanzania a few days, so they are very disoriented).

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Habari za mchana! (Good afternoon)

I’m getting used to being here a bit – but even more than plumbing or hot water, I miss having the bottom of my feet clean. Traffic is insane in Dar es Salaam and there is only one paved road that goes through Kawe – the rest of it is dirt (mud, really). The pollution is pretty bad but at least most of what is in the air is natural. Personal space and not being able to smell people are completely foreign ideas. People walk in the streets and cars drive on the sidewalk and the only difference between the two seems to be that if a car comes at you on the sidewalk, you smack it, and if it comes at you in the street, it honks at you (without slowing down).

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I’ve found a computer! I can write!

Please forgive any errors below, I’m typing on an Asian keyboard, which is very “fun” and best done with my eyes closed. I’m going to use the email list my mom compiled without editing it down, though it’s much more comprehensive than I would have made myself – please let me know if you’d rather not be spammed with updates from me.

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27 hours and 5 cities later, I’ve arrived

Los Angeles – Detroit – Amsterdam – Kilimanjaro – Dar es Salaam

I am at the slowest internet cafe in the world – and I have spent nearly half an hour trying to load pages and deal with computer crashes, so I have only a few more minutes, as they’re closing!

I’m in Dar es Salaam.

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