Okay, I would like to write about some of the interesting littlte experiences I’ve had and some of the quirky things I’ve seen in Arusha. These were the ones too small to make full posts about. I’ve compiled them all together here for one super massive omnibus post. Here goes:Mambo-Jambo Jumble (mini-game)
Arriving in Tanzania, you immediately learn the standard way to greet another human being: “Mambo,” you say (‘How are you?’). And then they say, “Poa” (‘Cool.’). There are other possibilities;, you could say, “Habari,” (‘What’s the news?’) and they say, “Nzuri,” (‘It’s beautiful’) but this is mostly for older people to whom you should be a bit more formal. Or SOMETIMES people say “Jambo,” (‘Hello’) and to this you just reply “Jambo.” Mostly it’s Mambo-Poa though.
At first, when someone says “Mambo,” you find yourself saying “Mambo,” instead of “Poa,” but after a week or two you come to master these basics. Then they start switching it up…
I’ve gotten pretty much all of these:
Mambo? – Poa.
Jambo – Jambo.
Habari asubuhi? – Nzuri.
Mambo? – Poa. Vipi? – Poa.
Mambo? – Safi. Vipi? – Poa.
Karibu. – Asante. Mambo. – Poa.
Mambo? – Poa. Vipi? – Safi. Habari asubuhi? – Nzuri.
Jambo. – Jambo. – Habari jioni? – Nzuri sana. Vipi? – Safi.
Hi guy. – ‘Sup.
Mambo? – Poa. Wewe zima? – Zima. – Karibu. – Asante.
Mambo? – Poa. Vipi? – Safi. Ploe. – Asante sana. Habari? – Nzuri. Habari wewe? – Nzuri sana.
My nigga’ – …uuuuuhhhhh… [This only happened to me once.]
These really all are just saying ‘hi’.
There are two special greetings offered only by children. 1) “Muzungu!!!” (‘White person!!!’) (often chanted as one might for an encore), to which you respond with a smile and a wave, a friendly ‘Hi!’, or even just drop back to the standard, “Mambo?”. 2) The other greeting is simply to run up grinning, and without a word, attack-hug you, invariably at crotch level. …that was never really a thing back home.STATUS
6 volleyed greeting reached
100+ greetings initiated
20+ crotch hugs
Greeted 10+ scary dudesTROPHIES EARNED
The Chatty Matty Trophy
The Stained Local Tooth AwardFood Quest (side-quest)
Travelling, I’m always excited to taste the best of the local foods. When I got here I was glad for the home-cooking we got at the volunteer house, but while there are local dishes on the board, most were very much catered toward Westerners. So restaurants. But then…where’s all the LOCAL food joints? You want a truly awesome burger (not good for Tanzania, good for anywhere), go to Wraps. Or Mango Tree’s pretty good. Want a decent pizza? Try TGT; you can watch the sunset while you digest. Indian food? How about Njiro Complex; they have everything. But what about LOCAL FOOD???
Well I and a few of the more adventurous volunteers have on occasion visited one or another of the run-down little, side-of-the-road establishments. We quickly learned that Tanzanian restaurant food is pretty basic fare—for the most part, meat seasoned with salt and grilled over fire. Fatty? Yes. Tough? Oh sure. Tasty? It’s not bad. Now ask me I felt I was getting a uniquely Tanzanian experience. Sadly, no. We did have some pretty good fish heads though.
But then we went on the Moshi Tour
where we ate our fantastic guide’s fantastic mother’s fantastically local, FANTASTIC food. And that was that.STATUS
Chagga Gourmand LEVEL REACHED
Ate unidentified animal
Ordered in sans-English restaurant
Ate unidentified organ meat
Expedition leaderTROPHIES EARNED
The Golden Chipati
The Fish-Eyed Lens Award
The Guacamole CupCrazy Dala (mini-game)
I mentioned the dala dala in a previous post. Remember that van
that drives around stuffing in as many people as humanly possible for about $.30 a head. At the time, I think I’d peaked at twenty-one people and a chicken but there’s been plenty of opportunity to break that personal record and I have since maxed out at twenty-six human souls in a unit with only sixteen seats. (Honourable mention goes to nineteen and a goat though.) The condas (conductors) are so focused on filling up their Barnum-and-Bailey-esque vehicles I have seen them physically drag people off the street (sometimes through a thin cloud of protests) to shove them through their waiting doors; I’ve seen condas push and fight each other (
usually playfully); I’ve seen them block passage into competitors’ vehicles; one even drove up beside another which I was about to board, so close I had to jump out of the way, completely eclipsing the first dala’s door. One important lesson everyone should learn though is: WE decide who gets to drive us. (Sometimes you want an empty one because it’s a long ride and you want a good seat. Sometimes you want a full one because the empties will sit there forever until they fill up.) I’ve gotten pretty damn good at saying ‘no’. I can peek my head into every dala, passing through the hordes of condas as if they were ghosts of my imagination and find the one that suits me best. This skill is a MUST in Africa.STATUS
30+ minutes standing in a dala
5+ awkward conversations with other passengers
Successfully napped on 20+ person dala
100+ trips without being robbed
Expedition leaderTROPHIES EARNED
-The Golden Sardine
-The Usa River Trophy
-The Brass Goat IdolBig Bill Break (mini-game)
There’s a charge to withdraw money from your bank back home so most people draw the maximum amount then live off it for as long as it will last them. The problem is, since your money comes in the largest possible denominations, at times it can be difficult to actually spend it. Change (small bills) as it turns out is somewhat of a rare commodity. If you try to use a large bill on the dala, the conda ends up shaking people down to change out some of his bills in order to break it for you. At restaurants you often find yourself bargaining with your friends and fellow customers to pay off the odds and ends and make sure everyone is paid up and square with each other. I went to the movies the other day and had to get my change for the ticket, not from the box office but the concession, and not in money but an equivalent value of bottled water! It’s a semi-regular occurrence that you will actually have to give somebody change on the change they give you.
This all was a larger problem at first but I came to realize that there is a tiny shop near our place that usually has plenty of change. Whenever I need small bills for the dala (or whatever else) I just walk over and buy a bottle of water. STATUS
Casual shopperLEVEL REACHED
Broke 10,000 Tsh on dala dala
Paid 1,000 Tsh+ in coins
Received change after Maasai Market bargainTROPHIES EARNED
The Chop My Money Trophy
Golden 50 Tsh AwardBargain Wrestling
The game is simple. Winning is difficult. Buying most things (souvenirs), they charge you three to ten times what it’s worth, you offer to pay a quarter of what they say and then you wrestle to meet in the middle. I’m not great at this one. Once I’ve got it down to a reasonable price I have a hard time caring over the last $3-$7 ($20 for something really expensive).STATUS
Paid ½ offered priceTROPHIES EARNED
Maasai Market Participation Ribbon
Bleeding Heart AwardBed, Bar or Beyond (side-quest)
As seems to be my lot in life, I am surrounded by young people. I do quite like the volunteer community into which I’ve so recently sprung but so many of my peers are filled with excitements and youthful enthusiasms for things, which I simply cannot share. Namely ‘going out’. Yes, Den friends, I know, I know; I—even in my advanced years—do enjoy the occasional all night constitutional, but even you who know me well, must admit that when I go out, it’s invariably socially, I’m usually the first to leave, and I would ALWAYS rather be spending time with the same people but at MY house. So when I face the question, “Are you coming tonight?” two or three times a week, I am fairly comfortable saying, “Nope,” with a warm smile wrapped around my chin.
Here’s the thing, Dear Reader, I’ve met some pretty decent people here, people whose company I’ve enjoyed, people who have enriched my life for having briefly shouldered their way into it. And it’s ALWAYS somebody’s last day. So when someone says, “You have to come, it’s my last night,” Yes, on occasion I will agree with them; yes I DO have to go. But not always. Sometimes the only place I HAVE to go, is bed. On these nights, I’ll tell you, I am as happy a pig in shit to smile and say, “I’m not going.”
Avoiding going out is always a win.
Last week was different though. That was the Colombians’ final week in the house. Darling little Juanita, and adorable, spritely Maria (both of whom had been in the house for six months and are beloved by all) were leaving us. So yes, I went to the shitty Karaoke night on Wednesday—sang Bust-a-Move (even though they didn’t have a karaoke version of the song and my voice was drowned out by Young MC’s)—I went to the outdoor Thursday night dance club, and I went out to the final going away dinner at TGT on Friday.
Friday. That was something else. Sixteen of us stuffed ourselves into a cab and bumped and jolted our way to the restaurant. But it wasn’t there. We circled around a few times (on a very rough road) but all we found was this massive outdoor cocktail bash (a wedding?). We stopped to ask for directions, accidentally crashed a party for tourism companies with free food and alcohol, and spent the rest of the night hobnobbing with our social betters.STATUS
Party CrasherLEVEL REACHED
Went to bed after 5:00am
Went to bed before 8:00pm
White-guy rapped in Africa
Dodged pressured night out
Invented a fake tourist lodge for free boozeTROPHIES EARNED
The Priceless Gin Bottle
The Colombian Via Via Best Dancer Award
White-guy rapper trophyWerewolf Hunt (side-quest)
Werewolf is a game we play religiously in the volunteer house. I’ve played a simpler version of it before and it was really fun. But this…this is something else. You need at least twelve people to play but it’s better with fifteen-seventeen. There are two werewolves but nobody knows who they are. Each round the werewolves kill a village person. Then the villagers try to find out who the wolves are and vote someone else to die. If both werewolves are killed, the villagers win; if the village people are whittled down until there’s as many bad guys as good, the wolves win. There are other characters; some help find the werewolves, one is on the werewolves' team and there are a bunch who make the game both more complicated and more strategic. Werewolf is so important a part of Simba House, it’s featured on our house flag.STATUS
Too Dangerous to LiveACHIEVEMENTS
Won as village person
Won as werewolf
Played 50+ games
Played as all nine character types
Invented and integrated new (tenth) character
Rigged 3+ gamesTROPHIES EARNED
The Golden Wolf
Village Elder’s Cup
Narrator’s Murder ChairHEX (mini-game)
I would like to introduce you, Dear Reader, to my roommate, a charming young man by the name of Chris. He is by any measure a truly delightful person—a little awkward at times perhaps (the poor boy’s all elbows and knees) but his company is always a welcome addition…EXCEPT, there is a HEX on our friend Chris. Wherever he goes BAD THINGS HAPPEN.
Chris went with some other volunteers to the hot springs
-Their tuk tuk broke down on the way back into town, stranding them in the middle of nowhere!
He went to Zanzibar with a few good companions…
-They were almost killed by a street merchant!
-They missed their bus coming back!
-The bus they caught left one of their group at a rest stop!
He went with a few of us to a restaurant at night…
-Our taxi broke down on the way to pick us up but didn’t tell us, stranding us for over an hour in downtown Arusha after dark! (It’s ill-advised for muzungus to be out in African cities at night.) (A clearly crazy woman kept calling us over and trying to get us into her car.)
I went to take a picture of him for this very blog post, put him in frame and focus…
-AND MY FUCKING CAMERA BATTERY DIED!!!
But really, could you stay mad at this face?STATUS
Witness LEVEL REACHED
Diagnosed hexTROPHIES EARNED
The Broken Taxi Award