Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi!"

         Our first morning in Tanzania we awoke to the sound of a rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing at sun-up. The odd thing about it was that it wasn't daybreak at all, it was about 1:30 a.m. and about 20 minutes after we had finally gotten settled and gone to bed. Constant crowing is one of the many things that we had to get used to in Tanzania. Our lazy 5-minute per day clockin' North American Cocks got nothing on an African Rooster. Those guys work 24-7. In fact, before long it felt eerie if we didn't hear a rooster every 30 seconds, like a canary in a coalmine.
          Day one we were oriented around the bustling town of Moshi by CIDA-sponsored interns. Moshi can be found on the lower slopes of the towering Mt. Kilimanjaro and population-wise is only a little bigger than Kingston. It is home to a number of schools, a little industry and plays as home base for climbers from all over the world who come hoping to bag Africa's highest peak.

Jill contemplating baby theft 
          Something we noticed instantly was the warmth and welcome of the Tanzanian people. Without a doubt, the most memorable part of our time in Tanzania wasn't so much the events as the people we met along the way. Many people on the streets greet you with a warm smile and a kind hello. Some of the Swahili words that actually stuck with us were the many greetings for many situations. The first we learned was “Jambo” which is “Hi!” The response is, as you probably guessed is another "Jambo!" This is a pretty safe greeting for those new to Swahili (i.e. recommended for those who know only "Jambo!") The next step is "Habari (za Asabuhi)!" meaning "How are you (this morning)?" The response would then be “Nzuri!!”... I'm good!! Now, one must be careful asking this as it can often result in a beautiful barrage of smiling Swahili so it is recommended that you either know Swahili or be extremely good at nodding and/or smiling.
          On the job site though, Duncan had better access to Swahili lessons then the Lonely Planet guidebook. The guys taught him all the most important words…whazzup?”…. “Mambo?!” with the response “Poa!” Or if you were feeling particularly good the response would be "Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi!" Which, as you probably guessed, means "Crazy cool like a banana!" (Just kidding, who would guess that? If you did guess correctly then you were probably East African in another life. Just a heads up.)
          We also learned about “Shikamoo” which is a greeting reserved for those whom you respect or hold a high regard. By “Shikamoo” you are conveying an admiration and esteem for that person. When we were in the communities, "Shikamooing" the elders, won you a huge toothy (or toothless) smile and the response "Marahaba". After greeting with a stranger and after learning the various ways to say it in Swahili, it opened the doors to learning so much from the wonderful people of this country.
Woman and her child waiting for the doctor
          Our first stop was the local hardware store as we were hoping to get some information about the availability and prices of building materials. The first thing I (Duncan) noticed was a machine-gun armed guard next to the rebar, something that's tough to picture outside of Kingston's Home Depot. We were relieved to find that a lot of the stuff we needed for the build was readily available, something that would become crucial in the first few days of the build. This, thankfully, settled some of our concerns about acquiring materials and hardware for the build.
         As some of our group were buying cell phones I noticed a merchant selling just about everything you could imagine, noticeably some decent looking sunglasses. I had left my better pair at home knowing full well that I tend to lose my glasses more than Waldo and they'd only have a one way ticket on this mission. It had been sometime since I had been in a country where you could barter for merchandise and I was intrigued to get back into it. I asked our intern what he thought was a reasonable price for sunglasses, about 3000 Tanzanian shillings or $2, and headed across the street. The dialogue went something like this:

"Hello my Rafiki!" - Merchant
"Habari za Asabuhi! Can I try your sunglasses?
"Of course Rafiki, which ones do you like?"
"This pair looks pretty good, how much for these?"
"For you... 25,000 Shillings!"
"For me? A bad price for me? How about a good price?"
"How much you wanna pay?"
"500 Shillings"
"Rafiki! These are the best! Okay, today special price... 20,000"
"That's the Mzungo price! Okay, 1000 Shilling seems fair."
"Alright, alright. 15,000 Shillings! Good price for me, good price for you!"

       You can imagine how it went from there and eventually we settled on a price of 5000 shillings or $3.50 CDN. I guarantee we were both walking away from that thinking "hahaha, sucker...", though I soon realized who would get the last laugh. About 3 days later I started to noticed little cracks in the frames in a few locations. Throughout that day, which was the first time that I had worn them consistently in the sun, I noticed they were getting larger and more frequent. Finally, I took them off to look at them as they, almost literally, disintegrating in my hands. "What the hell are these made of?" I thought. As they disintegrating in my hands we were visiting a Maasai village as part of our weekend Safari and as I looked at the dung houses they'd built I wondered... 'Are they made of Clay? Dirt? Worse? These sunglasses were, maybe literally, made of shit.' I had to laugh. Had I known that they had restrictions I may have been a little less surprised. A heads-up maybe? A simple "Warning: Do not subject sunglasses to direct or reflected sunlight at any time or disintegration/vaporization may occur" would have sufficed. Hey, we've all spent a few bucks on much worse, I'm just glad I didn't pay 20.
         After our orientation the whole group met at the current PTE Women's Centre where the medical caravan was getting oriented for the next two weeks or Caravans. Meanwhile, the builders were anxious to get the first glimpse of the site and find out what we were in for. A rough plan sketch and a few pictures had given us some idea of the tasks ahead though you never really know until you get there. These are the first shots we got of the site and we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Looking East

Looking Northeast

Looking, uh, East, East-South-East, South-East, South-South-East and South


Supposedly the female Vervet Monkeys are really big teases.

No comments:

Post a Comment