Tanzanians are meticulous about washing hands before and after eating. Nick's had a handwashing station among the tables. It was a square metal tank of about two gallons mounted on a waist-high stand. Two sides had faucets near the bottom and cupholders held water bottles full of liquid soap, with holes punched in the lids. This one was super deluxe, with a sort of chimney on top where they kept putting in glowing coals to warm the water.
When we did finally get the fish, it was incredible. It was whole, maybe about 3 pounds, covered in onions and peppers. On the side, we had fried bananas. Yum! The place was hopping, with a mix of tourists and locals, and cars constantly prowling through the narrow, inadequate parking area looking for a space. When I went to wash my hands after I finished eating, three Tanzanian ladies asked me very politely if we were leaving, so I pointed out our table and they came over to hover and wait. But it was awhile before we got the check, so they pulled up chairs and sat down after we urged, "Karibuni!" (Welcome!). I missed a bunch of jokes because I don't know enough Swahili. It's just like back in Mexico in the 1980's when I could tell that people were really funny, but I couldn't tell what they were saying, and I knew I had to learn Spanish.
In comments on my last post, Joanie requested pictures of cute little kids. I haven't taken very many people shots because I worry about being intrusive. But I hung my camera around my neck early one cool morning and went for a walk in the neighborhood above Kundayo Apartments. It turns out little kids see the camera and say, "Mzungu! Picha!" (White person! Take my picture!) So here are a few shots of a few of the cute little kids in the neighborhood.
Saturday afternoon, I took the dala dala ride out to the volunteer house to visit with the housekeeping staff there. We put on some Kenyan music from my i-Pod and travel speakers and drank some sodas and danced on the back porch of the house. All of the volunteers were out at an orphanage event, so we had the place to ourselves. It was a hot day, so I didn't work myself up too much with the dancing. It was really fun to see everyone. None of them speak much English, so again, I gotta learn more Swahili so I don't miss all the fun.
Ashura and Hilda and I walked about 2 km to the new volunteer house, built since I was here last year. It's in a whole area full of new houses going up. We walked past a big rock pit wth dozens of people, mostly Maasai women, sitting in the sun with piles of rocks, breaking them into gravel with handheld hammers. What a hard job! Although K2 tells me they get paid well and consider it to be good work. Hilda and Ashura kept saying, "Pole!" (Sorry!), and the ladies would answer, "Asante!" (Thank you!) People here commonly say that to someone who looks like he's working too hard, or even out walking in the hot sun.
The new house is beautiful, very pleasant. I met an American woman there who works for the volunteer company as an employee placing volunteers. She's married to a Tanzanian man. And the reception clerk at Kundayo Apartments is a young British woman living in Arusha with her Tanzanian boyfriend. So I'm not the only foreigner to fall for the Tanzanian charm.
As to the visa process that brought me here, we hired a lawer who's been an acquaintnce of K2's family for years. He immediately suggested a solution to the problem I've been worried about, and it's a common local situation. So I'm feeling more optimistic about the visa now. Although the lawyer himself made me a little bit nervous, because he's expensive and kind of like a car salesman (but American lawyers are like that too).
I went to the ATM one night at 9:30 to get cash to pay the lawyer the next day. I inserted my card, punched in my pin and the amount to withdraw, and then the power went out. We hung around for a few minutes, but the power goes out almost every evening here and it could be hours. K2 called the bank's customer service number and they assured him it was impossible for the machine to spit the card back out and that we should go back to the bank the next morning and they would return my card. HA! My biggest travel advice to anyone is NEVER go into a bank in a developing country if you can in any way avoid it. It took an hour and a half for the scared clerk at the front counter to admit that they couldn't find my card. Then it took twenty minutes and three demands from me before I got to speak to the bank manager. It took him another hour and a half talking to the head office in Dar es Salaam and poring over transaction records from the machine. Then he reached the conclusion that the machine, although it was impossible, had indeed spit out my card when the power came back on. So I had to cancel my ATM card and all my plans for accessing money for living expenses here. I asked the bank manager if the bank could give me a cash advance on my credit card, and he said no. I asked him if I could access my American accounts through his bank, and he said no. I told him I was now cut off from all my money back in America and asked if he could give me a job at his bank. He laughed, but he didn't give me the job.
Then I called Wells Fargo customer service to see if they could help me. In order for them to work with me, I had to answer detailed questions about recent transactions in my accounts. Which, of course, I couldn't remember. So I went back to Kundayo Apartments and plugged in my netbook to the internet and pulled up my bank accounts, then called Wells Fargo back. I spent about two hours on the phone with them, but they couldn't help me. And when I made disparaging remarks about customer service in African banks, K2 pointed out that my American bank took just as long to not help me, either.
But all was not lost, because at one of the fancy hotels, a business will give cash advances on Visa credit cards. It's not ideal, because they charge a commission and don't give the best exchange rate, but I was so relieved when they handed me cash, that I didn't care!