Monday, April 12, 2010
A Sunday Morning Walk
I walked up through the village above Kundayo Apartments Sunday morning. Sundays are not as quiet here as at home, mostly because the Christian churches all mount loudspeakers on their roofs and broadcast their services. So whether you go to church or not, you'll hear the music and some preaching in Swahili! I passed by one small church that was packed. The whole congregation was on their feet singing this rollicking, cheerful Tanzanian gospel-style music that's so fun it's almost like a rock concert. I felt so tempted to slip into the back row and be surrounded by the music and feeling, but I was just too shy. I wasn't dressed well enough, and I was afraid everybody would notice the mzungu and it might be disruptive.
Small neighborhood church--the building on the right. You can just see the cross and loudspeakers on the roof.
I passed several nicely-dressed women in bright African prints hustling their Bible-carrying children down the road, late to church. People I passed were in a good mood, and everyone I smiled at smiled back. I had several brief Swahili conversations with people, who were uniformly delighted to hear me speak Swahili. I was able to go a couple of sentences further into the conversations than last week, so although I still know hardly anything, I do think I'm learning bit by bit. Some people I meet speak to me in English. The extent of the conversation is usually, "Good morning. How are you? I am fine." I used to talk to them in Swahili, but K2 told me they want to practice English so I should oblige them. So now I answer in English. Two young Maasai men walked past me and said, in English, "How are you, mzungu?" So I said, "I am fine. How are you, Maasai?" They paused for a beat, while they processed what I'd said, then laughed uproariously as they walked on by me.
"How are you, Maasai?"
A few scenes from my walk through the neighborhood
K2 went back to the dentist, finally, and she drilled the hole in his tooth a bit deeper to hold the filling more securely and replaced the filling (third time's a charm, I hope). When we went out for lunch, K2 ordered a cold soda, which he couldn't drink before, due to temperature sensitivity. Whenever you order water or soda here, they ask, "baridi au moto?" Cold or hot? By hot, they mean room temperature. I speculate this is because so many people have untreated dental problems and prefer not to drink cold drinks. I say that, because after K2 had fillings put in, several of his coworkers were quizzing him about it and wondering if they should give it a try, too.
K2 has started a grand tour of Arusha neighborhoods to help me understand the city better. It has about two hundred thousand population and is quite spread out. We're mostly focusing on neighborhoods where wazungu (white people) live. Not all neighborhoods are safe for wazungu. A few days ago, we drove all around Njiro. Many diplomats, government ministers, and UN employees live in one section of Njiro which has beautiful, huge, stately homes behind high walls. The streets are lined with hedges and trees and security guards. We went inside two of the smallest houses there which are currently available for rent. They were modest, but pretty nice and almost western style. The landlord is asking $1,000 US monthly rent, so no bargains in that part of Njiro! Although K2 says if he had been there alone, the asking price would have been lower. We drove through more modest parts of Njiro and saw some smaller, but really nice houses, just from the outside. It had rained hard the day before, and the dirt roads were full of lakes. In a couple of places, we ran into really slick mud and had to turn back. K2 really four-wheels it in his Toyota Corolla. I'm continually amazed at the places he can get that car in and out of.
Sunday afternoon, we drove through an area of more modest houses built by the government's National Housing Corporation and sold to private citizens at discount prices. Rents in that area are around 200,000 to 300,000 Tanzanian shillings, which is about $175 to $250 US per month. K2's car was waiting at the "fundi" (technician) in this neighborhood, to have the alternator replaced. He spends so much time there with his Corolla that he's almost like family. The fundi's adult daughter Cecilia rode along with us since she knows the neighborhood, and she took us in to meet her mother-in-law and see one house she has for rent.
K2 borrowed a friend's pickup with 4WD, which was really good, because our next neighborhood was Upper Sakina, which has many nice houses, but it's up in the hills and the road is horrendous. I couldn't imagine having to drive up there to get home every day!
In the course of our wanderings, we came across the Obama Bar. The Coke sign of the light-skinned, wavy-haired woman looking so satisfied by her Coke "baridi" is ubiquitous in Arusha. Every single bar and restaurant has that Coke sign.
I am extending my Swahili lessons to two hours. Mr. Solomon added a second student a couple of weeks ago, Roman, an Austrian university student volunteering here. Roman's just starting Swahili, so the lessons together aren't useful for me. I asked Mr. Solomon to split us out, so I can continue at the more "advanced" level, and he agreed, but asked me to attend Roman's portion of the lesson too, so we can converse.
Last Friday at my Swahili lesson, three young women who were my students last year came by to see me. Two of them were my favorites and I was so happy to see them. Beatrice, who could speak English fairly well last year, but was shy about it, is not working or studying now, and seemed to have forgotten most of her English. Gertrude and a third student (whose name I can't remember, I'm embarrassed to admit) were both really quiet in class and didn't know that much English. But they are both working now as servers in the cafeteria at a college for students from several African countries. They use English at work and were both speaking so well! After the lesson, I was riding home on a crowded dala dala,when a young woman standing up inside the door said, "Madam Barbara!" Another of last year's students! How fun!
Me and beautiful Beatrice at last year's English class