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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Part I There's Kili-or wait….There's Kili! No…that was just one very big hill

The one thing, among many, that I love about Africa is how everything happens when it is supposed to.  With this said, I have finally Arrived in Moshi, Tanzania! This just wasn't any arrival however, the 7 hour bus ride from Nairobo to Moshi zig zagged between jettisoned mountains where the grass lined hills beckoned for a proper sit-down.  

The bus ride turned out to be quite fast as I met a friend along the way.  He is a Welsh fellow by the name of John who just so happens to be the Head of Programme, or as what we would call in the states, the CEO of Solar Aid.  Soalr Aid is a non-profit grass-roots organization based out of Nairobi whose goal/mission is to provide inexpensive solar PV cells to all children's schools in Africa.  They currently have offices in 5 countries in Africa alone and have provided solar polar to hundreds of schools in Keyna and Tanzania.  Quite Ironic considering I am currently involved in a project in Musoma, Tanzania that deals with providing solar lighting to an all girls school.  Definitely a rafiki to maintain contact with and a good way to start my research.  

 I don't know what it is about Northern Tanzania, but life seems to take on a different persona here.  From the way you are greeted to the conversations you have, Tanzanians I am slowly learning  are very humble people.   A few hours after departing Nairobi I got my first glimpse of Kilimanjaro's  main peak, Uhuru.  White, voluminous clouds slowly revealed the snow barely covering it's peak.  At times, the magnificent peak would became trapped within a web of clouds only to leave me wanting and hoping for it to be revealed again.  

The initial goal was to begin climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on May 17, but according to Africa it will be tomorrow.  Okay, for all of you who do not know what Africans, well East Africans call white people, it is Mzungu.  It's funny because you will be in the middle of a conversation with someone and a group of Tanzanians will walk by you  and you'll here this word thrown around as if it were an old dish towel or something.  The best part, they are all laughing when they say it.  Luckily, along my travels I have gotten quite good at Swahili, so I only look and smile.  Where was I, Ah… okay, so when I arrived in Moshi, my bus driver wanted me to stay on the bus.  I should highlight that this is not standard practice.  Actual Conversation (to my Swahili speak followers, forgive the spellings):  

Bus Driver:  Wewe (You)
Me:  Ndiyo (Yes)

Bus Driver:  Where are you going?
Me: (Looking over my shoulder at the ATM across from the roundabout) hapo (There) pointing to the ATM 
Bus Driver:  Hapana, Kwanini? (No,Why)
Me: Eh? Nini? (What?)
Bus Driver:  You stay here, I will take you to the guy you are going to meet
Me: Ehh?
Bus Driver: Ehhh?

At this point I am semi-concerned and genuinely confused

Me: Nini Rafiki? (What friend?)
Bus Driver:  (Smirking as though I should know who this friend of mine is) Please…aka (sit)
Me: Eh? Rafiki Iko hue Wapi? (Where's this friend?)
Bus Driver:  Still smirking…Eh….Funga…Sawa (close…okay)
Bus Driver:  Rafiki…Hakuna Matata, No worries (Friend…No worries)

This conversation carried on for another 2 or 3 minutes until I managed to say my goodbyes and eventually managed to step foot off the bus toward the nearest ATM.  I don't know exactly who it was I was supposed to meet, but apparently they really wanted to meet me.  Was I overly skeptical?  Probably, but you never know.

Now comes the funny part….well interesting to say the least

I make it an effort when I travel abroad to always no where I am going or at least appear to know where I am going.  I failed at this my first few hours in Moshi.  After departing the Matatu (Bus) from Arusha to Moshi I made my way to the first ATM I saw.  Sadly, the network was down, so as I stood on the corner of the roundabout, I spotted a Mzungu, wait-not one Mzungu, but two Mzungus!. Excitement begins to fill the confused look on my face with assurance.  I've got this and so I assuredly began to follow the non-backpack carrying Mzungus…with proper distance of course.  I mean I don't want to seem like a creep or something.  For some reason during the crossing  of the roundabout and avoiding the many buses and cars I lost sight of my golden ticket to finding the hotel I made reservations for.  They literally just disappeared.  Here I am walking up and down and these streets knowing full well that the longer I appear lost, the more dollar signs begin to form overhead.  And so…as usual some street kids appear.  Normally I would be excited to be offered the help, but these kids are..how do I say it quite the business men; they somehow manage to get you to stop by every other shop while directing you to your hotel.  That's not it however, when one kid appears before you know it there are 4, each wanting you to go somewhere so eventually you can tip them.  Which I do, while finally arriving to my hotel..Kilimanjaro Backpackers.  There is much more to add..but pressed for time at the moment, I am officially Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro bright and early tomorrow (May 20).  Will add the rest once I am finished! 

Part II He was one Crazy Mzungu

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