Friday, October 30, 2009

In Khongoloti

This week I'm about a 2 hour walk away from the Zimpeto base at a Children's center called Khongoloti. There are approximately 30 children here. I think I will like it here much better than Zimpeto. Since they're in the middle of construction I get to actually do something. Although even here it's hard to convince them that I capable of work. Nobody seems used to visitors who work, just the ones that give away money and gifts. I think Iris is probably living off the commerce coming from Christian Tourism, where Christians come to see the miraculous going-ons of Heidi Baker's ministry and of course want to be apart any way they can, which is usually just financially. The people at Zimpeto pretend to disdain this Christian tourism, but the truth is they thrive on it. The kids are especially prudent, they are worse than touts, instead of selling taxis and buses and hotels for a little something off the top, they are selling a relationship with a real-life African orphan in exchange for cell phones, mp3 players, musical instruments, and all-expenses-paid vacations at their new-found friend's house in the western world. The adults are almost just as bad. Sharon, one of the 'hospitality' staff, was sitting at a lunch table with me and some of the boys from 'her' comarada and we were talking about the possible events of the day, one of which happened to be watching a movie in the 'library'. Somewhere she says to me 'gosh I sure do love my comarada, we've got to get a tv in there sometime though, oh I just wish. (She makes like watching a movie in the library were a rather arduous ordeal and I originally thought maybe it was in a different part of town or something where we had to drive or walk the kids, like the swimming pool or something, but it turned out the 'library' was just one of the classrooms on campus) Then she says to the boys, you guys just wait till we get a donation, once we get a donation I'll get you guys a tv. The whole thing was just so blatantly a plug. I'm not really dissing them though, If I were in their place I'd more than likely be doing the same sort of stuff, although hopefully with better aimed discretion, so all the more power to them, I hope they get all their heart's desires. All I know is that it sucks to be in a position where people expect you to give them stuff. I can't help feeling that my potential for relationship is doomed by the certain disappointment of the other person's expectations. Yes, it’s a nice fucking ipod. No, you can't fucking have it. I fail to see how it should make you any happier than it currently does me; and even if I could see it, I'd probably still say no just because of the way it makes me feel when you eye my shit like a vulture waiting for my sense of propriety to die under the weight of the steadily increasing guilt of having shit that other people don't have. Yes, I'm aware that in most perceivable aspects, my life is far more desirable than yours. This is something that we both have to deal with. I have to decide just how uncomfortable I am with our disparancies and just what I'm willing to do about them. You, in turn, must figure out how to live a good life despite it all. And yes, I realize too that it is part of your job in this game of mutual existence to make me uncomfortable by raising my awareness of your need, but there is an extremely fine line between a legitimate call for justice and the selfish manipulation of this universal human virtue and the fact of the matter is that I just don't trust you to tell the difference. Yes I think that you should access to as much education as I've had, as good jobs as I do, and as comfortable a lifestyle as I have, I think everyone should have this kind of access. However I don't know what I'm going to do about your insufficiency right now, but it's not going to include giving you my laptop, I need that to write, or my ipod, I need that to meditate, or my guitar, I need that to express myself, or my money, I need that to get home. Why do my needs come before yours? I don't know how to answer that, I honestly don't. Maybe I'm just selfish. Maybe I haven't realized that the true secrete to my happiness is literally giving up all that I have and living a life of service to others and abandon for my own well-being. Maybe all the rationalizations I make to myself about how my conceding to your immediate desires won't help the problem but will instead just make it worse for you and harder for me to help in the long run are all just self-preserving propaganda that prevents me from facing the truth of my utter selfishness. I honestly just don't know. I honestly just want to go home armed with the confidence that the life experience of these last 6 months has handed me and see if it’s enough for me to be happy. I just want to leave all you needy people with your justifiably shallow concerns and your understandably depraved understanding of me and my culture and I want to go back to a place that is rich in all the ways that I want to rich; where the pleasure people receive in my company doesn't come from status or potential monetary gain, where I can be myself deeply and be deeply understood. Perhaps I am romanticizing a home I never had, nor will ever have. Perhaps my life will be a perpetually dissatisfied quest. Jesus. His role as the answer to life becomes clearer now. Oh Jesus. Were you not so plagued with your name and its millions of idolatrous worshipers I think I should love you too. Instead I must hate you in order to do my part in stemming the onslaught of sin and bringing rise to the fullness of your glory and seeing your kingdom established on this Earth.

Anyway, Khongoloti gets very few visitors. There was a South African named James who used to come every so often. One time he brought a cousin, also named James. The kids all call me James Tres (3 in Portuguese). The only white person here is a girl maybe a year older than me named Bethany. She's been here less than 10 months and she pretty much runs the place. There is a pastor and his wife here from the Congo but I hardly ever see them talk to the kids except to tell them to do something for them.

Anyway, the thing I really wanted to say was that here at Khongoloti I've already had a couple of "I'm in Africa" moments that I haven’t had since I was in Chomoio or maybe a few times in Tanzania. These are moments when you are suddenly struck with where you are and how different this is from life that you have lived and will continue to live and all of a sudden life becomes full of awe. In Africa its usually unabashed poverty that causes this sensation, but here in Khongoloti it’s the pure goodness of the kids. I have already picked out my favorite kids here. I never met a single kid that I liked at Zimpeto, but here I have about 6 that I wouldn't mind taking home with me if I had to. Antonio tops the list. He is eleven years old and has a disposition that makes you want to get his autograph so that you can say you met him first. I don't know if he has any talent but he's definitely a rock star in that he is the coolest person you will ever meet and doesn't even know it, and probably never will. He's incredibly bright, which was discernable from just talking to him for a minute. He's so cool, not offended by anything, nice to all the kids, helpful to all the kids, looks after the ones that are younger than him, doesn't appear to have a selfish bone in his body, but he's not a push over either. He just is, exactly the way that is ought to be. His amazingly attractive personality spills out tangibly too, he'll probably be very popular with the ladies.

Another one is Neide (pronounced Ned by me). This kid is like 5 or 4 years old and has the cutest personality maybe I've ever come across. He’s silly, but invitingly so. He's not trying to get attention, but he certainly doesn't mind it either. And then there's four-year-old Shtelyoo [spelt the way an American would pronounce it in lue of knowing the actual spelling] who I mostly mention because he is physically the cutest child I have probably ever seen. I'm not really a kid person and I don't think all children are cute, in fact I am rarely possessed by any genuine admiration for their immature appearance, but this kid is gorgeous. You can tell he's going to be beautiful all the way to the end. One can't help but lament that such features should be bestowed upon the sex for which they shall earn the least appreciation. If this kid were a girl she could have it made as a supermodel with a dazzlingly rich and famous husband. Another good kid is Nelyoo (again spelled according to American pronunciation). I can never hear a word he says, but I'm touched by the candor he can evoke through his shyness and want to give him anything he desires.

The only kid that I wasn't enamored was Blessing, who I found out later was actually the Pastor’s son. But in the end he came through was rather helpful and certainly superior to any kid I've yet to meet at Zimpeto.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The other day I decided to take a trip to the local market for some bananas, bread and to try to find an internet cafe (They have wireless internet access at the base here but they don't let visitors on the network, instead the give us 2 hours every week at their 'internet cafe' for $2 / 20 minutes. They also ban access to facebook.). I was a little nervous walking out the gate because they very sternly warned me never to leave the base my myself and have repeatedly made it painfully clear that visitors are under no circumstances 'permitted' to ride the public transportation here. Walking out of the gate I bore undisguised intentions to commit both these crimes. I baulked when I first heard these rules (Which was the minute I stepped of the public transportation that had brought me to base, by myself) because for the last 5 months I had been traipsing about solo in far more dangerous places than Maputo (I subsequently broke both rules the next day when the 'hostpitality' team's promise to help me get my bags from Charles' house fell through.) I felt better once outside and past the Iris property although my chances of being seen were still as high as ever since there's only one road into town and very very few white I could have been confused for. A little ways down the road there was a flatbed truck temporarily pulled to the side of the road with a man and a boy sitting comfortably on a couch fastened to the bed of the truck. I smiled at them as I was walking past and just as they were about to hit the road again they beckoned me to join them, which I did. After engaging in niceties as far as my Portuguese would allow I tried to offer them the standard Chapa payment, but they refused adamantly. I was honored at having received my first ever free ride from strangers in Africa and I smiled to myself as I thought how this private get-up prevented me from having to acknowledge that I was guilty of taking 'public transportation'. I have since taken left the compound a number of times and taken a number of chapas. I'm sure God will punish me for the cavalier attitude with which flaunt my disregard but I'm willing to take my blows as He sees fit.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I have officially announced my blog to the public. I've been writing for a while but I didn't feel comfortable really posting anything until now. Now I have enough material that any one post will have lost relative significance in the context of the blog as a whole. Plus whoever considers reading this blog now will feel daunted by the great mass of content so there will be fewer casual readers. I'm not sure exactly why that would be a desirable result, but it is very very late right now (I just clapped a mosquito and then smeared him all over my pants.) and I had to stay up so late because this is probably the last chance I'll have to edit my blog for at least a week or so.

Anyway, welcome, I recommend reading the blog in order, date-wise, since that will reflect me in the best possible light, and because if you don't read the parts in order they wont make any sense.

toilet paper

I've come down with yet another bowel affliction. The regularity with which I seem to endure these bouts of toilet-hovering tempts me to make a comment about developing empathy for menstruation, but that might be in bad taste. Besides my periods seem to take place nearer to 3 times/ month, so the comparison isn't very symmetrical. Today was the most anxious I've ever been about reaching a toilet in time. We were sitting on a bus to the city and I was knelt over with my head on the bench in front of me praying "Oh God, please deliver my bowels to an appropriate resting place," all the while Luke was chatting to me about what it's like in Bwane and wondering how politics worked in Maputo, and asking me questions to which I could offer only vague shrugs and grimaces. I felt bad about being rude and wanted to explain that my intestines were currently very busy tying themselves into thousands of tiny, aching knots; but I couldn't find the words. In town I had to walk a block to the mall where I knew the nearest public restrooms were. I wish I could have seen the expression I wore on my face, so as to imitate it in the future as it proved to be rather effective against touts and street vendors. I wasn't approached once. Of course that also might be attributed to the fact that my walking speed must have approached 15 miles/hour. I burst my way into one of only two stalls (far too few for such a busy restroom) and found that the door was broken and wouldn’t shut. I picked the whole thing up off its hinges (its wasn't a normal flimsy stall door, it was a full sized whole-meter doorway door) and jammed it into the doorway. The restroom attendant yelled at me and in my frenzied state I very rhetorically asked him, in Portuguese, if he had a problem. Seeing that I had already barricaded myself in, he retreated. All I can say is that I'm very very glad that I carry around my own toilet paper.

Post Tanzanian Recollections (Part 2)

I had noticed her on the shuttle of course, I always notice any pretty girls that enter my field of vision. She sat a row in front of me on the other side of the isle so I couldn't get much of a glimpse of her face. She had been reading almost the whole trip, as had I, and a few times, out of curiosity and an urge initiate contact, I had been on the verge of asking her what she was reading but I was aware that I smelled bad, not having showered during my last 3 days of continuous African travel, and I was aware of how odd I must appear leaned over on one but-cheek, both legs and an elbow straining to keep all the pressure off the middle of my rear-end while all the while trying to look casual and read a book; so instead of drawing attention to myself I settled for trying to sneak a look whenever she paused her reading and directed her gaze out the window on my side of the van (it was Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier).

But now she was standing in front of me, nearly as tall as myself, her backpack slung over her right shoulder, and an expectant gaze coming from her round green eyes. After making sure that it was indeed me that she was addressing I attempted to decipher the accent I that didn't immediately recognize as German and then proceeded to reply to what I thought was "My Aunt wants to know where you are staying tonight." I still don't know what she actually said but it turned out that she was a Med. Student who recently finished an internship in Tanzania and was now on the final leg of of a tour of Southern Africa. She'd seen Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Angola, a couple other countries I can't remember, and was now headed to Southern Mozambique before heading to Swazi, Lesotho and southeastern South Africa, where she would be returning to Germany and Med. School via Capetown. She was using a travel book to guide her through the dark continent and though I doubt my misinformed reply about being lost and stuck really meant anything to her, she proceeded to tell me that she was trying to find a place called Nelspruit Backpackers recommended by her travel guide. I took the hint and offered to split a cab with her to the establishment. When the cab arrived we learned that the taxis in South Africa charge per person, as well as charging per Kilometer. I bargained with the driver and got our fare reduced, but he was so willing to reduce that I supposed perhaps cabs in South Africa are meant to be bargained for as much as the Masia jewelry sold in Tanzania; in which case I once again experienced the ever more common phenomenon of being ripped off in Africa. I'm sure we were ripped off because we payed R45 (almost $7) to go not quite 1 block.

The hostel was a good experience for me. I think I'm falling in love with hostels. I've yet to stay at a bad one. This particular one was run by an old South African ex tour guide named Jimmy who was certainly eccentric if not flat out weird. His long gray hair, and scattered teeth, (eagerly made visible via an enthusiastic, though mischievous, grin) were complimented by tattered clothes that looked like they might once have been a uniform of some kind. He slept in a tent on the deck and was quite enthusiastically welcoming and seemingly knowledgeable about the area. His humor was decidedly self-deprecating in a manner that, though obviously meant to be humorous, felt much like an esteem-less bid for attention. I liked him very much but he was unreliable and didn't wake up to check us out and unlock the safe where our valuables were kept until 9am. For dinner, Eva and I walked back to the shopping center from which we had hailed our cab and had pizza and beer. We both enjoyed it very much, neither of us having had pizza for months. I was feeling confident by this time, it was a wonderful feeling. Meeting Eva changed the whole dynamics of my voyage. I was no longer alone, and I was no longer with backwards Christians. I was having fun and finally able to share it with someone. This someone being a rather pretty girl from another country made the whole experience novel and exciting for me.

Eva is a smart girl, about to begin her final year Med. school. She is observant and thoughtful. She is quiet and not especially initiating nor apparently opinionated. She seemed to find all of my suggestions agreeable and we went around largely at my discretion. I think it was probably Eva's amiability, which I interpreted as a kind of trust, that boosted my confidence so. I felt like she was as eager as I to be in each others company. I liked it.
I'm surprised I didn't guess Eva's nationality from the get-go. She has a German face, slightly more round than oval, cute and youthful, with eyes almost the same shape except sideways. As cliche as it sounds I really was first struck by her eyes. They were a clear green and looking into them provoked the sensation of peering to the bottom of a swimming hole in a swift moving creek. My attraction to her was easily enhanced by her 'hipster?' 'European?' style, short blond hair in a ponytail, blue and black flannel jacket. Tight, modern, but not exceptionally 'trendy' jeans, retro-styled shoes (Edit: I really don't know much about fashion or how to accurately describe it, apologies to friends like Kristen or Brandon from whom I observantly gained what little understanding I have)

Tanzania (part 9)

The next morning I was sunburned, only on my right side, from the trip to Sefu's village. Sefu came and returned my bike, good as new, and we exchanged contact information. There was a new manager on duty and I had breakfast, no eggs this time. This new manager puzzled me a little. He spoke almost no English at all, he was not from the area and could tell me nothing at all about where anything was, and he seemed to be a couple cards shy of a full deck. His name was Hamza and he was visibly concerned when I did not remember it from the night before when I was having beers with Sam and Richard. He spelled it out for me and told me of its significance in Arabic. I told him I was a Muslim too but he did not believe me. He would always be trying to get my attention in at the bar so as to say things like "I do not see you today". He gloated with unveiled pleasure as he told me, without any provocation on my part, the meanings of 'Serengeti' and 'Kilimanjaro' in the Masai language ('wide place' and 'high mountain' respectively) like a school child reciting the days Latin lessons for his mother. I figured the guy must be working here as part of some family favor or something. I asked the new concierge for a menu so that I could see how much I had been spending and quickly realized that I could not afford to eat another meal here.

For lunch I wandered over to the village next door in hopes of finding another restaurant of some kind, instead I found a girl selling various pastries and deep-fried goods in a glass display case. A boy nearby came over and offered to help me with his little bit of English purchase the treats. His name was Baker. I tried to make a joke about his name being Baker and helping me buy pastries. In retrospect its probably best he couldn't understand me. I ordered 3 pieces of andazi (a kind of fried bread), 3 fried potatoes, and 3 Sumosas (A triangle fried crust with something stuffed inside) stuffed with potatoes; all for less than fifty cents. Baker asked me if I wanted anything for dinner. I asked him if he knew where I could find an octopus. He gestured in the affirmative and asked what time I would like to eat. I told him 6 would be about right. He said he would come and get me. I showed him where I lived. I was a bit uncomfortable with how quickly he attached himself to me. I told him I was going to go meet some people and went to find Sam and Richard at the bar next door where Wanawandoku worked.

Tanzania (part 8)

Sefu spoke English. He told me he worked for the people who owned the house and for the people who owned the boats, they were not the same people evidently. He was headed to Arusha tomorrow to meet the people who owned the boats. He kept the house for them and he kept his motorcycle in the garage. He wanted to ride me on his motorcycle. I was rather obliged since my bicycle had gotten a flat somehow during the period I had been walking it through town. In town Sefu helped get some water. We then sat and did nothing. I had told Sefu I was looking for a place to get lunch and so I thought our sitting was waiting for lunch. The village kids and came to sit and talk to me. They laughed as I tried to imitate their speech. After about half an hour we walked around some more, for apparently no reason. Sefu didn't talk to me very much. He seemed very content just to sit or walk around with me doing nothing, not talking except when I asked him questions, which I soon ran out of. I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on. Sefu took me to meet his family. They welcomed me into their reed hut and then we just stood there together. I must have said "asante sauna" (Thank you very much) 5 times just to break the silence. Then Sefu walked out, not encouraging me to follow him and I stood alone with his family. They all looked at me and I looked at the reed hut architecture. I finally just left, saying asaunte sauna over and over the whole way out. I was then confronted by a lady that my missionary friends would have said was possessed by demons. She talked to me for about 10 minutes saying something about Malaria and aids, all the while making provocative gestures towards me. People gathered around us and laughed. She asked me for a coke. It was a very strange experience. Sefu finally got impatient and told me to follow him. We got back on his bike, went back to his place, and looked at my bike with its flat tire. Two guys drove up on their motorcycles and talked to Sefu for another 1/2 hour. One of the men looked like a younger Fidel Castro. He was shorter and had a bad limp, but he had a very nice picki picki (Swahili for motor bike). He was dirty and scruffy and looked like someone that would be in a movie about South American drug wars, or the Cuban mafia.

Finally Sefu was ready to go. I told him that if he'd just tell me where to go I could probably find my way. I was tired of being led around. He insisted that he intended to take me to the food, I hoped that meant 'now'. I asked him about my bike and he said they'd fix it here and he'd bring it to me tomorrow before he left for Arusha. I left it with the Masai boy. As we rode past the next-door village that I thought he was taking me to, nearest my lodging, I asked him if we were going very far and he said no. It was dark when we finally arrived. After about half an hour of talking to people in this distant village, Sefu told me that nobody was serving chapatis and that this was because they were considered a breakfast food here. I had originally mentioned chapatis because this was the only local food I knew the name of and had wanted to emphasize the fact that I wanted local food and didn't want a pricey touristy restaurant. I winced hoping that our delay hadn't been on account of a wild breakfast chapati hunt and told him that really, anything was fine, anything at all. I figured now that it was dark I wouldn't have to worry about the sight of an unconventional dish restricting my appetite. Sepu placed an order and we went to a corner store for a coke. I noticed a woman selling cakes. Sefu said they were rice cakes. I bought two. They were sandy.

The restaurants in these villages consist of a Mama, two pots, and re-barb charcoal-burning barbeque/stove. The Mama's tend to have a specialty that they make more or less everyday, the more advanced restaurants might have a few specialties they rotate between meals. Everyone in the village seems to know who makes what and when. So for somewhere between 1 and 2 dollars you can go sit down and have a Mama warm you up a local dish of ugali (a kind of corn meal that looks like mashed potatoes, in Mozambique they call it sudza) and meat gulag, or rice and greens saturated in coconut oil, which is what we had this particular night, I think. The candle-light that flickered romantically during the course of our meal did little to illuminate the dark green mass that I was stuffing into my face with a spoon that had been borrowed from the "restaurant" down the street. I asked Sefu the name of this dish that I imagined might have been seaweed marinated in coconut oil but his response was un-pronounceable and I was too tired to request further clarification

There was only one table at our restaurant so we shared with a few other men, one of whom introduced himself in excellent English as "Wanawandoku." He said he recognized me from that morning at the resort where he had been visiting and swimming with his brother who was also staying at the resort. I then recalled that I had likewise noticed Wanawandoku that morning, though I didn't recognize him now in the dark without his orange swimming trunks. I had also noticed his brother, though I balked at their hereditary relationship, Wanawandoku being a tall, bald, broad chested, muscular man with a round face and jutting forehead and his brother being a shorter, rather scrawny rasta (rasta being the term here for a dread head) with larger eyes and a struggling goatee. Wanawandoku recanted with the admission that they were half brothers.

don't know when I first adopted my alias, but it has since become standard for me to introduce myself to strangers here in Africa as 'Jack.' Maybe it was Sefu or Hot Hot or someone before, but sometime during this trip to the coast I decided that the better reference under which I might identify while here would be Jack. The factors contributing to this altercation were primarily practical. 'Curtis' does not exactly roll off the tongue of non-english speakers, nor does it seem to fit very well in their ears, especially when attempting to nestle it in with my sometimes less-than-audible mumbling, north-west american accent. I will usually offer a number of phonetical variations before my new acquaintance feels ready to have a go at repeating the sounds out-loud himself, the result is usually something like 'kaad-teez'. But I tell them, 'Honestly, I don't even like fish.' Seriously though, even with fluent English speakers I have to carefully concentrate when enunciating my name to avoid becoming 'Chris'. Thinking about how I say my name is rather tedious and I do dislike repeating myself. While I'm on the subject I might as well admit that in my own opinion 'Curtis' is just plainly a terrible name (My apologies to any sensitive namesakes). It's like a running together of the words 'curt' and 'hiss'. There are no well-known figures bearing the name of 'Curtis', except maybe Stephen Curtis Chapman, who I only really mention for Brandon's sake, but even then it's just his middle name. In fact I have never heard of or met any admirable people sharing my name. I remember my mother once explaining that she picked the name because to her it meant 'courteous and kind'. These are not especially inspiring traits, in fact to my ear they harbor faint undertones of superficiality. In any case I have for many years wished that my parents had simply named me Jack. Jack is the perfect name in my eyes. It is a very normal, unassuming name easily pronounced in almost all languages. It has some history and infers and has an everyday guy sort of feel but is not over used like John. In fact I can only remember meeting one Jack in all my life. Oh how I wish I had been named Jack.

Anyway, after dinner Sefu lent his bike to a friend to run some errands and then 45 minutes later we got the bike back and Sefu dropped me off at Drifters. Back at the resort I introduced myself to Wanawandoku's brother who was sitting at the bar with his sponsor, a 50 something white guy from Portland named Richard. The brother called himself 'Sam.' I asked him if that was short for something and he said 'Samuel'. I asked him how he had gotten the name Samuel and his brother got Wanawandoku. Richard, who had apparently met the whole family a few days before, informed me that all the siblings had western names except Wanawandoku. Richard was a bit tight. Both Richard and Sam were very welcoming and seemed eager to share their company with me. Sam came off rather happy go lucky and spoke with an accent that sounded split between french and Jamaican, though he claimed to have lived in Tanzania all his life. Richard evinced something of a cynical exterior that acted more like a wave function in his alcohol-elevated state and often collapsed into admissions of heart-felt sympathy for the down trodden, profound declarations of absolutes, and intimate familiarity with the universal goodness of mankind. Sam and Richard liked to argue. Richard would swear and curse and call Sam all kinds of names and Sam would smile and argue back and sometimes Sam would get and offended and sometimes Richard would recant and turn to me and affirm what a good kid Sam was (Sam was 25) and how much he really liked him and how Sam really knew this and that they were just arguing but sometimes Richard would just make fun of Sam for getting offended. Richard was putting Sam through a school of tourism in Arusha. Sam was a tour guide and was hoping to become a park ranger or a manager or something once he finished his education. I don't know how they met. Richard was now visiting again and Sam was showing him the coast and his childhood home.

Tanzania (part 7)

The next morning my butt was surprisingly tender from all the bike riding the day before. I went to breakfast where the concierge asked me what I wanted. I couldn't really understand what he was saying so I just said "sure". He brought a piece of PoPo (Papayas, which I now know are not Coconuts, thank you Colbus and Charles) and then asked me if I'd like an egg and toast, I said "sure" again and poured myself a cup of tea at his invitation. After laying down my plate with the egg and toast he said "That's extra", meaning of course that my free breakfast had just been usurped by a $5 egg-toast combo. For some reason this comment really threw me out of wack. Something about the deception, the outright conniving, the pettiness, the feeling that I was nothing except the change that I could cough up, I don't know, but the man's smugness was impenetrable. It was clear that he was religiously dedicated to the notion that all visitors must spend a certain amount of money, and that my living in a tent and eating free breakfasts was not attaining his preconceived quota. I didn't know what to do; I was incensed but felt powerless and began getting depressed. My passive-aggressive reaction was the decision not to eat another meal at that bar (except maybe a more guarded "free" breakfast). After reading and lying out and swimming for the rest of the morning, I hopped on my bike and decided to ride to the village next door to find some lunch. I should add here that the actual owners of the resort, a South African man and Tanzania (I think) woman, were actually very nice, letting me use their snorkeling equipment for free and later erasing breakfast charges made by the concierge.

Instead of going to the village immediately next door to the resort I decided to visit a village down the way that I had noticed the day before when I took my joy-ride on the beach. It was further away but I wanted some time to vent and I wanted to see the other resorts from the inland side. I got to the village and had to walk through it because it was sandy, people stared at me and I tried to act casual and offered a smile and a "Jambo!" to everyone I made eye contact with. I got to the end of the village without seeing any place that looked like they sold lunch. As I was about to turn around I made eye-contact with two Masai children, an odd sight out here on the coast so far away from traditional Masai territories. They were dressed just like all the other Masai I've seen, including their handmade knives and shoes, but the colors they were wearing included yellow, green and orange, whereas the Masai I'm used to seeing wear only red and blue. I tried to talk to them but they didn't speak a word of English and I only had a few stock phrases of Swahili. I was trying to ask if there was anything further down the road, pointing to the apparent dead-end where the road turned into a trail. The eldest boy, who looked maybe 14 or 15, started walking down the path and beckoned me to follow him. I was more curious than hesitant and went along with him. Along the way I tried to ask him if he knew where I could find some lunch. He kept referring to Sefu; I thought maybe it was a restaurant. We entered a clearing in the Palm trees and I saw a house, a legitimate concrete house, not one of the reed huts that populated the village, with two boats visible in its garage. As it became evident that we were heading toward this residence I became a little uncomfortable. I didn't want to show up at some wealthy guy's place and explain how I was pseudo lost and looking for food. The Masai boy however, whose name I've forgotten, was intent upon delivering me to "Sefu", which I hadn't quite realized was the name of the person that I was about to meet. We reached the gate and stopped. I looked behind me to see a young Tanzanian man walking up the trail behind us. The Masai boy pointed and said "Sefu".

Tanzania (part 6)

The next morning I woke up and the disco next door was still blasting American Hip Hop music. Hot Hot arrived with my bike and I asked him if there was a place with a better beach for a better price. He said the best beach around was 16 kilometers south near a village called Ushango, but It was a resort spot and most of the places there were pricey. He made some calls and found me a tent on the beach for $10/night including breakfast. He said a taxi was very expensive, like $25, but that a guide could show me the way via bicycle for $10. While we waited for the guide Hot Hot told me he'd take me to the bank to change some money. It took an hour to get to the bank because Hot Hot had a million errands to run. At the bank I realized that I left my wallet in the pillow case at the hotel. I rode back for it and found that the maid had already found it and was keeping it for me. I thanked her with 500tsh, which was a good tip but a poor reward for a lost wallet. I felt guilty for my stinginess and after I had gotten my money changed I gave Hot Hot 10000tsh, 5000 for himself for being helpful and restoring my faith in the Tanzanian tourism industry and 5000 for the maid for returning my wallet. The bank would not change my money because my bills were older than 2003. Hot Hot took me to a sketchy Pakistani market vender who gave me 1300/1. I changed $100 and he gave half of it to me in 1000tsh notes. My wallet would not fold properly and I struggled for 5 minutes fitting the fat wad into my back pocket. I felt rather awkward literally stuffing my pockets with money in an African marketplace.

Hot Hot suggested we get lunch while we wait for my tour guide. After I paid for both our lunches (totaling about $4), he put my bag on his bike and told me he would take me out there. He said that the guide he had tried to get a hold of was busy with some other tourists. We crossed the river on a ferry and began our trek to Ushango. Hot Hot was struggling, especially on the up-hill segments of the trip. I wanted to hurry, impatient from having been delayed all morning. I suggested that I carry the large bag on my bike. Hot Hot was reluctant until I assured him that I would still pay him the $10. (Digression: I'm not sure why I brought so much stuff. I didn't use half of it. Every place I went had sheets, pillows, and Mosquito nets. I never used my shoes. Everything else would have fitted in the smaller bag.) I didn't have any problem with the weight, but the awkward size made things difficult. On the bike, every little turn threw me off balance. I didn't really have to steer much, but the last few kilometers the road was very bumpy except the far edges where the bicycles had made a smooth path. Navigating this narrow strip between the edge of the road and the bumpy interior was challenging and I fell into the ditch twice. I was still far ahead of Hot Hot though. I wandered if maybe something was wrong with him because previously he had spoken about how experienced he was on a bicycle and how he was able to make it to Ushango by himself in under 30 minutes, whereas bringing tourists always took over an hour. I don't know how long it took us but I was glad to have arrived. My laptop case strap had worn a rash on my right shoulder.

The concierge/bar manager of the place, which was called "Drifters", tried to talk me into renting a bungalow for $25. He did not try to hide his outrage when Hot Hot told him that the deal he had arranged for me with the resort's owner included free breakfast. I did not like the look of this concierge, tall, balding, and shrewd, in a selfishly cunning sense that constructs room for indulgences; and although he calmed down and repeated told me through-out my stay to "Be free" I was glad when he was replaced. After Hot Hot left and I unpacked I gave all my valuables and bags to be put in the safe since I was staying in a tent literally on the beach (the tide came within a meter of soaking me). This is when I realized that I had also left my passport under the mattress at the Catholic hotel. For the rest of the afternoon I rode my bike down the beach until I reached a creek too deep to ford. On the way back the tide had risen leaving me only the soft sand to travel on and forcing me to walk the bike back. I didn't get back till dark. I had dinner and 2 beers at the resort bar. I didn't ask how much it was because I didn't want to deal with the concierge guy. I really didn't like that guy. Based on the menu of the bar of the last hotel I stayed at, which was quite a bit nicer than this one, I didn't think it'd be too bad. I later learned that my dinner cost more than my bed. I went to sleep reading Life of Pi.

Tanzania (part 5)

At the post office I bid farewell to my new friend and found my way to the Standi (bus station), hopping on the first Dala Dala to Pangani (with the help of only 8 touts). I knew almost nothing about Pangani except that it was small and south of Tanga. The internet had very little information on the place. I originally thought I would find a cheap place near the beach in Tanga and stay there the whole duration of my week, but upon finding Tanga not really having much in the way of nice beaches, nor any accommodations near these imaginary nice beaches, I decided I'd be better off with a blind visit to the tiny neighbor to the south. I was a little worried when I arrived and realized that I only had like $50 in Tsh (I was suppose to change more in Tanga), and no idea whatever where to go or how to get there. I entered one of the worn down buildings bearing the label "Tourist Information" and began browsing the brochures. Eventually I was greeted by an "official" tour guide named 'Manweli' (Kiswahili for Emanuel I think) who went by the name of Hot Hot. By this time I was extremely suspicious of anyone who showed an interest in "helping" me, but Manweli, or Hot Hot, was legit. He helped me find good places at good prices, took me everywhere, rented me a bike for 2000tsh/day and when I once forgot my passport upon changing hotels (I moved to a remote resort spot some 16kilometers down the way), he retrieved it and saved it for me upon my return.

I spent 1 night in the town of Pangani at a hotel on the beach run by the Catholic Church. It was quite nice actually, the room was clean except for a few bugs that must have wandered in after the morning cleaning and were now expressing a painfully slow demise via asphyxiation from residual insecticide. The hot water showers didn't really work but the water was naturally luke-warm. The room had a kind of porch like something you might find in an upper level apartment building, except smaller, and fully screened with mosquito netting. The hotel had a bungalow-style restaurant and bar on the beach which was actually pretty decent and not too expensive.

The first thing I did once I got settled was hit the beach. I wanted to do nothing except swim in the Indian ocean, catch some sweet African rays and read the book I borrowed from the Borden’s called Life of Pi (overall a good story. it left me unsatisfied, but I'd still recommend it). The day I arrived happened to be the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a national two-day holiday in Tanzania, a predominantly Muslim nation. The joint next door happened to be a Rec. Center/ Disco and I'm pretty sure that all of Pangani and its surrounding villages had come to celebrate. I walked a little more than a mile or so down the beach to get away from both the surplus revelers and the mouth of the Pangani River which was only a few hundred meters from the hotel, muddying the water and littering it with plastic bags and coconut shells.

I have strange concepts of security. I'm definitely one of those people who'd rely constantly on a hide-a-key instead of carrying my keys around with me. I didn't bring anything valuable with me to the beach except my room keys and a few shillings, and when I settled on a place to lie my towel I buried my keys and the shillings in sand beneath it. In my hotel rooms I always hide my wallet and passport, usually under the mattress or inside the pillowcase. I don't really know why I do this, I doubt I'm out-witting any would-be robbers and often I forget that I've gone all winter-time chipmunk on myself and end up losing my shit (as was the case the very next day when I left for Ushango).

That night I had a beer and chicken stew. I also broke out the rum I had been saving since my time in Chimoio with Africa 180. It tasted absolutely terrible, even mixed with a bottle of coke. Maybe it was the weeks of African heat and sun. I couldn't drink it and threw the rest away later that night. The chicken stew was actually just broth with 5 potato halves and a chicken leg in it. The stew was tasty, but the chicken might as well have been a Masai tire-shoe for all the meat I could shred from it. In the stew was a yellow, medium sized, roundish foreign pepper which I mistook for one of those tasty delicacies often found at good salad bars. I popped the entire thing in my mouth and chewed expectantly. It was a number of seconds before I realized that, not only was this not the salad bar ornament I remembered, but it was in fact rapidly corroding every nerve ending in my mouth (I have since learned that it was actually a habanero pepper. seriously why would they put a whole pepper in my stew like that?). The tears came out my nose. After drinking all the water and beer on my table I resorted to the rum in desperation, which surprisingly didn't help at all (that is an understatement). I cried for probably an hour.

Tanzania (part 4)

I had decided that I wanted to go to the coast and left on the tenth day for Tanga, which I picked over Zanzibar for economic reasons. I got ripped off of course at the bus station, paying a tout a luggage fee that I afterwards learned did not actually exist, bye bye $5. I don't mind long bus trips. And here I've learned not to mind either a lack of any personal space during on these trips. The trip was beautiful though, starting in the lush jungle area in the raid shadow of Mt. Meru, proceeding through the desert that followed, entering into the rain shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro (though not being able to see the mountain itself due to a foggy morning) then back into desert, then passing miles and miles of Cycil (sp?) plantation which I originally mistook for Pineapple plants due to a similarity of appearance, and then an hour or so of palm trees. I arrived in Tanga late afternoon. There were about 10 men promising to be my taxi before the bus even came to a complete stop. One of them grabbed my bag before I was even off the bus and started off to his taxi. Third World Travel Trip: Never ever go with the first tout that approaches you, always avoid the most aggressive helper wannabies and instead pick the ones in the rear, the ones who appear to have been beaten to punch. If you pick the most aggressive characters, as I have tended to do, they will feel that their aggressiveness has earned them something, they will feel that they have won you, and they will be more inclined to use aggressive behavior to manipulate you further into their will. Conversely if you pick the stragglers, you create a scenario in which your tout's good fortune comes from your own beneficence and not so much the application of his calculated and forceful demeanor, thus increasing the chances that his stance towards you is one of gratitude and that he will deal with you more as a generous benefactor who will hopefully reward him if he treats him well rather than a vulnerable tourist who can be coerced into coughing up some extra spare change.

The following anecdote will illustrate this principle: Though I was rather irritated with the man who had taken up my bag and headed toward his taxi, and though I had stopped him and took my bag from him, I proceeded to enter into negotiations with him. There were a couple of hotels I had found online that I was considering, namely Ocean Breeze hotel and Inn by the Sea. I was leaning toward Inn by the Sea because I had heard it was actually ocean front (a fact that my tout readily affirmed) whereas Ocean Breeze, though cheaper, was actually in the downtown area. The taxi tout wanted 5000. I said 3000. He said ok and I realized that I needed to work on my bargaining skills (btw the exchange rate is about 1$ to 1300Tsh). Just then one of the other taxi men exclaimed that he'd take me for 2000. This man looked more desperate but not forcefully so. Looking at him I knew that I'd rather ride in his taxi than with the impatient volatile man that had been the first one to take my luggage. However my more passive nature did not want to upset this man with whom I had originally entered into negotiations, and I felt in that moment a kind of obligation to him for having talked to him first so I decided that if he met 2000 that I would stay with him despite having preferred to go with the kinder looking man. He did of course, but reluctantly. His reluctance set off alarms in my head and twice more I checked with him, "2000?" "You will take me for 2000, not 3000?" "Your sure, 2 000?" "yes, yes yes" he replied, "2000" rather curtly, and he hurried me to his taxi, which actually wasn't his, he was only touting for it, which confirmed my tuitions that I ought to have gone with the other man. On the way to the hotel he angrily vented to the driver, I'm guessing against the man who had under bid him. The hotel cost more than I expected. From internet guides I thought it'd be 10000-15000 but the manager insisted upon 20000 and would bargain, which I at the time blamed on the tout who accompanied me into the lobby against my will. I didn't want to go to a different place because I knew that my angry taxi tout would be sure to over-charge any deviation from the original plan in order to make up for being underbid at the bus station. I conceded. My bargaining troubles did not end there however as my taxi tout refused to accept the 2000 we had agreed upon and threatened to take me to the police for not paying him. "This is not possible, my friend!" he yelled at me, "Do you know how much petrol costs now?" "We agreed on 5000!" "3000 is ok, but not 2000!" I was agitated, I felt a little sorry for him for having been under bid the way he was, but I was sick and tired of being conned by touts and I was not going to budge on this issue. I told him to call the cops, left the 2000 on the desk and went to my room. The hotel concierge stood and watched the entire 1/2 hour scene with indifference, I got the feeling that he expected I should pay and when he pretended not to speak English when I asked him to help me get rid of this lying tout I was sure that the two were in some kind of unspoken cahoots against the mazungu (Swahili for white man, also used in Shona btw).

In all it was probably the worst hotel experience of my life. The hotel was not ocean-front, it was bay-front. The "beach access," for which I had favored this hotel over the Ocean Breeze place, led to a mangrove forest (known in Africa as "malaria trees" because of their excellent hospitality towards mosquitoes) covering the shore. But even if I could have accessed the water I wouldn't have wanted to swim in that filthy water. The promised hot water showers were cold, not even luke warm, just cold. The room was dirty and smelly like the bay. The Muslim concierge obviously didn't give a shit, was decidedly difficult to communicate with, and spent most of his time behind the main building smoking cigarettes and sipping on his flask. But above all the place had zero security, no guards, no gates, no bars on the windows, nothing. In Africa, an evidential lack of security measures cannot possibly suggest a relatively safe community, especially not when all the neighbors are obviously armed to the teeth with barbed and electrical wires. A 12 year old girl could have kicked my door in, and an 8 year old could have picked the 18th century locking mechanism. The concierge added immensely to my paranoia. He insisted that it was perfectly safe for me to walk the 3 blocks down the pitch black, unlit streets to the nearest restaurant, and when I asked that he keep my laptop bag in the hotel safe while I was gone (as was explicitly suggested by signs posted up all around the hotel and inside the rooms), he flat out refused, twice (the second time in spite of my direct insistence), telling me that it was "no problem" that I could keep it in my room. At this point I was positively certain that the concierge was in cahoots with the taxi tout and some form of organized crime syndicate that robbed helpless tourists like me who refused to play generous money games with taxi touts. Instead of getting dinner I locked myself in my room, hid all my valuables through-out the room, and piled all the furniture against the door. I slept wearing my headlamp with the light on and both my knives; blades already out, against my side.

The next morning I ate my complimentary breakfast (an egg and toast with tea) and walked with all my stuff the 2.5 miles back to the bus station, adamant never to stay another night in Tanga. The walk was rather pleasant actually, I spent first half of it alongside a fellow tourist. He was a 59 year old man with an accent I couldn't quite peg. I overcame him as he was taking a photo of Baobab tree. When I caught his attention he told me what kind of tree it was, apparently expecting me to share his touristy interest. I didn't give a shit, but I didn't mind being able to talk with someone who didn't see me as a source of income. He told me he grew up in some Arab county, Iraq or Iran, I forget, and then he went to school in Germany and got a job in Spain from which he had recently retired. He divorced his wife when he left Germany, or she divorced him, I forget, and he was sorry about it but he had to move to Spain, that's where his job sent him, she didn't want to move to Spain and he was sorry for that. He had a girlfriend in Kenya now. She wanted him to come back to her. He wanted to see Tanzania and Malawi first. He was her sugar daddy.

Tanzania (Part 3)

I was met at the bus stop by Jesse himself. His familiar face, a bit more shaggy than I had remembered, erased my misfortune, both material and biological. Seeing his face again was worth it all. He drove me in the organization's land cruiser to the house his family stayed in. It was very cozy and secure. The Borden’s are beautiful people. I'm sure any mutual acquaintance will attest to this. And I knew this of course, just from knowing Jesse and his brother Trevor. Never-the-less I was struck by the beauty of their existence. I couldn't have asked for a better place to recover from my illness. I could have asked for a more pleasant illness though. The first night at the Borden’s I developed volatile diarrhea on top of the fever that had turned my sleep into one long semi-lucid nightmare. I literally shit myself that night and then again the next night. It wasn't fun. All the while my bread and cheese went uneaten; a total waste in the end, especially considering it might have been that long hot walk to retrieve the scrumptious victuals that initiated the onslaught of illness in the first place. Apparently I strained particularly hard during one of my frequent excursions to the toilet, a little too desperate to evict whatever was cruelly plaguing my intestines, not actually having eaten anything that would have created a substance to evict. The result was a hemorrhoid that manifested the day after I was certain I was getting better (about the 3rd or 4th day at the Borden’s) Jesse took me to a doctor who prescribed me some antibacterial and something else I don't really know, the whole visit, including meds, costing me $30. Whatever the Doctor prescribed worked like a charm and I was much much better in two days time. By this time I had been at the Borden’s for almost ten days. I had read all of my Buddha book, half of my Jung book, the whole of Pete Grieg’s new book about unanswered prayer (provided by the Borden’s), and the whole of Blue Like Jazz by (also provided by the Borden’s). I also read a few short stories by Flannery O'Conner (another Borden book as well). I also had very good conversations with Jesse. While watching him make drums we talked about life and religion and family and friends and girlfriends and futures and pasts and love and loneliness. These conversations made the trip for me. Also included, though not well remember because of the fever, were some parties, some movies, and some poetry, which I might include somewhere on this blog. I also remember trying and failing to make a pair of Masia tire shoes.

Tanzania (part 2)

I survived the bus ride ok. It was run by a fancy hotel and they only sold as many tickets as they had seats and it didn't stop to pick up anything extra. It was also an outrageous $25, about twice as much as a standard African bus fare of the same length. At the Border I was conned out of $100. The story is terribly embarrassing and I still can't believe how stupid I was. I blame it all on the fever. To get through the border you have to first declare your exit from Kenya on the Kenyan side of the border. You then Cross the border and declare your entry to Tanzania on the Tanzanian side of the border, purchasing a visa there if you don't already have one. I am not familiar with this method of border crossing as I have almost always entered countries from airports. At this particular border, as I have come to understand fairly standard in Africa, there are no signs directing travelers, nor do the official immigration buildings stick out in any noticeable way from the rest of the buildings in the border town. You just have to know where to go or be with someone who does. My fever had not improved any since that morning and I was slow to get through the line on the Kenyan side. When I finally made it through and came out of the building I didn't recognize our bus and couldn't find anyone I remembered being on it with me. A conman obviously spying my confused countenance and probably sensing my weakness came up to me and told me to follow him as he was from my bus. I knew of course that he was not from my bus and corrected him on the name of the company to assert the point. He impatiently responded that they were all owned by the same company and that I didn't understand. I knew of course that he was full of shit and that he was probably up to something but I couldn't really see any other alternative and was worried about missing my bus so in my weakened, borderline delusional, mental state I followed him like a goat being led to the dinner pot.

He led me up to a man wearing a red beret. In retrospect the man appeared very insecure and uncomfortable. The man leading me asked me if I needed a visa, to which I replied yes, because I did. He told me to give the man wearing the beret my passport. I was reluctant. "Show him your passport!" the man demanded. I looked around for any sign of unbiased assistance and while we were drawing the attention of some of the people around us, they all proved to be of the same seedy character as the two men that were now confronting me. I handed the man in the beret my passport, which he took, looked at, and then proceeded to place some Tanzanian currency within the pages and hand me back my passport. This did not strike me as a bona fid visa processing operation and I objected more resolutely, positive now that these guys were not the people I was supposed to be dealing with. However my objection was met with even more insistent hostility. "He is an official!" cried the man who conned me through the border, "you must pay him!" This phrase immediately evoked in me a memory of someone, maybe Tracy Evans or someone else likewise experienced, telling me that often the police in Africa went around without a uniform and that the temptation to resist these inconspicuous authorities often resulted in jail time or the payment of expensive bribes. By this time I was surrounded by men yelling at me and beginning to shove me and trying to grab my passport and wallet. The man in the red beret just stood there looking at me expectantly, but not saying a word. I'm sure that had I not had a fever I could have read in his eyes that he knew he was doing something dishonest that he didn't really believe he could get away with and that I should not be listening to all the voices surrounding me. However as it was I had very limited access to my mental faculties, I could see no people coming to my aid, and thus no hope for being rescued from my fear of offending a corrupt official and getting into trouble that I could not afford. I gave them a $100 bill. The man in the red beret gave me a few more bills and they told me I could go. As I was walking away, rather exasperated, my bus drove up and my bus driver proceeded to tell me with due agitation how mistaken I was to have given them anything. I got in the vehicle and glanced back just in time to see the man in the red beret outwardly exulting with unrepressed exuberance and glee at his great fortune. I, of course, was incensed, mostly with myself. I was guided to the actual immigration office and paid another $100 for an actual visa. I got back in the bus and then realized that I had left my ipod in my bed at the hostel that morning.

Post Tanzanian Recollections (Part 1)

As you might have noticed I've added a lot of posts recently. Most of these have been a belated attempt to transcribe my recent travels. Since I was writing them all together over the course of the last few weeks they tend to be a bit scattered and sometimes overlap and don't always follow a consecutive order. I've tried to organize these into a somewhat temporal, event-minded scheme. This 'Post Tanzanian' series will hopefully cover the days following my time in Tanzania and Preceding my stay at the Zimpeto base in Maputo. Also at the time of my editing this it is very later at night so I haven't cleaned it up as much as I probably should. (Begin blog)

I'm not sure how far back to include in this post, I haven't really written anything about my journey since I've came to Africa and it's all been gaining momentum such that I'm having a lot of trouble catching up. I'm so far behind myself. Oh well, this entry I will start two days ago when I left Arusha with Jesse Borden and concluded my adventures in Tanzania (which of course I will try to find time to document as well (Edit: I have documented much of this now and it can be found in the rest of the blog)) Jesse and I bussed for about 7 hours till we got to Nairobi Kenya where we would both be catching planes out of the country the next day, Jesse being headed for Amsterdam where he would be speaking with his parents at a 24/7 prayer conference before heading back to Santa Barbara to live and work near to that wonderful Westmont community, and me being headed for South Africa where I would rendezvous before heading back to Mozambique to finish my voluntary term of service here in Africa. In Nairobi Jesse and I parted. Jesse went to visit his brother Collin who was ending his first month at a boarding school just north of Nairobi and I stayed in the city at a lively backpackers hostel called "Upper Hill Campground" for about 9 dollars. I recommend it highly to anyone looking for a friendly budget accommodation. It was good to see Jesse. His family is wonderful and I feel better about the world knowing they exist.

When I first got to Tanzania I arrived terribly ill (a blessing upon the Borden family for their caring for me) with fever and eventually a malicious intestinal flue, my struggle with which earned me a rather painful case of Piles. I saw a doctor and he gave me some meds that seemed to do the trick and within 4 days I was good as new, though a bit skinnier. However my anal bane returned a few days before my departure while I was adventuring on the coast, 12 hours outside of Arusha. The next three days consisted of nearly 30 hours of travel, 19 of which were on bumpy Africa highways in ratty Africa buses. My hemorrhoid hemorrhaged (is that possible?) during the first 2 hours of travel. Despite the unending pain and discomfort, It was actually a very nice trip, one which I could (edit: and now have) fill at least 3 full pages with details.

At the hostel in Nairobi they were completely full but they put up an extra tent for me. I put my stuff in the tent and went to find an atm so I could pay for my taxi to the airport the next day and an internet cafe so I could contact the people I'd be working for in Maputo and also try to arrange a ride from the airport to the guest house in Nelspruit I'd be staying at the next day. I took a matatu (Kenya's word for the cheap little vans packed to the brim with people that serve as East Africa's main source of public transportation) to the place recommended by my host and found myself inside a very nice mall, much like something you'd find in any western country except for the guards walking around with AK 47s. I got some cash and used the internet, although I didn't find a ride from the airport in Johannesburg to Nelspruit, and on my way out I spotted a book store and had to take a peak (I'd already read all the books I brought with me to Tanzania) and ended up walking out with a new copy of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (I have a copy at home but never got around to it) and a used copy of a book called Quantum Society or something like that, as well as a $20 hole in my rapidly dwindling budget (I think I've spent more $4,000 since I've been in Africa, not including the tickets to get here. I came thinking I wouldn't need more than $2000). I'm very happy with both choices so far. I walked the 5k back to the Hostel where I watched a relatively new movie by Woody Allen, the title of which I was never informed, with a British guest at the hostel returning from her climb up Kilimanjaro. I can't believe I haven't seen all of Woody Allen's movies yet. This one was about two girls who have very different, very stereotypical opinions on love but end up both falling for the same stereotypical, mysteriously romantic yet pained, foreign, artistic figure. It was a portrait more than a story. It had something of a twist. I thought it was brilliant.

Rachel was the name of the girl I watched the movie with. During the course of the night I was struck by the notion that she'd like to have a fling, maybe even with me. I have long fantasized about having flings, particularly flings with beautiful strangers in beautiful places...

(Edit: the rest of this particular section of this blog has been deemed sensitive and has been moved to my private blog where I post sensitive materials about myself and other people. To gain access to this blog you will have to apply via email)

At the airport I discovered that my plane was scheduled to leave an hour earlier than my ticket suggested. They acted surprised when I told them I had not been informed. luckily I had come extra early because my taxi driver misheard me when I told him what time I was to leave and picked me up half an hour earlier than I was expecting him (6am). I was actually thankful for this change because even though I missed out on an hour of Ana Karenina, it meant that I might have a chance to contact the shuttle company when I arrived and arrange a ride to nelspruit before dark. On the plane I had a whole row (3 seats) to myself. Because I was the only passenger with this luxury there was some strange solidarity-inspired guilt that initially prevented my from indulging myself upon this couch that someone's absence graciously supplied, however my the anguish of my hemorrhoid quickly overcame this senselessly noble self-deprivation.

When we landed I finally got a hold of the shuttle company and arranged a ride to nelspruit. However they didn't have the early shuttle that I was hoping to get and I was faced with the very real possibility of having to walk across town at night with a heavy pack, a laptop and a hemorrhoid. I didn't know the number of the guest house I was supposed to stay at, or where it was in relation to the shuttle stop, and for some reason my phone wouldn't call any of the Mozambican people that might be able to give me the number. On the shuttle, a guy originally from nelspruit but moved to the UK and was engaged to a woman there and who was wearing cool shoes that he said lasted him 11 years and cost him 170 Pounds tried to help me find the place with his iphone. I was hoping when we got to Nelspruit he would give me a ride. He didn't. On the shuttle, as it began to get dark and I felt worried about the future I meditated Buddha style (I read a book about Buddha written by Deepak Chopra (sp?) while I was in Tnz, and then gave it to a kid in Ushango whose family fed me alot and who helped me find andazi for breakfast and octopus for dinner and marijuana for later) I let all my fears of all the possible things that could happen flow through me and I let myself imagine them and all the worst possible scenarios and I just let them be and found myself within them and faced them so to speak and then I felt ok, because no matter what happens, I am. This meditation style also helped me deal with what had become by this time fairly intense discomfort arising from my hemorrhoid (the positions I tried to sit in on the shuttle made the lady beside me noticeably uncomfortable). I let the pain be and realized that I was experiencing pain, as did many many other humans beings, many of which were suffering far greater than I, and I explored this universal human experience of suffering and I knew that out of this I would become greater than before. At the shuttle stop as I realized that I was on my own and everyone was grabbing their bags and leaving with the friends and relatives that come to pick them up, I was just about to ask out loud if anyone knew of someplace nearby to stay when a pretty blond girl dressed rather stylishly came up to me and asked a question.

Tanzania (Part 1)

This Blog has become much longer than I originally intended it to be. Instead of editing it shorter I'm just going to post it in pieces, that way it will appear that I have spent much time on this and hopefully it will appease all the people (Mom and Dad) who've been pestering me about what's going on here. It's rather boring and tediously written in most places. Also this first part was written while I was drunk at a bar in Tofo.

Curtis's Adventure in Tanzania

When I first sat down to start transcribing the Tanzanian leg of my adventures in Africa I decided to smoke one of the marijuana joints I had bought the day before in Ushango. I don't have very much experience with marijuana yet and I imagined that smoking might affect me similarly to alcohol (I'm actually quite buzzed at this very moment), lubricating my mind a little and enabling the thoughts to flow freely. I have heard that people use marijuana to help inspire their art, music, etc... And so I thought I might be able to write better from this altered mind state. I sat in my hotel room in Pangani and lit up and then wrote the title to this entry. I then realized I had no desire what-so-ever to proceed further and after probably 10 minutes I don't think I could have constructed a coherent sentence even if I did possess the motivation to do so. That night I was high out of my mind. There were moments when I was certain that I was paralyzed and could not move. I didn't like it very much, my mouth was telling me that I going to die of thirst but I didn't have any water, so I started drinking out of the sink before realizing that the water here is not sanitized for drinking. A big group of people from the UN arrived and I could hear people walking around and talking outside my window, which did not have any glass, and outside my door, the windows above which did have glass but I contrived to stuff my pillows over them to keep the smoke in anyways. There were moments I was sure that the serious sounding Swahili banter outside was the police asking the hotel staff where I was and how much they could make me bribe them not to go to jail. I played music and tried to enjoy it especially since there was nothing else I could possibly do (it took me almost an hour to spread the mosquito net over my bed) and I think I did enjoy it a little, but I was so far gone that the outside world felt like a place I might never be able to return to. Sometime during the night managed to crush yet another pair of glasses. The next morning I began the 9 hour journey back to Arusha where I would meet Jesse and we'd bus together to Nairobi where I would fly out the next day to South Africa and then bus to Maputo where I was to begin volunteering at the Iris base in Zimpeto.

I got sick the day before I left for Tanzania, a fever. I had diarrhea too, but that was nothing new. I was sitting in my room at the Roadhill lodge in Johannesburg, from where I'd be flying to Nairobi, after a long walk to the grocery store and back for bread and cheese for dinner that night when I realized that what I thought was simply fatigue from a long walk on a hot day was mandating that I sleep, which I did for about 6 hours. I woke up at 10pm and realized that I was sick. I attributed it to the stress of packing the night before and the last minute uncertainty of what I was to do with my extra luggage and how I would get to the shuttle stop etc... I put in my earphones and listened to Paul Scheele’s Genius Code which I had pirated a number of months before while still at school and which I have found to be a tremendously beneficial meditation aid. I then explored my illness, exercised my fever ridden mind and affirmed the sovereignty of my health. I did a mixture of this and sleep all night and found myself feeling much much better the next morning. I was bummed though because I never ending up eating my bread and cheese that night and I had already paid for my hotel breakfast the day before when I checked in.

At the airport I wanted to find a place to spend the last of my South African Rands but I found myself in a bookstore and ended up buying a book about Buddha by Deepak Chopra and a book about Carl Jung, which I found out later, was written with illustrations like a comic book? and as such was bizarre and confusing. Since I didn't have quite enough rands, I paid with the only currency I had, which was a $100 bill, and had to accept the change in South African Rands, thus accomplishing the exact opposite of what I had initially set out to do. Chopra was quite good though. I then when to the bar and had a few drinks and almost missed my flight (They board like 45 minutes before departure here!). I also had a drink on the plane; having previously learned alcohol is complimentary on airplanes in Africa. I ordered a scotch, not ever having tried scotch before, and received a double shot and then found that I didn't like it and it sat on my tray for the rest of the flight. I will blame my not liking scotch on the fact that it was an airplane scotch and not because I am not manly enough for straight warm scotch, although probably I'm just not manly enough for straight warm scotch. (It wasn't even warm, it was on ice)

At the hostel in Nairobi it became evident that I was still sick. This was hard to swallow because the hostel was such a lively, interesting, free place. I wanted to really experience it but I went to bed at 9 with an aching fever. I was afraid I wouldn't wake up in time to catch my bus to Arusha, for which I'd have to get up at 0530, so I was waking up every 15 minutes and checking my phone for the time. Sometime in the night I learned that my sheets, which I had taken off a neighboring bed with the understanding that they were intended for me, were dearly missed by some offended traveler. Luckily I was not discovered as the culprit of sheet theft. In the morning I didn't think I'd be able to stand up, let alone pack and carry my bag to the taxi stand. Every act of will was excruciating, every deliberation a mental torment, but the adrenaline I received from the threat of missing my bus pushed me forward. About 5 hours later I realized that in the agonizing fog of the morning I left my ipod in my bed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

a despondant attitude at Zipeto

Today was a lazy day for me. Last night I returned from Machava to find that the Americans from Kentucky left me some of the food they packed over here from America. My section of the pantry was stacked with half eaten to-go cups of Jiffy Peanut butter, open packages of Saltine Crackers, and various assortments of American junk food. God Bless America. I skipped breakfast and lunch at the canteen today and just snacked. I started two books, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam and My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani. I also discovered that I lost two books, the Portuguese in 3 Months book I stole from Africa 180 and the emergent Christianity book I found here at the visitors library in Zimpeto. I also lost the phone charger I use to charge my speaker. I'm a bit unnerved at my recent propensity for losing shit. That makes 5 important books I've lost and 6 important gadgets. I guess it doesn't really matter since its all just different ways of wasting my time. Other than reading and eating I did nothing today except pick up the guitar for a few minutes and watch the 4th episode of Flight of the Conchords Season 1. And write this. I tried organizing my room and "getting settled" a couple times, but finally I decided that I don't really care and I'll just throw all my shit in a corner if I end up getting a another room mate. I swear I'm going to start doing shit though, like exercising, writing, studying, and practicing. If I could just get myself to do an hour of each everyday. I wouldn't care what I did for the rest of the day. I just gotta get in shape, learn Portuguese, catch up on my blog and figure out how to play this godamn guitar. I guess it probably sounds bad that I'm not least bit interested in whatever's going on here at the orphanage. The staff help me out a lot in that area though by not giving a shit what I do with my time here. I never back away a request for help or anything, but I don't go looking for a chore I don't want to do either. Yea I have a shit attitude, but its only on this blog. Everybody here thinks I'm wonderful, if a bit reclusive. They all feel guilty because they don't have time and shit. I let them feel guilty, because guilt is an excellent manipulation tool. I really hope I don't get a room mate, this place is a shit hole.