Thursday, December 12, 2013

Arusha first impressions

I've now been in Arusha, Tanzania for four days. It seems to be a medium-small city with a pretty rural feel to it. People keep asking me to compare Arusha and India when I tell them where I've come from though I find this comparison project pretty intractable.

Mostly I am qualified to speak on the relative ease of living for a foreigner with no language skills and general impressions of traffic and food. Some people have been unwilling to accept that I find Arusha quite a bit less chaotic than Mysore in a lot of senses. The traffic is simpler - it is mostly cars and vans as opposed to scooters, motorcycles, rickshaws and animals and people more or less follow lanes and honk only when it is necessary to alert someone to their presence. Tooling around on Klara's motorcycle is extremely enjoyable. When its not cloudy there are beautiful views of country side, Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro. There are also fewer animals wandering around.

I don't know any Swahili which is a bit challenging here. Many people know English but not as consistently as I found in Mysore. Swahili is a little more graspable than Kanada - I can get through greetings and remember words for items on menus. I have also learned the word mzungo which means white person and is sort of a chant that follows me around the city.

The language barrier makes the market here harder for me than the one in Mysore even though it is a little smaller. A bit tangentially - I was struck the first time I went to the market by the powerful and diverse smells. This market has meat! Alive and dead! Also there is a fish section. I never thought about how different the scents of different kinds of dead animals are before now.
Wali Na Maharengei (beans and rice). The other staple starch is ugali which is corn flour paste and tastes like nothing and gives the sensation of eating play dough. Needless to say it is harder to be a vegetarian here but it's not too bad. I do miss the cheapness, plentifulness and tastiness of South Indian food.
One of the luxuries of visiting a friend is that she knows cool people who take care of me. Yesterday Klara's friend Rob who is a guide for people headed up Kilimanjaro and other expeditions called her to tell her that a few of his clients were headed out to a hot spring and I could join if I wanted. So 6 of us jumped on a public bus to Boma Ng'ombe. When we got there we negotiated a half hour taxi ride which turned out to be two rickshaws (not as common here actually) over totally rocky off road terrain terminating at a completely idyllic crystal clear water hole. A few times we had to get out and walk/ push our vehicles over obstacles - I was pretty impressed that we made it but it was totally worth it. The water wasn't hot so much as perfect swimming temperature and the shining attraction was definitely the rope swings. Some of my travelling buddies pulled off some impressive twists and whatnot and I had a blast mostly just swinging around and then dropping like a big splashy rock.
Because I think Rob is fantastic and took Klara and her room-mate on a really nice Saffari and is super passionate about Kilimanjaro and guiding Everlasting Tanzania Travels is his company. More about the Saffari thing later - it's a bit of an odd phenomenon.
Rope Swing

Two of my travel mates swimming around in a little patch of paradise.
Today I am taking advantage of the internet and drinking water at the music school Klara works at which shares a campus with the International School of Moshi mostly attended by the children foreigners. They are getting ready for a concert tomorrow and winding down for the year.
At the school

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last days in Mysore, first days in Arusha

I arrived in Arusha Sunday afternoon after 24 hours of air travel and queuing for air travel. Just a quick heads up to anyone leaving out of Bangalore - it took me 1.5 hours to get through check in, immigration, and security at 2am. Also I got to go through the women's security line which is faster than the men's. Otherwise the trip was basically smooth and even relaxing in the sense that when I am flying I have zero obligations and can do whatever I want. I had great seat-mates on my flight from Dubai to Uganda and slept most of the way from Bangalore to Dubai.  It turned out that I needed proof of a yellow fever vaccine to get in to Tanzania (this is new I think) even though when I checked before my trip it wasn't required. Fortunately I could buy such proof in Entebbe (erm...)
Me (fresh off the plane) and Klara at the largest Polish cemetery in Africa.  Because what else would be our first stop in Tanzania?

I spent my last day in Mysore going out to Melukote which is a town 50km north of Mysore and home to some famous big temples (of course. temples everywhere) with some of my favorite people from my Mysore times - roommies Beth and Chris, Louise from Brighton and Megan from Montreal. It was gorgeous and a nice way to say good bye to India. Better than sulking around Gokulam and thinking of everything I'm gonna miss.
This isn't Melukote. Megan and are waiting outside the Chamundi hill temple after a sunrise climb and this monkey is stealing peoples offerings. (File under things I will miss)
My last practice was with Saraswathi was a led class on Saturday. It was nice to end with the led class - once a week we go to a class where Saraswathi calls out the counts and the postures and we all practice together. Every other day people do their own practice to their own timing. It's sort of relaxing to go to led class even though there is a risk of being left in hard postures for a long time because you don't have to remember what count you are on or what to do next. You can just sort of let the class sweep you along.
Letema was part of my welcoming party at Kilimanjaro airport. This is him in the Arusha history museum with a picture of President Nyerere who was the first president of independent Tanzania and is a national hero.
With Saraswathi after my last Mysore practice. 
So I'm back to learning a new city and a new currency. Klara seems to have some plans for us. We've been driving around on her motorcycle which is a blast and Letema took his holiday yesterday (independence day) to tour me around and get me oriented. It was really really nice of him. He also told me about his experiences growing up in a Masai boma and moving to the city. As he says - you could write a book about it. I hope he does - he is very unique and incredibly interesting. In the interest of getting this up before I run out of battery I will pause now but more on Arusha later.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The last coconut

So I am leaving Mysore tomorrow night. Some friends and I are taking a day trip to Melukote tomorrow before I take a taxi to Bangalore so today is my last full day in Mysore. From here I go to see a wonderful friend in Tanzania for a week and then I return to the land of dark and raining and potable tap water.
Last night I was thinking about my time here in an over-all sort of way -what I liked, what I didn't like, what questions got answered, what new questions I have, will I come back? when? I had some trouble pulling apart my experience in to good parts and bad parts so instead here is a list of some of the things I do here that I don't do/had not even really imagined doing at home:

1. Wear puffy green pants with elephants on them un-ironically and without ever being asked to explain my fashion choice.
2. Bobble my head back and forth especially when talking to an Indian who is also bobbling (see here)
3. Finish breakfast by eating cookies covered in peanut butter. In general eating something sweet at least once and often multiple times a day. Smoothie for dinner is not uncommon.
4. Grab my ankles every day. Its starting to feel really good. I will really miss Saraswathi's backbending adjustments. I know after I spend some time practicing on my own (which means not grabbing my ankles because I will fall over) coming back to it will be scary again. I feel like I have overcome that fear several times but it comes creeping back. Oh well. I think maybe that process is worth something too.
5. Chant in Sanskrit. And I like it too. That was not expected for me.

So its more or less on to the next place for me. I am a bit sad to go. I have made friends who I will miss and there are aspects of life here that work really well for me. But also I am super excited to see my friend in Tanzania. And I will be happy to come back to Seattle and see my Seattle people and get some work done. Not being able to focus very much on work has reminded me that I really like what I do.
Me with Dr. Jayashree (L) and Sri Narasimhan (R)