Day Four: April 7, 2014
Sleeping in was fantastic. I woke to my alarm at 8 AM and felt very rested. I walked out into the living room to find everyone but Carmelle awake and working away, despite it being a public holiday. I said good morning, walked back to my room to change, and had some time for morning prayer. After that, I got dressed and had an unusual but delicious breakfast of...avocados! I cut one open, added some salt, and sat enjoying my very simple but yummy meal, which I doubled by cutting up another. After finishing my breakfast, I took a good chunk of the morning documenting the events of the previous day. Carmelle entered data for her research into her computer, and Josh, Amelia, and Charisse all spent the morning on errands in town. In addition, Amelia offered me the chance to use her internet here at the house, which to this point I didn't even know existed. I journaled while waiting for the local internet software to load, and then sent an email home with updates and assuring Ali that I was still alive.
After journaling all morning and waiting for the rest of the crew to come back for lunch (which apparently is usually taken at about 2-3 PM), Carmelle and I finally made our way out for lunch as the others opted out to continue errands. We ventured down into town and among the various shops and businesses. The area in which we walked was a bit more developed than what we saw the previous day. After about ten minutes walking and three or four turns here and there (not too far from the main road), we arrived at "Deluxe", a restaurant that was recommended by our housemates. We perused the brief Swahili menu, and after confirming what everything meant, ordered some "Pilau Nyama" or brown rice with meat, as well as a Passion Fruit Fanta. The food arrived just minutes later, with a hefty helping of seasoned rice with chunks of meat, really flavorful beans, chili sauce, some vegetables, and a small banana, which I assumed was dessert. We hungrily scarfed down some food on the small patio facing the cloud covered mountain to the north. With a little extra chili sauce, the food was rather delicious, and the Fanta a bit sweeter and less tart than a pineapple soda. The whole large plate of food was 3000 TZS (or about $1.85). With the two drinks added in, we both got out of there with full bellies for under $5 USD. I dominated my food and was very full.
Then we made the brief walk up the hillside to the dalla-dalla station by the hotel and bank. Our destination was Mjenga, an area we were told had many shops and markets. Carmelle meant to find some fabrics for home, whereas I went along for fun and in the hopes of finding a few groceries (bread, peanut butter, and snacks for the next few days or so). We jumped on the van for 500 TZS (about 30 cents) apiece and arrived at our stop in about 8 minutes, after waiting almost as long for the owner to fill up the van to his satisfaction (ie filled more than safely). Along the way, he leaned half his body out the side window attempting to find (ie call out to and recruit) even more passengers. It was incredibly dangerous on his part, I thought at least. We passed some furniture stores, a petrol station, and multiple market areas before finally coming to a station where multiple dalla's stopped. We jumped out and made our way through the bustling markets, passing furniture stands, little kiosks with everything from phone cards to Fanta's to stuffed animals, and even a metal/aluminum cutting shop.
As we made our way down one of the main roads looking for fabric, we passed a couple food stands, a truck with loud blaring music, a group of older locals sitting outside in chairs in what appeared to be a religious gathering, and some grain selling stands. Unable to find any fabric, we walked back, and as we approached the elder congregation and music-blaring truck, I was about to comment that I thought they must have been a religious group. No sooner had I thought this when I noticed writing on the truck windshield that said something like "Gospel Mission", and two seconds later LOUD music blared a song that consisted of two or three words followed by "Hallelujah!" over and over again. That answered my question.
We backtracked a bit and went down a narrow alley (a bit sketchy, in my view) that we had skipped over previously. Down a few stalls and past some muddy road and puddles we found a fabric stand, where Carmel bought 6 meters of purple fabric after trying to obtain a price for less. We left and proceeded a bit farther down, locating another fabric store next to a stand that seemed to be one for hardware (I saw wiring, light bulbs, and the like). As a rooster crowed not ten feet away, Carmelle bought a smaller swatch of blue cloth and was done searching for her fabric.
Now it was my turn. We crossed the busy street, almost being run over by a motorcycle trying to speed past the paused traffic on the shoulder, which of course doubles as a pedestrian walkway. We arrived safely all the same at the "Elegante" Supermarket. This really was the size of a small convenience store. Among the items were cookies, bread, candies, chips, and the like. No fruit, no real milk, etc. I was happy to finally have the chance to buy ANYTHING. I ended up passing on most supplies as anything beyond mere staples were SO expensive. A box of American cereal: $7. A jar of peanut butter: $8. A chocolate bar: $3. I scoffed at this, especially considering the advice Carmelle gave me that the prices for the more luxury goods might be cheaper in town. Instead, I just bought a loaf of bread and some cookies and decided to finish shopping later in the week.
Then we set to flagging down a dalladalla, which took longer than anticipated. We walked back to the station we arrived at and were told we had to walk further down away from town on the other side of the road to the opposite direction station. As we did, we kept trying to just flag down a dalla going our direction. After three or four with men leaning out the window looking for passengers passed us by, we caught one and jumped on. After that, it was a quick 5 minute nonstop ride to our "Bank" stop by Mbeya Hotel. We jumped off and Carmelle offered again to draw some shillings for me from the ATM, which I gladly accepted. We arranged that i would send her a check in the states to pay her back, and in moments I went from depending on her for all payments to borrowing and having 200,000 TZS ( about $125) in my wallet. It felt amazing to just have the ability to buy things myself, and so after we arrived back at the house and found it locked an empty, of course I had to spend a bit of it. We walked back to Mbeya hotel and sat down with the Expats who made hobbies of cursing and throwing darts while drinking local beer. After a few minutes, I had ordered my Castle Lager and paid for it BY MYSELF. A few minutes later Carmelle decided to try back for the house again. I stayed behind and watch the expats play darts for a bit, finishing my Castle and then, of course, grabbing a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. I was tempted to take the bottle back to the house, but after being told I would owe another 1000 shillings (or 33% more) to take the bottle (which the businesses keep for the refund), I stayed and hung out with the expats a bit more, watching some play volleyball and others curse about their frustrating forays into mutliple dart games. After my two 500 mL bottles, I felt just fine and dandy. I was happy to have a bit of control over my finances back, and marveled that finally I could kill some time if needed by hanging out somewhere and just buying a small menu item to justify my presence. It was one less frustration on my list.
I finished my bottle, walked back to the house, and arrived to find the siblings making dinner. As Carmelle and I had already eaten, we just nibbled on some toast with jam and small biscuit cookies, spending time with the other housemates and chatting. After a small dinner and some coffee, I was content that my holiday was well spent catching up, resting, exploring a bit, and finally getting a bit more of a hold on this east African town. It was time for a shower, where my progress in not making a huge puddle on the floor was clear, then a short bit of talking as the siblings locked up the house and we all retired. I finished up a couple moments of journaling, and now it's time for evening prayer and however much reading I can take before sleep comes...which will likely be almost none...tomorrow is my first day at the Baylor/Tanzania Pediatric HIV clinic!