Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 18: Not quite a safari...

Day 18: April 21, 2014

I was proud of myself this morning.  Despite being tired, despite being dark in my room, and despite only snoozing twice, I woke up in time for 6:45 AM Mass.  I got dressed and headed down the road, which was quiet even for a Monday, as it was a public holiday.  In retrospect, I noticed that the were no nuns along the way to the Cathedral, but it was daily Mass and I hadn't yet made it out so perhaps that was normal.

I was frustrated with myself this morning.  I arrived to a Cathedral with locked doors and an empty parking lot. I walked around and found a posted schedule. Today was a feast day, and the Mass schedule clearly read "0300 Asubuhi".  Now, another lesson in Swahili time.  There is no 24 hour clock.  There is no AM/PM.  You simply add 6 hours and then follow with "in the morning" or "in the afternoon" or whatever time of day it is BEFORE YOU ADD THE HOURS.  So in our example, 0300 Asubuhi translates to 9 in the morning.  Yes, it's ridiculous.  9 AM, plus 6 hours, equals 0300 "in the morning".  In the very same vein, 9 at night/evening is the EXACT same number time but followed by "jioni" which means in the evening.  I realize that this had no impact on why I was there too early for Church.  I didn't read the schedule, but reading it again brought to mind how silly the time lingo is to a silly uzungu like me (I'm sure it makes sense to locals...or at least I hope it does, cuz there better be some reason to use it!)

I decided to take some time to take some pictures of the Church and courtyard as well as the mountain set behind it.  I looked up and saw the cross and FAR above it the power station to which we climbed, and I almost couldn't believe we had gone up that high. 

 The Cathedral grounds all pretty-fied

Shot farther out, then up close.  You see that tiny white cross on toward the right size of the screen on the mountain?  Yes, that's the cross.. Then if you look at the very topmost portion of the mountain toward the leftish side /left third you can imagine a little building...yeah, that's the power station.  And this doesn't even quite do it justice.:-P

Then I read some sad news.  On checking my phone, I read a message to BCM alumni asking for letters for Dr. Frank Kretzer, our histology and ophthalmology lecturer from the first 18 months of medical school.  He is an AMAZING teacher.  He is loud, he is blunt, and sometimes he is downright DIRTY when he teaches, but he is GREAT at it.  He loves the students, loves the teaching, and the way he teaches is, as he would say, "Positively elegant."

Dr. Kretzer recent found out that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer with no meaningful medical or surgical options.  In short, he has been given 3-6 months to live...a death sentence.  Instead of quitting his job straight away, he is making certain he finishes up his lecture duties for the year, hiring TA's for the classes for the fall, and essentially giving his PRECIOUS time to his students before he takes whatever time he has left after exclusively for his family.  This just shows the dedication to his students and to his vocation as a teacher, and I honestly know that I could NOT do it.  It is tragic, and he is being as "positively elegant" as ever, doing all he can with what time he has left.

I stopped in front of the statue of Mary near the entrance to the Cathedral grounds.  I knelt and prayed the rest of my Rosary for a Jewish man he'd probably get a kick out of hearing that.  I asked God to heal him if possible, and for our Lady to watch over and pray for him...above all asking of course for God's Will to be done and for Him to be glorified in whatever happens.  I prayed for peace for Frank and his just didn't seem real or right.  If you're reading this, please join me in prayers for Frank, and for God to bless him and fill his life with grace until whenever he decides to call Frank out of this world.

After finishing, I got up and headed back towards the house, trying to think as positively as possible or at least put the sad thoughts out of my mind.  I turned off the road to the one that parallels the stadium, hoping to find some chapati for breakfast.  It turns out I was even too early for that, as one sole seller was JUST setting up and getting the fire started.  Even worse, I couldn't even find someone open to sell me a Fanta!

 Too early for even the market to be open.

Thus, it was another peanut butter breakfast.  I washed it down with some water and set to journaling, knowing that we were supposedly going to go "do something" (as yet had not been decided) at about noon.  I journaled and journaled as the siblings directed a worker who came to help set up their garden and chicken coop areas.  Time went by quickly as I had a lot of journaling to catch up on.  By the time everyone was actually ready to go at about 12:30 or so, I had caught up to the end of Holy Saturday at least (which took FOREVER). 

Hey, I am so meta right now...

Proceeding right along from that tangent, we hopped in the truck in search of food before heading out to our planned destination of the hot springs in Ifizi (spelling?).  We first headed to Deluxe, which was clearly closed as we pulled up.  From there we proceeded to Vic's, where the lack of variety of food caused us to finally arrive at Hope Sister's where i had a heaping plate of pilau (seasoned rice) with beans, nyama (meat) and some homemade chili sauce.  We all sat down and ate, some having the kuku (chicken) and others the fish.  My food was good as always, though the meat was a little connective-tissue-ish.  The rice and beans were great, and the chile was nice on everything, spicy but not killer. I washed my down with a Coke, being careful to drink as safely as possible from the glass bottle, which I've been told are okay so long as you pour or use the area that has been covered by the cap...otherwise all bets are off. 

We paid our bill and headed out, and as my change I got one of the dirtiest 1000 TZS bills I've seen.  I washed my hands after handling it, and then decided easily to use it to buy a Diet Pepsi from the store next door.  I paid with the change I had just received, handling it with as few fingers and as few cells on those fingers as possible.

Where we ate lunch and the market where I dumped my dirty 1000 TZS

Then we were off!   It was another drive through the city and country in the back of that great old truck.  We headed out west toward Utengule direction with the mountain range to our right.  In between the sites of the city and the farmland, I couldn't help but stare at the mountain with the cross and the power station even farther above.  I still couldn't believe how far up the power station was from the cross.  I guess it didn't seem like it because the clouds surrounded me and kept me from seeing the actual height and distance...which now seemed awesome.  As I took in my accomplishment, I was quickly humbled as just to the west of where we climbed was Mount Mbeya, even higher up and obscured in view by some REALLY high clouds.  I was still proud of my climb, though.

Some pics of Mount Loleza...yeah, Mbeya is at the very bottom of that just off the far right edge of the picture.

Eventually after about 20 km, we turned off the main highway and parked outside what appeared to be a zoo.  I asked where we were, and Amelia said it was a zoo but the hot springs were inside as well.  After signing in an paying our TZS 2000 ($1.25) to get in, we were told this was not the hot springs area and that it was somewhere else.  Regardless, we decided to walk around and see what we could see.
 This sign says "Hey, really inexpensive zoo!"
 You'll poke your eye out!
 Me with Pumba and his friend. 
 Close enough.
 Too close...this ostrich is up to no good.
There's a hyena back there, I promise...and the gate to their area HAD NO LOCK.

The animal variety included two pelicans (who scared us all by opening their beaks and essentially biting at us, though pretty harmlessly behind the chain-linked fence), vultures, a caged area where lions "will be" (very exciting to know), warthogs, two types of monkeys, ostriches, hyenas, and porcupines, among some other birds and reptiles  and such (a black python, ick). 

There was also an observation deck about 20 feet up that provided a sweeping view of the Valley and the mountain range.  In the distance someone pointed out some antelope and zebras running between trees and in a clearing.  They were so far off I could hardly recognize them as such, but they were certainly there.  As we stood on the deck, a Precision Air jet flew above, reminding me of my first views of this valley and the mountains as I stepped off the plane, as well as of the diminishing amount of time I have left here.

 So pretty
 There are zebras out there!  I couldn't even tell they were zebras, that's how far off they were...and apparently antelope, too

Top: What happens when you try to take a picture with the timer and the phone is aimed too high
Bottom: What happens when you try to balance your phone and the phone flips over and falls to the deck one second before the timer goes off.

While there, Josh and Amelia had the idea to approach the owner about taking guests out on horse rides in the open area and doing horseback tours.  Wouldn't ya know it, the owner arrived just as we were getting ready to leave.  Josh walked right up to him, and soon he, Amelia, and the owner were sitting having a 20 minute or so conversation about a variety of things, I guess. 

While they met off a ways, we watched the zoo's turtles slowly explore their world, and I kept rooting for one to drink some water.  I soon became obsessed with this, and really wanted to see a turtle drink...did they every drink, I started to wonder.  Then as I was distracted by something else, Cherise called out and pointed to a large turtle taking very big gulps from the small water area.  His mouth constantly on the water, every few seconds you could clearly see his neck muscles work to swallow what must have been a huge gulp.  I imagine he was filling up his mouth as much as possible, swallowing in as many gulps as needed, and then proceeding.  He was going to town!  I was very happy.

I'll be honest, I became a little too obsessed with seeing a turtle drink some water...I had to kill the time somehow...See how happy I am?!

After this, I made my way to the observation deck and attempted to use the timer and my phone holster to take some nice selfies from a distance.  After finally getting it set up and delicately balanced, I hit the button, assured balance remained, and moved into position.  As the final beeps of the timer went off, the camera tumbled forward and landed face down on the deck.  A few skipped beats later, the phone was confirmed to be fine.  I had a nice shot of blurry sky from the flipping phone as it shot what could have been it's final moment.  After a little more tinkering, I found a way to prop up the phone that I think was actually INTENTIONALLY designed in.  I took a few photos in different directions and then realized the meeting was over.  Everyone was ready to go, as was I. 

Long-distance selfie success!  I just wish it had focused a bit better. 

As it was already 4:30 and rain seemed to be threatening around us, we decided to head back home and miss the springs.  On the way home, we stopped to feed the horses, and while Amelia tended to them Cherisse taught me about guava fruit as a few trees were nearby.  She nonchalantly grabbed a few of them, some soft skin, some harder, and I had my first ever guava (yes, first ever).  After a few more, I decided they were pretty tasty, but potentially very messy, as one of the fruits was very filled with runny pink juice. 

 Trying to look contemplative, but really just looking old and balding.

 I actually really love this picture, so I made it huge.
 Gosh, there's that mountain we climbed again.

First guava!  Mom, dust off and bust out the baby book...

We arrived at the house again at 5:00, only to leave again shortly for volleyball at Mbeya hotel. Between rain and illness, this was the first time I went and actually played.  We had a good crowd, with 6 people on each side of the net and eventually having to rotate out to let everyone play.  It was really fun, but kind of serious as well. It was healthy competition, shall we say?  I wasn't the worst out there, but I certainly was not the best and could use some more practice.  It was good to play with everyone and get a decent sweat going while having fun.  After about 5 or 6 games, the light was fading, as were we, and we headed to the house.

After arriving at the house again, I wasn't sure going out to the Hillview Hotel to call home was a great idea.  It was raining, I needed laundry to finish, and it was kinda late.  However, I decided to take a lukewarm shower, grab some almost dry clothes, and head out with my poncho AND umbrella in hand.  If only for a few minutes, I knew it would be appreciated if I could call home.

The combo of poncho and umbrella worked great, and I sat down at the bar area at the hotel dry as could be.  After ordering a Tusker, I set to getting online.  The very strong "Hillview Hotel 3" network from the previous day was nowhere to be seen, and as I cycled through #2 and #5 (the only ones in range), it became clear they were not strong enough. I oddly walked around the small bar, rescanning to see if any areas were stronger and might work.  George, my waiter who recognized the tall white dude as having been there the day before, recommended I try network #3...I rescanned, i walked outside, nothing.  I asked George if they could check to see if #3 was on as I couldn't pick it up.  He called someone and checked, it seemed like the networks were reset, but still nothing.  "It's not working today" was the only explanation I ever got.  So now I was in a silly bar in Tanzania drinking a crummy East African "beer" for no reason.  I was finally resigned to just forcing myself to finish my drink and heading home...after all, I was never even offered a menu, and though I had plans to eat dinner there, I wasn't about to wait an hour in that dim bar with no internet.  The beer, which never tastes amazing, tasted even worse with no interent, and it actually took a fair amount of time for me to finish it.

This is East African "Beer"...somehow it tasted much better the day before...and seriously??? It won an award?? For what?!

Even as I left and walked around the hotel grounds, I found no area where I could have picked up the wifi.  Frustrated, I headed out the gate and down the hill.  At least it wasn't raining anymore, I thought.  I arrived at the house dry, hungry, and a bit disappointed.  Peanut butter and nutella straight out of the jar for a dessert-resembling dinner that allowed me to take my final dose of cipro.  I got some water, told the hosts goodnight, and headed to bed to journal and head to sleep.  Tomorrow begins the last short work week I have here!

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