how do you spell Misungwi?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


It has been about 2 weeks since my last entry. Since then, I have cleaned out everything I owned, said goodbye to pretty much everyone I know, and left my house in Misungwi.

I spent a night in Mwanza with a great goodbye party from my coworkers at AMREF. There was good food, good company, presents for me!!, and lots of laughing when I told them all I don't do goodbyes, so we'll just say 'see you later.' I especially like hanging out with one of the younger guys there, JC, who most resembles where I am in life, well, except that he just had a baby boy named Elvis but other than that we see eye to eye a lot. The next day was the flight to Dar, where we got a ride from a Peace Corps car from the airport, which is good, because cabs are expensive and Dar is RIDICULOUSLY HOT these days [summer here]. Well, Dar is ridiculously hot all the time, but especially so now. So we dropped our bags off at the office, bought tickets for the Zanzibar ferry the next day, and got some rest. And some chicken. Chicken tikka, at a place called who knows what since all the volunteers just call it 'street chicken', one of the tastiest restaurants in town. I got spicy prawns and a half a chicken baked in the tikka box thing, I don't know what they do or how they spice it but it sure tastes nice.

Last Friday we [myself and my friends Meena and Ness] headed to Zanzibar, the spice islands, for some much needed R&R at the beach. We took the morning ferry, which was a pretty calm ride, though the ferry tickets make sure to point out that the company is not liable for any 'acts of God' which I would imagine being natural disasters. No disasters, we arrived ok. We had MORE good chicken, this time in soup form, with plenty of zanzibar spices mixed in to really give it a nice kick.

If Dar is hot, Zanzibar is a steamroom but outside. It is hot as hell, I would imagine, unless you are right on the beach with a breeze. Luckily there IS a breeze in the daladalas there, which are basically pick-up trucks with benches in the back and a roof on top. So we all piled into the bed of the truck and made our way to Kendwa, the chillest beach I've ever been to.

This is not the hotel we stayed in, but the one next door.
We went next door to try to get a deal, and sure enough they 'punguza'-ed or lowered the price from 80 dollars a night to 50 dollars a night, so for the 3 of us it was not bad. It helped that it wasn't high season yet, not until Christmas and New Years, so the beaches, and most of the hotels, were relatively empty.

Highlights from the beach:

Fish. Every night we got to walk around and decide where to eat, and what fabulous food to eat. I had burgers, and chips, etc etc, but the best was by far the kingfish and snapper in coconut or tamarind sauce. Very tasty.

I had fun walking on the beach for several reasons. One, my feet got very clean thanks to the fine coral sand. Second, I got tan in places that hadn't seen the sun for awhile [I NEVER wear shorts or go shirtless anywhere in Misungwi]. Third, I talked to a bunch of beach vendors that I had met in June, some of whom remembered me!! One guy was thrilled that I knew his name, Mkude, meant he was from Morogoro, and I sat and watched him work for awhile. He got me a great deal on some paintings of a friend of his, so that'll make a nice souvenir. I also helped out by correcting some poor English on one of the paintings. And of course, just like last time, any conversation where I mention the work that I do eventually led to a brief review of HIV prevention and condom usage. These guys spend the week away from their wives in town, if they have wives - if not they sleep with tourists or locals. High risk environment, big surprise.

One rather shocking example of this was a couple we saw on our second day. A 35 year old, 200 pound white Italian woman was getting rather cuddly [kissing, hugging, rubbing on suntan lotion] with a 20ish, 100lb skinny-ass black Tanzanian man. Love comes in many shapes and sizes, true, but this pairing was a little eye-raising. Jack sprat. Whatever, to each his or her own, as long as they are protecting themselves and each other and no-one else gets hurt. Though this sort of thing makes it difficult for other white female tourists to come, or female PCVs, as some Tanzanians get the impression that white women are easy.

I got a massage the last day, on the beach. Half an hour long, about 3 dollars. Perfect.

After two wonderful nights at the beach, Ness and I headed to stonetown. Stonetown is insane. I think i've written about it before, but it is basically a MAZE of small little alleys with tall buildings on either side to complete the disorientation. We decided to play a game - at the first intersection, I made the call - left, right, or straight. At the following intersection [i.e. after about 20 seconds], Ness made the decision. And so on and so forth. The result is that we managed to cover a LOT of ground and get THOROUGHLY lost after about 10 minutes. But we found some neat finds, old trees, a shoe fundi to fix my sandal, some guys painting tingatingas who allowed me to take pictures and ask questions about their work [they bust their asses for little pay, considering they sell a painting for 3 dollars that a tourist will buy for 30]. But we weren't always entirely lost, I actually REMEMBERED a few of the passages from the last time I was here. I'm not great a directions, and stonetown is impossible, so I was impressed with myself.

After wandering around the old part, touristy shopping part, and buying some scarves and spices, we walked past the main market [imagine tons of people and tons of oversized fruits] to look for sarongs that old muslim men wear. We ended up being escorted by a somehow annoying man into the Zanzibar town, the newer part that few tourists ever get to but that is filled with tons of shops, stands, and things being sold on the street. Mwanza the street vendors were kicked out ages ago, even so in Dar, and it was nice to have one last chlaustrophobic African-market crazyness experience before I go back to oversized supermarkets. We got the sarongs at a shop run by a muslim man who liked joking with us, and sold lots of islam caps and full body gowns for men [kanzous].

He actually gave us a decent price too, which was nice. I decided to use the paintings my friend Mkude sold me as a standard to judge how much other store owners were jacking up their prices, and the 3 that I purchased for 10,000 shillings were quoted to me for 45,000 almost everywhere I went. 4x plus!

At night we went to Forodhani gardens to eat a ton of freshly grilled fish and mussles and shark, something called 'zanzibari pizza' which is dough filled with meat veggies mayo and egg and then fried [delicious], and then munched on sugarcane for dessert. There was lots of meat and chips too, which mostly the Tanzanians went for as fish was somehow pricey - kind of a bizarre segregation of dining that turned out to be linked to economics.

One who did not discriminate on prices or types or anything were the cats: they were EVERYWHERE, and they were having a ball.


Now I'm in Dar es Salaam, and of course there's stuff to write about here but I'll wait for another day. I'm going to try to go back and update on the last few days at my house in Misungwi, as they were packed with excitement and emotions, and things that I don't want to forget. So from here on out, I'm writing more for myself than for you. But I still welcome to you read, view pictures [will try to add soon], and enjoy.


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