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Exploring Arusha

November 24, 2009

La Chica has succumbed. It has been tempting and tantalizing her since she arrived. Drawing her in, seducing her. Today was the day that she surrendered. A latte macchiato made with locally grown coffee beans. Bliss.

Being the consummate girl about town, La Chica decided it was time to be seen, so she spent the day immersing herself in the daytime life of Arusha. Donning hiking boots (the short rainy season has made mud pies of the roads, so her stilettos would become flatties in seconds) she stepped out and embraced the sights and smells of the town. She stopped in at the tourist office for a map, wandered down to a Masai womens jewellery shop with which she hopes to collaborate, sipped her coffee knowing that the price she might pay was a night of insomnia, and lunched with Mir and his family in their top floor flat right in the heart of town. After lunch she read the local newspapers – articles about the Minister for the Environment on another charge of corruption – stealing billions of shillings from a Norway NGO, albinos being targeted for their body parts and organs so that witch doctors can create ‘get rich quick’ potions, further land being taken from the Masai for tourist development, and the tragic drowning of very young triplets left alone in the recent torrential downpour. Bizarrely she also read an article in the local paper about an elderly Australian man who went to the shops in his local New South Wales town, got lost then drove for nine hours and ended up in Geelong, in Victoria. She popped into the offices of Mondo Challenge, a UK charity that provides volunteer teachers in Longido, and extracted a promise from the country manager to help her with her proposal for fund raising, and then La Chica walked back home.

La Chica is still operating at an Aussie pace, running a marathon each day of things to be done. She hasn’t yet realized that slow and steady is the way to go, although as she comes to rely on the actions of locals she’ll realize that she’ll need to slow to the local pace or go crazy. La Chica is starting to pick up a few local words. She’ll confidently reply to the greetings of jambo (jambo), mambo (poa), habari (nzuri) and she knows how to say thank you very much (asante sana)! She’s looking into Swahili language classes so she can understand better the conversations around her, and be able to communicate with the Masai women at Longido.

Every day is a cultural learning experience. She has learned that when locals come into money, there is a list of things that they will spend their money on, basically in keeping up with the Joneses, but with a Tanzanian flavor. In order of priority, they will firstly take an additional wife, secondly buy a new lounge suite, and thirdly invest in a thicker mattress. All potentially related! There is much emphasis on greetings, and it is rare for strangers to walk past each other on the street without an acknowledgement. In La Chica’s case, this sometimes goes too far, as young touts insist on walking with her with the aim of wearing her down and getting her into their shops or on their safaris. Although La Chica doesn’t yet know the Swahili word for no, a rigorous shake of her head usually does the trick.

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One Comment
  1. Rose permalink

    Sounds like all is going to plan for La Chica!

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