With the trip to the beach canceled, my last day in Senegal has me rained-in and left solely to packing and napping for the upcoming final flights of my summer. It’s a treat to be flying with Air France and Delta at this point in the game, giving me many luxuries and the ability to choose my exact seat online beforehand.
Parting words from my host family two years ago included and emphasized that ‘our house is your house.’ This past week I found out that it was indeed true. Descending the taxi and walking through the village streets by memory was a treat. As usual, I ignored all heckling and hissing until one time my name was included. I was rounding the corner to my house where my Mom met me at the corner where she was sitting and passing the afternoon. We greeted with a hug and 3x kisses on the sides of the cheeks. Once inside it was a slew of “ca va?’s” and energetic greeting from all brothers and myself involved.
There was a little remodeling to the house, but all of the memories were still there. We dug a few up in the evenings or afternoons, certainly not in the morning for that’s when we all sit around and silently eat our bread and Nescafe to get the mind moving. Ca va’s and questions about one’s night sleep are mumbled, but thats about it.
Bebe is still a clinger and all over you. Five minutes into the dot-game and he was already anxious to cheat, somethings don’t change. Petie was in good spirits after getting the highest score in the city on his Baccalaureate diploma. Mama and Pops were certainly in good spirits having guests and family together once again.
I went with Neil and Thomas to the rice fields north of the city along the Senegal River. The government has been implementing a system of canals and irrigation pumps there to expand rice patties and agriculture. It was encouraging to see such development and a well operating system in a country where you often feel the opposite.
We passed the day with a farming family that has taken in Neil and Thomas for the past 6 weeks. No harvesting was to be done so much of the day was spend in the shade of the family compound drinking ataaya and attempting to speak wolof. Malik took us for once last walk (which was also my first) through the patties and extensive canal system which is aiming to make Senegal self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.
It’s been 2 days in Senegal and I’ve already been tested negative for malaria, bargained for numerous taxis, and enjoyed once again the taste of bissap juice.
After resting in Dakar from the previous days of flights and buses, I took a taxi to Thies to find Jon. His directions were excellent, finding his house on the first try, “across from the empty lot of bricks and stuff.”
Jon, Paul, and I played a rousing game of uno with their host-siblings after dinner that night then retired to another night beneath the mosquito net and fan, two essentials. We woke in the morning for baguettes and coffee before walking 30-min to their work, an air-conditioned office with transcription and translation assignments. We went out mid-day to visit Erin at the hospital where she tested us for malaria.
I’m now in the dorm of a technical university on the outskirts of Thies. My past host-brother, Djibi, is a student here and preparing for his exams in hydro-engineering at the end of the week. We chat during his study breaks, pulling up songs on his iTunes that he loved 2 years ago, impossible to forget from their past repetition. Lifehouse is still one of his favorite groups; perhaps in the same way that I will always like Hootie and the Blowfish.
Israel is coming in as a close second to Colorado in the Goshenite destination rankings. Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed the company of Ross and Morgan here in Nazareth and on side trips throughout the country. Morgan is internship-ing in Jerusalem with Sabeel for the summer while Ross was in the West Bank on a 2 week CPT delegation and traveling afterwards.
I met up with Ross and Henry one last time yesterday for a trip to Haifa to sleep, swim, and turn pink from the sun on the Mediterranean shore. They’ve now continued on to Tel Aviv and will be stateside within the week.
Also, it’s a small world when you meet a guest at the Inn who knows Jonny West.
The bus ride to Arusha arrived later than scheduled. I decided I had better chances of catching my flight if I’d head to the airport that evening instead of at 4am the next morning. It also eliminated the search and cost of finding a hotel room.
Apparently you can’t spend the night at the Kilimanjaro Airport anymore. It’s quite a small operation and it shuts down to a one security guard staff from 11pm to 4:30am. I learned this from Jane, a security officer during the day. She took pity on my story of the bus and relying on the airport for lodging. After all, I only had 3,500 shillings on my person (just under $3). I just wasn’t the typical tourist with my visit only including the Dodoma region and a 15-hr bus ride earlier that day, far from any safari.
In the end, I was introduced to the night security guard and promised not to tell anyone that you can sleep at the airport. I made a nice bed of seat cushions in the 2nd floor restaurant/bar and soon was camping-in with my sleeping bag and all. The guard kindly woke me at 5 the next morning, smoked a cigarette while I packed up my things, and took me downstairs to the front of the check-in line.
Jo, Josh, and I went out to visit a school for the deaf on the outskirts of Dodoma. Once there, I learned a few signs, all different from American Sign Language, from one of their teachers. What opened up soon after was a “cloud nine” of communication, interacting and learning many more signs from the kids as our conversations jumped and bridged quickly from one thing to another.
Early on, they proved to be handy with the cameras, directing their subjects like professional photographers. Jo and I gave the cameras over in full faith and were amazed at the results. We left not only with uplifted spirits, but over 50 photos taken from their eyes. I’ve put many of them in my Tanzania Photo Album.
The headmaster shared a story of his star student making it all the way through the H.S. levels before Tanzanian Gov’t limited his goal of being a doctor and helping deaf children in the country, something not uncommon due to overdoses of malaria medication or untreated ear infections. The student is now one of the school’s multiple deaf teachers, a faculty not many schools in the states can claim.
It’s difficult to summarize 15 hours on an bus from Dodoma to Arusha.
-”drive thru” shopping, all transactions made through bus windows
-potatoes, corn, citrus, and other goods bought all along the way from villagers
-driving 101: blast horn, rev engine, leave. who makes it back to the bus isn’t your problem
-unlike Dodoma, Tanzania is quite green and lush
-hazy mountain ridge lines behind fields of pineapple, aloe, corn, rice, citrus, and more
-driver’s sticker that reads “better late in this life than early in the next. I love Tanzania”
-a little girl wearing a white dress and princess veil walking on a path between villages
-electricity to villages is not a given
-mud houses and thatched roofs
Like I said, it’s not easy sharing my experience with the Shabiby Bus Company. I will note that I spent all but 10-minutes of the 15 hours sitting on the bus due to the third item on the above list. Getting left behind in a village wasn’t on my list of things to do that day.
I went with Josh and Shamari to the neighboring village of Mkonze to walk the riverbed there and see where the sand dams are going to be built. This is Josh’s main project since central Tanzania has a severe shortage of water. Commonly at their extremes, the rivers are either dry sandy beds or raging with water, washing soil promptly to the ocean.
Josh gave us a quick summary of the sand dams, designed by a Kenyan who has implemented several successfully there. Placed on rock beds along the river, the wall holds back some water while still allowing it to flow through. As the name suggests, its goal is to hold back soggy sand and silt, keeping the water around longer.