Papaya tree almost as tall as me, arranged rocks around base to make garden bed for marigolds. Moved morning glory vines but think I killed them in process, same w/ tomatoes, green peppers doing well, basil finally came up. Must tell Mbula, my helper, not to sweep garden. You’d think that was obvious – nope, still learning about TZ culture.

Struggling lots w/ anxiety – what am I doing here? What’s next? Will I be lonely and single forever? WOULD THIS DAMN FLY STOP LANDING ON ME?! Wondering if Elizabeth Gilbert’s plan is the way for me too – maybe I’ll go to an Ashram in India to find my balance, I haven’t done a very good job on my own, but not for lack of trying that’s for sure. I just want peace!

MSC was good, sort of. Feeling like my struggles have been too public, now not sure staff would even consider me for extension. Looking at other volunteers’ projects makes me feel like a failure, but try to tell myself not to compare myself since no one’s experience/village is the same here. Have to get over my anger and frustration with PC – so it’s not what I expected. So what! Being in Dar for a week with the whole class – stressful and excruciatingly HOT. Dar is like HELL. Plus security incidents – taxi kidnapping/robbing. Sick of being a white bull’s eye. At least I have some street smarts. Some. Better than some other volunteers. Ethiopian food with the guys was awesome – good food, good co. Need to focus on friends, real friends I’ve made here, not on making new or proving myself to others – too stressful. Apparently everyone thinks I’m nice though. Never been in the cool crowd, but always well liked – I can deal w/ that.

Before Christmas met up w/ Tyler T. in Kondoa then went to see some of the ancient rock paintings in the area. It was pretty cool, some are up to 10,000 years old. We had a great time hiking, talking, camping, wading through rivers and escaping Kondoa’s rains, thought I’d found another good friend, but he decided his extension wasn’t working out and went home to start something new. Really bummed about it, but he’s happy with his decision. We winged it all through the weekend, hiking and exploring and meeting people by happenstance. Got to Kolo, found out the deal with guides and prices, hiked to Amarula Campsite – good experience but expensive, 15000/= per person to pitch your own tent, but compost toilets cool and close to river which apparently runs when it rains in Kondoa, chocolate river raging through the desert for 3 days after a downpour, I’ve never seen a river run here before, close to village where we searched for food to no avail, weird time of day when people are just chillin, drank coffee, then sodas, then chai, checked out impressive irrigation system in valley, decame aware of the apparently very randy state of this village’s farm animals, much to my horror, hiked back to eat snacks we’d brought in and settle down for the night. I began reading Franny & Zooey aloud, but gave up after a page or two and succumbed to sleepiness, but sleep would not come because of all the coffee in my system.

Rained all night. All night. We pitched tent under a tree so droplets accosted our ears even when it wasn’t raining. Water leaked in on Tyler, he sopped it up with jerseys. Nearly sleepless night, how did we manage to hike all the next day?

Next day woke and broke camp, waited for guide that never came, hiked to painting sites on our own, crossed raging river barefoot, sought refuge in farm shelter as rain poured and collected around the rocks we were standing on, saw weird spherical frog and bright red furry bug. Felt happy to be in such good company despite sogginess. Reach sites to find another guide and a bunch of missionaries holding a church service. Cranky guide chews us out for arriving alone, even though our guide totally bailed, tries to charge us huge fee for walking 3 min to sites before our actual guide, another dude, comes. Very unpleasant girl and we are glad to be rid of her, but hanging w/ the missionaries is fun – after their service they offer us hot potato soup, homemade bread, and the best brownies, juicy, chocolaty, frosted w/ more chocolate, I’ve ever eaten. After our unseasoned veggie chapati wraps it’s a meal from the heavens. Also, I rains again, weirdest weather I’ve ever seen in Kondoa, the desert. They have a tarp and share their shelter. Cranky lady leaves, new guide Maulidi comes, he’s a cool older dude, knows a lot about the paintings and local traditions, it’s nice to share in these things w/ Tyler. Another person might not have appreciated it as much. We see a small opening under a huge boulder. Young men enter it into a cavern inside, wait to hear from spirits, leave offerings of corn and other crops, animal sacrifice. Watch out for leopards. A few Dutch people are visiting as well, we hike back toward the main road, stop at the river which seems too rough to cross, they catch up to us and take us into town, over the water. We are oh so tired but feeling great. Our bodies are happy with the workout, ready for food and bed. We find the ‘guesti’ which is really just a big house watched over by the village chairperson of Kolo, the town you check in at to see the paintings. Shaban Dudu is his name, and he is so incredibly excited to have us there. He talks endlessly about everyone he is related to and their friends and jobs and children as our eyes glass over w/ exhaustion. He asks if we want dinner, and while we do, we know if the girl starts coking now it will be a couple hours before we eat, so we disappoint Shaban Dudu visibly and eat at a restaurant. We come back, drink chai w/ him, I freak out and realize I left my purse at the restaurant, rush back, and thank the lord it is still on the floor of the dark, kerosene-lit room. Shaban Dudu is muslim but has put up an artificial Christmas tree for his visitors. The limbs have not been arranged, or touched, since coming out of storage, so the result is a leaning, scraggily cross between a Dr. Seuss tree and Charlie Brown’s. It is endearing, adorable, hilarious. They are burning incense, but it’s actually crystals that look like crack rocks set on hot coals. Shaban Dudu gives some to Tyler, he also gives him a baseball hat. We go to bed and sleep soundly, all our wet things from a weekend of rainy bliss hanging on every available hanger, nail and window slat.

We wake early, eat vitumbua and drink chai with Shaban Dudu, who tries to help us get to Kondoa but is only making me nervous that we’ll miss the last bus w/ his grand plans in the works. He is not used to white people that know the lay of the land, or the language, but we know he means well. At one point he goes into a lecture on what vitumbua are and how to say one (kitumbua) vs many (vitumbua). I can barely hold back my laughter as Tyler and I make eye contact. This guy is so sweet, but trying so so hard. Too hard. ‘Twas a really really weird experience, kind of like a David Lynch movie. Just chill and hang out dude! We don’t need to learn anything right now.

More rain. We hurry when the bus comes, and it’s my nus from my vill! My people! I love that. We get seats and rumble along until we get to Kondoa. We do some shopping, last minute secret santa gifts, coffee I’ll roast at Nan & Terry’s, and serendipitously meet up w/ Terry, Yue and Michelle in town and get a ride up the hill to the house. We feel good, ready for Christmas and 20 kinds of cookies.


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