Friday, June 23, 2006

Monkeys, Mountains and Markets

On Wednesday we learned about going to the market in class and then we went to a nearby market to practice buying things and to try bargaining. They gave us each 500/= (Tanzanian shillings), which was about 40 cents to buy as much as we could. With my 500/= I ended up with 4 green peppers (which were pretty big), 6 oranges, 2 small bunches of greens, 2 avocados and a blue plastic bag to carry it in. Not bad, huh? The market was pretty big and had all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I had a lot of fun talking to people selling different things about what I was doing in Tanzania, what I wanted to buy and the names and uses of various vegetables. I think at one point, someone said something to me that I didn’t hear, because I heard a man walking by say “She doesn’t understand Swahili” to which I quickly turned and announced to everyone around me that I did speak Swahili and had a nice conversation afterwards with the women selling bananas.

On Wednesday afternoon, we had a chance to go back into Arusha to buy some things and to change money. It was a pretty clear day, so on the way into town we were able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance. It’s not usually visible. So, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road so we could all get out to see and take pictures. As we were taking pictures, I realized that there was a farmer there hoeing his field right next to the road who just watched us, bemused, so I explained to him in Swahili that we were looking at the mountain and that we were a little crazy.

When we got off the bus in Arusha, we were absolutely swarmed by young men selling batiks. I have never ever experienced anything like it in any other place I’ve been. They would each pick one of us and “take” u s to the store, then wait outside and walk with us to the next store, pressuring us to at least look at their batiks. It was crazy how they followed us from store to store and would not leave us alone. There was nothing we could say that would make them go away. When we got back on the bus, they were still there swarming the bus, trying to open the windows to get us to buy things. For me it wasn’t too bad because I wasn’t with the big group the whole time, but it was still pretty intense - not like anything else I’ve seen in Africa. I doesn’t sound so bad now in writing, but it was pretty crazy.

On Thursday afternoon as I was walking back to my room, the monkeys were everywhere - running around in the tree s, digging in the garbage basket looking for food. One was eating an orange. I managed to take a few pictures. Today they were running around at chai time and one got up on the chai table and was trying to get into the sugar bowl. They’re really cute and fun to watch, but I’m starting to see why people who live here think they’re obnoxious.

Also on Thursday, I was walking across campus and was able to see the top of Mt. Meru, which is a lot closer than Kilimanjaro. We drive right by it on the way into Arusha, but the top is usually covered by clouds. We saw it again tonight on the way to dinner. This is definitely a beautiful place to live.

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