Cloves, Dala Dalas, and a Mountain of Stairs

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • I've gotten so behind on my daily journal, and I don't seem to know where the days go.

    My days are filled with my teaching in the prison yard for juveniles, TRYING to hand wash all of my laundry and hanging it out to dry when it's sunny, studying, more language and cultural lessons, etc.


    Last week, a new group of volunteers came in with many sets of mothers and daughters, and even one entire family with college-age kids - what an incredible experience for them! Although I do miss a couple of people from the first group, it's a major relief to no longer hear the petty, immature bickering that was occurring!

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    Last weekend, I spent three days on an incredibly wild (for me) adventure. A new friend and I decided we wanted to "run away" from home base for the weekend and explore some non-touristy areas. She has spent a great deal of time working in the field in Zimbabwe, and has traveled through much of East Africa. I, of course, have been throughout six of the countries and have returned to work in Tanzania. We grabbed our cameras and backpacks, and took off (with NO reservations, tickets or pre-made plans).

    Since July 7 was a national holiday here, we got a longer weekend for us to explore. We left home-base early Saturday and took a taxi to the bus station for a rather unique, LONG journey to Tanga, a coastal city, with our loosely planned destination of Pemba, an island. To my short-term relief, we were able to each get a seat on the bus.
    As additional travelers joined us (I found that there is no such thing as a "full bus"), people were stacked vertically on top of each of us, and when that room ran out, we then had many people standing in the aisle and/or sitting on large bags of rice, and parcels and buckets of unknown ingredients -- by the way, this was a 7hour. ride!!!

    I began the bus ride with just my photographer's backpack on my lap, but quickly had a young Masaii woman and tiny baby sitting on top of that. She spoke no English, and my fractured Swahili wasn't too helpful, but we quickly discovered that the "language" of eyes and smiles provided the only communication necessary. The girl was accompanied by two very tall (and very protective) Masaii warriors (maybe her brothers) who stood in the aisle and frowned at this Mashunga (white person)! After my lap became somewhat numb, I started to assess my "situation." I felt a gentle bumping on my lower leg and discovered a very long knife hanging from the waist of one of the warriors. I know it is a part of their traditional garb, but found it somehow comforting (as well as VERY disconcerting)!! To my relief, we landed in Tanga without incident, stopping frequently to let "locals" climb on and off the bus with large, heavy bags (filled with rice?) and other necessities.


    In Tanzania, we went to a local "travel office" attempting to make further arrangements for our flight to Pemba. The hardest part of our whole adventure was the incredible VARIETY of answers and schedules we were given by each person we asked. We were also given a plethora of prices for exactly the same things. Ultimately, we had to make a leap of faith (literally) for each leg of our adventure!


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    As an osteoarthritis patient, much of this area is extremely challenging. ALL roads are very rocky and heavily rutted - and, of course, become a slick rocky nightmare for me after heavy rains. Even in small villages, there are lots of curbs that seem to be at least 2 feet off the ground -- a major challenge with my artificial joints. Staying quasi-clean has become a major exercise in futility (and reality). Most hotels and restaurants in villages are at least two steep flights of stairs from ground level. In fact, the first floor is often two flights up. The second is two more, etc. My initial "relief" at my first hotel in the village when I found I was ONLY on the third floor, which almost required a packed lunch, bottled water and oxygen to reach!!


    When we arrived in Pemba after a short flight, we were met by a taxi driver (one of the
    few on the island) who also quickly became our travel guide, friend, and advisor. Until our arrival, we were unaware that a high percentage of the island's population is Muslim. Because it's a tiny island, we were met with lots of Brahma cows, and most people in Muslim dress. Our main advantage was that this is definitely NOT a tourist area so we were treated to a spice tour in the forest with three guides and a ton of children.

    It was wonderful to see how our favorite spices actually grow, and to actually taste or smell many in their natural form. The most memorable were the tiny clove buds. When we picked a bouquet and peeled the tiny top off a bud and chewed it, I was bombarded with the strongest, most pungent flavor I've ever tasted. As my tastebuds exploded, the children around us in the forest dissolved into gales of laughter.


    A memorable experience for all!!!!!

    Chapter 2 of our adventure will follow..


    The ONLY computer I can use is about a 3-4 mile walk to the village over nasty rocky roads, and it's NOT the computer dream of a life-time, but I have to remember where I am!!!


    Asante sans


    Mama Pattye

Published On: July 11, 2008