This is Mt. Meru, as seen on a safari I went on two days ago as a part of my orientation for studying away in Arusha, Tanzania. I can see Mr. Meru from my apartment window!
Today I found myself smack dab between two African men,
holding my backpack on my lap as we hurdled down the left side of the road in
the daladala (a van that functions as a bus) to my first day of my African culture
course. The other five girls in the
daladala and I exchanged smiles, and watched women wearing beautifully vibrant
dresses and men in suits (and regular clothing too) get on and off the
daladala. We get on the daladala at one
of two traffic lights in the city of Arusha, and ride for 25 minutes before we
arrive at Makumira University. I am mad
excited for this course, because I will get the chance to play drums, learn African
dance and even travel with a Maasai choir.
This course is one of four, including Women in East Africa, Contemporary
Issues and Conflicts in East Africa and Introduction to Kiswahili.
These past few days have been a whirlwind of jetlag and new sights
and sounds. I arrived on Feb 4, but it
feels like I've been here so much longer, especially given the amount of stuff
that they've packed into our days. I'm
staying at Arusha Resort Centre, and I'm living with two roommates in our own
apartment complete with kitchen, a king size bed (I got a single!), a bathroom
and a common space. I am living in
Arusha, a town of approx 270,000 people, according to wikipedia. Everyone here speaks Kiswahili, and a
lot of people in Arusha speak English. All
higher education is in English, and as a center for tourists many residents are
fluent (or fluent enough to ask me to buy something).
We get charged an arm and a leg, and I still haven't
mastered the art of bartering. Luckily,
the exchange rate is in our favor. A
good meal at a restaurant is about $2.50, a taxi ride is $3-$4 and bottled
water is about 40 cents. Being white
(they call us mzungu) there are locals who badger us to buy things the moment
we get onto the street, because they assume we have money. Taxi drivers are eager to take us places, and
the daladala drivers practically carry us onto the vans to get our patronage. When we come out of an ATM, there are people
This past week has been orientation week, where me and the
other 12 people in my program (now 15, three east african students have joined us!) get shuttled from one thing to another. We've had walking tours, seen our classrooms,
discussed safety and we went on a safari. Today was the first day of classes.
Because of the elevation and proximity to Mt. Meru, Arushua is actually
relatively (for Africa) cool. The
weather was nearly perfect for our safari.
We went to the Arusha National State Park, and sat in a van, whose top
can be lifted to make a sort of canopy.
I saw hippos, monkeys, warthogs, buffalo and giraffes (to name a
few.) The highlight was most certainly
the giraffes. We got to see one that was
ten feet away. It just stood there
majestically, chewing some leaves, and looking at us a with a benign look. Absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of juice before we saw the giraffe, but below are a couple of classic pictures!
Kwaheri! (good-bye in kiswahili)