My trip was sort of in five different parts. For the first part, I took the train from Dar to Zambia and back again; for a total of five nights on the train. You’d think a person would go crazy, or grow just a little bit edgy from all that time on a train, but man, I’d rather spend five nights on a train as opposed to five hours on a Tanzanian bus. Maybe I’m just used to taking night trains from traveling around Eastern Europe, but you won’t understand what I’m talking about until you’ve been forced to sit on a bus for 14 straight hours.
The insanity was lessened and moderated due to the seven other PCVs I was traveling with. We were a good mix of chill, crazy, and somewhere in between. I had the pleasure of spending 52 hours straight in a cabin with two outrageous education volunteers, and an even more ridiculous brother of one of them who was visiting. I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in my life. Or, at least not yet in my life in Tanzania.
We ended up white water rafting down the Zambezi, and were able to see the enormity of Victoria Falls. It really is outrageous how huge the falls are, and white water rafting was intense! I’m glad I did it, but I think I’ll stick to land adventure for a little while. By the end of the day, my head was full of water and I was exhausted from trying not to drown. All joking aside, it was an amazing experience and I got to be a part of the Zambezi for a day.
On the way back to Dar, our train stopped. We didn’t know why, and to this day we still actually don’t. Due to the upcoming holidays (Christmas and New Years), there were a lot of other PCVs traveling on the train; from Uganda and Zambia mostly. We all got out and started to wait, this ended up being 4.5 hours of waiting. The instant you know you’re a true PCV is the instant you don’t realize how long you’ve actually been waiting for. After a while, we noticed there was no engine to be found, so, we did what any normal PCV would do, played Frisbee. And when it got dark, we played light-up Frisbee. It was a pretty relaxing wait actually. Due to the 4.5 hours of waiting and the already slow-and-steady speed, we ended up spending an extra, unexpected night on the train. Some were upset; we looked at it like a free place to stay! It did, however, alter our Christmas plans (as it was going to be Christmas Eve the next day), but we improvised.
Part two: Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo is a historic town just north of Dar. We spent Christmas lying on the beach. Difficult, I know. But, coming from a girl who has been eternally freezing for the past 24 (I was in Tanzania last year) Christmases, I deserve a Christmas on the beach. It was a sleepy town with an art market, slave sights, and one of the oldest mosque ruins in Eastern Africa. But, the beach was by far my favorite part of Christmas 2012.
I spent New Years on a beach too. Zanzibar. Yes, that is all I do. Lay on the beach. About seven girls in my class and I all went to Zanzibar for New Years, we saved up our shillings like good little girls so we could splurge on a good drink here and there and do a bit of gift shopping. We had a good mix of girls and did an array of exciting things. Our first day there we pulled an all-nighter at a very rare full moon party on the North beach. It was nice to be in a modern setting with some other Americans. We ended up going back for another all-nighter a couple nights later for New Years. Aside from all the nightlife fun, we also got to see some HUGE tortoises, ride in a boat called “Boo Yah”, have margaritas and daiquiris on a roof-top bar, and experience the intensity of the Fordhani Gardens (huge food market).
This brings me to our Mid-Service Conference (MSC). One year! Woo! Our entire class congregated in Dar for an entire week. It was nice to see everyone after about nine months. Work-wise, we went to the dentist, got poked and prodded by the PC docs, who needed to make sure we weren’t dying or malnourished, and shared information about what we’ve been up to in our villages. It was an exhausting week, but nice to see everyone and catch up.
I then had a bit of a choice to make. I could either take five buses and spend nine days in my village; or take one bus and spend 14 days visiting friends in their villages. Naturally I chose the latter. I ended up visiting and staying at six different villages in Singida and Manyara Regions. It was really interesting to see how different we all live!
After playing hooky for about two weeks, I went to Iringa for a Zinduka training. Zinduka is a grassroots soccer program teaching kids ages 10-19 about HIV and Malaria. Right up my alley! It would have been the most fun and time worthy training, except for the fact that I had strep throat the entire week. Finally on Friday, after four days of suffering, I had a fellow PCV look into my throat and lo and behold, white pussy shit. After taking the first antibiotic I felt a hundred times better. It was still an amazingly fun training with two counterparts from our villages. We are all “coaches” now J I was debating going to this training for a while. It was bad timing with ending MSC, and it does suck to travel down to Mtwara in the rainy season (right now), but I’m overly pleased I went. It gives me one more approach to try in my village. Sometimes ideas are either shot down or not even given a second look; but this program has been a hit (I’ll explain more).
All in all, me being “lost” has been rejuvenating and given me a breath of fresh air. It also helps that now I have a site mate who is super sweet and only a nine minute bike ride away. If our respective PCV classes had grade levels, I’d be a Junior in college right now; a Senior in June. Feels good to be the elder, the one that knows most things about the way things work (or sometimes don’t) in Tanzania. But, I still have a lot of learning to do, I’m sure.