Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Albinos under siege!

Crossing into Namanga was our easiest border crossing ever. Unfortunately, going into Arusha was a gong show, and didn't bode well for the new crew. At 117 paved kilometers, it was meant to be an easy day. They told us it would be a breeze. With the gorgeous, yet still obscured views of Killi, as well as the very clear and wonderful views of Mt. Meru, it was - right up until we hit the construction. Uphill on gravel on our skinny tires in the heat. It was the end of the day and we were all tired. At lunch we had also had a change in directions. We were meant to keep a look-out for the BP station and turn right there, as the street name that they had given us wasn't actually posted anywhere. The big problem was that that was the story they gave when we got to lunch, but before that they had been telling everyone other directions - that it was three kilometers past the BP station and turn right. The sad thing was, it was 7 kilometers past the BP station, and the name of the street was posted, they had just given us the wrong street name. Our crew is usually very good, which I guess is why when they mess up it is incredibly noticeable.

I got into camp and raced over for food. Pacified, I was ready to organize my safari. I was going to go off and do one with Erin, but she had decided to do a 2-day, and I had my heart set on a 3-day. The safari was one of my trip highlights, so there was no way I was about to cut it short. I raced into town to get out some money. Standing at the gates waiting for a metatu, Mark, the owner of the lodge, pulled up and insisted he give me a lift. Arusha has a reputation for crime, though it seems it has slowed down since people have stopped going out on the streets at night. We drove to about 4 different ATMs before we found one which would dole out cash. I offered to buy him a drink when we got back but, owning the place, he offered to get me one instead.

We sat with some friends of his. One man was a scruffy-looking haggle-toothed gent who was a white Tanzanian, had been the milk man, but now had a carrot farm. He had a sparkle in his eye and the look of a fellow who had seen a lot and always kept a sense of humour about it. Mark told me stories about how there is currently a problem in Tanzania with witch doctors killing Albinos for body parts. They are apparently magical and very potent in spells. A few days later I saw them saying as much in the papers.

We moved on to visit "the glums". They were an Indian couple with a pub called "The Lively Lady". A bit of a joke, since the glums are so called because of their complete lack of enthusiasm for anything - but they are entertaining in their mere existence. The pub itself is by the railway, which is supposed to be the worst part of town. It's also where you find the clothing market. I think I may have mentioned before about how all the clothing picked up in church drives isn't actually given out to people, but is given to market vendors who sell it at stalls. This market is one of those, except instead of being from church drives, it is from the store remnants at the end of the year. If they cannot sell it, they can get a tax deduction by donating it to the third world. So for a buck or two you can pick up any designer label from this market. Fancy. In the middle of the night it was closed.

We went into the pub. It was painted orange and was decorated in 70's batik wall-lamps, the occasional celtic tattoo stencil, and framed pictures from the likes of "Haevy Metal" - Think '70's comic books with well-endowed women in chain-mail bikinis, big swords and generally either a castle, unicorn or Conan-like male in the background. There may have even been the ultimate one - a woman wrapped in a boa constrictor.

The glums themselves had just stepped out of the 70's. Mr. Glum and his brother were dressed head-to-toe in stone-washed denim. Mr. Glum was a tall, thin man with gold-rimmed John Lennon glasses and a salt-and-pepper mullet. His brother was huge, and with a greying afro. Mrs. Glum was decked out in stone-washed jeans, a black tank top, and had huge hair. All of them were covered in big chunks of silver jewelry, mainly skulls.

After a while they all went out for a joint. Mark started to tell me how most of the Tanzanian economy was run by pot. If you see a village with plenty of infrastructure, it was likely all paid for by the weed of weeds. They once got a new government in Tanzania who tried to crack down on drugs, but there was instant revolt and they backed off. If the government is going to pilfer from the coffers, they had better be ready to allow the people to find their own ways to make up the difference.

All of the buildings and compound gates on the way back to the lodge were covered in red x's. Everything marked in an x was going to be torn down for street expansion. Sometimes it was a person's home, sometimes a business. Sometimes it was only half of the home that would be torn down. I didn't know if they would be in anyway compensated or given new land if their home was taken down, but I believe it may not be the case. The red x's covered the compound wall of a former TDA fellow who had married and settled down in Tanzania after the tour. They came by one day to take down his wall, and his new inlaws drove them away. The following day they were back with guns, and

The next morning I was headed off on my safari. ANIMALS!!! How exciting is that!

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