Woke up to the call to prayer and all the neighborhood dogs barking. Felt very weak and jittery. Jet lag? After showering I headed down to breakfast. I was greeted by an Indian man who I believe to be the restaurant manager. I later found out that lots of Indians live in TZ. I greeted him with, “Jambo, bwana” which means ” Hello, sir”. He smirked but I wasn’t sure if it was because he was impressed with my Swahili or because he wanted to laugh in my face. Probably the latter – lol.
Since I’m not a big breakfast eater, I was happy to discover Corn Flakes were available. Breakfast was buffet style and obviously tailored to British travelers because generally speaking, they’re the only people I know who eat pork and beans (they think they’re baked beans but I beg to differ) for breakfast. However, in the spirit of travel, I decided to also eat beans for breakfast and by the end of my trip, became quite fond of them.
Generally, in town, my breakfast always consisted of corn flakes, beans, bacon (or something that resembled it), and tea with milk. Oh yes, dare I forget, I also always had a glass of passion-fruit juice! Yum! Music during breakfast was strange- Some German metal band. Odd.
The plan for the day was to meet my friend Nicko (who, at this point, I only knew from Facebook) and we’d go to Neema House to see the babies. He also volunteered to take me to the market to shop for gifts. We met at 10AM and went to the Mt. Meru Market. It was quite different from what I imagined. I imagined more of an open market but this place had “stalls”. Different vendors had their wares in the small stalls and you could walk down aisles and browse. Nicko explained that his uncles worked there and that we would visit their shop and perhaps work out some good deals. I was SO glad Nicko was with me because the shop owners are aggressive. Not aggressive in an intimidating way…just determined salesmen. Naturally they are eager to make a sale and desperately want you to browse their shop and make a purchase. However, with Nicko there, I think they were not as pushy as they might have been had I just been there alone.
I met Nicko’s uncle and visited some different shops and bought various items. I giggled and laughed the whole time and honestly, I had a hard time saying no to people. Also, in Tanzania it is expected that, when shopping, one will negotiate the price. I hate negotiating! I’m not comfortable with it at all. Thankfully Nicko helped me with some of it. In the end, I probably paid Mzungu (white person) prices and didn’t negotiate as hard as some do but I don’t mind. As I see it, I helped a small business owner stay afloat. It makes me uncomfortable to spend thousands of dollars on a trip to Tanzania only to try to nickel and dime the locals when buying souvenirs. If I paid too much for something, so be it. At least I know that money will help feed a family, help buy clothes, help make life a little better for someone. To me, money couldn’t be spent any better than that!
After leaving the market we headed to Neema House to visit the babies. I asked Nicko if we were going to take a taxi but he suggested that we take the local transport of choice- the Dala Dala! Dala Dala’s are everywhere! There are no city buses. Instead, the locals cram themselves into these mini-buses and ride all over town. The system seems a little complicated at first but later I worked it all out in my head and got some clarification from Clamian and Nicholas (you will learn more about them later). Basically, every Dala Dala drives a particular route. On the front of the bus you will see the name of the route. You wait near bus stands and when one comes by, the conductor often yells out at you. When a dala dala stops, you hop on and go. In Tanzania they say that a “dala dala is never full” and apparently, that’s true because they pack these bad boys like sardines in a can! The one Nicko and I hopped on was pretty full but luckily I found a seat. I think everyone was surprised to see Mzungu on there. Haha. Not sure how much it costs because Nicko paid my fare. I think he said it costs 400 TZ Shillings though. When you’re ready to get off, you just tell the conductor and he tells the driver. It was a lot of fun to ride in one!
Once we arrived at our stop, we had a 10-15 minute walk to the orphanage. Our walk took us through a very rich neighborhood past gorgeous, gated homes. It was a different side of Tanzania and I quickly realized that many of these homes were probably inhabited by ex-pats. Nicko said that many of the UN workers lived out there. Made sense. Many of the homes reminded me of the houses that the embassy workers lived in when I lived in Albania.
When we arrived at Neema House I could hear music coming from the house. We walked around back and went in through the kitchen. Women were making food and Nicko and I slipped through and went into the play room where a man was playing guitar and singing while babies crawled and danced everywhere! My time there was so much fun but so busy that it’s almost a blur. I remember little babies crawling up to me and wanting me to hold them. One baby that I absolutely fell in love with is Frankie. He is a tiny little boy but he gave the best hugs I’ve ever had in my life! He also refused to be put down! He is a little Masaai baby who was one of three triplets. His mother couldn’t make enough milk for them all and unfortunately, he was getting the short end of the stick. Neema House tried to take formula out to his mother but even that wasn’t helping and he was severely malnourished and underweight. Eventually the mother gave him to Neema House and he is doing well although he is still incredibly tiny for his age. He is approximately 18 months old but is the size of a 4 month old. Just tiny! But what he lacks in size he makes up for in personality! Loved him so much that I decided to personally sponsor him. I will be making monthly donations for him.
Anyway, back to the babies…the music man played and we danced and had a good time. Then Dorris and Michael gave me the tour and I met most of the babies and nannies. What they do at Neema House is nothing short of amazing! The babies are obviously well cared for and loved because they are all fat as can be and just as chirpy and happy! It was good for my soul just to be there. Once again, thanks to all who donated money to help them. I can assure you the money will be well spent and put to wonderful use.
After a wonderful visit at Neema House, Nicko and I decided it was time to head back into town. Michael and Dorris were kind enough to offer us a ride back into town with their driver, Godlove. As we drove through the city I took some amazing photos of daily street life. I saw women wearing kangas (traditional clothing), burqas, and saw soldiers riding in trucks. One of the best pics I took was of a soldier holding a rifle. I didn’t think he was looking at me so I snapped the pic. Hakuna Matata – no worries. It wasn’t until I got back to the hotel that I discovered that he did, in fact, see me and was apparently really pissed off that I took his pic. See for yourself! ——>
Once we got back to the hotel, Nicko and I had lunch. He explained that he was about to leave Arusha for many months to work on bat research. How exciting! I wished him the best of luck and thanked him for helping me. Nicko proved to be a very good friend and I am glad we met!
After lunch I spruced myself up a bit before meeting the Climb Kili people in the lobby. I met Fido Dido who would be my guide and I also met Liliana who was one of the admin people. They informed me that we would head over to the Impala Hotel to meet the other climbers. I was excited to meet them. Who would they be? Would I like them?
When we drove up to the Impala, I saw David standing outside. Fido Dido introduced us and we sat down in the lobby and waited for the other climbers. David and I spoke a little bit about our hotel rooms. He said the Impala sucked and I explained that I had read poor reviews about it on Trip Advisor which is exactly why I upgraded to the African Toilet. He said that he had been in three different rooms due to problems with each one. In one case, the toilet came off the floor and leaked water everywhere. Yuck! I felt badly telling him about the luxury I was forced to endure over at the African Tulip -haha. By the time the other climbers came down, Dave had decided he wanted to upgrade as well! After this conversation, the African Tulip and it’s fine accommodations became a running joke during the rest of the trip.
After a few moments, Adrienne and Arlette arrived. I was excited that two other women were part of the group! Adrienne and Arlette are sisters from Orange County, CA and as you will find out in the next few installments of this blog, we all became really good friends!
We listened to Fido Dido give us the scoop on the climb. He gave us basic ground rules including the famous Kili phrase of “pole-pole” which means slowly slowly. This is key because if you climb too quickly up Kili, you can get sick from altitude sickness. He also talked about how we were a family on the mountain and that we were all in it together and we were not to compete against one another. No problem there. I just wanted to get to the top. I didn’t care if I was the last one to get there. We also talked about gear and he asked if anyone needed to rent anything. Dave said he needed a sleeping bag. They produced a sleeping bag which was of decent quality but unfortunately, was too short for Dave, who happens to be a very tall dude. They assured him that they’d bring another one tomorrow and all would be fine. We had no reason to believe otherwise. After the briefing, we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel rooms to prepare our gear and our minds for Kilimanjaro. Our instructions were to be ready at 8AM.
Once back at the hotel, I spent the rest of the night checking gear and ensuring that I had everything that I needed. I then went down to the bar by the pool and enjoyed a “last supper” of penne carbonara and Coke. I called myself carb loading!
After much preparation, I sat down, watched some tv (they had Discovery channel!) then tried to get some sleep. Much to my chagrin, sleep never came….all I could think of was Kilimanjaro!