Thursday, June 4, 2009

In Transit: May 22 - 24, 2009


I'm finally posting my first blog since arriving in Mwanza, Tanzania two Sundays ago. There is so much to talk about I’m not quite sure where to begin! So how about the beginning?

On Friday Missy, Jon (the other two interns) and I took a flight from Pearson Airport to Heathrow Airport in London. After a restless sleep on the overnight flight we arrived in Heathrow around 8am Saturday morning. We had about 10 hours or so to explore the city before our flight to Dar es Salaam. We took the “tube” to the downtown region of London. We got off about 10 minutes away from Buckingham Palace. The three of us entertained ourselves watching the changing of the guards and the unbelievable crowds of the tourists who were eagerly waiting for this event. I could not believe how many people were there! My guess is over 200,000 people. There was absolutely no where to sit or stand anywhere where you could actually see the Palace’s front yard. The police officer I spoke to said that the crowds were like this on a daily basis! We spent the rest of the day wandering around England, took pictures with Big Ben, had lunch outside the Westminster Abbey, and relaxed a bit before our flight to Dar.

We again took an overnight flight, but this time from London to Dar es Salaam. This time I was able to catch a bit more much needed sleep. I woke up as we were flying over Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest Mountain in Africa. I could see its peak through the clouds as the sun was beginning to rise. The sight was rather breathtaking.

After landing in Dar the interns and I waited on a bench just outside the airport for our flight to Mwanza. I hadn’t practiced much Kiswahili, the national language, before leaving Canada. I began regretting this as I struggled to interact with the airport staff, despite their fluency in English. I could tell they didn’t appreciate it when I spoke to them in English. When I said “asante sana” to thank them for their help, one particular airport worker changed her temperament completely; her face broke into a wide grin and she let out a little chuckle. This was when I first realized the absolute need to learn Kiswahili and the challenges to come.

We arrived to our apartment in Mwanza some hours later to see it left just as Sabrina, a past intern, describe it to us in Canada. It is much bigger than I had realized and the rooms are unbelievably equipped for long-term stay. The three of us had no problem picking our rooms as we all wanted different ones. My room has large windows that take up two walls. One window faces the main street and allows me to see the most beautiful African sunsets, and the other faces a side street and a neighboring hotel. Needless to say, sleeping in a room with many windows doesn’t help with the noise factor. It seems that in Mwanza, bongo music (with a random mix of Akon, Kanye, Celine Dion and Shaina Twain?) is playing in the streets at all hours of the day. This definitely adds to the upbeat and warm culture here in Mwanza, however as you can imagine, music loud enough that it shakes the walls of your apartment isn’t particularly welcome at 2am when we’re trying to sleep.

We spent the remainder of our first Sunday unpacking our luggage and settling in. We went to the famous Tilapia restaurant for our first real meal in days. The food was sooo good! I had the fish and calamari masala with rice which had just the right amount of spice for my liking. I’ve noticed that a lot of the food here has South Asian influence which I’m really excited about. I was also able to connect to my family to let them know of our safe arrival. I’ll have to end my first updated blog here. I still have much more to write about as our first week and half has been absolutely packed with goodness. Also, info about my project goals will be up soon! Stay posted! :)

Lots of love from Mwanza. xo