A day in Arusha!

The place I’m living/working is called Usa River and it’s technically a suburb of Arusha. I didn’t know this until I got here, so the blog is incorrectly named BUT the alliteration is too perfect to change now.

Anyway, this means I haven’t gotten a chance to actually see Arusha (Usa River is in the middle of the Kilimanjaro airport and Arusha) and I’m wholly misleading you all. But no worries, I went today and met Saumu, who showed me around the city I’ve been pretending to be in the whole time.

The public transportation system here is called the dala dala and I hesitate to call it the “public transportation system”. It’s essentially a minibus (van?) that crams as many people as it can and takes them to various places across town. It’s insanely cheap and really informal. You ask if they’re going to your stop and if they say yes, you squeeze in wherever you can and enjoy the bumpy, crazy, slightly dangerous feeling ride. I’ll try and get a picture the next time I see/ride on one, but no promises since pulling out my iPhone on one of the dala dalas is a fairly guaranteed way to announce that you’re a tourist.

Anyway, because I hadn’t taken a dala dala before, Saumu arranged for one of her taxi friends to pick me and drive me. Even though he spoke no English, he was really nice and made sure I wore my seat belt before we left (it’s the little things, really). Unfortunately, it took us about an hour to get there because there’s a ton of construction happening between Usa River and Arusha and it’s all one-lane roads (granted, traffic rules are not followed very much here). Anyway, we arrived and I waited in his car until Saumu came. It cost me 25,000 shillings, which is about $12 for the taxi ride. Keep this in mind for later!

So Saumu and I went to the Maasai Market. The Maasai people are an old tribe here and they come and sell the goods they make at this market in Arusha. It was a really cool place with tons of things that I wanted to buy. Honestly though, I was unprepared and overwhelmed at the sights and sounds – there is just SO much to buy, so many people buying things, so many people selling things (all calling out to you as you walk by). I just bought a few things that caught my eye and left, promising that I would come back again before I left Tanzania so the next time I’d be more prepared and ready to tackle the crazy (but fun) market.

We went and had lunch at this little burger food truck and then walked around Arusha, seeing things like the famous clock tower and the Arusha Declaration Monument. We then walked into another little market square, where Saumu’s aunt owns a little shop. We stopped in to say hello and then walked to her cousin’s house, where her son was staying for the day. On the way to her cousin’s hosue, I bought a pair of crocs for her son and Saumu stopped into a store to buy lotion. Interestingly, this store imported all their goods from the US, so it was interesting to see the pricing of them: for example, an eos lip balm was 20,000 shillings ($10) there.

The clock tower – it is exactly halfway between the northern border of Egypt and Cape Town. Essentially the midpoint of the continent of Africa!

Lunch! Chicken burger with fries.

The food truck that we ate from.

The bright, lively streets of Arusha.

When we got to her cousin’s house, I was surprised to see 2 other children there! Her cousin’s children were also there and I instantly felt bad that I didn’t bring anything for them, but I promised to bring crocs for the little girl and a soccer ball for the boy. We spent some time in their home and then Saumu walked me to a dala dala, where she told them where to drop me off (they speak Swahili exclusively, so I would have been lost without her). My dala dala back home cost 600 shillings ($0.25) — as opposed to me 25,000 shillings in a taxi to get there. The price difference was astonishing to me, but honestly once I got to riding on the dala dala, I understood why it was so cheap.

How cute! Saumu’s cousin’s two kids – age 2 and age 8.

Posing for the camera! She shrieked in delight when she saw this picture.

Farid, Saumu’s 1 year old son.

Anyway, I was exhausted when I got home. Walking around town and playing with the kids  wore me out (in a good way), so I watched some TV, read a little, and went to bed excited for a free, uneventful day tomorrow.

What surprised you today? Arusha is a CITY. I spent the last week thinking that Usa River was basically the same as Arusha and there wasn’t going to be that much to see when I went “to town”. But, it’s completely different. There are big, tall hotels and tourist friendly attractions. There are people all over every street selling all kinds of things (I saw a guy selling pillows off of his back – not sure that’s the best thing to sell walking around, but hopefully it worked for him). It’s every bit of chaos as a city should be and I was very taken aback by it! How naive of me to think Usa River was all there is to see…ha.

What touched you today? Tanzanians are so friendly. A friend of a friend of a friend is a very real things here – the taxi driver was the best example of that. He drove an hour to get me and hour to take me to Saumu just because he’s a friend of a friend of Saumu and I’m a friend (???) of Saumu’s. I was invited into Saumu’s cousin’s house and played with her children without any second thought as well. When you think about it, Saumu and I had really only talked for a total of 20 minutes before today, but it felt like we had been friends for a long time because of the way her friends and family treated me.

What inspired you today? The children warmed up to me instantly – I walked through the door and I was getting pulled and petted and tugged on in every direction! The little girl loved my hair and she was petting me like a dog, but she did it in such wonderment that I didn’t even mind. I practiced multiplication tables with the boy (he was 8) and Farid let me carry him all over town when I went to catch my dala dala. The little girl instantly started chatting earnestly with me in Swahili, so I just nodded and played along even though I had no idea what she was saying. It didn’t bother her – she continued chatting away with such cute expressions and big, sweeping hand gestures. If only we could all be as friendly, trusting, and unabashedly amazed at the things around us as these three children were! It’s rare that you look up to children, but I definitely felt inspired by them today.

 

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