Mzungu! Mzungu!

20 December 2011

Today I took my first ride in a daladala, a classic African experience. This is how people get around to places that aren’t easily in walking distance. They only operate on the main roads, ie, the paved roads. They are minibuses and they shove as many people as will physically fit into them (possibly in defiance of the laws of physics) – more than you would think possible! It’s a sweaty, smelly, perilous way to get around, but it’s the standard here. And overtaking – they love to overtake here! It’s not uncommon to see to vehicles going the same direction side by side because one has decided to overtake because they’re going fractionally faster than the vehicle in front of them. Road safety? What’s that?

I am stared at constantly because I am an mzungu (white person). Most people are polite and fairly covert but of course all the young children stare! Perhaps this is an odd thing to say, but it’s just like you see in photos and on TV here. The women wearing long colorful wrap skirts, carrying heavy stuff on their heads, stuff like that. Everything is different. And the strange thing is, I’m not going, wow look at all the things that are different. I expected everything to be different and it is, so my expectations have been met. Hm.

The local NGO that is providing the program I’m doing is the Kilimanjaro Environmental Development Association (KEDA). Their work covers a large area around Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is where the Chaggas live, the tribe that after independence (or before?) were quite powerful and favored. But since then, the government decided to knock them down a peg, and now they are ignored by the government. They have always been farmers, but now KEDA is working to make them more productive. They do trainings, projects, and they attract people by having demonstration farms, where they have proof that their farming methods work. It’s entirely a volunteer-run organization.  One of their projects is to work with Heifer International to distribute goats to needy and marginalized families. So the part of a goat I gave my parents for Christmas just a few days ago could end up here!

But the program was organized by an American woman, Alison, through an American organization. I’ve been in contact with her via email, of course, but she doesn’t seem to be around, though she is in Tanzania.

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