My posts here are now fewer and farther between, as I am much busier, and realistically have less to talk about. Nobody wants to read about how each and every day I gaze up to Kibo and see it’s snow cover glow down on me;
..how I bounce out of my flat in the mornings to stroll up to the computer centre, saying hello, habari, Jambo to everyone I meet;
…or how the very simplest of things I see around the village still remind me why this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
No, I’ve covered that all already, so here I want to talk about where I’ve come from what I intend to do.
Throughout my life I’ve always done things in a backwards kind of way, I never really understood what makes me tick or why I cannot just live normally: why do I have to remind myself of the basic things like brushing my teeth or remembering to buy toilet paper? It’s this inability to be part of a daily routine that has made me feel so lost and confused for such a long time, but I do believe that there is hope for me, and by taking smaller steps I think I’m getting closer to my goal of self-sufficiency that I’ve probably held in my mind since I left home at 16. As I now approach my 30th that’s an awfully long time to have to learn how to live, but realistically it’s because I was out on my own so early that I left the real development of myself alone and concentrated on enjoying myself. Throughout school, university and then the rest of my working life, despite having so-called “goals” I never achieved them; never actually stepped up to any task that I set for myself, and ultimately despite being an intelligent person with a good grasp of my social surroundings, I’ve felt trapped, constrained and lonely for a long, long time. There is no single answer to this, but rather a combination of all that is happening to me. These new opportunities, new working and personal relationships have allowed me to re-invent myself, but do that from the platform I had built up over the last 14 years, and cut out the chaff as it were, leaving all the negativity behind and just concentrating on what is worthwhile and positive. Needs to be mentioned again, but giving up smoking marijuana is probably the single most effective catalyst in this transition, and something I am so proud of that I really don’t think I’ll ever pick it back up again. Never say never though, cos as soon as I do, I’ll be back on it in a flash, it’s in my nature. So how does this all relate to my time here in Tanzania? For a start, I am respected. Not just by my new boss or my fellow volunteers here at the project, but I feel now that I am carrying myself with a confidence that belies my haircut or my ripped jeans, I have risen above the image of myself that I’d built up over the years, and without having to change my outward personality, my inner self has come through and is shining brightly from within. Close friends note: my dreads are still no closer to being cut off than they were the day Katie started putting them in for me 😉
None of this was ever more apparent than over the last two weeks where I have become a real part of this community and feel more and more at home.
Saturday we headed out as a group to Kilema. When I say as a group, I mean I headed out on my bike to cover the 15k or so of undulating Kilimanjaro to get there, and the others arrived on a DalaDala a shortwhile after me.
A couple of beers, some nice walking through the countryside; and a puncture; later and we were back in Mshiri, albeit knackered, and ready to face the onslaught that Sunday would bring us.
The concert we put on went down so well, with over a hundred people turning up and the music going on well into the night.
Nelson, Bryson and the others performed a very well-thought-out set, with the singing, rapping and rhyming being cleverly interluded by Bryson and his strong stage presence. We saw him dress up in a rather ridiculous costume, to warm up the crowd with his swahili and english based comedy, and then come back later with a fire staff and wow the kids with his bravery. These boys are gonna go far! I just hope I can help them achieve their goals. Music and backing was provided by their friend DJ Nick, who had brought his entire soundsystem with him, and a load of Bongo Flava music that I just have no idea about. Things were going amazingly well, my friends that had come up to the village from Moshi to see the show had arrived, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. So much so that even the night watchmen got involved, with one of them taking the Microphone early on to entice the unsure locals into the arena and get their free soda as part of their entrance fee: that is right up until it became my turn to get on the decks. Bryson had informed me that everyone here loves music, but even with 10 years of experience dj-ing in front of crowds at house parties, clubs and other venues, I wasn’t prepared for what happened at all. I put on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean which got Nelson up on stage to do the moonwalk and then given my lack of local music knowledge and my reputation in the village as the “crazy mzungu Bob Marley Rastaman with a bike” I figured that something from Bob Marley would go down well… oh how wrong I was.
Nelson quickly came up to me to tell me that these people don’t understand my music, so rather than argue, I let Nick take over and promptly retreated to the safety of the GCC accommodation upstairs to hide from the crowd and grab another beer from Huw’s fridge. I have never been taken off the decks so quickly in my entire life, even when confronted with hostile punters before I’ve managed to at least get a few tunes in to change their mind with almost 100% success, but not this time. I’m going to have to learn the local way of doing things if I’m going to be a dj in Africa I think.
Regaining my composure, I rejoined the party after a short while and danced the rest of the night away, chatting to Happyness and the others until we shut up shop around 9.30pm. Doesn’t sound that late, but given the complete darkness that falls on us at 7pm every day, and the lack of any lighting in the village, this was remarkably late for this lot to still be going, and a resounding success on all fronts – apart from the brief outing by me :S
Here are a few more pictures from the day:
14th February is St Valentine’s Day, and celebrated here in Tanzania just like we do back home. Happyness had made me aware of her feelings for me the night before at the concert, and I came home from work on Monday to find this on my dining table:
She’s so lovely. We’ve spent a lot of time together since I arrived here in January, with her being the very first person I spoke to in Mshiri, she made me breakfast, and has cooked and done all my washing for me since. I really don’t like the idea of her working for me like this, and I have reduced it down to just my washing (which I really and sincerely don’t have either the skill or time to do myself) and we now share at least two or three meals together a week, if she cooks, I wash up and vice versa. Yesterday we spent the entire day wandering through the hillsides and valleys together with a picnic, and chilled out next to the waterfalls, which again, we had to ourselves for the whole day.
She took me out to these falls first, which I had no clue of and are literally just five minutes walk from my house. After practicing the new Swahili I’d learnt that morning, and I hope she was impressed, we wandered further upstream to my favourite spot, which is simply breathtaking in the summer sunlight. She’s so shy and reserved; smart and funny; and gorgeous too…
In the title, I mentioned Konyagi. I had toyed with the idea of omitting this particular chapter of my journey so far, but no crazy foreign adventure would be complete without the token drunk story involving mixing drinks, passing out, and embarrassing myself in front of all my new friends.
Jasen celebrated his birthday on Friday, so I took Happyness into Moshi for lunch, saw her off onto the DalaDala back to Marangu (she doesn’t drink, nor wanted to spend the night in Moshi with all my Mzungu friends) and headed over to Jasen and Bree’s place and proceeded to get very very drunk. We left the house in good spirits about 11pm, got to La Liga (a fairly well decked out club in the centre of town) and then I bought a beer. As you do. At Tsh 2500 this wasn’t as cheap as most other places, and when i saw the 200ml BOTTLE of Konyagi that Bree got for just Tsh 5000 I figured I’d switch to spirits and join in. Big mistake, I woke up on the sofa covered in mosquito bites, and really not ready to face the embarrassment of what had happened. I’d been sick, I’d passed out IN THE CLUB, and given I’m 10 years older than nearly all the girls we were out with, a hugely forgettable experience. I’ll be more careful next time.