Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Update from Africa!

I never thought I’d say this, but, greetings from Africa!
Flight was LONG. Flew from NY to London, but because of the blizzard, my flight was delayed and I missed my connection to Nairobi, Kenya. Luckily, I got the last seat on the next flight. Unfortunately, the next flight wasn’t until 7pm that night- and I’d arrived in London at 11am!
When I arrived in Kenya at 6:30am, my friend Julian met me at the airport and we went straight to the bus station to get on a bus to the coast. The bus ride was long- about another 7 hours to Mombasa. It was also terrifying- the bus driver drives in to the other lane to pass a vehicle then swerves back into the lane just in time to not get hit by oncoming traffic. Better than that, the roads are mostly unpaved so it’s pretty bumpy and uncomfortable. And hot. And smelly.
When we got to Mombasa, we took a type of taxi called a pikki pikki or something. It’s a motorbike with a cab on the back that fits 2 or 3 people. More terrifying than the bus, because now there is nothing between you and the oncoming traffic, which we were swerving in and out of.
Then we took a free ferry across water to an island so we could get to the beach at Diani. Ferry is paid for by the gov’t and comes every 15 min or so. I don’t have any idea why they don’t just build a bridge- it’s not that far…
Waiting for the ferry is when I saw an albino for the first time. That was kind of different that you don’t really see in the US… Julian says they’re seen as having magical powers or something, particularly in small villages where superstition often prevails. If you want to read more, here’s an article I googled quickly: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2009/11/28/2009-11-28_10000_african_albinos_in_fear_of_lives_after_spate_of_killings_spurred_by_magica.html
We then took another type of taxi, a dalla dalla, which is more like a large van where they fit as many people as possible in it- think 15 people in an 8 person van. After taking 2 of those, we finally made it to the campsite in Diani and met up with Julian’s friend Ben, who is an Australian teaching in a village in Tanzania about an hour from Arusha. Turns out, most people visiting here are Australian and mostly no Americans at all. A few Canadians and some Brits…
The bus and dallas are nice to take because you get to see the area (as opposed to just flying). Most people take ground transport or walk, but it takes a while and is always hot and crowded.
There is also no sanitation here really- no one uses a trash can but either just throws garbage on the ground or builds a garbage pile and then burns it, which greatly contributes to a general stink in those areas. Awesome.
Camping was fun, but rough. The ground is hard and it’s so hot at night it’s impossible to sleep for long. It’s around 90 degrees near the coast (Arusha’s much cooler since it’s at a higher altitude).
Diani had a lot of foreigners and there were 2 big parties for New Years so that was fun and cool. The beaches are beautiful- pretty desolate, perfect white sand, palm trees lining the beach for miles, very sparse hotels. Where we would sit was mostly where a lot of natives would come and chill, which was cool to see locals hang out. It seems Africans don’t really own bathing suits- they go in the water in their underwear and children go in naked. The problem is, you stick out a lot because you’re white so everyone tries to come over to you and try to get you to buy something from them or get water from you or whatever.
The food was pretty good- 2 of the days we ate in these little shacks on the dirt road to the beach. Freshly caught fish with rice and sauces and bread… Soooo good… Other than that, though, the food is pretty bland and you try not to eat anything too sketchy. So we eat a lot of French fries, toast, rice, and pastas. At the hostel, they provide food for you. Food is pretty good- I think from the heat and sun you get pretty starving, so anything tastes good. There are a lot of veggies, which I think is good, but now were moving out to a house today, so the veggies might get cut back a bit.
I also went on a day safari with Julian and 3 of his friends. I thought it was awesome- I saw ostriches, 5 elephants (including babies!), mearcats, baboons, giraffes, antelope, and warthogs; even lions, though they were far, far away. They thought it was lame and we didn’t see a lot, but since it was my first and all I can compare it to was the safari ride at Busch Gardens, I thought it was excellent! I’ll post pics soon- I need to figure out how to upload them, since the computer I’m using doesn’t have the memory card.
In terms of technology, it’s pretty cool here. I already have a phone for less than $40 and it’s not locked, so I can use it where ever, I would just need to buy a new chip. And the internet is really cool. The connections not very strong (it cuts out a lot) but instead of WiFi they have internet sticks and you can buy credit ($20 for 1 month unlimited internet) and you just plug the stick into the USB port and can use the internet anywhere. Basically, you have wireless broadband where ever you go! It’s pretty cool- you don’t need a box or anything!
Cars also drive on the left side. Which often leaves me looking in the wrong direction when crossing the street. Cars don’t always stop for red lights either.
Arusha’s pretty nice. It’s a little city (municipality, really). Not much to do around here except volunteer and chill, which is good.
Just moved out of the hostel and into a house with a bunch of other kids. House is beautiful. Will upload pics soon!