Hello 3G Internet

8 01 2011

So today is December 18th and since moving from Morogoro where training was held on Thanksgiving until now, communication with family and friends has been, to be honest, very difficult.  The effort I’ve been putting in to try and just do something as seemingly simple as check my email has been crazy.  I’ve been on several painful 3 hour daldala rides into town, tried my hand at fixing generators at my site, and bought liters of fuel in hopes that I can check my email for even 5 minutes.  Even still, I feel lucky as I’ve talked to other volunteers who are having more trouble than me, so I’m counting my blessings.  However, today I am fairly certain the futility has ended!

I awoke this morning and decided to catch the early daldala into town and strap in for the always delightful 2 hour ride and get a hotel room at a ‘guesti’ for the night in hopes that I could find a location in town with internet fast enough for me to Skype with Audrey and my parents.  I started my day at 5:30am so that I could pack up and be in the village by 6:30am to catch the early daladala.  It was pretty rough getting up this early because my neighbor convinced me to watch the finale of ‘Bongo Star Search’.  This is the Tanzanian equivalent of ‘American Idol’ combined with ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.  We had to borrow a generator from one of my neighbor’s friends, but we were finally able to get the TV working.  At times like these, my strong desire to do anything to get internet seems justified; if my neighbor can hike all around town to secure a generator and buy 3 liters of fuel to watch the ‘Bongo Star Search’ finale, then I can certainly hike around town trying to find a way to charge my laptop to check my email.  The finale was supposed to start at 7:00pm, but didn’t actually start until 10:30pm.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll remember my description of the concept of being “on time” here; it doesn’t happen often, apparently even for nationally televised talent show.  My neighbor who is Tanzanian was getting frustrated; as I know many of you would be if American Idol was magically 3 hours late getting started one night and even said at one point “sometimes I really get frustrated with Tanzanian culture.”  Again, this made me feel better that my frustrations sometimes are shared by people who are actually from this country.  So instead of getting to bed early, I stayed up with my neighbor waiting for ‘Bongo Star Search’ to start.  As I mentioned, the show didn’t actually start until 10:30pm, just as we were sitting down to a meal of rice and beans.  Considering this was my second dinner, I only lasted for about an hour of the actual show.  Most of my friends know that after intense binge eating sessions I usually love nothing more than to take a nap or go to bed.  I’m glad I left when I did, because apparently the show wasn’t over until well past 3:30am!  I was still able to get a good 6 hours of sleep in, so I was glad for that.  The next morning, I wake up, had a quick banana to eat, and then started the 20 minute hike down to the village to catch the daladala.  I was about 20 minutes early, but I had high hopes for using Skype to video chat with my parents and Audrey so I wanted to get be in town early enough to get it figured out.  I had a Skype session planned for 4:00pm Tanzanian time (8:00am EST) with my parents and a 5:20pm Tanzanian time (9:20am) Skype session planned with Audrey.  While I was waiting for the daladala, I bought two ‘Mandazi’ or Tanzanian donuts from one of the mamas selling them by the road, and was practicing my kihehe (local language) with some of the other villagers.  I think I mentioned it before, but most people here speak at least 2 languages; 1st is their tribal language, and 2nd is Kiswahili.  Mostly people who have gone to secondary school are the ones who also know how to speak English.  The dominate tribe in my region is the Wahehe, and thus the reason for speaking the kihehe language.  Not I don’t know much more than how to greet people in this language, but without fail when people hear me great them in their tribal language, they absolutely love it and start laughing because they are so shocked/happy.  Some people then continue to test the ceiling of my kihehe knowledge and start asking me other questions in rapid succession in kihehe.  At this point I need to tell them, using Kiswahili that I know only a little Kihehe.  I figure it’s just another way to more quickly integrate myself into the community.  Putting in the minimal effort required to learn a couple greetings in the local language has already paid off.  So finally the daladala arrives, more or less on time at that, and we begin the usually eventful ride into town.  The best way I can describe the ride is this; it’s comparable to sitting inside a giant ‘shake weight’ (if you don’t know what it is, go to YouTube and search for ‘shake weight’) on wheels the size of a large minivan with 25 of your closest friends packed in.  However, the bus didn’t break down once and I actually got to sit in a seat for the whole 2 hours or so, both of which are extremely rare events in my experience.  The start to the day was great and I was optimistic about my chances of finding a place with fast internet.  I arrived in town at around 8:45am.  My first stop was the ATM to take out money for the coming week (if you run out of money in your village there is no ATM; you’re SOL so I always try to take out a little more than I think I’ll need) and to pay for my half of the generator I bought with my neighbor.  If you’re wondering how, on a Peace Corps salary I am able to buy half a generator, it’s because every volunteer gets a settling in allowance.  The amount is the same for all volunteers is the same, but I was again lucky in that the previous volunteer really made her house a home; couches, beds, tables, silverware, etc.  A lot of large items that other volunteers had to buy, I didn’t.  After making my ATM run I stopped at my favorite breakfast joint in town called ‘Hasty Tasty’.  This place has some of the best food I’ve had in Tanzania.  They serve traditional Tanzanian dishes, but also put small twists on certain dishes and serve things like CHEESEBURGERS and French toast, I assume to accommodate the tourists who frequent the area and use the town as a staging base into Ruaha National Park.  I ordered two servings of the French toast (with syrup, which if you buy the bottle is ridiculously expensive here) and two beef samosas.  As an added bonus there is a TV in this place.  Today to my delight, the FOOD NETWORK was on.  Again, if you’ve been reading any of my other posts, you know I love to talk food.  So this was a pleasant surprise.  If the start to the day couldn’t get any better, it was a special on how to cook Christmas dinner; this was a nice little dose of holiday cheer considering Christmas is only a week away.  After I finished eating, I sat and just watched the Food Network for about another 45 minutes straight but finally pulled myself away because I had a lot to do.  I had to buy things such as plastic containers for food, utensils, bread, peanut butter, and seeds for my ‘bustani’ (garden).  I’m planning on planting corn, beans, spinach, green pepper, carrots, papaya, and another local leafy green called matembele using the bio-intense gardening techniques we learned during training, so we’ll see how that turns out.  After finishing up on my shopping I went to the first internet café to catch up on emails, make blog posts, and basically just surf the net to find out what’s going on in the world.  The place is pretty neat; they have mobile hotspots, just like places in the US, where you can hook up your own computer and surf the net.  Since I don’t yet have the generator that I put money towards as of writing this, I brought every single electronic device with me to charge while I used the internet.  After doing most of what I needed to do I went to go reserve a room at the guesti.  I had stayed in one before when I came into town that was nice so I decided to stay at the same place.  After checking out my room, the day got even better when I found out my room had electricity, running water, and a hot shower.  I know, don’ be too jealous now..  I honestly hadn’t taken a hot shower since I’ve been in country; a hot bucket bath yes, but shower, no. I couldn’t wait.  After getting the room I headed out to another one of my favorite lunch spots.  This is the place that has panini’s and cappuccino.  I figured I’d spoil myself today since things had been going so well thus far.  I had the curry chicken and rice for lunch.  This was actually just the chicken; no bones, no fat, no gristle and it was scrumptious.  I was also able to hook up to the wireless internet there (which I realize at this point might sound like some drug that I need) and uploaded some pictures of my family I stayed with in Morogoro and pictures of my new house.  All these are over on Facebook, and I made the albums public so everyone can see them.  If you can’t see them, send me an email and I’ll figure something out.  For dessert I continued to break the bank and bought a pack of 3 chocolate chip cookies; they weren’t anything amazing but since I hadn’t had a cookie in over 3 months and since Christmas was right around the corner, I figured what the hell.  I still had some time before I had to be on a computer to try and Skype so I walked around, practicing my Kiswahili and trying to buy things I didn’t need.  Eventually I figured I’d head back over to the first internet café to get setup, get my computer turned on, and to cross my fingers and pray that Skype worked from here.  It was essentially the last place I could find in town where I could use my own computer and that had internet (possibly) fast enough to use video chat.  I was actually pretty nervous, sitting there waiting for my parents to log on, because if it didn’t work here I think I’d have to give up on the live video chat from Africa.  Heartbreaking I know, but it’s the little things here that can give you a big boost.  It may sound stupid but seeing the faces of the people you love is way better that just talking to them on the phone or sending emails.  There’s obviously something about seeing them that makes it so much better that just talking on the phone.  So finally 4:00pm rolled around and I saw my parents log onto Skype.  A minute later I got the video call request and accepted.  It takes a few seconds for the video to load (if it loads at all).  I anxiously waited, then BAM, I had video!  I was so happy, I can’t really describe the feeling in words.  It was a sense of happiness and relief that I’d finally have somewhere to go to have reliable communication with everyone!  We talked for over 45 minutes and were able to drag their computer around to show me things like our Christmas tree and the snow outside.  It was awesome, no other way to put it.  I then hung up and waited for Audrey to call.  Audrey and I were also able to get the video chat to work.  Again I know it sounds stupid but I was absolutely beaming after being able to see my parents and my girlfriend.  The past couple weeks have been really difficult in terms of communication with family and friends; it didn’t help that it’s the holiday season so there’s that feeling of ‘friends and family’ getting together that I so desperately was missing.  Not that emails  and calls from everyone didn’t help, but like I said, there is something different about being able to see the faces of the people you love.  I was in such a good mood after seeing everyone that I decided to blow even more money on a celebratory meal at Hasty Tasty (yes, this is trip #2 of the day).  I would just have to eat rice and beans the whole week, but hey, who doesn’t love rice and beans.  This time I ordered the pepper chicken with curried veggies (pumpkin and cabbage) with rice topped off with an ice cold coke.  I managed to chat with the manager of the place.  I started talking to him by commenting on the fact that I loved the Food Network.  He was a really nice guy; the type of guy you’d imagine running a small diamond-in-the-rough place halfway around the world, he was pretty large, balding and was wearing a white apron.  He looked like he was of Indian or Asian decent (there is a fairly large Indian population here in Tanzania, thus the Indian style cuisine).  I asked him where he was originally from and he said he had lived in the same town his whole life.  I chatted with him for about 20 minutes before I had to leave and at this point decided that I wanted to be one of those regular customers; the kind that the whole staff knows so well that when you walk into the place they start preparing the menu item that they know you order every time.  The walk back to my guesti was pretty awesome as well.  The sun was setting and throwing off vibrant orange, red, rays which cast a purple haze over the clouds.  Iringa city is actually up on a plateau, so with the view of the rolling hills in the background, it was quite beautiful.  I arrived at the guesti and immediately took a hot shower.  There’s no description for how great a hot shower felt at that point.  Then, since I had power, I was able to watch one of the movies I snagged from another volunteer; The A-Team.  I can’t really think of a better way to what I would consider a highly successful day…

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4 responses

11 01 2011
Greg Switaj

Glenn,
Love reading your blog, especially the food part. You may not know it but I’m opening really good sub shops (Jersey Mike’s; Subway on steroids!) in the Washington DC area so I’m now in the food business. Sounds like you’re really into the experience. Paul has done two medical mission trips (Uganda and Ecuador) so I’m somewhat familiar with what you’re going through. We take so much for granted here! Keep up the good work; looking forward to following your experience.
Greg

9 01 2011
glegacki

Dee, thanks! Yea, I did miss attending the Legacki Thankgiving because we defintely know how to do it right… and yea, i’m not expert on pomegranate either, i can just picture that scene… haha Yea I heard the snow is crazy, even my friends in Atlanta said they were expecting 4 inches tonight! Anyway, thanks for commenting, i always love hearing from you. Hope all is well, and happy new year!

8 01 2011
Dee

Glenn your blogs are so amazing!!!! I cannot describe how your blogs make me feel like I’m right there with you. Your descriptions are amazing and I can see some of it in my mind. Got to spend time at the Legacki’s home on Christmas and Aunt Lynne was there too. So it was the usual 17 person holiday. You know those Legacki’s can throw an event. Aunt Lynne brought the ingredients for pomengrate (don’t think I spelled right) martinis plus a real pomengrade. It was hysterical as none of us knew how to get the seeds out. My niece Kristin is googling it on her iPhone will my sister Barb is doing what Kristin says. We have purple juice everywhere. By the time the martinis were made I didn’t even think they were good (LOL)!!!! But it was a great time as always. Good company, lots of laughs and great food. I took Christmas down yesterday. Today we have snow 1-3 inches. We’re suppose to get a big storm Tuesday through Wednesday here in Philly-yuck!!!! Take care and know we’re rooting you on!!!! You are making your entire family so proud as they should be!!!! Take care and good luck with your teaching!!!!!!!

12 01 2011
susan Pendleton

so much fun to read your post! We are in our third day of being almost totally shut down in Atlanta from snow and lots of ice. Chip was told to report at Emory for work today and when he got there he was told to go home- the parking lot was a sheet of ice. Things won’t melt until the day after tomorrow. We’re so glad to have electricity and heat. Great day to read your posts. I’m looking forward to checking out the pictures on Face Book. Thinking of you- Sue Pendleton

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