My friend, David (who I talked with about math and evolution on previous blogs; links are below.) went on a backpacking trip in Africa recently. This is his story of the experience of other cultures.
May 23: Tanzania
This is my third day here and my first day writing a journal entry. I wish I would have started sooner. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of bringing a notebook with me to write down my experiences. In the past few days, we have stayed in the Greenhouse; a small little hostel in Arusha, about an hour or so west of the airport. The first day had been a welcoming experience getting to know the other backpackers. After meeting half of them en route to Tanzania in various airports around the world, we arrived exhausted and ready to take showers and naps.
Later on in the evening, we went out into town for a bite to eat in the local form of transportation, the dalla dalla; a small minivan-style bus crowded to the brim with people. It seemed to have no enforcement for maximum capacity. I was half-way between standing and crouching and had to sit on other people at some point. We then walked for a few minutes to a local restaurant. The food was exquisite; pumpkin soup with rice and some other delicious food that was difficult to identify. I also learned courteous dining phrases from the waiter; umeshiba?, meaning “You are satisfied?”, which I replied to with nimeshiba, meaning “I am satisfied.”
The following day, we were introduced to Silas, a Massai warrior; a local tribesman who told us the story of his culture. He also taught us some Swahili phrases, and told us about his cultural coming-of-age ceremony. He told us stories of how he and his fellow tribesmen had to fight lions with spears to protect their cattle, and how his tribe used to be at war with the Chagga tribe over land in the past.
Later on that afternoon, we travelled back into town to eat at a barbecue place, which we later found out had run out of food. Along the way, a man had begun to talk to us for several minutes. He said he was a friend of Lindsey’s and was very friendly and talkative. We walked and talked for about 20 minutes before I realized that he was trying to sell me souvenirs. He followed me for almost an hour before I gave in and bought a bracelet for 4000 shillings (which, at least according to the internet, is about the equivalent of $2.29 in Canadian dollars).
1000 Tanzanian Shillings
It was not long after that when we were swarmed by salesmen selling the same things; bracelets and paintings. They probably tipped each other off about our presence. We had almost one salesman per person in the group. One man had offered me a mango and another bracelet, only to continue following me for an hour, trying to guilt me into giving him something for the items. Eventually, he asked for them back when he figured I wasn’t gonna budge. The whole group was getting fed up with the salespeople, and we started to figure out ways to avoid them, such as starting conversations with each other.
After another dalla dalla ride back to the Greenhouse, we had a quick meal at a local shop, then spent the rest of the evening hanging out, having drinks, and reflecting on our days’ experiences until we went to bed. This day had my first cultural experience of Tanzania and what life is like there.
…to be continued…