"Living a truly ethical life, putting the needs of others first, and providing for their happiness has tremendous implications for society." -Dalai Lama

"Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us." -Sargent Shriver

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Call Me "Jane" :A month of monkeying around

Come one, come all! To hear about my month!

So I've had a pretty great past month! To kick it all off, I got to see my entire training class at our Close of Service Conference, or in PC lingo COS Conference. We spent an entire week eating Indian food, being weird with friends, and talking about our nearing returns to “Merica! Peace Corps puts us up at this super nice resort on the beach and treats us right. I guess they are making up for 2 years of dirt and grime? It was so surreal to talk about our end of service. Is 2 years seriously already up? Sometimes I'm not so sure I'm ready to return to the real world.

After COS Conference, we headed on to the capital of Tanzania, Dodoma. Tanzania is a very odd place in the fact that their capital is pretty lame. After the switch of capitals, all of the embassies and important buildings stayed behind in Dar es Salaam, making parliament the only peeps to move. All the same, we had fun, eating Italian, pizza, and chinese and catching up on laundry. Dodoma will also be the home of my dear, cool friend, Kathryn, and she was able to see where she will live and work. We also discovered one of her town crazies, a man that daily runs down the street into oncoming traffic, blowing a whistle, and carrying a hoe...we shall call him “Crazy Whistling Suicide Running Man.” After we'd eaten our way around Dodoma, we headed north west by way of Singida.

Now there isn't a whole lot in Singida, but I like it. It has a weird, desolate terrain with huge, random boulders that reminds me of some alien landscape. It also has this one bar where the owner, Baba Raziki, treats you well. He fills you to the brim with roasted goat and ugali and scares away all the creeps. Basically, he's just precious. After our one night in Singida, we went to the bus stand for our “9:00” bus. Not too surprisingly, we were on the road again around 11:00. I do have to say that I have never seen cockroaches on a bus before. It is kinda the last thing you expect to skitter across the aisle and adds a certain element of nasty to the ride. Speaking of nasty, there was also a mama that tried to get her son to poop in a bag in the aisle and missed, resulting in one messy aisle. Anywho, 7 short hours later, we arrived in Mwanza, home of Lake Victoria.
Lake Victoria...that pile o' rocks is Bismark Rocks

As it was getting dark, we found a guest house, ran and got some food, and returned to the promise of hot showers. The first person's shower was too cold. Lucky enough, my shower, the second, was just right. And breaking from Goldilock's trend, the third shower was not too hot. It was just plain explosive. Some apparently important piece of the faucet broke and instead of a rainfall of pleasant water, Kathryn got a face-full of fire hydrant'esqe water. We then had a show down with the drunk employees of the guest house, resulting in a woman trying to kiss Kathryn in the shower and lots of yelling. This ended in a depressing bucket bath for Kathryn and the bleak promise that the problem would be fixed the next morning. Surprisingly, this did happen. Hazzah for showers! The next couple of days, we hung out and did what Peace Corps volunteers do, eat. We also had a couple more friends meet up with us and we had us a gay ol' time with good food and okay drinks. After our couple days of relaxing and gazing upon Lake Victoria, we were on the move. Can't get too comfortable, can we? Saturday morning, we were in the cab at 3 a.m and at the bus stand by 3:30 a.m. By 4 a.m, we were loaded on our bus. At 4:01 a.m, I was passed out and woke only briefly to realize we were being ferried across part of Lake Victoria, not waking again until around 6:30. So you always feel dirty after bus rides, but after 15 hours busing down red dirt roads, we looked like the cast of “Jersey Shores.” You probably could have drawn designs in our layers of dirt. Despite being dirty and tired, we had arrived in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. After much needed showers and a night's sleep, we walked around figuring out our next move. We were hoping to go to Gombe Stream on Sunday, but due to no ferry running, we hung out at Jacobson's Beach. Now if you ever find yourself in western Tanzania, you should definitely swing by this beach. Its a little secluded cove with crystal clear water and red sand. It was beautiful and relaxing and gave me a real hillbilly place to wash my shirt from the bus ride the day before. Don't judge me!

Jacobson's Beach
Vervet monkey friends at the beach
On Monday, we made our way to Gombe Stream. Gombe Steam is on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and is the site where Jane Goodall did her chimp research. The research is amazingly still ongoing, being called home by the fifth generation of chimpanzee researchers. It really was an incredible experience. We had to hike for 6 hours, but we found a family group of about 15 chimps and got to observe them for a while, including watching them eat a Red Colobus Monkey. All I have to say is I could eat that baby chimp up with a spoon is was so cute! Also, in the camp, the monkey fun didn't end. We were sharing our quarters with the baboons. Now that sounds more fun than it actually is. Being the cheap volunteers we are, we brought all of our own food. This included bread for lunches and breakfasts. Our very first morning, we were sitting down to a lovely breakfast of bread, bananas, and peanut butter, when all of a sudden, a big ol' mama baboon with a baby on her belly runs in the door. For a second, we all froze, staring into the eyes of pure evil, or a hungry baboon if you don't want to be too dramatic. Then, she made the move, jumping onto our table sending us all flying to the other corner, watching helplessly as she grabbed out bread and ran out the door. So in about 5 seconds flat, we lost about half of our food to the grabby paws of that baboon-terror. Observing all of this was a cute little Canadian family. Now I've always been told that Canadians are insanely nice, and by told I mean that I love “How I Met Your Mother” and they always talk about that. Now, I believe! After our long hike, we return tired and a little hungry to find that the Canadians had bought a replacement loaf and left it for us like a bunch of bread-fairies! It was the best surprise ever! After all of the excitement of Gombe Stream, we returned to civilization and boarded LV Liemba, bound for Kisanga on the southern shores of Tanganyika.
Ferry to Gombe Stream

Our empty breadbag...pictured with who I can only assume was an accomplice to the crime

Hike break
Making our way to the chimps
Found em!
1-year-old peewee
2-year-old peewee
Hooray for friends!

This boat was originally build by the Germans during World World II and now serves as a ferry from the north part of the lake to the south. Seeing as there were five of us, 2 got a first class cabin and 3 got a second class cabin, thinking there would be enough space for us all to hang out in the bigger second class cabin. We were not wrong about that, but what we didn't realize before hand was there would be no air flow down in the second class cabin, or shall I call it the fiery doorstep of Hades. It was hot. In order to get any sleep, I slept with my feet sticking out of the porthole by my bed. Our 48 hours on the boat was overall cooler and fun, though. We read and played cards and made new friends, arriving to our destination without sinking to our watery grave! I know its probably irrational, but that is my fear in Tanzania. I instinctively plan my escape and locate all flotation devices. I've seen the state that the buses are in in Tanzania and truly believe that this fear is not just me being dramatic.

My porthole
Life boats
The majestic LV Liemba
Upon arrival in Kasanga, we made plans to visit Kalambo Falls the next day. Kalambo Falls are the second highest single drop waterfall in Africa, plunging about 215 meters. After a boat ride and few hours hiking, we arrived to a breathtaking view and a hoard of gnats, ready to coat out sweaty bodies. After fighting off gnats long enough to eat a snack and take a somewhat acceptable picture, we made our way back to our guest house. The next morning, we had another fun 17.5 hours of travel, we arrived in chilly Mbeya, where we are now recovering and licking our wounds, preparing for our returns home. Overall, an incredible month of travel and time with friends. Basically, I love my job.

Almost a decent picture with the falls

Kalambo Falls

Ninja games with Kasanga village kids

That's all for now folks! Peace Out!

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