Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trip South Part 2

Continuing where I left off...
The bus stopped once around noon for lunch and we met the first two foreigners. They were a British couple around our age. He had been working in Kenya for six weeks and she had been working in Tanzania for six weeks. They were on their way to Lilongwe and then a two week stay in Malawi. The bus stayed there for about 45 minutes and then headed off for the border again. Driving through southern Tanzania I think we were in some sort of reserve because I saw: elephants, buffalo, giraffes, impala, a huge baboon running down the road and maybe a couple of rhino but I’m not sure. We reached the border around 10:30 after riding for 16 hours in the bus. By this time we had picked up about 5 or 6 aisle riders at different police checkpoints. One of these beloved aisle riders had been riding beside me for about four hours and thought that laying his head in my lap or even half sitting in my lap was perfectly fine:). Neil, lucky bum, didn’t have that experience. At the border most of the passengers got off and stayed at local ‘motels’. All of us foreign folk were spending the night on the bus. I had just stretched out to sleep across both seats when the guy we hadn’t met came up and asked if he could sit by me. His name was Alan and he had just fallen asleep when he woke up to find his seatmate with his arm in Alan’s bag. The guy’s excuse was that he was trying to keep Alan’s water bottle from falling on the ground. The only problem with that is that his water bottle had already been on the ground for a while:) After an interesting night’s sleep on the bus and some money exchanging the next morning we finally drove into the Tanzanian side of the border control. That part of the border went flawlessly and after a little while we drove to the Malawian side. Here after getting our passports stamped we sat around and watched the whole bus be unloaded for customs inspection. They probably had it unloaded by 10 and then it didn’t appear to get checked until the middle of the afternoon. My seatmate, a Malawian guy headed home, told me we would leave around 6 p.m. and then get to Lilongwe around 4 or 5 the next morning. So much for one night and two days. During our day long wait at the border a Malawian official came out and asked me, the Canadian guy Alan, and the British guy to come with him because he was ‘Intelligence’. He asked each of us a series of questions and wanted to know the likelihood of us coming back to live in Malawi. I don’t know how much intelligence was present at this ‘intelligence’ meeting, but at least he didn’t hassle us at all.
True to prediction the bus left a little after 6 and started its all night drive to Lilongwe. The sad part is that we didn’t get to see any of the beautiful Malawian countryside at night. Leaving the border the passenger list was different than before. Quite a few people had just ridden to the border and then they sold even more tickets for people to go to Lilongwe than that had gotten off. I had a different aisle friend this time who was slightly better but still thought sharing my seat would be a great idea:)
We got to Lilongwe around five in the morning. The night had been uneventful except for this one song that had played over and over again on the bus’s speakers. It was talking about a Maria, diarrhea, or malaria. I never quite could figure it out. We got a taxi over to the AXA bus company and bought tickets to Blantyre. The bus was going to leave in 45 minutes so we just sat and waited. We had heard that the AXA buses were really nice but in my mind that meant there wouldn’t be people in the aisles and 50 pound bags of merchandise shoved under the seats. When the bus rolled in to pick us up I was shocked. It was a brand new Mercedes. We were allowed to stow our bags UNDER the bus and we proceeded onto the bus to find a perfectly clean interior complete with TVs and foot rests. There was a movie in English, breakfast service, and a bathroom in the back. This bus ride was better than a lot of flights that I’ve been on:) Once we got to Blantyre we hung out with a couple of SMs from Walla Walla who are teaching this year. The next day we went out to Malamulo Hospital where I was born to visit some people and look around. This was the first time I’d been back since we left when I was two. We spent a couple nights there and got to meet some old family friends. Then back to Blantyre where we stayed with some friends of Neil’s family for a couple of nights. On Saturday morning they dropped us off at the airport and we flew down to Joburg where my parents picked us up and took us to the camp meeting they were attending.
The next day we traveled to Maputo and a few days after that I headed with my dad up north to check on some stuff for Maranatha that he had to do. That’s all in the next blog:) Sorry that this was so long but maybe being extremely wordy in this makes up for hardly blogging the past few months.

Trip South Part 1

Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I wrote a real blog post. Now I have some things that are definitely blog worthy. I’m going to get pretty detailed with this description of our trip south to Mozambique from Tanzania because when we were looking for information on it the best stuff we found were in people’s blogs. Good but insufficient. I’m going to donate my experience to society:)
We left Heri hospital on Friday April 3rd. We got a flight from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam where we would get our bus tickets for Malawi. The flight left on time and everything seemed to be going just fine until the pilot said that we’d have to go and land at a different airport part way across the country because the wheels wouldn’t come up. I guess the mud on the runway in Kigoma got up in the wheel retracting apparatus and was keeping them from rising. We landed in Tabora and stayed there for about a half hour while a fire truck sprayed off the wheels. Then we took off again headed for Dar. The pilot informed us that the wheels had retracted properly. I was just hoping that they’d go back down again when we needed to land:)
Once we landed (the wheels did go back down) we got a taxi driver to take us to the Scandinavian bus station in the hopes of buying a ticket straight from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe, Malawi. They informed us that they don’t have services to Malawi but that Falcon did. We asked our friendly taxi driver if he knew where the Falcon ticket sales office was and he said he did. We wandered around Dar while he kept asking for directions to find Falcon. He finally found a guy who said he worked for the bus ‘companies’ and that Falcon didn’t have service to Malawi but another bus company, Taqwa, did have a bus going to Lilongwe. We got ‘directions’ to the Taqwa ticket office and when we reached the street we saw the Falcon office instead. We went in there and they agreed with what we had heard that they didn’t service Malawi. As we went back to the car we spotted the Taqwa office down the street a bit. The small room was full to the ceiling with cases of powdered milk. Using our taxi driver as a portable translator we found out that they did have a bus leaving for Lilongwe the next morning. Neil asked them some questions about the bus. Like does anyone sit in the aisle: “oh, no. everyone has their own seat”. We asked how long it took and the gentleman said that it would leave Saturday morning and get there Sunday evening, spending the night at the border. There were some pictures on the wall of their buses and they didn’t look too bad so be bought tickets to leave at 6 the next morning. We paid 55,000 shillings which is about fifty bucks US.
We spent the night at the YWCA after talking to the taxi driver about picking us up at 4:45 the next morning. It was a wonderful night’s rest with the power going out (so the fan stopped) and a few friendly mosquitoes smuggling their way into our nets:) Our taxi driver dropped us off at the main bus station around 5:15 and we got on our chariot of fire bound for Malawi. The bus was probably half full when we showed up and we were surprised to see two other foreigners already there. Apparently when you buy a ticket on the bus you’re just buying a seat. The bus had lots of storage room underneath already packed full of stuff people were exporting from Tanzania. I ended up with one backpack between my feet and Neil likewise and our joint bag we tossed in the back on a pile of other people’s belongings. The bus left only a half hour late and before it departed low and behold another random white guy got on. I don’t know if you can understand me or not but after being way out in the middle of nowhere for months and getting yelled at(in a friendly way) all the time for being white it was almost shocking to see other white people again:) To be continued...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On the Road Again

Well I guess it's been a while since I last put up something for the reading public to purview. It's not that nothing has been going on but it's just become normal everyday stuff and doesn't make me think that it's blog worthy.

The new news on the street, is that Neil and I are leaving Heri on Friday to start a week long trip down to my parents' house in Mozambique. Since our construction job ended here we're going to go down and work for Maranatha for a month and a half. We'll be driving trucks, putting up One Day Churches, doing data entry on the website and all kinds of other stuff. Not to mention getting to eat my mom's amazing food. I have to admit that I do have some ulterior motives in heading south. Not cooking for myself is one of them:)

Well this is all there is until after our week long trip full of bus rides across deserted regions of eastern Africa. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Driving in the Slow Lane

I think it’s been long enough since I last wrote so now I can put up a post about all of the non-experiences that I’ve been having recently. It’s been pretty slow around here. Which has its benefits.
After we got back Milton and Shirley (the Canadian couple in charge of construction) left for Arusha to pick up some building supplies and see more of Tanzania. They were supposed to be gone for a week and Neil and I were in charge of the construction project during that time. Well their trip turned out to be longer than expected and we got to be in charge for two weeks. Also happening during January and into the beginning of February were lots of surgeries. I got to see a bunch of hysterectomies along with other random surgeries that I don’t remember what they were. There has been a Danish doctor here since we got back who has been performing surgeries. He comes over here every year for a few months. He brought another volunteer with him. She wanted to watch surgeries to decide if she wanted to go into medicine. Mid-way through January a German doctor showed up to get some experience for a couple months. She and the two German nurses that are here along with the Danish girl left the beginning of this month to do some traveling around Tanzania. Before they left Neil and I had been going over and hanging out with them pretty often. We got to watch lots of Friends episodes and play some Uno.
Nothing else has been going on. Oh, except we did find a chameleon on the way back from the market one evening a couple weeks ago. He was named Oscar and after a few pictures was placed in a little tree in front of our house. Haven’t seen him since but I’m sure he’s having a good time somewhere.
We found out the approximate time that we’ll be leaving Heri to head down to my parents’ house. We’ll be leaving the end of April and then spending most of May with my family in Mozambique. The reason we decided to leave at the end of April is because that’s when Dr. Rocero is going on his annual leave back to California. The construction part of our job is ending in a couple weeks when the Petermans leave for Canada.
Well I think that’s all. I hope you all have had a wonderful February!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Journey Continues

Well here’s the second episode of my Christmas adventures. I figure I should probably get caught up to the current before next Christmas comes around. So after we got down to my parents’ house we left the next day to go with a volunteer group from South Africa to build a church way out in the boonies. We spent a few days there, stayed for the dedication and then headed back to Maputo. During this time I got to do some much missed driving, even if it was on the wrong side of the road and I had to shift left handed. Once we got back home the days became extremely relaxing. We’d wake up and then spend the day not having to do anything. Got lots of internet time in, watched pretty much all the seasons of Cosby show, and went swimming a few times in the pool.

We went to the beach one day. We drove up north of Maputo to a beach that you have to take a ferry to get to. The ferry was a really old boat that held maybe four cars precariously placed. Once we crossed the river we got to drive over a few kilometers of REALLY muddy roads. It was lots of fun going into mini lakes and hoping the truck didn’t totally submerge. At the beach we used a surfboard and a boogie board we had borrowed from my uncle to have some fun in the waves. My attempts at surfing never ended up amounting to much. Maybe next time. It was a steep beach so there were some large waves landing right on the beach. Each time trying to ride up to the beach ended up with one of us getting rolled through the water and bouncing of the bottom. I imagine I know what it would feel to get flushed down a toilet now.

Christmas was lots of fun. My mom gave us tons of food stuff to bring back up here which has been highly appreciated. On the 30th of December we drove over to South Africa and spent four nights and five days in a game park. We got to see pretty much all the good stuff. I got to see my first cheetahs in the wild, we saw lots of lions, a couple of leopards, lots of elephants (one herd numbering over a hundred), white and black rhino, and all the other ones. A couple of our campsites had hyenas walking on the other side of the fence, only a few feet away. Loads of good pictures and then we were back in Maputo. Our border crossing on the way back happened the last day of South African holidays so the line waiting to cross from the Mozambiquan side was like 10 km long. Ours thankfully wasn’t too bad. The next day my dad and I went to the US embassy to see if I could get more pages put in my passport. I was down to only two and a half blank visa pages and Neil and I still had a bunch of borders to cross before we go back to the States in June. When we first showed up they wouldn’t let us in because we hadn’t made an appointment. Then we were told that the lady who adds pages wouldn’t be in till later. So we drove all the way home and then a couple hours later we learned that she was in and could help us if we got right down there. After checking in to the embassy I only had to fill out one piece of paper and then twenty minutes later we were leaving and my passport was 25 pages thicker. It’s kind of crazy how they put in more than it comes with originally.
The next day we packed up our stuff and left super early in the morning in order to make it all the way to Johannesburg in time for our flight. After a goodbye and my mom giving us even more food to take we sat in the airport for a couple of hours until our flight left. Our flight into Dar landed at 7 or something and we cleared through immigration easily with our residence permits. Before leaving Dar on our way down we had made a reservation with the YWCA, where we were staying, for some nights in January on our way back. Upon arriving there the guy couldn’t find our names in the books but was nice enough to just let us sign in and then he gave us a room key. The next day we went to the airline office to try and get a flight back to Kigoma because after our train ride Neil had decided he wasn’t interested in ‘experiencing’ the train again:) We managed to pick up a couple round trip tickets without too much hassle, and then spent a couple more nights in Dar till our plane left. Once we got back to Heri everything settled into its normal routine except for a couple of changes. Two days after we got back Milton and Shirley left for Arusha up north and we were in charge of the construction for two weeks. Another difference is that there are a couple of new people here from Denmark, a doctor and a girl interested in becoming a doctor, and a doctor from Germany who just finished her schooling there. All those people are only here for a couple of months.

Well I hope this wasn’t too disjointed and some sense can be made out of it. Maybe in May I’ll put up another post of everything we’ve done:)....or maybe before then.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Planes Trains and Automobiles

Well I guess it’s safe to say that a lot has happened in the life of Justin since my last post following Thanksgiving. Instead of writing a ten page essay to talk about it all I’m going to write a bunch of different posts about different parts of what’s happened.
From Thanksgiving to December 11 when we left Heri for Kigoma to get on a train not much happened out of the ordinary. Because of that I’m just going to start off with the train escapades. We had made bookings a few weeks in advance and we had reserved a first class room which we were told would have two beds and we could be by ourselves. On Thursday December 11th we rode into Kigoma in the hospital car. Although we had been told that it would leave at 6:30 a.m. it of course didn’t end up leaving till several hours later:) Once in town we dropped off the doctor who was flying to Dar es Salaam and then went down to the train station to find out just when our afternoon train was going to leave. The station master informed us that the train wasn’t leaving that day. That was a surprise! We came back a little while later with a guy from the hospital who could translate better for us and we learned that the train had broken down and would be arriving and then leaving the next morning. After that cheery bit of news we found a place to spend the night and then the next morning arrived at the station early enough to end up sitting around for a while with hundreds of others. The train actually did end up leaving within an hour of its scheduled departure. Once in our ‘room’ the unique experience started. The mental image I had created about what it was going to be like probably belonged to a US train ride because this was far from what I had expected. The room had two beds, one on top of the other, a window with a stick to keep it shut, and a sink that didn’t drain and had bugs floating in it. So yeah, it was the Ritz Carlton. But I was still really looking forward to this whole train riding experience. The trip is usually supposed to take two nights and one day but ours wasn’t the ‘usual’ trip:). We ended up being on the train for 50 hours.
Soon after leaving the station I was standing in the hallway with my head out the window when a guy came up and started talking with me. He was pretty nice and didn’t seem like the serial killer type so we talked for a little while. Then I realized where this was heading when he started to tell me how he was such a poor man (riding first class) and then he told me I should give him my watch. I declined his generous offer of my donation to him and then later he wanted to come into our room and talk with us. That didn’t end up happening because I didn’t figure it was a smart idea to let him see all of our other stuff so he could start asking for it. It’s nice that he was a friendly con man. The mean ones are just no fun.
Due to the 50 hours we spent on the train even though we left in the morning we still ended up with two nights aboard the Polar non-Express. The first night wasn’t so bad. We had the window open and it was actually kind of cool so besides the fact that a big rat had run through our room all was good. The second night however was entirely different. We still had another rat run through but this time it was incredibly HOT and then the train stopped in a town and didn’t leave a half-hour late like usual. After talking with some people we found out that there was another train broken down on the tracks ahead of us so we’d have to wait till it got out of the way. I ended up spending the hours from 1 to 4 in the morning outside sitting in this train station because it was cooler than our room. I got to meet a 17 year old guy named Edward who came up to me and said that he hoped he wasn’t bothering me but he wanted to practice his English. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. It was pretty cool. After the train finally left and I got back to sleep I was awoken by something biting my foot. Not a mosquito kind of bite but more like something sinking its fangs into me. I came to the land of full consciousness quite rapidly mostly because I thought it was the same rat that had run across me the night before. I kicked my sheet off and found that I wasn’t missing any appendages so tried going back to sleep. When I got up later in the morning I found a HUGE bug in my sheet that had been trying me out for taste.
All the fun didn’t end with our arrival in Dar though. We had asked the doctor to make a reservation for us at the YWCA before we arrived. He had called us while we were on the train and informed us that the YWCA and the YMCA were fully booked. We weren’t sure what we were going to do when we got off the train but we grabbed a taxi and went to the YWCA in the hopes that something had opened up. God is amazing and lo and behold they had a room we could have for a few nights till our flight left for Johannesburg, South Africa. That was the end of the excitement of our trip to my parents’ house in Maputo Mozambique. My dad met us at the airport in Joburg and by that evening we were eating enchiladas that my mom had expertly crafted:) Well that’s the end of the travel down. Read the next post about what I did over the few weeks I spent in Mozambique.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving...Only Comes Once a Year

Happy Thanksgiving!!

It’s crazy how fast time goes by. Today Thanksgiving...tomorrow New Years. Before I know it I’ll be heading back to school and Africa will be a large collection of memories and pictures (most of those being Neil’s:). Well my time spent here has given many things to be thankful for. Like the fact I haven’t gotten malaria or any other strange illnesses. I’m also quite thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet...our upcoming trip to Mozambique. We leave here two weeks from today and after five days finally arrive at my parents’ house in Maputo. The train ride has me particularly excited. Maybe I won’t like the idea so much after having done it but who knows?

Last Sabbath was my turn to teach Sabbath school. The whole teaching, leading out in discussion thing isn’t exactly my piece of pumpkin pie. I mean I definitely enjoy talking and discussing ideas with people but the ‘in charge’ part is what gets me. Despite all that it went pretty well. Thanks in a large part to the fact that some members of the class enjoy enlightening others with stories of their past;)

I don’t know if I’ve talked about our pet, Frank (RIP). We had wanted a pet here so when we found a praying mantis in our kitchen a month ago we named him Frank and he became our pet. We figured this would be beneficial to both parties because he would get to eat mosquitoes and have the honor of being our pet and we would have a pet that could keep us company while cooking and just look cool. He hung out for a couple of weeks and we would find him all over the kitchen. Pretty much a “where’s Waldo” kind of thing. His favorite spot ended up being our compost bucket so we had to watch when we through stuff in there or outside so as to not injure dear old Frank. Then came the fateful day. The lady that takes care of the guest house where we live was doing some cleaning and decided to be nice and take out our compost. Poor Frank went out with the bucket and didn’t come back. It’s taken us a while to get over that tragic loss. For a while at just the mention of the name Frank, Neil and I would burst into tears. Imagine our joy when Neil saw a praying mantis on the outside of his bathroom window. I escorted the new Frank into our kitchen and set him up in a comfortable spot near the window. He doesn’t look like the old Frank but he still has the charming praying mantis manners. I’m going to have to look into the airline policies on bringing pet praying mantises into the U.S. for when we go home.

Note: For those who don’t quite know when I’m being serious, some parts of the above paragraph are exaggerated, slightly, to protect the integrity of the story.

Tomorrow there are a bunch of head honchos from the States showing up for some meetings here this weekend. They leave on Sunday and then Monday there are 18 others from Tanzania that are arriving to have some year-end meetings. Due to the large number of people coming on Monday, Neil and I are going to have to move out of our rooms and spend a couple of nights at a pastor’s house. Should be an interesting weekend.

Well I’ll probably write once more before we leave for Mozambique. I’m going to go prepare a little Thanksgiving feast of foods not native to Tanzania. Have a wonderful holiday season! And listen to lots of Christmas music because it’s been shown to increase brain function in 75% of the mice that were subjected to it continuously for one month.