Stars from this side of the world

I suppose I should start talking about what happened in my last entry-the blackout. The computers stayed on for a few minutes after the blackout, long enough for me to send the last line. Then the batteries died and there was pure darkness.

Pitch black. Not just one “block,” as we would experience in the U.S., but the entire city was out. The only light in our path was the African night sky and a half moon, that looked like an eclipse. Brian and I walked two French grrrls to the Kilimanjaro hotel and then we moved toward our building. The neon signs that lit up the hotel next to ours were no longer our marker. I could barely make out the outline of my hand and I heard voices around me from time to time. A few more meters and I stopped, “I want a taxi.” I suddenly felt very unsafe and although we only had to cross the park to get to our destination, I wouldn’t move. It’s not safe for muzungus to walk around at night-the words spoken by Africans and other Internationals echoed in my head. Something could really happen right now. My stupidity of walking around at night had been shifted in pure darkness, when others who are used to these blackouts, could see me, but I could not see them. Within 10 seconds, a flash and a shout-abary ya jioni. Nzuri, I said-How much? 2000, he answered. I quickly said “no” and walked behind his car. Brian knew this bargaining game and walked along with me. The driver backed his taxi over a pothole. Ok, he said 1000. I agreed. We drove up and I gave him 1500. I can’t help it-I’m a sucker when it comes to tips. So I spent a whole dollar-I think I can handle it.

I’d have to say that I haven’t seen start like this for years. Perhaps my excuse becomes not having time to look up or maybe I’ve simply forgotten every camping trip I’ve ever taken.

Night turned to dawn and we went to the “bus station.” I emphasize the quotes because it was 5am-still dark and all I saw was a landfill and people sitting warming their hands over the fires, garbage that they had lit. It reminded me of a tent city. Did I mention that it is cold here in the mornings and that June and July are the coldest months of the year? Well…cold means 60 F, of course. However, I’m so used to the warm weather that this is cold for me. Maybe I really am an African?

The Bus-There were about 50 busses and everyone was shouting, at us, at each other. I absolutely adore moments like this. Chaos. Havoc. We kept asking which bus went to Morogoro and finally people led us to one. What I still haven’t figured out is why there is such disorganization in poor countries. Is it because they are poor or because they are disorganized? I’ve experienced similar situations in Italy and Poland, but those countries are not nearly as poor as they are here in Tanzania. I can at least speak for Poland and say that right after communism “fell”-(cough, cough-not to say it really fell) or even during, people would line up for hours/days at magazines(stores), waiting for a piece of meat. Pushing and shoving ahead was and now remains the mentality.

Anyway-it turned out that the bus was going to Dar es Salaam and not to Morogoro. The whole bus experience is worth describing. The bus was similar to our greyhound buses. Excepte greyhounds don’t act like our local transit buses and pick people up along the way. The procedure is like this: The bus sees people, slows down but does NOT come to a complete stop. People jump on as it is moving, throw sacks filled with fruit and other luggage onto it. Then the man who takes a few shillings from them smacks the side of the bus to signify to the driver that he can move on and jumps onto the first step and rides along. The people stand in the aisles, shout when it is their stop, jump off as it moves and again, the process repeats. We were dropped off at Chianze and took a local bus into Morogoro, Kola Hill-Wakapuchini. The local bus was even more fun, more packed and more chaotic. I could relive that over and over and not be annoyed. You really get a chance to do some people watching in these times.

Currently, I am writing to you from Morogoro. We are visiting Father Casimere. As Brian puts it, I know all of the Catholics in Africa. The accommodations are fantastica and I feel like I’m walking right into the Lord of the Rings books. The mountain that we are in looks exactly like one Frodo would cross. I am sorry that we have to leave tomorrow because the time here is just fantastic, but we have to try to get onto the UN Beachcraft carrier to Kigali on Monday. There are only 7 seats and people with different coloured badges get more privileges, so you can be sitting on the plane and someone can kick you off, even if you were cleared and assured a seat. If there isn’t room or we get kicked, then Brian and I will take a bus to Campala, Uganda and from there get to Kigali, Rwanda.

I think the best part of this relaxing weekend is being surrounded by hundreds of priests. I always find that I have amazing, deep, philosophical conversations with these wonderful holy people. At breakfast, lunch, dinner, the conversations are so intelligent, I crave for more. Father Casmier is fantastic, intelligent, funny. He is the Dean of Philosophy here and right as we speak, he is talking about the metaphysics of Stephen Hawking and disputing parts of it. I hope that our paths meet again some day-even if he moves back to Zaire or starts another mission in Madagascar.

Since I still have a bit of time and I don’t know when the next time I can write a new entry, I’ll spout out a few more thigns.

First of all-death. When someone dies here, at least in Arusha, all the friends and family mourn with the suffering family all night long. I think that is beautiful. It is similar to a wake but lasts all night. that is another example of community that they have here in Africa. People share everything here-even grief.

Something else-I have found my favorite food here-I ate it at the Augustinian sisters house in Arusha. Pumpkin leaves(similar to spinach, but Popeye would convert if he tasted these) Ugali(maize and boiled water mixed together-gives you a lot of strength), and red beans. On top of that a salad of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and cucumbers=a happy belly! All the food here is natural, fresh-there are no preservatives and I just feel healthy. I have so much strangth.

How shall I end this entry? Well, I’m astonished every day that I’m here and that I’m allowed to have these blessed moments and this time for reflection. I look forward to everyday and I thank God for every minute for whatever I’m being prepared for.

Well, I am off because Fr. Casimere has offered to do a private mass for us since we will be on the bus all day tomorrow.