August 15, 2008

Ninafika (I arrive)

It is hard to get on the internet, so I hope you’ll forgive me for taking so long.

First and foremost - I’m here and my stuff is here. Beyond that, there’s little more I can ask for. I’m still a little tired. Jet lag will do that to you. At 12 am Tuesday, the sun was coming up as we were going down into Amsterdam. Of course, it was almost six am there. There is something wrong with having another day begin when the last one has not yet ended. So I roamed the Amsterdam airport groggily until I met up with Gloria, a fellow traveler to Dar Es Salaam and onward to Mumba, whose children work as missionaries there and were provided us transportation.

If I am to file one grievance against the airport in Amsterdam, it is that they took away two unopened bottles of Dr Pepper as we were checked through security to board our plane. I purchased them legitimately at DTW, and I will not forget the offense. Dr Pepper poses no threat to air security.

Nevertheless we arrived (almost) on time in Dar Es Salaam where Mike and Lynn Caraway met us with Luka, a three year old they’ve taken under wing from their orphan ministry. His mother abandoned him in the woods as an infant, and after the family found him and returned him she abandoned him again. He was found and brought to an orphanage in Sumbawanga as little more than a skeleton. The Caraways usually take in a handful of orphans to nurse back to health, and they've temporarily adopted him (you cannot officially adopt a Tanzanian unless you are a Tanzanian) while they search for a home for him.

We stayed two nights there with a day in between to run errands and change money in the big city ($500 USD bought me 569,000 Tanzanian shillings.) We spent an afternoon at a pool/hotel on the Indian Ocean and had dinner at Subway, the only chain restaurant with any presence in Tanzania.

Yesterday, we drove across the country to Mbeya where we’re currently staying until we go onto Mumba tomorrow or Sunday. That’s where I’ll live until November. The main highway runs from Dar Es Salaam through Zambia, and it goes right through Mikumi National Park. Just beyond the entrance, we saw the aftermath of an awful accident that took place the night before. A semi truck sat in the middle of the road, still smoldering, and a passenger bus had careened off the side of the road into the trees. It looked as though it might have rolled over. There were probably lots of casualties.

Further down the road, the highway along a cliff up a mountain. Lynn told me that vehicles often break through the barriers on the side of the road and plunge over the cliff. It’s no wonder, as it’s a two-lane highway and people often pass precariously, usually at high speeds. Just as we neared the top, we saw a group of people gathered at the edge of the road and skid marks attesting to yet another tragedy.

Beyond the mountains is Iringa, one of the bigger cities beyond Dar Es Salaam. We stopped here for some lunch with some missionary friends of the Caraways. Less than two minutes on the road (a dirt drive that leads back to the main highway) we lost a tire. Mike and I changed it. I got dirty in the African sun, and it felt like I had arrived. We drove the rest of the way to Mbeya without a spare tire, and much of that leg was at night. Driving at night, as you might guess, is not a favorable option. Mike reinforced this point of few. In Tanzania, you needn’t worry about bandits harming you to take your stuff. “They’ll steal your stuff,” Mike said, “But they won’t hurt you.” The same cannot be said for Kenya where, as I understand it, the punishment for robbery is the same as the punishment for murder. There’s little incentive there to leave people alive after you’ve robbed them.

Still, we made it to Mbeya where we’re eating and resting well and staying safe. This morning we had pancakes and this afternoon I got a haircut (from an Indian barber – he did a good job, Mom) for 4,000 shillings, or $4. So for now, the culture shock has been minimal. Pancakes help that, along with fatigue. Tomorrow we’ll spend another day here and depart on Sunday for Mumba, which is another 6-8 hours beyond here, depending on road conditions.

Thanks for your prayers. Pictures tomorrow. Maybe.