July 8, 2012
Currently, I’m sitting in my bed in our 5-bed room at the White House- a house-tuned-hostel overlooking Nkoaranga Hospital. Nkoaranga is located on top of a hill surrounded by trees, a few houses, a small shop and a pack of wandering chickens. (Seriously- they walk around the grounds in between the maternity ward building and the operating theater.) It’s a bit of a trek from Arusha, into the rural outskirts. To get there, John brought his friend who rented us out a dala dala. I don’t know if I’ve introduced dala dalas yet, but they’re essentially a VW-like van that’s been modified into a “bus.” The outsides are painted and decorated with slogans, drawings, quotes- I suppose whatever is the individual interest of the driver. And, in the city, it’s the cheapest ride you’re going to find- only 300 Tsh (20 cents). BUT none of this actually describes the essence of dala dalas- imagine a mini van absolutely stuffed with people, sweat, dust, crying babies, live animals, while one of the dala dala workers hangs out the open door or window shouting destinations or cat calling to people on the street to pile in. To request a stop, you bang on the door- loudly.
Experiences our team has had on the dala dalas:
1) Aaron was on a dala dala that was so packed, his ass literally did not fit inside. They seriously could not close the door. Amazing.
2) Aaron also caught a would be pick pocketer on the dala dala.
3) I (Alina) sat next to a vomiting child. Ugh.
4) Dilan asked someone how much the live chicken they were carrying cost- a question that misinterpreted as him trying to purchase said chicken. Needless to say, it was not for sale.
5) Today, we rented a dala dala to take all 8 of us + John up to Nkoaranaga and pulled all the crap that the local dala dalas do- shouting at the locals, Dilan hanging out the window yelling out potential stops. Absolutely hilarious.
Anyways, after dropping our stuff off at Nkoaranga, we set off to Maji ya Chai orphanage to visit the kids there and organize a time for our dental and medical screenings. Now, we were lucky on the way here that we took a dala dala all the way up the winding hill to Nkoaranga, but on the way back down, our only option was to take piki pikis. Motorbikes. With pleas of “polepole tafadthali” (Slowly please!) I climbed onto the bake of the motorbike and clung on. Truly though, it was incredible! My hair streaming behind me, we barreled down the hill while all the locals on the street waved at us. I couldn’t help thinking, here I am, on a motorbike for the first time cruising through rural Tanzania. One of those perfect moments.
For the rest of the day, we had a fun and dusty afternoon playing soccer, skipping and having my hair braided (ridiculously, I might add) by the kids at Maji ya Chai. On the way back though, piki pikis for the return trip were no where to be found. Instead, John enlisted a pick up truck/dump truck vehicle to let us a pile into the back. Hahaha this was amazing, words don’t explain. It was so sketchy and amazing at the same time. The roads were dirt, full of rocks and potholes. We constantly had to duck for trees and branches slamming into the car. The locals stared at us incredulously as we waved back like we were on a float in a Christmas parade. At one point, we came across a group of people trying to push another similar truck that had gotten stuck in the road. While we all wondering what exactly was happening, our truck turned around and proceeded to ram the other vehicle with its back, as we were all still in the truck bed. When we finally made it to the main road, I was pretty convinced this was the best TITS experience we’ve had to date. 🙂
Another piki piki ride back up the hill (amazing, once again) and here we are, at Nkoaranga. Tomorrow we begin at the hospital!
Lala salaama, and much love,