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Published: July 16th 2019
Our first breakfast at RUCU went similarly to our first dinner; we were told to be in the classroom to start at 8 AM, but when we arrived at the dining hall at 7:30 and strategically Google translating some questions, we discovered that the cafeteria doesn't even open until 8. Class was promptly moved to 8:30 permanently, and we enjoyed the standard breakfast of maandazi (sweet fried dough balls) and very sweet chai.
Today was also our first Swahili class; our instructor Paulo is hilarious and knowledgeable, so the hour flew by. In lieu of our lecture period, we all participated in the "selfie challenge," a 2-hour long group scavenger hunt around the city of Iringa. Two hours felt like enough time to get a feel for the small city and I'm now much more comfortable navigating by myself - we caught all five confirmed safe restaurants within walking distance, which is all I need to know. While passing by a school on the back roads, a group of elementary-age children had some fun calling us "mzungu!" and cracking jokes in Swahili at our expense. Taking selfies with backpacks on in front of restaurants and hospitals is in fact an
extremely mzungu thing to do, so I don't blame them.
Lunch today was at Hasty Tasty (locally pronounced hahsty tahsty), where I ordered chicken balti (chicken, mint, and cardamom in a tomato-based sauce) and vegetable samosas with a yogurt honey smoothie. The TV in the restaurant was turned to CNN, which confirmed that this too was a place that catered to wazungu. Class in the afternoon was a light discussion of our experiences in the scavenger hunt, where we all shared big picture ideas and thoughts about Iringa that set the tone for this intensive course. Afterward, I walked to the Maasai market nearby, where the owners of tens of little shops in a row literally pounce on anyone on whom they can smell foreign money. We were warned beforehand that bartering was acceptable and expected, and I was prepared for that, but definitely not to this level; the workers hovered around every item I glanced at, and as soon as I reached over to touch one, they had already picked it up and wrapped it for me to buy. I was able to haggle my first item for a decent 5,000 shilling discount (about $2), but I still knew I was being ripped off. My next one went a bit more smoothly, and I was proud to negotiate 33% off the given price. One booth was especially intense - the owner (who falsely claimed he had hand-carved some wood himself, even though every stall had the same ones) literally blocked the entryway and had a hand on my shoulder; I was physically unable to leave until I promised to come back again later.
Dinner was back at the RUCU cafeteria, another serving of wali na maharage. We ate dinner as a class, and right afterwards, went back to the classroom to study for tomorrow's quiz on the geography of Tanzania.
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