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Published: September 12th 2005
...was very enjoyable and very restorative. Saturday I had entirely to myself, at my request. Well, not actually my request but I made it well known to all and sundry that I was REALLY looking forward to a day to sleep in and just hang out. Which is what I did. I read and listened to music and at one point ventured out to the fruit stand across the road to buy some bananas to go with my peanut butter crackers for dinner. The bananas here taste very banana-y, I think they must lose a lot of their taste by the time they get to us in North America. I was a little lonely by evening but then my next door neighbour came home from her day and we chatted. She had invited me to go along on her explorations but I said no, and I wasn't sorry I had, I was just ready for some company by then.
Yesterday I went to Kiriakoo market with Muhalley, the woman from FOGOTA who took me to Kisarawe. It's where everybody shops, even the people selling stuff in the kiosks get their wares there. We walked all around, had something to eat, and came home on the daladala. I had passion fruit for the first time, which if you can get past what it looks like is quite good. Although as one of the girls at the hostel said to me, how on earth do they get juice from it? No idea. The inside is filled with black seeds in a sort of jelly, all of which you eat. Very nice and quite different from what I am used to.
The funniest point in the afternoon was when I walked past a young guy with his friends, maybe 15, and he called out "Hey Mama, are you ready?" It made me laugh so hard, because it was so ridiculous from him, and clearly the only English he knew. It caught me totally off guard. I said, "Sweetie, it's going to be about ten years before you're ready for me." Muhalley was somewhat embarrassed. She said, he probably wants to talk to you and that's all the English he knows. I said, he's lucky he doesn't get his face slapped, but really I was laughing. In your dreams, junior!
Later that day I dug out my map and went for a walk. I walked all around and ended up in the city centre at dusk. I had something to eat at one of the tourist hotels which was very comforting. Air conditioning and familiarity. I chatted to an Australian guy at the bar who has been here since January doing HIV and AIDS work with a small NGO (non-governmental organization) in the north. It was very pleasant. I realized when I got up that he was wearing a t-shirt that said MZUNGU ("white guy"). That is one of the funniest things I've seen since I got here. I hope and pray I can find one for myself before I leave.
Sitting out waiting for Muhalley I realized how much attention I really do attract here. I think not many people see Mzungus on any kind of a regular basis. People stop me all the time on the street -- to sell me things, to introduce themselves, to greet me in English, to offer their services as a guide (for a reasonable fee, of course!). I often get a thumbs up from young guys who can't quite bring themselves to speak to me. It's sometimes exhausting but usually just fun. When I was waiting to leave a guy came up with a bag of tiny fish, about the size of minnows, to show me. I admired them politely but when he said, 1000 shillings, I said, no thanks. I'm assuming they were to eat but when you don't know language it's hard to be sure. He said, Lake Nyasa, in a really surprised way, meaning I guess that that's where they were from, but I have to be honest, it wasn't really a selling feature. He walked away sort of shaking his head. Those mzungus, who can figure them out?
One reason for the fascination seems to be my hair. Thomas asked me outright one night, after along time of looking at it, if I had to go to a salon to get it to look "like that". It took me a bit to figure out what "like that" meant and then I did -- straight. I said, no, it grows that way. He was quite amazed, but then proceeded to tell me in all seriousness as if I didn't know that it will grow very long if I let it. I said yes, sometimes little girls in Canada have hair so long they can sit on it. He was quite blown away. He spent some time touching it as well, after assuring me profusely that I shouldn't take it the wrong way. Hey, knock yourself out! I'm here to serve.
Touching in general is different here from home. People -- Thomas, Ali, Muhalley, Dorcas -- will often take my hand as we are strolling along. The men especially if it's dark. It made me uncomfortable at first but now I'm getting used to it. The guidebook says it is a real sign of friendship and you should be very flattered if people do it. And I so totally am.
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