Just completed Day 1 of my stint here in Arusha, Tanzania volunteering on a micro finance project. It was induction day, and the organisation I am here with provided an intro to the local community and customs, concluding with a short tour of the town to point out various landmarks and amenities.
Being late wet season, the roads are decorated in garbage as well as a lovely ankle-deep sludge (so maybe Birkenstocks weren't the greatest idea). The streets are also the footpaths, and trucks and dalla-dallas (hectic mini vans that provide a public transport solution) emit a choking black exhaust that stings your eyes and leaves an acrid taste on your lips.
There are packs of enterprising gents on every street corner wanting to sell you something or have a conversation in Swahili, and throngs of adorable children shout MZUNGU! as you pass.
The town centre is called "Clock Tower" and there is indeed a small Coca Cola clock atop a stone tower in the middle of a chaotic roundabout. Apparently this crowded area is where your iPhone or wallet will get snitched, and is also a target for the occasional bombing. Yes I heard right, bombing, though I couldn't get a clear understanding of who was responsible.
Surrounding this landmark are Mzungu hotels and eateries, many that offer avocado as a beverage (milkshake, smoothie, puréed over ice perhaps) not because they are hip and vegan, but because avocados are in abundance so why not.
The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is just a little further up the street near other government buildings. Arusha is host to many important gatherings on East African politics and economics, and this week there is a summit on security in the region. It is strange to think that local and foreign delegates congregate here to discuss the big issues, in a building surrounded by bedlam.
After I bought myself an AUD $12.50 mobile phone and figured out which credit card permitted me to withdraw Tanzanian Shillings from the ATM, I clung to my backpack (correct I'm wearing a backpack) as if my life depended on it, and headed for home, praying for the
muggers to have mercy.
Grubby and jetlagged, I made it back to my host family and went to collapse in my bedroom. I hadn't locked the door (my room is inside the main house, and I didn't want to appear paranoid) and as such discovered our maid Dada's 3 year old daughter with my 4 year old host brother trying to shave off his eyebrow with my razor. Seems I had learned who I should really be looking out for.