I’m back from Tanzania and another year older

It appears I am 33 years old! I woke up yesterday to someone ringing the doorbell and delivering me a dozen red roses, along with a note that says “Happy birthday, my love.” Enrique will be back in Amsterdam in a couple weeks, and I can’t wait.

After the whole Tanzania trip (I got home a few days ago), I was so very, very tired. Tired psychically and emotionally and mentally and in every possible way. I did some pretty amazing things – I rode on the back of a motorbike with all my stuff through the pouring rain, passing by some of the most beautiful landscape I ever saw, and that was the first day. Later in the trip, on another motorbike ride to the sea, we passed by giraffes! Really huge giraffes, just hanging out, eatin’ trees! Amazing. I learned how to use my camera, I think. I learned how to use my sound equipment. I interviewed people and learned how to be a “documentary filmmaker.” I hope. (update: the finished film is here)

Getting to Matipwili from Dar Es Salaam

Getting to Matipwili from Dar Es Salaam – and my first time on a motorbike. There were no real roads for a stretch of the journey, so this was my most practical way in.

My room in Matipwili

This is where I slept. The guest house had about 8 rooms, and it was pretty comfortable. My neighbors, the roosters, woke up a bit earlier than me though…

Turns out "I'd rather go without than drink instant coffee" is total bullshit. After 7 days without, this instant coffee was the best-tasting thing in the world.

Turns out “I’d rather go without than drink instant coffee” is total bullshit. After 7 days without, this instant coffee was the best-tasting thing in the world.

I used an outdoor squat toilet every day, and showered with a bucket of (cold) water from the river. I didn’t wash my hair for three weeks. I ate the same food every day, and the food was… well, the food wasn’t bad, nor was it good. It was pretty bland. there were about 5-6 different dishes I ate over the course of three weeks. Breakfast was some kind of fried bread thing – sometimes a crepe-like object (without sugar, jam, etc), sometimes a fried ball that had rice inside. Lunch was always white rice, beans, and green vegetables. Except twice, when we had meat. Dinner was almost always one egg on top of potatoes.

Matipwili, Tanzania

Matipwili, Tanzania

I went to bed every night as early as I could. it was pitch black every day by 6.45pm, and i would try to be laying down in bed by 11pm, because the morning started around 6.30am. well, the morning officially started at 6.30am, though the chickens that lived 3 inches from my window woke up every day around 4am, which meant I was also waking up at 4. I didn’t have any problems falling asleep – I would pass out after 10 minutes. Honestly if there were no chickens, I would have slept with no problems the whole time.

I had no health problems at all, not even a headache. Matipwilli was without a doubt the least hygienic place I ever stayed and ate. There is no concept of a trash can or a trash collection, so trash is just simply all over the ground. Trash like batteries and kerosene cans is everywhere, including in people’s gardens. The chickens that run all over the village love to eat this trash, and I can tell you, I ate chicken a few times. Everything I ate came from that very village, and it was served wrapped in dirty newspaper that was put together by someone who doesn’t wash their hands with soap and doesn’t use toilet paper when they go to the bathroom. But the human body is a pretty amazing thing, and really, the earth is a pretty amazing, resilient thing. Everything growing like crazy, crops everywhere. Even though the people living there treat the earth “badly” (from a western POV) by throwing toxic trash on the ground, the earth itself seems fine. Outside of the immediate village area, everything was absolutely stunningly beautiful. so, so green. Everything – trees, plants, thorns, bugs, animals – everything is bigger in Africa. There were times I felt like my eyes didn’t have the training to see the things I was seeing, it was just so… expansive. The most opposite place of the Netherlands I’ve ever been.

The earth seems to go on forever. This was taken about 20km outside of Matipwili.

The earth seems to go on forever. This was taken about 20km outside of Matipwili.

Just seemed that everything was bigger in Africa (my hand is there for scale).

Just seemed that everything was bigger in Africa (my hand is there for scale).

Taken from a motorbike, so it's a terrible photo - but look! A giraffe!

Taken from a motorbike, so it’s a terrible photo – but look! A giraffe!

It’s been over a week since I’ve been back in Amsterdam. I love eating good food again, walking on actual roads instead of dirt or mud, and being able to shower and drink water from the tap. But I think about Matipwili all the time, and I miss the people I got to know there. I was able to form a relationship with some of the people in the village. After the villagers realized that yes, seriously, I was staying and sleeping and eating in Matipwilli for weeks and weeks, they treated me (and the Devergy guys) normally. We stopped getting stares and attention from the adults, in fact, they wanted to chat, talk, hang out, anything. It’s like any other small village anywhere in the world, in one respect: outsiders seem suspicious. Like “yeah, alright whitey, welcome to rural Tanzania, have fun, take some pictures, seeya.” Honestly in the tiny town i grew up in, if I saw tourists from the city I felt the same way. “yeah yeah, take some pictures of trees and leaves, must be sooo interesting” But after a bit of time, everything started to seem more normal.

Matipwili residents

Matipwili residents

Matipwili residents

Matipwili residents

The first few days everyone was so curious about my tattoos, but after day three? No one said anything. I wasn’t the only person there with nostril piercings or earrings. They thought my hair – long, straight, and black hair – was the most exotic thing about me, they never saw such long, black hair on a white person before, only Chinese. The little kids were amazing. Curious, outgoing, unafraid. They loved running up to me and my friends and holding our hands and would do pretty much anything they could do to get our attention.

That little girl on the right was one of my favorites, and a total camera hog.

That little girl on the right was one of my favorites, and a total camera hog.

Now that the trip is over and I’m back home, I’m pretty sick (coughing, sneezing, the works). I’m eager to see my boyfriend again. I want to start working but I’m having a hard time getting started and finding motivation, but that’s mainly because I’m so sick. So I’m going to make some tea and watch Mad Men and think about Matipwili and  the future and wish for chicken soup to appear at my door.

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