Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Covered in dust, safe and sound in Kigoma at last

July 5, 2011

After meeting our friend and translator Stan at the airport in Mwanza yesterday (Monday) afternoon, we traversed the town to reach our hotel, conveniently located within walking distance of the bus station. Revo, another long-time friend and translator, met us at the hotel. It was great to see him, but as his comprehensive oral exam was scheduled for today, we didn’t get to spend much time catching up. We look forward to catching up with him in Kigoma and continuing to work with him this summer.

As our departure was slated for 5:30am, we took an early dinner at the Millenium Hotel, where Colleen marveled at the incredible anatomy of the whole fish that was laid in front of her, while those of us that had ordered chicken tried to figure out whether it is really worthwhile to try to separate the meat from the neck (we decided it was not).

We got to bed fairly easily, and woke up not much later to make the hike down to the bus station. The tickets are deceiving because the departure time was listed as 11:30. Not too bad, right? Wrong. Tanzanian time works differently than in America, where the new “day” starts at sun-up and our 7:00 AM is their “1:00 za asubuhi” (1 in the morning). We got to the station around 5 AM (our time) to find it bustling with activity. Luckily Stan knew his way around the people and buses and got us safely to our vehicle. A common form of commerce in Tanzania involves men, women and children standing with baskets of goodies outside the buses, trying to sell you sustenance for the long ride. They were also selling large plastic bags, to which we didn’t pay much attention in our groggy state. Our packs safely tucked in the back trunk, we boarded and attempted to doze on the dark bus.

It wasn’t long before we were ushered off the bus to board a ferry across part of Lake Victoria. In the time it took to board dozens of buses, cars, and the people within them, we were able to see a beautiful sunrise, a lightning storm over the mountains, and some cool types of birds. Colleen is our resident ornithologist and we are all benefiting from her expertise on birds and other animals every time we see a new species. On the other side of the lake, we boarded the bus again to the rousing tune of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and took off.

The first part of the trip was on paved roads and pleasantly cool. Though we were all exhausted, the bus ride was soon too bumpy as we traversed miles of eroding dirt roads to get much sleep. Much of the time was spent watching the scenery flash past; the different landscapes we saw were astounding. Mwanza is a hilly place with huge, rounded piles of rocks at the tops of hills in every direction. The way they are balanced so precariously, like the statue in front of McNutt or those built by artists along beaches, you’d think that someone placed these massive stones just perfectly. Stan claims, however, that they were all created by geological processes. Kevin spouted something about plutons and rift valleys, but we think he’s just crazy. We crossed flat plains with mountains in the distance, small villages, fields, and dense wooded areas. Most of the drive was over uneven dirt roads and red dusts plumes behind buses and trucks and creates a Mars-like atmosphere as it coats trees and people alike.

Unfortunately James was feeling a bit under the weather, which wasn’t helped by the fact that we had limited food and water for the trip. We were able to pick up some food from the villagers that swarmed the bus, but a flat tire and a geyser spewing from the radiator cap (housed inside of the bus, the logic of which escapes me) elongated our wait to properly hydrate, feed, and put James to bed. After a good night’s rest, a shower, and food, James was back in top shape this morning, and working harder than the rest of us despite our best efforts, as usual.

Today (July 6th) we got up ready for a meeting with Mr. Mtiti at the JGI at 10, which was later postponed to 2pm due to scheduling complications. This gave us enough time to head to the Mwanga market to meet with a stove-builder we have been working with since last summer to commission a new Coffee husk stove testing platform and to explore the market. Kevin D. came away with several great lightweight shirts perfect for the local climate.

We had a great meeting with Mr. Mtiti, Mr.Kashula, and Grace from JGI to discuss the great progress that has been made with their program implementing the Rocket stove as well as our plans for the summer. Two of us will be accompanying Grace tomorrow for a visit to Kidagwe, a village near Kigoma that is in the progress of Rocket stove implantation while the rest of the group visits the woodworkers in the market to commission a wooden briquette press. It is very exciting to finally be here in Kigoma and to be gearing up for a bunch of great work. We plan to leave for Kalinzi on Sunday.

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