I was in Dodoma last week for a series of meetings with Grace and Healing Ministry and Lahash personnel. Getting to Dodoma is two days of buses. For those of you with a map following along at home, there's a two-hour car ride from Shirati to Tarime on a rutted dirt road. From the bus stage in Tarime, one catches a bus from Tarime to Mwanza, which takes about four hours. After an overnight stay in Mwanza, it's an eight or nine hour bus ride from Mwanza to Dodoma. In theory one could do it all in one day, if you started early enough, but I've never wanted to do that. Fred accompanied me to Mwanza, then I went on from there alone.
The trip to Dodoma was...adventurous. Fred rented our own private taxi (for $12) to take us to Tarime in lieu of squeezing in with six to twelve other people (for $5). In the Tarime bus stage, always a crazy place, a young man followed me to and from the toilets yelling "mzungu na mimba!" (white person with pregnancy) over and over again, while making wide gestures exaggerating my size. It makes for a funny story, but I did not have much of a sense of humor about it at the time. He wasn't the only man to give me some unwanted attention. In our hotel, two men ogled me in the lobby, then two others watched me for a whole flight of stairs, and while waiting for my bus in Mwanza, a guy almost walked into a cart on the street because of staring at me. Just when I thought I was used to being stared at for my skin color, there's a whole new reason to stare bulging out the front of my dress. I had a panicked moment on the very bumpy ride to Mwanza when I suddenly felt something wet between my legs. Several not-good possibilities ran through my head before I realized that it was water spraying up from the road through cracks in the floor. Alarms went off again when we reached Mwanza and I went to the bathroom to discover dry red smears on my legs. I quickly realized it was clay from the road water, but that was a scary moment.
I reached Dodoma safely, had a small adventure wandering around my friend Tiffanee's neighborhood on foot after dark trying to find her house, then a great week of food and meetings. Note that food was mentioned first, because I ate so much great stuff. Pizza, tuna fish sandwiches, homemade juice, samosas from Rose's Cafe, a chocolate bar and a Mounds bar, ice cream, and earning the "most craving inducing" award goes to the food at right: Zanzibari Mix from Rose's. They make only for Saturday breakfast, and it was one of Tiffanee, Leah and my favorite things in all of Dodoma. It will sound awful, probably, but it's a coconut broth with boiled potatoes, roasted chickpeas, homemade tortilla chips, broken up bits of baghia (a kind of maize dumpling), and coconut chutney on top. It's slightly spicy and slightly sweet and plenty salty. It's like a kind of "refrigerator casserole" but soup. Oh my word, it's delicious and I want it every day for the rest of my life...even more than pizza or chocolate or ice cream.
Oh, and the meetings were good too.
Lahash International just finished a strategic plan for the next five years, so we were presenting that to our partner, making plans for the conference next March and discussing various other things that would be neither interesting nor appropriate to share here. Suffice it to say, the discussions were great, but it was a lot of loooong days, especially for the six-month-pregnant lady who couldn't sleep because of her giant belly and indigestion from all that good food mentioned above!
I went to this great medical clinic on my last day in Dodoma for a full pre-natal checkup. As I mentioned on my Facebook status, I got a consultation with a doctor, a consultation with the midwife, had my blood pressure and weight measured, got blood tests for HIV, malaria, STIs and RH factor, an ultrasound, a prescription for an anti-malarial drug and filled the prescription all for 33,000 Tanzanian shillings, or approximately $20. What?! Everything went really well, and they were all delighted that I had married an African and kept calling me "Otieno." Although we still don't know the gender of the baby, I got to see how the baby is developing, and the ultrasound tech mentioned how active the baby is. (Believe me, I know.)
Fred met me in Mwanza on Sunday, and we reached Shirati on Monday evening, packed in the back seat of a super full taxi. The next day, I had to laugh at my life. The photos at right were taken at the same time from my front doorstep. The irony is that one we pay and one we should be paid for! We've asked time and time and time again for the owners of the various cows around to not tether them in our yard to graze because they leave huge piles of manure around and trample the trees Fred just planted. The calves are free-range, though, so I don't even know who they belong to. There are some "free-range" chickens and guinea hens who like to arrive at our house at about 6am and announce their presence under our bedroom window. Everyone sing with me now: "Greeeeen Acres is the place to be! Faaaarm livin' is the life for me!"...or perhaps not.