Sunday, 23 January 2011

Back in my house

On Monday I was in my parents’ home in little Lapworth, in the heart of England, and by Wednesday evening I was in my house in the city of Mbeya, in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Quite a transition! And as always happens in these situations, England now feels like a dream that I’ve just woken up from, and I’m not sure whether it was real or not. However, emails, texts and Skype connects me in a way that makes it very real, though sometimes I feel like I am reading about something that is happening in a book, rather than real life, as I am not there to feel it, touch it and smell it! To be honest, this transition is a very difficult one for me for many reasons, so I am trying to focus on the things that make me smile about being back here. I thought I’d share a few of those with you…

- Being greeted by all kinds of people, whether I know them or not, as I walk along the street

- The smell of the rain, trees and flowers (I can smell them even now, in my living room, wafting in through the open window, as the rain patters on the roof and the thunder rumbles)

- The way people help you – at the market today, my ‘friend’ who sells bananas just abandoned her stall to show me where to buy something else that I wanted, and helped me make my purchase! (Of course, I then went and bought some bananas off her, even though I didn’t need any more, so it was also a pretty good business move!)

- Being able to walk everywhere to do what I need to do (rather than drive)

- Chatting with the ‘milk lady’ – I buy fresh milk from a lady down the road, and when I went to get it on Friday the cow hadn’t yet been milked, so I was invited in and we sat and chatted for nearly an hour! She sent off her child to buy me a soda (such hospitality is so important to them, though I was just shamefully aware of how the soda had cost almost as much as I was about to pay them for the milk*). Relationships are so much more important here than your ‘to do’ list!

- Mangos (big fat juicy ones – four for about 70p) and chapattis

- Being able to wear light clothes and sandals again

- Sitting in my rocking chair on the veranda in the sunshine

*In case you are wondering whether this means milk is very expensive or soda is very cheap – it’s the latter. A 350ml bottle of Coca Cola costs about 25p, and 1 litre of milk about 30p

From Lapworth to Mbeya

My trip from start to finish went something like this…

On Monday I left my parents’ home at 2.15pm, arriving at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 4pm (thanks, dad & mum!) Flight departed at 6.45pm and, with hardly any sleep, I arrived at 7.15am at Dar International Airport (which is smaller than the smallest airport you have probably ever flown from in England!) Despite the early hour, it was already hot, and my taxi driver soon arrived to take me to our head office in Dar. After over an hour stuck in the usual Dar traffic jams, I arrived. Exhausted, I cat-napped on a couch, occasionally stirring to slap a mosquito, until it was time for lunch with a colleague followed by a restful afternoon ready for the gruelling day that would follow.

Wednesday morning came and unfortunately I had set my alarm wrongly, so I didn’t wake up until the taxi beeped its horn on arrival at 5am. I managed to get out the B&B in record time and we sped to the bus station, still in plenty of time for my 6am bus. I felt sick from tiredness but fortunately I am a bit better at sleeping on buses than on planes, so I had a reasonable doze before eating my peanut butter & jam sandwiches for breakfast. Most of the ride was hot and the seating was a bit cramped. Mid-morning we stopped for a quick loo break, and around noon a 10min lunch break at a service station (don’t think Costa Coffee and rows of clean toilets, instead think quick fried food and sodas and a row of not-so-clean-and-locks-don’t-work long drops!) We made good time, despite being held up in one place due to road works and another due to a truck having gone over the cliff and a crane was getting into place to haul it back up. However, there were no more loo stops, until there was an outcry on the bus and the driver found a convenient spot to pull over and there were no bushes to hide behind – it was just men round the front of the bus and women round the back, in full view of the open road!

The approach to Mbeya was beautiful as everywhere was fresh and green from the rains and the air felt cool. It was a relief to arrive at the bus station in the daylight at 6.30pm, to see a familiar face waiting to pick me up (thanks, Jo) and then to be welcomed into my own home with a meal waiting for me (thanks, Karin).

Not a trip to be repeated too often, but I thank God that everything went smoothly and I arrived safely and even, miracle of miracles, on time!