Welcome to Arusha! Is that a hair or a bug leg?
That little black hair on my toothbrush – is that from Steve shaving earlier this morning, or is it a bug leg? There is a bend to it which makes me think it’s the latter. Well, at least I found whatever it was before brushing my teeth instead of having to extract it from a foamy, minty mouthful of saliva and remnants of breakfast.
I find I have all new questions that I ask myself daily nowadays. Is stopping at a red light optional, or just for some and not for everyone? Are all those horns honking at us? Is the truck coming straight at us in the correct lane, or are we wrong again? Switching to a right-hand drive vehicle and now driving on the left side of the road keeps us on high alert and in a perpetual state of confusion. We’ve both driven in this setting over the years, but it always takes some readjusting each time we’re back in it. So far, we haven’t been responsible for any traffic incidents that we’re aware of, but I could be wrong. We’re keeping our eyes on the road in front of us, not the aftermath of anything we might have caused behind us.
Picking up the rental car – uh oh!
The day after arriving we picked up our rental car in the afternoon. We have a Toyota Rav 4, 4wd, with super dark tinted windows. Kind of feels like we should turn up the base and be rockin’ out while driving through town, but we are in our sixties now and had to remind ourselves we don’t do that anymore.
So, we did the sensible thing and got groceries instead, then worked our way back to our cottage down very rough, gutted dirt roads full of large chunks of rock. We proceeded cautiously as they seemed destined to destroy the undercarriage within the first mile of driving. Deep drainage gullies on both sides of the road also kept us on edge, ever aware of impending disaster if we miscalculated how much room we really had before teetering off into the abyss. No doubt those damages would be an exclusion in our rental contract that we didn’t think to ask about.
My job as passenger is to constantly yell ‘Watch out for the cat/dog/chicken/child/motorcycle/donkey/grandmother/preacher/old man/vegetable seller/laundry woman/handcart full of sunglasses…” Steve’s job as the driver is to say “Thank you, Cynthia, for the constant warnings about everything and everyone, especially when you shout it loudly with panic in your voice. That is really helpful”.
In a country like this it is just as scary to be the driver as it is to be the passenger. For now we have a system that is working for us, based on knowing that the alternative is just as bad. With everyone and everything on the road at any given moment, coming at us from all directions, not hitting one of the aforementioned is our primary goal every day. And as I always say, it’s good to have goals. It’s no longer about saving money for retirement – now it’s all about survival.
Our harrowing five-minute drive to our cottage was successful, and we breathed a sigh of relief as we passed through the green metal gate and wound our way through acacia forest to our cabin. Vervet monkeys romped just a stone’s throw away in the tree branches, and roosters crowed from the adjoining property. The sounds of the village floated in on the breeze, landing on our front porch and drifted through the open windows. Babies crying, kids laughing, boda bodas (motorcycles) racing down the roads, loud animated conversation and constant bird chatter weave this together contributing to a new soundtrack for this chapter in life.
There was also beautiful, but way too loud, gospel singing, followed by hell and damnation preaching that lasted for hours coming from somewhere just outside the gate. Not to be outdone, we could also hear the call to prayer coming from the Mosque nearby. The buzz of an occasional small plane flying overhead, probably on its way to the Serengeti, had us daydreaming about the time when we get to go there again. We hope it’s soon…
These are some of the sounds and sights that are becoming part of our background music for now. And there is a fragrance permeating the air I haven’t been able to identify – it is exotic yet familiar at the same time, stirring up memories from years ago, still unrecalled. I’ll write about all of the new smells next time!
East Africa has rolled out the dusty red carpet and said ‘Welcome! We’re glad you’re here”!