When I was planning my trip, I was originally thinking about heading to Zanzibar this past weekend for a little fun in the sun. However, after two weeks jam packed with our volunteer placements, cultural activities, and a safari, my body told me that it would be a better idea to stay in town to recover and reenergize instead. Rest also moved up on the priority list when it hit me that I’ll be climbing up Kilimanjaro in just a few short days. So, myself, and everyone else here in the Karanga house, decided to stay at the home base this weekend and enjoy a bit of Moshi Town.
For those who know nothing more about where I am other than somewhere on the African continent, I am in Karanga Village, Moshi Municipality, Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. Tanzania is on the east coast of Africa, situated just below Kenya, and just east of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo. Moshi is in the Northeast part of the country, at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and only 30 miles or so from the Kenyan border. The Karanga Village (similar to a neighborhood in the States) is about 3 miles outside of the center of town, and our house is about a mile down the very bumpy, muddy, rutted out Karanga dirt road. I don’t think our street has a name. I don’t think any of the streets in Karanga have a name for that matter. People use PO boxes for mail, if they get mail, and each house is on a numbered parcel of land in the Karanga Village, which makes finding places quite a challenge. For example, the way to tell someone how to get here from town, you’d say…Take the Moshi-Arusha Hwy to Margareza (the prison) and turn left. Go down the road past the Amani Centre for Street Children. When you see the store (which is in a mud hut) turn left. We are the white gate on your left.
There are some really nice houses in Karanga, like the one that CCS rents out for the program. There are also many dirt huts throughout the village. All of our immediate neighbors live in small dirt huts, and own cow, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep to help sustain their families. I see many children wearing the same dirty, ripped clothing 2 days in a row. Money is very scarce in these families, and it amazes me how intrigued they are by seeing themselves on my digital camera, or looking at my pictures I brought from home. Over the past 2 weeks, I have met Patric (16 years old), Evon (8 years old), Augustino (7 years old), and Brenda (3 years old). Great kids who love to interact with us Mzungus! They are always so excited to see us!
Anyway, back to the weekend. Friday was a cloudy, dreary day, so most of us laid low at the home base, took naps, and read books in the couple hours before dinner. After dinner, a group of us headed out to The Watering Hole for a couple of beers…and a brownie. Remember how I mentioned that there’s not much in the way of dessert in this area. We girls needed a chocolate and sugar fix!
Saturday started off very slowly. The younger crew at the house was doing a Kilimanjaro Day climb, so the remainder of us slept in, read, did laundry, and chatted until after lunch. The slow morning also gave me time to go on a short run (really short…2 miles…It’s hot, humid, hilly, and muddy here!) As a blonde Mzungu wearing spandex and running deep into the village on my own, I got plenty of interesting looks and laughs. Just the sight of me scared a little 2 year old boy. As I ran past, he turned into his mom’s legs and started screaming and crying. Running white girls are more of an oddity here than I thought!
The highlight of Saturday was our night out to dinner. We headed out to El Rancho, which despite its name is an Indian restaurant, not a Mexican restaurant. Fabulous, cheap Indian food and plenty of drinks to go around. I think I downed a whole bottle of wine that night. When in Africa, right?
Sunday was the highlight of our weekend. 8 of us from the house signed up for a Coffee Tour in Materuni, one of the nearby Chagga mountain villages. Edward from Pristine Adventures picked us up in the ‘Happy People’ daladala to take us into the village. (Sidenote: The daladalas – busses- here all have themes. Ours was ‘Happy People’ and was covered with pictures of Jay-Z and Snoop, and the driver played lots of hip hop music for our journey).
Materuni is a Catholic Chagga village. We learned that each ridge in the area was settled by different missionaries, so the next ridge over was Lutheran, and the ridge next to that was also Catholic. Really interesting! Anyway, when we got to Materuni, we met Oscar, who helps run the coffee farm on his family’s land. Oscar was awesome! And so was his family. We chatted with his Mama and Baba, as well as his nieces and nephews (including one very outgoing ‘Little Obama’). Oscar had so much knowledge about the coffee process, and had us help him make our own batch to drink. While we were able to pick the coffee ‘berries’ off the tree, and get the beans out of them and soak them, we didn’t have the 2 days required for soaking, and the 7 days required for drying. So, similar to the magic we see on cooking shows in the States, Oscar had a dried batch of beans ready for us to process.
Step 1: We used a very large mortar and pestle to pound the dried beans in order to remove the dried shucks. This took at least 20 minutes to do, and was extremely tiring in the hot sun. Luckily there were 8 of us to help and take turns.
Step 2: Oscar built a fire and placed a large pot on top of it. It took about ½ hour to roast the beans. Someone had to constantly stir the beans during this process in order to keep the coffee from burning.
Step 3: We used the mortar and pestle again to grind the beans into a fine powder (think powdered sugar consistency)
Step 4: We boiled water over the fire and added the coffee powder directly to the water, letting it steep for about 2 minutes
Step 5: We poured the coffee/water mixture through a filter into a thermos.
Step 6: We got to drink the coffee! When I first saw the coffee, I was scared. It looked like very muddy water…nothing like my Starbucks coffee. I was afraid of how strong and bitter it would be. 1 sip and I was floored! This was the most AMAZING coffee I had EVER tasted! It was super smooth. Everyone agreed that it was better than anything we had ever tasted. No worries to those back in San Diego. I’m bringing some back with me!
After coffee and lunch, Oscar and Edward led us on a hike through Materuni to the Mnambe Waterfall. The hike was beautiful, and Oscar taught us how certain plants were used by the Chagga tribe. Yucca is very important in the culture, marking territory, as a peace offering, and showing the direction of beer. We also got to see the leaves they use as natural ‘sandpaper’ and try out the tree branch they used for toothbrushes.
After hiking for an hour, we finally reached the waterfall! While we had been to the Kilasiya Waterfall on Wednesday, this one knocked it out of the park! Mnambe was much taller, and had a larger pool at the bottom that we could actually swim in without worrying about the current. The water was extremely cold, and the force from the waterfall felt like standing in a hurricane, but it was so so beautiful! I have pictures and video, but they will never do Mnambe justice.
We arrived back at home just in time for dinner, and despite the copious amounts of coffee, headed to bed early. Back to placement tomorrow morning! Ahhh…Mondays!