Last Saturday was the year closing celebration at Sega. There was dancing by the girls and an appearance by and speech from the Member of Parliament from Morogoro.
On Sunday, the first day of my month off, I drove 4 ½ hours West to Iringa to do 4 days of intensive Kiswahili language training at the Iringa Language School and to stay at the Rivervalley Campsite with whom they have a partnership. Their full program is 4 months long but I only have time for 4 days. Oh well, better than nothing I suppose. Tomorrow is my fourth and last day and I’ve really enjoyed it.
For one thing, Iringa is at a higher elevation than Morogoro and is, therefore, cooler. It is green and hilly and there are huge boulders strewn everywhere. If I knew anything about geology, I’d have something intelligent to say about this but I don’t, except that it makes for pretty and unusual countryside.
Rivervalley is on a meandering, muddy brown river with giant boulders (and by giant, I mean some of them are as big as a house) strewn around the property.
Many of the buildings are made of stone, a material that is easy to come by, and all the buildings have wonderful thatched roofs. The owner of the camp, a white, native Tanzanian man, died earlier this year and his wife and daughter are now running Rivervalley. Kerrie, the daughter, also runs her own safari company, Warthog Advenures, which takes tours to Ruaha National Park. I hope to go there sometime next year.
Despite it being called a camp, I am not camping. I am staying in a new, three-unit banda (building) constructed of stone and wood and each unit has a generous bathroom with modern fixtures including a huge shower with HOT water (yahoo!). The water is heated using a solar hot-water heater even though the building is hooked up to the ever-unreliable Tenesco grid.
However, some people do come here to camp and a yesterday, I met a group of teenage boys and their two leaders from New Zealand who were camping as well as two families from South Africa, also camping. Both were on month long trips – people who come here to camp aren’t fooling around! I couldn’t help but think, rather wistfully, how unlikely it is that Fraser, my son, would seek out a trip like this as these kiwi boys have. He’s too busy playing beer pong, or studying for his CAD final, or possibly both.
My teacher this week is named Mai (May).
What a coincidence that student April was assigned teacher May. Mai is 30 and has two sons, ages 6 and 1. She has been wonderful to learn from and, in addition to teaching me some Kiswahili, we have had many interesting talks about life, her plans for the future, what bothers her about Tanzania, and so forth. I have learned a lot from her.
Today, I had the opportunity to sample two insect delicacies. The first was Senene, crickets that are fried with some curry powder, becoming crispy and delicious. Mai’s mother has a food business and one of the other language teachers had bought a container of them from her and let me try a couple.
Very tasty! Apparently, they are a popular delicacy among Hawa, the tribe of both Mai and the teacher who purchased them. At lunch, I also had some kombi kombi, a plentiful flying insect that is in large supply in my room this evening (and very annoying since I cannot figure out how they are getting in). Abel, a missionary fellow staying here at Rivervalley with his wife and three young children, collected them. When I asked him how he found so many kombi kombi, he responded, “By being awesome.” They were tasty too but I prefer the meatier crickets.
My favorite siting this week has been the lizards that hang out on the boulders. The male version of these lizards is the most incredible color. His head is bright orange while his body is a brilliant turquoise. It’s not easy to get a photo as he scares easily but I learned to sit very still in one place until he forgets about me and today I was able to snap several shots of him as he came out from the crack in the boulder. The female lizards are the color of the rocks so blend in and are totally uninteresting in comparison. The guys are the show offs. No surprise there!
Tomorrow, I have my last 4 ½ hours of private language lessons and then jump in the RAV 4 and head back to Morogoro to get ready for my next adventure.