A Travellerspoint blog

September 2018

Squished mochi and Arusha

Arusha, Tanzania

I am one of those people who would rather get to the airport at a decent time, having to rush a bit if something goes wrong rather than arriving too early. But, my partner is like my grandma- preferring to leave so early that if aliens attack while we are on the way and we have to walk there by foot, we'd still make our flight.
Today, the airport was busy enough that I was ok with getting there early. Apparently, there is some big exodus of religious people to some site in Europe for the holidays that makes this the busiest day of the year. I had never seen the airport so packed (both departures and arrivals) in all of the several dozen times I've flown here.
So, I was thankful for the mochi I had packed as a snack, even though they were squished. We waited a long time in the first security line, and then waited at the check in counter, because it hadn't even opened yet. We waited an unusually long time there, as the process was going really slow. We then waited in the regular security line before being able to pass through and wait at the gate.
Actually, the airport was so busy that even the flight attendants had to wait at the gate for some security guy to come open it for them. He apologized profusely telling them "you don't even know" about the level of busy-ness at the airport today.
An uneventful flight later and we found ourselves in the Addis Abbaba airport early in the morning before all the shops were open. Nice lounge chairs for sleeping were scattered throughout the terminal, but all were occupied. So, we grabbed a spot on a regular chair and another on the floor to sleep and read for the duration of our layover.
At one point, I ventured to the restrooms, where I saw a sign letting people know how to use the toilets.
20180907_080513.jpg
As I walked back to our spot, I checked the overhead monitor to see if our flight information was finally posted. I smiled, as the monitor was full of flights to cities I only know through Sporcle- places I've never been to and know so little about, like Kinshasa and Abuja, Nairobi and Lagos. I found it exciting to see the names of unfamiliar places instead of the standard list of places I've already made memories of.
I admit that I'm a little too over-traveled to get excited about flying anymore, but the other passengers helped me feel excited for adventure. Everybody had high-quality hiking backpacks because there are a very limited reasons to fly to Kilimanjaro. Seriously- I saw one rollaboard on the whole flight. Most everyone looked ready for adventure. One group was incongruously dressed- a suit jacket, nice pants and button down shirt with a hiking backpack with a neon blue drinking tube sticking out of it. But still, it was quite clear that they were coming for the hike and adventure, not business meetings.
I slept most of the flight, as usual, but awoke for food and the last portion of the flight. The meal on the flight to Addis Ababa had been ok, but this meal was really good. Like, one of the tastiest I've had on a plan in a long time. It was simple- rice with some mashed chickpeas and some vegetables, but it was a tad hot-spicy and very spiced.
I just finished Beryl Markham's West With the Night a day ago. Although I thought it would be about her record-setting transatlantic flight, a majority of the book was about her time in this part of Africa. As I looked out the window, I tried to see the landscapes as she had described them. Even 80 years later, there are vast tracts without a sign of humanity. As we neared Arusha, these turned into small farming plots, many of which seemed rather empty. Hopefully, this is related more to the season and less to the farmers' success rates.
Upon arrival, our yellow cards were checked. Really, they just made sure we had one and didn't look at details. We filled out the entry form, bought our visas, grabbed our luggage, and were on our way.
The internet said there would be a shuttle bus of some sort that would be relatively cheap. We saw a guy with a shuttle sign, but he said that it wasn't for our flight or something. In any case, we ended up having to get a cab to town. At first, 50 dollars sounded like a whole lot (even though that was the posted price, not some unwritten number some guy just made up. Then, we saw how long of a cab ride it was, and I wasn't complaining too much.
The first thing I noticed out of the cab window was a big mountain, but not Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru. In front of the mountain, we saw a lot of dried up corn fields. Scattered amongst them were cattle, mostly cows and goats, and tons of people.
mountain

mountain


People walked on the side of the road, hitchhiked, rode bikes, and even drove carts pulled by oxen of some sort. Most of the men were indistinguishable from men anywhere else in the world, but we did see a few in traditional masai plaid garments. The women were much more exciting. Many also wore garments that anybody might wear anywhere. But, plenty of them also wore bright colors and bold prints that you wouldn't see anywhere else. Some even wore their bold prints in what I'm assuming is a traditional style. It's somewhat reminiscent of a sari in the way that it seems to be more or less a fancily wrapped cloth. I decided that I need something in those patterns.
guy walking on the side of the road

guy walking on the side of the road


I also got a little bit excited to see some of the people carrying things on their heads like in the movies. It's real!
We had plenty of time to look at them as the road was one lane in each direction and we regularly got caught behind slow moving tractors. Then, everybody would try to pass, often when there wasn't quite room to do so.
cow

cow


As we got closer to Arusha, the scenery got greener. We still saw dried up corn fields, but we also saw coffee plantations and mini banana forests.
Finally, we arrived at the hotel.
We got settled and then went out to see what there was to see. Arusha isn't much of a city. It's more of a spread out town as there are a very limited number of buildings higher than 3 floors. There is a shopping downtown area and then residential areas, and neither of these seemed too big.
We started at the tourist trap- the Masai Market. These narrow passageways are lined with locals trying to verbally pull you into their shops. They sell paintings, batiks, woodcrafts, jewelry, and tons of cloth items. For the most part, these seem to be locally made, but most shops tend to have items the rest of the similar shops have.
Masai Market

Masai Market


We did stop into one shop with a lady sitting behind a sewing machine. Dozens of bolts of the beautiful fabric lined her walls and we were told that she could make anything out of any fabric in just a few hours. I ended up liking a pre-made shirt, but it didn't fit so well. So, she just took some measurements, stuck it in her sewing machine, and made it fit better. I probably should have negotiated the price more, but I was impressed with her skill and am happy to support craftspeople.
Bright cloth

Bright cloth


We walked around town a bit, and a guy selling paintings latched on to us. I probably shouldn't have asked him how much they were. Oh well.
We made a stop at a supermarket to pick up some drinks and snacks. They only sold packaged long shelf life goods- no fresh fruits or vegetables and also no meats or cheeses. But their drinks were interesting and they had several kinds of banana chips, so we got what we needed.
We then went to find a restaurant recommended by the front desk. We had asked for something local, not like a pizza place. We were sent to George's Tavern, a Greek restaurant. As in gyros, slouvaki, moussaka Greek. As we were already there and it looked interesting, we gave it a go even though it was clearly for tourists. (You know because they accepted credit cards, albeit with a surcharge.) I got tacos, which ended up being more like Chinese stir fry in laffe than a taco, but it was still really good. So I had Chinese-middle eastern style Mexican food at a Greek restaurant in Tanzania. If that's not fusion, I don't know what is.

Posted by spsadventures 09:33 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

The rest of Taiwan

So, I tried to get out a bit, but we had a lot of work to do. One day, I was in the fab for 13 hours.

I did have a couple of days that started later, so I got a chance to go check out Hsinchu port. On a Monday morning, nobody is there. I saw a couple of shops set up to rent people these double-bicycles with shade, but only one pair of people using it my whole time at the port.
I saw a ton of boats in the harbor, but none moving. I didn't even see people working on the boats or getting ready to move.
I saw where they must have a really cool night market (at night), but it was completely abandoned in the morning. The character of the rides is certainly different when they're not lit up and moving. The food stands are much sadder without the smells and sounds.
I saw a nice-looking shady park area, but again, no people.
I did see some road construction happening, but that was the most exciting thing.

As it was hot and super-humid, I really didn't want to walk all the way back to town, but as there were no people, I realized that I didn't have much of a choice. Until I got lucky and stumbled upon a random cab. I have no idea why it was chilling in this empty area, but I took it.

I got downtown to see if I could see something new that I hadn't last time, but it started to drizzle. Keeping in mind what happened yesterday, I decided that I would go check out one of the places that the internet says is the "best place for a rainy day in Taiwan"- a famous book store. It was in the Big City mall. I usually don't like going to malls while traveling, but for a book store, I was willing.

Actually, the mall itself is pretty cool. The top floor has an ice skating rink, bowling alleys, an arcade, and a ton of other fun activities. Another floor is decorated like an outdoor pier area. (It's supposed to be San Francisco. I didn't see the resemblance, but I still thought it was nice.) And the food court is quite large and varied. I enjoyed walking around those areas. The stores were the same stores you'd find internationally, so I wasn't really interested in them. I didn't have time for a movie, but a different time, that might be interesting. I never quite made it to the book store, as I had to get back for a meeting before I found it. Maybe next time.

I also got out a bit Friday night. At around 9, I was able to go hunt for dinner. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants are not open at that time. Generally, what is open are convenience stores and what I'll call "fried protein."
The idea at these places is that you pick some raw protein from a display, they deep fry it for you or stick it in a hot pot, and then you eat it. you can pick from all sorts of recognizable and unrecognizable items- feet, tofu, fish, organs, thinly-cut beef, etc. Some places will give it to you with rice or noodles (especially the place where they put it in a broth), but a lot just give you meat on a stick. I didn't see a single vegetable at any of the places.

Which made me realize that I actually haven't seen mixed veg and protein almost anywhere. Even at other types of restaurants, you can get vegetable sides or dishes, and you can get protein dishes, but rarely together (except sometimes soup). I experienced this at the buffet at work, at the restaurants I've been to, at the hotel buffet- pretty much every where. This contrasts with my typical mental image of stir-fry as protein and veggies mixed together in a sauce (plus rice or noodles). That just doesn't seem to be a thing here.

I didn't get to ask the guys about this to see if I was missing something, but I did have an interesting conversation with the guys about the Hakka culture that everybody in the area is so proud of. Apparently, there are a bunch of different groups that came to Taiwan from China. They all use the same written system, but everybody speaks a different language. Not a dialect, like somebody from Australia trying to communicate with somebody from Boston, but different language, like how Spanish and Hebrew are different. I hadn't realized, but the whole time they were communicating with each other, they were switching languages based on who they were talking to. (It all sounds "Chinese" to me.) When they spoke to a local guy, they spoke Hakka, to somebody from a different part of the island, Mandarin. I find that fascinating that they all use the same written language, but to read it out loud would sound completely different.

In any case, that's about the most exciting thing I learned about Taiwan for the whole second half of the trip. It wasn't much of an opportunity to tour around, but that's ok, we're headed to Mt. Kilimanjaro in a few days.

I'll post pictures when I'm back.

Posted by spsadventures 09:10 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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