Meal at Moivaro
Trip Start Sep 08, 2003
37Trip End Ongoing
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The ride home on the Dala Dala was awkward, I was lugging all my newly purchased stuff, trying to hang onto the doorway with my elbow, and stop anyone stealing the bags. I noticed one guy 'drop his keys' next to Vicky, and thought it was suspicious, and while still clinging one with one arm, managed to swap arms and place the other hand across the pockets of her jeans. I looked him in the eye, as if to say 'I know what you're up to!' Vicky looked up at me in surprise - what are you doing she said - I thought it was better not to create a scene - and said I would tell her later.
The Dala Dalas have one man driving in the front, and one young boy who is in charge of collecting the money. It is a job given to boys that don't pass the exams to get into secondary school, and their responsibility is to make sure they get 18p from every single passenger - and I had already seen how defensively they carried out this duty. Their evening meal depended on it. All the Dala Dalas are known by the slogans printed on the outside, some say "in god we trust" - which usually means to pray you arrive at your destination. Others have footballers names like Ronaldo and Beckham painted across the bonnet, and have loud music pumping out the broken speakers inside. The young boy, lent over the other 25 people inside the bus, and shook his fist full of coins so that they rattled at me - the cue to hand over your money. Vicky lent down to her trouser leg, and a worried look passed over her face, as she rooted around in her pocket. I suddenly realized that she was wearing combats - not jeans and had additional pockets on her calves! I understood the gloating look the 'key-dropper' had given me as he got off a few stops earlier - despite me leaning over, he had still managed to make off with Vicky's money!
Time to open the girly hot chocolate!
Saturday, and we had arranged to meet Elliot in his village of Moivaro. It appeared we had been invited to dinner by the landlord of his local bar! A trip to Arusha was made first, as we had been told it is rude to turn up at dinner without a gift for the host. The most popular item of clothing here is a Kanga - a type of patterned sarong that the women wrap around and tuck in - and which Vicky and I have also taken to wearing - but safety pin them for good measure! We are not that brave! We bought a yellow one for Mr Marutus wife - who was cooking dinner.
The Dala Dala to Elliot's was certainly different to the one we are used to catching from Usa. This was a landrover rather than a camper van - and as the road deteriorated on the journey I could see why it was needed. I swung my leg over the back of the truck, and stood up on the back. Looking down I noticed to my amazement - another Mzungu! The colour of skin unites people here, as she smiled, and offered her lap as a seat! I laughed to myself. I wouldn't be chatting to a stranger on a bus in England - let alone be sat on her lap! Her name was Kim, and she is a volunteer teacher at St Judes school a few villages away.
Elliot met us in the village and took us to meet the local 'characters' as he put it. All were sat in the bar. The 'Major' as he insists on being called is a middle aged man, who loved to tell me he has 4 wives, 12 children and another one on the way! His catch phrase was 'I'm as dangerous as a rattlesnake!' Rolling his Rrrrrs as he said rattle! He made me laugh - but was slightly worried to learn that yes he was indeed a Major - and was hugely respected in the area.
A football match was taking place on the school field and a crowd of several hundred had turned up to watch. The field lies beside the train line - if the ball went out of play, it would roll down the embankment onto the track, the boy sent to collect it listening carefully for the sound of an approaching train before skipping out onto the hot metal tracks. The trains when they came didn't come fast, but they were huge old fashioned puffing monsters that certainly wouldn't stop if something got in the way. The players, some with no shoes, were wearing a strips of mixed shirts from around the world - one would be wearing a shirt from Real Madrid, another from Man United - how they knew who was on which team I don't know. Elliot told me that he is often asked to referee matches, as he is the only local that will not accept bribes before the game starts. Although even he turns a blind-eye to a few penalties, as he doesn't want to get lynched by the crowd! The spectators certainly loved it, and with true African voice were singing, and chanting along the sidelines, the women running and yodelling onto the pitch each time a goal was scored or they disagreed with the referee!
On to the bar, and as I sat down to a game of 'Last Card', with a group of local men, I suddenly realized Vicky and I were the only women in the bar. Yep - its not Sunday remarked Elliot. I glanced around and noticed the looks of interest we were getting, then noticed that the Isa was cheating again and decided to concentrate on the game! It was as I was trying to stop him cheating that I found out his nickname is Killer! - and he took off his hat to show me the 10 inch machete scar running from the nape of his neck to his forehead. I didn't like to ask if the other guy had come off worse, as I guessed that may be where the nickname came from. Elliot pointed out that it was very useful to have Isa as a friend, as no one gave him any trouble! He also pointed out that it wasn't a good idea to insist he played by the rules - unless I was a very brave woman!! However Isa and I got on fine, and I found that the did have sense of humour as I made him pick up 6 cards, and he loves to play pool - Ahh well cheating is fine..... as long as he is on my team!!!
Dinner arrived at 11pm, by which point I was starving! Wishing I'd had lunch before coming out here. I mark food in Africa as either, 'edible' or 'inedible'. There is no longer the option of nice or tasty. I get given a bowl of rice everyday by the school - that is edible - just, but still leaves you hungry. The fishheads or chicken bones they suck when food gets scarce - inedible! I am so glad I brought some English Chocolate with me! Sometimes it serves as dinner!
I watched the other diners eating, no knives and forks, the bowl brought up to the chin, the food scooped in with the hand that not used for 'cleaning'. Bits of rice where dripping on to the floor, fish was being passed around. I laughed and sat back realizing that I was sat on a plastic chair, in a mud hut bar, in Africa. Eating local food with local people! And I had won at pool! Hurray.
The social customs here surprise me:- it is considered very rude to point, but you can openly sit and pick you nose on the bus! Two men walking down the street holding hands is a sign of respect, and friendship - something unthinkable back home. Two middle aged men walked into the pub holding hands and sat down to join in the dinner. If food is going round it has to be shared by everyone.
Sunday came, and I woke listening to the children playing football outside. Elliot took me down to the village to buy doughnuts that the locals can't belive we need to add sugar to! They eat them as savory sandwiches - Elliot and I rolled them in sugar and dunked them in our tea. ..... mmmmmm definitely edible!