Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 26, 2008

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble”

That’s a line from the musical, uh, _Chess_? We sang it in my high school choir. I wouldn’t actually know about the effects of one night in Bangkok, as I only spent the day there, arriving at 7 am and taking the bus out at 9 pm.

My dear readers, I apologize for my absence. I got a little caught up in living life instead of writing about it. Briefly, I can tell you that I am up in northern Thailand in a nice city called Chaing Mai, and I left the airport a few hours before the general strike that is holding hundreds and hundreds of people inside the airport, and I am now where near the riots in Bangkok.

In India
I really enjoyed my time at Purple Valley. Met some cool peeps, and on the last day, even though I hadn’t slept well, my instructors let me do all but three of the moves in the primary series. One shouldn’t be aspiring to such things as a yoga student, but it was cool. They told me they thought I was a yogi in a former life. I told them my Gramma Mary was a yoga instructor in the 60’s, and my godparents the Oyas taught me yoga when I was little.

Purple Valley is a lovely lovely place to spend time. Great gardens, quirky staff who I love, pool I could dive into and do laps in, a-m-a-z-i-n-g food, minutes by rickshaw or taxi to lots of great beaches. If you are thinking about a yoga holiday, I highly recommend it.

In my second week, I played a lot of scrabble and went to bed early, like a happy old person.

Margao
After the retreat ended, I changed my plans and stayed in the state of Goa instead of going to the giant megametropolis of Mumbai again. Well I had one more night there. Kjerste (pronounced Shash-key, of course, it’s Norwegian) and I went to a Hyderbad-ian Food Festival – big buffet of amazing delicious food, so good. I was grateful for these loosey-goosey, (that is totally not tight) India pants, because we totally overate, but it was all too good to turn away.

Yah, so staying in Goa. The Friday night our Purple Valley peeps got invited to Yoga Magic because a Guru named Babaji (well lots of gurus are called Babji by loving adorers, but I have no idea how to pronounce his other names) was coming to town. You have to wear white, so some shopping and some making due was required. So the other saints (yes, saints) arrived and sat on the — stage, and then the guru came and sat in the middle of the stage. He didn’t talk, he just eminated goodness and love (I think that was the idea?). We listened to devotional songs on tabala and harmonium with some really really good singers. You could have an audience with the guru after, but that meant just sitting in the same room/ tent with him and a bunch of other people. I really dug the chanting, felt totally spiritual, and I wanted to dance. Man I wish my Hari Krishna friend Radha Prema had been with me. Theologically, they have a kind of universalistic idea that all religions are about concentrating on the soul or atman. Muhamed, Jesus, Siddartha, Shiva all just concentrated on their souls and that’s how they became divine. Oh and another interesting note, the qualifications for sainthood appear to be fasting. No other acts (eg service, study, prayer, miracles) were mentio0ned. You eat one piece of fruit a day for like 9 days, and then only water for like more than a week, then you live on air for a week.

After we were all served food, a thali (mix plate of rice, papdum, naan, daal, a curry and some yoghurt, pickle, and something sweet) on a banan leaf plate. Yoga Magic seems kinda-Jain – do no harm to any living thing. We were told by the guy translating the songs that only the malarial mosquitoes are bad, the rest only take from you the bad, extra or unnecessary blood.

Margao
After the retreat, I went traveling with British Tom to Margao. Margao is the biggest city in the state, and it felt a bit like seeing the “real” India a bit more. With my western eyes, can I ever see the real India? Jean Baudrillard who baulk at the idea that there even is a real India. Well, the whitey ratio went way down. Lots of dogs, traffic, garbage, noise, heat (like 35 a lot of the time, you sweat so quickly and so much), rubble, antiquated building methods, like bent bamboo scaffolding, and machines that look like they came from the thirties. Lots of bartering, always arguing about the price of everything.

Margao. Went to the fish market, smells like room temperature fish – after ten hours. I’m a bit of a pragmatic vegetarian in India. Well I didn’t get sick in India, so I must be doing something right. We went to a Bollywood movie, _Yuvvraaj_ about a guy who wanted to marry his girlfriend, but the rich Daddy didn’t like him, said he was a bad boy not a family man (I think this is the plot of 60% of Bollywood films). The self proclaimed “Bad” Devin has to sort out his dead father’s will which all went to the austic brother. You can imagine the softening that comes from spending genuine time with a person with a disability, and so all ends happily ever after. It was all in Hindi, well, they’d use some English phrases, but the singing and dancing got across the main ideas.

They had a lovely beach there, and I even found Scrabble at one beach shack. There were men pulling in fish nets when I was wave-jumping, and I went over to watch. A stick had gotten caught in the nets, and they through it out. When I got closer, that stick turned out to be a sea snake, wriggling very close to me. I gave a little shriek and danced backwards quickly, and all the Indians watching from the shore (strange how the locals stayed out of harms way) they laughed. I have no idea how dangerous sea snakes in India are.

There’s a covered market where they sell all kinds of odd things. What do you call the opposite of an agoraphobic? Technically it means fear of the market place, but I love the market place. So many interesting things to look at, like have you ever seen a kokum? Looks like a dusty brown apple. Have you ever eaten fresh Jack fruit? all this and more can been done at the market. And it’s free.

I met a man making copper, bought myself a ring for 20 rupees (80cents) and that drew a crowd. People often stare. A woman traveling on her own is an oddity to Indians. a driver told me that Indian women could maybe travel within India, but not outside of the country without her husband.

Oh I am very proud that I took the bus in Margao, twice. One it was only us, so that’s not the “real” Indian bus experience, but they other time it was really crowded. I like the challenge of figuring out public transit in a new city. I have become an even firmer believer in public drinking water, and public transportation. I saw an ad for a water purifier, and it read” Safe water: Every mothers’ responsibility” Oooh I could spit! That should be the state’s responsibility.

Ate some amazing Indian food. Tandoori pomfret is a fish and they bring the whole fish to you. Only once did Chris, Rachel and I eat a whole fish at a Chinese place in Saskatoon. I feel proudly feline when the plate looks like a fish head, a spine and a tail when I am done eating.

I have also done The Great Paneer Tour of India. I think I ate paneer at lest once a day. They cut it bigger here. Oh goodness, I love that cheese.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 15, 2008

Off to the beach Nov 15

After going out to a trance bar overlooking the beach last night, we are off to a Northern Goa beach for the day, and the night market. It’s our day off, and my ham strings are tickled, after being ripped apart day after day. I can’t even put my palms to the floor, which I could do any time before I started practicing yoga so much. We’ll see if a little lazing on the beach makes everything right.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 14, 2008

I saw St Francis today!

It’s a miracle! St Francis has been dead for 500 years, but his body didn’t decay. I saw it today, not at the church of St. Francis (where I bought a great bracelet of images of Jesus for 25 ruppees i.e. 80 cents!!!), but at the Church of Bom Jesus. He’s da bomb! Yah, so St. Francis is up in a glassed-in casket (think Sleeping Beauty) and it’s kind of high up, but I got a postcard where you can see his “face”. Yep, not shrivelled, but oddly shaped, kinda bloated?. Every ten years he gets paraded out, and you can touch him, and millions of Christians and Hindus come to see. Yah, in Goa, religions co-exist pretty fluidly. Ask me to show you a picture of the taxi driver’s dashboard.

At first I thought it was St Francis of Assissi, because the books talked about the Jesuits, but somewhere else it said Xazier.

It was cool to walk around this big church where St Francis and all these important people actully walked and made key decisions. Goa (i.e. this part of India) once rivalled Amsterdam for importance.

I took a picture of a wax sculpture of what I call Viking Jesus. He has totally orange hair!

So out and about in Mapusa and Old Goa wuith fellow retreatants Manuela (my Brazillian roommate) British Tom, and Swedish Stina on our half day off. Tomorrow is a full day off, and we are headed to another lovely Goan beach.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 14, 2008

Yoga retreat extra-curriculars

It’s not all downward dog here at Purple Valley.  Sometimes we do other fun stuff.  Yesterday I bought a Netti Pot for 50 Rupees (2 cents).  We all filled our 250 ml little teacup/ jugs with warm water, swooshed salt around and then we poured it into our noses. It dribbled through our sinuses and came out the other nostril, while we breathed though our mouth.  Mitchell said it was orgasmic, but it gave me a headache.  I did purge a lot of snot, I’ll give it that.  I think the Kleenex company should market this in North America; I was blowing a lot.

Now I didn’t do this one, but the next level of respiratory cleansing is to snort in a 20 cm long, red piece of rubber, and then swallow it down to your mouth and pull out the other end, while holding one end out your nose, and then well – kind of floss with it.  Our teacher Jeff did, and others tried but couldn’t do it.

Apparently if you’ve been practicing for a really long time, these old yogis can put a straw/ bit of hose in their rectum and then into water, and pull up water.  A bucket full some of them, and then release it. This cleans out the lower GI system.  Uh, I’ll keep my less than 100% pristine GI system I guess.

To improve your breathing you could do alternate nostril breathing.

To massage the inner organs, one should suck in the stomach, and then pull out the middle of the stomach.  Okay, that I used to be able to do when I was little.  Then you can swirl your stomach around in clockwise or counter clockwise directions, nope that’s beyond me.  It looks kind of freaky.  One must eat only a light lunch before this practice.

To improve concentration, we sit in the dark and gaze without blinking at a candle flame, “until tears come”.  Then you close your eyes and stare at the after image burned into your retina.  Look for psychedelic dreams the following night.  Not for those prone to schizophrenia.  The night after I did was the only night in a long long time that I -didn’t- dream.

Still looking for more fun?  You could hum “low” so that the reverberations are deep in your stomach ten times, and then zone out in the reverberations of all the hummming in the room.

And tonight we are going to take our open hip flexors and pranic breathing out to Nine Bar near the beach and go dancing.   There’s a juice bar, beautiful buildings, all these lovely outdoor shaded couches, gardens, a nuzzly dog, a sweet hammock, and a pool.  Life’s pretty lovely and delightful here.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 12, 2008

In India Nov 8 – well today is the 12…

After successfully catching a plane I was late for in Dubai, my fortune ran out.  I slept through the flight, and didn’t change my watch to India time.  India is in some weird pseudo-Newfie time zone that’s an hour and a half different than Dubai.  I feft the airport for my longer stop over in Mumbai, and went and got my legs waxed.  Just seems easier for two weeks of yoga.  I wandered around looking for Kocha market, and bought two shirts for 190 ruppees ($6 CAD).  I got two samosas for 9 rupees (2 cents).  My first auto-rickshaw (three wheels, no sides vehicles) cost 150 rupees.  I turned down three drivers who wouldn’t let me “pay the meter” but by the fourth I gave up.  My next ride of a similar distance, I paid 24 rupees.  The airport security guys came over, and they lied to me siding with the driver, saying oh 35 rupees.  And I said no 45! Sarcastically.  I’m not used to airport staff not siding with the naive traveller.  I paid 24, one rupee less than what it says, which is what you do.  I actually think it might have cost just 2 rupees, but I can part with the 70 cents.  They won’t explain where the decimal point goes on the fare meter.

I got back to the airport just in time for my flight, but not in time on India time.  Because I hadn’t changed my watch, I was an hour and a half later than I thought.  The plane was gone.  There were no more planes to Goa that night, so I bought a 4025 rupee ($98) flight for 5:20 am, and spent the rest of the day in the lounge which is free if you have a mastercard.  I spent the rest of the night in the airport waiting lounge. 

I clipped my bag to the armrest, locked my zippers, and asked the only other guy there to keep an eye on my and my stuff.  It was a fairly public area, with people passing by often.  Glasses off, eyemask on, earplugs in, drag two benches together (of course the armrests prevent stretching out) and I napped the best I could.

Got the flight, and negotiated the Goan taxi fare.  There’s a set rate, but he gave me this line about the bridge being out, so we’d have to wait two hours.  Or I could pay.  I got very rude and insistent no, you take me there right now, I paid 1000 rupees, that’s a lot of money, no waiting, no more money you take me there.  It’s odd to be strategically rude, but it’s what you do here. 

He did it, and then he got really friendly.  “You were angry before, but now you are happy?”  Then he wanted to give me his number, he wanted to take me to the market, and to show me around.  So confusing, first you try to cheat me, I call you on it, and then you want to hang out?? Geesh.

Arriving at Purple Valley

So I got there, donned my luggage, and wandered in.  The building is this beautiful, open air yellow and white strawbale/ stucco building.  Airy.  Lovely.  At the end it opens to a patio/ courtyard, and I look around another nice building.  Finally I find Zepher, who takes care of things.  I get my water bottle for the week, and my room key and some instructions, and join the others for breakfast. 

While being late a day is not cool, I did feel like it was simliar to Liz Gilbert’s experience of arriving in India in her GREAT book, _Eat, Pray, Love_. She arrives at 3 amand joins the chanting, just slipping in like she’s always been there. Sometimes I call this my Eat, Pray, Love trip.

Next, we have a talk from the Ayurvedic doctor, and about life and balance and what dosha you have (three diseased/ dis-ordered natures, everyone has one or a blend, you are born with it).  Radha Prema my Trent friend would love it.  You get a free consult, and you can take Ayrvedic treatments here.  He makes an argument that antibiotics lead to not enough bacteria, which leads to ant-acid, and that leads to heart-attack, uh, you lost me there buddy, but I’m still a little curious.

The food here is vegetarian/ vegan, and tastes great.  It’s beautiful.  Lovely pool, a juice bar in a few days, and nice plants.  I have a room with a roommate, Manuela from Brazil.  I really like her.  She’s traveled on her own lots and has good advice. 

My bed, oh how I love my bed.  It’s up a staircase in our room, so it’s quite private.  It’s a double bed with a four canopy-esque mosquito net.  I have a flappy door where I can get in – oh it is all very cool, and I love it.  I have my own fan up there too.

The yoga is Mysore style.  While the name lends itself to many apt jokes (my sore hamstrings, mysore knees), it is actually the name of the town where this style comes from.  That means that I have to memorize the order of a long routine and do it on my own.  The other students are off doing their own order at their pace, and the teachers come along and correct you when you need an adjustment.  I am used to a led class, where the teacher tells everyone what to do each step.  I am taking a crash course in memorizing stuff asap.  I am really really happy because the teacher told me to start coming at 7 am not 8 am, and to join the older students, i.e. the ones who know what they are doing!

I was less excited when I got there this morning, and they pushed em to go way farther with my practice.  Everything hurts.  Muscles I didn’t know I had hurt.  The original teacher Sur Pattabi Jois or something says, “No pain, no yoga”.  Great.  Well, I guess I am really practicing yoga at least!

Vagatore Beachwas a fun outting yesterday that I did with British Barbara.  We looked for our friends but didn’t find their beach shack (outdoor bar), so we just swam on our own.  I really liked the Indian Ocean.  The big waves crash into your body and send you forward.  It’s salty in my eyes.  I like floating with my toes up with no effort.  The men think western women are easy, and they go to the beach fully clothed, andthe women swim fully clothed.  When I got out there were guys with a camera, and I gave them dirty discouraging looks, but when they were behind me, they still took my picture in my bathing suit.  I gave them the finger, which translates quite effectively.  Manuella says they’ll sell it as porn.  Grrr. 

Barbara and I found this cool beach shack, “Fish Tail”, which played a lot of trance music.  Goa is famous for rave parties, full moon parties and a kind of trance music, Goa trance.  I hope we go out dancing Friday night.

Shirodorahis an ayrvedic treatment I got, after a Marmora massage.  It’s like a pleasurable Chinese water torture, with ayrvedic oil that smells like cedar, and nutty and like hamster shavings, I guess that’s still cedar.  She tied a string around my forehead so the oil wouldn’t go into my eyes.  She put wet cotton batton over my eyes, which was a bummer because I wanted to see.  They oil dribbles onto your forehead, and it is heated.  It felt nice.  Once I felt like the sun was shining out of the top of my head.  Sometimes the oil waves side to side.  She had her hand on my forehead and wiped into down.  That felt cool. My hair was swimming in a pool of oil.  It was nice and relaxing.  I like the next part where she rubbed my head with a towel to get the oil out.  I felt like a happy dog after a tomato juice bath.

I didn’t like it so much three showers, five shampoos and three soups washings later when my hairwas still a grease pit.  The doc told me to take the Shirodirah three times, but I think I want a Swedish massage instead next time.

Today we are all off to the market.  On full moons you don’t practice, so lucky us, an afternoon off.  I don’t feel like I am in “real” India, so it’ll be good to see the shops, and another beach, Anjuna.  I need more hot weather clothes. The built in belt on my only shorts has broken.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 12, 2008

Dubai Nov 7

I flew to Dubai, arriving just before midnight.  I really wanted to see the Burj al Arab, (great big super expensive hotel that looks like a sailboat) and the Burj Dubai ( which will be the tallest building in the world when it’s completed).  I get out money, and learn the local bus system, and I’m very proud of myself navigating a totally foreign city.  I don’t have change so a nice Filipino guy pays my bus fare.  Phew, lucky me, I’m rather karmically indebted to the world lately.

The bus driver treats me very well.  Talks to me, and buys me a tea even.  He reassures me that he’ll take me to the Burg.  He is not very nice to the Indians.  He yells at them, and tells them not to talk to the Filipino girl.  This seems to be a racist place.  Lots of retail, hospitality, tourism, and taxi jobs are filled by foreigners.  Also this is a really rich place, with crazy development, but no over all city-planning. 

There are these developments out into the water, built onto who knows what (Toronto’s harbour-front is built out into the water too I guess).  One is called The World, and looks like DNA, or no that one is the planets in the solar system.  You can buy your own private island planet.  Michael Jackson has one.

 My bus ride is taking a very very long time, and I should be boarding my next plane soon.  Then the driver tells me to get off and wait for another bus! Uh-oh!  I catch a taxi.  I’m thinking I should have taken the taxi both ways, and then I pass a sign on a wall that says, I’m deadly serious, “Carpe Diem”, which was my mini-mantra as I left the airport during a four hour layover.  So I tell the taxi I want to see the Burg al Arab.  We go there, yep it’s a big sail boat.  Take my picture, and we’re speeding back towards the airport.  I pass the Burg Dubai even.  The driver wants to be my friend, wants my email address, and phone number (like I have one these days).

With minutes to spare, I get to my gate.  Phew.  Bye Bye Dubai.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 12, 2008

Zanzibar and Dar Nov 6 7

I arrived in Zanzibar, and it was much hotter, more humid.  I was too late for the spice tour I wanted to do, so I figured out where to find the dalla dalla stop and how to get to a cheap hostel.  They tried to overcharge me, but I didn’t pay up the whole amount.  They told me to get out in a place that clearly wasn’t downtown, kind of suburbs-ish.  The dalla dalla seemed to also be a school bus.  Everyone is Muslim here, which is part of why this part of Tanzania is talking about separating.

So I go into a supermarket to ask where Jambo Guest House is, and a clerk says he’ll show me, but a ?14 year old says he’ll drive me.  His mom is in the car, and it is her birthday.  We go to the place, and they tell me it is in the middle of nowhere, and I won’t see anything.  They ask if I don’t want to stay downtown.  Uh, yah, okay.  They offer me a ride.  Phew, that’s lucky.  First we go back to the school where the mom is the prinicipal.  It’s a little private school where the instruction is in English, and most/ all? of the students are Muslim.  Mohammed gives me a grand tour, and gets mad at the students if they don’t greet me cordially.  Weird, I’m dressed in scruffy shorts, and don’t look like a teacher from Canada. 

He has to drive kids home after school, so I play with his sisters, and review their tests (in English).  Then Mohammed and I and a bunch of kids pile into a different car, and a cute little boy is sitting on my lap, in the front seat, as we drive (uh have I mentioned the style of driving here), but I guess this is how things work.  He says he’ll take me to the Malindi Guesti, but drops me off at the Mzuri Guesti, which costs more, but has A/c, very close to where I need to buy my ferry ticket, and I can walk to the market.  Okay, thanks.  I pay with American, phew.

I walk around the narrow narrow streets (feels European) and take pictures of the market.  People are so happy when I great them in Swahili.  Thank goodness I learned the barest basics.  Then it starts to downpour!  I jump into Aziz’sfurniture store/ stall, and talk with the guys till it stops. 

I checkout the Anglican church where the slave auctions where held, and chill out in an upstairs cozy veranda to write a bit.  I figured out where the beach was, and go strolling on the beach dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean for the first time ever.  Lots of men want to talk to and walk with me.  Hard to get rid of them.  An oppourtunity to be assertive, and harness my inner witch.  I’m getting good at never making eye contact and being cold.  I’m kind of sad that we can’t all just be friends and see each other as equals and good people, but that’s not how things seem.

Rather out of money, I buy the cheapest thing I can find a sub sandwich bun called a salt bun, for 15 cents.  I eat my leftover food in my room which also has cable??? and buy an early morning ferry ticket.

The ferry ride is pretty gut-sloshing, but I meet up with some American and kiwis, and Chloe gives me ginger pills for anti-nausea.  Phew, thank good ness.  I liked watching Bee movie, but I felt really weird watching,_The Kingdom_ with Americans, and a boat full of Muslims.  I’m embarrassed by Hollywood’s depiction of Muslims.  I turn to the American beside me and say incredulously, it’s like a video-game.  He earnestly agrees, yah it’s really like that over there.  Uh-oh.  He also tells me he voted independent, and thinks Obama is too young.  Whoa, dude, we are on different pages.   I lose my friends as soon as we dock.

In Dar I walk to the fish market.  I always ask before taking pictures, and usually people say yes.  I think it helps a lot that I can ask in Swahili.  I see guys rubbing shells so that they will be – they will look a slice of a shell.  They are just shell you find all over the beach.  Later I see them for sale for 10 cents.  I see a starfish exactly like the one I through back into the ocean for sale too.

There’s a giant blue lobster that one guy has caught.  He wants $50 for it.  Incredible.  I guess that’s wholesale.  The auctioning is pretty cool.  My bag is getting hot.

It’s a little exciting getting to the airport.  I get differing instructions on how to get to the airport.  No one likes a girl with a big pack and and little pack on a crowded dalla dalla.  I get to the airport, and with my last 15 cents, a nice nice girl lets me buy a bottle of water that costs 45 cents.  Phew, I’m a lucky duck.  No one would do that in Canada.

Airport security is pretty lax.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 12, 2008

Celebrating Obama in East Africa

The night before election day Ang was so stressed she could barely sleep.  It was pretty cool.  I went to the secondary school and taught Form Three (grade ten) English, and I told them I really really hoped Obama would win. 

[Oh yah, I taught English for a few hours.  The organisation is pretty laid back.  When I got to school, Mr. Cardo had to go round and collect all the students who were just standing around, and no one ever gave me a schedule, the whole time I was there.  There are 250? students, 150 more coming at\after Christmas, adn three teachers he told me. So the students who I was teaching would have been doing “self-study” if I hadn’t come.  I only knew it was “tea time” because Mr. Moshe came and told me.  Uh there were five teachers at tea time.  Hmmm.  I drank their sweet tea with them, (hopefully no buggies in the water) and ate a boiled egg (I eat boiled eggs all the time here, and they don’t get refrigerated) and two things that are most like plain timbits.  They wanted to see my photos, and I think they were late getting back to class after recess, but who knows, as i have no schedule.  I had a sad moment, when I realised these Tanzanian students haven’t been on safari, or seen the ocean, even though they live here.  These people are subsistence farmers on the mountain – they grow enough to feed themselves, and maybe sell a few bananas here and there.  The students were also very interested in seeing my pictures on my Eee Pc(little bitty computer).  One gave me his email address, and the password too.  People are newer to email here.]

Yes, so at lunch after teaching, I got to eat ugali and sukuomweeki (a green, a bit like kale or spinach) trad Tanzanian/ East African food.  That made me very happy.  Then Dennis offered me a free ride to the city.  Cool!  So rather than a massively overpacked hot, no shocks dall dalla ride (mini-bus), I got a plush seat in an air conditioned land cruiser.  Everything was deluxe about Dennis’ car.  He had had it custom painted but this car painting artist, who puts his artists signature on the licence plate, “Dag”, which I thought was pretty cool.  The one odd detail was coolio Dennis listened to Don Williams, old school country.  Totally didn’t fit with his Mr. Suave persona otherwise.  he had braids till just above the shoulder, very few people had braids.  In the school every student had super short shaved heads, and I couldn’t tell the girls from the boys except by their uniforms – skirt or pants).

So Dennis drove me to Moshi, and then asked me if I wanted to go for drinks later.  Sure, I have no plans, other than a sweet swim.  He took me to his house (stuffed with furniture) and introduced meto his house-boy.  That’s a word I don’t use much.  He had an entertainment unit, bureau, thing that was alos like a kind of a shrine (Dennis is Roman Catholic), with little statues of saints and Mary, and in the centre was a large framed 10×12 of himself!

I should tell you, Dennis does HIV/ AIDS support, and he’s getting an MBA, but chooses to work with this population.  As an RC, he is challenging the firmly held view here amongst Catholics that to use a prophylactic is to break God’s law.  Ooooh that gets stuck in my craw.  Why would God want people to get a horrible disease.  Grrrr.

So Dennis takes me to an Indo-Italian restaurant.  “Mzungus like it” he says.  I don’t like this, because I don’t want my taste and preferences to be dictated by my ethnicity.  But he’s a bit right I have to agree, i do like this kind of food,a dn the atmosphere.  I am getting a little taste of being aware of my “raced-ness“.  It so easy to be blind to white-ness at home. 

I eat some amazing paneer – great big brownie sized chunks of it.  Possibly the best paneer I’ve ever had.  Dennis doesn’t actually talk to me much.  he talks on his two cell phones, and often on telephone he sounds very angry, or boisterous.  Then he’ll turn to me and make brief small talk.  I’m pretty sure he told one buddy he was out to supper with a Mzunga.  I think he knows my name at this point…

Then we go to the East Africa bar, where a bunch of his friends are, all guys.  Downstaris Heineken is having some promotion which involves men dressed up like shaman or bushmen doing tacky fake African dance.  It strikes me as racist, but as I am the only mzunga in the bar, I don’t know what to think.

We’re upstairs, watching the BBC coverage of Obama winning.  People are pretty pumped about this.  They keep forwarding a text message about Obama’s my uncle.  I laugh with them, and make some joke about not being able to make that claim, “McCain is my uncle” I say with a big frown, they laugh.

I met Gama, who works for White Orange, another youth/ Aids NGO.  He’s really cool.  We got talking some philosophy and social justice stuff.  He took gender studies in university.  I tell him he’s challenging my stereotype of macho African men.  He answers his phone, which has a wallpaper image of a lady with no top on. 

Now Obama is big news here.  The next day was declared Obama day in Kenya, a national holiday.  Tanzania and Kenya are next door neighbours, both part of East Africa.  I was a little dubious of the newscoverage showing the old civil rights protests, and the spraying of black people with water canons, and dogs.  It implies that we’ve come so far, racism is a thing of the past.  People here think this means the end of racism.  It feels crappy to be the bringer of bad news, but I try  to say that racism is old and very entrenched.  I’m very excited about this step, but it doesn’t change everything.

But that’s not the mood of the night at the bar.  There’s a lot of bottle raising, and celebrating.  I am getting to like Serengeti, a local beer.  Bitter Lemon is my favorite non-alcoholized drink.  People like to talk to me.  One guy says why are you hanging around with Gama!  He’s he’s like McCain, and I’m like Obama.  I looked at him and I said if you are Obama, it’s time for change!!!

I met a fun Kiwi guy James.  Dennis (who is drunk and will drive me home so) is suddenly very concerned about my safety anddoesn’t want me to go with james, but I do.  We go back to his hostel where I get some names and numbers from his lonely planet for Zanzibar.  I asked what have you learned from your years of traveling?  “Everyone is different and everyone’s the same”.  Pretty cool.

So then we watch Arsenol, Dennis’s favorite football (i.e. soccer) club tie a game zero-zero.  Dennis seems very interested in my hair and touching it.  Fair enough, I’m curious about African people’s hair too.

We get back to the hostel late late.  Dennis confirms that he’ll pick me up at 8:30 and drive me to my shuttle to the airport.  I quickly hug him good night, and skedaddle.

In the morning, Dennis never shows.  I found out later he was too hungover.  That could have been predicted.  A nice man talks to me, says he hates to see someone stranded, and gets his driver to drive me to the Precision Air office.  Phew, that was lucky, as I am down to 55 cents, and I need that for my dalla dalla rides in Zanzibar and Dar Es Saslaam.  Even at the ticketing office, everyone is talking Obama.  A fun last night in Moshi.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 11, 2008

The Half Nakedness Police

On my last day in Tanzania, I got a free ride with  Dennis to the city of Moshi, and I stayed at the YMCA.  There I had a really invigorating swim, but I had a little trouble.  I had seen the signs prohibiting “half-nakedness” anywhere other than at the pool.  When I went down there was a man who I took to be a lifeguard.  But no, there are more important things to be guarded, specifically causing people to see half-nakedness.  He told me I couldn’t swim in a two piece pathing suit.  I said I’ll keep my t-shirt on.  He said the bottoms have to be shorts, I showed him my boy-short style bottoms (possibly endangering him via visual exposure!).  He conceded that they were acceptable, (PHEW) and if you don’t get past his checkpoint, you can’t swim.  I dove in completely dry and felt happy and floaty and free in the water.

Posted by: marthacoolcat | November 8, 2008

SOOO much to catch you up on, but briefly, I’m in India, I’m fine. Only one wish.

It’s been a rough night, please India for the love of your gods stop hoaucking in the bathroom.

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