Monday, May 18, 2009,
I boarded a Boeing 747,could have been a 757,from New Jersey, Newark Airport,destination:Tanzania,Africa,even a 4 hours stop in Amsterdam,couldn't dampen my spirit,who ever invented the Business Class Airport Lounge(showers/free drinks/food/comfy lounge chairs/wireless/ free Internet connection,should get a straight pass to heaven.
Mission: 3 months assignment,ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)the motherland,my earlier trips to the continent of Africa,(Egypt,Morocco)in the 90's,seemed so far away,this is a new beginning...EASTERN AFRICA,BABY,THE MOTHERLAND!
9 hours from Amsterdam/Tanzania,finally, we landed at Kilimanjaro Airport (Tanzania), on Tuesday,19 May,2009! 24 hours indoor, hope you understand, that I was the very first one off the plane... walking on the tarmac, on a crisp African night, this is home, this is Africa, did I mention the Mother land, perfect temperature, little did I know...
The Welcoming Committee:
A young man, my name typed neatly on a piece of paper, the usual greetings, fast forward to Customs/ Immigration, the blue passport (UN) worked wonders, my "laisser Passer" (LP) & bags were stamped/signed/sealed/delivered! This is Africa, the Motherland OOPS!Must have been that blue diplomatic passport... I LIKES!
I'm in the parking lot, here comes the familiar UN bus, aaaahh the aroma reminded me, of sweet home Haiti, smaller infrastructures, but well organized,no mobs, no "mendyan"(beggars), only travelers/tourists/airport workers, security guards are allowed in the airport,this is Africa, the mother land!, and so far I LIKES....
UN EXPRESS BUS: MOI and a couple of other colleagues, the driver is missing, oh lord! here comes Mr. Security,armed with an automatic rifle, I almost fainted, my colleague assured me, that "all will be ok", I felt right at home (Haiti), awaited other UN colleagues, from different countries/different flights/different schedules... amongst the UN bus passengers: a female lawyer from Toronto,on a 6 months assignment, I was still nervous, kept my good eye on the security guard, skinny fellow, about the size of the automatic rifle, but this is security, when in Rome do like the Romans, when in Tanzania do like ... you get the picture!
Ok here we go, oh lord, they drive on the left side of the road, a little something left by the British colonists,long drive about 1 hour to Arusha, where I will be staying for the next 3 months,90 days...you do the math in hours!
Did I mention "skinny security guard" armed with an automatic rifle is riding with us along with another guard,speed limit "non existent" in this country! we're driving very, very fast... had to ask "why are we driving like an Indy 500 driver?" my colleagues/fellow bus riders assured MOI, since we're riding on a UN bus, we don't want any rocket attacks, hence the security, and the Indy 500 ride,...SAY WHAT? if we don't get kill by rocket fire, there is a strong possibility that we may get kill in a bus/car accident, well, step on it bus driver, who wants an attack? especially on my very first day in Africa, the Motherland! Lord,do I feel right at home(Haiti)?,speed limit non existent, possibilities of an attack... this is Africa, the motherland! I LIKES.
From the UN bus windows, I could see the "paysage", it's a long drive, and I was trying, just trying, not to think of the armed security guards. My views & observations so far: young Tanzanian men/women walking, electricity available, even in the huts... oh Lord I’ve seen the light! but please Lord, can you make our driver slow down, just a little? Oh! now, the driver gets upset, stopped the bus, said something in Swahili (No comprende)...I truly felt at home in Haiti: short tempered/automatic rifles/speed limit non existent... closed my brown eyes, thoughts of my 2 kids back in NJ, maybe, I can still catch a flight back, oh!well wishful thinking!
Jesus of Nazareth! Skinny security guard is napping, catching a few zzzzzz's, HELLO SECURITY! still thinking of my kids, they must be at school now, recess/lunch... wake up, Mr.Security Guard!
We have reached our destination,dropped a UN colleague at the local hotel,drove by the UN office building, finally made it to my apt. complex, my sublet for the next 3 months... 67 steps to climb to reach my apartment, counted them all, opened the door, electricity was OFF, wanted to go to a hotel, but Mr. Building Manager, fixed the electricity problem.
A quick tour of my sublet, 3 bedrooms, 3 inches of dust, no hot water,Ice Cold...Brrrrrrr... Sponge bath all around! Fixing my bed, packed my own sheets, and it's so cold, so cold, that I went to bed with my coat on!
Woke up at 6:30 am, another cold shower, getting wiser already, went straight for the sponge bath, awaiting for the UN driver, he was late, actually never showed up, I need a cab, a taxi pronto...
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Typical UN procedures: NY ID,and LP at the gate, another security officer, clearance, finally, he asked me to proceed to the Serengeti building. Sounded so exotic to me! He escorted me to my boss' office, such gracious gentlemen in Tanzania, Africa.
I was greeted by all and introduced to all, then a Kenyan lady (a sista)introduced me to all of my other colleagues in HR.
My name is Gina from NY 'till today, I am known as Gina from NY.
I was shocked, a long corridor with offices all of them closed, a quick knock and you enter. Everyone is locked up in an office, according to your rank you can have a private office, or share one with one or two, three colleagues. Hmmm, they gave me my personal and private office, I must be important, :)
I sat down and waited, a colleague came,and introduced himself (we have exchanged e-mail before my arrival). He gave me a few papers to sign,and off I went to my first assignment outside of NY.
Sat at my desk, a knock and young fellow entered to tell me that he is about to take me around for "check in."
"Check in" is a long process, you need to meet with every head of office, from security, IT, accounts, payroll(most important), medical etc...
I did half of the "checking" and it was time for lunch. In the meantime, I just met, a security officer from Jamaica who was so delighted to have another Caribbean person around. Another knock at my door, not only am I important, I'm already popular, well, it is simply, Mr. Jamaican security sending a Haitian compatriot my way, surprise, there are Haitians in Tanzania, HAITIANS IN DA HOUSE !!!!
Empty cafeteria. Cannot pay with US currency and they don’t accept debit/credit cards. I went to the store next door and exchange for T-Shillings, the local currency. Looks like a lot of money.
Lunch paid, still have so much time in my hands, lunch is from 12:30 to 2:00, what a luxury! This is the motherland indeed...
Back to the office, cannot log on the computer yet, browsing papers/reading whatever I can, trying to anyways, and here comes my guide, to continue the now famous "check in".
Around 4 pm I was done and nothing else to do. My Haitian compatriot called and offered to take me around to buy what I need.
In the meantime, a lady came to clean up the apartment. I went with my compatriot to the UN duty free shop, shopping for mattress covers, pillows, throws and comforters, then we proceeded to Shoprite and bought a couple of items, I'm already wiser, using local currency!
Mi compadre, compatriot came back home with me to check on the place and explained everything. Thanks to her, now I know, how everything works, from the hot water to the stove every plugs has an on and off buttom in the middle. Now I understand, why the stove did not work, and the hot water, just turn it on at least half an hour before I take a shower. No more sponge bath! In case of a blackout, now, I know how to turn on the generator! Now, I feel a little more relieved and more confident; and what do you know? 10 minutes later: Blackout!
NOSTALGIE, DOUCE MELANCHOLIE.-
Did I mention I haven't stopped crying? I've been crying non stop, I’ve cried myself to sleep and I wake up crying. I miss my kids, my babies, my prince and princess (Fabrice and Krystel)...I've cried me a river, Finally, I took a warm long shower, put on my PJ’s and went to bed,I was finally warm.
Oh, I was scared, tired and did not know how long or how little I slept with the lights on & the curtain opened. Below my windows, across the street are 2 bars, happening places, they stay opened until 11:00pm don’t know how long I stared at the window looking at them.
Thursday, May 21 2009
4:00 am... A long, loud chanting woke me up, rather scary, especially when you do not understand the language. Sounded like the entire town, seems it is coming down from the mountain.
Woke up, turned on the hot water, brewed some tea, showered and got dressed. The cleaning lady knocked on the door, communication might be difficult, she doesn't speak English/nor French! I somehow, managed to understand her, and I think she definitely understood me, then again she may not, all I know she said YES MAM 'M
My colleague/neighbour offered MOI a ride to work. He is the Chief Budget Officer (CBO) of ICTR. He was very kind and explained in a nutshell everything I needed to know about the building, how things operate etc... He apologized and told me that he works long hours sometimes until 2:00 am, that I may not see him.
Later on, while climbing the 67 stairs, met other neighbors and realized that there are only 2 apartments on the 4th floor, the CBO and MOI.
Below me, there are 4 other apartments, an International lawyer and her daughter, Missy is an intern from Oxford University, a Security Officer, The Chief of Medical Services and another Doctor with her two girls who attend the International school in Tanzania.
I yet to know who the other tenants are!!!!
Building A and Building B, my official residence: Building B
Arrived at work,8:30 am, still the same famous “check in", and finally went to the IT department and requested a comp/laptop. In the afternoon after lunch, they came and hooked me up; in the meantime, work is piling up on my desk… Oh lord, pile of papers, files, I forgot what it is like. I asked about shared drives where everything is, they look at me like I was from Mars or something. Now that I get connected, I decided to write to all my friends and let everyone know that I arrive ok.
Did I say that I am still crying…? I kind of laugh at myself for crying, but I cry some more.
Left my door opened, people going back and forth with files… look out of the windows, beautiful lawn, well manicured, well maintained better than our so famous NY Headquarter garden.
Lunch hour: went to town to open a bank account, long lines, long wait, just to find out, that I need a letter and so many other documents.
A new colleague came knocking, she introduced herself, another compatriot, we are 3 Haitians, while talking, I realized that we grew up in the same neighborhood in Haiti, she stayed on for over an hour talking... Was it normal? sure was, I do not have much to do.
Went to her house for lunch ate black rice with salmon and avocado… true delight
Came back after 2 pm and work, more visits...
I was leaving and my compatriot #1 offered to take me home, and do more shopping. Wow! I said 3 Haitians in this joint how wonderful, then we all met I automatically realized that there was tension between the 2 compatriots, they were very cordial but very dry... I said alright...
We went to other stores and gather more things for me and took me home.
I climbed the 67 stairs, would I lose weight? This is a forced diet! I feel rather secure, there are 3 guards with guns and clubs at the gate, gentlemen, who will carry your bags and all, $1 US dollar goes along way in Tanzania!
Unpacked my food, charged my phone and turned on the TV
69 channels available on TV, 20 playing Indian movies 24/7, 10 channels where the game of cricket is king (shades of the British empire), 10 with soccer/football, BBC is representing, so is CNN, 2 Al Jazeera stations in English & Arabic, a couple of French channels, a prayer channel (Lord, have mercy), HBO, ESPN, and a few Tanzanians channels here and there playing Kenyan soap operas. I, of course, settled for the Kenyan soap operas in English.
Rather cold on the couch, I 'm wearing my winter night ensemble(sweater/flannel PJ, throws)
No heat, it is usually 40 degrees and the temp usually dip at night!
Friday, May 22 2009
Chauffeur came to pick me up, made an extra key for the cleaning lady, noticed a couple of young entrepreneurs in the lobby, AFRICA ON LINE, they looked intelligent, (whatever that means) asked about internet connection, one of them informed MOI, that internet services will cost around $ 50 dollars, sound reasonable...
Compadre # 2 came to my office, more chit chat. She took me to her office in the other building, this is where "l'action se passe", where the judges/lawyers, and prisoners are.
Friday, no lunch, office closed at 2 pm, I naively asked why? Simple answer: "so the Muslims can go to the Mosque..."
OK great, went home early, nothing to do, watched TV, drank tea and cried some more.
More unpacking, cleaned the closets and this time I really emptied all my suitcases/bags.
Now, I really don't have anything to do, watch some more TV, btw, I never watched so much TV in my life,I'm really getting into African soap operas! It’s not even 5 pm on a Friday nite, I'm not used to have so much time in my hand.
Texted the kids via cell phone, and went to bed, crying some more….
Door bell, it’s 8:06 am, who rings a door bell/any door bell at 8:00 am on a Saturday? Jumped out of bed, oh! Well, it's the cleaning lady! By 11:am, she was done, even asked me if I had anything else, extra laundry, ironing, replied a short: "NO", and next Saturday, please come after 11:00 am. Didn't mean to be rude but come on 8:00 am on a Saturday, is a bit too much for MOI.
I made brunch, and suddenly (around 1:00 pm) I had a HA HA moment, Dang! I just realized that I have nobody to talk to, hmmm let me do the math, it's 1:00 pm in Arusha, so it is 6:00 am in the States, may be I should pull a "cleaning lady stunt", and call everybody I know back in the States, just wake them up... they are all friends/family, they love me, I don't think they would mind...YEAHHH SURE!!!
4:15 pm, finally someone to talk to, Compatriot #1, picked me up, it's church time... ALLELUIA... ALLELUIA, packed a little bag, staying overnite at compatriot # 1.
Compatriot # 1's house after church: Haitian food, white rice with codfish, a delight! She doesn't drink and have a nice stash of "tafia", well, you know, ;-) we talked, got to know each other better, and did I mention the stash of alcoholic beverages ...
Compatriot # 1 has Vonage phone services, I can talk to the kids for free, the kids are attending a funeral in Brooklyn, an old family unfortunately passed away. They sounded OK, they sent me a couple of pix, they looked fine, so being a mommy, I cried some more.
Next day, Sunday, compatriot #1 brewed some Haitian hot chocolate, I'm not feeling too well, she gave me a spoon of liver oil... yack! and a couple of vitamins C.
I think I’m coming down with a cold, cannot still adjust to the temperature in Arusha. After dinner, we went for a ride, went to the mall, and visited a gated community where most UN colleagues reside.
Did I mention that I reside amongst the common folks like MOI? right in the middle of town.
I came home around 5 pm, washed my hair, showered, and cried some more...
I am feeling sick, brewed some tea, gathered my energy, my strength and went to work.
Talked to the Internet guy, and he guaranteed, he will set up my internet connection for the reasonable price of $ US 50.00 dollars.
Hailed a cab, I know the rate 2,000 Tshillings for the ride, handed the cab driver 200,000 Tshillings instead, and of course he said: Thank you and slowly drove away. A few hours later, it hit me... 2000... 200,000 ... a few extra zeroes! DANG!
The Office: nothing is working,3 techies, plugged/unplugged/lifted/moved/chatted/called/analyzed ect...nothing is working, NADA!
I don't feel any energy! really came down with something, a cold!read, and tried to prioritize things, asked my super NY colleagues for help, some great suggestions from my NY colleagues, read some more to got acquainted with things.
Nothing to report except that I am on my 3rd trip to the bank, trying to open a saving account, so many documents to sign, so many details...
Went to a Chinese restaurant with Compatriot # 2, decent food, came back a bit late, to the office.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Quiet day at the office, of course I cannot send or receive emails, this could be a problem, since I have loads of work !
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Finally I opened a savings account in Arusha, at the office, long meetings, I' m feeling better/stronger !
Short day, offices closed at 2:00 pm, went downtown to buy things in bulk, and went to the open market, surprisingly clean, and quiet! I have not been to one ever since I left Haiti. Childhood memories of my Granma taking me to the open market in Port-au-Prince, those were the days!
Compatriot # 1 has a "pratik"for those of you who don't speak "kreyòl", a "pratik" is a merchant/seller/ " machan n" that you've been dealing with/buying from, for years,sometimes for generations, someone that you trust. The car's trunk is full of goodies.
Back home, I unpacked all my goodies, washed the veggies/fixed the fridge!
Did not have a fridge for 1 week, there were 2 of them in the apartment, food left by my previous occupants, and no electricity for months, the smell was unbearable. They took the fridges to be washed.
Later on realized the fridges were not working. A specialist came, one is working at least. The other fridge is still MIA!
The cleaning lady came at 11:00 am, I was up, and I washed my hair, showered, did some crying, played some music and try to be in a better mood. Gave her 10,000 TShillings to purchase fruits,veggies and water. Got great fruits, bananas, apples, tangerines, great avocadoes etc.
The internet guy showed up price went up, it should have been a sign, I gave him $100.00 dollars, to buy an internet phone, which can be hooked to my laptop, and hopefully I will have internet until I leave Arusha…Just add another $100.00 dollars to my budget!
Bumped into internet guy on the stairways, on my way to church, he gave me the phone and told me that I can start making local phone calls, and Monday, he will come and hook me up, hope this time it's for good.
Went to church, and went to compatriot #1, so I can talk to my kids back in Jersey.
Compatriot #2 Chauffeurs’ came to pick me up, special invitation to a Haitian dinner, on the menu, Haitian bouillon, really delicious, good wine, etc..., stayed until 10:30 pm, Chauffeur escorted to my apartment, such gentleman in Africa.
I'm so excited, finally, I can call my peeps, friends, family ect... or so I hoped and prayed! Did I say that the phone cost me 100 dollars?
Bed time, washed my face, and somehow managed to hook my phone to the laptop. Well, I'm getting tired, may be tomorrow.
Sunday, May 31 2009
Stayed home the whole day, read, listened to music, watched some ball games, chatted with the kids on my cell and cried some more.
Monday, June 1 2009
Went downstairs to the internet guy, “Africa Online”, and told him to complete the installation that I started the nite before. He promised to give it to me later. Promises, promises...
At work, finally everything is working, am feeling better, still sneezing, but I am a trooper, I' m taking my vitamins daily, feeling stronger, still sneezing a bit but "c’est la vie"! The temp is getting warmer, still cold but...
Knock, knock, Oh! Well, its compatriot #1, she’s with a young intern from Texas, a law student, and to top it all, she is Haitian; we are taking Tanzania by storm, hurray! That makes 4 of us, we’re talking "Konpa", Rhum Barbancourt, "diri ak pwa" (RICE AND BEANS) and all... we shall see.
My desk is full of pending cases. One at a time, just be patient Gina.
In the meantime, colleagues are calling and emailing, visiting Gina from NY, I'm trying to get a "feel" of everyone, one by one they come/go, a long procession.
Finally around 9 pm, the door bell rang. It's the internet guy, soon I will be able to chat/check emails, IM's act... or so I thought, Internet guy, informed me, that I may need additional cables and/or a more expensive phone, $150 dollars will take care of the problem!
Hmmm, Am I getting played here, is it a scam? You know, woman alone in a foreign land, is the brother taking advantage of me? We talked, argued, he promised by tomorrow, everything should be fine, meanwhile ... another nite texting on my cell phone!
Had a good, today! Didn’t even use my AK! (Oops! sorry rap song). I'm starting to get some work done in the office, I am getting cases to work on/setting up new policies etc... After work, I rushed home, hoping/praying that the internet is working, Wishful thinking...
Wednesday, June 3 2009
Compatriot #2 got me a modem for my laptop, cost:$60 dollars. I'm finally connected; I can email/IM/chat with my kids/friends/family.
Thursday, June 4 2009
Requested my $100 back, we shall see.
Friday, June 5 2009
Remember I felt some tensions between the 2 compatriots, well, it is Friday, the office closed early (2:00 pm), NY style got to get some cases out my desk, and Gina from NY is in full swing.
Compatriot #2 called, noticed her phone number, did not pick up, have a lot of work piled on my desk, 10 minutes later a knock, she entered the room, complained about MOI not picking up my phone, I simply replied: "you should have left a message." She insisted, showed me how to retrace a call, mild argument! but I am getting annoyed, my patience is running thin, she sat down and kept complaining about my behavior, my attitude, ladadi...ladada, now she is really out of bounds, telling me/asking me, why am I avoiding her? Why have I changed?
I dropped my pen on the table, got up and gave her a piece of my mind in good ole French! Since you all know me, you pretty much have an idea how the whole thing went down! After a good 5 minutes, I opened my office's door, and asked her to leave. Finally, I can do some work! I miss my kids!
Called a few people/texted some to comment about the incident! I know, I should have been more patient, more tolerant, we shall see...
Saturday, June 6 2009
I got braids African braids baby! Thanks to my cleaning lady, cost about 2000 Tshilling. It would have cost me $200 dollars in the States.
Sunday, June 7 2009
Woke up around 10:00 am and started cooking: seasoned filet mignon, prime meat and cheap, boiled corn, broccoli, potatoes that I will steam up for the rest of the week.
Big parade around town, school kids (boys/girls)in colorful uniforms, thousand of kids, smiling, parading around, in matching skirts/blouses/pants/sweaters,simply grandiose... and NO I didn't cry this time ;-)
Compatriot #1 picked me up, then we pick up the intern, we're going to the fair, 3 Haitians in a car. We laughed at each other, spoke "kreyòl" non stop... we had a ball, but first stopped at the museum of cultural heritage, great exposition, great art to buy, Tanzanites stones, rather pricey tho!!!
Off to the fair we go this is my kind of place, now are you with me... Just imagine a place where they give you a free bottle if you're adventurous to have a taste... ok you still don't get it, HAVE A TASTE GET FREE BOTTLE! and I just wished a few of you were right here in Tanzania, you know who you are….!!!
Needless to say I didn’t embarrass my peeps, lived up to my rep! and received quite a few free bottles, well ok, got a lot/mucho free bottles!
Lunch at the fair was quite an affair (kind of like fair and affair together). On the menu: grilled beef, chicken, settled for the beef, listened to some great music and I had a local beer called Kilimanjaro. Great show by the Masai men, camel riding... great exhibition. Had a wonderful time.
Back home, dumped my clothes in the hamper, showered (dusty day) brewed some tea, watched some more TV... cried a little and went zzzzzzzzzzzz....
Monday,8 June 2009
Nothing eventful in the morning, lunch at 12:30, had a delicious salad, then my boss invited me to lunch,"tomorrow" I replied: "Just ate, boss"!
Around 1:00 pm, I went out with 2 local ladies, we parted ways for a while, I wanted to go to the photo store to buy accessories for my digital camera and print larger copies of my kids' pix and the other 2 local had their own things...
First store: the guy at the counter, told me that he couldn't help me, maybe, I should go to another store, further down the street. He sent one of his clerks with me to show me the store; he didn't have to since the store was just a few steps down the street. Quite nice of him, thanked him and with my escort, walked to the other store.
Second store: I'm greeted by an Indian guy, very helpful. I took out my wallet just to verify if I have enough cash for the job, in the meantime, 3 women walked in the store and ordered some pix of the president or something, 2 ladies on my left side, and one on my right, the one on the right said something in Swahili, which of course I didn't understand, she started touching the pix of my kids, I politely told her not to touch the pix, reached out to take the pix away from her, put down my wallet on the counter, got the pix back...the 3 ladies walked out of the store, turned around, my wallet is gone. The lady touching the pix was just a decoy, while the other 2 were snatching my wallet! How naive of me!
I ran after them, yelling for all to hear: "she stole my wallet", I grabbed the one that I think stole my wallet, threw her against a wall. A mob gathered, I told a guy "she stole my wallet" he grabbed one lady, now, I'm in the moment, IT'S ON BABY! I'm blocking the other 2 with my long legs, a quick 1...2 combo, a left, a straight right and a vicious uppercut, she dropped my wallet on the ground and I let go. A mob circled one of the ladies, they wanted to call the police. I said: "it's ok, just let her go”. Later on, I learned that she would have been lynched by the people, they do not tolerate, thieves, robbers ect... Just Imagine,I would have been responsible for a lynching!
Anyway, went back to the store and continue my business, people were applauding me, and were so apologetic, everyone on the streets were saying "sorry". A little humor, now that I'm ok, just imagine MOI running after the ladies with my big boobs flapping my face in Arusha, Tanzania!
Later on, I realized that it was kind of stupid running after them, but at that time it was pure instinct and adrenaline.
I proceeded to the phone company (Tigo)to have my local cell phone connected, and went to a restaurant to meet with another colleague.
A Phone call ftom Compatriot #2 called to let me know how ashamed she was by my attitude towards her. Is she for real? I don’t think so, quite persistent... not that I am concerned.
Tuesday, June 9 2009
The office is closed, housekeeping details! There are pending cases that should be attended to, so said the Chief. Then I went to lunch with the Chief, great lunch, funny guy too, I didn't stop laughing, trying to forget my earlier boxing match!
The Chief ordered the driver to take me to town to go get the pix in the store where my wallet was stolen.
I did not know that I could just go down and call for a driver to take me to any places that I want to go! Lord almighty, so many UN SUVs, I thought they were for the judges, anyways, now I know.
Went back to the office, time for a Video conference meeting with all HR, NY leading of course, Vienna, Geneva, Nairobi, Bangkok, Addis Ababa, Santiago, Kigali and Arusha on the new system effective on 1 July. 1 hour and a half later, I went back to the office, did some paper work, but I was "invited" to a funeral by a colleague, I wrote a sympathy note for the family, they somehow like my handwriting, ever knew I had great penmanship.
We called the UN drivers they drove us to the house of the dead. Different culture, different tradition, everyone stayed in the backyard, singing, eating, and drinking.
All the women in the family are in one room on the floor, all wrapped up, seating barefoot in the same position for hours and not looking at people. Different strokes for different folks! But my god, most if not all, didn’t turn off their cell phones!
Later on find out, that one just graduated from LSE (master degree) and one PHD from Sweden. One got to admire the fact that these women still have respect for their traditions/culture and values.
In the house of the dead, they served water and some patties, I was the only one, bold and adventurous enough, among the 15 or so colleagues, to taste the cuisine, hey! Got to experience everything… This is the motherland!
We prayed and left, the UN driver dropped me at home and informed me to sign up for daily pick up/drop off instead of taking a taxi daily. Did I mention that it is not recommended to walk around solo/alone….
Wednesday, June 10 2009
The UN driver is late, well only by 5 minutes. Work went well, I have so much to do, I' am already known and the phone is ringing as well as e-mail, I actually received more e-mails than when I was in NY, well I' am managing...I sort of like being busy.
I heard someone say:" Gina pole, pole this is not NY”, "pole, pole" means "RELAX,TAKE A CHILL PILL/CHILLAX "ooh! You think I'm working too fast, guess what people? I only have 3 months to finish the job! Get used to it, Gina cannot "pole pole".
3:30pm: a short visit to the medical office, I finally got my meningitis vaccine and a second dose of hepatitis B.
Pass 5:30 pm:
I think, I am alone in the office, so much work, cannot leave yet, at least another hour. All of a sudden, loud voices, people are shouting, very unusual. Must be something, Now, I'm really worried, the voices are louder! Somebody called out my name: "GINA...GINA! and like the true New Yorker that I am, I grabbed my purse, and ventured (actually ran) out of the door... Now panicky voices are asking about the tremour, "Gina, did you feel the tremor?" escusa me, TREMOR as in EARTHQUAKE, I asked in a trembling voice, Yes, they replied, "it's common if not normal around here, we always have tremours/earthquakes" in fact they added: "a couple of months ago, the building swayed for 2 minutes, though the building is ”earthquake proof" OH!Lord, the things one learns in life, here I am on a 3 months mission, and I'm in an earthquake area... Just my luck! But seriously tho, I'm shaken by the tremours, had to call home and talked to my kids and called a few colleagues in NY.
Well, earthquake day is over, I went home a bit late 7:00 pm (NY style)I deserve a rest,I’ve earned it! Brewed some tea... relaxed, and I miss the kids!
Thursday, June 10 2009
All is well; I'm really working hard, cleaning up all paper works and passing it on... NEXT! I'm crying a bit less these days! and then TADA.... I CREATED A BLOG! THIS HERE BLOG! I think, it’s the best way to keep in touch with friends/family/colleagues ect...
Friday,June 11 2009
Did not do much. Town Hall meeting from 9:45 am til noon! Another visit to the medical office, they are getting to know me by now, I do have a stiff neck and my back is killing me!
Compatriot #2 is looking for me… oh! lord… I need to work on at least one case...1:30pm she showed up, ok I will be nice and understanding(I'm a Christian) we chatted but I still managed to do one memo and answered 6 e-mails while talking to her. Time to leave. She invited me to dinner on Sunday, "We shall see" I replied.
Went out with my local friend/colleague and the 2 interns, one Haitian and one American. We took a UN car, destination the Snake Park and the Masai Museum.
Big snakes, quick tour for me, I am really scared of these animals, and from my angle, the glass cages do not seem thick enough, I swear, some of those snakes were eyeing me! between the snakes, crocodiles/alligators, "kayiman" or whatever they were, I just could not take it, quick exit, noticed a sign, TGIF,it's a bar!
MASAI MUSEUM.-The tour guide refused to speak English, Brotha is convinced that I'm a Masai! "why do you need to speak English, when you are one of us? "he asked, well as far as I know, I'm Haitian born/raised, may be in my previous life, I was a Masai, and who knows may be, my great great great grand father was a Masai warrior, and now Mr. Tour Guide is really upset b/c I can identify the Masai household items by name, well, they look like items used by Haitians peasants (my peeps). What can I say! Mr. Tour Guide is ready to swear that I'm a Masai born/raised.
Off to the Masai tribe huts, time to play DRESS UP, and a funny thing happened... just picture an old Masai man talking with his "ding a ling" floating around!
Off to camel riding, didn't ride this time, I’ve experienced it a few years ago in Egypt, once is enough! Tour is over, called the UN driver to no avail, we forgot to make the "pick up" reservation!
Now we have to ride the "dala dala", quite an experience. Just like the Tap Tap drivers in Haiti, this is not driving, this is BATTLE OF THE FITTEST/STRONGEST/FASTEST/MEANEST ... no speed limit!
Finally made it in 1 piece to the center of town, stopped at the drugstore, and picked up the "medikaman" for my stiff neck.
Took a cab home, one "dala dala" ride is enuff for the day! Cooked dinner/a shot of whisky/some wine... ooops! Time to chat with the kids. Zzzzzzz time (1:00 am)
Saturday, June 12 2009
Breakfast, took a cab to a spa/hair salon for manicure/pedicure/facial/waxed and all, for the incredible price of $50 dollars! Hopefully, I won't have an allergic reaction to the products they used.
Back home, lunch consisted of a salad! texted... read a little...wrote a little...napped...showered ...
MY FIRST PARTY
Arrived early (6:00 pm) very first to arrive. Great food, guests are arriving one by one with a bottle, oh! I am not leaving tonite. On the menu, glazed ham, chicken, fish, all kind of salad, black rice, and seasoned potatoe. I went back to the buffet for seconds and thirds/had some Barbancourt!
The attendees: 3 Haitians(natif/natal), 2 locals, 3 Liberians, 1 Cameroonian, 1 Ghanaian, 1 American (Podyab),1 Senegalese, 2 Ethiopians, Zimbabwe is in the house, 2 Kenyans, true blue UN gatherings... great conversation, good food, and drinking. I was of course the last one to leave the party, basic rules of accounting, First In, Last Out!
Sunday, June 13 2009
Woke up at 11:00 am, cleaned a bit, did some work I took home, chatted, and posted on my blog. Door bell rang, the chauffeur of compatriot #2 is here to pick me up, Compadre # 2 invited me to dinner, but I remember well, I didn't RSVP! Cannot attend sorry! She called trying to convince MOI, to no avail, she promised to send my portions, 1 hour or so later, the chauffeur delivered my portions. I ate pasta for dinner and decided to save the food of compadre # 2 for the rest of the week!
The people are very quiet, polite and peaceful, definitely, not my preconceived idea of Africans and Africa. I somehow thought that they would be Haitian like (whatever that means) since we were raised to believe that we are the most Afrocentric people in the world.
The streets are dusty, albeit not paved but surprisingly clean! I have not seen any garbage in the streets, no littering! It is not loud, except for "dola dola" drivers blowing/honking their horns! Btw, the "dola dola" is the equivalent of the Haitian "Tap Tap" (public transportation).
Traffic is a bit crazy; so far I've only seen one(1) traffic light at the corner of my street. Just like European town, there is a circle a round about as it is called, on all major arteries, very confusing for those who are not familiar with the area, I yet to figure out who have the right to go around the circle.
The locals are street vendors/restaurant owners/office workers ect... everybody knows how to read/write since it is mandatory that all children received an education at least to level 7, equivalent of Junior High School in the US. Those stats are never talked about on CNN/Fox. From the shoe shiners to the street vendors, they all know how to read and write in Swahili, most do not speak English, only high schoolers and university graduates speak English fluently.
Did I say that they are very polite people? they are all always sorry more so than Americans, you know us Haitians are not apologetic, but Tanzanians always greet you and are ready to help.
They say the Kenyans are the ones bringing crimes to the country; Tanzanians are mostly very humble and very respectful to the point of being humoristic.
Perfect example: I am riding in the back of a taxi and asked a question, the driver actually stopped/pulled over, turned around and talked to me, I almost fainted, I told him" You can drive and talk to me", he stopped again, and turned to reply !!!!
The fact that all the store owners/tanzanites and jewelry dealers are Indians kind of remind me of the Haitian Mulattoes/Syrians, and btw, the Tanzanians do not mind working for the Indians and don't see it as a problem!
The Masai are the predominant tribe of the country; they are very rich, because they possess the Tanzanites. They are legendary warriors, and are usually dressed in their traditional clothes at all times. They are the tallest and slimmest of all Tanzanians, and still carry their weapons. However, they are very modern, under their tribal costumes, they carry cell phones, PDA's, Blackberries ect... btw, Tanzania must be the cell phone capital of the world. I'm still looking for a Tanzanian who doesn't use a cellphone.
Now, dear friends/colleagues/family you are up to date in my adventures in Tanzania,'till tomorrow, Happy Reading, pictures will soon follow.