August 2, 2009

Journey to Arusha - The end or a new beginning...

Saturday, 10 July, 2009

Did not go to the (5:00 am) Ngorongoro Crater visit, but I woke up early, ate a lite b'fast, showered, and hailed a cab, you know the routine by now, destination: Bank, Money Exchange dealer, and ShopRite.

Disturbing phone call from Compadre # 2: "matata", "lòbèy", "zen nan shoublak",
"manman de pitit mare vo vant", the call was alarming to say the least: shots were fired inside an Ethiopian resto last nite(Friday), targeting ICTR interns, some were badly wounded. I've met quite a few of those kids, they are all well mannered, educated, smart, ambitious, young men/women, and like all young people, they have that certain "joie de vivre", they affectionately refer to MOI as "Mama Gina" (MMG). It has been a hectic 24 hours, didn't sleep a wink, all nite long, I was worried about my daughter's altercation at Camp (NJ), you know the story, she was slammed (head first) to the ground (concrete), by a 13 year old boy and now this. What's a mother to do? Lord! Jesus, we're talking kids here, mostly 25 years old!

Rushed thru the building knocked/banged on a few doors, tried to find somebody/anybody to confirm the disturbing news. The T & T security officer was not around, oh lord, was he out investigating the crime? Where were all my "Trinis"? when I really needed them (you know who you are), knocked/banged on a few more doors, some have heard the same report, but NO one could confirm, wether the interns were seriously wounded or not! Oh! Malheur, Oh! Misère.

Tried to remain calm, went back to my apt., chatted with my kids, my daughter was fine, she truly has Haitian blood running thru her veins, she can/will survive anything !, and yes, she was taught to fight back, let's just say, she kicked the boy in his "private area", but you best believe that upon my return (August 11), I shall have a "nice and quiet ", convo with the Camp Director/Counselors and the boy's parents, still NO CONFIRMATION of the shooting at the Ethiopian resto.
I will attend the Cameroonian soiree tonite; I'm sure someone/anyone will confirm or deny the story, let us all pray for the latter...

Quite a celebration: son going away to college, daughter first communion, the couple 22nd wedding anniversary! btw, I've been having a slight problem in Tanzania, I've only packed so called "work/business attires", didn't know that I would be invited to every soiree/ gala in town.
THE SOIREE: A classy affair to say the least, 200 honoured guests, a mansion, tents in the back yard, DJ, food, and then more food, and yes, THE BAR, nicely set up under the gazebo...speeches, prayers, hymns, solo artists, duos, trios, and did I mention long speeches, accolades, and hugs/kisses all around, a true love fest ! KUMBAYA MY LOVE...
I couldn't enjoy this glorious celebration to the fullest, I still needed confirmation, looked around for someone/anyone to confirm last nite shooting, finally, my boss arrived, (a bit late) he was at the police station/filing reports and....he quickly debunked the story, the real version: Yes, there was an attempted robbery at the Ethiopian resto, and yes, the interns were there, a shooting did occur, the would be robbers shot a parakeet, all the interns are fine, shaken, but fine, no one was hurt, and most importantly: NO ONE TARGETED ICTR STAFF MEMBERS. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

POST SCRIPTUM: for the deranged amongst you, and you are quite a few, let the record show that I'm the first one to say: NO, the parakeet was not shot b/c he said "FREEZE" to the would be robbers!

"La fête continue", for the true Haitian (over 35 years old):"la fèt se boulswiff"
Oh! how I love myself... se vre wi!

The launching of a solo artist (George), CD entitled THE CLAN, and the bid started at 5000 TShillings, "Qui dit mieux?" some people were just outbidding each other in US dollars...ohh! I got it now, they are all members of THE CLAN, the world renown Cameroonians posse working at ICTR, hence the fanatical bidding. Just imagine, about 60 of them, Cameroonians men/women, funny smart, witty, educated, married, and "enmerdeur extraordinaire", they usually meet once a month to celebrate, different house/different host/hostess each month, and of course the host/ hostess is responsible for the food and drinks... hmmm of these days,I may need a temporary Cameroonian passport!

Back to the bidding, quick calculations 5000 TShillings is about $ 5.00 US dollars, MMG can certainly afford it, and just for the heck of it, I decided to bid in Haitian Gourdes...350 Haitian Gourdes... "Qui dit mieux?".

And the place went wild! "Say what? Did somebody say Haitian? Is Gina from NY Haitian? She must speak French, just cannot be, she is African American". About 2 months, and a few days in Arusha, no one knew that I was Haitian (born/raised/natif/natal. Can you imagine, MOI, with my heavy "kreyòl" accent passing for an American, now that's funny! Anyways, I won the bid, total cost $ 6.00 US dollars ;-).
The DJ even gave me a free South African artists Greatest Hits CD, but he was only playing Cameroonian music ( frenchie..frenchie), and surprise...surprise, DJ dropped an Alan Cavé's songs (Haitian superstar), I started singing along with my homeboy AC , in French, with just just a "dash" of "Kreyòl", you know how we roll! and it was confirmed/certified to, and by all, that "Mama Gina" (MMG) was a true "kreyòl" Haitian woman! left the soiree, around 2:00 am, last one to leave, of course, what can I say, DJ was spinning my homeboy AC...

My hair has caused quite a stir in Arusha, from the hair salon, the office, galas, soirees, even in the streets, the brave ones usually ask: "How many wigs do you own Mama Gina?"
I usually reply:" Wigs? But my dear, it's my natural hair, don't wear/own any wigs", and they look at MOI, kind of: YEAAH SURE...the daring, and curious ones, the "joudas", want to touch my hair/ just to" feel it"", double/triple check if it's REAL ! they are always impresssed/schocked/flabbergasted, I seriously didn't know that I was "en vogue/a la mode", rocking it, b/c I don't comb/brush my hair per se, I usually run my fingers thru my hair in the morning, and LET IT BE.

If you happen to see a documentary on CNN, about a "crazy woman in Africa", walking around showing her scalp, trying her very best, to prove that she is not wearing a wig: it's MOI.

Funniest MMG’s Hair story: At the hair salon (2 weeks ago), I was told to have a seat, the hairdresser asked MOI: "Madam, besides your real hair, do you want your wig to be washed as well? ", and the Haitian devil in MOI replied: YES...not such a good idea, the Congolese hairdresser tried vainly, to pull t the "supposedly wig" off my scalp, pulled, and pushed, even shoved, Mr hairdresser got all "macho" pulling harder/ flexed his muscles....OUCH! Still hurting, but it sounded like such a good prank at the time. Oh! My God, it's not a wig, he gathered everybody around to touch/feel/comment... SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO! , and they all had questions:

What hair products do you use MMG ? How do you comb your hair? Simple answer: Water/Shampoo/Conditioner and 10 fingers. OK, It has been all about MOI, let us change the sub for a quick geography lesson, after all, I've been in Africa (Tanzania ) for the past 2 months, I know, you're curious about Arusha, how do I know? b/c you peeps love, and miss me so much...MISS YOU TOO!

Arusha is in my book "a big village", some around here claim it's a town, but to MOI it's a village, I'm from Haiti, I know a village when I see one, these people don't have a clue. ONE... UNO (1) traffic light in town, the inhabitants are quiet, polite, proud, humble, honest; the streets are somewhat paved (less than 25% ) of course, the foreigners, bourgeois, "boujwa" live in gated communities, huge mansions, security tight, all the time.

In the village of Arusha, Thursday, is PRE WEDDING RECEPTION DAY. It is the day that the bride's/groom's relatives meet each other, huge reception, tents and more tents. The groom's parents sit on the right side and the bride's parents sit on the left, it's a tradition, it's a cultural event to attend especially for the free food and drinks ;-) No, I have not crashed in yet, but planning on being an Arusha wedding crasher.

Saturday and Sunday wedding days....traffic jam all over the town, the wedding procession starts with an open pick up truck (a float), a live band playing loud music, this is not a procession, this is a parade !, and another pick up truck with the flowers girls, followed by another truck (float) carrying the grooms'/ bride's relatives, and here comes the bride/groom in a white car. The wedding parade oops! procession, drives very slowly around town (5 mph), making a stop at every corner, posing for pictures (strike a pose), and there is a competition of course, which wedding parade (procession) will drive the slowest and/or have the best band/the most beautiful flower girls... Ladies and Gents, Saturdays and Sundays in Arusha: TRAFFIC JAM DAYS...20 wedding parades in town !
I know what you're thinking, typical Haitian exaggeration, but I swear: average 20 wedding parades, every weekend.


Baby!, it's cold ! we're talking 30/40 degrees F at nite, and slightly better during the day, and apparently, no one in the area, has ever heard of CHAUFFAGE CENTRAL/CENTRAL HEATING SYSTEM, so we keep warm, however we can afford: fireplaces, electric blankets, comforters, sweaters, flanel pj's, socks, hot tea /alcohol...I personally drink ginger tea, lots of tea (turning British) !, and guess wha? NO HOT WATER , (pa gen dlo cho pitit) shower at your own risk, and the bed feels like a block of ice at nite! let's not get too intimate, or personal, and talk about the coldness of undies...
p.s. for the "kk kleren", "tafiatè", "dejwe", hard drinkers amongst you: No, I do not drink alcohol to keep warm! well ok, may be 2 shots of whiskey every nite !

Out of the 10 natural wonders in the world, Three (3) are in Tanzania. The Serengeti Migration at # 1 and the Ngonrongoro Crater at # 6 and another one that I cannot remember right now...DEAL WITH IT !
It is simply, a beautiful and fascinating country.

“Established in 1963, the Arusha administrative region in northern Tanzania has an area of about 86,100 square km, including 2,460 square km of water area. The Serengeti Plain lies in the northwest, and the Maasai Steppe, broken only by isolated gneiss hills, lies in the south. In the central area of the region are the Crater Highlands, bordering portions of the East African Rift System. Volcanic activity and faulting have created broad lava plains and volcanic massifs such as Mount Meru (4,566 m) and the occasionally active Oldoinyo Lengai (2,878 m). Rainfall varies from 1,800 mm annually on Mount Meru to 508 mm on the semiarid plains. Terrain ranges from wooded savannas and mountain forests to alpine areas.Arusha is an important coffee-producing area. Other crops include grain, vegetables, cotton, pyrethrum, papa in, sisal, and sunflower seeds. Magnesite and meerschaum are mined in the region; there are also salt, mica, saltpetre, and ochre deposits. Tourism is important, based on the big-game areas of Taranqire National Park, Ngorongoro and Ngurdoto craters, Olduvai Gorge, and Lake Manyara. The region's major ethno-linguistic groups include the Arusha, Meru, Iraqw, and Maasai. Arusha town, an important business centre, is the regional capital. Pop. (1994 est.) 1,596,000."

Now, you know everything you wanted to know about Arusha, Tanzania, and NO, I ain't bringing any of you, the rare, and expensive Tanzanite "pierreries", gems, jewels as souvenirs !


  1. Thanks for this blog Gina and for sharing your experience in Tanzania with us. It was a real virtual tour. I can see that you were having a lot of fun and I envy you a bit. By the way, I did not know that you had such a talent in writing. I was very impressed. I laughed so much about the part relating to your hair style and the wig. This is so so funny.... Take care of yourself and as they say ..... go girl!

    Emmanuelle Saint-Firmin

  2. Thanks for visiting Emmanuelle.
    For your information, I have kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, so I do possess the gift of Gab. :)