Saturday, January 10, 2009

Currently, I am alive.

After about 36 hours of travelling by way of three flights, two underground trips, and a rather enthralling Land Rover trip, I have arrived. Highlights include meeting an Australian man who bet me 200 pounds in front of Big Ben that Bill Clinton was a senator. I lucked out on the flight to Nairobi and had the entire row of the 747, four seats (one even being superfluous owning to my imposing stature) to myself. But don't worry, because on the plane ride to Kilimanjaro I sat next to the fattest man I've ever seen. (Camp point of reference, Mike Lally, Rest of world point of reference, a Sumo Wrestler). I used to wear a yin-yang necklace when I was a kid and never believed in it until now. I just wanted to look cool/also do karate. Jet lag really hasn't hit, which is pretty superb.

I am staying in a small village called Marangu. I leave tomorrow for the hike.

This is really one of the more beautiful places I've ever seen. Everywhere/one/thing is astoundingly vibrant and colorful. And the girls are really uncommonly pretty. Many of them keep their hair buzz cut short. They all wear kangas, colorful skirts tied around like a towel. Their faces are really striking.

I thought it would be strange at first to be a minority. But I'm coming to realize that the ideas of minorities aren't really applicable. Divisions after all are broken down along tribe lines. Anyone else is just an outsider or foreigner. So to say I am a minority isn't entirely accurate. Mzungu, their term, means basically 'white man.' But I feel more like a linguistic outsider than a phenotypic stranger. The tribe that encompasses the Kilimanjaro area are the Chaga. They speak their own language, and also Swahili. I've ventured several times into the town, only with a guide. Often you get the impression that everyone, including the guide, are making fun of you behind your back. Or, more accurately, in a different language, to your face. I'm having a hard time determing what the local people actually think of tourists. Many times I imagine the conversations with my guide has with the locals as going "Taking the dumb white man out for a touristy stroll around the village again eh?" "Yup." The children are always really excited to see you though. Walking along the river naked boys kept shouting "Jambo!" and "Mzungu!" to me. I can't tell if they were excited to greet a white man, or really they were making fun of me. (Really no problem with nudity, either. At a local swimming hole today my guide stripped down and jumped right in.)

The bird calls at night are pretty interesting. One sounds like a baby crying. It might have just been a baby crying also though. Another makes a sound like holding a ping pong ball over a table and slowly lowering it down so that the bouncing increases until finally it makes a strange echo between the reverberations on the wood and the cup of your hand. Only more guttural. It might have just been a guy holding a ping pong ball and slowly lowering it down so that the bouncing increased until finally it made a strange echo between the reverberations on the wood and the cup of his hand though. Right next to my head. Also, there are roosters, which really do make a cock-a-doodle-do.

Also there is fruit everywhere, and you need only hold up your hand to pull down passionfruits pineapples bananas watermelon mangos. Not the watermelons though, becuase actually, those grow on the ground. Actually so do the pineapple, or more like waist high. So really I suppose you could do a sweep from the earth up to the sky and come up with an entire fruit salad in your hand, if you can hold simultaneously a watermelon, pineapple, and banana, and also cut them and put them in a bowl so that they become fruit salad.

I thought I'd feel uncomfortable, but so far, I haven't. Attribute this to the fact that first, I've only encountered locals with a guide. Second, I'm staying in a hotel which caters to tourists, and not a city, which couldn't give a shit about them.

I have three minutes left on this internet deal. Will write after the hike.

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