Thursday, February 26, 2009

Walking Through the Moshi Market

I would like to first start this post with the topic of driving. First off, they drive on the left side of the road here, which is very disorienting. Upon arrival, I was unaware of this and became quite alarmed when I awoke from a nap on my shuttle bus from the airport when it seemed we were going to crash head on to another car, as to the best of my knowledge, we were on the wrong side of the road. Not the case. The traffic here has one speed. It does not matter if you are in the country with nothing around, or driving through the market with thousands of people, you are going 35 km an hour. It seems extremely slow in the country, but in the city where there are massive amounts of people and other cars and the roads are pretty much dirt pathways between little hut like shops, you're flying.
The rule we all know and love back home, "pedestrains have the right of way", certainly does not apply here. You dodge cars... with the five d's of dodgeball - dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge.
The horn at home is reserved for emergencies, greeting friends, driving through the liftlock tunnel, and letting that guy who cut you off know he's an s.o.b. Here, it is used far more losely. Like hey, im going to follow the road around the corner... Honk. Hey, there are people around, honk. They clearly took the drivers ed lesson of "communicate with your horn" seriously here.
Anyway, so walking through the market. I was about 4 inches away from being hit by a car yesterday... not like tapped, where you fall down, get up and toss the bird, but like broken leg, hospital visit, surgery, dying in African hospital hit by a car. You see, this one was my fault. On this road there were 4 driving lanes, with a median splitting them into northbound and southbound on the road. So I am on the sidewalk about to cross the street, I look left, step out and bam! A car comes from my right and nearly knocks me over. Ah yes, the other side of the road thing. Apparently this is important. So for all of you (one of you) who are coming to Tanzania shortly, remember that looking left, right, left before you cross is now right, left, right.

The market is quite amazing, there are many shops, all selling artisan type things, scultures, paintings, jewlery. The Tanzanian people are amazing artists. There are many who's paintings are astounding, and quite often you meet with the artist that painted them in the market. Its like a really big Kempenfest, for those of you who know what I'm talking about. Then there is the food part, where you can by produce and meat (like St Lawrence Market). It was here where I saw one of the coolest things: massive slabs of raw meat being mutilated by butchers. It was awesome, you could see all the muscle fibers and insertion points on the skeletal parts that were still attached. I was pretty excited, everyone else gagged and left. Haha. There are also a lot of places that sell brooms... like the largest assortment of brooms I have ever seen. I guess it really is dusty here.

In the actual market, if you are white, you will be followed. People will show you everything they can with a 'special rafiki price for you because you are my friend'. For some advice, the 'special rafiki price' is about 300% of what it would be if you were a local. There are some places you can blend in when traveling and appear as if your not a tourist, but a stocky white kid in Tanzania is pretty much screwed with that. Hapana, asante (no thank you) are two words I will always remember, as within that two hours I was at the market, I must have used them several hundred times.

Anyways. Keep it real Canada.
Watch some hockey for me; I'm missing it already.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I made it. I summited Kilimanjaro at 7:30 am on February 24th, 2009. The highest peek - Uhuru, the one i reached, is 5985 meters above sea level, and is the highest point in Africa. There are so many stories that I could tell of my climb -so many amazing things and so many hardships - that I do not know where to start.

It is without doubt the hardest mental and physical thing I have ever done. I cannot begin to express the amount of exhaustion the human body is able to feel. When climbing, you walk at about half speed of that at which you would walk down the sidewalk. 'polepole' is what they say here... Swahili for slow. Yet, you are exhausted. There are 4 completely different ecosystems that one experiences in climbing. You start in a rainforest, followed by a desert, followed by a moon scape, followed by a glacier. I anticipate many of you to see the pictures upon my return home. Each day, you wake at 7, eat breakfast, pack, leave camp at around 8, and climb till about 3, at which point you most likely nap until dinner, eat, and then go to bed again until the morning. On the summit day, you do all of this beforehand, yet instead of waking at 7, you wake at midnight and begin climbing. At sunrise (630 am) you are scheduled to reach Gilmour's Point, 5685 meters above sea level. Then from there you climb to Uhuru, the top of the mountain, which I, along with Dingo, reached at 7:30 Am.
It is at Uhuru that I experience the biggest release of energy I have ever thought possible. The adrenaline was gone - I broke down and fell into tears, this was captured in a video some of you may see later. The hardest part though, was the descent. There is no adrenaline, and there is all the altitude sickness. You are sick; your head is splitting, and you are absolutely exhausted. My guide had to keep kicking me to wake me up, as i fell asleep about 6 or 7 times on the way down from the summit... which can be very dangerous.
Yet now, I have made it. I am at the hotel, safe, free of any symptoms. I feel nothing but pride.
I climbed with two other tourists. They were both Australian, and thank god for them... without their company i doubt i would have made it. I will tell you their story, I hope that if either of them reads it in the future, they will not feel as if I'm exploiting what they have done for entertainment, but simply that I am telling a tale of love and courage that I believe everyone should hear.

One of the Aussie's, we'll call him Kangaroo, is a 52 year old father of three, one daughter and two sons. His one son recently passed away at the age of 25. It was this son who had planned to climb Kilimanjaro shortly before his death. Kangaroo, courageously decided that to honour his son's name, he would climb the mountain for him. The other Aussie, let's call him Dingo, was the son's best friend. He heard of Kangaroo's intention to climb a couple weeks before its start date, decided to accompany him. Witnessing their commitment to this climb was something amazing. In the end, Dingo was successful in reaching the top, and gave one of the most heartfelt tributes I have ever witnessed. Kangaroo made it to William's Point, which is 5000 meters above sea level. An amazing accomplishment that anyone would be proud of. They surely carried out the son's legacy with their brave efforts. It was a quest I was not a part of, but I cannot describe with words the honour I feel to have witnessed such courage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Does This Make Me a Blogger?

So there are these people in this world who have blogs. They are bloggers. I feel as though i do not fit into this group of people, I am simply a person with a blog... I believe the best way to explain this would be to alude to a similar aspect of many of my friends' lives. There are Trent Students, and then there are students who go to Trent. I am a blogger as much as a non-button wearing, meat eating, white, straight male is a Trent Student.
So... I have a blog now. It's official... this is my first post of hopefully many. I intend to share the thoughts, experiences, and wonder i shall experience upon my travels to the other side of the world. Which brings me to my first topic: waiting.
I have spent the last two weeks waiting - waiting to pack, waiting to say goodbye to my friends, my family and my girlfriend, and waiting to leave. It is the waiting that is killing me. My life as i know it is about to be thrown out the window and all i can do is wait for it to happen.
I need to just go. I wish I could simply wake up and be there. I wish I could do it all in one quick motion, like the way you would rip off a bandaid. I can't. It will be long, it will be drawn out, and it will be hard. Luckily i have been surrounded by people who have been 100 % supportive.
I have shared my anxiety with a few people... yet for most I put on a brave face. I tell them all the things i know i believe, yet I just can't see at the moment. I tell them that three months goes by quickly; I tell them that I am just a little nervous; I tell them I whole-heartedly am looking forward to it. The truth: I am so afraid. I'm afraid I'm not strong enough. I'm afraid i will miss everyone the second I get there. I'm afraid that I will come back a different person, and that my friends will be different people and that what we have now will not exist when i get back. Yet, i know this will pass. (I hope this will pass).
When I get scared, I refer to one of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard: "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming." I am swimming. My eyes might be closed... but I am still swimming.
The other day I my sister called me from Egypt. She too embarked on a scary, life changing adventure. I told her about my anxiety and she shared with me the perfect quote. The one i needed to hear... which she always does. She said, "The brave may not live long, but the cautious don't live at all."
I am scared shitless. I am excited beyond belief. I am sad. I am extatic.
I am going to Tanzania.
9 Days.
The goodbyes will start soon, let that be addressed in another blog.
Wish me luck, with my trip, and my blogging.