Friday, August 24, 2007

I Can Speak Motherfucking English

Shortly after leaving Vende's place this morning I had what has been so far and probably will be by the time I leave the best conversation on this trip. I was off to find the place round the corner where Vende and I had eaten yesterday evening, and got as far as the corner of the street before someone said hello to me and asked me, "How are you?"

I gave the usual reply in Swahili and returned the greeting, and before long one of his friends had cut in, asking where I was from, if I support Arsenal or Manchester (sorry, City fans, apparently they don't know about you) and who my friend I'm staying with was. Then came the inevitable question, "Do you have an email address?", to which I naturally lied, "No," which he pretended to not understand until I said, "Yes."

Then he fished a piece of paper out of a folder of seemingly random documents, and asked me to write it down. Neither of us had a pen, so he went off in search of one while I waited. When he got back another man appeared out of nowhere, said hello, realised what we were about to do, and decided he'd make a much better arbiter of the situation.

"I know motherfucking English," he announced, snatching the paper out of the other man's hands. "You, what is your fucking name?" he said to me.

"Philip," I replied, which he duly wrote down.

"What is your fucking father's name?"

"John," I said truthfully, which he also wrote down to read Philip John.

He hesitated for a moment before giving me the paper and pointing at it to signify he wanted me to write down his email address. So I wrote:

My work done, I started to walk away, and he asked after me, "Where are you going? The fucking ferry's that way." I explained I was going somewhere to eat.

Remembering I was supposed to turn left, I walked down the road a hundred yards before deciding I'd clearly taken the wrong left. So I had to walk past them again, and explain I'd gone the wrong way, before going up three more wrong roads and realising I wasn't going to find the cafe. I was sure I was in the right area, I just couldn't seem to find the right stretch of road. I made my way back to the house, passing the men I'd met by using the other side of the road as inconspicuously as I could manage (not easy for an mzungu).

I picked up my bags from Vende's, having given up on breakfast, and went to catch the ferry. I ineptly negotiated the purchase of a pair of flipflops from a stall near the ferry, effortlessly whittling down a price from 6000/- to 3000/- whilst trying to explain I wanted the cheapest crappiest pair I could get. For which they tried to charge 2500/-, and I was too tired hot and sweaty from my bags to bother getting the price reduced beyond 2000/-. Ripped off to the tune of 80p.

On the ferry a chap called David started to speak to me. He was impressed with my Swahili, and started to jabber at me at phenomenal speed, before slowing down when he realised I was all that good. I learned that he makes Masai jewellery amongst other ornaments and, er, stuff, and his brother lives in London.

When we got off he asked me where I was going. I told him, "The Holiday Hotel."

"Ah, the Holiday Inn! That's where I'm going!"

"No no," I replied, "The Holiday Hotel. It's different."

"Yes," he said, "The Holiday Inn Hotel."

"No," I repeated, "The Holiday Hotel and Holiday Inn Hotel are two different places." I used my index fingers to demonstrate "two", and moved them away from each other to signify that they were "different".

"Well," I said, not really wanting to be lumbered with this new friend for too long, "I'm going to get a taxi."

"No, you don't need to take a taxi, it's very close," he said.

I explained that I had carried my heavy bags far enough, and contemplated explaining that yes, the Holiday Inn is close, but the Holiday Hotel is much further away. "Oh look, a taxi!" I said, and prepared to get in one and explain I wanted to go to the Holiday Hotel.

The taxi driver wanted 3000/- for the journey, and I started to negotiate before David jumped in and whittled it down to 2000/-. And then promptly jumped in the taxi. I didn't really feel I had much choice at this point, as my bags were already in the boot, and so I got in and made it abundantly clear that if he wanted to go to the Holiday Inn, he was in the wrong taxi. This taxi was going to the Holiday Hotel.

He stayed in, and as we took the first right, I thought to myself, I'm sure this isn't the quickest way. It's almost as if we're heading towards the Holiday Inn. I explained again as the Holiday Inn loomed into view, that I was going to the Holiday Hotel, and not the Holiday Inn.

The taxi driver pulled over, clearly vexed. He told me that it was 2000/- to the Holiday Inn, and then 3000/- fron the Holiday Inn to the Holiday Hotel (which, by now, I'd changed to the Jambo Inn, just around the corner, in a vain attempt to simplify things a bit). So I owed him 5000/-. He quickly agreed that he'd accept for, while I campaigned for 3500/-.

He then pulled into the Holiday Inn and David, realised he'd batted himself into a corner, got out looking a little crestfallen. I agreed to pay the 4000/- then, as I had little choice, and apologised to the taxi driver for the cretin who'd got in with me. For some reason the taxi driver then took the least direct, busiest route to the Jambo Inn. Maybe he just wanted me to get my money's worth.

The Jambo Inn only had a double room left for 20000/-, so I walked round the corner to the Holiday Hotel, who charged me 15000/- for a very small single. Prices seem to have gone up a lot in three years. Not that much changes though. I still came back to my room after eating a couple of hours ago to find that the padlock didn't seem to be in the right place on the door any more. All my money was either on my or hidden very well in my large bag, though, and nothing else had been taken.

Tomorrow morning I'm on the 7am bus to Moshi. I'll be getting on outside Royal Coaches' office in town, and then it will go to the main bus station in Ubongo and sit there for two hours. Not the most pleasant prospect, but I've decided I don't really want to brave the chaos of Ubongo bus station.

I'll get to Moshi at about 5pm and meet up with the other Discover Adventure trekkers at the hotel. I may or may not get to get on the Internet again before the trek. I'll see if I might get photos up next time.

I'm going to go back to the room now and look through my guides to decide where I might go when. I'm now going to be doing some research for COCO in Oswin's village, so I'm not sure how long I'll be there for. I'll will be dropping into Iringa and Mbeya at some point, as well as Songea, but I want to do one leg of the journey all the way on the train. It looks like I may be doing it on the way back to Dar.

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