Monday, September 17, 2007

Meanwhile, the following morning...

Indeed I did feel rather better when I awoke. Sort of. Although I hadn't slept at all well. I went straight to Hasty's and was pleased to discover that not a single member of staff had changed in three years.

I grinned at them all but I doubt they recognised me. I'd have been a little surprised if they had, despite my adoption once again of the beardy explorer look.

After a yoghurt with honey, a cup of tea and some French toast (they have now resolved the "does French toast come with syrup?" debate by listing two different prices), I went to sort out a 15000/- ensuite room in the Ebalasasa Hotel by the bus stand.

I spent most of the day between the Internet and wandering aimlessly, taking in the familiar yet slightly odd-feeling sights. It felt a little wrong to be in Iringa on my own.

I wandered past the market, down past where Mustafa, the tailor Nick and I had employed so many times, used to sit. I was disappointed to see the building by which he worked had been demolished, so he was no longer there.

Later I spotted him on the other side of the road, a short way up. I would say hello to him just as soon as I'd gone for a browse in Premji's, the "wazungu shop" that traded in lots of excited wares like chocolate, ice cream and Duracell batteries.

Premji's was in a bit of a sorry state. I don't know whether they were waiting on deliveries but most of their shelves were bare.

There was a group of four Americans in there and I found myself chatting to them. I told them how I was on a trip down Memory Lane, and that I'd been a volunteer in Iringa. They informed me that the SPW vols had left just a week before.

They were from Peace Corps and were going to meet up in Saju's, the local Chinese and Indian restaurant, later with friends and as I was on my own they invited me to join them.

They were in the process of stocking up on alcohol for the event, as they figured that it would work out cheaper. Jimmy demonstrated this by showing me his bottle of Teacher's that he was carrying in a brown paper bag. I criticised his choice of whisky but he didn't give the impression that he had bought it for the wholesome flavour.

The girl told me her name was Jenny Taw, and asked me to say it quickly so that I wouldn't forget.

"JennyTaw," I said at moderately high speed.

"Jennitaw," I repeated again, much faster and louder than before, but I still didn't get the joke. It was only when she prompted me with "genital!" that I realised she had said Tall and not Taw.

Some parents can be utter bastards.

I continued on to the completely refurbished Shooter's Pub & Cuisine, which had until recently been Bottom's Up Bar, forgetting completely about Mustafa.

I found the place utterly soulless. It had been repainted lime green and no longer were there any decorations or posters on the walls, leaving the room feel about as cosy as a village hall.

The L-shaped pool table was gone and furniture was sparse. Maybe it will take on more character as it establishes itself. Having hoped they would be showing the rugby (they weren't), I had one soda to kill some time and left.

On my way back to the hotel I passed the tie stall by the market and decided to buy myself a more unpredictable sort of souvenir. I found a nice brown flowery number for 6000/- and haggled him down rather feebly to only 5000/-.

Most likely I paid at least double what the locals pay (despite his unconvincing claims of "I give good price!" when I greeted him in Swahili), but for a couple of quid I returned to my hotel room pleased and amused.

Not wanting to walk out to Saju's on my own in the dark, it being off on a sidestreet past the cheap hostels, I went out slightly early. I asked them to let the Americans know when they arrived that the Englishman would be next door, and I went into Twister's for a drink.

Again, Twister's seemed quite soulless. Most of the tables and chairs outside at the back seemed to be gone, and I noted that the sign Twister's Pub & Cuisine was painted in exactly the same way as Shooter's.

I had a beer and the bar and watched a whole sequence of programmes about the qualifying for the African Nations' Cup. Tanzania would be playing Mozambique at home that evening and if they won by a half-decent score they stood a good chance of qualifying if other results went their way.

I hoped we would get to watch the game. Though England were playing Israel in football and the USA in rugby the same evening, somehow I didn't think we'd get to see any of that action.

When the Peace Corps lot turned up I went next door and had a lovely meal and evening, debating whether it was the Austrians or the Germans who idolised David Hasselhoff in Dodgeball, and (with Jimmy) whether or not Candle In The Wind (the lame Princess Diana version) was a worthwhile addition to one's record collection.

Sadly, watching Tanzania play football was not all that dissimilar to watching England, and an uninspiring performance saw them lose 1-0 to an early goal. Disappointment was lifted somewhat, however, when I discovered that England had won 3-0.

Afterwards, some very drunken Americans carried on to the cattle market that is Ruaha International Night Club (and Guest House), and I went to bed, anticipating my 6am bus to Songea. The walk in the dark on my own back to the hotel was not a particularly fun experience, and I ended up running much of it, but I arrived back safely and tucked myself in.

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