Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Songea

After about three hours' sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning I was woken by the call to prayer from the nearby mosque. It was still a couple of hours until my 6am bus so when I came to the station I was ready for a bit of a kip on the bus.

Unfortunately that option was closed to me, as I discovered when we set off. The two sliding panes of the window just in front of me had been installed the wrong way around, channeling the freezing cold morning air in my direction, and I spent most of the first three hours of the eight our journey shivering.

Although Oswin had told me the bus usually arrives around 3pm, I found myself in Songea town by about half past one, and I texted Getruda to let her know I had arrived.

She replied that she'd get herself on the back of a motorbike straight away, and so I waited for her in a nearby bar. But not before snatching my bags from under the eyes of the tens of people who were offering to carry my bags for me.

I sat drinking my Coca-Cola a little nervously. I hadn't seen Getu in the three years since our short-lived relationship ended because I went home.

I passed the time flicking through the accommodation listings in my Rough Guide and found a couple that looked reasonable. I made a mental note of the map and where I needed to go to find the OK Hotel and Yapander Lodge.

When Getu arrived I was very pleased to see a friendly face, as I was still a bit jittery about being on my own. And happy and quite relieved to find that it was nice to see her again, but that it didn't seem to be dragging up any old or confused feelings.

In fact, lovely as she is, outside the realm of SPW volunteers, I found it quite awkward to find common interests to talk about.

In the afternoon we visited her friend, Julia, outside the town by daladala. We sat down in a living room bedecked with religious icons, and Getu turned on the TV to some Christian music.

After a little while she invited me to find something I wanted to watch. I wasn't too bothered, but found a repeat of the England-Israel match and watched at least three minutes before Julia came in and changed it back.

We did spend a nice afternoon there, although I wasn't in the most sociable mood ever and occasionally found myself staring up at the clouds making up stories in my head, while a small boy with an apparent shoe fetish wandered in and out of the house carrying a different pair of sandals each time.

When it became dark the three of us went into town by daladala. It was refreshing to climb aboard one of these minibuses and for there to be only the three of us as passengers.

Then 200 yards down the road some very loud singing signified that we were about to be joined by about fifteen very drunken women and their bucket of local pombe. More loud singing continued inside the dala and Getu left the bus with a skirt smelling strongly of alcohol.

Despite being Sunday night, the town was very busy and consequently felt much safer than Iringa does after dark. We went to the hotel and had dinner before putting Julia in a taxi home (she tried to insist on waiting for a daladala) and then watching yet another badly dubbed badly made soap opera. It's called It Might Be You and I think it's Indonesian.

I was a bit worried Getu might want to stay but when the soap finished she went round the corner to stay at a friend's house. I was a bit torn between walking her there and not wanting to walk back to my room on my own. It was probably far dodgier for me to be on my own, and a compromise was easy as where she was going was very nearly within direct sight of the hotel, so I didn't have to stray more than 20 yards.

In the morning I woke feeling very depressed and lonely. I hadn't slept very well for two nights, and despite seeing Getu I still didn't really have anyone I could talk to properly.

Once the day got going and the sun came out, however, things did start to feel a bit brighter. I was off to the village later in the day, I'd see Oswin and I'd have a purpose instead of my aimless rambling.

Before meeting up with Oswin, Getu took me to Peramiho, the village where she used to go to secondary school. It was quite prosperous because of the work of missionaries there and I understood a little more why she is so religious when I saw how much they'd helped her and those around her get to where they are today.

We caught the daladala there and waited for it to fill up while various people tried to sell us various pieces of crap at the bus stand. I'm always intrigued as to why they attempt to sell certain things to people on buses.

And I'm always intrigued as to who would be traveling on a bus, look out of the window and think, "Ah yes! Spoons! That's just what I need on my 8 hour journey!" Shoes are another thing that must be very difficult to sell through bus windows. They must have developed very efficient measuring and trying-on processes.

So while we waited to set off, I watched a very desperate man attempt to sell lingerie to Getruda and I became sorely tempted to buy myself an utterly hideous pink, green and yellow beaded cowboy hat.

Once in the village we mostly wandered past the various facilities that had been built there. The library, the vocational training centre, the church, the secondary school, the hospital. In fact the hospital is one of the best equipped in the country.

[Edit] That was all cut off a bit early - the Internet connection went down towards the end and so I spent a lot of time copying what I'd written before it came back and I could post it anyway.

We visited the missionaries' graveyard. Getu told me some of them are considered saints by the local community, including one of her friends. People come and take a little bit of soil and use it to pray for things. Her friend's grave is full of little holes as a result.

After stopping for tea and a cake we caught the daladala back into town to meet Oswin and sort out the questionnaires we needed to take to the village.

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