Take a Dip!

This morning we visited Mr. Mkinga, the Livestock Extension Officer, at the bi-monthly acaricide dip. Sunday and I took the piki, and as usual I had no idea where we were going (language barrier… again). As we traveled, we began to pass herds of cattle going in the same direction. We crested a hill and in the valley before us were hundreds of the local Zebu cattle:

When we tracked down Mkinga, he filled us in on the proceedings. Waving a Burdizzo (a type of bloodless cattle castrator that crushes the cords), he explained that the cattle are treated for ticks by swimming through the acaricide dip, and he is available for castration. Ticks carry three of the major diseases in the area; East Coast Fever, Anaplasmosis, and Heartwater. Mkinga estimated that about 10% of calves are lost to East Coast Fever. There was hardly any hesitation among the cattle to jump/slide/fall into the dip; they’re clearly used to the procedure.

                                                   

It’s the first time I’ve seen a Burdizzo used. They cast the bull, tied his hind legs, pulled them back, and then with four squeezes; squeeze squeeze – check – squeeze squeeze – check – repeat, Mkinga castrated the bull. They got him up and I could see his testicles shrinking up… ouch.

The dip was built in the 70’s by the government and is one of 5 in the division. The acaricide is completely replaced about once a year, and should be good for 10,000 immersions. After each session, they measure the dip level and fill it back up accordingly with water. This dilutes the existing dip and is intended to discourage “people who are good at evasion”, since herders will run their animals through outside of the official sessions, to save money. Immediately before the next dip, Mkinga and the dip committee top up the acaricide so it is at full strength for the paying clients. It costs 100 Tsh per animal, per dip (less than 10 cents). They do 800-900 cattle every time, and any sheep that come along. They even threw a tiny lamb in! Each animal is supposed to leave with one litre of acaricide, so after they go through the dip, they stand in the slanted drip pen, which allows the additional acaricide to run back into the dip. Little boys with sticks keep the cattle in the drip pen until the herdsman is ready for them.

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Welcome To My Home! (Karibu Nyumbani Yangu!)

This will be my abode for the next two years, and I’m pretty pleased with it! Tiny, it’s completely manageable in terms of cleaning. It’s also quite secure; my front door opens onto a locked compound shared with another volunteer. We have a security guard at night. I have power nearly all of the time, and running water occasionally. When the water being on lines up with me being at home (mostly, it’s turned on when I’m at work), I can have hot showers! Hot being the optimum word: there is no intermediate temperature so I alternate between scalding and freezing, mimicking moderation. I was provided with most dishes I need, curtains, blankets, and cute little doormats made of cloth scraps. Since there is still no running water at all in the kitchen, they set me up with large buckets under the sink, which I fill in the bathroom and use for washing hands and dishes. My cooker (stove and oven) tries to electrocute me, but at least it heats things. Laundry takes forever to dry, similar to home when it won’t stop raining. The difference? No dryer.

Compared to some of my fellow volunteers, I am living in the lap of luxury. They have various problems, like no running water, no electricity, nasty toilets, or no house at all! Last but not least: my internet connection is reasonably good – we’re on top of a plateau resulting in excellent network coverage!

The Day Venessa Got Shat On By A Monkey

Today we went on safari.  And a Colobus monkey shit on Venessa’s back.

Wild Animals Next 50 kms

It’s been a week of haggling for Venessa and me – roommates here at the convent, and this week’s Entertainment Committee.  We finally decided on a tour operator and came to a satisfactory price for our safari in Mikumi National Park.  This morning we gathered the troops at 4:45am (Okay, I admit, I had nothing to do with the gathering. I was the last one out the door).  Venessa informed me it was the earliest she’s ever gotten up, excluding all-nighters, and proceeded to start singing “In the Jungle”.

We rolled into the park a little after 6:30 and immediately saw giraffes, zebras and impala.  It was a sign of a sweet day to come.  In our “enhanced 4WD” vehicles, we had roofs that lifted, which completely made my day.  I was able to perch on the roof, binoculars and camera handy, squealing like a little girl especially when we saw: 1. baby animals 2. zebras 3. animals running.  Unfortunately I missed the ultimate “animal running” moment – a full-grown elephant charged the second vehicle in our group!!!  No harm done.

Griaffes at Mikumi

Zebras in Mikumi

Lunch was burgers at the restaurant near the park gate – also near a watering hole where, as we ate, we watched elephants, water buffalo, impala and zebras drink and bathe.  It was incredible.  The elephants splashed water up over their backs, then moved to a sandy area and threw sand on themselves as well!  The zebras interested me the most (anything that resembles a horse, of course).  The small herd (about 7) approached so carefully, the male coming first while the rest waited some way back.  He checked both sides of the pond and did a retreat-return before deciding it was safe.  One slow step at a time, he came up and drank.  I was close enough to see the birds roaming on his back, neck and shoulder, and to make out a deep scar on his right butt cheek.  One female stayed directly behind him, alert, while the herd grazed, and one more stayed further back surveying the scene.  Only the male, one female and a younger zebra drank, then they moved off and took turns rolling in the sand.  Although I’m sure I would have been nearly as happy watching a herd of riding ponies, stripy wild equids with elephants and buffalo in the background were super, super cool.

Elephants in Mikumi

Me in the hugest baobab

After lunch we drove to the hugest baobab tree I’ve ever seen and climbed it.  I love climbing trees, I love baobabs, and I was outrageously happy.  Then, to top it all off, someone on the ground yelled “there’s a monkey at the top of the tree!”  The six of us in the tree didn’t believe it, because we’d just been joking about a leopard being up there or a lion lurking at the bottom.  You guessed it… there actually was a black and white Colobus monkey up there, not appreciating our presence so much, and as Venessa was climbing down he released the nastiest smelling slimiest shit… which landed on her.  Then it leaped wildly from branch to branch, to the next tree over, and catapulted itself what looked like 2 stories to the ground.

What a day.  Too much sun, zebras, water buffalo, hippos, crocodile, wildebeest, elephants, warthogs, two types of giraffe, impalas, baboons, eland, giant hornbills, lots of colourful birds, a few geckos, baobab trees, good company and beautiful African savannah… perfect.  I won’t begrudge the lack of lions, hyenas or African wild dogs (my ultimate fav – but sadly rare).  It was worth the haggling, and the stench of monkey shit.

Mikumi National Park

Karibu Tanzania!

If you plan to visit me in Tanzania – and you should – you need to learn only one phrase before you come. It’s like teaching Korean children to ride horses. All they say is “It’s okay! It’s okay! It’s okay!” until you want to scream (“my head is going to explode, it is NOT okay!!”). In Tanzania, all they say to foreigners is “Karibu Tanzania! Karibu Tanzania! [pronounced care-ee-bou]”. It means “Welcome to Tanzania”, and it’s stuck in my head like you wouldn’t believe. In response, you say “Asante sana” [ah-sahn-tay sah-nah], meaning thank you very much. So that’s what I need you all to learn:

Asante sana

I’m telling you this because we are currently doing a one-week crash course in Swahili, the national language in Tanzania. Myself and fourteen other new VSO Volunteers are trying to learn an entire language in one freakin week. Context: the Peace Corps Volunteers get three months. Therefore I plan to hunt down a PCV to teach me when I get to Kagera [kah-gay-rah] region. I would prefer to hire a local for my Swahili lessons, but the sad fact is, even a Tanzanian teacher in a local school will generally not be able to teach a mzungu [white person – mm-zoun-gou] their language. The school system is just too poor. School system aside, without specific training, it can be hard to teach someone your native tongue. I’m not entirely sure I could teach someone English grammar; I never really learned it!

Swahili is a language derived from Bantu (a native East African language), Arabic and English. Since it’s a newer language, the spelling is phonetic, meaning that each letter stands for one sound – unlike English. It is considered the uniting force of Tanzania, having brought all the tribes together and promoted a national identity. Swahili was made the official language by the first president, Nyeyre, after the country gained independence in 1961. He’s extremely respected and referred to as “the grandfather of the nation”. Swahili is spoken widely in East Africa: they say it was born in Tanzania, corrupted in Kenya, died in Uganda and buried in Rwanda. So I’m learning the “true” Swahili (I bet they’d tell me that in Uganda too). They say the same thing about Wolof in Gambia and Senegal: the Senegalese were convinced that the Gambians had mutilated their precious language.

Swahili sounds sort of like Italian, because all the borrowed English words get “i” stuck on the end. So other than Italian, it kinda sounds like baby talk. Some gems:

crazy = chizi [cheesy]
roundabout = kipilefiti [keepee-leftee](yup you got it, they drive on the left!)
fence = fenzi
stamp = stampu
brother = kaka
candy = pipi [peepee]
toilet paper = toileti paper [toilety paper]
okay, let’s move on = hi (extremely confusing when your language trainer keeps saying “hi!” in the middle of the lesson)
what is this? = hii ni nini [hee nee neenee] (please picture us running around yelling hii ni nini! and shaking different items in people’s faces…)

Soon I’ll start a list of Swahili terms that I’ve used on my blog and pronunciations.