16 January 2010

Beware the tangawizis

So much stuff on my mind, I'll try to spit it out a little at a time.

A few days ago I was in Arusha, Tanzania for winter break, visiting and trying to be helpful to Jodie Wu, co-founder extraordinaire of Global Cycle Solutions.

Here's a a few highlights:

Christmas - Jodie threw a proper Tanzanian feast, goat and all. I tried to make it through watching Joseph Kisoky and a few other locals perform the goat slaughter...I nearly passed out instead.  Wrapped up a long day by dancing the night away with some tipsy Maasai grandmothers.

Jodie's neighbors - Jodie lives in a small house off a dirt path from a dirt road that is not exactly the pinacle of modernization or security.  When she said she had a couple young Tanzanian males as neighbors  I'll admit I was a bit wary.

But hey, it turns out her neighbors, Mic and Mas, are really great guys.  And break dancing semi-celebrities.  They're members of Contagious, the Arusha bboy crew.  Went to one of their shows, very impressive. When they're not performing or practicing, they get together and...roller blade around town.  Oh, and they're completely sober.  What upstanding young role models.  Jodie basically has the best neighbors ever.

Woon opened the new year with a new haircut.  We waited patiently for 5 Tanzanian grade school boys ahead of us to get their heads shaved.  Then, after some confusion and mangled Kiswahili, he paid the full haircut price of $.75 to the barber, put the clippers in my hand, and I shaved a mohawk. "No, it's really a very old haircut," he explained to Matayo. "Hundreds of years ago in America, there was this tribe..."  Walking down the street, he got tons of smiles, laughs, and various call-outs, including "Hey Mr. T!"  But the most common definitely was "Jogoo!" aka rooster in Swahili.

The Christmas goat slaughter was a religious experience.  Intellectually, it was something I really wanted to do.  Humans kill animals all the time for eating.  It's a process I should know something about.  I tried to watch, to be logical, I really did, but my body had other plans. My mind started swimming, my stomach fell into a black hole, I almost passed out, so I sat down instead.  Logically tried to reason myself through why I shouldn't be on the verge of fainting, stood up after 5 minutes and nearly passed out again. Continued the process throughout the morning -- went to watch the preparations for as long as I could until I got too dizzy to stand.  Turned away and sat down until I could stand up again, went back to watch.  

I was really quite surprised my body had such a strong reaction.  One of those interesting paradoxes where one part of my mind very clearly wants to do something, but another part clearly does not.

If my genes had made me a carnivore, there would not have been a problem.  It's pretty funny that I'm a creature who clearly has some difficulties watching another creature die, but acknowledges that other dead creatures are tasty. (Just because I'm vegan doesn't mean that I deny meat tastes good...and oh, wow, there's a whole other can of worms to discuss there about botched vegan attempts in Tanzania, but maybe for later.)

Anyway, the whole experience put me in another plane of existence for a day, pretty hard to describe.

Mic and Mas took us to the church (aka club) to listen to the pastor (aka DJ) preach.  Three of the crew and three of us jammed into a taxi for a few minutes on the rutted dirt road. Masaai camp.  Saturday night, where everyone in Arusha goes.  Good mix of wazungu and Tanzanians. And so much dancing. I felt like I could go on forever...but oddly only when I was surrounded by dancing strangers...then just felt limitless, like I had escaped myself, very trippy. I swear I was stone cold sober.  Yay mob psychology?

Oh, also, Mas has a new name.  Bboy Babu.  Babu = grandfather.  According to Mas, when he was in middle school in Dar Es Salaam, he was among the first 3 people to break dance in Tanzania.  You should see his crazy freezes. 

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