Pondering my travels

Photos are up- hurray!

Surprise surprise, I’m still in Moshi and contemplating my next move. I was stir crazy after Christmas and was waiting out the chaos in  Kenya as I considered exloring the Rift Valley with another traveler, Meghan.  It didn’t pan out but meanwhile, I met an awesome solo traveler, Hila, from Canada. She was meant to go to Nairobi the day of New Year’s but I suggested it wasn’t so smart, she got a message from a friend she was meant to meet who was elsewhere waiting out the election. She stayed a week and we hung out, bumming around Moshi filling our time. Time goes by fast here. It’s surprising! It was so nice to meet her and share our frustrations and difficulty in traveling solo in East Africa. I find guys traveling solo can’t quite comprehend how much more difficult it is for women. It’s wonderful when you can vent and you’re understood and someone else understands the ups and downs I’ve experienced while being away. I’m sad she had to leave but I know it’s the rules of traveling. People come and go, you just have to cherish the time you do have with the person! I wish she hadn’t signed up for a 10 week overland trip, otherwise I think we’d make good travel buddies.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to join a safari preferably a 5 day, 4 night that explores Ngorogoro crater and allows for 2 days in serengeti. I went to a reputable office today and they had plenty of 5 day safari’s but all with people staying in a lodge. Beyond my budget and they’re not backpackers. I’ll see what happens. i thought I would head out of Moshi a week ago and it looks like I could easily stay another week, beyond my control.

Interestingly enough, I posted on a forum about going to Gombe National Stream, where Jane Goodall did her 40 year study of chimpanzees. It’s quite difficult to get there so have been hoping I could go with others. Two woman messaged me saying there going in a few days so hopefully they get my message and it works out. Will see… It’s become a lot of wait and see over here.

At the same time, as much as i want to get to uganda, there really isn’t a rush as kenya is still in turmoil. The election was very close and many suspect the results were rigged. Will see if a re-count occurs but many people have been left homeless, too many have died and the instability of hte country continues. Uganda has been affected as well, with over 100,000 people seeking refuge, and transportation cut to a minimum. Uganda relies on fuel from the kenya but because of the chaos many roads have been blocked or deemed unsafe to travel, leaving uganda without fuel. No fuel means if you’re in the country, you’re not going anywhere. I’m best to stay in Tanzania but hopefully in the next 2 weeks things straighten out. Otherwise, I have to come up with a new plan but I really don’t want to be denied the opporutunity to visit Uganda!

I decided to extend my visa as it expires the 3rd week of January. Who would have thought I’d stay in Tanzania so long…??? I surprise myself. I extended primarily because I want to visit Gombe and Serengeti and didn’t want to cut it close. Now I may have to stay because of the current instability of Kenya and Uganda.

I was lucky Josephine knows a guy, Sylvester, at immigration who came to backpackers to talk with me. I asked how much to extend and he said $50 for 3 months. I said I didn’t want to pay that much, especially since i didn’t intend to stay much longer than a month more.  After Josephine asked, he said he’d do it for $30 and  I asked if it would be for 3 months. Yeah!

 I went the following day to the immigration office with Hila. I walked in, saw 5 Africans on a bench to my left and 5 to my right. who knows how long they we’re waiting for. Sylvester saw me and took me to his office. I handed him my passport with 24,000 tsh ($20) inside. He carefully looked at each page, curious of my stamps, i assumed. after a few minutes he got up, put the money in his pocket and walked out without saying a word. he came back and I asked if it would be for 3 months like he said. He suggested mid February. I was assertive and treated him as if I’ve known him for years. I told him, we agreed on 3 months and reminded him where we had the conversation and Josephine speaking in Kiswahili to ensure he understood what I had asked. He laughed. He walked out, came back in. Flirted with us and asked if I Hila had a husband. I wanted to tell her the answer is always yes but he was right there. He asked me if I had a husband and I said, yes.  He was skeptical. How smart it is to lie to an immigration officer on my marriage status, I’m not sure but I know the game here. I’m ficitiously married.

After an hour wait, my passport was back in my hand with a visa extension until mid March. Excellent! He had me nervous for a minute, especially when he was saying i could just come back and visit him again. Sure, buddy, if youre not going to give me ample time on my extension what makes you think I’ll keep paying you to extend it a little more. I would leave the country before I continue with the corruption.The best part was, he tried saying how poor he was… with his nice clothes and motorola razor phone. I have no sympathy for someone with a job at immigration, pocketing visa money. Poor? I think the woman selling fruit on the street for 12-14 hours are in a worse financial situation than you, buddy.  The idea of muzungos having money is in abundance- subtle and obvious. I don’t expect the idea to change but I can’t stand it and refuse to contribute to the idea.

I’ve become very assertive and tough and blame it on this trip. There’s a lot of BS and I find it difficult to put up with. However, I  wonder how my assertiveness is perceived here.  Neil gives me a hard time but I feel as a a woman traveling alone in Africa, I have to stand my ground and be on guard and speak my mind, even if it borders on rude or crossing the line. I always add in a bit of humor when necessary to get my point across.

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5 thoughts on “Pondering my travels

  1. Hi Jim,

    thanks for commenting!
    so far no postcard… hmmm. Thanks for thinking of me and sending me mail! fun.

    Hopefully it comes by the 25th because i leave moshi on the 26th!
    did you send it recently?

    hope all is well

  2. What an experience with the immigration officer!! You handled it so well. I imagine you’ll be pretty sassy when you get home and not a dull moment in Moshi while youre’ there.

    I hope you will get to Uganda. Is there a ferry service to Uganda across Lake Victoria? That’s probably a naive question but it seems like a good idea from the map. Whatever direction you take will be the right one. The trip you mention to South Africa sounds pretty interesting too.

    Love the photos. I was curious to see what the town of Moshi looks like and you captured it well from your shots on the hill with Kili in the background. It’s bigger than I imagined. You look good, and happy too. Where’s the African garb? Like Marie-Line, I’m curious to see you dressed in the local clothes.

    Miss you!!!
    Love,
    Mom

  3. I know I know… I need to take some photos of my African clothing before it gets sent home. It’s packed and ready to go. my mom has been eager to see them as well!

    It looks like I will be off to Gombe in the next few days and am super excited to have travel companions. It won’t be easy to get there but imagine, well worth it.

    I haven’t voluntered, except for visiting the orphange a few times. I enjoyed the experience but I couldn’t see myself there.

    I think after I explore Uganda on my own or maybe wih other travelers (if it’s meant to be), I’ll join an overland trip to explore Southern Africa (zimbabwe, zambia, malawi) and end in South Africa, where my love for the continent all began. will see what’s in store for me.

    I’m happy to have as much time as I need. In the long scheme of things it doesn’t matter if I spend 6 weeks in Moshi and then chill elsewhere. As long as I’m enjoying it, there’s really no hurry! sometimes, I feel there is but those are in my moments of wanting little comforts of home…

    I think my IPOD has died… disappointing, especially after I just got cool, small speakers. It won’t recharge and just keeps showing an IPOD with a warning sign. hmmm
    oh well.

  4. heeeeyyy thanks for the pictures!!! I’m missing one of you in your african clothes though!! 🙂

    I am very curious what you will do the coming weeks…. you’re not volunteering anymore? And, do you want to keep travelling on your own or would you consider joining a trip like hila does? I remember that I was almost going to Uganda to visit Gorilla’s, wth a backpackers kind of travelformula. I will look if I can find it again.

    I hope you can also relax and don’t get frustrated by the ‘disadvantages’ of a woman travelling alone. Don’t let it change who you are.

    thinking about you!!!
    Marie-Line

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