All in all an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
This past few weeks was the week of my birthday, Thanksgiving, and an amazing trip to South Africa. Since making yearly journeys to Tanzania Jillian and I have not had the opportunity to go any where in Africa other than the cities of Tanzania. When we heard that Precision Air lines was offering a cheap flight to South Africa we decided to book a trip to Cape Town to experience something new. Our friends Adam and Mussa also agreed to go with us and we booked our flight two days after my birthday.
Since I was going to be in Moshi for my birthday the lovely ladies that I am friends with, Michelle and Jillian, organized a get together at a nice river lodge that had a pool. We spent the day swimming by the pool with Swaleh and then were joined by a group of friends for drinks. The day was amazing and perfect and we had so much fun.
The next morning Adam, Mussa, Jillian and I got on our bus to make the 10-hour trek to Dar es Salaam to catch our flight to South Africa. We arrived in Dar in the evening and had dinner with Mussa’s cousin, Showmi. We had a nice meal of chicken and goat BBQ and then went to the cinema in Dar to see a 3-D movie called Shark Night. This was probably not the best choice considering we were going to a city full of beautiful beaches with boys who were already scared of swimming in the ocean, but we thought the idea of a 3-D movie sounded cool. The next day we toured around Dar until we left for the airport to catch our flight to South Africa.
Our first flight was 3 ½ hours to Johannesburg. The flight was very nice and it was a lot of fun to see Mussa and Adam on their first international flight. Once landing in Jo-Berg we had to spend the night at the airport. The airport was decorated with Christmas decorations, which was weird for us since it feels so much like summer here. The airport was also huge and very modern, which is not what we expect when we think of Africa. We spent an hour walking around looking at the different shops and restaurants as well as playing on the escalators and elevators. We found some nice benches by our next airline check-in counter and tried to get some sleep. Mussa had read that the Johannesburg airport was not the safest place so he stayed up and kept watch over us all night.
We made it through the night with no problems and in the morning we boarded our plane to Cape Town. The flight was 2 ½ hours and we slept most of the way. When we arrived in Cape Town and left the airport it felt as if we had entered Europe. The guys kept saying, “This is not Africa, We are not in Africa”. Everywhere we looked were organized streets, fancy cars, shops and restaurants. It felt like we were at home in America. Our airport shuttle dropped us off at the hostel we were staying and we dropped our stuff and went to explore Cape Town. Our first stop was a coffee shop to have breakfast. Jill and I were so excited because they had food we would find at home but the guys were a bit lost in what to order. They were not in Tanzania anymore and even things like Tea were different and required some explanation. In Tanzania most tea is made with Milk not water, in SA tea was English Breakfast Tea and was a bit different. After breakfast we headed to the main shopping area and walked around the department stores. This was a bit overwhelming all of us, but mostly for the guys who had never seen so many clothes in such a large space. In one department store we decided we had to leave because it was even overwhelming for Jillian and I, and the guys were just standing around looking lost and confused. We then made reservations at a restaurant called Mama Africa that served game meat. We had an amazing dinner of ostrich, crocodile, impala, and kudu. It was a good day full of lots of experiences that were new for Adam and Mussa and felt more like home for Jill and I. It was also the first time we were able to show the guys what it is like in America without actually going there.
Day 2 was spent taking a bus along the beautiful coastline to the World Of Birds, the largest bird sanctuary in Africa. We spent the day looking around at all the different birds and then headed back to town. After our bus ride we spotted a store called ShopRite. This is similar to Wal-Mart or Target. Mussa and Adam wandered around the store looking at all of the things and seeing how cheap they were. They immediately started thinking about what they should buy to bring home to friends and family or to sell in TZ for a profit. Jillian and I were so excited to finally find shampoo and conditioner for our hair that was cheap and similar to home. We wandered around and bought hygiene products, Adam bought a knife to use for safari, and Mussa bought a hose. The running joke for the week was, who goes to South Africa and buys a hose? All in all it was the first time we had such cheap access to so many things we were in need of at home that our souvenirs where not your typical purchases.
That night for dinner we ate at a Mexican Restaurant. Jill and I were so excited to eat tacos and burritos and introduce the guys to some of our favorite foods. They were happy to try them and even enjoyed what they were eating. The restaurant even let us wear sombreros. It was a fun night. One of the best things about Cape Town was the fact that we were able to eat different food every night and not have to live on beans and rice.
Day 3 we rented a car and drove the beautiful coast of South Africa to the Cape of Good Hope. This was one of my favorite days. The drive along the coast reminded me of the pacific coast highway in Northern California and was absolutely beautiful. There were cute small villages along the way where we were able to explore and see penguins. When we arrived to the Cape of Good Hope it was a large national park that was vast and beautiful. There we baboons, ostrich, cool plants, and tons of birds. We stopped to take pictures along the beaches and looked out to see if we could see Antarctica. (:
At one of our stops a door was left open in the car and a man came over and asked us if it was our car. When we told him yes he told us there was a baboon inside the car. We rushed over and found the baboon going through our things. Mussa was able to shoo him out of the car and he left with all of our snacks that we had brought. The baboon then sat in front of the car eating all our bananas and cookies confident that we could not harm him. A funny experience for sure. After we left the national park we drove back and stopped at a small town for dinner. We had a nice seafood dinner along the waterfront in front of the yacht club. We each had some good seafood and some fun conversation. A perfect day!
Day 4 we woke up to rain and cold weather. Since we could not do anything outside we went to the V&A Waterfront to explore the shopping mall and restaurants along the wharf. Once again the vast number of electronic stores, clothing stores, and food places amazed the guys and made Jillian and I feel like we were in America. It was a very surreal experience to walk around seeing similar stores to home and know you are in Africa. We then did what people do during rainy days; we found a pub and had some beers while watching a soccer match then went to see a movie.
Day 5 was our dose of history. We booked a tour to Robben Island. Robben Island is an island 12 km away from Cape Town by boat and was used as a prison colony for political prisoners during the South African apartheid. In South Africa since colonialism an apartheid system was put in place that separated black and white people. Blacks were forced to live outside of cities in small poverty stricken areas called townships and forced to carry passbooks wherever they went. Those that fought against this system or lead protests against this system were arrested and sent to Robben Island. Robben Island was not your typical prison because it was filled with smart educated leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. The most famous of these leaders was Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island for 17 years. Much of his adult life was spent in prison and he was locked up in various places for a total of 27 years. After his release in 1994 he helped to end the Apartheid and became the President of South Africa. Our tour consisted of a boat ride across the ocean, a 45-minute bus ride around the island to see the places the prisoners worked, and a tour or the prison from an ex-prisoner. It was pretty amazing to visit a place where one of the most influential leaders of modern history spent most of his time and to know that his time there did not impact his spirit but instead made him stronger. The place gave me chills walking around it and gave me hope that even hard times cannot break the human spirit.
Day 6 was another great day. This day was spent climbing Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a mountain in Cape Town that rises above the city and is flat at the top like a table. The top of the mountain stretches for 3 km and the climb up is about 2 ½ hours straight up a various set of steps. The mountain is also in the running to be named one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Mussa and Adam are mountain guides in Tanzania and take people up and down Kilimanjaro all the time and Jillian is in pretty decent shape so I knew they would be fine. I, on the other hand, was very worried that I would not make it or that I would be such a hindrance to their experience. When we first started the boys wanted to me to go up first and set the pace. I was very nervous that everyone behind me wanted to go faster so I started climbing really quickly. Immediately Adam jumped in front of me and slowed me down and showed me how to climb slowly so we can make it to the top. Climbing the mountain was an amazing experience. The guys made it so much fun singing and dancing and telling jokes all the way up and when I started to struggle they held my hand and helped me up. When we stopped to take pictures the views were amazing and when we got to the top I felt like I had conquered something incredible. Even though it wasn’t a high mountain 2 ½ hours of a stair master workout made me feel elated to make it to the top. At the top we were able to see amazing views of the city and had a beautiful lunch at the restaurant at the top. Table Mountain Park also offers a 4-minute cable car ride up and down the mountain so we decided that after the 2-½ hour hike up we would take the 4-minute cable car down. (: After our amazing experience we went back to our hostel and all slept for 2 hours to recover. It was a great day.
Day 7 was our departure day. We headed to the airport and hopped on our flight back to Johannesburg. On the flight there was a bad storm and our flight had to be diverted to another airport. Luckily we had a long layover so after the storm passed we were able to fly to Johannesburg and hop on our flight back to Dar. We arrived at Dar and 4 am to the extreme heat of tropical Africa and all of us immediately missed Cape Town.
The next day was Thanksgiving and Jill and I knew that it was going to be a hard day missing our families. It was also the last day we would see Mussa and Adam for a few weeks because we were going to be staying in Dar and they were headed back to Moshi. We decided to spend the day at the beach and had a lovely lunch and swim session at one of the beautiful beaches in Dar. It was a great day even though we were not able to eat turkey and apple pie.
All in all an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
This past weekend I experienced my first EID celebration. EID is a religious holiday for Muslims that was celebrate this past weekend. It also happened to be Mussa’s (one of roommates) birthday. To celebrate the two events Mussa came up with the idea to BBQ a goat. Jillian and I thought a BBQ would be a great idea but did not actually realize what we signed up for. At 8am on Saturday Mussa pulled up in his car with a live goat and a BBQ for us to roast the goat on. The goat was tethered in the backyard until our friends Adam, Swaleh and Hussien were ready to kill and skin it for eating. Being a person who already does not eat much meat, even though I knew this was what was going to happy it was a bit difficult to all take in.
For this big event Swaleh constructed a special knife to kill the goat with. He made this when visiting his family for us to use to kill the goat.. When it was time for the guys to kill the goat they went to the backyard, laid it in the grass and held it down. I thought I would be able to watch but soon as our very calm wonderful friend Adam picked up the knife to cut the goats throat I knew I needed to close my eyes. The boys killed the goat by slitting it’s throat and then they hung it on a metal pole we have in the backyard. As it bled out, they then proceeded to skin the goat, chop up the pieces, and then give it to Tony, another roommate of ours. It was Tony’s job to then prepare the meat and cook the goat. In Tanzania there are butchers you can get meat from but it is often not refrigerated and can have many flies all over it. As a result we do not eat much meat here. Many people here in Africa have killed and skinned all forms of animals that people eat for meat because it is the freshest way to get meat here. There is no grocery store with packages of meat with expiration dates to be bought so to them they thought it was hilarious that we were so squeamish at the thought of killing and skinning this animal.
After the killing of the goat it came time for the eating of the goat. The first course that Tony and the boys made was to cook up the kidneys, liver and heart. They chopped them up in small pieces and fried them in the frying pan, similar to how you would make taco meat. The items were then put on a plate for everyone to share. I tried one piece but I was still having a hard time from the slaughterhouse that happened in our backyard that I could not really eat much more. After that round the next course was intestine soup. After seeing all the intestines of an animal in a bucket on our porch this was something that I could not bring myself to eat. For the main meal Tony prepared a goat meat pilau that was amazing and kebabs of goat meat and vegetables that were delicious. We also had chipati, rice and veggie sauce, salad, watermelon, oranges, bananas, and a delicious chocolate cake for Mussa’s birthday. The food was amazing. About twenty people came over to help us eat it and celebrate and we had a great time.
In the morning Swaleh took the head of the animal and made goat soup. Another food that I was not interested in trying but it was interesting to watch. The guys in our house enjoyed that for lunch while Jill and I ate some of our granola bars and trail mix sent by my parents.
All in all watching my good friend Adam skinning a goat, my roommate Swaleh chopping up the pieces of the goat, my roommate Tony separating the meat for cooking, and then the goat head sitting on our counter will definitely be an experience I will never forget. As gross as the whole thing sounds to those living at home, it was a pretty special day here for us. A day where we remembered we live in a 3rd world country where crazy things like this are normal and a day we spent with friends who are like our family away from home.
This week I read a blog entry from a friend who stated, “Every day you might find yourself in strange and random places of your own. When it happens, I hope you'll pause for a moment and think about how unusual it all is, and how beautiful it can be if you remember to appreciate it.” There could be no truer words for our experience this weekend.
I hope you are all doing well at home. Next time you are in the meat isle in the grocery store think of us here in Africa and how the Styrofoam containers and plastic wrap covering your meat isn’t always available. Some times you need a specially made knife, three strong guys, a machete and a large BBQ to have a dinner with meat in it.
Love you all
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