Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Grass is Always Greener in Arusha

Lauren and I have dreamed about Arusha for a long time.  We always knew that this northern Tanzanian city was in the region of Mount Kilimanjaro (home to where your Starbucks coffee is grown), the Great Serengeti (home to Simba), and is lush and green--at least 10 degrees cooler than Dar es Salaam.  As far as we were concerned, that made it a paradise.

So when the opportunity arose for all of us to attend Swahili language school in Arusha for three weeks, we jumped at the chance.  After all, we all needed to boost our Swahili, and a chance to spend time in Arusha would just be icing on the cake.

So we went.  We headed ten hours north on the two-lane road, buses and semi-trucks dodging us at breakneck speed.  We passed miles of sisal plantations and scrub brush savannah and villages of small mud houses.  We went with our long-time friends Ben and Lauren, and our new friends Luke and Amber, and a gaggle of nine kids under the age of ten.

Arusha did not disappoint us.  We stayed in guest cottages on a mission compound that is a version of Eden, where the chatter of monkeys woke us in the morning and the avocados dropped from heaven like manna.  The temperature dropped into the sixties and we shivered in our hoodies and bought thick socks at the market to wear at night.  We discovered that the grass really is greener in Arusha.

Of course, the bulk of every day, from 8:30 till 4, was spent on things like the seven noun classes of Swahili, and if you don't know what a noun class is, then you can thank your lucky stars that English only has one.  Our heads worked hard and words words words sorted themselves into slots in our brains with labels like "causitive," "stative," and "passive."

that gaggle of kids with their teachers

the kids' Swahili classrooms

It was hard mental work, and we were exhausted many days.  But we were in such a beautiful place.  And we were with beautiful friends who are like family, and we ate meals together and the conversations were as nourishing as the food.  We walked the half hour to and from school every day, through corn fields and over streams and across a pasture of purple flowers.  The kids spent every afternoon roaring around on scooters and slept every night on a wooden loft, snuggled under blankets in the frigid sixty degree cold.

walking to school 

army ants!  don't want to mess with those....

at a natural spring--that's my boy flying high on the rope!

We had a good, good time.  But even though the grass is greener in Arusha, Dar es Salaam is home.  And there is always something sweet about that.

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