Saturday, July 4, 2009

Snatching Victoria from the Jaws of Defeat (Part deaux)

Chapter 2:

I wake up at 7am on Saturday morning to a choir of nuns singing (we are staying at a Catholic run hostel) and then go to the cafeteria for the complimentary breakfast. Afterward we wait 2 hours on Cleopatra who said she was going to give us a tour this morning but she never shows so we set out on foot. After walking about 1/4 of a mile I see it for the first time and I am not disappointed.

Lake Victoria is the source of "da Nile" and the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world. Gazing across the bank bordered by boulders and sand and lilypads and reeds and looking out across the lake there is water as far as the eye can see, and beyond that, Uganda. Victoria is equally as impressive as Kilimanjaro in its own way, and surprisingly much easier to spot. After spending several minutes soaking up Lake Victoria (figuratively that is)...I head to the town center to casch in my travellers checks. This takes almost two hours and I get a terrible exchange rate (I could wig out on Lonely Liar again but I'm not going to).

Next we go to the Mwanza market which is huge and I am excited, expecting to see miles and miles of fish but they are not there. I find this troubling and confusing. I ask for Nile Perch and I get tilapia, such is life. But the market is nice, crowded, and full of colors and smells.

From the market we head to lunch then trek to Capri point where the lonely L says we can take a 2000 shilling boat ride to an island game reserve called Saa Nane. But the actual price is 32000 and we cant negotiate anything cheaper so we leave and go to this wazungu (white man) paradise down the street called Hotel Tilapia. It has a pool and several restaurants and a peer and everything is very nice and a lot of Safaris begin or end here. I am impressed at first and we rest a little from our walk.

While hanging out poolside I notice some awesome boulders (Mwanza has to be the boulder capital of Africa, the giant smooth stones are everywhere in this city) and say we should go climb them. So most of the group follow me over there. After starting the climb I realize that there are little shacks nestled between the boulders and this is a very poverty stricken area with half naked (and naked) children running around and chickens and goats and it is right beside 5 star Hotel Tilapia. All of a sudden I am not as impressed with Hotel Tilapia and I am sick with myself for trespassing and climbing all over these peoples houses. The others go to the top but I head back to the hotel navigating my way through a barrage of children and adults saying "mzungu, give me my money" (this is a phrase that I have come to know well over the past few weeks and I intend to write a serious blog about it, but I can't yet because I am still processing) and me replying, "samahani, pole sana" (excuse me, I am very sorry).

After these events we walk back downtown to Mwanza's main waterfront and arrive just as the sun begins its descent. There is a nice waterside park and we check it out. I walk down the bank away from the others and find a boulder that uncannily resembles a lounge chair and I help myself to it. My rock recliner is very comfortable and is a great spot to take photos and take in the lake. As my travelling companions are napping on the grass or doing cartwheels or whatever, I stare out at the lake. I look across the Mwanza gulf bordered by rocky neighborhoods for miles until it opens up into the full length and depth of Lake Victoria. There are fish boats and dhaus and, for my parrothead friends, even tiny little handmade boats shaped just like a smile (I do not know if they were sailed my a magician) gliding over the surface of the water. The horizon brings the setting sun and a billion rays of light making a shimmering golden path straight to my eye. I can even feel the warmth on my face as I am seeing my second Tanzanian sunset of this trip.

Being in this setting makes me very contemplative and I start thinking about history. About some guy named John Speke who "discovered" Lake Victoria (I think the Africans beat him by a few thousand years) and how Dr. Livingstone died while trying to determine the source of the Nile and how it only took me 16 hours on a bumpy bus to get here. I think about how special this moment is...but how much more special it would be if any of my family or friends were here to share it with me. Then I think about all of those special people, most in the states, some scattered across Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, probably lots of other places, and I say a prayer for them and then I feel really thankful and have a little private worship time (there is a church across the street from the park named St. Nicholas, and all of the africans call me Nicholas, pronounced NEEEKOL, this is probably just a coincidince) and I see my fellow volunteers and I am thankful that they are here to share the moment....And then I get up and tell them I am hungry and we finish the sunset at a Chinese place on the lakeshore. After that we may or may not have gone dancing to some live Swahili music (I can't believe I let those girls talk me into it, crazy Canadians).

to be continued...2/3 through, I hope I haven't exhausted anyone yet

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