Monday, July 21, 2008

Bongo Series: The Iringa Experience

One of the things that I found out about going home for vacation is that time is never enough. You always get a feeling that scheduling is difficult, especially when you have so much to do. Just for the records, I am not from Iringa, but my vacation involved visiting Iringa for some personal business.

The best part about this trip was that it was my first to Iringa. Given my relatively extensive travel, I didn’t have any jitters we typically get when travelling to a whole new place, instead I was excited. I wanted to see the town that Mjengwa calls his work station. I wanted to see all those high mountains folks talk about. I wanted to experience the chilly temperatures that some complain about…

The trip to Iringa was uneventful. I boarded Scandinavian bus. When I asked around for the best bus service, I was given a host of possibilities. For some reasons, some were knocking Scandinavian as outdated. If you ask me, I would still recommend Scandinavian. Despite their fleet being “old”, their drivers are actually very careful and cautious on the road. The driver of our bus to Iringa did not overtake any vehicle in front unless he had a clear view.

That gave me comfort and a reason to relax.

The care exercised by Scandinavian bus drivers, as I found out, is what irks some passengers. I mean, can you believe that some passengers actually incite drivers to speed up? Well, maybe I am old fashioned, but I’d rather get wherever I am going safely than never at all. The rate of road fatalities in Tanzania probably proves my philosophical stand a wise one.

True to the “complaints”, Iringa happened to be chilly. Just to my personal delight, the mountain scenes are just beautiful. Folks, let the truth be told, Tanzania is just beautiful. Can I brag a little?

I have no idea where Iringa stands in terms of local economic performance. Regardless, I just felt the region has plenty of potential, if the region can fully capitalize on the natural resources endowed to her. I know that sounds like a political cliché, but I am just giving my take.

For all y’all who have never been to Iringa, Iringa is a mini-Mwanza sans the lake. I liked that about the town. The town has also the Dodoma feel, especially the occasional winds that sweep the dust off the ground to pedestrians’ faces. Other than that, it is just another third-world town, with the majority of the roads still lacking the durable tarmac coating.

I had an opportunity to visit Tumaini University. Given the size of most universities in America, the campus is relatively small. Nonetheless, I was impressed with the general environment of the campus. I have one question though. Why is it that Tanzanians like to create “panya roads” on grass grounds? I mean, here you have a beautiful campus, but with plenty of “panya roads”!

I can’t comprehend it. Personally, it just irks me.

One phenomenon that I observed is that many Tumaini students do not live on campus. Some rent houses close to campus. That to me was an investment opportunity. Given my experience in an American university, I understand how apartment developers make a killing. That is due to a steady demand of customers, with only limited supply. While Tumaini University offers dormitories, these dormitories are expensive and offer little in value compared to what students can get elsewhere. So how does a developer make a killing? Offer amenities that both TU dormitories and local houses cannot.
Well, there you go. I have given you useful information.

Just one thing before I let you go. Early in the day, my host and I were walking to the town center from the dwelling quarters. It just happened that there was a tractor coming our way, pulling a cart. The driver’s cell rang. The guy calmly stopped the tractor, switched the tractor’s engine off and started conversing with the other party.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the guy stopping, switching off the tractor’s engine, and conversing with his caller, except for one minor detail. He stopped right in the middle of the road!
I am too westernized? I wondered and still wondering.

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