Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Bundle...Of Joy

So it was...on Friday, September 19, 2008 at 11:18 am, weighing 7 pounds and 2 ounces, Mr. Hans Otelo entered our world!

[I just didn't add, standing in the blue corner, from Shirati by the way of Columbus, with the record of 12-0, all by KOs, the reigning champ....]

The man was welcome at St. Ann's hospital, Columbus, Ohio.

I know the cycle starts all over again - diapers, sleepless nights (very possible) and all the routines that goes with an addition of a new member to the family, but it is all worth it.
Besides, my heart is so grateful to the only awesome God that I serve for blessing. So I give Him the glory, honor and praise.
To friends who called, flocked the hospital room, and just stood in the gap with prayers, thank you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bongo Series: Next Stop…Cap City

The walk-up call at the hotel actually worked. I was able to get to the bus stand on time. Apparently, all buses are required to adhere to some standard and fixed schedules. That being the case, the bus I took to Dodoma left the bus station at 6pm on the dot. I was impressed.

At the bus stand, I had to buy two huge “Rambo” bags (anyone relating?) for covering my luggage. I was forewarned that it gets dusty on the stretch between Singida and Dodoma. As I didn’t want my bag to look like they had been dug from the ground, I complied.

The road from Mwanza to Dar-es-Salaam, being paved and all; is such a huge relief. I was trying to imagine the old days when a train ride from Dar-es-Salaam to Mwanza used to take more than 36 hours. The central road link, I must admit, has made travel easier between the Lake zone and the Coastal zone.

It roughly took the bus two hours from Mwanza to Shinyanga. It used to take more than six hours to make the same trip. The bus made stop at the Shinyanga and I was excited to see the town again. The last time I was in that town was 1993, when I officially graduated from Shinyanga Commercial Institute (Shycom).

It was kind of sad to see that the town has not changed much after 15 years. My own alma mater (Shycom) only showed signs of regression as opposed to progression. The Shinyanga railway station looked beaten up and ready to die. I guess I will never understand some things relating to the Tanzanian way of life. I mean, wouldn’t you expect things to improve over time?

Did I mention the fact that even some parts of the road are starting to disintegrate and it seems like nobody cares?

Oh well.

I have been through Manyoni, but never Singida “mjini”. That is because the train ride never really gave anyone an opportunity to go through Singida mjini. I just wanted to experience that. So when the bus actually made the rounds around Singida, my neck was sticking out, just to let my eyes wonder.

Oh, let me talk about the road a little bit. As I was talking about the regressive culture in Tanzania, one thing came to mind. You know how the metal (tin) road signs are typically vandalized? I guess the folks who constructed the Mwanza – Dodoma road had a better idea to beat the cultural tendencies. They actually made the road signs in concrete. The outcome has been nothing more than positive. It seem vandals are not bothering to steal useless pieces of rock mixed solidified in cement (because once you destroy the road signs, that’s what it turns into – useless pieces of cemented rock).

I thought that was work of a genius.

Generally, there was nothing exciting. It was the same old same, unless you want me to talk about how the vegetation changes from Tabora to Singida and Dodoma. Well, let me talk about that then, because probably no one will. As you leave Tabora to the more central part – that is Singida and Dodoma – trees get shorter and thornier. Even more, wind gusts increase and it get chillier.

The only “exciting” thing, probably, was that we got a flat tire and that has to be fixed. No long from the area where we got the flat tire, the dusty road began. I must admit, I thanked those kids in Mwanza who sold me a Rambo bag. Otherwise, my bags would have looked like there were dug from the ground. No kidding.

I was just glad to finally be in Dodoma, for this place also holds a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bongo Series: Mwanza...Here I Come

My “short” stay in Shirati came to an end I had to head out. My itinerary indicated that I was supposed to pass through Dodoma, and going through the central line made more sense. I was really looking forward to Mwanza.

The road to Mwanza took me to Tarime again. I found a bus that promised to leave on time only to end up staying at the Tarime bus stand for over an hour. I regret being naïve, but next time I visit Tanzania, watanikoma.

The ride to Mwanza literally took me through a memory lane. In the old days, the Kirumi Bridge was not there. Crossing the Mara River required the use of a pontoon. As a kid, it was such a scary thing to be on that “boat” with all those people, cars, buses and things. Obviously, when the pontoon was broken down, folks crossed over to Musoma through Kinesi by boat.

As usual, the bus had the three most important persons – the driver, the conductor and the “tandboi”. I wonder why this combination is still intact.

Sadly, I had forgotten all the little towns along the way, save Bunda. Maybe I easily recalled Bunda because in the old days, the bus from Tarime/Mwanza would stop there for a tea break. Man, I would like to go on record saying this – Bunda has the best tea in the whole of Mara! (This is especially for my wife – honey, I am not hungry; so hunger is not impairing my judgment)

For folks who have never been on the Tarime/Musoma to Mwanza road, just a few miles from Bunda, you could actually see zebras, antelopes and other wild animals grazing. Unfortunately, I was seating on the “wrong” side of the bus and couldn’t take any pictures. I tried passing on my camera to one gentleman with a better view, but he only ended up getting good shots of meaningless trees and grass. He got a few zebras, but the pictures are so fuzzy. I was grateful for his attempt though.

My level of trust for this bus service dipped so low when we had a breakdown. Yeah, I know that stuff happens, but I was ticked off already by the fact that the bus didn’t take off at Tarime on time. Surprisingly, it appears I was the only one minding. The rest of the passengers were just taking it easy. I guess the American life has conditioned me to expect the best service all the time. Through these experiences I saw my expectations crumbling down.

Such is life.

I know Iringa is mountainous and all, but the Mwanza atmosphere is the best. The bus made a final stop at Nyakato. Obviously, that did not go well with folks who wanted their final stop to be downtown Mwanza. The bus conductor and the driver made their appeal about the traffic police being hard on them blah blah blah... I couldn’t argue with them, since I didn’t have any clue of the rules in Mwanza. I had intended to go all the way to downtown, but I resorted to calling my host to pick me up.

My host was my cousin. I stopped by his house, luckily, in Nyakato. I had called him earlier to buy me a bus ticket for Dodoma. I was informed that buses from Mwanza to Dodoma/Morogoro/Dar starts off the journey at Nyegezi. Nyegezi, obviously, is miles away from Nyakato. If I had to be at the bus stand at 5:30 am from Nyakato, I had to stay awake all night. The resolution was for me to spend a night in Nyegezi.

After pleasantries with my cousin’s wife and kids, I headed off to Nyegezi.

I was able to secure lodging at a very “fancy” hotel – Millennium something. The hotel was nice. I Tanzanian lingo, each room was “self-contained”. The only thing was, there was no running water, so I had to call for a bucket of water. Did I mention having a flat screen TV in the room? Obviously, no HBO, but plenty of satellite channels to surf. I wasn’t in a mood for TV, so I chose instead to enjoy my $30 bed.

By Tanzanian standards, $30 a night was plenty of money. Nonetheless, given the security at the hotel, wake-up call availability and the closeness to the bus stand, I was not ready to whine.

I was just sad I didn’t get to see much of Mwanza as I had wanted to.