Rukwa. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t either before coming to Tanzania. A lot of Tanzanians aren’t sure where it is either. If I say I’m going to Sumbawanga then it is better known. Sumbawanga is the regional capital of Rukwa. For all you Harry Potter fans maybe you remember a quidditch team from Sumbawanga. I have heard the name Sumbawanga translates to “land of witches” or according to wikipedia it transates to “throw away your witch craft”. Either way, the town is known for it’s witchcraft. I haven’t experienced this personally, but my mkuu (head master) says his neighbors think that his six kids are all smart and successful because of witchcraft. Other than witchcraft Sumbawanga, Rukwa isn’t known for much.
It is one of the more remote regions. I am in the west and barely a part of the souther highlands, the farthest west volunteers are. It has takes about 3 days on a bus to get out here from Dar es Salam, where the Peace Corps office is located. The trip could be done in 2 but when I did that my feet were so swollen from being on the bus so long. The trip could also be done in 1 but I don’t know if I ever want to try that. In addition to being on a bus for around 20 hours, I wouldn’t arrive in Dar or back in Rukwa until around 2 in the morning. Traveling at night isn’t allowed and I don’t think I would want to anyway. So although 3 days seems long it isn’t so bad.
When I travel I get to stop through other regions so it makes the trip more of a vacation. I stop in Iringa and Mbeya and get to see the volunteers from those regions and go to some pretty safi (really nice) places with western style food! One of my favorite places is the ridge cafe. It is ran by some ex-pats from South Carolina. They have good coffee and free wifi! So thank ridge cafe for the blog posts that have happened and will continue to happen.
After Mbeya I head to my village, Miangalua. I pass through the border town of Tunduma. I can see Zambia from the bus window and my phone sends me a text welcoming me to Zambia because I am so close. The bus will usually stop there for maybe 10 minutes for a bathroom break. There are guys running around trying to sell soda and biscuti (cookie crackers) through bus windows. I am now friends with one of these guys. His name is Gifty and he gives me gifts. The first time I passed through he tried to sell me biscuti for 2x more than they are. I know enough Kiswahili to say that was way too high and I wouldn’t pay that. Ever since then he has been cool. The next time I went there I bought soda from him and he gave me a zawadi (gift) of biscuti. Then he has given me free water when I was moving as a welcome to Sumbawanga zawadi. Every time I stick my head out the window and he sees me his face lights up and he runs over to my window. The other guys might get mad because I ignore them to buy things from my new friend Gifty.
There are also mamas selling apples at this standi (bus stand). Since it is right on the border apples are only 500 tsh rather than 1000 tsh so I always get some. Coming from Wenatchee, I was afraid these apples wouldn’t meet my high standards. But these apples are so good! Maybe it’s because I hadn’t had an apple in 2 months or maybe they are just that good, but I love them!
After we leave the standi it’s just a couple hours til I am home. I am lucky I live at my school and it’s right on the main road so the bus just stops there and I get out and then I’m home. Some other volunteers have to walk long distances, take packed daladalas (bus/van public transport), go on bad roads, or wait hours for a car going out to their village. So I may be out in the middle of nowhere but I think I got a pretty good thing going.