June 8, 2012

I’m in Mtwara, the southernmost town along the coast. From here you can go to Mozambique, during the rain season, when the boat can cross the river Ruvuma that separates the two countries.

I was expecting a big city, but it’s a little more than a village, with few things to do. The main attraction is the fish market, at the beach, where early in the morning and in the late afternoon there are fish auctions. Fishermen take their kayak and go to a nearby peninsula to fish, and when they are back they put the catch of the day on display and they sell it to the best offerer. I got there last night by mistake. Because I find it difficult to navigate this town. There are two main roads and hundreds of other tiny alleys that are not on Lonely Planet map and the place where I am staying is out of the map. To go back to the hotel I followed the sun, that at that time showed me the West direction. Luckily I’m a natural navigator.

The market is so nice! A fisherman saw me taking a picture of him. He didn’t get upset, on the contrary, he started smiling.

Last night a Mozambican boy wrote me a love letter. Half broken English, half Portuguese. And today in the afternoon while I was at this café looking for shelter from the midday heat, another guy speaking only a few words in English was able to tell me that he wanted to be my “friend” and take me on the next destinations of my trip. He was good looking, and I could have learnt some Swahili, but I dismissed the offer. Of course he asked why I don’t have children. He has two, but no wife. Wife is trouble. A Mzungo might be a better option. It’s quite common here to have children and be single. For this reason when they talk to me they are not surprised that I’m not married, but that I don’t have children.

For the first time since I’m in Tanzania I am staying in a place far from the bus station. Usually I prefer to stay in the town centre, so that I can go around on foot. But I really needed to sleep well after three days of travel that exhausted me. And here it’s lovely. There’s a café and a restaurant, quite expensive (last night I ate here and I paid 7 euro!!! Tonight at a local restaurant I had dinner for 50 cents), that has always some clients. Wealthy clients, that can afford these prices. And foreigners. Anyway, I slept really well. The place is run by a Polish lady, that was married to a Tanzanian man, now dead. She speaks Swahili better than English, I’m so jealous!

Today I wanted to wake up early to go to the market, but didn’t make it. I woke up at 7am and went there taking my time. I had breakfast with chapati and chai. Delicious! I saw my nice fisherman again (I recognized him from the cloths and the hat). Then walked a bit around town, guided by Marami, that is from Dar Es Salaam and is studying Engineering here. Apparently he had nothing better to do. Well, I managed to orienteer myself a bit better in the labyrinth of alleys. We spent an hour at the café while I was writing and reading my guidebook and he was doing nothing. They have a different way of spending the time here, they are used to do nothing. They wait for the bus for two hours or more without anything to read to kill the time. At the restaurant they wait for half an hour for some chips, looking at the void. They sit in front of their home cheerfully welcoming the two buses that drive by during the day. They spend one hour in a café looking at an Italian girl writing her travel journal. It’s a different approach to life. I am not even able to watch a movie without doing something else at the same time, like a jigsaw puzzle or a crosswords. When traveling luckily I always have a notebook with me. So I fill my diaries with stupid things, because I don’t always have something interesting to write about.

There was a power cut. It’s quite common here. I was walking with Marami, and I asked him if he ever goes swimming to the beach near town. No, he doesn’t like swimming and he can’t do it. He likes playing football. Not today though, he’s not feeling well. “What’s wrong?”. “I have malaria”, he replies. Like this, as if it was a cold.

5pm It’s very hot today. Luckily in the street there are some orange vendors, they are so refreshing and sweet! I’m at the beach. An annoying mosquito devastated my ankles with its bites. I’m so jealous of that boy bathing! Even if I had a bathing suit I wouldn’t go in because here women don’t bath, and if they do they do it all dressed. Further away a boy is doing some flips. He’s training to do somersaults. He’s got a great body. As a child I also enjoyed doing flips like this. Maybe if I trained enough I could have learnt better. I rememer that at middle school I did a flip without touching the mattress with my hands and the teacher scolded me. And on mum’s bed I did some big flips. I ran from the bathroom and up on the bed with a nice flip. But I ended on the bed on my back, not on my feet. Flips always fascinated me. Maybe for this reason I find this guy particularly cool. Now he’s doing some splits in the air. And 4 flips one after the other. Wow. I want to do that too.

I’m afraid I’ll have to wait until I’m in Zanzibar to bath.

10.27 pm There must be a church nearby. I can hear Halleluja and other gospels. At this time? Tonight for dinner I had ugali with beans and vegetables. I had to ask for a spoon because I can’t understand how to eat the beans. You should squash the ugali (that looks like a potato mash but tastes like… nothing) with your hands, to make it more compact, but how do I put the beans in the middle? While I was having dinner two guys took me company. When they heard I am catholic they invited me to go to the University church next weekend. When I told them I’m not going to church they were very disappointed, even more than my father. They probably take religion very seriously here.

There’s a tiny lizard hiding near my backpack. If she wants to come illegaly to Italy, she’s welcome. But she’s informed that Cagliostro will enjoy her a lot.