June 15, 2012

When I meet some Westerners I feel particularly dirty and smelly. It’s better for me to avoid the Wazungo and stay here with my African friends.

I’m in Kilwa. Kilwa Masoko to be precise. There are 3 Kilwa, as far as I know. Kilwa Kisiwani, an island with Arabic ruins, apparently very interesting, but you can only visit it with a permit and a guide, and I can’t bother. Kilwa Kivinje, a small town with old Arabic buildings and a lively harbor, that I visited earlier today. And Kilwa Masoko, Kilwa the Market, where there’s not much to see but it’s the only place with guesthouses and hotels.


I arrived in Kilwa Masoko yesterday at about midday after a trip on a bus that kept me jumping for about 3 hours. There was a 5 year old kid that I thought would vomit. But he was good, and remained unperturbed and put together. After I left my bags at the small and cheap room I rented, I went to see some resorts listed in the Lonely Planet. The first one, that is also a camping site but you have to bring your tent (if they rented tents I would have probably gone there) seemed abandoned. I don’t know how they can ask for 85 USD per night in one of those cabins. There’s another one, even more expensive, with cabins (banda) on the beach, very nice. The best surprise was the Kimbilio Lodge, owned by an Italian and managed by a lady from Milan (and when she looked at me was when I felt dirty and smelly). It’s not on the Lonely Planet because it’s new. There were two Italian guests, quite young. The first Italian travelers that I meet. A beautiful place indeed. There are 6 cabins, right on the beach, with a garden and a restaurant with a terrace two meters from the water. A cabin is about 60 USD, already discounted (Elisabetta said, before I asked), and if you can share with another person that would be a good price. Lunch is 10 USD and fish dinner 20. It’s a bit out of budget for me, so I promised Elisabetta I would come back for a beer, as I can only afford that. So for lunch I went to a local restaurant to have my usual potatoes with fanta at less than one euro and I went back for a beer. And how much did they want me to pay? 5.000 Tsh! Which is 2.5€, not a lot, but in a local pub it costs 1.700 Tsh, and in the most expensive western place I’ve been so far it was 2.500. I could have paid 3.000, for the nice view and location, but 5.000??? For visitors only. Those who rent a cabin pay only 3.000. Sometimes I decide not to pay what in Italy I would normally pay just as a matter of principle. So I decided to give up the beer and those nice lounges on the terrace and I went to read 10 meters away, on the sand, at the shade of a palm tree, with my bottle of warm water. At 4 pm it began to get more crowded. People running and walking. Nice. The ocean was rough. I don’t know if I would have bathed; there was no one in the water, but this is normal.

In the evening I watched the match Italy-Croatia in a “tv-room” of the town, a hut with two big 41″ screens, one close to the other for I don’t know what reason, maybe just in case one explodes. We had to wait for the power to be back (in town there was the usual black-out) but I saw both goals. It looked as if they supported Italy, I heard them mentioning Balotelli a lot and when Pirlo scored they celebrated more than I did. But they celebrated in the same way when Croatia scored. I think they simply enjoy soccer. It’s probably their favorite sport. I see them often playing, in grass fields or at the beach, and they are quite good at it.

So today I was in Kilwa Kivinje, and this is what I wrote in my diary:

09.30am As soon as I arrived I went to the German Boma, a building of Arabic origins that was used by Germans as their headquarters. Like Mikindani, Kilwa Kivinje was also an important harbor and commercial centre. Today it’s a fishermen town. In front of the German Boma there’s the harbor, with a lot of small boats, and on the dock where I am sitting there’s the fun corner, where people play chess, smoke, drink whiskie and buy pot. I am here writing and they might be thinking I’m a journalist. Probably if I took my camera they would assault me. And they invited me to go away. Ok, I’m going to see the other stands, where there’s people making chai and frying fish. I am approached by Mahad, that takes me to a touristic tour of the town. When we go back to the frying place I buy two squids. A bit salty, but they are delicious. I often see them having breakfast with chai, chapati and either meat or fish. I also tried meat a couple of times, but it was always too hard. This squid is really good. Mahad takes me to have a chai in what seems his second home. He manages a fishing boat, so he spends most of his time at the harbor. He must earn some money because he wears a nice shirt and new shoes. After a bit comes a boy barefoot with super white teeth, and because he tells me he wants to learn English, I take my small English-Swahili dictionary and I try to correct his pronunciation while he reads in English. He’s cute, his persistance despite the clear boredom of people around us. If I didn’t need it, I would give him this little dictionary. Ramadhani is his name. He came to the stall with a bag full of fish. “You must have paid it some money!”. No, Mahad explains to me. He asked them around, one here and another there, and people gave them to him. People are kind to him. He’s almost adopted by the community. His fish are there, in the middle of the table, and anyone can take one. I like Kivinje. It’s a cute quiet town and people are very nice. From time to time someone comes to this stall to drink a chai and eat the fish they bought somewhere else.

12.20pm They are starting to cook now rice and vegetables. They are always cooking and washing, sitting on a small stool 5 cm from the floor, stoves on a fire lit on the sand. You eat surrounded by flies and bees, but nobody notices it. They offered me to taste a piece of octopus. Boiled. It’s good. So they can cook in different ways! So far I had only seen fried fish. Women here are really beautiful. And men too. Ramadhani is handsome. Mahad is cute, but he’s too short for me. He asks if I would marry a Tanzanian if he proposed. Well, usual where I come from you get to know somebody before you marry them… He wouldn’t care, because a Mzungo would be like a nice ornament, people would go to his home to see the white wife. A boy ate two krapfens with his tea. He picked up the smallest crumbs. From time to time he would spy on me from behind a jar. At 5 years old he seems already a little man, going to the restaurant alone to get some food. 2.10pm I love it. I’ve been here for 3 hours teaching English and learning Swahili with Ramadhani. To pay the rice he took out a bag full of 5.000 Tsh baknotes. Probably he does little jobs for the people of the harbor. He looks at my grey hair and laughs. I tell him he will be like this in 10 years, when he will be my age. No no, his hair will grow grey only when he’s 40.

7.05pm I’m at the Night Market in Kilwa Masoko. Saidi hold me here, talking. He calls me Katty Gianfranco, because Piazza is difficult for him to pronounce. He actually introduced himself as Saidi Khalifa, and Khalifa is his father’s name. He sells bananas. He hopes to be able to sell everything by 10pm, when the market closes. It’s a shame tomorrow I’m leaving, he wanted to teach me how to cook ugali. Yes, shame. I’m sitting on the bench near Saidi, a guy approaches and asks me how much the oranges cost. The smallest chunga mia moja, the largest mia mbili. I think I would sell a lot of fruit here.

I like some Tanzanian habits. For examples I discovered I like to drink a glass of warm milk in the evening. It was my dinner, with two krapfen. I’ve already eaten my portion of rice at lunch today. I eat an orange too, I thank Saidi and go to bed. Tomorrow the bus to Dar Es Salaam is at 5am. Will these early reveilles ever end?