Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Moshi Days 4 & 5 - Planting Trees and Harvesting Coffee

   On the morning of Thursday, November 20th, our fourth day in Moshi, a funny thing happened while Doug and I were walking through town. A tout tried speaking to talk to me about buying some beaded bracelets he had allegedly made. He was a rastifarian looking fellow, and his red-green-and-yellow beaded bracelets looking extremely unexceptional. I wasn't interested, and as a rule I've found it's better to avoid entirely engaging in conversation with the touts because if you talk to them at all they'll never leave you alone. Doug was talking to someone else nearby though so I was stuck in his vicinity for a few minutes. It feels less rude to feign not to speak English than to ignore them completely, so I said
   "No espeakay englitz!"
   "What language then?" he asked, "espagnole? francaise? italiano?"
   "Svenska" I said, "jag prata ingenting men Svenska" -- I speak nothing but Swedish.
   "Hey. Yag heter John." he said putting out his hand. A passable pronunciation of "Hi, my name is John" in Swedish.
   "Du kan prater Svenska??" I asked in shock -- "you can speak Swedish?"
   He explained, in clumsy Swedish, that he'd had a Swedish friend who taught him some Swedish. His pronunciation was just good enough to be understandable, but I was really impressed. So I deigned to converse with him -- but only in Swedish.
   What's funny is that since everybody who can speak Swedish can also speak English the only use he could really get from it would be from other Swedish speaking people feigning not to speak English!

   In the later morning Simon came by to pick us up in his olive green land-rover. We filled the back with about a hundred saplings and headed up the mountain. Soon we were at the edge of the forest where the road ended in the decrepit remains of a bridge. Waiting for us were about a dozen of Simon's staff. Holes had already been dug all around the hillside. The plan was to plant the trees all over, but in particular along the embankment of the stream to prevent erosion.

   We busied ourselves hurrying up and down the trail like ants carrying the trees to their holes and burying them, carefully crossing the the flimsy bridge with our precious cargo. Presently everything all the trees were planted, our bare hands were covered in dirt, and everyone felt very accomplished. Our departure was delayed, however, by the discovery that our vehicle had a flat tire. While this was changed out Doug exchanged shirts with one of Simon's hard-working employees whose own shirt was very torn and dirty.

   Then we had to hurry down the mountain because Shimon and the French intern both had to get to Kiliminjaro International Airport (about 30 miles out of town) that day to depart.

   That evening Simon invited us to a speaking event at the international school on the history of the Indian population of Moshi. It was very interesting. One tends to think of all non-ethnically-native-people's as recent immigrants into the area but as the presenter pointed out (a local Indian of course), Indians traders had been visiting the area of Tanzania for hundreds of years, with some Indian families becoming established in town before the turn of the 20th century, typically running retail shops but also engaging in a wide variety of other trades. During the colonial era more Indians immigrated in and were brought in to work on the railroads. By the independence of Tanzania in 1957 there were about 5000 Indians living in Moshi. However the government subsequently went through a communist period during which many businesses and even houses were nationalized. Many of the Indians had invested in property and found themselves now forced to pay rent for what they'd built themselves. Many left and now only about 500 remain in the city, a 90% reduction in fifty years.

   The next morning, Friday, November 21st, fifth day in Moshi, Doug had made plans to play table tennis at some club in town that he'd found out has a table tennis table. He has an extreme love for table tennis and travels about with his paddle and a table tennis ball. I wasn't overwhelmingly interested in this, but a German couple who was staying in our guest house had invited me to visit a coffee plantation on the mountain with them so I did that instead. The youngish German couple consisted of a woman who was a doctor, had previously worked in Namibia if I recall correctly as some sort of foreign service requirement of her university and had that pixie haircut that for some reason seems to be extremely popular in Europe, Despite the haircut she was rather cute. Her husband was a photographer and runs an advertising agency in Germany. He has previously spent a large chunk of time in continuous travel around the world, which he documented on his website
   Our first order of business / adventure was to find money since I was out and I think so was at least Katja. There were several banks in town, which is fortunate because I think we visited five of them that morning. First one the ATM was out of money, second one the ATM just didn't like my card, third one wouldn't accept my five digit ATM pin code. Finally found one that would work, as a parade marched by on the street behind me.
   "What's that all about?" I asked the driver.
   "Oh it's the police"
   "Why are they marching?" I asked, to which he just shrugged.
   Then we were once again up the mountain, this time to a different location high on the slopes than we'd been to before. In a quaint little open air meeting area with a thatched canopy over it, like a large hut without walls, we met with Jehosephat, who would be our guide for the day. He explained how the coffee cooperative worked, and how the tours were also run by the cooperative. The small family run plantations rotated through being visited on the tours so that the money could be shared out evenly. Coffee was grown on small family plots, collected by the cooperative who gave them a set price, and then sold at auction in town by the cooperative. I think if the coffee was sold for more than expected the excess profits were rolled back into the cooperative. One thing that I found interesting was the fair trade coffee. Being a highly cynical person I've always been suspicious that "fair trade" coffee was some kind of feel good scam used by starbucks to sell coffee at a higher price and that it wasn't all it's cracked up to be, and have long wished to visit the actual fair trade growers on the ground. Well, as it turns out, here they were! Basically, some of their coffee was sold as fair trade and some of it wasn't. In this case there was no difference between the coffee sold as fair trade and the coffee not sold as fair trade, though they get a better price for the fair trade coffee ... which is rolled back in to the cooperative. In order to sell coffee as fair trade they have to meet certain conditions, which they do, but presumably there's other coffee growers which don't meet them and can't get in on this. So despite finally meeting the fair trade growers on the ground I still can't make real determination as to relevant the distinction really is. After visiting the cooperative building where bags of coffee beans were being weighed, we walked down the road a short distance, through a local market (pictured above) where women in beautiful local patterns were conducting their daily business down to the coffee farm that we'd be visiting that day.
   Being eternally cynical, I was also prepared to be bored, after all, "I've been to Ethoipia!," what can any other place possibly show me about coffee that will impress me? Well. Those gosh darn Ethiopians, you know, they had hornswaggled me by serving me such delicious delicious coffee that I overlooked the fact that they never actually showed me how they harvested the beans. So on this occasion I had a walk through of the entire process, from plucking ripe berries from the tree, running it through a shiny brass rind remover, pretending to let the beans soak overnight (we put the berries we had just rinded into a bucket of water and continued following along with some beans that had just done that), putting the beans out on a drying rack, grinding them (just enough to remove the outer layer of chaff at this point) and tossing them to remove the chaff, roasting them, grinding them (this time into a powder), and finally, brewed into fresh fresh coffee:

   After this we were served a delicious lunch of local foods back by the cooperative building (some kind of stew, some sort of mashed potatoes, and of course the ever present spinach), and then we headed back down the mountain.

   In our little guest house at this point we had Doug and I, the elderly French couple, the German couple, and a Brazilian fellow. And of course in a little house in the back Neema the housekeeper, diminuitive, cute, shy but sassy when pressed, engaged to a policeman in far away Dar Es Salaam, where she's from. And the guard lad who curled up in his maasai robe on the porch every night and I don't think had any other on site accomodations.
   The Brazilian lad had become bored with life in Brazil and determined he wanted to volunteer in Africa. It turns out, according to him, a lot of volunteer organizations want you to actually pay to join them (?!?). Now I think he volunteers with a school, and lives in the guest-house. I think living in the guest-house must be nice on account of meeting all the people who come through it ... though presumably there's cheaper housing options in town (if I recall it was $30 / room / night. For awhile Doug, Shimon and I were sharing a room because we're cheap like that). The Brazilian fella, whose name I don't recall but he's in all my notes as "the Brazilian fella" had a eukelele that he could sometimes be prevailed upon to play for us. Also, he was covered with an interesting variety of tattoos. Toby the German guy, being as I mentioned, a photographer, had him do a sort of formal photo shoot for him that afternoon. This resulted in this photo from Toby's main site.

   Though the Brazilian fellow had other plans that evening, he recommended a local bar/restaurant that would have local musicians that evening, and Doug and I walked down there in the evening with the German couple. Ironically before the band started the televisions inside were blaring a program about American country music, which at least Doug and I both found grated on our ears. Highlights of the evening involved the Germans teaching me you could mix ginger beer with beer to create a good drink, service being reeeeaally slow, and Doug meeting a prostitute outside. We'd found a ginger beer (non-alcoholic) called "stoney tangawizi to be readily available throughout Tanzania, which was a great joy to us both. I have a notable love for ginger and Doug seems to even exceed my love for it ... always ALWAYS having a piece of ginger in his fanny-pack which he'll take out and nibble upon on occasion. And while I for some reason find alcoholic ginger beer tends to be disappointing, mixing the stoney tangawizi with beer actually made for a good drink. Now as to the service, when the three of us, myself and the Germans, ordered our ginger beers, she brought two back, for them. When I tried to order one again she came back with something else, and I tried again also without success. Toby tried ordering one for me but she once again failed. Finally he convinced her HE wanted another one and when it showed up successfully he passed it to me. We had a similar problem with the food, it was really quite strange. It took at least an hour for our food to finally show up, we were just getting ready to get up and leave without it when it finally did show up.
   As for Doug, I've found when sitting with a group in a crowded restaurant in the evening he often gets restless and roves about. It was during one of these rovings that he apparently met the prostitute, who had been hanging out in front of the place. He returned promptly you'll be relieved to know, but reported that he asked her how business and she said it was slow. Now you know!
   The band was disappointingly non-traditional. It was some sort of jazz I suppose, and between you and I I'm not really into jazz. Jazz is like a story with no plot. I don't know where it's going, I can't get into it. After we finally ate our food we walked back up the street back to the guest-house. Exchanged jambos with the maasai guard-lad on the porch and went to bed under our veil-like mosquito nets.

( All Pictures From Nov 20th )
( All Pictures From Nov 21st )

Tags: africa, east africa 2014, moshi, neema, speaking swedish, tanzania, travel, travelogues
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