Sunday- Jumapili. I decided to continue being a good Catholic and go to church. I heard it was a considerable distance from my homestay, and mass started at 9:30 am. I wasn't sure if it's as conservative as I remember it was in Santo Domingo when I went with my grandma so I fashioned myself with a blouse, shoes and a knee length pencil skirt and packed enough water for the walk. It wasn't an awful distance, but walking through town that early in the morning on a weekend was pretty nice. There wasn't as much commotion with taxis hustling and dala dalas honking and men riding centimeters from my face on their bicycles. I wondered if it had something to do with reverence because it was a Sunday morning. There were hoards of families--women in their traditional dresses and hats, men in suits, and children in their cleanest dresses and slacks and pants. I was glad I wore a skirt, its bad enough I'm an mzungu walking around on a Sunday morning, and in pants I would have been a freakshow.
Everything went fairly well, walking to Father Babu church. Until I reached the aptly named Father Babu road where there is everything from bars to stationary shops to an AIDS clinic and one of Arusha's biggest dala dala stands. As I walked on the side of the road, trying to remember the directions I'd remembered and find the church, a dala driver tried to hustle me into his van. As this is fairly common, I didn't make eye contact and just walked past saying 'hapana' (no). Well, either this man was a non-beleiver or just didn't hear me, decided to grab my arm and prod me into the car. Scared, I tried to wriggle myself from his hold but couldn't and in about two seconds my reflexes reacted and with my right arm I punched him in his collarbone and cursed. I wasn't sure what he wanted, it was a crowded stand and if he tried anything he would have been attacked by the mob. I think he just wanted to scare me or was horsing around, after the punch he jokingly put his hands in the air in surrender and moved past allowing me to continue walking. Still shaken, I managed to make it to the church a couple of minutes later. Note to self, take a taxi next time.
The mass in Swahili was still going on, and a mass of students in their uniforms and some other professional types were still waiting for the English mass. As they cleared the church (albeit more than 30 minutes past the hour--Africa time, ya know), I walked into the decagon shaped building and took a seat on one of the pews towards the front. The trouble with going to a new mass is always not knowing what the customs are. The seats were mightily uncomfortable so it took some time to adjust myself and not allow my knees to show with this skirt, which now I wish I hadn't worn since there were women in jeans and expats in some pretty grungy outfits. Just like America, I thought. The mass began rather promptly after that, and the service was very similar to those I'd attended in America, except with a lot more singing. I'd remembered having African priests in our parish at home and the changes they'd always make to the mass including more singing of the prayers so it wasn't a terribly distant idea. The church offerings part was the most interesting. Instead of having a discreet basket go around pew after pew, you have to stand up and drop your contribution into a basket in the front of the church. Yikes. I was kind of confused and since the people around me didn't get up and I was in the middle of the pew I kept kneeling praying and waited for the second collection. During the blessing of the Bread and Wine, a boy sitting in front of me continued to stare and stare while I was praying. Stare bears, as we lovingly call them at GSC--children who stare at mzungu and are so mesmerized they dont even blink. While meditating, the boy touched my skin on my arms as if to see what light skin felt like. I was warned this would happen, just not in church. He did it about two times more and once trying to rub my skin as if my lighter complection was some kind of costume paint.
After mass, I walked back down the road where I was hassled by the dala driver to get back to town to find myself in another sticky situation. Sigh, only wazungu does this misfortune seem to happen to. There is a bus station down Father Babu road which I heard takes nightwatchmen to and from Arusha, Nairobi, Kampala, etc. Nightwatchmen , I remember reading just sit around and drink and buy sexual favors and usually spread STIs, STDs and are just gangsters.One of those coach buses was coming out of the depot and, of course, loaded with men. The driver and some of the men were leering and shouting mzungu at me, saying Hello and just being gross. I could feel my face getting hot and angry. I was so frustrated I would have to deal with this again, worse now the driver of the bus had turned and blocked the entire road. The driver and some of the people inside the bus were now waving and leaning out of the window. I wanted to cry. Annoyed I couldn't pass, I leapt over the side of the road and into a large v shaped gutter, walking down it for several feet. When I could reach the road again, I got out of the gutter and as I walked down the road away from harassment I heard a scratching noise and gasps from ahead of me. I turned around and saw the front wheels of the coach bus in the gutter, the back wheels puffing gray smoke, going in reverse trying to get out of the ditch. I wasn't even angry, just excited to finally get out of that road and get back to normalcy if such a thing in Arusha.
I proceeded along and entered the big supermarket in town, Shop Rite and bought some hair gel which was greatly needed and a pineapple for my host family to have with dinner. My nerves were calmed when I treated myself at a cafe to a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a cold beer. At dinner, the pineapple was still unripe and I was pretty embarassed that I let the housegirl cut the nenasi and now everyone was eating bitter pineapple. Like the fruit, I hoped things would get better within the next week.