Friday, November 07, 2008

Life in Babati

I had trouble finding data, but I believe the population of Babati is in the tens of thousands. It felt smaller (more like Philomath, population 5000). I suppose the narrow streets, relatively few cars, and small buildings all contributed to that smaller feel. Nonetheless, Babati is a relatively large population center compared to Mgugu a half hour away. Mgugu is sort of the epicenter of the Mbugwe populated region. For now, it was much easier to find housing and get established in Babati than it would have been to move into a village like Mgugu.

Here we are walking down the side street that goes to Julia and Viggo's house. Julia and Viggo live in a neighborhood that is about a 45 minute walk from central Babati.

Here is a neighbors house (below), but that is also a neighbors house above. I didn't get the impression that there was zoning or rich versus poor neighborhoods. A really nice house might be next door to the simplest of huts.

Here is a roadside stand on the outskirts of town. There are lots of these. Each has a variety goods and services to offer. Each seemed a bit unique in it's offering.

Below the road enlarges as it approaches city center.

This is a new school building, one of the nicest public buildings in town.

You can see the small hospital next to the school.

Now we begin to approach the central part of town.

Public transport varied. Often folks rode in the backs of trucks or trailers. There were also minbuses that were packed with 15 or 20 people (about the size of a VW van).

The streets were lined with low buildings like this one. There were very few larger buildings.

A shop that was big enough to have a room in a building usually spilled out onto the sidewalk as below (and yes, I have a gut, but here it is amplified by my travel wallet under my shirt).

You might think the scene below was out in the country side. No, it is the road immediately across from the shop I am standing at above.

Here is the interior of the local produce market. There was a central building shown here. The market spilled out into the square nearby.

One day I got really hungry, so we stopped shopping and had a meal at one of the nicer restaurants in town. That really isn't saying a lot, but the food was good and we didn't get sick.
The plate of rice topped with a meat stew would be a typical upscale meal.
We also ordered a half kilogram of bbq'd meat. There was a fly covered carcass hanging nearby. When someone ordered, the cook hacked random pieces off and tossed them on the grill. There was no discernible order to how the pieces were hacked off; bone, fat, skin, internal organs?, and meat are heaped together on the platter.
The white stuff next to the meat is "ugali". That is boiled corn meal that the waiter referred to as porridge. It is completely bland and has been boiled and cooled to make a thick substance something like very stiff mashed potatoes. Ugali is the local staple. One fellow told me that rice cost about four times as much per serving as ugali. Although it is bland, if it is the main dish it will usually be topped with some boiled greens or other vegetables. Adding meat is going upscale.

That's BBQ sauce and a little pile of salt on the plate next to the meat.

This square surrounded by low buildings full of shops reminded me of a strip mall. Some of the larger squares like this were full of people. Intercity buses literally hurtled into the busiest square honking like crazy. I have to believe that people get run over on a pretty regular basis.
The buses drive as fast as possible wherever they go. We saw one flipped over by the side of the highway as we were driving home one night. We saw another going around some stuck trucks by driving through a ditch that was plenty challenging for our Land Rover.

We drove into the square and parked near the seamstress shop that was making cushion covers for Julia and Viggo's new living room furniture.

Bicycles were much more common than cars. But people on foot were much more common than bicycles. I was hesitant to photograph people head on, so you don't get much feel for the fact that the center of town has lots of pedestrians. Many carried bundles on their heads. A lot of the bikes were pushed and loaded with heavier loads.

The sign must be old, because this is not a guest house or bar. This is the entrance to the tiny carpenters shop where the wooden parts of Julia and Viggo's furniture was built. If you want the wood stained, you have to buy pigment and bring it to the carpenter who mixes it up into stain and applies it.
Everyone stared at us every where we went. Especially if we got out of the car and walked. Babati is hours from the nearest touristy area. So white faces are still unusual enough to attract a lot of attention. If we stayed in one place very long we soon had a crowd of children milling around us. Often they would say "Good Morning Teacher", apparently that was the one bit of English they got at school. One little girl showed me that she could count to ten in English. Of course the kids (and adults) seemed to enjoy it when I stumbled through the few Swahili phrases that I learned.

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