Week One in Tanzania

WEDNESDAY July 13, 2005

So far, the trip has been good. Our flight was 13 hours long and was mostly uneventful. I took several naps on the flight to Dubai but I can never totally sleep. The food on the flight was also really good. The only problem was that there was too much. Paul and I couldn't finish what we were given.

 Right now, it's just before 11pm and we are still stuffed. Paul is taking a nap in the Quiet Lounge at Dubai International Airport, so I am taking the opportunity to jot down a few things. We have already spent about an hour checking out duty free. Hopefully, we'll have enough money left over to get some stuff on the way back. We did pick up a bottle of water, two crunchies and a pack of gum for $1.25! The only downside is that it is still nine hours until our flight to Dar Es Salaam leaves.

5:30am - Okay, so technically it's Thursday, but who cares. Paul and I had some dinner in an Irish Pub. We had some fish and chips and then we took another nap. Now we are waiting for our flight to board.

THURSDAY July 14, 2005

Our flight from Dubai to Dar Es Salaam is being routed through Nairobi so we have to sit on the plane for an hour while they check stuff. Our flight was delayed out of Dubai because there was an extra person on board First thing I thought was, "Come on, you dumbass, get off and stop holding us up." It eventually got sorted out and off we went.

Now, in Nairobi, some other dumbass wasn't paying attention and caused a slight delay because all bags left on the plane had to be identified. I was a bit aggravated but not as much as I expected myself to be after being awake for nearly two days. We are also now being told that there are no landing cards available, so we are going to have to fill them our when we land in Dar. 3pm - We got stuck in customs as there were four people in front of us that did not have their visas in order.

This, of course creates a delay because we have to wait each tim efor the customs officer to send them to the booth with the giant sign that says, "GET VISA HERE" or, in one guy's case, extend his visa. Leyla, Salma's sister, ended up waiting for us for nearly an hour. Our luggage, however, was all there and intact so I am quite pleased.

11pm - I met so many people today that it will be difficult to remember everyone tomorrow. Everyone has been very nice to us and we chatted for several hours before we had dinner around eight. We had cucumbers, mangos, rice, and peas. The peas had coconut and coconut milk in it. It was all very tasty.

Then, Moses, the fiance of one of Salma's friends and Anau, Salma's brother, took us out for a drive around town. We stopped at the becah so Moses could show Paul the ocean and, almost immediately, two police officers showed up. I don't speak swahili so Paul and I thought that it was much worse than it was. They took Moses aside and, in the end, just told him it wasn't safe to be there at that time of night. So, we went to an outdoor bar called Coco Beach where we sat near the ocean for a while. The cool breeze from the ocean was nice but Anau got very cold so we left. We are now ending our night with a really bad zombie movie and I'll finally be able to sleep in a bed again.

FRIDAY July 15, 2005

Finally, a good night's rest. The bed was very comfortable. The only thing you have to remember is that you can't just hop out of bed as you will hit the mosquito net. It's about 10am now and Paul is still sleeping. Salma is making tea and breakfast, which feels weird because so many people here are waiting on us.

10pm - Much happened today so hopefully I can remember it all. Salma's breakfast was VERY good. I had eggs with peppers in it, bread and butter and vitumbua, which looks like olleballen but it's made with rice. I really like those and plan on getting a recipie before I leave. After breakfast we drove around town, which was extremely busy and then we went to the market. Compared to prices in America, it was really cheap. Nothing was more than $2, including meat straight from the hook at the butcher. For lunch, we had cucumber and tomato sandwiches as well as mangos. Then Anau took us back into town. We walked along the beach and picked up some seashells.

At the beach, Anau bought us a coconut and we drank its milk and then ate the coconut flesh. The coconut cost us twenty cents. He then took us to the fish market, which stank so bad I thought I was going to vomit. As the day went on, we took many photos and all was going well until we drove past the American Embassy. Anau took my camera to get some good shots. All of a suddent a Tanzanian military officer comes running across the street at us. Anau quickly gave me my camera and I deleted the photos. The guy made us pull over, took his gun off his shoulder and made Anau and our driver get out of the car. He then took my camera. Paul and I were convinced that they were going to get arrested but, about seven minutes later, they came back and said they had to pay the military guy 15,000 shillings.

Anau was threatened as well but said that this is very common here and there's a lot of corruption. I felt really bad all day but everyone thinks it was funny. They also refuse to let Paul pay them the money back. At this rate, we'll be in jail by Monday! I also got measured for my thing I have to wear to the kitchen party. I am very interested in how it turns out since I have never had a custom made outfit before.

SATURDAY July 16, 2005

Today was a leisurely day because there are still lots of wedding preparations to be made. We did get to see the house that we've rented. Leylah took us there with several other family members and they dusted and cleaned the entire place. They wouldn't let us help at all because we are guests and Paul and I are still very uncomfortable with people waiting on us hand and foot. So, we took a short walk to see the pool and then took a look at the ocean, which is right outside the gates of our compound. We ended today talking to Moses. It was a good chat but ended too soon.

SUNDAY July 17, 2005

Another quiet day. We must entertain ourselves for most of the day because the family is getting together one last time to make final arrangements for the wedding. Salma has also been confined to her room. I find this a bit strange but it is a custom that the bride not see any men, especially the groom for two weeks before her marriage. We did get a break in the boredom today by meeting Salma's grandfather and uncle. Now we are waiting to go to the rental house, where we will await the arrival of Hendrik and his family. 1am - Still waiting for Hendrik to arrive. I sent Paul to bed because he was already asleep on the couch. I wish I was in bed as well.

MONDAY July 18, 2005

10am - I have showered, unpacked, and have been awake for two hours. No one else is awake. Hendrik, his brother Meinderd and his wife Hanna, finally arrived last night around 1:15am. Everyone was in bed by 1:30am. I'm starving even though I've already eaten two bananas. I have no clue when we will get a proper breakfast.

11pm - Well, it seems that everyone does things here in their own sweet time. People think getting up at 9am is early and everything is done at a leisurely pace. I forsee many mornings of solitude for myself here. We spent our time today making more wedding preparations. Hendrik's mother and Hanna had to be measured for the Kitchen Party. We also sat around a lot and chatted. What I didn't like, or enjoy, is the constant segregation of men and women in so many things. Apparently, it's normal for only the men to eat at the table while the women eat in the kitchen or outside, usually on the floor or a stool.

Yes, I knew before I came here of the culture but it still rubs me the wrong way. I have never liked it when people are so willing to be subservient to others nor have I liked people who find such practices acceptable. It really bothers me. Anyway, after dinner, I had a nice chat with Meinderd. He and Hanna were married about a month ago and we discussed all the things he did for his wedding. Hendrik also told us that he had to go to the mosque tomorrow to convert to Islam in order to marry Salma. He doesn't think it's a big deal (I differ but, for the sake of argument, I'll refrain from saying anything), then again, Hendrik doesn't really believe in anything.

TUESDAY July 19, 2005

11pm - another day gone. It was a busy day though. We picked up the Kanzu (white dress-like garment) and kofia (white hat) for all the men today. That took forever. It was supposed to take about ten minutes but took an hour. It really sucked because the women had to stay in the hot van while the men went inside to get their clothes. Afterwards, we went to eat lunch at Best Bite. It wasn't half bad. Paul and I got indian dishes. Paul also got a strawberry milkshake, which I happily helped him to drink. Then, we went back to Salma's parent's house where Meinderd and I chatted for a long time.

We had a long time to chat as well because we were all waiting for Hendrik to return from the mosque. He was late getting there of course and was late getting back. When he did return, he told us that the head muslim guy of all of Tanzania and another big chief type guy were there at the mosque with him. Normally, just the local guy is there but Salma's paternal grandfather is some important guy so it was arranged for them to be there. Hendrik was quite pleased. He was also happy that, because he was late to the mosque, the afternoon prayers were already over, so the conversion took place in a building next to the mosque. This allowed his parents to witness it, which normally, they wouldn't even have been allowed in the mosque. We then took Hendrik's parents back to his friend Rokesh's home, where they are staying. It's in an area known as Regent Estate and is absolutely the shittiest road I have ever driven on. I dread going down this road every day.

Anyway, after dropping them off we headed to La Trattoria Jan. The owner is an expat from Italy so the pizza was excellent, of course. Meinderd entertained us at dinner with his story of a friend who grew pot outside his window and of the poor, hapless bird who flew by, stopped for some food, ate too much and got stoned. So, now we end our day by doing a bit of laundry by hand and then Paul is off to have some coconut with Hendrik and Meinderd.

WEDNESDAY July 20, 2005

Today we leave on safari. It's now 10am and our 9am pick-up for the safari has just arrived. The only interesting bit is the lady from the safari company had my middle name as a first name and my first name is her middle name. 6pm - Just finished dinner. We had no lunch today and our two and a half hour trip to Mikumi has taken nearly six hours! First, the driver was late picking us up this morning because he got lost picking up Hendrik's parents. Then, they got lost coming to get us. I half expected this because this is Tanzania, after all, where we don't ask for directions and we don't do anything on time. So, off we go to Mikumi and everything is fine until BAM! We hear a sound resembling a cannon being shot. No need to worry. It's not guns. It's our vehicle. It's smoking, really bad, so our driver goes off to buy some water to put in the radiator.

Twenty minutes later, it's still smoking, just not as bad as before. Meanwhile, we're all sucking up this lovely smoke. The safari truck has also stalled now so some local people appear and help give a push start to get it running again. A few more show up with ten gallon buckets full of water and help out. It wasn't so bad, except for the heat, and we had some entertainment. I saw several maasai, who seem to be everywhere all the time, but are too fast to get a decent photgraph of.

Also, whenever a car or bus or anything stops moving, there are people right at your window, trying to sell stuff to you. This includes at red lights, bus stops, if your car breaks down, and, especially, if you are white. These guys will sell you just about anything. The most common is fruits, usually tangerines, nuts like peanuts and cashews, and newspapers. I have also seen screwdrivers, jumper cables, mops, brooms, pants, candles, sugar cane, bumper stickers, and TV antennas. If you need it, they have it, or can get it for you.

So, off we go and about 300 yards later, we're stopped by the police. The police in Tanzania just stand out on the road and wave their arm at you and you pull over. Then, you give them some money and you can go on your way. This is all done at random, with your chances of being stopped greater around meal times. Our crime was that we were found guilty of Driving While White. A few shillings later and we were free to go. After all these events, we finally arrive at Mikumi National Park.

We entered the park and stopped a few times to take photos of baboon, elephants, giraffes and zebras. After stopping for some shots of the zebras, we started going again and BAM! We hear sounds like something blew up from underneath us. A huge puff of smoke rises and here we go again. The zebras just look at us like we are morons as we repeat the process. This time, we have to use our bottled water we brought for our personal use. Off we go again and BAM! I quickly check my feet to make sure they are still there as I was sure they had just been blown off. The driver keeps going, with little acceleration left in the safari truck and we limp into the Genesis Hotel many, many hours late. We get into our rooms, which are nice, and then eat some dinner. Paul ordered the wildebeast, of which I ate a considerable amount. He was getting full so I helped out. It was the least I could do, especially since he had eaten my disgusting mushroom soup. The wildebeast was good too. It tasted a bit like pepper steak but the meat is a bit tougher than what you expect from steak.

Paul and I went for a short walk and will be turning in early because we have to get up at 4am. Our safari that we were supposed to take this afternoon is being shifted to Friday morning because of the late arrival today. It also helped that Hendrik called Salma, who called the safari company and bitched them out over our fiasco of a day. Tomorrow, however, is entirely safari and we expected to be on safari by 6am.


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