Saturday, December 30, 2006

A kinder way to travel

Tomorrow I leave for Lalibela by plane. I decided to be kind to myself and skip the 2-day bus ride (replete with fleabag hotel for the night) and take the 1-hour plane. Yeah! By the way, I can't seem to access the blogspot domain to see my web pages, so I hope the uploading of pictures I began recently works...

Here in ADD, once the problem of touts is a non-issue (either when one is somewhere they cannot go, such as in your hotel grounds; or when one has been around long enough that one is no longer approached; or when a sufficient number in a 1-2 block walk have been handily rebuffed that those remained (several dozen others) decided the odds of success are too low for the moment), Addis Ababa is not so unpleasant a place to pass time -- with great coffee, cheap internet, good bakeries and spicy food around, the time goes away.

But let me assure you, it is no cake-walk. On the street there are some menacing looking people (desperately poor and sometimes somewhat deranged-looking) and many beggars showing all manner of grotesque physical ailments. It is a common occurence to be followed for blocks by touts or by children begging or selling kleenex or gum.

The fact that the children yell out "China, China" constantly is no surprise, but when grown men do this, to me it is, well, pitiful. I have heard that in some places in Ethiopia, people yell at tourists for no apparent reason, "Fuck you!" It hasn't happened to me, but I'm steeling myself for that.

There is no working ATM in Ethiopia. A lady at an airport cafe laughed at me when upon my arrival I asked her whether there was an ATM in the airport. I did see a non-functioning one yesterday while on a long walk -- a dusty and defunct one probably never having fulfillled and beyond any hope of fulfilling its purpose. I think Ethiopians who have never traveled must have no idea what it is.

I realized yesterday I need to differentiate between touts and everyone else, in other words, not lump any person who talks to me on the street or in a public place into that category. Some people genuinely want to talk or help and don't treat me like just a walking wallet.

I'm now at my favorite internet cafe -- it's not the cheapest one (they charge the average I've found, about $1.33 per hour, and I have found cheaper) but it is my favorite for the coffee ceremony and free coffee for the customers.

Coffee originated here in Ethiopia -- no wonder I like this place! It is thought that coffee cultivation dates somewhere between the 3rd to 10th centuries (big window of time, I know) in the Kaffa region. Coffee then came to Europe in the 17th Century via the spice trade.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Today is 20-4-1999

Ethiopia is on a different calendar; they did not switch to the Gregorian calendar with most of the Christian world in 1582. Today is April 20, 1999. Ethiopia will usher in the "new" millenium later this year, during the "European" month of September.

Time is also measured differently -- with the clock starting not at 00:00 but at 6:00. It's similar to Swahili time in that sense, and that's the easy part (add 6 hours to "European"-based time). It becomes complicated when trying to name the part-hours, and I won't even try to explain as I don't myself comprehend!

Add this to the different language and different culture and one feels mass confusion! Of course I mean that in the best sense!

Now, I'm in Addis Ababa. The Italian influence (a comparatively brief 5 years of colonialism) seems to be in the food. There's good Italian food to be found here, even in Ethiopian restaurants, and Italian food is enormously popular among Addis Ababians. You might wonder why I would eat Italian food here in Ethiopia, but most Ethiopian (non-fasting) food is very meaty and sometimes a change is in order.

Tomorrow I will try to go to Lalibela (try is the operative word, because without a guidebook (ahem!) I'm having much difficulty, and I haven't seen many other travelers and it will only get worse when I head out of Addis.) Wish me luck!

Catching you up and running off

Dear beloved family and friends,

Thanks for your email which means a lot especially during the holidays when I miss you terribly.

I've been out of contact for a while (apologies!) and I now find myself owing many emails and pictures for the blog. The pictures will have to wait (again sorry!)

Tonight, unplanned-ly, I am off to Addis Ababa. I fly this evening, sans guidebook due to the wrong messenger. I decided I should arrange my onward travel and here as in many places in the developing world (remember Laos), I have to show up at the airline office in person to buy the plane ticket. There was a flight leaving tonight and so, I go.

Well, this is how traveling unfolds, and as has been my experience repeatedly, despite imperfect planning and wishes to modulate the timing and/or feelings of attachment, the best way is to go where and how the energy propels me. Moving forward always brings me a sense of exhiliration, but I am sad to leave the happy comforts and those who became my friends during my time in Tanzania.

Let me try to catch you up as if I had been writing regularly, so I'll stick to the blogger format and write most recent entries at the top, transcribing from my journal.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tanzania wrap-up

Lion seen at Tarangire NP:

(She was mostly sleeping lazily, but she took notice of a several impalas that were grazing close by and hadn't detected her. In the end she decided either it was too hot or she was not hungry. For us she was a lucky sighting, because in the wet season it is hard to see predators at Tarangire!)

In Tarangire, elephants abound:

A giant baobab in full bloom:


I spent 30 days in Tanzania and did A LOT! I saw most of the major national parks and reserves in Tanzania. I saw and traveled over much of the landscape by train, bus, daladala, landcruiser and dhow. I gained a sense of the fullness and diversity of beautiful and complex Tanzania.

I experienced deep personal learnings, made innumerable mistakes, and took countless risks for what I feel are life-altering rewards. Of course, there is always the opportunity to go deeper in my knowlegde and understanding of Tanzania, and I hope for that in the future.

My wish to know Africa not just to travel in Africa, I feel, came to fruition -- at the very end, spending time in and around Endallah, a tiny village you can't find on most maps.

I think this love for Tanzania is infectious. I met it in many of the people with whom I shared the journey, and in the end that love became as much deeply rooted in myself.

The trip has changed me. These honorable people have given me some of the finest examples of being.


Special thanks to the Bruno, Annick, Sara and Simon for our times together in Lake Manyara, Endallah, Tarangire, and more! Sharing the holidays with you was joyful and especially meaningful to me as I was missing my own family!

Special thanks to John and family for being an excellent host and guide and for welcoming me into your home and treating me like family. Thank you for all that you are doing to raise Endallah up; to witness all that is inspiring.

Lake Manyara -- Christmas Day, 2006

The leopard having spotted potential dinner:

Towards the hunt:

Making himself pretty;

Stretching his muscles:

The chase begins:

We spent a full day in Lake Manyara NP. It is teaming with life, lush due to the heavy rains (that have been falling like they do in the long rains season), truly spectacular. We saw so much -- flamingos, buffalos, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, impalas, bushbucks, dik-diks, baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys and many other beautiful birds, including hornbills, kingfishers, mousebirds, fish eagles, bishops, buffalos weavers and much more. And we saw a(nother) leopard!

It was stunning to be of and to be viewing God's creation and to feel a part of all the universal wonderment on Christmas Day!

Then we returned to Endallah for a delicious Christmas dinner we consumed enthusiastically after the day's activities.


I called home, reaching my family at brunchtime on Christmas day. Everyone sounded convival and full of holiday cheer while brunching on uncle Rich's french toast (as reported by my nephew to be DE-LICIOUS!) and talking and laughing. Mom put me on speakerphone, and I talked to everyone together and each person 1-1.

Sharon (sars-2) says that she wished I was there during one of our family holiday traditions -- a long, usually late-night conversation that happens spontaneously (we usually converge in one bedroom and just end up all talking together for hours). I missed that too.

I miss my family terribly and now I've been away for 2 Christmases in a row and I vow never to miss another ever again.


Though I miss my family, I am joyful and feeling blessed to share the holidays with these two families (one Tanzanian, the other Belgian), and I feel truly welcomed and among friends.


I just realized, I accidentally put the Serengeti leopard pictures here, not the Tarangire ones; I'll correct this when I find the time. In the meantime, enjoy!

The road to Endallah

The road to Endallah can hardly be called a road. After leaving the gleaming tarmac of Karatu's main street, the road is a dirt lane, sometimes hardly wioder than the landcruiser, and so the bushes and thorny acacias scratch the car and poke into open windows. Due to the lack of width of the lane, sometimes the landcruiser must overtake one side of the embankment, so the vehicle moves at a 40-degree angle with all 4 wheels touching the ground.

The rain carves gulleys and gorges into the red clay and we drive in the treacherous havoc inflicted by the water and ourselves and other 4x4 vehicles. After a long rain, the road becomes slick and muddy, so we fishtail down the way and run the possibility of getting stuck or sliding into one of the deep gulleys (at times 2 feet deep).

The road is peopled -- even at night in the pure darkness (no street lights of course) and so encountered in the final moment.

The last half km toward Endallah is the best part -- sharp and craggy rocks jut out of the red clay causing a bouncy and jarring ride for all.

Despite the rough and tumble ride feeling jaw-dropping amazement at the road-handling skills of the driver, we were always in immaculate hands that kept us safe.

Endallah -- Christmas Eve, 2006

Secondary school expansion underway (cultivated fields in the background):

What the finished product looks like:

From my bedroom window in Endallah:

I'm in Endallah, a small village (about 5,000 people of mostly Irq descent), near the Lake Manyara, Arusha and Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania.

I'm really out of communication -- no internet, no (land line) phone, no electricity, only some solar power. It feels like another place and time.

Christmas Eve in Endallah was special. We were the honored guests of our tour guide for southern Tanzania who is one of the village leaders and an elected District Councillor. His entire extended family attends us graciously.

For us, they arranged a drum and dance performance of traditional Irqi celebration (including Belgian accompaniment!), and we had had roasted goat and much more. Talk at dinner was of the many development projects underway in and around Endallah, including expansion of the secondary school (a race to finish the additional classrooms before the new term begins in mid-January!), a dispensary (like a clinic) in one of the poorest villages in the area, a road built by hand with wages paid in food.

A non-profit organization in Belgium and many Belgian families have contributed money and other resources and their hearts to these efforts. These are truly stories of perseverance and achievement and vision of the leadership to raise up the people.

And I've been invited to stay. As long as I like -- another week, another two weeks... And the invitation was warmly and repeatedly, genuinely extended. I feel happy and welcomed here. I am thinking to stay through the new year.


And there is war in Somalia. I caught a glimpse of a flash of a newcast in Swahili (though they showed a BBC screen shot which is how I ascertained this information). That means I fly to Ethiopia.

Ngorongoro, the wildebeest migration and the Serengeti -- December 22-24, 2006

In the crater:

Towards Serengeti:

The Ngorongoro Crater, one in an area of calderas (collapsed volcanos), is THE place for wildlife viewing. On the interior low and open, one can see animal grazers and their predators everywhere!

Upon entering we saw a cheetah stalking its prey. The alkaline lakes are covered in flamingos, and lions are common.

We camped on the crater rim at a place appropriately named Simba Camp (simba is Swahili for lion). It was cuh-cuh-cold at that altitude (2200m) and rainy. For much of the night I was too wide-eyed alarmed and frightened to sleep, breathe or move. I certainly did not get up to go to the bathroom when needed, because I could hear the animals breathing just on the other side of the fabric of my tent. The sound was the rush of air in a low, vibrating growl. Next morning paw prints confirmed the presence of lions.

On the way to the Serengeti, we witnessed the beginning of the wildebeest (gnu) migration. Seeing these awkward-looking animals for miles in every direction was breath-taking. They were mostly grazing and sometimes running. Because the lions and hyenas follow the windebeest, we saw plenty of them as well.

Finally, the Serengeti was comparatively disappointing -- could have been the fact that our (different) driver only went in circles in a confined area around the center of the park. After much persuading, he finally varied his route, but then we ran out of time.

Our Christmas present which we saw as we were leaving Serengeti on Christmas Eve was a leopard . My fellow animal-lover and I were elated!

We ended the sojourn with a visit to Oldevei Gorge, the area where the Leakeys excavated an exquisite rendering in 5-layers of the history of human development, with hominid footprints some 3.7 million years old!

Buffalo acting mad, looking ridiculous:

Pure existence -- December 21, 2006

We were walking back from the market, from a round of shopping for our Ngorongoro and Serengeti safari. (When I say 'we,' some of the people have changed.) We are in a lovely town called Karatu which is in the rift valley of northern Tanzania (not Kenya), near Lake Manyara.

It had been raining cats and dogs, and we were walking, at times slip-sliding, through thick mud. This is the season of the short rains, and there is a monsoon off the coast that is bringing relentless rain.

We were talking, laughing, chattering, enjoying. One woman from the guesthouse who accompanied us to the local, outdoor market (disheveled series of sheds where local produce, grains and other staples are sold) took a particular liking to me and me to her, and I appreciate the sisterhood and affection between women here (all the more important because contact beyond cordiality toward men is misinterpreted).

We 4 walked past a T-intersection of the dirt road toward the market where it is bisected by the tarmac road. The interection had a high, bumpy incline and everything was treacherously slippery.

An overloaded, top heavy truck took the turn from the tarmac onto the dirt too fast. The truck teetered onto its two side wheels, leaning precipitously towards us. All of us ran, save one. We then saw the truck poised to smash and kill our companion, our friend.

I felt an empty stillness and no fear, no emotions in the moment. I was an observer. I was blank.

A moment later, the truck teetered away from him landing squarely on its 4 wheels. Our friend was safe.

Another moment later, my heart started to pound madly, pushing and lurching its way into my throat.

I think the feeling in the moment of death must be stillness. Emotions are of the living experience, something separate and distinct from pure existence.

Afterward, while everyone else was quickly light, I cried. I cried for the way life comes and goes, without thinking, without knowing. I cried for the moment that could have devastated lives and taken from amongst us a warm-hearted, high-spirited, bright-eyed adventurer of life.

I think about my father, and that his experience in the moment of death was perhaps not suffering nor agony but stillness.

A love for Africa, growing -- December 21, 2006

After safari for 10 days, I feel a deep respect and a love, a love for Africa, growing.

I feel so many conflicting feelings emanating from the core of my being, pummeling through the surface of my skin. I feel bewilderment and sadness for the backwardness that imprisons Africa. I feel encouraged and dejected, because there is so much that is possible and positive here, and at the same time, so many simple things that are absurdly unattainable.

I want to feel positive and open and non-judgmental (for me the wisest, best approach in life), but many times I judge this place as difficult, non-sensical and self-defeating. I feel these things, then something little makes me laugh and love this place again.

Some time ago (after visiting Kruger in South Africa, on my way to Namibia), I had an epiphany that came to me with the undeniable force of truth. That was if I was to continue to travel through Africa as I had to that point -- as a tourist with the full comforts, privileges and defaults of the Western world -- that would be a completely different experience from what I intended, being on the ground, in the bush, absorbing myself into other ways of life. I want the African experience not the tourist in Africa experience.

So, how do I get there, this is a part of the journey...

Ramblings of the mind -- December 17, 2006

I'm conflicted about my onward journey. I've already decided to stick to my original plan and forego Uganda (I was debating this in my head for a long time! I very badly want to see the mountain gorillas, but I stand little to no chance of obtaining a permit in this busy holiday season -- only a few dozen are granted per day and many are pre-purchased by tour-operators. So, I will save that for another trip.)

I also decided to transit through Kenya rather than travel there. All friends of friends (thanks everyone for your contacts!) will be on the coast, travel will be a nightmare (all flights are booked and all buses and matutus insanely packed with the holiday rush). I would like to travel overland to Ethiopia (and the buses going in that direction won't be as crowded due to the general paucity of people going north). I would see more by bus than flying, including Kenya and southern Ethiopia, as my planned travel in Ethiopia is northern and central.

2 problems. First, the bus to Moyale (Kenya-Ethiopia border post) is known to experience bandit attacks, about once monthly. Usually no one is killed (usually), but all possessions are reappropriated (from the owner to the bandits), including money and passport, traveling gear, etc. I am advised by a fellow traveler to go mid-week as attacks usually occur on the weekend. What I don't know is whether the frequency or timing of the attacks increase or abate during the holidays.

Second, troops are amassing on both sides of the Ethiopian-Somali border. Tensions are high and war looks imminent. Already newspapers have been reporting intermittent violence due to the situation, such as Ethiopian troops shot and killed 4 travelers mistaken for suicide bombers.

The Somali border with Ethiopia is about 300km from the border with Kenya.

Though I've never personally experienced war (being in downtown New York on 9/11/2001 is the closest such experience and I was not in harm's way but close enough to see the events unfold and the towers collapse with my own eyes) -- I know that in war, all humanity and rationality are forsaken along with the distinction of guilt and innocence and any measure of justice.

And I've heard from a friend rough sketches of his time as a soldier in Somalia and that it was hell on earth.

So, if war breaks out, I'm definitely flying.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mikumi & Ruaha

We were less impressed with Mikumi -- the terrain, while also a lush, rainy green, was less pleasing to the eyes than Selous, just because the lakes and other natural variations of Selous make the place notably beautiful.

Most of the animals we saw at Mikumi we on the road leading to the gates of the park. Due to a tip from another vehicle and some luck and the excellent skills and enthusiasm of our guide/driver, we saw 3 adolescent male lions and one cub. They were snoozing under the shade of a tree and barely took notice of our vehicle, less than 10 ft from them! Their manes hadn't yet grown in which occurs in male adulthood. They are majestic creatures.

We proceeded to Ruaha. Also a lush place with 'the green fuse,' due to the running river (as this is the rainy season), we could not cross the river to go to the area we believed more of the animals we wanted to see would be. (After more than a thousand zebras in my 2 months in Africa thus far, I'm ready for cheetahs and leopards!) No such luck at Ruaha, nonetheless we enjoyed the terrain and our time.

For my final days in Tanzania, I will go to the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. These are the most striking detinations for the viewing of wildlife in Tanzania and indeed in East Africa.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In the bush

I went to Selous National Park, the largest reserve in all Africa, though 80% of it is a game reserve (where they sell very expensive licenses to legally kill animals), so we are only permitted to enter about 20% of it.

We were in the bush. To say deep bush would be redundant.

We camped just outside Selous for a night. To reach the "camp," the road dwindled into 2 tracks, into 1 track and the rest of the way was reached by foot. The choice was tall grass by the river or sandy, ant-infested ground (whose bites welcomed us to the area). I chose the known (ants) over the unknown (snakes that lurk in tall grasses due to the cover it affords them). The bushbaby's sang to us all night. In the morning I learned that my tent was only a couple feet from a scorpion nest.

While trying to sleep, I heard the hippos walking past my tent, within very close proximity (just pass my tent's front "door").

Selous was a verdant savanna, lush with the moisture of this, the season of the "short rains." For the rest of the time in Selous, we had a very lovely camping spots, and except for the elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebras, impalas, kudus, elands, dik diks, hyenas, mongoose and lions (yes, we came upon a pride of 4 females on the way back to camp!), we had little contact with other human animals (we saw 2 jeeps on the first day, no one on the second day).

For our 2 days in Selous, we were accompanied by an armed guard whom we affectionately called Babu. We went on a game walk one morning, and we were within feet of the hippo pool. They were none too happy, snorting and "shouting" at us, but under Babu's watch we were okay. We also had night visitors of 4 hyena families, interested in our food scraps/garbage.

In snorting distance of the hippos:

We are now on our way to Mikumi, a much smaller national park, and our plan to take the shortcut directly from Selous was dashed due to recent heavy rains and impassable roads. We stopped in Morogoro, a bustling town at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains. We will make it to Mikumi town this evening so that we can be at the park gate very early tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Island life, to Zanzibar, to the South!

I spent longer in Mafia than I expected -- what with a beach as far as the eye could see, lovely people I met along the way, travelers and islanders, many laughs, including a very joyful birthday party involving a bottle of whisky and a bottle of gin, and the simplicity of Mafia Island life, I was in no hurry to leave.

But I did want to see Zanzibar, and here I am, ensconced in the maze of Stone Town. (I felt no need to go to the beach beyond walking along the shoreline, being thoroughly singed from my time on Mafia) -- so it's just been walking around, talking to people along the way, and serenely enjoying the calm that is Stone Town life.

I leave in a few hours back to Dar to safari in southern Tanzania, including Selous (the largest game reserve in all Africa), Ruaha and Mikumi. These parts (especially Selous and Ruaha) are relatively sparse in terms of tourists (there are some visitors, but these places have relatively few compared to the other big-name draws in Tanzania.)

I am guessing, dear family and friends, that I will be out of contact for most or all of the next 10-12 days, so if you send me email or look for my updates and see nothing, please be patient with me! Of course, if I should find internet in those parts, I will write sooner.

To all in case you don't hear from me before then, Happy Chanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I am 'Midway whelmed'

"Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could forever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet than any Cyclades or Islands of King Soloman, then there was promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts, while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed."

Monday, December 04, 2006

To Mafia

The sleepy town:

Dhow in "port (beach area where other ships congregate)":


(Written on the beach:)

I'm sitting on the beach of Kilidoni (hm, an apropos name), the main town of Mafia Island, one of the islands of the Zanzibar archepelago off the coast of Tanzania. The beach, nearly deserted, is white sand and turquoise, crystalline waters of tides of the Indian Ocean rushing into the shore, with a few white-shrouded dhows dotting the horizon. After walking the beach all morning, I've taken shade under a palm trees. A clement, salty breeze is blowing around me. This paradisiacal day is making me forget the near asphyxiation I endured to get here...

On the very crowded motor boat (with no life jackets for passengers), the gasoline-based engine was a pollution hazard to the riders especially for those near the back. Before boarding the boat I noticed that a tarp was pulled tightly over one side. I knew it would be a chaotic scrambling free-for-all to get a seat at all, so I resolved to (try to) sit on the open-air side. I was on the last bench on that side, which was better than sitting on the back-board, as those that did were drenched by the sea. The ride was 4 hours on an over-stuffed boat.

Soon after the journey commenced, they put the tarp down on our side of the boat, so that for over 120 people there was only a small flap in the front of the boat (on the other side) for air. As the trip wore on, as the oxygen-deprivation set in with only gasoline fumes coming from the motor to breathe. I could feel myself getting foggy and light-headed and sick and sleepy. I would have vomited, and it was not sea-sickness (I never get that), but I had long since digested my breakfast and so my stomach was empty.

Some people sitting on the other side, tried to hold up the tarp to let some air into the main compartment. I tried the same on my side but with the wind rushing past the side (and therefore toward the back), I could not get a fresh breath.

I wanted to put my head down to sleep, but a voice in my head said to keep my head up so when a breeze from the front alighted to the back I could get some oxygen.

How ironic would that be to die of suffocation on the open sea!

I prayed. I kept my thoughts silent. I could see other people getting sick around me as my own head dimmed.

Some time later, they opened the tarp on the other side completely. Immediately I felt better and took many deep breaths of ocean air. The boat couldn't come all the way into the shore because the tide was low, so we were put onto a smaller boat (propelled by pole) and walked the rest of the way in clear, warm water onto the beach under the moonlight of an almost-full moon to await our luggage. I settled into the guesthouse after 10pm. The rest of the night was needed to clear my head completely.

Narrow escape

I had a harrowing past few days. I made a big mistake, a mistake I narrowly avoided on my first trip abroad several years ago in Rome...

We took a room at a place called Jambo Inn in Dar. Because Jambo Inn consists of three side-by-side buildings housing a hotel, internet cafe and restaurant (in that order), when we walked into the hotel to inspect the room, we failed to notice that the room was situated directly above the roach-infested restaurant kitchen.

We came back after dinner one evening to a room swarming with roaches. Suffice it to say we demanded our money back and 10pm at night.

The hotel clerk was an ineffectual jerk and kept proclaiming that the place was a 5-star hotel which was pathetically laughable (a negative 2-star rating is more fitting).

We were lucky on 2 accounts. First, another traveler turned up wanting the room. He agreed to take the room despite seeing the room with over a dozen dead roaches and a live one which I stomped with my hiking boot (I was so angry) and despite the chemical haze of a half-bottle of roach spray (the floor attendant had heard us screaming and we sent him for the spray; he tried to help but there were so many and they were resilient, they did not die upon contact with the roach spray.) So the fact that the strange traveler was willing to take the only room available at this hotel (they were otherwise fully booked) was the sole reason we were able to get our money back.

Our other point of luck was that there was an available room in a decent hotel right around the corner. Two girls walking around Dar with big packs at night is not the safest thing, and these were the only 2 hotels in the vacinity. So our two strokes of luck got us away from the roach and roach-spray infestation and into another room safely.

I would recommend Dar to no one. I haven't found one redeeming quality (and yes I have been to where the expats live and hang out, Oyster Bay). By far my best day was spent at the hotel reading Moby Dick and napping under the mosquito net -- a much-needed day-long siesta.

Friday, December 01, 2006

In Dar (trying to leave)

I got my extra passport pages today!

I was lucky. My watch was still set to Zambian time, one hour behind Dar Es Salaam. So, I arrived thinking I was early enough but not too early (10:15am) to find I had missed the 11:00am closing time by 15 minutes (big disappointment! - getting to the embassy in a big city in another country can be arduous and/or expensive! plus I want to leave Dar this weekend!) When the guard showed me the sign in answer to my question what are the hours, I could see that it stated the closing time on Friday is 11:30am. I pointed out it was only 11:15am, and he said, yes but they were already closed and getting ready to go home. I muttered to myself, "They don't like to work much, do they?" -- and the next thing I know, the guard decides to check on my behalf whether I can be permitted to enter. He comes back to tell me the good news and to let me through security check.

So, after a walk through a courtyard and a second security check*, I enter, and when I reach the small booth enclosed in a room (with a bullet-proof window and only a sliding tray to exchange materials/documents), someone gives me a form and takes my passport. Shortly thereafter, a man comes to the window and tells me that I can submit the form but will need to return Monday for the pages...I show him my disappointed, half-smiling face and say, yes, but I'm leaving tomorrow. Meanwhile, he and I both know that adding pages is a two-minute task, at most. He leaves, and two minutes later, an elder woman comes to the glass and administers a few-minutes lecture (about how I should register my trip on the State Department website, and how my passport says it is a replacement for a lost passport, to which I reply that was 2 passports ago, but they seem to print that on the passport every time. It's funny that the lost passport issue arose at this time, because I traveled on that reported lost passport for more than 5 years, until it expired! Which leads me to wonder, why is the Bush Administration busy wiretapping cell phones when the State Department can't even detect entries and departures on a reported lost passport?!)

After all this, I left with my newly augmented passport! Yes, when traveling, little victories like this mean a lot (sorry to drag my readers through all the minutae!)

To the island

We found out that the Mafia Island dhow (sailing vessel) does not run on Sundays. Going to Mafia Island requires going by daladala (minibus) to a port a bit south of Dar and sleeping on the dhow the night before as it leaves around dawn, depending on the tides. Should be another adventure...

*In 1998, the U.S. Embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Kenya, Nairobi were car-bombed simultaneously, killing 257 people and wounding over 4,000, mostly Tanzanian and Kenyan citizens.