01.07.2010 - 09.07.2010 14 °C
We’ll, I’ve been experiencing the Tanzanian culture for about four days now and I’ve got to say, I’m feeling right at home here. It feels like we’ve been here for way longer considering how comfortable and at ease everything is. I feel acquainted with my surroundings and everyone is extremely nice (I still can’t get over how nice). This city is crazy and, I love it -crazy in the sense of people everywhere, minimal personal space, traffic coming from every which way and smells I can’t even begin to describe.
To say that arriving into Dar Es Salaam was overwhelming would be an understatement. It didn’t help that we were, both, severely malnourished (having ate only plane food four or five hours prior), running on minimal, to no, sleep (plane sleep no less), and as dehydrated as one of those dinner packets you might buy at Mountain Equipment Co-Op to bring with you on a camping excursion, the West Coast Trail, say, to conserve weight. We disembarked the plane (via the stairs at the back exit), it was warm, sunny, and our adventure was just beginning! We walked to the airport entrance and began to fill out our admittance cards, or whatever one wishes to call them. As we filled them out Jen and I both started to feel extremely nauseous and light headed…things seemed to spiral downhill from there. We filled out our cards – just barely, and proceeded through customs. I was just hoping the man at the booth would hurry up because I feared I may either pass out or need to run to a bathroom. He stamped my passport and allowed me through, phew. I figured that was the end of it but no, no…things were just begging! We found our bags (we were sure glad they all arrived safely and intact) and then we had to wait in line to pass, yet again, even though we had no goods to declare, we still had to wait. The lady let us go through which was good – having them search all our bags would have taken way too long and we needed to find bottled water, STAT. Once we got out to the main area two Tanzanian men approached Jen and I. They (David and a man who’s name we didn’t catch) immediately grabbed our cart and started pushing out bags saying “what are you looking for, how can we help you…” we were afraid to let them take over but also relieved since we were both in rough shape. First things first – WATER. So, they took us to get bottled water and showed us where a bathroom was. (I was expecting a squat toilette but was pleasantly surprised to see a debatably clean washroom with a toilette instead!) We couldn’t pay for the water in US$ so David’s friend (who’s name we never got) went and exchanged my ten dollar bill for Tanzanian shillings. I was pretty confident he had just walked away with my money because few words were exchanged to us about what was going on – I figured, ah well, ten bucks – not too bad of a loss at this point (must have been my dehydration talking). He did return though! But, I was correct in not trusting him because he tried to keep some of it – luckily our friend, David, was a trustworthy individual and got mad at the man in Swahili.
Anyways – from there we had to change our ticket because we were told by the travel agent that if we extended our stay it would be free in Dar Es Salaam. There was a lot of back and forth in Swahili, and confusion on Jen and I’s part – we were mostly following David’s every move and did what he told us to do – still trying to be cautious that we did not get robbed or taken advantage of. He told me we needed to leave a piece of ID at this random counter so I could get a “visitor” badge and go through security to the Qatar office to change the flight. So, I had to leave Jen’s passport with this lady (so sketchy) and I had to leave Jen too, with all our luggage. I walked with David to security then he said I had to go alone from that point. He asked a random woman who was inside security to show me the way. She briefly pointed to some stairs and told me to go up them. I finally did find the office, a tiny tiny office with three desks jammed, and lady inside said I must wait for her colleague. So I sat there, waiting, feeling so confused and vulnerable. I was SO thankful that room was air-conditioned because I was honestly thinking I may pass out. My mouth was so dry and I felt like I was dreaming. People came and went from that office, all talking in Swahili, laughing and going about their daily business – I felt so out of place and confused – it was a pretty surreal experience. I noticed the time, I can’t remember it exactly now but it was somewhere between 2:45 and 3:30. Knowing that we had a flight to catch (to complete our journey, to Arusha) at 4:00 pm, I got a little worried. My brain also decided to think of the fact that Jen was alone, down in the main area of the airport (with David, but still), and I was alone – and we were both SO exposed, I realized anything could happen to us. All I could do was have faith that David was a legit man and that everything would work out – and, it did. The lady finally came, but the system was down so all that waiting and all I got was a number to call later. I left and met with Jen and David and Jen says “we have 5 minutes before it’s too late to get on that flight” so we ran and David got us a ride in a taxi (I think it was his friend) and we drove over to the departures (apparently they are not within walking distance…especially when one has 5 minutes) we showed up and the place is pretty dead and everyone who works there is just chilling outside, relaxing…with some people in the “air excel” room. We booked our ticket and everything was a-ok. We were getting on that flight! However, I still felt awful and all I wanted to do was lie in my bed and sleep. I had to power through that though. We went through security – I was SO happy they don’t make you discard your liquids because we had two big bottles of Dasani water and we needed it, in the worst way. We sat down and waited for our plane to leave. My body could not handle anything at that point, I was taking a turn for the worse… having intense stomach pains, feeling like the room was spinning, cold and hot at the same time, and a general feeling of confusion and worry. I realize those feelings were all completely unnecessary but I think my body assumed it was in a situation that required these reactions. I passed out on the bench and eventually it was time to fly. The plane was a little, 10 passenger (give or take) plane and seemed a tad sketchy but we needed to get to Arusha, so, it was what it was. We sat in first class – aka right near the pilot and watched his every move…it was cool because you fly at a lower altitude so you can see a lot more...I had just enough energy to take some pictures and then I passed out. I woke up forgetting completely where I was feeling so relaxed… we landed and it was SUCH a relief. Ah, we are here! Finally! What I thought was Mt. Killimanjaro ended up being Mt. Meru – but a beautiful mountain just the same. Landing in Arusha was SO beautiful. It was peaceful and such a change from the hustle and bustle of Dar Es Salaam. The sun was setting, the mountain was in clear view, and the only people inhabiting the airport was Jen and myself, along with two other passengers, and about four airport workers who helped carry our bags to the front where we were to await Nelson. He wasn’t there and we got a bit worried but soon after Rama showed up with an ABV sign and we were good to go. I’m still a bit unclear about who Rama is to Nelson in terms of business partner, friend, or what (it seems those lines blur quite a lot here) but either way, he was very nice and spoke good English. Nelsons house was about a 30 minute drive from the airport and I can’t even begin to describe the drive. I didn’t think I’d actually experience culture shock but looking back on everything that happened after landing in Dar, I am confident when I say – I experienced culture shock in the worst way. But hey, I’d rather t he beginning be crazy and have it get better from there on in – and so far, that’s how it’s gone! I can try to explain it but I know I won’t do the scene justice…. But for those who are curious – here goes… the roads, bumpy with speed bumps very often to slow the crazy drivers down, people everywhere. One of the many saying’s in Tanzania is “pole pole” (pronounced polay polay) which is to mean slow slow, yet when I look around it seems everyone is doing something. I really have no idea if it’s business or pleasure but either way – it seems like everyone has got a role to play, and a task to complete and they get it done. Every few meters there is a woman sitting by a mini fire on the side of the road with a grill that has corn on the cob roasting – these are for sale. The smells are so unfamiliar to me and like I said in the beginning – I can’t even, honestly, begin to describe them. I should take this opportunity to clear up that I don’t mean they are bad, they are just smells I am not used to. The car ride to nelsons I was pretty mute, I didn’t know what to say and I couldn’t quite communicate my feelings at all, so I remained quiet. We got to Nelsons and met him and Selfa, we were showed our room and I basically collapsed. Jen visited and I wish I could have, I really wanted to but I felt horrible – I just really needed sleep. I had some crazy dreams which I will blame on the malaria meds but who knows – I dreamt I was back in Calgary and that my Aunt and Parents were confused as to why I came back after one day and I regretted coming home and told them I was going to go back the next day…I woke up missing home, a lot (even though I regretted coming home in my dream and missing out on Africa). Eventually after what felt like hours of sleep (45minutes maybe?) I mustered up some energy to come out and have some tea with Nelson, Selfa and Jen. That was a hard night and morning…everything was so different and I was questioning why I wanted to do this in the first place. But, since then, I’ve felt very at home and comfortable and I don’t regret any minute of it. And, while I was experiencing culture shock and homesickness all at the same time, the rational side of me knew that this would turn into a funny store later on. I’m surprised, but also grateful, for how quickly those feelings left me. I must say – email helped – being able to email my parents and sister was a highlight on my “stop-feeling-homesick” check list.
We woke up and had friend bananas (mmm so good!) with an egg, white bread with peanut butter and some more tea! (I think I’ll have to buy some of the tea – it’s just basic black tea but wow, it’s so good!) Then, Nelson brought his …friend/business partner, Ben, (again the boundaries blur between who’s who and I feel it may have something to do with the amazing culture that consists of friendliness, and a welcoming attitude) to come take Jen and I on a “town tour” so we could get acquainted with our surroundings. I was grateful for this because it allowed me to gain a perspective on where I was. When I was sitting in the family room in the morning, eating breakfast, I shared with Jen that I felt like someone placed me in a random area in the middle of my sleep and I woke up not understanding where I was. Walking around, I was able to ground myself and become more familiar with the area. Witnessing, first hand, how welcoming everyone is! We walked everywhere! He showed us where the best internet cafes were, where to get money, where to buy food (at the SHOPRITE…which we heard from more than one person that it was a volunteer eden, and that white people love the place), we also bought a cell phone (we’re so local!) and water! It was great getting water, we were running low – and there is nothing like thinking you’re running out of clean water (which is why we can’t make it a commodity people!) [yes, I went there]. We ended up at this cute outside pub/bar thing where there is a stage (we are going back someday to watch live music there when it happens) and we tried Killimanjaro beer (I approve) and then got a pizza to share (we’ll save the African food for when our stomachs are a bit stronger). Besides almost getting hit whilst trying to cross the street, it was a fantastic day. I like, very much, Arusha. I could spend a lot of time here, I know this is true.