Happy New Year’s 2009
As it is not always easy for me to individually respond to everyone, I will take a few minutes to answer more questions. Zanzibar is a very beautiful island and by most Tanzanian standards a very rich place and the people for the most part are educated. It has remained very isolated despite the mainlands hold on it. Each election things get very dicey in Zanzibar as half the island wants its independence from the mainland and half do not. Sounds a bit like Quebec right? I did have a very nice time on the island but it’s quite hot. I mean I really contemplated staying and opening an ice cream store because my hours of searching for something sweet and cold produced nothing but an island wide black out. Should your worry about my talents with regard to fixing the power I would like to add I can be quite helpful assisting others. Since September 11, I pretty much always have a flashlight near by. My handy dandy 6-incher proved a big help in getting the SECOND generator at our hotel up and running. Karima at our hotel says she can go back to Holland equipped with many talents she did not otherwise have….plumbing, electricity. Me on the other hand….I will keep that for the hired folks.
I did arrive in Dar es Salaam safely and picked another hotel on the budget plan. This one did have AC but was still lacking in the amenities department. It did have a nicely soiled sheet with about 50 stains of I don’t know what on it which means I used my fleece as a pillow and my towel as a blanket. The only Royal thing about the Royal Mirage Cable TV and a fantastic episode of Dirty Sexy Money. I do so love my American TV shows. What am I missing on Gossip Girls?
Before lights out, I contracted a taxi to take me to the bus station for the 6 am bus to Arusha. This entire day is a bit Bridget Jones like so I thought I would share. My very nice taxi driver takes me to the bus station. Picture this….about 75 buses all with crazy names like Promise Bus, Buffalo Bus, Shaedy Bus, Islam Bus, and so on and so on. I think what about the bus called, “One Piece Bus or “No Accident Bus?” As I am searching for my luxury liner, Dar Express, I am literally swarmed by men offering me a host of other buses but my favorites are the ones they said would not break down or the bus that had fresh bread —Mind you women are everywhere offering loaves of bread– I buy my Dar Express luxury ticket from the “conductor” after we bargained on a price. Yes no more Mr. Nice girl and I a ruthless bargainer.
We board at 6 am for what I naively think will be an on time departure. We leave at 7:09. Did I mention I skipped breakfast thinking I was going to a bus depot and not a stadium size parking lot of buses? Thank gosh for those remaining South Beach bars. We are on our way….My seat mate a very nicely dressed businessman is in a suit and tie. Does he know something I don’t know I ponder as I play around with the AC buttons which the “conductor” told me would work. Yep not so much. In Tanzania, they must have a very different definition of the word luxury. I quickly try to prepare myself for 10 hours on a bus with no AC and no toilet. First assessment, I am fucked and I will definitely piss in my pants. (I know I know it’s always about the toilet with me.) Second assessment, I am on the bus for the scenery and I need to sit back and enjoy and stop panicking. That lasts for 15 minutes and I start to think I must serioulsy be nuts. Why would I take a bus with locals on a holiday I already can guess how they live and it’s awful so why did I need to experience it.
Anway, the best is yet to come…. Three hours into our journey we come to a sudden stop. We had been making a few stops here and there but this one seemed different. About 15 men get off and my seat mate as well. I sort of look outside the window and realize this is my long awaited pee break. Running off the bus and into the “bathroom,” I realize I am walking past many moving targets and I need to hurry past as to not get hit. I find a cute bush that looks like it needs the fruits of my labor. Mission accomplished!
Back on the bus, my seat mate has just purchased water from the sellers underneath the windows (picture 10 people throwing stuff up at the windows as the bus slows and starts up –water, plums, newspapers, peanuts and batches of pineapples). After he is finished with his water, he just pitches the bottle out the window like it’s nothing. I literally had to stare at him the first time and then the second time I just sort of accepted it as life over here.
One last story about the bathroom and I swear I will move on. We make a lunch stop for 15 minutes at some place that was 300 degrees and it seemed to be where the locals make stops as well. I try to use the facilities. It occurs to me there is no line and women (big women) are pushing me around. I move in and take charge and commandeer a stall. Opening the door, I see my favorite type of toilet the hole in the ground and I think it’s ok I can do it. Nope not a chance. The wave of whatever hits me instantly, my mouth starts to water and the gagging comes quickly. Out of the bathroom I go. Once outside, I take inventory of my surroundings and see a spot on the side of the building with chairs and I think this looks much better. Yes I prefer the great outdoors to bathrooms in Africa. Down go my pants and as I am about to let loose some quacking ducks come up and start nipping at my ankles. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? Clearly I was on their territory and had no idea. Pants back up, back on the bus and no toilet for me. TRUE STORY!
Now the bus it pretty hot as the afternoon sun is beating on us. I have a window but for some reason the seat behind me is getting all the wind. Every time I try to open the window more, this girl (guessing from some Scandinavian country) keeps tapping me on the shoulder that the window is bothering her. I can’t help it I say back to he, ” listen I am sweating. my pants are wet and I am happy to switch seats but I am not shutting the window.” Ugh! I feel guilty after I look back and see her face blown straight and shut the window half way. Now I have beads of sweat pouring down my face. As if it cannot get worse, it starts to rain and everyone on the bus shuts their window. PLEASE rain is not going to kill you when it’s 100 degrees and we are literally on the equator. Did I mention the equator is making me insanely hot? Five hours later I arrive in Arusha soaked and cramped and I make another note never to take the bus again in my life. I mean I don’t take the bus in New York why did I think it would be fun in Tanzania?
I will however admit that the scenery was incredible and the pineapple bushes and palm trees plentiful. Scenery I would never have seen otherwise and neighborhoods and people’s faces that are ingrained in my memory.