Arriving at Julius Nyerere International airport at 2:00 in the morning announced we had made it to the great continent.
Whereas in Europe where you can time your watch by the train schedule, the pace at which how and when things get done in Africa changes largely by the ebb and tide of people’s moods and the time of day. We waited nearly an hour and half to get our visas which were plagued first by the visa official not giving us a receipt for which to pay, than getting sent back to him and then paying, but then us getting harangued for not paying the right amount then the chief coming to chew everyone out in Swahili and everyone pointing their fingers at one another. TIA. This is Africa.
On one of our the last nights in Africa a few years ago, I was tasked with a job that bordered on human trafficking. A girl had drank too much on a cruise in Zambia and we had to get her back over the border to Victoria falls in Zimbabwe where we were staying.
“This is never going to work Ed.” I told my friend as we hoisted her up slinging an arm over each of our shoulders.
“Well, we have to G, we don’t have anyplace to stay here.” He said.
“Ed, we’re taking her across an international border crossing and she’s passed out. Practically comatose. Any sensible border agent would not condone taking someone against their will across the border. “
“It will be fine. Don’t worry”
We carried our friend Celine with all three of our passports in hand to the border crossing at 1:00 am. I thought the honest approach would be best:
“Good evening officers, our friend has had too much to drink and we’re just trying to get her home. We have her passport.”
They looked at her, then each other, then me, smiled and waved us though. “Eet hoppens all de time.” They replied as we shuffled past. That was the end of it. TIA.
Getting a Feel of Dar
The smells of Africa remind me of Southeast Asia. It’s perpetually hot, yet a cooling rain is not far off, or has left its mark as damp ground from the night before. You catch aromas of leaves being burned somewhere nearby and delicious curries float in on the breeze. Dar es Salaam is the largest trading port in east Africa and has been that way for centuries so it had shades from south and south east Asia from all the movement over the ages. Curries are a common fare.
The thing that surprised me the most upon arrival were all the Maasai men walking around town. I expected them to be endemic to northern Tanzania, but I learned that many of them percolated down in the south of the country looking for better opportunities while still holding on to their cultural identity. The first veneer is the traditional robe or ‘shukas’ whose color can mean many different things. Red is the most typical color in the pattern which symbolizes blood, courage and strength but hues of orange (hospitality) and green (land and nourishment) are also popular. Every man also carries a knife called a ‘Seme’ which is smaller than a machete but used for everyday tasks such as clearing brush and whatever challenges life throw their way.
After the airport coteries had their way with us, we arrived at the house of our friends Tina and Bill at 5:00 in the morning just before they had to go to work. After catching up and a few hours sleep we started to explore.
Mixing with the Glitterati
We went for sundowners at the ‘Yacht Club‘ which was perched atop a cliff and spilled down to a beautiful beach with dhows and catamarans for rent for members. The Yacht Club was like a country club or golf membership that allowed adults to talk over cocktails and not worry how long their kids were gone or where they were. Our friends were in the last steps of securing their membership by way of sponsorships and signatures from dignitaries within the club who had titles such as ‘Commodore’, ‘Vice President’ and ‘The Grand Poo-bah’.
Dinner was Ethiopian which is a one of our favorites. Eating the most succulent fish and red lentil curries without utensils is truly one of the joys of African cuisine. Tomorrow we’d head to the ferry port to take us to Zanzibar with bellies full of curry and wanting nothing more than to pass on our love of the continent to our little girl whose voyage is just beginning.