Saturday, July 29, 2006

No More Macon

I'm chewing a nice piece of bacon right now, once again safe and sound at the café by my apartment in Calgary.

Between hopping into a taxi to the airport in Zanzibar, and getting dropped off at home last night, was slightly over 48 hours. I felt sorry for the poor guy who sat next to Rococo and I on the plane into town last night; talk about two smelly people.

Anyways, I have a lot to say about my summer, but it will take a whole bunch of entries to cover them, bit by bit. I'll start by saying that I started the week at the Paradise Beach Bungalows in Paje, and if that was what Paradise is like, I want in. As I was sitting on the beach, I thought to myself, how the heck did I get here? Got frustrated at work in Boston one day, and boom, here I am staring out at the clouds over the Indian ocean.

Spent the last two days in Stone Town, though, where a batik salesman threatened to beat up Rococo as soon as he saw her without my company, because he knew how Asian shit thought. I haven't been challenged to a fight in years... the guy was, apparently, known in the neighbourhood as being a bit deranged, though, so I suppose he was just another victim of a health care system designed to screw over the poorer population.

I had better go pay my MasterCard bill before I anger some collection agent here...

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I've got one and a half days left in Arusha. But, I think I'll tell you a short story about Dar Es Salaam.

We were staying in a hotel in a pretty rough-looking area, but it was actually not a bad part of town. There were two cheap tourist hotels within two blocks of each other, and inbetween, a restaurant named 'Chef's Pride' that catered primarily to the foreigners staying there. It was run by this super-friendly guy who went by the name Ali Baba. He always called me 'Michael Jordan', laughed when I bent down walking through their doorway, called one of the other students from my school 'Woody Allen'; a funny guy.

Anyways, on the typical evening, my crew and I would head there for dinner, or perhaps to Jambo Inn, and have dinner. After, on the walk home, I'd generally stop and talk to some of the homeless guys that slept behind plywood crates on the main street near the hotel. These guys had lots to say about the government, the police, the education system, the health care system; they painted things quite pessimistically. One of them, 'Allan', said he had finished two semesters of a diploma in counselling, and was hoping to finish it again at some point, when he had more money. Of course, he was hoping I'd give him something around $150, which would cover six months of rent for an apartment with a floor and running water. Well, he bugged me about it a few times, but dropped the subject after a couple of evenings.

One week before I left, he disappeared. I was wondering what happened to him, and finally found out on the day we left. Apparently, early in the week, a waiter at 'Chef's Pride' had needed change for a 5000 shilling bill (about US$4), so he gave it to a security guard to go get change. The security guard gave it to Allen, to go get change. Allen, apparently, never returned with the change. So, it was time for punishment.

The security guard and four friends found Allen, took him behind 'Chef's Pride', stripped him naked, and beat the crap out of him. This was, apparently, with the knowledge and consent of super-friendly, super-nice, Ali Baba. At some point during the beating, someone came along and complained that it wasn't right to treat a guy like this, so they should just bring him to the police. That they did, telling the police that he had stolen 30,000 shillings. So, he was languishing in jail, with his court date coming up on the Tuesday after I left.

Naturally, when the other guys from the street heard about this, they weren't too happy about it. They talked to the 'Chef's Pride' guy, who offered to drop the charges, if they would pay him 30,000 shillings, as a further punishment; the alternative was that Allen would be convicted, go to jail, and who knows what would happen to him there. So, Allen's friends were collecting money to pay the bribe; they were at 20,000 shillings, and needed just 10,000 more to get him free.

Who can you trust? Super-friendly two-faced guy? Homeless guys who want your $10? Who knows.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Lost in Dar

I thought I'd put up a quick post. I'm in my last week in Dar, and thanks to a few days of illness on my part, and an upturn in the tourist traffic in the last week, I'm finally being left alone by the grifters, and I'm settling into things here. I am known to the locals as the tall person; they can see me coming from hundreds of metres away.

This place is weird. Today I saw a girl of about five, recovering from a lion bite. I wondered what was worse, being bitten by a lion, or being in hospital...

I watched the World Cup final in the lobby of our hotel. Now that was an odd grouping of people. My hotel is full of mysterious south Asians, there with purpose unknown.

Next week I head back to Arusha for a week, then I'm hitting Zanzibar for five days or so. That should make for a change of pace.

I wonder if my Powerbook misses me as much as I miss it. A longer post will follow my return...