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.

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