Randi and I are back from our East Africa safari but, other than the few pictures we uploaded along the way, we have nothing to show for it! My fancy Nokia camera phone decided to eat all the pictures we took. There are lots of great stories to be told, though, like the day I swapped t-shirts with some dude on the streets of Dar Es Salaam.
It went down like this: Randi and I had decided Dar Es Salaam was way too hot and humid, and we hadn’t had a cup of coffee in a couple of days. We noticed a sign saying “Coffee Lounge” outside a fairly classy building in a nicer part of town (read: probably had air conditioning), so we went inside to investigate. It was there, climbing the stairs, that I saw a dude coming down the stairs with a shirt written “Niko Juu!!” (slang, literally “I’m up”… or ahead). He kinda paused when he saw me, and then I told him, “Wee, shirt yako iko poa. Tubadilishane?” (Dude, your shirt is cool, let’s trade). To my surprise he took his off immediately and we traded right then and there. So if you see some dude walking around Tanzania with a Ramones shirt it’s probably the same guy. Hopefully he enjoys telling the story as much as I do!
The rest of our trip went off without a hitch. We did eat a lot of mangoes and gelatto in Watamu and Malindi, just like we said we would! We ate so many mangoes in Watamu that as we were leaving one mama told us “Unalipa moja, na nikupe moja. Zawadi.” (You pay for one, and I give you one. Gift.). Randi’s back in the US now, and I start work on Monday, so I gotta get back into the routine of things around here. In other news, I’m finally moved into my new apartment, just down the road from the penthouse I was staying in before, but I’ll wait until it’s all furnished to post some pictures.
Tumefika salama lakini tumechoka, tumekuwa chafu, na hatujala all day! Dar Es Salaam ilikuwa poa kwasababu tulitembea kila mahali mpaka tulikuwa wenyeji wa huko. Leo ni mwaka mpya so tunajienjoy kwa chumba na maembe na maji safi ya kunywa.
We have arrived safely but we are tired, dirty, and we haven’t eaten all day! Dar Es Salaam was cool because we walked everywhere until we became locals of that place! Today is New Year’s Eve so we are enjoying ourselves in our hotel room with mangos and clean drinking water.
That’s my bit of prose in Swahili. It’s all most people speak in Tanzania, so I had a lot of practice. I guess now I speak Swahili at the level of like a two-year-old kid (I think my vocabulary needs to improve a bit). I’m glad to be back in Kenya, though, because now I can use English and just the fun parts of Swahili: sheng! We spent our last day in Dar Es Salaam walking around the docks investigating smelly fish and eating fresh mangos by the bay. We happened upon a really nice hotel and decided to go in for a cup of coffee and a slice of mud pie. Marble floors, air conditioning, and everything. Very relaxing!
We’ve arrived in Dar Es Salaam. Dirty, hairy (my face), and with a little girl on our lap (Randi’s lap). Now that I’ve had a shower, a decent night of sleep, and gotten a shave at the local barbor, I guess it wasn’t that bad (and actually, the longest ride goes to the thirty-hour Kenya-Ethiopia trip, and worst was probably the four-hours-on-a-bumpy-ass-dirt-road-stop-in-every-village Malindi-Lamu ride Sara and I took in 2007). Our bus from Moshi (the main backpackers’ town near Mt. Kilimanjaro) to Dar Es Salaam took longer than we expected, and by the time we arrived lastnight it was late and we were tired, hungry, and dehydrated. We must have been not too bad off (or just in survival mode) because I still managed to navigate us to the YWCA hostel where Anique and I stayed last year. For future reference, out-of-town buses will drop you off at the bus station. As soon as you get out a million taxi dudes will be harassing you. Tell them this: “Wee, bwana, dalla dallas zipo mingi! Siwezi chukua taxi!” (Dude, there are so many dalla dallas. I can’t take a taxi!). Just grab your bags and follow the locals outside the bus station and pay your two or three hundred shillings to get to the city center.
I haven’t been on hiatus, I’ve been on holiday! Actually I’ve been working a lot, but I did make it across the border this past weekend for a little rest and relaxation. One thing I realized during my 24-hour stay in Tanzania was that my Swahili is permanently Kenyanized. I’ve already accepted that I’m nowhere near fluent by Kenyan standards, but I’m a disaster by Tanzanian standards. You see, after their independence Tanzania embraced Swahili as the national language in order to unite their country as a common people, no longer colonized and no longer a collection of tribes. They were Tanzanians now! Kenya chose both Swahili and English, and while people here speak Swa, it’s kinda a watered-down, Englishized version (“sheng”). Kenyans even make fun of Tanzanian Swahili; it’s a chore, it’s boring, and it even sounds funny. And I know it’s terrible, but I do too…
To back up kidogo (a bit), I went to Tanzania to get a new visa; both Kenyan and Tanzanian. My one year, multiple entry Tanzanian visa expired earlier this year, and my Kenyan one is due for mid December. Sure you can go to the embassy in Nairobi but that’s no fun! Border runs are fun! Besides, Arusha is only five hours away, so it’s like living in San Diego and going to Mexico to eat tacos for dinner. Besides, I’m a local in Arusha by now. I’ve been there two times before so I’ve got the hang of which hotel to stay in, where to eat, and how to get around. I’ve always liked Arusha because it’s a mid-sized town with lots of local life buzzing around at night; finger food is plenty and cheap, and I’ve never felt unsafe there.