I was in Tanzania for a few days over the Easter holiday. I always figure, living in Kenya, it’s the closest I can get to being in San Diego and hopping over the border to Mexico to eat a few tacos. It’s only a 5 hour bus ride to the decently-sized town of Arusha, and once you’re there the going is cheap and easy. My favorite part is the street food at night; people set up grills and sell all sorts of great finger foods for just a few shillings. Even better, I’ve never felt unsafe in Arusha.
After a great weekend wandering around Arusha and Moshi (the town just below Mt. Kilimanjaro), I came back to the Kenyan border and waited in line to be interrogated by the immigration agents. I have a valid Tanzanian visa, and a valid Kenyan work permit, but for some reason the lady decided to be difficult. When she asked me “Where are you going?” I told her “Westlands,” which was apparently the wrong answer, because she asked me “Where is Westlands?” After a few more rounds of me hearing her incorrectly and giving more “wrong” answers, I finally told her, “Nairobi” and she let me go.
I don’t know if she was trying to catch me in a lie… or maybe she decided that, because Westlands is a suburb of Nairobi, the correct answer should be “Nairobi?” What if I wasn’t going to Nairobi? Would Nairobi still be the correct answer? We will never know…
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 barber, 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 last night 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.
A few Nairobi VSO volunteers got together to have a small Christmas thingy. Randi and I are, of course, a very entertaining duo so we were invited. We decorated a small tree, told stories, and had a nice meal. Sandy is a professional when it comes to brownies and I do spin a mean salad (salad spinner!). There are no pictures of me, which is good because I just got a haircut and it looks a bit dorky (so count on me wearing a hat for any pictures in the next few weeks).
Randi’s been here almost two weeks now, and I’ve taken her to all the local joints that I know. She is even starting to crack people up with funny Swahili jokes, recognizing streets, matatus, etc. We didn’t plan so well, but tomorrow we’re definitely on the move to Tanzania. It’s been a hectic week but we’ve booked two tickets for Arusha for Christmas morning. Who knows if we’ll be able to find matatus to town at 5:30 in the morning, but we’ll go a bit early just in case. The tickets are only 1,000 shillings each (about 12 US dollars), so I guess we could just try again on Saturday if we are unlucky. If all goes well we’ll be in Arusha by lunch time. Arusha ain’t no thing cuz I’ve been there a fewtimes.