Jambo! Greetings from Dodoma!
I haven’t had reliable internet since I arrived, but, now that I do, I wanted to give an update of my arrival into Tanzania. This post is novel-length. Now that I am in one place and know I will at least have wifi on the days in which I am in the office, I will try to post more regularly so the posts aren’t quite so long.
My journey here really started when I boarded the Super Shuttle. When you request a SS pickup, they ask whether the flight is international or domestic in order to determine an appropriate pick up time. So, when I boarded the van, the driver could see I had an international flight. He asked where I was going. Being from Senegal, he was very excited to hear I was heading to Africa. The next pick up was a woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties. Come to find out, she was also going to TZ, and she was going with a group from Georgetown Law for an international clinic. When I got to the airport, it took forever to get through check-in and security—nearly an hour and a half. So, I didn’t have much time at the gate. Once we boarded the plane, I thought we would never take off. I have never been on a flight where there were so many people who either couldn’t find their seat, were sitting in the incorrect seat, or wanted to be moved (because of nearby babies, etc). Once we got in the air, though, it was relatively smooth sailing.
Between the delay in takeoff and wind (not sure if it would be head wind or tail wind), the pilot announced the flight would be landing an hour late. Those of us only had an hour and a half layover, and so landing an hour late meant we only had 30 minutes to de-board the plane and get to the next gate. Thankfully, one of the flight attendants made an announcement requesting people who either did not have a layover or had a long layover to remain seated so those of us with a (now) short connection time could get off the plane first. Needless to say, even though some people graciously complied, it was still a mad rush to the door. Once off the plane, many of us were running to the next gate. Even though we had just gotten off a plane and were not exiting the airport, we still had to go through security. This step went fairly quickly, but certainly added an element of stress. Once through, though, the gate was a short distance away. Those of us heading to TZ made it on the plane. The plane for the second leg was newer, more spacious, and had a far superior entertainment system (yay SwissAir, boo United).
Once we arrived in Dar es Salaam, the process of getting the visa was chaotic. You fill out a form and hand it, your passport, and the money for the visa to an official, who then takes it the people who are processing it. Everyone’s documents are collected at once, and you had the sense that it would be very easy for your passport (or the money) to get “lost.” Then, you wait until your name is called or, more times than not, they wave your passport for you to recognize the picture because they can’t pronounce the name. Once your name is called, they finger print you, take your picture, and then print off the visa and put it in your passport. Because I was getting a special type of visa, they actually took my passport away again after taking my finger prints and photo so they could then look up the info about my approval for the visa. Basically, you have to wait for a long time not knowing what is going on or when you will be called—you don’t necessarily get helped in the order in which you turn in your documents. One woman who was traveling with a group was one of the first to turn everything in and still had to wait almost an hour after the rest of her group had gone through.
The hotel in Dar es Salaam that I stayed at was very nice—hot water, TV, helpful and friendly staff, complementary bottled water. Dar is such an interesting city. I wish I hadn’t been jet lagged the entire time I was there and had been able to see more of the city and gone to the beach. I’ll be back in April, though, and so I’m hoping I will get to see some of the sights then. Of what I did see, there are some interesting features I noticed. First, there are few main roads which are paved. The side streets, however, are not. I could probably write an entire post on the driving culture in Dar, but I’m guessing you all aren’t quite that interested. Important things to know, however, are 1)You drive on the left side of the road and 2)To make a right hand turn, you inch your way forward until you are far enough into the road that oncoming traffic is now forced to stop to let you turn. I didn’t spend much time in a car, but I often felt the car I was in was bound to be T-boned. Also, there are very few traffic lights. If you do find yourself at a red light, be prepared to wait for several minutes before it changes green. Because it takes so long for the light to change, vendors crowd around all the stopped vehicles selling everything from peanuts to country music CDs.
I arrived into Dar on Friday night. On Saturday, Betty, one of the ladies coordinating my stay, came to the hotel to check in on me. She brought one of her daughters and the daughter’s friend, who were both pretty precocious. It was nice to see a friendly face. We had lunch and chatted for a little while before they went on their way. Sunday, the jetlag hit me pretty hard and I slept most of the day. Unfortunately, this meant I was up all of Sunday night. On Monday, I went into the Dar office. I spent the day meeting the staff and learning about the projects they are working on. The Dar staff is just lovely. I really enjoyed spending some time with them. They are all very friendly, warm, and quick to laugh. They are the type of people who you can imagine getting very attached to—and, to be honest, I kind of miss them already. One funny thing that happened is that many of the staff misheard my name and thought it was Queen. So, some of the men in the Finance office started calling me Malkia, which means queen in Swahili. On Tuesday, I went back to the office for a few hours. Then the driver came to get me to take me to Dodoma.
The drive to Dodoma was breathtakingly beautiful. We passed through several towns and villages. It was so interesting to see how the landscape, architecture, and people all changed from region to region. There were also some mountains we passed by, which added another element of beauty. In larger towns, intercity buses would make stops, and the bus would be crowded with vendors selling fruit, drinks, and snacks. In Dar, the vendors were adults, but in these towns, the vendors were often children. In the outskirts of Dar, most of the houses and buildings were made of scrap pieces of corrugated metal. However, this was not the case in the villages outside of Dar. In some villages, the houses were made of mud, and in others they were made of bricks. In some villages, the roofs were made of thatch, and in others, they were made of corrugated metal. We passed many people herding goats and/or cows. In total, the drive took seven hours, partially due to the distance, and partially due to lots of traffic—getting out of Dar was a nightmare, and we passed several spots with momentary traffic.
I have much, much more I could write, but this post is long enough. Look forward to reading about where I am staying in Dodoma, the food, the people, and the villages, Sanzawa and Mundemu.