Lushoto, Tanzania: (Day 15) Dec-25-2013

Merry Christmas...I guess?  I'm riding on the truck towards Lushoto through Dar es Salaam.  I am listening to the first bit of music since I set 'voyage' 19 days ago.  First song--John The Revelator, by Gov't Mule.  Such an amazing song and quite appropriate for Christmas.  Today has been the worst Christmas I've ever had, probably.

Knock, knock, knock--my day started when Vincent had knocked on my door at 5 of 6:00am.  He had thought about me while everyone was at breakfast (at 5:30) and I was not there.  I was in fact still sleeping (1st mistake).  I must have pushed my alarms off my bed during the night and slept through their muffled sounds.  I got dressed and repacked my entire sack in under 5 minutes.  I got to breakfast at 6:10 and scarfed down some food (2nd mistake) and by 6:15 I was on my way to reception where we were set to depart at 6:20.  I arrived at reception sharply at 6:20, dropped off my $30 replacement key and loaded onto our shuttle van.

We arrived at the ferry in no time and we made it past security quickly.  Since we were early we had our pick of seats.  Some sat outside on the front deck, I sat beside Vincent and Deb in the front of the middle deck--this way we had more room to put our stuff.  It was a slight pain as many people were using this front aisle to move across the boat.

One of the Jason Bourne movies was on prior to departure, but once the ship had left they changed the programming to the safety video.  I had no clue what was being said since it was in Swahili, but they did have some pictures which helped.  However I am pretty sure some of the pictures were indicating not to play cards, not to spit, and not to kick small children?  Perhaps they should have used more informative pictures?

At this point I started writing in this blog, I had to catch up from yesterday...I'm writing portion of my blog on the truck drive over to Lushoto, Tanzania now and it's about 2:45pm.  Charlie Chaplin is playing on the TVs now.  The family next to me--a married muslim family with 2-3 children--were laughing hysterically.  The irony of a boat filled with muslims traveling on Christmas watching and enjoying Charlie Chaplin made me ponder a bit before returning to my writing/ranting.

I knew the a/c was on but the rate at which I was sweating was increasing and I knew something was up.  Although I haven't had my period in 27 years I was still able to successfully rule out hot flashes.  I self-diagnosed myself as being dehydrated--I had not drank much water the previous day.  I drank some water but became increasingly hot.  Soon enough I began to feel a little headachy...and a bit more...and more.  I got up and went outside and sat on the step in the front deck, which helped only a tad.  I came back to my chair to told Vincent and Debby I wasn't feeling well and that I was going to go out back on the side of the boat and maybe the restroom.  Of the remaining 2 hours I had probably spend ~80 minutes here.

I think it's paramount to state that for the last 2 days  all scuba, snorkeling, and offshore excursions have been canceled due to poor ocean conditions--stormy conditions.  I'll put things this way...the ocean was not nearly as smooth as my way the the ladies ;).  The waves tossed the boat from side to side, huge sprays of water crashed overboard soaking people (and me along the way) from shoulder to toe.  Now this is some feat provided this boat is a multiple level catamaran large enough to carry hundreds and hundreds of passengers--maybe thousands.  I was switching off between crouching down with my head on the metal railing and standing semi-erect (in posture you pervs) staring at the horizon.  I could not manage to stand straight up since I felt too exposed and that feeling somehow made me feel worse.

I managed to keep myself 'semi' calm for 40-60 minutes, but I eventually said, 'FUCK IT' I have nothing to prove and just leaned over and tried to throw up.  I had a few mostly dry-heaves and then moved to the back of the ship for better 'positioning'.  Over the side was a bad idea as we were moving quite fast any projected stomach contents would travel backwards and likely back onto the boat.  I got one good hurl over the back of the boat.  At this point a man dressed in all black and a fez hat handed me a sick bag and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom.  I forced myself to throw up one last time before cleaning my face and rinsing out my mouth.  I stayed by the side of the boat for the remainder of the voyage.  The side-to-side rocking of this ship was unrelenting.  Marcia also joined me--She was feeling increasingly sick, but I don't believe she threw up.  I needed to get back to my seat prior to out embarking since I had my tablet and camera exposed alongside my day-sack.

As we disembarked the new German girl had also said she had thrown up and felt like shit.  People all over the place were throwing up and you couldn't go a minute without the sounds of a person's stomach emptying.  I did some quick thinking and figured it was better to not take another Doxy (malaria prophylaxis) at the risk of further upsetting my stomach.  Next time I travel in such turbulent ocean conditions I will take my motion sickness medicine more than 1 minute prior to departure.

Godfrey Moving Between The Truck's Cabin and Front, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
We disembarked and found our way to our truck--Tabby had left last night to get the truck ready for us.  I was feeling awful and continued to feel as such for the next 4 or so hours.  I knew I was dehydrated and I had just thrown-up all my morning's food/water.  For the first time ever I was able to use a package containing O.R.S. (oral rehydration salts).  The taste was nasty, so I waisted till the truck had stopped and chugged 200 ml several times until the half liter was gone.  I slowly began to feel better, but this was also thanks to the several stops we made for snacks and the chocolate milk I had.  Our first stop for food was unsuccessful since both places at the mall were closed due to Christmas.  The next place we stopped was open.  We needed to get snacks for the day since we were driving straight through till we got to camp at around 7:30-8pm, depending on road conditions.

Marcia and her Henna, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
There were not many food options at the shop.  I bought chocolate milk, 3 small packets of Oreos (2 packs which have already been eating), 10 prepackaged plums, a Snickers bar, and some local beef jerky which goes by another name.  All this came out to under 12,000 shillings ($8).  They couldn't make correct change so they rounded to the nearest 200 shillings, which is like 7 us cents.  Kind of makes the States look ridiculous considering we have the penny--and a penny for us is much less than 7 cents for someone living in Tanzania.  Australia has a 5 cent piece, but they have just decided to stop using it.  The EU also rounds to the nearest 5 euro cent as well.  I think it's probably a good idea is to buy as many as pennies as possible and hold onto them and later melt them down and sell the raw metal.  I will have to look into the futures market on zinc (that's that I believe is in the center of the penny).  I believe the penny is copper plated (perhaps electroplated) and not cladded...but I'm not 100% sure.  I do know that cooper makes up much less than 10% of the entire coin by weight (and likely volume).  But I digress.

I have taken a Xanax and a half, which equates to 0.75mg--after 3 hours I feel almost no effects.  I took another 1/4 of a pill so I would max out at 1mg (I later discover is still a relatively low dose).  Since the time to peak plasma is short, AKA a short half-life,  the effective dose will only be a 1/2 mg.  I probably need at least 1 mg to be used as a sleeping aid.  Anything lower just calms me having several beers.  Oh well, lesson learned.

We still have 3-4 hours on this truck.  We've been spoiled in Zanzibar and now we have two long days driving day, back-to-back.  Tomorrow drive from Lushoto to Arusha.  Arusha is a city that is a major meeting spot for travelers and backpackers alike that are en route to/from safari.  I think of it as the Bangkok of Asia and the Amsterdam of Europe.

The day after tomorrow we leave for the Serengeti for a two day night stay within the park followed by a one-night stay at the Ngorongoro Crater.

Oh, about the cost of dinner last night.  The octopus tentacle, blue marlin, and garlic naan was 6,000 shilling (~$4USD).  He had quoted something like 9,000.  I said 6,000 and he laughed.  He said sorry not enough, how about 8,500.  I was not in the mood for this game of back and forth and I also knew someone in my position had the upper hand--I was a buyer of a non-differentiated product within a perfectly-competitive market.  I said 6,000 one last time and walked away.  He said ok ok, 7,000.  I looked over my shoulder and said, thanks for your time, but I gave you my only offer, have a good evening.  Three strides more and he was screaming, "ok, ok, for you 6,000",  I turned back, said, "thank you", and waited as he reheated my meal.  He also gave me some hot chili and a cucumber as a side.  Of course I did this for all the other foods I tried--though I often started at a very very low price just to see the lowest price point at which I could get the supplier to bite.  This was the 'field research' I conducted prior to making my final purchase.

My constant bargaining may come across as cheap, but I assure you it is not.  Tourists get charged more for the same product as do locals and this is simple price gouging.  Also, if I would refrain from negotiating I could easily be spending $3-$5 more per day.  This may seem like a pittance to a common American, but part of the traveling experience is to experience the cultures you visit.  People in many parts of the world simply cannot throw money around because they have so much of it.  If I can't negotiate the price down enough to a budget I have deemed reasonable then I should go without the's what the locals would have done.  One last thing, the longer one travels the more important negotiating becomes.

Some Thoughts:

This trip has inspired me to make more of my life.  And I mean that multidimensionally.  I have grown complacent with just existed and have forgotten what it means to really 'live'.  There is so much out there and I just waste so much of my life inside with the TV on, or relaxing.  There is an entire music scene that I'm missing out on.  So many people out there that I haven't yet meet.  I get used to spending my time with my girlfriend and my close friends.  None of this is bad, but it's becoming an issue as I'm not going out and living and experiencing 'life' the way I want to..  I am happy to do these things with my friends, but it has become just TOO east to say, "why don't we just go to the local bar", or "why don't we just hang out here".  I'm really going to force myself to get out and see/do/try more.  I would like to backpack a bit more up the east coast during long weekends.  What's so hard about leaving my home on a sunday evening to driving out to a field with a bottle of wine paired with nice cheese while watching the sunset and listening to nature?  Why have I become complacent to the extent that staying in on a sunday is not just acceptable, but preferred?  There is so much out there and 80% of it is free, or at least super affordable.

Traveling for me is not about seeing things, it's about forcing one to reassess one's values.  What does it mean to be important, happy, valuable...?  What really makes us happy?  Is that sustainable or does it require a significant time investment to keep up with the trends to remain happy.  Case in point--following new technology trends in TV so we can buy brighter, flatter, larger, smarter TVs when they are available.  If we were truly happy with the initial TV then no future TV technological advancement should matter.  BUT IT DOES MATTER...but why?  It's because once we know there is something better and we have the potential to attain it we save and buy it.  Then we are 'happy'.  But are we any happier than when we were after that initial TV purchase?  No we are NOT.  It's the same.  It's that the novelty of the initial TV purchase has been lost as we have switched our focus onto some other gadget, clothing trend, new perfume, new TV series.  During the week we look forward to the weekends because we don't 'enjoy' our work. And on weekends many people enjoy not having to do anything in particular since we just don't have work.  This is not the existence I want.  It's not enough for me.  It's petty and quite frankly it is so sad.  We have become diluted to the point where we attain our happiness through objects we can buy or just pass our time without having to work.  Happiness is a state of life, it's a static feeling we have when we realize how lucky we are to be here on earth and can live life.  You get fired from you job, hakuna matata.  You sleep in and miss your Saturday trip to the Italian, hakuna matata.

Hakuna Matata is a an old Swahili phrase, as many know from "Lion King", which essentially means don't worry.  But more so it means something like be peaceful, life's good, calm yourself, no worries, etc..  Next time you are in the market for a new TV, ask yourself, why?  Did you not want the last one you bought but simply couldn't afford the larger one and now you can?  In  that case you shouldn't have bought that initial one if it wouldn't have made you happy.  If you're buying a new one because you can 'afford' it and just 'want' a bigger one then I think you should do some real soul-searching.  Are you no longer happy with what you have?  Do you think you will be happier with a larger one?  Do you consider how much money was wasted in buying that first TV?  Did you know the highest paid people in Southern Africa (barring South Africa) make $1,000 - $1,500 USD a month?  AND are happier than any of us.  We are so well-off we actually die of 'old age'...a concept unheard of in Africa.  Aids and Malaria are the #1 and #2 killers, respectively, in Africa.  We are lucky enough to die from heart disease, and cancer.  With the exception of patients who have heart disease for reasons other than 'old age' (like people who choose to have it by not eating healthy and/or exercising) we actually die from getting old.  In Africa they have disease, drought, can barely feed their families every day (and often don't), yet they are among the happiest people I've ever seen.  Not to be racists but ever notice how African Americans scream and shout during Graduation ceremonies and in the movies?  Yes this is completely uncivilized, but it's oftentimes the 'american white demographic' who get angry--the African Americans are the ones enjoying themselves to the fullest.  We shove charity in their face and we think we're helping and teaching them--perhaps we should actually look inside of ourselves and ask what we can learn from them.

I have used the TV example to illustrate a point, but the same can be said about new designer clothing, houses, cars, etc..  You know how often my own mother tells me my clothing is 'out of fashion'.  I know she means well and I love her to death for it.  But she is not alone, this is how most people see 'our' world.  My clothing is out-dated?  According to whom?  Some TV show, overpaid model or celebrity?  The entire concept of fashion disgusts me.  If something fits, is presentable, comfortable, functional, what is the purpose of fashion?  The western world derives it's purpose of life through buying things---especially in the US.  If something is in fashion one season and completely 'lame' 2 years later doesn't that reflect on the pettiness of the person making the 'fashion' rules.  If fashion is not objectively measurable and is always changing the ONLY driver of such aforementioned fashion dynamics is people's willingness to absorb what other people tell them.  These people soak it up and believe it and are convinced that in order to be happy they need to then buy or practice these new 'fashions'.  Fashions change because corporate designers need to replenish their products with new inventory, otherwise they face entering a perfectly competitive market, which would bring their average retail selling price down--drastically.  Thus, designers come up with new ideas--oftentimes what they actually are is of no importance, it's just important that they are different.  Using ALOT of money they push these new designs through huge marketing investments (e.g. TV commercials, creative and very strategic product placements, and licensing agreements).  They need to convince you that their brand is valuable and popular.  Now they can charge you 5 times the cost of what it actually costs to produce their clothing.  You think it's more valuable because you paid more, you're a fool if you really believe that.  If they are a publicly traded company, and many of the design houses are, read their annual SEC reports.  You'll learn many luxury brands outsource their actual fabrication to the same factories that make the clothing for Gap and other lower priced brands.  However your $220 pair of Theory pants did cost ALOT more money than those $50 pair of gap pants.  But here is the fucking kicker.  Of the $220 you paid for those pants, $70 just goes to pay for the marketing they had to buy to build their brand name.  Gap maybe spent $5 on marketing.  So now how you have a $45 (Gap) versus $ (Designer).  Since Gap is a larger company they benefit from economies of scale so their cost of material is cheaper as is their labor compared to a smaller company such as Theory.  So you are convinced the theory pants are over 4 times ($220/$50) 'better' than those pair of Gap pants but in actuality the pants are at best 2 times 'better'.  And compared to Banana Republic the Theory pants are only marginally better, with minimally-superior fabric--but maybe the fabric/stitching is 10-20 dollars more expensive, but you end up paying $100 + more because you 'believe' its 'much' better and thus it will make you more happy?

I aspire to live in a the smallest house possible.  I find house purchases an interesting concept.  I understand if money is of no concern, but if that were the case I would want to 'give' my money to my family and friends because I love them and they deserve it ALMOST as much as anyone else.  Not all the money, but wages are fucked up in my country and people doing very hard work are underpaid while you have near-brain-dead morons (think today's music scene, TV reality shows, and athletes) that make ungodly amounts of money for something EVERYONE can do.  And at least 10,000 can do almost as well but don't have the same luck

Ok, I'm done ranting because I'm just getting worked up and probably irritating many people, but I DO hope you think about the next purchase you make.  Please ask yourself, "why am I buying this, do I need or want this.  Do I have anything else that is similar to this and if so why do want this one over that?"

Even if you have the money to buy it, it's not a matter of affordability--it is the parasitic nature of having to buy to be happy and feel fulfilled in life.  I really do pity these people.

ONE LAST IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am not targeting any one person here, I am speaking about western culture (American, more specifically) at an abstract level so there is no reason to take offense.  It's 5:05 now and I'm going to chill a bit.

We didn't arrive at our camp in Lushoto until 8:00.  I upgraded to a hotel room for only $10, hard to pass up.  In this room I had a shower...though I had to take a cold shower.  We have wifi here but I have to sit outside near the bar in order to get signal.

We ate a late dinner--9:30pm--and finished at 10:30.  I cleaned the dishes and put them away, it's been a while since I've helped out.  For dinner we had grilled chicken, sausage, potatoes, grilled veggies, and gravy.  It was quite the feast.  Now I'm sitting outside writing and talking with the new German couple.  It's about 11:15 and I'm about to get to bed.  Goodnight!