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 down...like 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 purchase...it'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!

Stone Town, Zanzibar: (Day 14) Dec-24-2013

Debby Makes A Silly Face During Our Ride to Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I woke up early, again--7:00.  I sat beach-side waiting for breakfast to open at 7:30.  After re-packing my bag and settling my tab with reception I joined the others on the bus.  We were on our way to Stone Town by and were trying to be on the road by 10:00am.  After a 1-2 hour ride we should be able to check in at our rooms and take tour of Stone Town.


Hotel in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We got dropped off at our hotels and about half of us decided to take the Stone Tour tour.  We met in front of our hotel only 5 minutes after getting to our rooms.  The hotel was very interesting.  It was built on a hill and there were these long catwalks that went every-which way--all supported by tall wooden stilts.  Our hotel was on the beach, though I never went down to the water.  The pathways were quite extensive, going from my room to the bar/restaurant and back again took no less than 10 or 15 minutes and involved a series of 60-80 steps, each way.  My room had a/c, a fan, many power outlets, a clean bathroom, a king sized clean bed, a TV, and a patio deck.  This was by far the nicest place I've stayed in over the last 3 weeks.  The rooms were $63 dollars apiece, but Nomad gets a 'heavily reduced' rate.


The Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The tour started after a short ride from our hotel, The Ocean Side Hotel, when we were dropped off around the corner from the fish market.  The smell was unavoidable.  The first thing that I had noticed was the how everyone was dressed.  Long story short, very religious (Muslim).


Fish Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The people didn't seem as eager to see us, however the others in the group didn't seem to notice/agree.  Perhaps I got this feeling because we were largely ignored--the locals were just conducting business at the market and seemed to have no interest in tourists.


A Beautiful Door in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We walked through the market and through some famous parts in Stone Town--The slave trade building, the only 2 churches in the city, and a few other places I can't recall.


What I enjoyed the most was getting the cultural aspects of day-to-day life, not so much the buildings that were somehow related to something of historical significance.


I never really enjoy these things.  Even in Cambodia, when I was at S-21 and the Killing-Fields--learning about the events affected me more to me than my presence at the empty school building that had been used as a prison.  Same could be said when I was in Israel.  We ended our tour at the famous restaurant Africa House.  Many of us discussed our evening plans on the balcony.  The group was planning on coming back in the evening to watch the sunset from here.


Just Outside Slave Trade Building in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Back at the hotel I watched some national geographic on the TV.  It was a show on Africa and the host was some British guy.  He was trying to make his adventures sound dangerous by calling out the 'poor construction' the house he was staying at and said that a lion could very easily rip it apart and eat him.  I can't stand these types of shows--the types that market themselves as educational but really only offer a sliver of educational value.  They are just like their reality TV counterpart--over dramatized smut packaged as something else.  The producers are more interested in their Nelson ratings than of the content.  I slept at a campsite along the South Luangwa NP where lions, only a week earlier, had wondered into.  I felt safe...the second night at least.  The show was about how lions in the area of Southern Tanzania had turned its focus on hunting human.


At my hotel, while watching TV, I also tried to shop on Amazon.  The internet was so slow that it took 2 hours to place one order.  I felt bad for missing Christmas and New Years with Kelly because she was not happy about being alone for the holidays (and boy did she make sure to emphasize that every moment should could)--so I had wanted to get her something sweet.  I got her a gift package with 4 types of marshmallow peeps (chocolate mouse, gingerbread, and chocolate chip cookie...).  I hope she saves me a few since I've never seen anything other than the original sugar-coated marshmallow type.  I also got her some black currant syrup--she loves that stuff when mixed with hard cider.


On the Balcony of Africa House in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I hadn't eaten a large breakfast, but had skipped lunch and was now starving.  I had no time to get a snack so I ordered a beer for the calories alone.  I drank it quickly and met the group at 5:45 to catch a taxi to Africa House for the sunset.  Our taxi never arrived and most of the others just sat back waiting.  A couple had said, "This is Africa, mate" and they just figured it would come eventually.  SO ANNOYING!  I went out and asked one of the security guards at our hotel if they could take us.  He said $20....I negotiated him down to $8 and he seemed to comply.  I hoped into a car, along with 3 others.  The others in our group followed suit...I am Scott, herder of the sheep.


Africa House in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Our driver spoke almost no English.  As we arrived at our destination he tried to ask for more money.  There was some type of argument but I shoved the money in his direction and told our small group to just leave and that the language barrier alone made any communication fruitless.  They agreed and we quickly exited the van.  We had a drink at Africa House and the rest of the group came about 15 minutes later.  The sunset was disappointing as the cloud coverage prevented a clear view.


I smoked hookah with Vincent and Debbie and then left for the food market, by the water, with Divya and Cara.  This market was the the highlight of my trip...by far!  This market was like a food market like you find in South East Asia...my favorite place in the world.  Venders lined the area with all types of food stalls.  There were 4 or 5 main types of vendors, and vendors of the same type didn't differ from one another too much.  There was the fruit vendor, meat vendor, candy vendor, pizza vendor and sugar cane juice vendor.

Night Food Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

The fruit vendors had dozens and dozens of different types of whole fruit.  You could buy pieces or entire fruits.  We had some jack fruit, which is a very unique tasting fruit.  It's a resembles a combination of pineapple and banana with an almost rubbery texture.  We also tried a fruit that resembled the taste and color of sweet potato, but had the texture of a baked potato--really weird.


Night  Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Meat vendors had so much variety.  They had dozens of skewers (chicken, chicken masala, lobster, shrimp, prawn, beef, tuna, blue marlin, barracuda, octopus, squid, etc.)  They had entire octopus tentacles the size of large pickles (I had one, it was very tasty, but very chewy).  I also had a blue marlin skewer (one of my new favorite fish), and a barracuda.  They had crab claws and whole crabs, casaba, grilled bananas, garlic naan, coconut chapati, and so much else.  I also tried the chapati, naan, and chicken at one of the vendors stalls.


Night  Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The Pizza vendors sold these 'Zanzibar' pizzas that were like crepe-sandwiches.  They started with a ball of dough the size of a golf ball and stretched it out into a very thin pizza crust.  They had a lot of filling options and then to complete the masterpiece they folded the 'pizza' edges onto itself and put it onto the grill.  Cara ordered this, I had a few pieces--delicious!


Zanzibar Pizza in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The sugar cane vendors served a drink which was made right in front of us.  They took an entire sugar cane and passed it through a hand powered press, which caused the plant to shed its juice.  The juice was collected into a large bowl which had a large ice cube in it.  This juice was then drank raw.  Divya ordered a small cup for 500 shillings ($0.33) and we took three straws.  It was very natural tasting--similar to pineapple juice.


Juicing a Sugar Cane in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The candy vendors had a bunch of candies I had never heard of.  They didn't have any solid chocolates, maybe becuase the heat would cause them to melt?  I bought two things, both were similar to kit kat bars...just more wafer and less chocolate.


Sugar Cane Juice in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We sat down and enjoyed our meals.  Dozens of stray cats cover the area--they were so cute.  Most of them were white/red, but a few were grey.  They really made me miss Dexter.  I have been having such a great time, but every time I am doing something new I wish I was able to share my experience with Kelly.


I watched some boys jump into the ocean off of the platform about 15 feet up.  It was quite a feat watching these guys get back onto shore.


At the Night Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We walked to Africa House to pick up Debby and Vincent, who were just finishing up their dinners.  We were looking for a cab back to our hotel--we needed space for 5 people.  We asked someone on the street and he said he'll find a ride--then he sprinted away looking for someone/thing?  After a minute we saw him sprint across us to the other part of town...it was about 10:00pm at this point.  He came back in his friend's car about 3 minutes later.  We told him $8 and he complied.  We were driving in a direction that was not familiar and some of us were confused.  I said "maybe he's planning on taking us somewhere else".  I thought I had said it quietly but he said, "this is Zanzibar, not Nairobi, it's safe here...no worries, I take care of you".


There were empty beer bottles in the back seat of the SUV we were in.  It was clear that this was his friend's car and that neither of them were 'taxi' drivers.  They took us to the "Island View Hotel".  We had told him we needed "Ocean View" and he asked the hotel guards where that was (it was just down the road).  When we arrived at the hotel we gave him 12000 shilling (which is $8 if you use the standard 1500/$1USD rate).  He argued with us saying it's 1650 shilling for the dollar.  I knew he was trying to screw us so I just told him, "Ok, that's fine, how about I give you $10 and you give us 3300 shilling"?  I was essentially using him as a bank with amazing currency conversion rates.  He said "Ok".  Divya took out $10 and was about to give it to him when I told her to keep the money until he had the 3300 in change.  He came back from the van and said "give me the $10" and after some back and forth he said I keep the 3300 as a tip.  We went back and forth for a while and he was getting upset.  I told him he did not deserve a tip and that he was a thief.  He essentially told me that we'll run into each-other again and that I will be sorry...clearly and empty threat...but still!  Divya finally gave up and got back 3000 shilling, so we did end up paying $8, which is a MORE than reasonable cost for the 5-8 minute car ride.


When I was back at my room I realized I had lost my key and had to purchase a new one at reception.  $30...Shit!.  The replacement keys didn't have numbers on them so Sadie (the guy at the front desk) had to walk back with me to my room and test out a few dozen different keys.  On the walk back, which was at least 5 minutes, I asked about his day.  He had told me his best friend's mother had just died and that his friend couldn't afford a plane ticket back to Dar es Salaam to go home.  Once I got back to my room I washed my face and then met Cara, Vincent, and Debby at the restaurant's bar for a drink.  I  had a Krest, which is a Coca-Cola branded soft drink similar to Sprite but a bit more sour...I really liked it.


In bed I watched the latest Harold and Kumar movie.  I finally went to bed a bit after midnight.  What a day!

Enjoying Some Octopus at Night Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar: (Day 13) Dec-23-2013

I couldn't sleep in--woke up at 6:00.  Breakfast with Debbie, Vincent, and the two women from Costa Rica.  The others had gone snorkeling--I opted out.  I had gotten cut up pretty nasty by my flippers in Kande Beach, Malawi and my sores were just starting to heal...only mildly infected at this point--don't worry Mom, I made sure to pick the scab with my filthy hands and to clean it out using the tab water and rubbing dirt on it to keep it healthy ;).

Much of the Group Goes Snorkeling for the Day, Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

I took a nice walk along the beach and whenever someone came up to me to sell something I used the most successful strategy--I looked directly at them and said, "I am so sorry, but I do not speak English very well, have a good day".  I made sure to say it very clearly, thus if they were keen to it they would pick up on the complete sarcasm, but none of them did--they just followed with, "oh, what you speak, Italian, Spanish, hey you what you speak?"  I just continued walking and they would finally leave me alone...more quickly than if I just ignored them.


Massai Attempt to Sell Good on the Beach, Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
It's 6:50 pm now and I'm sitting on the beach-side deck sipping a Caipirinha--quite a tasty drink.


Earlier today I sat out a bit and watched people para-sail while I listened to my book-on-tape.  It was around 3 when I ate lunch with Godfrey and Tabby.  It was nice talking with them--I'm starting to get a better understanding of the lifestyle here in Africa.  Even though they are not from East Africa talking with them still helped me to understand South/East 'Africa' more.  We talked about schooling in Zimbabwe and cost of living.  I had asked how much their phones, car insurance, school, etc. cost.  Godfrey said he had purchased his phone for $300--I recalled there is no subsidy here like as in the entire US market.  Tabby said his auto insurance was $50 which was for 4 months.  If he had wanted to get a more comprehensive insurance policy it would cost more like $100-$150 per 4 months.


Godfrey was telling me he was contemplating a trip to NYC.  We discussed how I thought trips to/from Africa were expensive and he disagreed.  He thought you could travel between the two continents for under $1000 USD.  He searched the web on his phone (VERY slow wifi at the hotel) and showed me a listing that read out, "75% of all African airfare".  It was a paid Ad on Google's front page.  People in Africa do NOT have the same experience with the internet as the rest of the world.  Their internet comprehension is equivalent to that of an 80 year old's who is just learning how to log-in for the first time.


I have been in Africa for over two weeks now and feel my understanding of things are getting better, but still not complete--any trip shorter than 3 weeks would prove fruitless, unless one is just coming for 'sights'.


I sat out poolside and talked w/ Debby on our opposing/similar views on Africa--she had brought the subject up.  I had an 'epiphany'  during our conversation--the only way I can drop my 'negative' views on the African people is to accept the following; The African people are not a people that need help nor should their lives be judged through lens of by western/eastern society's standards.  I am mostly thinking about their short life expectancy, reluctance to use modern (and available) medicine,  lazy lifestyles, refusal to practice 'family planning', etc.  For all that know me you know that I am somewhat of an idealist and it is in my nature to believe that everyone is 'capable' of pursuing their dreams with enough effort and forethought.  So when I see this 'African' lifestyle I get frustrated because they are not accomplishing a set of standards that I HAVE SET.  I have viewed these standards as static, universal, and truly virtuous--that's Ayn Rand's influence (for the better and the worse).  Even in the largest of cities I notice charity offices for all the types of aid relief.  Free HIV testing (and treatment in many places), free condoms, and advisers for everything you can imagine.  These resources are largely unused and the African lifestyles has  grown accustomed to 'hand-me-outs'.  It is so ingrained in the culture that they see white people as $$.


Most of the Africans I have met are genuinely nice, but many of people (much less in smaller villages) expect something from 'us'.  This made me mad because of the 'set of standards' I have developed were not being practiced, despite all the African aid.  I have come to terms with the notion that these People are their own people and that they deserve the lives they have chosen.  I don't mean anyone deserves to suffer or be sick...but overall they deserve and have earned much of their current lifestyle.  I would say that all aid should be stopped, but there are economic benefits for western organizations to provide this aid.  I always wondered why there were white range rovers in front of almost every "Charitable" organizations here--it's because of all the $$/profit involved.  Consider "The Salvation Army"--they receive inventory for free yet they SELL the clothing in bulk to African distributors, which in turn sell them at markets to people.  Even the poorest of Africans are not getting these clothing for free.


Hopefully you can piece together my 'epiphany' from this frenetic jumble of ideas, but I have to eat breakfast and get a move one.  I will most likely not re-read this and will just continue with the rest of my day when I get another chance to write...probably on my ride to Stone Town in a couple hours.


I had a 'Zanzibar' Massage at 5:00.  This was a combination of a Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage.  A long story short--it was the most uncomfortable/relaxing thing of the day.  There was  one large room sectioned off from the outside by a curtain...so as you can imagine, no a/c.  There were three women working here and none of them spoke a word of English.  I showered beforehand so I would get all the sand off me but somehow the massage managed to be somewhat exfoliating--sand was just everywhere, as too where the flies.  The girl was unfriendly from the start.  Halfway through the massage I think I caught her trying to read into my pocket and take my money...some bills were exposed.  When I had noticed what had happened I tucked the bills deeper in my pocket.  As I lie on the table beads of sweat just pooled and dripped down all parts of my body.  Within a short period of time the flies and the beads of sweat were indistinguishable from one another.  Once my body acclimated to the sweat I began to notice the flies more easily.  While she was working on one limb I was twitching the others to rid myself of the flies.  It was  hardest when they landed on my face/eyes and I couldn't move my arms enough to shake them.  All-in-all it was a worthwhile experience though very uncomfortable.


I had 2 $20 USD bills and handed them to the lady and asked for change.  She seemed confused but after asking the woman 'in charge' she figured out she needed to get change at reception.  She came back from reception and said "they no take" as she showed me to 1 of the bills, which had a small tear in the center of it.  I said, "Ok, no problem" as I reached in my pocket and handed her another $20 bill.  5 minutes later she came back with 2 $10 bills.  I am not sure if she was trying to force a $5 tip or that reception just didn't have the change.  I am inclined to believe that she's just a moron.  I said, "Ok, that's fine and walked away with a $10 bill in my hand.  I had decided to tip her $5USD even thought she provided sub-par service--she needed that money more than I.


Restaurant in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I relaxed, showered again, and went out for a happy hour drink for 7,000 shillings.  Cara, Stephanie, Divya, and I went to the restaurant next to us, Laungi Laungi, for dinner.  I had ordered a beer, king-fish, and A calamari/onion/mushroom salad.  The food was pretty good and cheaper than the restaurant at our hotel.  For both lunch and dinner I had grilled veggies in place of chips (fries).


Dinner in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
They had gone for a drink at a bar afterwards and hung out with a wedding party.  There was a wedding at our hotel's beach.  Tabby had some of their wedding cake.  I went back to talk to Kelly instead.  I watched the movie "Choke" afterwards and went to bed just after midnight.


A thought on African life expectancy and savings:
Average life expectancy in these parts of Africa is around 40 years.  I imagine this largely influences  certain aspects of the people's mentality and how they live their lives.  It's much harder to experience the impacts of one's life when that individual dies much sooner than people in a 'more civilized' part of the world.  Also, maybe if Africans lived longer they would think about how they will survive after they are capable of working.  Would they actually save their money instead of buying things like cell phones?  Despite these things, rationality is not a key element in much of daily life here.  It is largely a tribal society believing in healers/witch doctors where people blindly do as they are told-not necessarily what is correct or reasonable.


Goodnight, for now.

Enormous Lobster Caught in the Indian Ocean, Just Off Shore in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar: (Day 12) Dec-22-2013

I stayed up late last night talking with Stephanie.  We discussed African culture--how many of the women do most of the work while the men just remain lazy.  Women are not treated well here.  There seems to be NO forward progress, or aspirations for that matter, to better one's life with respect to gender roles and/or standards of living. Maybe it's because people here don't know of that possibility...but there always this aura of helplessness.


Waiting to Board a Ship to Downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Stephanie had spent a while (I think 6 months) in Kenya working in a hospital.  While in Kenya she stayed with a foster family.  The mother of the house--Stephanie calls her Mamma Kenya--was 'rich' by African standards.  They did not have electricity or water, but she did own a few cattle.  The average wage in Zambia is under $1 USD a day.  I imagine it's not too different in the East African countries.


Boarding a Ship to Downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Today has already been a long day and it's not even 10:00 am.  I woke up at 5:30 and we were on the truck by 6:15.  We only had a short ride but had to walk 15 minutes or so in blistering heat to catch a shuttle boat.  We were waiting in the holding area for an hour before we were able to board to boat.  I felt like a cow, caged in a large holding space, waiting to be herded onto a ship.  It was complete chaos.  There were several decks of passengers and the main deck had a few dozen automobiles.  The ship took us over to the main business district of Dar es Salaam.  It was a short--maybe 15 minute--ride.  Most of the people on this ship were locals commuting for work.  Prior to boarding, in the holding area, the men and women were divided..men on the left hand side while the women took the right.  Many women were in burkas or saris and both men and women had very serious looks on their faces.  This city does not come off as friendly as the other towns we've been to so far.

Our Tour Group Waiting to Board our Ship to Down Town Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Once we arrived in the business district of Dar es Salaam we had to walk another 30-45 minutes.  This was quite a task given that even at 8:00 am the heat was unbearable!  Also, we were lugging all of our baggage.  We had stripped down our belongings and only took with us what we thought we needed for our three nights in Zanzibar.  I left my overnight bag on the truck and stuffed my day-pack to its limits.


Fishing Boats in the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
We got to where we were going to catch the 2-hr ferry to Zanzibar and still had a bit of time.  Since the building was air-conditioned--the first a/c I've had in over 2 weeks--most of the tour group stayed inside and relaxed.  However Cara and I ventured out into the city.  We both bought water--my 6L water jug was only 2,500 shilling ($1.67 USD).  I filled my 3L bladder in my pack, and my extra 1/2L jug that I carry in my bag's side pocket.  My bag must weight 20-30 lbs now.


I am wearing my hat, Under Armour t-shirt, North Face pants, and my Clark boots (no socks), Timex analog watch w/ built in alarm clock, and a pair of Exofficio boxer briefs.  I have brought along a bathing suite, thongs, one more tight fitting t-shirt for the beach, a long-sleeved technical shirt, and two thick merino wool socks.  In addition to my clothing I have my 1st aid kit (which I've been using quite a bit), various meds, toiletries, Camera (+ extra lens and batteries), tablet/keyboard, external power pack and USB cable, a GPS tracking unit (I've been using this to track my entire trip), folding knife, sunglasses, bug-spray, sun tan lotion, headlamp, passport (w/ yellow fever cert), money-belt, fleece jacket, rain poncho, Sea-to-Summit quick-drying towel, and a few other items.


The process of boarding the ferry to Zanzibar was fucking crazy.  We must have waited in line for 30 minutes before we were able to get through security.  The line was chaotic, people scrambling to pass others.  There was no shade and I felt defeated...no point fighting it any more.  I let the sweat just drip off me as I continued to drink.  Whether or not today has been the hottest day yet is hard to say for certain.  We are directly in heat, and have been so all morning long, and everyone is carrying pounds and pounds of baggage.


We dropped the 3 Swedes off yesterday afternoon and are picking up 3 new recruits today.  I believe 2 have already joined us, but I'm not sure when/how they met up with us--Stephanie had pointed them out in line just prior to our passing through security.  We pick up the last person once we are in Zanzibar.


Before security when I was in line to show my ferry ticket there was a woman sitting and nursing her child.  Her shirt was completely off and she showed no modesty, despite the 100+ people that were within 20 feet of her.  Other women held their babies across their backs, wrapped in cloth.  Most of the children were covered by the fabric, but some were fully exposed to the sun's intense rays.  I can't even begin to imagine how hot it must have been for a child to be have their body completely wrapped up and under a restricting blanket--absolutely no ventilation whatsoever.


This ferry is shockingly very nice.  There are 4 sun-decks and a middle, air-conditioned, deck.  I choose the middle deck.  There are 6 Samsung TVs hanging throughout the cabin playing some American movie--probably with a title sounding something like "Heist", or something of that nature.


It's 10:20 now and we should arrive in Zanzibar around noon.  We have a ride waiting for us to take us to the northern park of Zanzibar, where we will remain for the next 2 nights.  We can opt for a spice tour, which is somewhere along our ride up north.  If not enough people decide to do it we will have to all go to the hotel and then later take a taxi back for the spice tour--though I'm sure most people will want to take the tour.


SOME THOUGHTS:  I've gotten used to the horrible body odor that is pervasive in Africa.  I've learned that African cuisine is mostly rice, beans, potatoes, and occasionally chicken.  Africa is not the place to go to to eat exotic foods, at least not east Africa.  It is as plain as you can get.  Some food for thought--why is it that in Africa the cuisine is so basic, while in most other 3rd-world regions the cuisine is much more sophisticated?  Everything about Africa is just stunted...corrupt governments (that the people elect), inefficient (lacking) work ethic, and an embarrassing lack of education (despite that most nations offer free education through age 18).  As I look around, even the 'well to do' people just appear leaps and bounds behind the rest of the world.  A man to the left of me is trying to change the battery on his phone and he is struggling on figuring out which side is up...success after only 3 minutes.  A man behind me hunts and pecks on his computer like it's his first time typing on a keyboard.  Seeing as it's his computer I doubt that is the case.  Back in Chipata, Malawi one of the lodge workers could not figure out how to even type in the password to grant me access to use the internet.  He spent 30  seconds typing in 4 letters and the screen had a warning massage on it that he had needed to click "accept" before he could type.  He was typing not realizing the characters were not being recorded.  It's a shame large corporations can't come here and build factories for unskilled labor.  It would be such cheap labor, plus it would help the ridiculously high unemployment rate.


Nutmeg, On our Spice Tour, Zanzibar  
Jackfruit, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
A man to the right of me seems to have had polio--I help him button his shirt as had been struggling for a while.


Back in Dar es Salaam--while we were walking to catch the ferry--I saw a young man who had club feet.  He was walking on the complete outsides of his feet.  His soles were completely exposed as he walked.  He did manage to get by though.


After we arrived in Zanzibar we had to take a private van to where our beach resort was--Amaan Bungalows in Nungwi Beach.  This was in the north, and about a 1.5 hour drive from where we were.  6 of us wanted to take the spice tour so we had gotten off about about an hour from our hotel and left out bags with the group--they would drop our stuff off at reception.


Urucu Fruit, On our Spice Tour, Zanzibar
Using Red Pigment an Urucu, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
I am really shocked that the majority of the trip decided against the spice tour--maybe it was because it had already been such a long day and they wanted to enjoy the weather?


The spice tour was very fun, though a bit too long if you ask me.  Although none of the spices originated from Zanzibar they are grown for the tourists, which is fine by me.  They had everything I could think of; cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, and the list goes on and on!  There were bananas, mangoes, avocados, pineapples, coconuts, grapefruit, jackfruit, coffee beans, and 4 or 5 other fruits that I've never heard of before.


Climbing a Tree, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
We had a guide walking us around the plantation and another guy who climbed the trees to get us samples.  He showed us the plant that Indians use for henna and the flowering tree that is used in Chanel no. 5.  He pointed out a red flowing tree that had these interesting-looking shells that when cracked open exposed fiery-red bb-sized fruits.  He smashed the fruits and put the resulting liquid on his lips, head, and hair.  He was indicating the use of the red pigment from the fruit.  Women used it for lipstick, Indians for there 'dot', and the Masai use it to die their hair red.


 Preparing Coconut, Spice Tour, Zanzibar 
At the end of the tour a man climbed a humongous coconut tree while singing a joyful song.  He brought down 3 coconuts for us to taste.  He then took out his knife and carved away the shell of the coconut and exposed the milk for us to drink.  After we drank the milk he carved away a bit more, created a makeshift spoon, and let us eat the gooey flesh of the coconut.


I like coconut when it has been dried, not when it's fresh.  Oh, before I forget, we were able to taste coffee beans directly from the tree.  They were in a soft red shell...nothing like I had imagined.  The gooey surroundings of the coffee bean tasted great, but the un-dried bean was nothing to write home about.--maybe blog home about though!


Tasting, Spice Tour, Zanzibar

Afterwards, we tasted the fruit that was grown on the plantation and were able to buy some of their local spices...go figure.


Hotel's Main Deck, Zanzibar
I purchased a cardamom and vanilla tea.  I have yet to test it out, but for $2 USD it wasn't much of an investment on my end.


We finally got to our hotel around 4:00 and after dealing with the inefficiencies of Africa I was in my room 45 minutes later.  I have 3 twin beds, air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and a shower.  I have large windows on one entire side of my room--the wall that faces the beach.


I walked in the water for a sec, jumped in the pool and swam for a while.


My Room in Zanzibar
I inquired about snorkeling and getting a massage.  Our group met at the hotel's main restaurant at 7:00.  Our food finally came just before 8:30.  I had ordered an avocado and prawn salad along with a chicken red curry masala.  Both were quite good, though expensive by African standards.  The dinner was 31,000 Tanzanian Shillings, or around $21 USD.
Avocado and Prawn Salad, Zanzibar


I went to bed around 9:30, just after going down to the beach to watch a few hermit crabs come up and scurry about the sand.  It was a riot seeing how fast they could run with their little claws above their heads.  I watched the movie, "Kickass" then went to bed.  A very long day.

Enjoying the Spice Tour, Zanzibar