Have you ever thought you were really tanned, but it turns out you’re just kinda dirty? Really? Not me. I’m just really really tanned. I told people I’d come back from Africa looking like Wesley Snipes. Dark and broke have been achieved in spectacular fashion. Slim is pending. You should all hang out with me in the next week before my tan goes away.
So let’s see, where did I leave off? Ah yes, Zanzibar. You should all go to Zanzibar sometime before you die. It’s pretty much the coolest place on Earth. I hung out with a couple Canadians I met in my hotel for most of my time there. David from Lethbridge AB, and Natalie from Kapuskasing, ON (a town north of the “here be dragons” line on your map of Ontario). Here’s a bad picture of them on the awesome rooftop terrace our hotel had. They’re on the left and right in the first picture. The middle is a Latvian guy named Alexander who pulled an entire tray of prosciutto and edam cheese out of his bag upon his arrival at the hotel the day before. He had just come from Singapore, which explains where he got fancy foreign food products. It doesn’t explain how he kept them from going bad. He’s clearly a master of cold-chain management.
On my last night in Zanzibar we went out for dinner at a fairly swanky waterfront restaurant, where I ate swordfish. Got some nice pre-sunset shots of people playing soccer on the beach and swimming off of what looked like the gas tank of an old tanker sitting out in the bay.
Isn’t the sky awesome?
On my last morning there David had an all-day diving course. So while he was off being Scuba Steve, Natalie and I took a lovely stroll around town in full tourist mode. We took pictures with cannons, we visited the old fort, we shopped for souvenirs, we drank Tangawizi by the waterfront. We did it all.
It was kinda overcast, but no heavy rain. It rained quite a few times while I was there, but nothing heavy, and nothing that lasted more than a couple minutes. It was kinda nice. We got some lunch afterwards, but that was pretty much the extent of my trip to Zanzibar, as I got on the ferry back to the mainland at 3:30.
I spent the night in Dar es Salaam before flying out the following afternoon. This gave me the opportunity to hang out with Megan and Lindsay once more. We met at Lindsay’s place before going out to see some live music at a place called Sweet Eazy. We arrived there in a bajaj, which is a hilarious little taxi without doors. It’s basically a blue metal golf cart. They were everywhere in Dar (none in Morogoro, for whatever reason). Here’s what it looks like from the back seat:
It was pretty awesome, as there was a 7-or-so piece band playing covers all night. Lindsay’s friend MT sung in the band, and although we were promised a Michael Bolton serenade, it didn’t happen before I left. I did see one of the band member’s fathers get up and sing La Bamba looking like an older, blacker Austin Powers. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I didn’t want to make my taxi guy stay out too late so I left around midnight. There were a number of creepy old European men with what were surely hookers, as well as one incredibly drunk girl who claimed her name was Beyonce (doubtful) and made us take her picture.
She then tried to take a picture of us with comical results. I think she went 0-for-12 or so with trying to use a camera. I’m surprised she could stand.
And that was the last of my Tanzanian adventure. From here on out, it’s all about my return trip. And sorry kids, no pictures.
My return trip is a harrowing tale of boredom and woe. I hit 5 different airports in a 23 hour period, and managed very little sleep. My itinerary:
Dar Es Salaam > Addis Ababa > Rome > Washington > Toronto
Such is the price one pays for a $1400 return trip to Africa.
The flight from Dar to Addis was only a couple hours, and actually pretty entertaining. This was because I was sitting next to a couple Chinese nationals who seemed to have very limited experience with packaged foods (ie: airplane food). When we got our meals, the first thing the man next to me did was empty his sugar packet into his mouth. His friend emptied it into his glass of wine (Ethiopian gives you little wine bottles, it’s a wicked airline). He then poured his entire salt packet on his salad, while leaving the Italian dressing untouched. He poured the pepper packet into his hand, and looked at it thoughtfully for a minute. He sniffed it, but he was still curious. He then licked an entire palm-full of black pepper. He was not impressed. He repeated this step with the coffee creamer later on in the flight.
They had clearly been in Tanzania for a while, as they seemed to be pretty fluent in Kiswahili. Their English was about as good as my Chinese. It must have been quite a sight for any locals on that plane to see a white guy and two Chinese guys having (very basic) conversations in Swahili.
That was a short, comfortable part of my trip. The flight leaving Addis was considerably less fun. To start with, I learned about 10 minutes before boarding that the flight stopped in Rome (it wasn’t on my printed itinerary). Luckily we didn’t have to leave the plane, but some angry looking Italian men did board at about 3:00 in the morning. I spent the entire flight from Addis Ababa to Washington in the middle seat of the middle row. In my estimation, this is the worst seat on the entire airplane. No aisle to stretch out, and not only no window, but too far away to even see out the window. I was sitting beside a guy named Adam, who was part of a church group that had been giving out reading glasses in Ethiopia for the past few weeks. He was basically Matthew McConaughey but with more religion and less thumbs (he was missing a thumb). A good guy, but had some pretty strong views on religion, or specifically, all the things that Ethiopian Orthodox does wrong. I think that was pretty much par for the course on my flight, as everyone but me seemed to be either an Ethiopian-American, an American coming back from missionary work, or an American bringing an Ethiopian kid back.
I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and my ass went numb after a while from all the sitting. The airline itself was great though. Ethiopian Airlines feeds you every chance they get. Been in the air for over an hour? That’s a feeding. The sun came up or went down? That’s a feeding. It’s been 2 hours since your last feeding? You better believe that’s a feeding. In a 12 hour flight, I think they served like 5 meals, not to mention snacks and drinks. They also give you mustard yellow socks and sleep masks on the overnight trips.
We finally got Washington, which is unfortunately in the United States of America. I say this, because US customs and security is equal parts ridiculous, incompetent, and just plain unpleasant. To begin with, why do I have to fill out a massive customs form just to get on a connecting flight? So yeah, I got lectured by the customs agent for not having that done. And I got lectured for not lining up in front of the customs desk (the lady directed us to line up by the gate and go one at a time to the next available desk…so at least one of them is an incompetent boob). From my experience, any US customs agent (whether in an airport or at the border) will be an ass. I think it’s in their job description. This is amplified if they have a mustache. That’s not to say that Americans are asses, or people with mustaches are asses. But if they’re combined on someone working border security, there’s a 100% chance they’ll be an ass (prove me wrong America). Mine had a mustache and a crew cut. He was an ass.
So I finally got through that moved on to security, which gave me an option between giving the United States government a naked picture of myself for posterity, or having my balls touched by a man in blue gloves. I chose the ball-touching. Unpleasant, but seriously, I don’t need the CIA having pictures of my junk. So once they determined that I was not in fact bringing a dick-bomb into their country, I was through to the airport. New plan: never connect through the USA again.
Once in the airport I was delighted to discover that while United Airlines had confirmed me for my flight to Toronto, they couldn’t give me a seat because they had sold them all already (lol, what?). So yeah, we’ll take your money, but we’re out of seats. So I had to go to the United gate a couple hours before takeoff and get put on the standby list. I wasn’t the only one either. They had double-booked like 6 people for our flight. Luckily I was the first one there, so I had first dibs. This was a 12:00 PM flight that got in to Toronto at 2:00. The next option was a 4:30 flight that connected through Chicago (why?) and got into Toronto at 11:00. Thankfully the good lord smote one person on my behalf, and I got the one and only ticket that came available for the flight.
Got to Toronto, had a lovely chit-chat with a suspiciously pleasant customs agent, and took a cab home.
And that was the end of my trip.