Just a quick update from an Internet cafe in Kisutu, Dar es Salaam. I’ve been off the net this week and spending my time getting lost on public transit and trying to meet interesting people, while taking breaks to pay too much for impulsive purchases in he street, like a Lucky Dube double disc of dubious origin (most of the writing is in Chinese on the cover) and a pair of leather sandals. (Every country has some product you can’t leave without acquiring, the sandals have got to be that for here.) Those modest plans have been going pretty successfully.
On Sunday, I got temporarily kicked out of my $6/night, wified-up hostel (not telling where — it’s a secret). Not for any misconduct, I assure you, but because of booking conflicts. So I’m staying at a sort of midrange hotel in Kariakoo — the historically “African” part of town, according to the guidebooks — and rooming with a cool Danish dude that I met last week. It’s the kind of place where the room smells a bit musty; a menu of services next to the phone says “for adult channels and mates please dial 0,” and at the bottom of the page — as if the proprietors already know there are going to be one — bolded, 16-point font says “DEAR GUEST, WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.” A note on the door to the stuffy restaurant downstairs says that a “smart casual dress code is enforced.” (One can only imagine that this went up after some unfortunate incident involving uncouth or inebriated guests.) Our room looks out over people’s houses: mud-brick affairs with corrugated tin rooves. It’s pretty cool (if a little unfair), because I get to look into backyards and see how people live, washing their clothes, drinking tea and doing the other things that people do. Such an invasion of privacy would never go over in the Middle East…
To get to the title of this post, I am planning to leave Tanzania pretty soon and make my way to more equatorial climes. I feel like I’ve done as much as I can here for the time being, given current parameters (sorry I can’t elaborate here). And since I am, as they say, ballin’ on a budget, I’m just keeping a low profile, activities-wise. Swimming at the UDSM pool costs about $1. An endless dalla-dalla ride costs about 20 cents. A stroll through Milimani City mall — eerily reminiscent of a shrunk-down Serramonte in Daly City, California — is free, though you’ll pay just as much for a pair of pants in a department store there as you would in the US of A. A decent croissant and a cup of instant coffee and milk at the Somali-run place in Kariakoo sets you back about a buck.
So now I’m just bidin’ my time. In two weeks or so when folks around Dar ask where I am (should anyone actually notice I’m gone, yeah right) the only appropriate response’ll be: “Eamon? I reckon he’s a long gone daddy by now.”
Big shout out to Hank Williams.