Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tanzania, Day 1

July 17 2010 (& a little bit of July 16)

We landed suddenly and dramatically in Tanzania at around 8:30 last night, when our plane dropped out of the sky onto one wheel (I swear!) at Kilamanjaro. It was one of those brief but scary landings after which everybody on the flight cheers in relief and then immediately starts to make nervous jokes about it to diffuse the adrenaline. Kilamanjaro! I sure wish it had been light enough to see something out of the window but it was much too late and dark for that.

Instead, we spent the hour watching the cleaning crew ready the airplane inside, and after another 40 minutes flying the last leg to Dar es Salaam, we landed again -- much more smoothly this time. And after another long, slow hour of filling out visa forms and entry permits etc. we were able to formally enter the country. It was almost midnight before we arrived at the hotel and to tell the truth the whole thing is a bit of a blur because we were so jet-lagged and tired.

Today I was awakened at 5:30 am by the loudspeaker down the street, with a strong musical voice announcing the first call to prayer for the Muslim community. It is the kind of awakening that lets you know with clarity that you are not in Kansas anymore. Nevertheless, I was able to drift into sleep again for a couple of hours and finally got up for good after being frozen out of bed by the overactive air conditioning. I opened the window of my hotel room and let the warm soggy air of Dar es Salaam wake me up the rest of the way. Even on the 7th floor you can't miss that third-world city street smell, sort of a cross between wet pavement and overripe fruit.

It is good to be here! We spent an easy-going but productive enough day: exchanging currency, getting a mobile phone, eating, visiting the market, sampling the local beer. We were entertained by two consecutive (possibly even overlapping) wedding ceremonies conducted at the church across the street, replete with very live bands. We were even able to finalize arrangements with our Tanzanian colleagues who will be driving us to Dodoma tomorrow. And so (with luck) I am headed for a solid sleep and a busy day of travelling tomorrow.

[Note: photos for this blog are here]

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