August 10 - London, England
|Paul and I rendevous at Gatwick airport after winding up on separate flights from Washington due to the delayed arrival of our scheduled plane. Although the flight to Dar is full, Paul gets an upgrade to business class. He offers it to me! I thank him repeatedly and am especially grateful after I learn that the agent who checked me in had made a mistake and put me in a seat behind, rather than in, the exit row. Paul spends seven hours in coach reconsidering the restrictions on WILMA's international travel budget.|
|August 11 - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
Paul and I get through customs and catch a taxi to the New Africa Hotel without incident. The hotel is clean and comfortable and houses two promising restaurants, but there is no pool or exercise facility. Naps are the prescription for recovery from the long flight, so Paul and I see nothing of the city or each other until dinner. The seafood restaurant on the first floor (that's the British-style "first floor", which can be found upstairs) provides excellent fare and service. After some discussion of tourism prospects, we agree to an early breakfast and a bit of exploration on foot in the morning and hit the sack.
|August 12||today's pictures|
After breakfast we take a walk around the area neighboring the hotel, stopping to take a look at some government buildings and checking out some sites that Paul had visited on earlier trips. The waterfront is lined with fences, small industrial operations, huts, and other obstructions to getting a clear photo of the harbor, so I make do with a couple of shots from the hotel's 9th-floor Thai restaurant. We send e-mail from the hotel's business center and discuss our plans for the coming week.
Later in the evening we have dinner at the Thai restaurant. The food and service are excellent except for a dessert of fried ice cream whose shell is thick, doughy, and practically dripping with cocoanut oil. I've been having success in getting good iced tea, and my luck continues tonight. At both restaurants and in the lounge, a request for iced tea always gets the same response: a few seconds of silence, then the offer, "I'll make some for you." And they do, although there are no free refills.
After dinner we do a bit more walking and find ourselves out on the street when the equatorial sun dives below the horizon. Twilight is brief, but although we're in unfamilar territory, I don't feel particularly uneasy about walking back to the hotel in the dark. Of course, neither do I recommend walking around Dar es Salaam at night, but it's already obvious that this city is far more relaxed and less threatening than Nairobi. We strike up a conversation with a young man, James, who seems to want to earn a little extra money as our local guide. He leaves us when we advise him that we're here on business and are heading directly back to our hotel. Other than James and a few local vendors who politely offer us a newspaper or other small item, the people here seem content to let us explore at leisure.
|August 13||today's pictures|
Paul does a little more extensive touring on foot; I stay in my room attending to my webpage updates. When the maid knocks, I step outside for a bit and take my camera, hoping to find a good spot to get a picture of the harbor. James, whom we met the previous evening, spots me and guides me through the maze of kiosks and construction areas to a point where I can get a good series of pictures.
I return to my room and continue working on a WILMA document. A few hours later, Paul knocks on my foor with our primary local contact, Aidan, in tow. He takes us out of the city center in his car to an attractive waterfront shopping and dining complex, the Slipway. It's quite a comfortable place to spend an afternoon discussing business over drinks. Aidan has been successful generating some interest among the Young Professionals group, so we expect to have some valuable discussions at our dinner tomorrow.
We spend the day meeting with key local contacts, and we're encouraged by the progress that's being made on various development efforts. We introduce the faux paul, so popular on our last trip in Nairobi and Kampala, to Dar es Salaam when Paul discusses "hermaphrodites" rather than "hybrids" of technical and managerial responsibilities. One of our Tanzanian colleagues insists that this comment be mentioned on my website.
Evening finds us at a Chinese/Indian restaurant with the Young Professionals, and our discussion is lively and wide-ranging. It's not often that my dinner conversation encompasses 32-bit operating systems, seafood preparation, and Ross Perot. Well, on second thought, my dinner conversations almost always include such topics, but at least tonight I'm not the one speaking Russian (Aidan provides a Russian word, nevózmozhno, to describe a hybrid of hopelessness and helplessness). I invite everyone to drop by and visit us while we are in Zanzibar.
|August 15||today's pictures|
I inquire about the possibility of examining a sample of local computers to determine if the configuration and maintenance problems I found on our March trip in Kenya and Uganda were also prevalent in Tanzania. This inquiry leaves me stuck in my hotel room waiting by the phone for my local contact to tell me if he can arrange access to machines in nearby offices. Paul meets with Peter, the director of a nonprofit institution who has a new project that may dovetail with WILMA's interests. Paul and Peter come to my room, and we discuss the project at length as I maintain my phone vigil. Eventually, evening comes, and we part, agreeing that we will continue to investigate prospects for collaboration. Paul and I have dinner in the Thai restaurant atop the hotel and watch the dhows sailing in near total darkness; we can only detect them when they approach another boat that has lights. I'm rather frustrated with the problems in the business center computers which have been preventing me from uploading my webpages and downloading some documents we've received by e-mail, so I resolve to visit a local Internet cafe tomorrow and do my work there.
It's a hectic day. A local IT company invites me to ride shotgun on a couple of service calls. This is my chance to see how the condition of computers in Dar es Salaam compares to those in Nairobi. Paul is scheduled to meet someone else, so we part ways at the hotel's front door. As I struggle to fit into the compact car that's been sent for me, Paul observes, "this will be the most diffucult task of the day for you." It is, but I manage to get my seatbelt fastened and door closed, and then we're off.
It's not far to our first stop; a Windows NT server is malfunctioning. While the company engineers tackle that problem, I get a chance to check out a nearby Windows 95 desktop machine. It has a couple of hardware problems, notably a defective CD-ROM drive that's already scheduled for replacement, but on the software side the story is pretty good. I correct some internal Windows glitches, but the machine doesn't require any major effort. We soon head off to the second site (this time they supply a much larger vehicle), and I get another look at a Windows 95 machine. This one has a clean and simple setup - no extraneous drivers, no suspicious entries in the startup sequence. It has even fewer problems than the last one, and all are minor (declared "medium" severity by Norton Systemworks, but nothing that will degrade performance significantly). I pack up my software and head back to the hotel, where I rendezvous with Paul just in time to go to our next appointment.
We go to a government office that we'd passed on a earlier walk. If we'd remembered the prominent sign posted outside, we could have walked to it again, but when in doubt we take a cab. Unfortunately, the cab driver is also in doubt, leaving us in front of the wrong building - with our way blocked by a fence - and giving us cryptic directions about how to enter. The "find someone who looks like he knows and ask" method gets us ever closer, but in infinitesimal increments. However, on the upside, we get to meet a representative sample of the Tanzanian civil service commission's staff: all friendly, understanding people who wouldn't laugh at a couple of wayward wazungus. Well, most of them. It seems we're bringing a little amusement into their day, and perhaps we're spreading a bit of our confusion as well, as the one who finally identifies a specific office gives us a number that doesn't even fit the numbering scheme on the doors. Finally, we get the response we'd been hoping for - "come with me, I'll take you there" - and we're led through a maze of corridors to our destination. I suppose we should have expected a bit of a chase: at dinner the night before, our contact had given us a card with directions to his office, but he'd written them in Swahili.
Our discussion lasts throughout the afternoon, far longer than we'd anticipated with no specific agenda, but it is surprisingly productive. We learn quite a bit about recent efforts with regard to improving the environment for IT use and promotion in Tanzania, including the story of a short-lived magazine called Cool Computing. Various business reasons led to its demise, but poor quality can't be counted among them - the content and layout could compete with a lot of successful western publications, and I am quite impressed even with issue #1. We cover much more ground and still have plenty to talk about even as official closing time passes, so we agree to meet again the following week.
We return to the hotel and have a bit of a rest until Aidan and Peter arrive. They're driving us to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Good food, cheap wine - what more could you ask for? Aidan asks for a mosquito coil. Apparently he's the tastiest dish around from the mosquitos' perspective and is being bitten constantly while the rest of us hardly get a nibble. The waitress sets the coil near his chair and lights it, and soon Aidan gets some relief. Fortunately, the meal is nearly over, as it's suddenly apparent that I'm the mosquitos' second choice. We head back to the hotel and plan a couple more quick meetings for Thursday; they have to be quick, because in the afternoon we're heading for Zanzibar!
|August 17, part I - not in Zanzibar yet, Tanzania (I can explain)|
Paul has committed me to making a serious draft website for Peter, rather more complex than the one I had originally planned. Naturally, I will draft the larger site, but I already know that I'm going to be busy at my ThinkPad in Zanzibar. In the morning we go check out Peter's facility, then we go to the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology. Yes, I know, you want to hear about Zanzibar, but first things first. We learn a lot more about IT use and education in Tanzania, some of it surprising, all of it interesting, but my trivial travel page is not the place to go into long, detailed discussions of Tanzanian technology. Besides, you want to hear about Zanzibar, don't you? Peter gets us to the ferry dock with minutes to spare, but it's not his fault: the boat inexplicably departs nearly 15 minutes ahead of schedule. However - and you'll be glad to hear this - we are on it! We are going to Zanzibar!
|August 17, part II - not in Zanzibar yet, Tanzania (but closer)|
It's a nice boat ride; a bit bumpy, but we have comfortable airline-business-class seats. I take some pictures. They're not very good, since I have to take them from inside the cabin; the high-speed ferry has no outside passenger area. The in-cruise movie is U. S. Marshals, whch features a spectacular airplane crash. I wonder if this is the boat company's revenge for the airlines' showing Titanic. We approach the crowded dock, and as the gangplank is lowered I bury my camera in my shoulder bag for safekeeping.
|August 17, part III - Zanzibar, Tanzania||today's pictures|
Zanzibar is the Island of Big Steps. The various ramps and gangplanks we have to negotiate at the dock abut at varying angles and distances (this is where the London Tube "Mind the Gap" signs should be sent). We're carrying only one small bag each, so we make our way with little trouble; the dockside trek would be quite a feat with heavy luggage.
We wade through the crowd - quite a struggle, actually, as dense foot traffic seems to be streaming in all directions at once - and find a taxi driver who offers us a ride at a reasonable price. We pack ourselves into his car, and he takes us about 500 feet and stops. He points toward the immigration office.
We're a bit confused - aren't we still in the same country that we were in earlier? It turns out that there's some difference of opinion about the answer to that question, so we pry ourselves of out the car and jam outselves into the even smaller office, once again scaling some Big Steps along the way.
The immigration office is a model of voodoo ergonomics. It's actually two adjoining offices, each little bigger than a typical elevator; one distributes the landing cards and the other collects the landing cards. Each has a narrow door through which travellers both enter and exit. Yes, a whole boatload of them do this at the same time ten times a day. Yes, there's another door that connects the two offices. Yes, it's open. No, you can't use it. We get to hear "excuse me" spoken in at least twelve languages today.
Everyone from the boat squeezes into the left office, takes a card, finds a place to fill it out, squeezes out of the left office - gazing forlornly at the forbidden connecting door - and into the front door of the right office. Many take the same approach as Paul and I: not knowing which office is which, squeeze into the right office, get told to leave, squeeze out, struggle against traffic to the left office, squeeze in, get a card, etc. This procedure is nearly impossible to complete while wearing a large backpack.
We pile back into the cab, and the driver takes us a short distance to the Serena Inn. There we settle into our elegant rooms. Paul's is more spacious, but only has a shower, albeit it of proportions to match the room. My slightly smaller accommodations leave no room for a sofa, as Paul enjoys, but I do have a long, deep, bathtub, an amenity I've come to appreciate in tropical climes. I enjoy a soak in the tub while Paul enjoys some time in the pool. We enjoy a leisurely dinner in the inn's main restaurant, then go to sleep in grand mosquito-netted canopy beds (Paul's a bit grander than mine).
This morning I have a little free time, and I plan to spend it by lying to you. Yes, here I was going to start weaving a strange tale of how Paul and I found no room at the Inn and had to go stay in a refurbished harem... or something like that. However, work comes first, and speaking of first, Paul asks to do some work on my ThinkPad before he starts contacting the folks in Zanzibar who'd been recommended to us by our colleagues in Dar es Salaam. He's just using Microsoft Word, but he manages to crash my system. I save his work and let him finish his document, but then I spend the rest of the morning fixing my system.
In the afternoon we meet with someone from a local telecom firm who's a real cut-to-the-chase type: he wants to know where he fits into our scheme for development in Tanzania, and he'd like to know before he has to run to his next appointment. Unfortunately, we're on a what Paul likes to call a "fishing expedition," and all we want is to gather contacts and ideas right now. Even though we're not on his wavelength, he winds up giving us both a good idea and a couple of useful contacts. Paul and I discuss our strategy, both in terms of "fishing" and in terms of WILMA-Mentor-Pilot relationships, into the evening, and we conclude the day as we did yesterday, with a dip for him and a soak for me before dinner - the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet - and bed.
|August 19||today's pictures|
We're planning to take a walking tour of Stone Town today. I have one request: this is a hot and humid place - an environment where I tend to fade fast - so let's NOT take our tour during the hottest part of the day. Paul spends the morning working on my ThinkPad again; I finish one of my Russian books while he's typing and start another. When he's finished, we head off to an Internet cafe to e-mail his documents to some colleagues, then come back for our tour. It's noon, and we're off for four hours of walking, so I guzzle as much water as I can before we start.
We travel to the old fortress built by the Portugese, the House of Wonders, the Sultan's Palace, and the street markets. I try to buy one of the hats I've seen men wearing locally, a kofia, but the hat seller has only one in my size, I don't like the color. I do find some interesting spices and other small items to buy, and Paul picks up a painting. Stone Town is a maze of narrow, twisting streets, and we spend much of the day simply taking in the local color. By tour's end, we feel sufficiently comfortable with the area that we can go back and do a little more exploring on our own if we have time.
After the tour we attend to our respective "water sports" and meet once again in the Inn's main restaurant for dinner. During the meal I suddenly become aware that I am not feeling entirely well. A little while later I understand the problem: since I've arrived in Zanzibar, I've been eating the local fare and - completely by chance - adhering to a very low-salt diet. At the same time, I've been guzzling purified water by the liter to ensure that I don't become dehydrated. My sodium level is way below normal, and it's making me feel lightheaded and dizzy. By meal's end I'm feeling OK again, and I make sure to get some salt as well as plenty of water every day.
|August 20||today's pictures|
I'm feeling much better than I did yesterday, which is a good thing because I have plenty of work to do! Paul is spending the day at Mangapwani, the beach resort owned by the Serena Inn. There's not much of a beach outside the Inn, so they bus guests to a nice one about a half hour away. There's also a good seafood restaurant, not that I would know anything about it personally since I spent the whole day drafting the website that Paul promised to Peter. Paul doesn't take the camera with him to Mangapwani, so instead of some nice beach shots, all you get to see is me working at the WILMO Zanzibar office. That and the website, if you're interested. Well, I've included a few other shots taken at the hotel just so I wouldn't waste a whole webpage on one picture.
Lest you think that this situation is unfair, I must tell you that I'd rather be drafting a website than lying on the beach. That's why people call me a nerd. Still, next time I see Peter, I think I'll promise him a detailed description of the World Bank's micro credit facilities.
|August 21 - still in Zanzibar, Tanzania|
This is the first of many days of nonstop business activity. As of this morning I'm still entertaining notions of posting fictional reports on my webpage about our adventures in Zanzibar, but between further Windows 98 crashes and Paul's demands for ThinkPad time, I'm beginning to have my doubts. I have, however, managed to convince Paul that he needs his own ThinkPad since my productivity depends heavily on having access to my own machine when I need it.
We meet with the director of the Zanzibar Information Technology Center in the morning and visit the vice chancellor of Zanzibar University in the afternoon. There seems to be a lot of potential for the type of developmental work Paul had in mind when we came to Tanzania, and we acquire a number of good contacts and information about projects already proposed or attempted. If we had more time, we could pursue more contacts in Zanzibar, but we are expected back in Dar es Salaam this evening.
|August 21, part II - leaving Zanzibar (but we just arrived!)|
The in-cruise movie is Air Force One, another airplane disaster flick. I sense a deliberate attempt to dissuade passengers from making this crossing by air.
|August 21, part III - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
Peter meets us at the dock, and, pausing briefly to introduce us to the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, takes us to the Sheraton Dar es Salaam. I show him the draft website - he's impressed - and ask him to help develop a little more content so I can complete some more pages. He agrees, and then leaves Paul and me to have our dinner.
The Sheraton advertises an American-style restaurant, the 99'er, which features real American steaks. After a couple of weeks of the local fare, good as it is, some chuckwagon food sounds mighty appealing, so Paul and I mosey on down to the 99'er. The steaks are as good as advertised, the salad is a pretty good approximation even if their Caesar dressing is just mayonnaise, but pardner, they can't make iced tea worth spit. I've gotten accustomed to having iced tea that's less than 75% tea, even less than 50% tea, but this tea contains no tea at all. It's enough to make a feller stand up on his chair cuss loud enough to stampede the herd, but Paul persuades me not to make a scene. I do, however, send the tea back and ask for mineral water instead.
Today is filled with meetings, and it's beginning to dawn on me that I simply won't have time to compose and post my travel reports while we're still in Tanzania. Even though Paul has sent a couple of terse e-mails suggesting that peculiar things are happening down here, our work takes priority and we simply abandon any hope of posting any entertaining fiction.
This evening we have been invited to an Ethiopian restaurant. Paul makes much of my impending doom; that is, having never been to such an establishment, I am unlikely to be able to adapt to the serving style. Paul thinks I don't know how to eat with my hands? Ha! I've watched my brother for years and am certain I can master the technique!
Dinner is - disappointingly for Paul, I'm afraid - largely uneventful. I manage to eat in the traditional manner without making a spectacle of myself. We're seated on the terrace, and when Aidan finds himself in a "cold" breeze, I immediately trade places with him. Horrors - I'm actually comfortable eating outdoors in the tropics! Well, almost comfortable: Tanzania is the Land of Low Chairs, and after sitting in them for a couple of weeks now, my legs begin to cramp within minutes.
Meetings at breakfast, meetings at dinner, and Paul has adopted my regime of skipping lunch so we can squeeze in more meetings. I try to fix a problem on Peter's computer, but it turns out to have a broken keyboard, so even if there's something wrong that I can fix, I can't get to it. We take a tour of the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, and in the evening we go to the Sea Cliff hotel for dinner with the Principal and the Dean of Studies, who is Peter's brother. Our business discussions last well into the evening.
The Sea Cliff is a bit out of town, near some of the posh real estate and with a great view of the Indian Ocean. Paul wants to stay here next time we're in Dar es Salaam, and while it's an attractive place with rates similar to those of the New Africa and Sheraton, I'm not sure we'd want to give up a central downtown location.
|August 24, part I - leaving Dar es Salaam, Tanzania||David turns 47 today!|
I'm writing this report well after the events of the day, and those events begin to blur with those of previous days. Meetings, meetings, meetings - people are streaming through the Sheraton to see Paul and me. We have them in holding patterns in the lobby. Finally, we shake the last hand, collect the last business card, check out of our hotel (the Sheraton computer sings "Happy Birthday" to me as it waits for my credit card authorization), and head off to the airport.
The flight on Kenya Air is uneventful. As they did last March, the attendants serve us some Secret Mystery Food. Paul eats it; I pass but ask what it is. Afterwards, I ask Paul what he thought it was. He guesses tuna. It was chicken.
|August 24, part II - Nairobi, Kenya|
We check into the Safari Club, and I hope to get some time to check my e-mail in the hotel's business center. On my way through the lobby, however, I meet one of our Nairobi colleagues, so the cycle of meetings continues. This one takes the form of a movable feast, with various participants comiung and going and an occasional Secret Mystery Message handed to one or another of us by the hotel staff. We have a lot of business to catchup on in Nairobi, but around 9:30 I remind Paul that an important part of my no-lunch strategy is dining at a reasonable hour. It's time for our colleagues to be on their way as well, so Paul and I head over to the Brasserie for dinner.
During dinner I get some of the best iced tea I've had in a couple of weeks. The musician sings "Happy Birthday" to me, and then entertains with a special version of "Hakuna Mutata" (No Problems) from The Lion King into which he's woven my name repeatedly. This is good fun for Paul and me, and we applaud vigorously.
During dinner we try to find some common cultural ground. Repeatedly I've used allusions that escape Paul mainly because our "literary" interests have so little intersection. He simply doesn't get my references to The Goon Show, Firesign Theater, Buckaroo Banzai, The Simpsons, and other modern icons. We finally decide that we have a little common ground for various smart-aleck observations: the comic strip Pogo and the film The Godfather. I do my best impression of Godfather Brando making a WILMA Pilot an offer he can't refuse, and Paul rates our contacts in Africa on how well they physically resemble Pogo characters.
After dinner we're quite tired, so we go straight to our rooms. I'm just about to turn out the lights and hit the sack when something catches my eye, something that wasn't there when I checked in earlier. It's big, it's pink, and it's a cue that I have just taken a sudden turn into
Someone has baked me a cake! It's a big pink birthday cake studded with eight strawberries. Across it is written HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. LAUGHTON. Remember these details; there'll be a test later. I wake Paul and tell him to come over and see what's in my room. He arrives expecting something with lots of legs or perhaps fangs. He's as amused and surprised as I, but just as importantly, he's just as full as I - neither of us can possibly eat a bite of this cake.
We try to stuff it in the minibar refrigerator, but it's too big. Finally, I call room service and ask if they'll keep it in the kitchen refrigerator for me until I want it. They're happy to do so, and in a few minutes someone comes to my door to collect it. I head off to bed, unaware that in my slumber I am only drifting deeper into The Nairobi Zone.
The day begins with a conference on leadership. Who am I? What am I doing here? I'm invited out of politeness, and in true as-long-as-I'm-in-Nairobi-anyway style, I call their bluff and attend. I don't have anything to contribute to the discussion other than a couple of wisecracks, but they're received with some amusement. Paul suggests to the moderator that we may want to serve my cake during the coffee break, but we get an unexpectedly large turnout, and we decide not to mention the cake.
The conference runs a bit longer than expected, and it's followed by lunch. We're planning to visit our colleague Andrew afterwards, and he thinks our suggestion of bringing the cake over for everyone in his office to enjoy is excellent. He also wants me to take a look at his computers, which aren't working quite up to his expectations (which I raised considerably during my last visit to Nairobi). I go get my computer, and Paul waits while a member of the restaurant staff retrieves the cake.
Paul and I meet outside the elevators just as the cake is brought out. It's a lovely chocolate-iced cake studded with four strawberries. Across the top is written HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. LOUGHTON. Paul is immediately struck by this transformation and loudly - nay, resoundingly - observes, "you've even misspelled his name!" The staff member immediately wants to take the cake back to the kitchen for correction, but we have a tight schedule, so we thank her and head across the street to Andrew's office.
I show Andrew the draft Youth Aware website while his staff prepares tea and coffee to go with the cake. We talk about other projects in Nairobi while we wait for the tea and coffee. Eventually, the tea and coffee is ready, but where is the cake?
Someone from the hotel came and took it back! It seems the standards of the Safari Club forbid their releasing a defective cake. Gosh, I would have eaten the aberrant "O" first so nobody would have ever known. We actually have another pressing appointment, but we can't let the cake escape yet again, so we wait. It isn't long before the cake returns, a nice chocolate-iced cake with NO strawberries (thank you, Safari Club - I detest strawberries!), and written across the top in very fresh icing is HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. LAUGHTON. We all enjoy a slice (or two), and give the rest to the staff to take home.
Then we're off to another short meeting. We spend much more time in Nairobi rush-hour traffic than we do at our destination, but we need to make this contact. We head back to the Safari Club and then off to dinner at the Toona Tree with another of our colleagues. I get a white pizza here, something I wasn't able to find in Tanzania, and while it doesn't rival the ones I get at the Froggy Bottom Pub in Washington, it's pretty good. We head back to the Safari Club and hit the sack for the last time in Africa on this trip feeling pretty good about our business prospects.
We find ourselves at loose ends this Saturday. We haven't scheduled any appointments since most people aren't available on the weekend in Nairobi. Paul gets a one-day memership in the Grand Regency Health Club and uses the exercise equipment and pool. I explore the Grand Regency and Inter-Continental hotels a bit, but wind up back at the Safari Club in front of their big-screen TV.
In the evening we go separately to the airport. I need to go early to try for an exit-row seat to accommodate my long legs, but Paul can check in much later. Alas, no spacious seats are available; the flight is originating in Mauritius, and they've all been taken by passengers already on the plane. When Paul arrives, he asks if I've had any success, and when I tell him no... well, he's got another business-class upgrade for me. Thanks, Paul!
|Addenda, Errata, Etc.|
There are none - it's all true!