October 29, 2000 B.C.* - London, England
*B.C. stands for Before Catherine. Paul's wife will be joining us on November 1.
Paul and I take the same night flight to London; neither of us gets an upgrade, so we're both stuck in coach seats for over six hours. The only interesting events during the flight are the pilot's announcement that the time difference between Washington and London is four hours (which is absolutely correct) and a jarring minute of turbulence. We arrive at Gatwick airport somewhat groggy, which leads me to volunteer some unnecessary information: when the passport officer asks how long I'll be in the U.K., I explain, "just one night; I'm taking the evening flight to Dar es Salaam."
The passport officer inquires whether I have the appropriate visa. When I show it to him, he blurts, "that says Tanzania, not Dar es Salaam!" and proceeds to inquire about every detail of my journey. This interrogation nearly gives Paul (in the slow line) time to catch up with me, but I still manage to clear this hurdle and exchange some currency before he, after an equally rigorous interview by another officer (for no apparent reason), steps officially into the U.K. We check into our rooms at the Hilton for a rest before our evening flight; I'm only planning to sleep and shower, but Paul borrows my ThinkPad to do a little writing before taking a nap.
We rendezvous in the evening for dinner. Paul has been completely flummoxed by the ThinkPad; I find it sitting on his desk in a state of bootus interruptus. It turns out that when he turned it on, the machine displayed a panel inquiring about the correct time (due to the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time). Whatever Paul did in response to this inquiry seems to have upset Windows terribly, and I am compelled to manually terminate a number of half-started tasks to get the machine to shut down and reboot. Naturally, Paul was far too polite to wake me from my much-needed slumber, so he has been unable to work all day, but this may have been a good thing: denied the opportunity to write continuously for ten hours, he's managed to get a snack and some sleep, which, considering our imminent confinement for 8.5 hours on an airplane, is more valuable right now than another revision to the WILMA Intern Program. We sit down to an excellent meal at the Hilton's main restaurant, then board the flight (no upgrades again) to Dar es Salaam.
|October 30 - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
We move smoothly, if slowly, through customs and arrive at our hotel without incident. In fact, we're already checked in well before one of our local contacts, Peter, gets to the airport intending to pick us up. We have no idea he plans to meet us, and there is a misunderstanding about our flight time. But after realizing that we've already taken a taxi into town, Peter comes to the hotel and joins us for some business discussions. Paul and I are both quite fatigued from the trip, so we conclude our meeting, get some dinner, and turn in for the night.
By the way, there are no pictures yet because I left my camera in Washington. I'm hoping that Catherine will be able to get it and bring it with her.
The morning papers report riots, arrests, and street and market closings in Zanzibar. Tanzanian national elections were held on Sunday, October 29, and while the process seems to have proceeded smoothly on the mainland, irregularities have been reported on Zanzibar's islands. Paul and I had hoped to spend a few days there on this trip, both for business and tourism, but during business meetings our local colleagues advise against such a trip. Already the electoral commission has announced that the voting process will be repeated next Sunday; regardless of the outcome, someone is likely to protest again, resulting in more riots, arrests, and closings. Paul and I decide that Catherine's earlier suggestion of a weekend excursion to Arusha (near Mt. Kilimanjaro) is a better idea, so we book a tour through a local travel agent.
Noise in the street makes me wonder if the rioting has spread to Dar es Salaam, but it turns out only to be the local Halloween celebration. Unlike our American after-dark hijinks, the ritual here goes on all day long, and there's not a scary costume in sight. Yet despite the procedural differences, the underlying "trick-or-treat" principle remains the same. One simply stands outside a neighbor's house banging on a pot with a great spoon, blowing a horn, or making some other racket until the occupants open the door and throw you something to persuade you to leave. Usually it's a packet of nuts (cashews are particularly popular), but after hearing the din made by some of the revellers, I wouldn't be surprised to see an airborne brick or hammer.
As far as decorations are concerned, a few local bars, restaurants, and casinos display paper pumpkins and witches to amuse the tourists, but the general population doesn't indulge in such frivolity. What they do, in recognition of the True Meaning of Halloween, is prepare their cemeteries for visits from evil spirits. Specifically, the stately wrought-iron gates at the local graveyard are replaced with "ghost gates" decorated with various brightly-colored yet spooky-looking figures that ward off any spectral intruders. Apparently the risk of unwanted goblins getting into the cemetery and bothering the ancestors is greater than that of anyone rising from the grave and bothering the living. I'm hoping that Catherine will indeed have my camera when she arrives so that I can get a picture of these gates; I'm told they're put back in storage in early November.
|November 1, 2000 A.D.||today's pictures|
*A.D. stands for After Delivery. Yes, Catherine brought my camera!
Our business moves into high gear today with all-day meetings at various locations. Catherine arrives around mid-day and comes to the hotel by taxi (she'd already advised Paul not to interrupt business to meet her at the airport). We notice her at the front desk as we pass through the lobby between meetings: although we had told the hotel to expect her and put her in the same room as Paul, they've lost this instruction and are refusing to let this "intruder" pass. Paul resolves the problem forthwith, Catherine gets to rest in comfort, and I get my camera. I run outside and get some pictures of the ghost gates just before they're put away for next Halloween.
We continue to meet with our colleagues; some projects are coming along quite nicely, some seem to be stalled, but overall we're encouraged. The new WILMA Intern Program (which isn't on the website yet, so you'll have to wait to read the details) initially gets a mixed reception, but as Paul explains the benefits to the African participants, the reactions turn more toward the positive. My feeling is that we'll get a few concrete proposals for intern assignments that we can take back the the US and market to the anticipated sponsors.
Paul is invited to make a presentation to eThink Tank, a body supported by both private and public sector to set the goals and directions for IT use in Tanzania. He and I feel that there's a great potential for cooperation between WILMA and eThink Tank, so he accepts the challenge: the presentation is scheduled for 5:00 tomorrow. It's a bit short notice, but Paul has made his pitch informally so many times that he needs little preparation to stand in front of a potentially large group (we're told the audience could be anywhere from 2 to 75) and deliver his message with confidence.
In the evening we dine at the Sea Cliff hotel's outdoor cafe, where the wind is strong enough to blow the salad off your plate (and it does). Strong winds also blow the mosquitos away, so I'm willing to lose a few lettuce leaves in exchange for an insect-bite-free dinner by the Indian Ocean.
Work begins early today with a breakfast meeting. There's not much computing involved in this morning's discussion, so my mind begins to wander. It's Thursday, and I'm already thinking about seafood buffet night at the Sheraton: unlimited lobster, crab, shrimp, and other delicacies. I've been looking forward to it since I first saw it advertised during our last trip. Unfortunately, our business schedule in August took us to Nairobi on seafood night, so I'm glad to see that it's still a weekly event.
What I'm not glad to see is the cost. After breakfast, Catherine points out the stiff price on the all-you-can-eat affair, an amount that even my sizable appetite would hardly justify, and notes that the New Africa Hotel offers its own seafood buffet at a much more reasonable rate. Despite having told Paul (repeatedly) that the Sheraton buffet was going to be the highlight of my stay in Dar es Salaam, I suggest that we not waste money and eat at the New Africa instead. He and I were both quite impressed with the food and service there, so we agree to give it a try.
Work continues through the day with downtown meetings, a visit to the Institute of Technology, and Paul's presentation to the eThink Tank. Over lunch he estimates that he'll speak for about 15 minutes and then field questions. During the actual event, he wraps things up at about the 90-minute mark (with occasional pauses for contributions from the other attendees). I keep my mind off the evening's seafood buffet by taking pages of detailed minutes which I turn over to our colleague Simbo to use in writing a summary of the meeting. Paul promises to provide a summary of his own talk (which reduces Simbo's workload by about 90%), and then we walk back to the Sheraton to meet Catherine.
The three of us pile into a taxi for the short ride to the New Africa. We reach the restaurant, and we're in luck - there's a table available for us right away. As expected, the food and service are impeccable. There's only one small defect to mar our evening: the New Africa's seafood buffet is on Wednesdays, not Thursdays. We enjoy our dinner anyway, then head back to the Sheraton to prepare for our three-day tourist excursion.
|November 3||today's pictures|
After breakfast we pack for our three-day excursion to Arusha and Ngorongoro Crater, leaving the bulk of our luggage in storage at the Sheraton, and check out. Or more precisely, we try to check out. The computers are down, so the process of totaling all of our room and miscellaneous charges proceeds the old-fashioned way. The final bill is ready almost at the exact moment the computers come back to life, so the staff prints out our neatly detailed receipts and proves, by virtue of matching amounts, that traditional arithmetic skills are still alive and well in Tanzania.
We take a taxi to the "old airport," used mostly for short domestic flights and not far from the new international airport. Our driver is the same one who took us to the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology yesterday. He couldn't find the Institute then (he left us in front of an unaffiliated building about a block away), and he takes us to the wrong airport today. It takes a LOT of discussion to communicate the concept, "not this airport, the other airport," but we manage to get to the right place with time to spare.
As we board, Paul is asked if he's carrying any explosives. The inspector notices that I've packed a ThinkPad; he knows I wouldn't put anything dangerous in the same bag, so he doesn't ask me the same question.
The plane is a medium-size propjet, and we fly low enough to get a good view of the terrain. The dominant color is brown, evidence of the two-year drought that has affected much of the country. Once on the ground, we meet our guide, Robert, who takes us on a four-hour drive to the Sopa lodge on the eastern rim of Ngorongoro crater. He finds out that I'm something of a Star Trek fan (or was -- I Trekked out some years ago), so he entertains us with his William Shatner impression, narrating the trip in Captain Kirk's distinctive stacatto histrionics: "there must... be rain... sometime soon... or else the entire country..." -- well, you get the idea.
The journey through parched plains over dirt roads coats us with a layer of dust, so I'm disappointed to learn that the drought's effects have reached the lodge: water is in short supply even here, so hot water for bathing is only turned on a few hours every evening. Fortunately, it's on when we arrive, so we're all able to clean up before dinner.
The Sopa is quite isolated -- all the other lodges are on the western rim of the crater -- so we're relieved to find that the only restaurant offers quite good food and excellent service. We're particularly ingratiated by the head waiter, who refers to us as "Mother Catherine," "Brother Paul," and "Brother David." When I point out that Paul is married to Catherine and thus should be addressed as "Father," he replies, "oh no, he's too young." After he moves on to another table, the three of us spend considerable time analyzing his logic, then head off to bed in anticipation of an early start on our tour of the crater.
|November 4 - Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania||today's pictures|
There's no internet access on the crater rim, so I'll have to deal with the backlog between work assignments when I get back to Dar es Salaam.
Today's report is mostly pictures. Our wildlife tour (the company calls it a "safari," but I hesitate to use that term for a day's drive in a four-wheel-drive vehicle) descends from the rim (about 8,000 feet altitude) to the flat crater floor about 2,000 feet below. Like the rest of Tanzania, this area is suffering from prolonged drought, and we see many dead animals and more that seem to be just barely hanging on, waiting for the overdue rains. The vultures and predators seem to be thriving, and there are a few freshwater springs and a central alkaline pool that sustain some others, so I concentrate my photography on the healthier specimens.
|November 5 - Arusha, Tanzania||today's pictures|
We get up extra early and eat a quick breakfast. Our original plan was to go directly to Arusha today and check into the Novotel around noon, but we've arranged for a visit to Lake Manyara National Park. Along the way, the car's left-front shock absorber fails; I'm in the left-front seat, which gives Robert some indication of why it failed, and he has to ask me to sit in the back with the luggage while we limp to a repair station. After a little more than a half-hour of competent - nay, expert - hammering, with Robert under the car insisting that someone named Scotty "get the warp drive back online," we're back on the road again. Just to be on the safe side, I stay in the back seat.
The drought has had less effect at Lake Manyara than in Ngorongoro Crater, and we find a great abundance and variety of wildlife. Much of it remains at a distance or behind the lush greenery, so I don't get a lot of good photos, but a few animals cooperate and pose up close.
The roads back to Arusha seem even rougher and dustier than they were only two days ago, and we all cheer when we finally reach pavement on the outskirts of the city. Robert takes us to a souvenir shop where the quality of the merchandise (at least the items I know anything about) seems particularly poor, but I have a chance to play with a friendly cat and her tiny kitten, so I enjoy the stop. We pile back into the car without making any purchases and drive on fairly smooth roads to the hotel.
At this point I must mention that, since the beginning of this trip, Paul, Catherine, and I have been discussing the relative merits and hazards of anti-malaria compounds. A recent article in the Washington Post about the side effects of Lariam® persuaded me to switch to Malarone® on this trip. Catherine suspects that I'm being too susceptible to suggestion, but I'm certain, based on my use of it on previous trips, that Lariam® has a dampening effect on higher brain functions. Paul continues to take once-a-week Lariam® because he finds it more convenient than once-a-day Malarone®, and today he provides me with conclusive proof that this compound adversely affects one's thinking: when we check into our rooms at the Novotel, he gives me a tip for carrying my own bag.
|November 6 - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
Robert picks us up at the hotel and takes us to the airport for the flight back to Dar es Salaam. We're glad to get away from the Novotel: the restaurant charges high prices for mediocre food, and the business center demanded $5 to send one e-mail. We wend our way through Arusha's rush-hour traffic and arrive in plenty of time for us to catch the flight and Robert to meet his next client (whom I assume he will greet in fluent Klingon).
Our plane is a twin-engine Cessna Titan, which seats ten passengers and two crew. We get a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro through the clouds as we climb out of Arusha and a good look at the terrain below as our cruising altitude never exceeds 14,000 feet. We even get a short air tour of Zanzibar: we land there, two passengers disembark, and then we're immediately airborne once again on our way back to the mainland.
In Dar we catch a taxi back to the Sheraton and check in, then spend some time relaxing in our own peculiar ways: Catherine in the pool, me in the tub washing off the trail dust, and Paul pursuing socioeconomic development. I drop into the local internet café and find quite a backlog of messages for Paul, but none for me (firstname.lastname@example.org, just in case you're interested). I copy Paul's mail onto a diskette and bring it back to the hotel, and then all three of us go to the Slipway shopping/dining/entertainment complex for dinner at a Japanese restaurant that Catherine wants to try.
The restaurant is closed on Mondays. However, to Catherine's credit, the taxi driver assures us that, had it been open, it would have been a good place to eat. Another restaurant in the same complex has an appealing list of Italian specialties posted by its front door, so we decide to give it a try. The food is good, and when I venture to ask for iced tea (always a gamble in exotic locations), the waiter says he'll "ask the bartender about it."
The bartender's concoction arrives in a few minutes: an absolutely perfect glass of tea, exactly the right strength, temperature, and amount of sugar. What a shame there's only four ounces of it. I drain that glass rather quickly, and when the waiter returns I complement the bartender's effort and mention - ever so delicately - that I would prefer a larger serving. He brings the next one in an extra-large glass, and while the three of us had speculated that the formula would be ruined when the quantities were changed, the quality of this serving is equal to the first. As is the next!
When the bill comes, I fill out the comment slip with the declaration that this bartender makes the best iced tea in Tanzania (and verbally advise the waiter that I can't say "in all of Africa" because I haven't tried the tea in all of Africa). The comment slip is also an entry form for a drawing for a free dinner. I usually don't submit such forms so far from home, but in the hopes that WILMA will prosper and continue to send me back here on business -- as long as I'm going to be in Dar es Salaam anyway™ -- I fill it in with my e-mail address in the phone number field.
Our first full day back in Dar es Salaam is filled with assorted e-mail, writing, a meeting, and culminates with dinner at Smokey's Tavern. The name may be inspired by a large barbecue at one end of the outdoor terrace that keeps the entire restaurant in a light haze, but not to an uncomfortable degree. It's a pleasant place that, like the Slipway, attracts many foreign visitors despite its location on a rough dirt road. The food is good, especially a couple of crab claws the size of footballs (well, not quite) that I snatch from the buffet table seconds after they arrive.
We spend some time discussing our projects over dinner, but much of our attention is focused on the election. Since local time is eight hours ahead of U.S. eastern time, there's no way we're going to stay up to watch the returns, so we head back to the hotel expecting to hear the final results when we get up the next morning.
Like most Americans, we're surprised to wake up and find that the election is still undecided. After breakfast, I watch television a bit more until CNN declares George W. Bush the winner, then turn off the set and get to work on a short paper. When it's finished, I head up to Paul's room to let him review it. He lets me in and says he's been watching the election returns with keen interest. This remark confuses me, since once the winner is decided my interest wanes considerably, and I tell him so. Paul insists that the result is still undetermined, but, having seen the result on CNN only a few hours earlier, I am convinced that he's just pulling my leg. When Paul realizes that I've had my television off most of the morning, he turns his on and, well, I hope the Sheraton staff can fix that dent where my jaw hit the floor.
The rest of the day is taken up with assorted writing, time on the internet, and taking occasional peeks at CNN to check on the election progress. In the evening we attend a meeting of the Young Professionals; their discussion topic is the recent Tanzanian elections. The discussion is lively despite the failure of all three invited speakers to show up. Our colleague Aidan apologizes for their absence, takes the microphone himself, and directs the evening Jerry Springer-style, only without the chair-throwing.
Maybe I probably should have thrown my chair rather than sit on it. The hall has plastic chairs, the kind that stack neatly and are commonly seen poolside. Mine begins to flex under its load, and while I assume that a little rocking leeway is part of the design, Paul and another attendee simultaneously notice that it's only seconds away from complete structural failure. They alert me just in time to avert a really, really memorable entry on this website, and I switch to a more stable seat.
We dine at the New Africa. Yes, Wednesday has come around again just as I predicted last week, and the seafood buffet awaits. Overall, it's good, not grand. The crustaceans are generally mildly overcooked and underseasoned, but it's difficult to actually ruin crab and lobster for me. Unless, of course, you turn it into crab curry. I decide not to touch this particular dish, but Catherine finds it quite enjoyable. We walk back to the Sheraton and hit the sack, once again hoping to hear the election results in the morning.
Although work is going slower than we'd hoped, we are making progress on a couple of fronts. Paul has drafted a paper for Aidan's review which may lead to a Pilot project, and I'm hopeful that the one I drafted yesterday for DIT will bear similar fruit. We go to our favorite internet café and find Catherine there already busy with e-mail. I try to update my webpage but have trouble connecting to the server; after trying two computers, I decide that the problem must be on at erols.com, so I'll try again tomorrow.
Back at the Sheraton, I check the progress on the U.S. election and then rush to catch up with Paul and Aidan, who are already at a neaby art center for a luncheon meeting. As I step out of the hotel, newly-reelected President Mkapa's motorcade pulls up, and I find myself rushed to one side by security personnel, then to another by photographers who are trying to get a good shot of the approaching cars. I manage to extricate myself from the hubbub and leave in the direction opposite the art center, then, after waiting for a gap in the stream of official cars that extends as far as I can see, cross the street and make my way to lunch.
Over lunch, we discuss the basics of Paul's paper and the elections both in the U.S. and in Tanzania. We're amused by the morning paper's take on the situation: "US joins 3rd World in vote mismanagement." Headlines on the local elections include a statement from defeated opposition candidates: "We do not recognize Mkapa as Union president." As Homer Simpson says, democracy doesn't work!
After lunch I investigate our options for the weekend. Since Zanzibar is also inaugurating its own president this week, the hotels there are mostly filled with people attending the ceremony. Still, Catherine finds a room at a hotel that I don't find particularly appealing. I think my time will be better spent working, so Paul and Catherine book passage to Zanzibar while I arrange a meeting at DIT. In the evening we go to the Slipway and the Japanese restaurant we'd planned to try earlier. Tonight it's open, and we enjoy a tasty, if not entirely authentic, meal, visit the kittens for sale (500 Tanzanian shillings, or less than $1, each), then head back to the Sheraton.
Today is another slow day, but the little bit of work I have to do is critical: our project at the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology is going to take a step forward today or it's going to be restructured or abandoned. I get Paul and Cathy checked out of the Sheraton and on their way to Zanzibar, then I'm free until my 5:00 meeting at DIT. A hefty breakfast, a leisurely stroll around town, a stop by the internet café, and a long soak in the tub fill up my time.
The vice-principal picks me up and takes me to the meeting with the principal and a faculty member who's been instrumental in preparing the documents I've been reviewing. We have an animated discussion involving the intricacies of dealing with aid institutions and non-government organizations, DIT's potential to provide modern information technology instruction and to support a six-nation project proposed by UNESCO, and WILMA's role. I put on my best Elmer Gantry performance (as Paul once described it), thumping my notebook--my writing pad, not my ThinkPad!--and motioning toward that faraway point on the horizon that my Microsoft Word thesaurus calls developmental supremacy. In WILMAspeak, I "challenge and encourage" my DIT colleagues to pursue their goals the WILMA way. By the end of the meeting, they think our approach has a chance of getting them where they want to go, so we agree on a strategy to get to the next step.
After the meeting I return to the Sheraton and have dinner at the hotel's steakhouse. I try a large South African first-grade filet steak: tasty and tender, but hardly a competitor to USDA Prime. I check CNN one last time for updates on the election, then hit the sack in anticipation of getting some serious work done tomorrow for DIT.
I spend the day walking around town a bit and drafting a website for DIT (you can see the latest version here). I no longer watch the election coverage, but some reports still creep in while I'm watching other news. I'm beginning to root for Bush in this matter purely because his lawyers don't sound half as stupid as Gore's.
Paul and Catherine return from Zanzibar and regale me with tales of an adventure that could have transpired in one of the toastier levels of Dante's Inferno. I'm particularly impressed with their description of a lunch served in a steamy room where they sat on the floor and drank hot tea as perspiration streamed down their backs. The only thing they needed to complete the experience was a lecture, and they got one from their tour guide, an ardent Zanzibari nationalist. Oh yes, that and a climb up five flights of narrow and HIGH stairs (if you remember from my previous report, Zanzibar is the Island of Big Steps) to get to dinner, also eaten sitting on the floor. At least Paul enjoyed his view of the dancing girl.
Richard from DIT and his wife Neema pick us up in the afternoon and take us to a cookout at the family's seaside property. It has connections to key events in Tanzania's history, among them being the home of Oscar Kambona (1928-1997), former Secretary-General of Tanganyika National Union (TANU), the political party that brought independence to Tanganyika in 1961. As we eat, we get quite a detailed lesson in Tanzanian politics and history, and we discuss possible uses of the property for the public good. I won't pile this information on my travel page; instead, I hope to draft a new website soon that tells the story properly.
Catherine has decided that (a) she hasn't seen enough of Zanzibar and (b) Paul is far too busy with socioeconomic development to be any fun (yeah, tell me about it), so she books passage back to the islands. She'll be here in Dar for dinner but will leave very early tomorrow morning. During the day, Paul and I are busy with meetings and other work (proving point b), but in the evening we all get together for dinner at the Thai restaurant.
At this point I must digress a bit and talk about Serengeti Beer. Paul always likes to try the local beers when he travels, so he drinks Tusker in Kenya, Castle in South Africa, Nile Special in Uganda, etc. Here in Tanzania he generally orders Kilimanjaro or Safari. However, on occasion he's been ordering something that isn't on the menu: Serengeti. Of course, what he really means to say is Kilimanjaro, but everyone makes a slip of the tongue now and then (and if you don't, Paul will make one for you). He started this as far back as our trip to Ngorongoro, and has been repeating this request almost every day, sometimes meaning to say Kilimanjaro, sometimes saying it on purpose as an inside joke for his travelling companions; none of us has ever seen any evidence that such a beer actually exists.
Well, tonight, when he asks for the list of available beers, the waiter recites them dutifully and includes Serengeti. All three of us pause for a moment - is this fellow in on the joke? Paul asks if he hasn't made a mistake, and the waiter assures him that Serengeti Beer is indeed available. Paul orders one and thoroughly enjoys it, both for its robust flavor and for the economic implications of its sudden and unexpected appearance: his "demand" has resulted in the creation of "supply!"
Today Paul does some writing on the topics we had discussed at the cookout on Sunday, then turns the results over to me to produce a draft website. As I write this, the content is still a bit thin, but you can take a look at iT anyway by clicking here. The rest of the day is taken up with various meetings and other work. I hope to hear some news about the conference at DIT, but when Richard comes by the hotel unannounced to tell me about it, I'm out at the local internet café.
|November 15, 2000 P.C.*|
*P.C. stands for Post Catherine. She's on her way back to the U.S. today.
Richard calls me rather early today to thank me for the website I made for DIT. He and the principal seem quite happy with it. The website has even gotten some unexpected publicity on local television: the report on yesterday's conference included a clear shot of the web address projected on a big screen.
In the evening we invite Richard and Neema over to the hotel to see the draft website I made from Paul's ideas for their family foundation. They seem pretty enthusiastic about it, and Neema is eager to show it to family and friends. Paul figures that there's potential for WILMA to help turn this collection of ideas into reality, so we make plans to continue working together by e-mail.
Its another full day of work for me resulting in yet another website; you can see it here. There's little time to do anything but work and eat (in case you're interested, the Sheraton's seafood buffet is way better than the New Africa's).
Paul and I have a hectic day, with me taking pictures out at the property I mentioned earlier and putting up some website revisions (including my travel page, which has been neglected for nearly a week) and Paul making last-minute revisions to some business plans. We both get OK'd for late checkout, so I get some time to buy a few gifts and pack for my London Christmas-shopping trip.
Richard and his driver show up a little after 5pm to take us to the airport. We pile in and get to see Dar es Salaam's Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic up close and personal. It's mighty slow going due both to the normal end-of-week exodus and to an abrupt escalation of the water shortage. A major break in the city's water system has left many people with dry taps, and a lot of them are out on the road, both in cars and on foot, getting what they need in jugs and buckets. The scene is a compelling argument for support of the Culture of Maintenance project.
We get to the airport in plenty of time since we, like all good travelers, departed the hotel with hours to spare. Richard bids us bon voyage and good luck in our domestic work, then sends us on our way. Dar's international airport is clean and comfortable, a pleasant place for Paul and me to spend an hour or two and discuss some last-minute details before we take our seats (20 rows apart) on the plane. Nobody even gives me a hard time for breaking yet another plastic chair in the airport café.
The flight is a little more exciting than most, and I really regret not being able to get a window seat. We land in the middle of a thunderstorm in Nairobi to pick up some more passengers, then spend an hour on the ground to get a fresh crew and take care of other airline business. I hear the announcement, "we're refueling now, so please leave your seatbelts unfastened," but I try not to think about that and watch the storm outside instead.
Despite the storms, takeoff and level flight are quite smooth, and the rest of the journey is, well, as pleasant as an 8-hour flight in coach can be. We get a spectacular view of thunderstorms as we pass over southern and central Europe. The plane is out of reach of any of their physical effects, but close enough that, even from my center seat, the display of cloud-to-cloud lightning is dazzling. Later, in a clear sky, we fly though a dense meteor shower.
Upon arrival at London's Gatwick airport, Paul and I make our way through customs and stop for breakfast and some last-minute planning. Then he's on his way to his flight to the U.S., and I get my ticket for the train into the city center. Yes, the first-class coach still charges for tea and coffee.
I've reserved a room at the Hilton Metropole, Europe's biggest hotel with over 1,200 rooms. Since I was - as usual - unable to sleep on the flight, I ready to hit the sack immediately, but there's a hitch: the hotel's computer is down! Arriving guests pile up in the lobby; without a computer, they staff can't assign us rooms. We're offered complementary tea and coffee while we wait, but I just want my room.
After about an hour the problem is cleared up. I'm taken through a maze of corridors to my comfortable, if typical, Hilton accommodations. Ahh, first a nap, and then the start of my Christmas shopping. I can't write any more about that - that'd ruin the surprises!