Monday, July 25, 2011

Arrived in Zanzibar

Hello all,

Firstly, I made it safe and sound to Dar es Salaam two days ago by bus from Morogoro.  I got there about 2 pm and took a taxi to my hotel, which cost about 4 times as much as the bus ride.  That's taxis though.  Anyway, the hotel was great; cheap, clean, airconditioning, and had a cool atmosphere and a bar downstairs.  I even had cable television (with only 4 channels that worked though).  I rested for a bit, then took a walk down to the ocean about a mile away.  I was out of Dar es Salaam immediately when  I landed here two months ago so I never saw the ocean except from the air. 

After my ocean view indulgence, I was getting hungry and needed to find something to do for the evening.  Being as I am an American and especially love movies, I thought I would hit up one of Tanzania's three movie theaters.  On this note, it is rediculous to think that Bloomington-Normal has 4 movie theaters for about 150,000 people, whereas Tanzania has 3 theaters (2 in DAR) for its 40 million people.  Anyway, I got a bite to eat before seeing Harry Potter 7.2.  It was a good movie, like everyone has told me from back home.  The interesting thing was the theater's location.  The movie theater was located in a shopping mall.  I felt like I was dreaming and had been teleported back to the US.  It was the weirdest experience since I arrived here, being one moment surrounded by dust, garbage, and poverty; the next walking through the door of the icon of consumer capitalism.  Like I said, weird.

Anyway, following the movie I headed back to the hotel for some sleep.  I woke up early yesterday to try to make the 9:30 ferry to Zanzibar.  I had reserved a spot on the boat, but I didn't make it.  It turns out that if you reserve a ticket, but don't arrive more than an hour early, they cancel your reservation and you are skrewed (I was there 45 minutes early).  Well, I thought I would just get the next one.  Except that this ferry company was booked all day.  So I headed back onto the street and prayed I wouldn't get thrashed by the hawkers.  I found one who took me to get a ticket on a different ferry.  I paid the "mzungu price" which is much higher than normal, but they wouldn't deal and I was tired of haggling, plus I was afraid I wouldn't get any spot at all if I didn't take it.  So I sucked it up and paid the guy, eventually making it to the boat.  The disadvantage of taking this boat is that my original reservation was for the "fast" boat, an hour and 45 minute trip.  However, this new booking was for the larger slow boat, and the trip is a minimum four hours. 

We made it in just under four and a half hours.  I got a nice seat though, looking out the front window.  The AC broke though, so it got pretty warm inside.  I spent some time on deck, which wasn't much cooler, but at least there was a breeze.  I arrived and passed immigration by 5.  I am staying at a hostel a few blocks from the dock.  My room is one the third floor, with windows looking into the next building.  However, the roof is a kitchen and chill out place.  From here I can overlook much of Stone Town, the harbor, and the sun sets just right over the bay in front of me.  It is beautiful.

My first impression of Stone Town is a place where time has forgotten the buildings while everything else attempted to advance over the last 100 years.  It has incredible architecture.  The second thing I notice is the smell.  In one short walk, you can smell spices, the ocean breeze, really good cooking (especially when they are cooking with curry), and lots of fish (both the good smell and the bad one).  It is an interesting place on first glance and I am excited to spend a few days here.

Thanks to all of your for your encouraging emails which many of you have sent in the last week.  I have fully recovered again from the malaria.  The ocean is helping too.  Anyway, I want to let you know that I believe in the power of prayer, and your prayers for me are felt.  I miss all of you, your caring and kindness, and the friends back home.  I wish I could do more than write a blog to share this experience with you, but time and technology have not made it possible for much better.  I certainly am grateful for all of you, and I look forward to thanking you for your caring, support, and prayers in person when I return.

God bless you all.

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