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Exotic normalcy.

Before I go on, it must be said that for me, my two weeks in Dar es Salaam turned out to be very enriching. Not in the exotic sense, like being in a foreign land, but for me, a piece of “normalcy.”

12:15am. Wake up with my back on fire. The hotel uses foam mattresses, so the point where your body touches the mattress, the heat just builds to the point that you are going to burst into flames, but the discomfort luckily wakes you up before the combustion.

12:20am. Return to sleep after dousing myself under the cooling shower. One of my thoughts after watching my arm bead up with sweat, was that the dryest time of the day in Dar Es Salaam is when you are in the shower.

5:00am. Wake to the not so soothing call to prayer. There are many Moslem Mosques throughout the city and they have these tall towers which they attach stadium speakers. At specific times of day they put on the singing which is basically a sort of announcement that it is time to pray. The other times of the day, its very pleasing. 5am, not so much.

8:30am. Fully awake as the city has awoken and the noise of life beckons. A quick shower to replenish the dried out pores and were out the door.

9:00am. Stop at the reception to pay for the night. The lady manager is so pleasant to me. She tells me every morning how nice of a tenant I am. “You come in the morning and you pay. Every day. You are a very nice tenant.”

9:15am. Across the street is a Somalian Restaurant. It is a open fronted restaurant with sitting inside and outside. They have about ten guys working there because it is chaos. It would be by definition a “locals place.” In the back of the restaurant, which wouldn’t be much bigger than a normal living room, there is a little glass case with the different food for the day, much like a buffet. Next to the case is a little window where the kitchen is and where the staple food comes from like Ugali (Nsima), Rice, etc. Off to the side are the two sinks where it is customary to wash your hands before and after the meal. Food is in general eaten with the hands so if you don’t wash your hands before the meal, it is thought of as disgusting as it is assumed that you have just come from the bathroom and are about to eat with the same hands that you wiped yourself (no toilet paper is customary.) Seating is at the dozen plastic tables with plastic chairs. There is no “this is my table” as I leisurely have my morning breakfast. You sit where you can find a seat and sharing is customary. I like that a lot since it forces you to be social. Still, being a foreigner, the open seats around me are often times the last to be taken. Having eaten here every day for two weeks, and ordering the same, Chai (tea), two Chipatis (just like the ones that Taco Bell had, but not the taco wrapped inside), beans, and a juice, the guys didn’t have to ask me anymore. I would just walk in, sit down, wash my hands, and my food would be waiting. It made the people very suspicious, but it made me laugh. I would just hand off the pre-determined amount and off I went. Little by little, the stares went away, but any newcomers that had not seen me before would stare as they were unsure of what was going on.

10:00am. Nap time. Sleeping at night is not the most restful as the wind dies at night and it is brutally hot and humid. During the day it is actually nicer as the breeze pulls from the ocean and cools the air.

12pm. Head over to the internet cafe. I would usually stay for two hours as it was cheap, $.35 an hour, but more importantly they had air conditioning.

2:30pm. Back to the room for a shower. Laze around for a couple of hours relaxing, taking showers after the dampness has dried away. I guess you could call this a Dar swimming pool.

4:00pm. Head on over to Shoprite supermarket to stretch my legs, buy some water, and hang out in the air conditioning.

Miscellaneous things that I did in the afternoon just before the sun went down were, head to the fish market, visit the Harbor shopping mall (no air conditioning), tour the market, research boat prices, bus prices, and places with air conditioning.

7:00pm. Head back to the hotel stopping off at the little hole in the wall store where I got my afternoon Fanta (another place I was known as a “very good customer.”)

7:30pm. After a shower its down to the restaurant for my dinner. This time, I would go to the case and the guys would surround me talking up all the different specials. Usually it rotated from beef and rice, to vegetables and rice, to chicken and rice, to fish and rice.

8:30pm. Hang out in front of the hotel as it was a hugely popular thing to do. It was kind of like a block party where there were tons of lawn chairs and people just sitting anywhere there was space.

10:00pm. Shower and then read until I slept.

For some people that is daily life. For me, I consider that an exotic vacation from my normalcy of wake up, time to move on, both from a standpoint of this trip and in my old life. It is definitely something that I am going to have to work on. Real life, tough.



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