I am excited to report here that my three travel companions and I are all safe and well in Dar es Salaam. In fact, we’ve been safe and sound here since Saturday. But before I get into where we are now, and explain why our feet and stomachs ache, the former from walking and the latter from eating, allow me to jump back a bit. The four of us met on June 13th, a Thursday, at JFK in New York City for our 11 PM flight out of the country. After sorting out some database issues with Rachel’s tickets (we had quite a complicated route to Dar and Royal Dutch/Kenya Airlines was struggling), Tucker, Rachel and I were able to make it past security to meet Emily who had been waiting for us after her previous flight down from Toronto. And with that, we soon were in the air headed to Amsterdam.
When we arrived to Holland, the local time was about noon, and though we struggled for quite some time to actually get some euros and though we managed to get the wrong train out of the station, we were determined not to spend our 7 hour layover in the airport, and we did eventually make it into the city. And what a city Amsterdam is, filled with young spirits and old stories that are both in the conversations of the pedestrians as well as the buildings and canals that they occupy. We were able to enjoy a little bit of a rest in one of the less busy parts of town.
After Amsterdam, we were off to Nairobi for a quick layover, with our flights finally ending in Dar es Salaam in the mid-morning of last Saturday. After an hour long cab ride through the busy streets that get overflowed with people, we spotted several shops selling cooking fuel and bikes piled high with bags of charcoal. Our driver, Bakadi, told us that the forests were disappearing, and though more people are beginning to use gas to cook in Dar, charcoal and fuelwood remain entrenched in the markets and the kitchens across Tanzania.
We are spending a week in Juba Hotel, a relatively new hostel in apparently a sketchy part of the city. Dr. Rajabu from the University of Dar’s Energy Engineering department warned us that we needed to be careful as people in the area “have lots of tricks.” Though I’ve already been to Tanzania before and have had some time in Dar, I am no expert. It was great having most of Saturday and all of Sunday to walk around the city, get acquainted with the markets, fill our wallets with Tanzania shillings, and even meet up with Anna Bladey and Liliana Ma, both Dartmouth ’14s (juniors for you folks who don’t have the granite of New Hampshire in your veins) who are volunteering at a health clinic and conducting research related to HIV respectively.
On Monday (today!), we had to get up bright and early to make it up to the northern part of the city where our Swahili classes are being held. There we met Sarah Fernandez and Pallavi Kuppa-Apte, also 14’s, who are volunteering with the Jane Goodall Institute out in Kigoma. They had only landed a few hours earlier. I am incredibly impressed by their stamina and good spirits. We are incredibly lucky to have the Dickey Center of Dartmouth College arrange Swahili lessons during our week here. Our instructors, Mama Sada and Godfrey, offer wonderful guidance and a smile at every turn.
After the class we headed out for lunch, enjoyed the breezes of the Indian Ocean and looked around some craft markets. We then headed out to the Kivukoni fish market, filled with auction goers, shell salesmen, large spiders in trees, motor driven wooden boats and a lot of wet concrete.
After the market, we had a nice leisurely walk back to the city center. We got our cell phones set up, hung out in a bar sipping water and avoiding the heat for a while, and then headed to an amazing Chinese restaurant. With our stomachs filled and our feet tired, we parted ways with our non-DHE peers who are staying in the Safari Inn. And it is in this state, a bit under the weather with a cold, that I write to you about the beginning of our summer.