One of the joys of returning to Tanzania, beyond time with the parentals, was reconnecting with friends made last year. Not least of these is a young friend who, with her mom and sister, took an 8 hour bus trip from up-country to visit for a few days. BR is my birthday buddy – we share a birthday 22 years apart. A random highlight of this visit: teaching BR the American pronunciation of a few words. While it is funny to take away the posh, Birtish sing-songy pleasant pronunciation of such words as water, bath, and beer, it is “No” that seems most appropriate when said in a harsh American accent. This was just one of the causes for many smiles and much laughter last weekend.
I made it to Tanzania last Friday after stops at two airports – Nairobi and Zanzibar. The night I arrived I came down with some sort of tummy bug which, when combined with my sinuses flushing out the remaining pollution from Addis, made for a not wonderfully pleasant 24 hrs. But did you notice that I said 24 hrs? Yes, thatâ€™s right… while this bug made me miss two dives on Saturday, I was just about good as new come Sunday morning.Â
I just realized that I wrote the above paragraph without saying diarrhea in an effort to make comfortable everyone living where plumbing and anti-bacterial soap are the norm. But, diarrhea is reality here. Matter of fact, somewhere in the back of your head you might be thinking, â€œReally? Can a 24 hr bug really be bad enough prevent her from going diving when she has wanted to go diving for months? Pam just isnâ€™t that tough.â€ Just in case that is what you are thinking, envision this: diarrhea while wearing a wetsuit. Yeah – that was enough for me to call off the diving too.Â
Besides tummy bugs and not diving, I have seen friends made last year, been swimming in the ocean, and just returned from a night in Zanzibar. Life is good and full in this hot and humid land. There will be a few more thoughts on Ethiopia in the future as well as photos, so I apologize in advance for the jumbled posting. I hope you are well.
My time here in Dar es Salaam is almost done. Tomorrow I leave for Kenya with the parentals. I return on Monday and then begin my trip back to the States by way of Germany on Tuesday. It has been a good time, and I will enjoy it to its last. As I sit writing this I am at the yacht club where the sun is shinning, the sky blue, and the ocean calm.
This evening I went out for a swim. I think I was about 10 minutes out when my arm was stung by something. When my legs were stung I realized it was not the little stings that just go away and turned towards shore. When I got out of the water, I already had welts. Three nice strips across my right quad and a few random other spots on both legs and my left arm. Some treatment (salt water and fresh water rinse, vinegar rinse, and shaving the stung areas) and a couple of hours later the welts are mostly gone and it is more of a tingle than pain. Now I can add jellyfish to the list of creatures that I have not only seen, but also encountered.
Sometimes that is all you can say about a day. I set up a meeting last week. I called this morning to confirm the meeting. It is a hot day. When I stepped out of the taxi to go to the meeting, my glasses steamed over thanks to the cold, blasting ac in the car. The guards at the building told me that the person I was to meet was gone to a meeting. I phoned her cell. No response. I texted her cell to let her know I was there and waiting. No response. I talk to her secretary who says to be patient and wait; she is sure her boss will return.
I am given a UNICEF visitorâ€™s badge and am shuttled to the cold waiting room. Here I sit on a hard wood bench. This afternoon, I ran out of the house without reading material, so, as I freeze, I read promotional material sitting on the coffee table, make a few phone calls, and make lists of things to do. I decide to leave after two hours.
Next time I will be sure to have reading material and a scarf or jacket to keep warm. But, today, Africa won again.
Yesterday afternoon we went to an island just off of the coast of Dar. It has a lovely beach and good snorkeling, so is a delightful way to spend time. The water near the beach was quite nice, but a little ways out, where one would snorkel, there was a strong current and all sorts of things in the water that were more than happy to sting any exposed skin. Not sure what little creature was stinging us, but it was enough to drive us towards the shore. On the upside, much fun was had while floating in the warm water and relaxing in the sun (or really the shade). It was all topped off with fresh fish and chips.
Yesterday I also found out that Bethany (she and her parents are with us for a week) and I share our birthday, though separated by more than a few years. Needless to say, we have become fast friends. However, I have to admit that she wins in the speaking department as her posh English accent is far more fun to listen to than my boring American one.
I have a short consulting job, so have set up shop on our dining room table. It is really a good situation: big table, wireless (which is slooooooow), windows that look out to our gardens, and air conditioners and ceiling fans.
Every now and then we get a fly in the house, which mom chases, with much fervor, until she is triumphant in killing it. I always laugh and carefully watch the food as I am worried that her fly swatter might just land itself on my plate or in my face in the mad chase.
Yesterday afternoon I was home alone so was saved from that humorous chase when a solitary fly invaded my work space. Before long I went to take a last sip of my coffee to find him slowly doing the backstroke in my coffee. I guess this is a lazy man’s way of killing flies.
This morning mom and I went to the yacht club to ‘do laps’ in the ocean. Earlier this week the water was so murky that visibility was one or two meters tops. This morning the ocean was calm and the visibility was fantastic. The best gift of it all was the three eels, one of which swam in the open for quite some time. It was a beautiful morning.
My parentals, friends of the parentals with two little kids, an old friend (pww), and I met on the fabled spice island of Zanzibar for a fun weekend in the sun.
Diving is always an adventure, but it is generally an expected adventure. If you live near mountains, you might go hiking on or off trails. But the area is known, the equipment is familiar, and the hiking itself second nature. For me, this is diving. I have been diving for nearly 15 years and before I was able to dive, I was watching our boat as dad dove with his friends. Over time my equipment has faded from its original neon yellows and pinks, but remains well loved.
Dad and I thought we knew what we were getting into last weekend when we went on a French live-aboard dive boat. Three dives a day for three days; two of these days were to be around Mafia, where the diving was fantastic just a few weeks prior. Good food, good diving. What we got instead was an unexpected adventure including a reminder to respect the ocean.
Friday evening we boarded the Kairos when it was already dark. As we motored through the night to Mafia Island sleep was evasive as we often felt as if we were going to be tossed from the our bunks thanks to the fantastic waves. The morning brought a rather rocky breakfast and our first dive. Iâ€™ve never been sea-sick before, but attempting to quickly down a glass of water before dive one was a mistake. Thankfully I felt great post losing breakfast and was free of such issues the rest of the trip.
Dives one and two were rather murky, but not bad. Highlights include a huge ray swimming, a large turtle swimming fast, and a moray eel swimming between rocks. Returning from dive two was a wild ride as the waves continued to grow all afternoon. With all divers on board we did not even attempt the third dive and instead motored to the back side of the island to drop anchor for the night. The evening brought NITROX training, an alternative to compressed air that allows you to stay deeper for longer. Sleep came fast and the rocking of the boat this night was pleasant.
Sunday brought three dives. The first we fought the current and upon nearly reaching the wall found it to be a sandstorm. The second brought a beautiful school of large fish at 120 feet, and then sand. Then deep diving training after lunch. The third dive included a 2.5 meter shark (either a bull or tiger), a 2+ meter, 150kg+ grouper, several large schools of large fish, including barracudas, and brought my new max diving depth of 145 feet.
After the third dive one of the 12 divers was not doing well, her symptoms aligning perfectly with decompression illness. As there was a recompression chamber on board, one of the few in east Africa, she got in the chamber and I saw both my first recompression chamber and my first recompression chamber in use. She felt better in the chamber, and so we began to motor to our next diver site, just slightly off course for Dar, as she spent seven hours in the chamber. Unfortunately, a hour after getting out of the chamber, she was feeling horrible again, so our destination was changed at 3am to Dar. We arrived at 12:30 on Monday.
One of the 12 divers on board was a doctor. She had to stitch a crewâ€™s finger up after it port door slammed on it during the high waves on Saturday. In the end, it is likely that other diver did not suffer from decompression illness, but some illness that surfaced with the same symptoms. But it could have been. Diving, particularly diving deep (technically that means past 60 feet), is pushing the balance between safety and potential illnesses including decompression illness, nitrogen narcosis, and oxygen toxicity. At depth these illness are frightening. Nitrogen narcosisâ€”imagine being drunk with over 100 feet of water above you. Oxygen toxicityâ€”think seizures at its worst. Much safer to be drunk or to have seizures on land. On the surface wild waves not only rock a boat but can hide divers from their ride, and currents can pull you towards reefs or out to the open ocean.
Over the weekend I was certified as a deep diver and to use NTIROX. I came to appreciate deep diving for what it is, though my preference remains shallow diving. This weekend was a reminder of the deep respect one must have for the ocean. So this weekend of diving was an unexpected adventure.
This past week I found myself in Arusha, a town near Mount Kilimanjaro to attend a conference. The conference itself was interesting, but beyond that also I got to go on a site visit to a school and a Massai womenâ€™s group, and visited the Rwanda War Tribes Tribunal. The most interesting thing at the school was the biofuel that was being used to in the kitchen (the school was boarding school). The biofuel was made of compacted sawdust. It is less expensive than the alternatives (wood, charcoal, or kerosene), burns extremely hot and for long periods of time, and produces no smoke. Absolutely fantastic!
The Massai women sung and danced for us. They make bracelets and necklaces to sell to touristsâ€¦seeing as all the money goes directly to the women, I couldnâ€™t help but buy a few things. The women watched as I tried on different bracelets and admired the necklaces. Then when a woman pulled a necklace off her neck similar to the ones I was admiring, it was impossible to not buy it.
The Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal has been going since the end of the Rwanda genocide. As it is in Arusha and open to the public, it seemed that I should attend. Most of the people wore black robes, and one even had a wig. I sat listening with my headphones to the translators as the lawyers, judges, and witness went between French and English. Nothing earth shattering, but it was good to simply sit in a trial and see how they are done.