I have made it through the first leg of my journey, and I now write this posting from a Holiday Inn in Dar es Salaam. But first things first, here’s a summary of my trip.
After leaving Chelsey’s place I rushed to JFK to meet Paige and her family: her husband Chris, 12-year old daughter Mackenzie, and her 8-year old son Austin. They were just as run down as I was after carrying 10 large suitcases packed with school donations from their home out on Long Island. Regardless, we made it through without a hitch. After a relatively sleepless flight we arrived at London Heathrow airport. Paige had booked a day room nearby to stash our stuff, and after a few quick showers we took a cab to Windsor. The town was old, wealthy and charming, perhaps because it surrounds the personal abode of the British Monarchy, Windsor Castle. We had a great time seeing the Long Walk outside the castle, going through the covered marketplace and busy streets in town and catching up in the webscape with free wifi. The trip was made all the more worthwhile by the delicious gourmet burgers we ate for lunch. The short tour was much more laid back than I was expecting, and although I didn’t quite catch the full London Olympics fever it was fun to see England.
After our tour of Windsor we drove back to the airport and checked in. By this point we were all completely exhausted. I must have slept for at least 8 hours of our 10 hour flight to Dar es Salaam. Needless to say, my spirits were high as we proceeded through customs and immigration. The process was surprisingly painless. We picked up our bags and walked outside into a beautiful sunny day. We were then greeted by Paige’s longtime friend and Tanzanian know-it-all, Waziri, along with his wife Pilly.
Paige and her family checked in at the Hotel Kilimanjaro, a gorgeous place right on the ocean. Tanzania is a bustling port, and there were container ships and other vessels lined up to the horizon. The beautiful hotel had lion sculptures guarding the two reflecting pools around the entrance, a gallery of fine art in the lobby, stairs that seemed to emerge from pools of water and an infinity pool on the roof. Next, Waziri dropped me off at the Dar es Salaam Holiday Inn. My hotel actually is quite glamorous in its own right, and it was a quick walk to the banks for some cash. We eventually reconvened and traveled across town to a solar energy vendor that Paige had solicited earlier for new panels to install on the roof of the Zariki school. I tagged along as a resident engineer, and after a great deal of haggling and number-crunching, we finally settled on the system specs and final cost. To cap off our afternoon, Waziri took a surprise detour to a burger shack built into a retrofitted shipping container!
We enjoyed our burgers as Waziri drove us to the Village Museum. The museum exhibits traditional dwellings built in the architectural styles of several of Tanzania’s 120+ different tribes. Mud, bamboo, straw thatch, and even cow dung were featured prominently. We watched a traditional performance by a group of musicians and dancers that quickly turned into a dance contest between Waziri and Paige. Eventually each of us had our own turn to try out the different dances. We walked through the many different homes and shelters until the light started to fade, when at last we left for the hotels.
Tomorrow morning I will be leaving Dar for the city of Mwanza in the Northwest of the country. I am traveling a day before Paige and her family so that I can make arrangements for the program with Susan and the other teachers. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I’ll make sure to let you all know once I find out!