October 3, 2006

Tanzania pt. 6 - trip to Zanzibar

The next morning, luckily, all the insane amounts of sleep I'd been getting started to work for me, and I felt a lot better, still not completely well, but a hundred times better than I had felt the day before. We got up relatively early to catch yet another bus - this time to Dar Es Salaam, so that the next morning, we could catch a ferry to Zanzibar!

The bus ride was insanely long, but I didn't mind all the sitting as I was still feeling kind of out of it. When we got to Dar, we were mobbed by huge numbers of taxi drivers and people who gained commission for finding passengers for taxi drivers, which is pretty standard for the Dar bus stand. One particularly persistent taxi driver somehow got commission from us even after we shrugged him off and went to talk to the taxi drivers by ourselves, which I'm not entirely sure how that worked, but whatever... we finally got a taxi to the YMCA, which was where we were staying (it was a hostel).

We checked into the Y (next time we sing the YMCA song at camp I'll be highly amused), talking to a few random people along the way, and then went to find food. Which brought us to...SUBWAY. There is a Subway in dar. It's not EXACTLY the same, of course, there are a few differences...but overall it's pretty much the Subway we know. They even have the same napkins! And by the same napkins, I mean the EXACT same - there's a customer service number for the US on them. It was kind of expensive for a meal in Tanzania - it was about the same amount of money you'd pay for a meal at Subway in the US - but oh so good. By the time we got back to the Y it was getting kind of late, and, as we had an early morning again the next day, we went to bed.

The next day we set off for Zanzibar! First we had to go buy tickets for a ferry. As soon as you get to the street you are set upon by multiple people working for ferry companies who show you schedules of the ferries and prices and offer to buy your tickets for you. We made our way through these people with much less difficulty than you would think, and got to the ferry company that we wanted. Now, here's the odd part - we had to pay in American dollars for me. How this makes sense, I'm not entirely sure, but since I was not a resident, they would not accept Tanzanian shillings. It still kind of baffles me how a country can refuse to accept its own currency.

Anyway, we walked over to the ferry, had our bags searched before we were allowed to enter (they had security like an airport, sort of - the bag searching was a replacement for the x-ray machine, I'm pretty sure) and then waited around for a long time as they got the boat ready.

One of the things that awed me about the people waiting in line was just the sheer variety of people. You had people who were actually from Tanzania or Zanzibar, people from America, people from other parts of Europe, just...everywhere. Oh, and chickens. That's right, I hear squawking and look over and a person is carrying a chicken as if you might hold a baby.

Finally, we were allowed to board the boat; it was fairly crowded but decently comfortable. So we set off. I listened to music for awhile while Wes got into a conversation with someone from a country in Europe who had actually taught in the Moshi region of Tanzania for a few years, so they compared stories and ideas for awhile while I faded in and out of the conversation, sometimes contributing, sometimes just listening. At one point Wes got up to stretch his legs and came back, telling me I should try going up to the front.

There were some steep stairs at the front of the boat, so I walked up them and discovered a random space at the bow of the bow of the ship. There were already a lot of other people but I found a spot along the rail and closed my eyes. It felt...amazing. I always thought that that moment in Titanic where the girl stands at the bow and says she feels like she's flying was really cheesy and stupid, but...it really DID. There was just this cool, sort of breathless feeling I got while standing there that I couldn't get too much of. I went back downstairs briefly to see if Wes wanted to walk around more since I had left him guarding our things, and to tell him he was right about how cool it was, then, when he said he was all right where he was, I went back upstairs.

This time I talked briefly to a Kenyan. "Hello." I responded, "Mambo." (Kind of like, "what's up?") "Do you speak English?" GRIN. "Yeah, I'm American." "Oooh, okay." We talked a little bit about where we were from and what we were doing, then I found a spot along the front to just sit and enjoy the wind and the feel of movement for as long as I could.

When the boat docked, the craziness began. Coming to Tanzania from England, where they make nice orderly queues for, well, pretty much everything, it was even more so. There was a huge crush of people all trying to get their bags which were all stowed in the same place, then other Tanzanians trying to make a quick buck by helping tourists get their bags off. One of them stepped in and helped us. Wes gave him a tip; the man looked at him and said, "No, it was ___ shillings," naming some outrageous amount. Wes shook his head, and the guy went away. We took our bags and went through customs to get our passports stamped.

We were in Zanzibar!

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