Closure In Tanzania

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This blog entry about the events of Thursday, May 20, 2004 was originally posted on May 22, 2004.

DAY 215:  My plan for the day was to continue to stay in my room, chill out and work on the arduous task of writing, but little did I know when I woke up that morning that one event would send me off track, making it my last day in Tanzania.

AFTER HAVING BREAKFAST with one of the only other four guests staying at the Manch Lodge named Gabriel, a friendly Austrian-American who gave me tips on travel in Ethiopia, I went to the local Precision Air office to confirm my flights for the next day:  Zanzibar to Dar-es-Salaam and then almost immediately, Dar to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city.  I should have known better with the way things go in Africa because the early flight to Dar had been canceled, and my only option to still get that connecting flight to Ethiopia was to leave Zanzibar that afternoon and overnight on the mainland.  I took that only option, which put a damper on the plan to veg out all day on my computer and meet people all night to say goodbye before leaving.  Yvonne was easy; she was the only one whose e-mail address I had, so I just dropped her a line to tell her my situation since she was away all day on a Spice Tour.  But as far as Jordan, Janice and the Israelis, I’d have to leave them without any closure.  Oh well, I thought.  But I figured if there’s anything that I have really come to believe on this trip so far is that nothing is coincidental; everything happens for a reason.

If there was one consistent friend I could count on at least seeing and saying goodbye to in person, it was Willie at Grace Tours, who was still just as friendly as when I got there.  He continued his extend his hospitality until the very end, bringing me through the narrow streets one more time to the local market so that I could buy a cheap duffel bag to use for storage.  He directed me to the Dolphin Restaurant, where while eating biriyani, the traditional Zanzibari fish and rice dish (picture below), I made a new friend:  a talking parrot named Billy.  He wasn’t much for words though other than “Mambo,” “Jambo,” “Poa” and “Hello.”


I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER with the way things go in Africa; as I learned in Zambia, everything just seems to work out in the end.  Sitting with Willie in the Grace Tours office, I saw Jordan and Janice walk by.  They had just gotten off the bus from up north and were in town running errands for their pictures and their blog at a nearby internet cafe.  I got to swap e-mails, blog addresses and goodbyes with them, and almost immediately afterwards, I bumped into the Israelis and found my closure with them as well.  I even bumped into Gabriel when I went back to the Manch Lodge to gather my laundry; I was hoping to say goodbye to him too.

Willie picked me up at the lodge after work and came with me in a cab to the airport.  Again, his presence served more than useful; usually a taxi driver charges TSh 10,000 for the 10-minute drive to the airport, but with the presence of Willie he was too embarrassed to ask for such a fee — I only gave him 7,000.  Willie walked me to the check-in desk and saw me off before I actually got on a flight one hour earlier than scheduled.

“Thanks for everything,” I told him, shaking his hand.  It was the handshake of closure to a decent individual I’d recommend anyone going to Stone Town to meet. 


WHEN I MET CRISTINA IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA at the ZEHRP house, she gave me contacts of two people to look up in Africa:  Tony, whom I met and stayed with in Moshi, and Priya, an American expat living and working with an HIV research project in Dar-es-Salaam.  I dropped Priya an e-mail before I left Stone Town, and she had written me back almost immediately.  She told me to call her when I got back to the mainland.

Getting to the mainland was a straightforward — and short — affair; it was the shortest commercial flight I’d ever taken at just under fifteen minutes.  I took a taxi back to the familiar Safari Inn in Central Dar, showered and called up my “blind date” for the evening on a borrowed cell phone.  It went on like a series of Twenty Questions.

“Are you still in Stone Town or safely in Dar?” the voice on the other end asked.

“Safely in Dar.”

“What do you feel like eating?”

“I’m easy.  What did you have in mind?”

“We could go for Indian?  Are you vegetarian?”

“I’m not vegetarian and Indian sounds lovely.”

Priya instructed me to meet her in an hour at the Sea Cliff hotel, “out on the peninsula.”  “What do you look like?” she asked me so that she might recognize me right away.

“I’m a Filipino guy with short hair.”

“I sort of look Asian too.”

A friendly taxi driver from the Safari Inn took me out on the peninsula through the ultra-rich (even by American standards) neighborhood of Oysterbay.  At the very end of the line of luxury hotels, a cinema and golf courses was Sea Cliff Village, a two-month-old outdoor shopping mall and hotel complex.  I sat in the lobby while waiting for Priya, wondering if each person coming in the door was her.  I recalled something that Cristina told me in Lusaka:  “Priya’s stunning, so be warned.”  With that in mind, it was easy to pick out the stunning Asian-looking girl that walked in and greeted me like we were long-time friends.

With Priya was her friend Mari, another expat from The States working at another project who had the timing, delivery and similar material as Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho.  The three of us went to the Sea Cliff Grill, an outdoor restaurant on a terrace overlooking the Oysterbay beach.  The place was packed with Western tourists with a bit of money, ordering Western food — which used to be a turn off to me being in “exotic” places, but had become one thing I craved the most.  I ordered a familiar beer, burger and fries and ate it with the two girls, bringing them up to speed with my situation, from lay off to mugging to all the connections that brought me to having dinner with them in Dar-es-Salaam.  Priya was a great host for the short time I spent with her and even picked up the tab for the whole table.

Priya called her usual taxi driver to bring us home after a relatively short night; I had an early flight in the morning and Mari as just getting over a flu, or possible attack of malaria.  The taxi dropped off Mari first, leaving Priya in the taxi for one last conversation.

“So where exactly in New York are you from?” she asked.

“Actually, I lived in Jersey City,” I replied. 

Her face lit up.  “Really, where?”

“By the Grove Street PATH station.  First Street.”

“I was on Varick and Mercer!” she said.  “I knew that you looked a little familiar, but I thought nah, it couldn’t be.”

Turned out Priya and I were long-lost neighbors after all, having lived during an overlapping period of about ten months in the same trendy New Jersey neighborhood, five-minutes from downtown Manhattan via train under the Hudson River.  We used to go to all the same hangouts, from the local coffee lounge Ground, to the Korean grocery, to the Hard Grove Cafe, the famous Cuban diner in the area.  We even commuted to the Manhattan everyday on the same train.

“Funny that we’re finding this all out now, right at the end,” she said with her stunning smile.

Although it would have been great to catch up with her for another day or two, the calendar was ticking and I had to move on if I were to make it to Spain by the beginning of July to meet other friends from home.  Sooner than I thought, the taxi dropped off Priya at her house before bringing me back to the Safari Inn in the city.

“Thanks for dinner,” I said through the window.  “Maybe I’ll see you in Jersey again one day.”

In a day of unexpected closure, I suppose it was poetic justice:  the end of the linear progression of American ex-pat connections I made since being mugged in Cape Town brought me right back to where I came from.






Next entry: A Long Way Since the Eighties

Previous entry: Caught Up In Stone Town




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Comments for “Closure In Tanzania”

  • HELLO THERE…  Greetings from Ethiopia…  As predicted, travel within the country is hard; most of the woes have to do with rescheduling onward flights. 

    Note to self (and future RTWers):  BUY ALL TICKETS AS YOU GO instead of getting them all up front!  Saves you fees in having to cancel if things don’t go according to plan—and they never will!

    Internet here is available but pretty mediocre…  You can expect another NIZ period for about a week while I go up north to track down the Ark of the Covenant.  Afterwards, I’m off to Cairo.  (Sounds like an Indiana Jones movie, huh?)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  10:31 AM


  • SPAIN/EUROPE crew:  Please tell me what your plans are as my arrival into Europe (via Morroco) is coming soon…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  10:38 AM


  • Looks like the Time Zone advantage has propelled me to the TOP!

    FIRST!!!!  It’s back on LP!

    Erik: It’s amazing how we all see to come full circle in the most unexpected ways.

    Have fun in Ethiopia…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  12:40 PM


  • HI ERIK!!

    i fell off the blog wagon for a little bit
    :( sorry!

    ethiopia and almost to europe already??

    i’m 26 entries behind… yikes. gotta catch up.

    hope all is good!

    (still jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  06:51 PM


  • WOW!  what a small fucking world!

    Posted by hanalei  on  05/23  at  03:06 AM


  • WOW!  what a small fucking world!  jersey city represent!

    Posted by hanalei  on  05/23  at  03:06 AM


  • uhmm..what ever hanalei said!

    good post…keep it up erik.

    td0t: oh..you wanna start that again? hah!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  07:16 AM


  • Not till I get home…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  10:08 AM


  • The world only gets smaller and smaller… have fun in Ethiopia. I’m curious - when you get back on, I’m wondering if you’ve heard anything on Eritrea and that war that was or still is going on. That’s a task for you - how’s that?!
    Ciao, noelle

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  10:32 AM


  • this beats Globetrekkers any day ... viva la Blog!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  04:56 PM


  • NOELLE:  As far as I know, the war with former Ethiopian province Eritrea is still on-going… I am to avoid anywhere within 20 km. of Ethiopia’s northern borders.  Then again, I’ve been warned to stay away from the borders in the south without an armed transport too! 

    Good thing I decided to fly into Addis rather than go overland!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  05:39 PM


  • SURE DO LOVE Getting post cards! thanks smile i was just skimming your blog ... and you met someone from NJ… it IS a small world! SURE do love NJ - nikkij smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  05:45 PM


  • Armed transport? Yeeks! Wow - I was just wondering, b/c there are a lot of Eritrean immigrants in Seattle and there are a ton of Ethiopian immigrants about 3 blocks from where I live in LA - interested to see both sides. You’re MUCH closer, though!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  06:32 PM


  • wow, it is a small world. what are the odds. you seems to always hit them, i say when you get back to the states, you get a lottery ticket. with your luck, you’ll hit it and be on the way to global trip 3….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  07:32 PM


  • SPAIN/EUROPE Cast Members - Who’s going?  I might need to give you stuff to bring Erik (that is if he tells me there is something)...

    Where’s the picture of Priya??  I’d like to see a “stunning” picture!

    Um…Jersey City, Exit 14C represent (http://www.whatexit.net)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  01:20 AM


  • Yes, Erik…please…
    A pic of Priya!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/25  at  05:20 PM


  • MARKYT / JAMES:  Dudes, sorry about the no Priya picture…  my camera got wet in the storm in Kendwa and then the flash didn’t work…  so all pictures would have been dark…  Weird thing though; the flash came back magically the day after, almost as if I was never meant to take the photo…

    To describe her, I suppose the closest person that she looks to that’s semi-famous is Lori from The Real World: (I forget which season, but she hosts the MTV Yoga video).

    PRIYA:  Of course, you could beg to differ if you want!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/27  at  06:14 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
A Long Way Since the Eighties

Previous entry:
Caught Up In Stone Town




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