Me-go Mix: Track 8

Posted by on Apr 28, 2008 in Kenya, Post-Trip, Tanzania | No Comments

Me-go Mix: Track 8
“Wanaume Mabinti” — Lady JayDee

To download using Windows “right click” and save to disk. Mac users, you know what to do.

At the end of my trip I wanted to buy some music that reminded me of my time in Eastern Africa. A lot of the music heard around town is not local (Shakira is quite popular), but the local music I did hear varied and no one song stuck in my head. I ended up buying a compilation called “Bongo Flava” from a music shop in downtown Nairobi. A quick listen at the shop confirmed it was the sort of music I heard around town. I don’t have a lot to say about this song other than Lady Jay Dee’s music was some of my favorite on the CD. It turns out she’s from Tanzania and has had a number of controversial hits in the past few years.

Below is a video for a different song by Lady Jay Dee, “Distance.” She sings in Swahili, Zulu, Lingala, Kinyarwanda, French and English in this song.

A Hairy Predicament

Posted by on Oct 10, 2007 in Post-Trip, Tanzania | 17 Comments

I have a problem, a souvenir from Zanzibar that’s lasted longer than I’d anticipated. Two months after the end of my trip I still have zebra-striped arm hair.

One of my favorite traditions in Swahili culture is henna. On my bus from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam I saw women with henna-covered feet and hands and immediately decided I was going to get some henna of my own. Most people think of henna designs as an Indian tradition, but I soon realized that East Africa, especially Zanzibar, was a frequent stop of travelers from all cultures, including India. The henna I had applied in Ahmedabad was beautiful but a different, Indian influenced, design. Zanzibari henna designs are more detailed and often mixed with black dye. And that was the problem, not only did the henna show up excellently on my skin but it also showed up excellently on my arm hair.

As far as I could tell most people in East Africa don’t have any arm hair at all so this wouldn’t be a concern of 99% of people using the “special” henna. With the detailed design I didn’t initially notice anything amiss but two weeks later, as the henna crumbled off my arms in the shower I noticed my new ⅓rd white, ⅓rd black and ⅓rd striped arm hair design.

Zanzibari henna design on a tan Megan Zanzibari henna design on a tan Megan Interesting arm hair

How could I go out in public all patched and striped? I considered shaving it off but thought I’d give bleaching a try. Now I have ⅓rd really white arm hair, ⅓rd black and ⅓rd extra contrasty striped arm hair. The bleach had no effect whatsoever on black hairs and turned my remaining natural hair glistening white. I’m finally starting to get used to it but I’m wondering what you would do… there’s a poll on the right.

Criticizing Carrots

Posted by on Jul 12, 2007 in Tanzania | 14 Comments

I understand that some of you can’t imagine why I’m tired and have decided it’s about time to head home. What happened the other day is a classic example.

I got on the fast ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar and showed my ticket to no less than three people at various gates as well as the boat enterance. While I was walking through the aisle to find a seat a man in plain clothes with no ID approached me and yelled at me to show him my ticket. I stood back, looked at him and firmly said “Who are you!? You’re holding carrots!

You see, the man was not only standing around uselessly, he was standing with a plastic bag of carrots. I determined that if the man was indeed working he wouldn’t have brought his carrots with him.

The man was embarrassed by my carrot insult (other men were laughing at him as well) and ran up, flashing a badge for the ferry company. “Who am I!? What is this? he declared. I just shrugged and looked at his carrots.

When I start insulting people for carrying carrots it might be time to take a step back. As a single female traveler I am on alert at all times for scams, being followed and any otherwise suspicious behavior. It will be nice to go to a store and know I am not being ripped off and to walk down a street without looking over my shoulder for touts following me to earn an easy commission.

I’m heading for the beach tomorrow to relax from all the travel hassle. I have two new, thick books to read and a lot of catching up in my journal (I’m continuously one month behind on my sketchbook). Internet will be iffy but all these long stories about my trip to see the gorillas in the Congo, rafting and my safari will be up once I’m back home with reliable internet and a good keyboard. In the meantime I’ll continue posting these updates. On the plus side, let’s just be glad my computer made it as far as Kenya!


Posted by on Jul 11, 2007 in Tanzania | 4 Comments

My time on safari in Lake Manyara, The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was filled with many animals ( no rhinos but plenty of cheetahs and leopards) and a lot of lies from my tour operator. My first day in The Serengeti was marred by a terrible accident between two safari 4x4s. Our car was the second on the scene, only minutes after the head on collision and I had to personally lift two passengers out of a broken window. I cut my elbow on the ragged window but it’s quite small and already on it’s way to an impressive scab. The car that was the most badly hit was full of the younger members of an Indian family. After a total of nine stitches they’re fine—we saw them on safari the next day—but the Tanzanian driver, who was crushed in the debris, died. When I left him he was alertly tapping in SMS messages on his cell phone.

Yesterday morning I took the 6am bus form Arusha to Dar es Salaam and caught the last ferry to Zanzibar. I’m spending a few days in Stone Town before heading for the beach. This is the vacation from my trip so I hope I’m able to get over the ridiculously overpriced… everything, and enjoy myself here.

One Day, Three Countrues, Two Borders

Posted by on Jul 3, 2007 in Tanzania | One Comment

Although it sounds silly, driving through Kenya to Tanzania was (supposed to be) faster and more comfortable than overlanding from Uganda through Western Tanzania. I arranged to have the bus pick me up in Jinja, a few hours East of Kampala. I waited in the sun beside a dusty roundabout for an hour before it stopped at three in the afternoon. And it just stopped, it didn’t pull into the gas station and the attendants just motioned for me to get on. I had to run across the oncoming traffic with my bags and throw my big pack up into the area above the passengers heads while driving down a dirt road.

I tried to be optimistic—we were scheduled to be in Nairobi by midnight and Arusha, Tanzania by 8am. That’s no so bad, 17 hours. Well, after crossing into Kenya the bus broke down. I could hear the alternator struggling but it wouldn’t turn over. Steam was rising from the engine near the driver. I went back to sleep.

We sat beside the road for about five hours before they attempted to move again. We made it another half an hour before we stalled again. Eventually we made it to Nairobi, but an hour after the time we were supposed to be in Arusha. I was can go without a bathroom for a long time but I was getting hungry. Inside the office we were directed to a small cafeteria. It wasn’t expensive but I didn’t have any Kenyan shillings on me. I kept enough to pay for a taxi when I come back to Kenya in August but it was buried somewhere in my bag.

Downstairs the women working the window simply laughed at me when I suggested that they feed me. I ate the last three cookies I had rationed and waited on the bus. We left all the passengers and traveled across the city where a handful of workers started to move all he luggage to another bus. When we arrived in Nairobi I asked if we were switching buses (on account of the smoke and five hour breakdown) and was told no. I got off the bus and asked what was going on—we were switching buses. There were only three of us on board and we moved our own things but every other thing on the bus—jackets, water, purses—were switched by the workers. Wouldn’t it have been easier to ask people to take their things with them?

My seatmate got on the bus with a cold coke and a bag of greasy french fries. I kept reading Heart of Darkness. Eventually we made it to Tanzania and I found a cheap place to stay and had my first meal in 24 hours—a delicious Indian curry and butter naan. Twenty five hours seems like a long time but I guess when you’re mentally prepared for eighteen, a little longer doesn’t make much of a difference.