Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dar Airport

Dar Airport: Monday July 4th 2011
Our hour and a half of sitting in traffic in stifling heat on the way to the airport was interrupted by a nice surprise this morning. Seemingly appropriate for this ex-pat 4th of July, we passed (slowly) a man wearing a shirt reading “America- Land of the Free” with a bald eagle fiercely soaring across his chest. It is continually reassuring to find that many of the Tanzanians we meet here have positive things to say about the US, with compliments to both Bush and Obama’s policies being made on a regular basis for the boldness of their actions and their conviction in their beliefs. What we as Americans are quick to ascribe as overconfidence or foolishness is seen instead as the key to good leadership. Waking at 4:30 Sunday morning to a rowdy bunch of high school students from New York arriving at the Research Flats on a “leadership program” screaming at the top of their lungs about the lizards in their room elucidated how differently leadership is identified here and at home. We began to question the leadership capacities of the two program directors, who sat on the patio and did nothing to quiet their cacophonous pupils, especially if they are espousing to be qualified to teach leadership to others. In fairness, we may have been less contentious about our early awakening had it not been for the previous night’s adventures.

After monopolizing our new friend Tsega’s time discussing the work she has been doing making fuel briquettes from sawdust and various binding materials, we were quick to take her up on her offer to show us the best Ethiopian restaurant in town: Addis in Dar. As Tsega is from Ethiopia, we took her word for the quality of the food and service that her friends there could provide. We met Tsega at the popular restaurant near campus known as Samaki-Samaki (“Fish Fish”…we have no idea, except that it is owned by a Dutch ex-pat) and began our adventure into the city. We caught a Dala-Dala (of the safe variety the size of a city bus) to Mwenge market, where we transferred into two bajaj’s, and soon arrived safely outside the beautiful two story building decorated with the Ethiopian alphabet where we would spend the next 2 hours. Enjoying our dinner in the traditional style, we were seated around platters of njera (think 1 meter diameter sourdough crepe) piled high with wonderfully seasoned dishes of beef, chicken, goat, lamb, lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. Tsega taught us all how to tear pieces of njera and create rolls by sponging up bits from each pile. As we were inexperienced, we were rather slow, but after nearly an hour of indulgence, we had finished the platters and could begin the half hour of digestion necessary before we could begin considering movement. Somehow we managed to pile our group into a capacious taxi, and arrived back at the flats completely exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep and a day off. We had no idea our day off would begin so early with the arrival of the student group.

We decided to take our day off on Sunday very seriously, and after contemplation, we chose to stay on the UDAR campus rather than adventuring out to numerous beaches Dar has to offer. With more travel ahead of us, we figured it was best to reduce our time spent in moving vehicles. Laying low at the flats, watching movies, and taking a run around campus provided just the rest we needed to tackle our journey ahead.

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