At the Dar es Salaam railway station the boarding platform was a sultry with wet air and bad attitudes. Pushing, juggling infants, sneaking past the gate guards, and knocking down police barricades was fair game for 3rd class passengers of the Tanzanian Railways Corporation’sservice from Dar to Kigoma. The trip is just over 1200km. The cost is 40,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about 36 USD). And took 45 hours (that was with no mechanical problems. Average speed: School Zone (20mi/hr).
Scarlett and I were not traveling 3rd class though, which is bench seating. Unless you don’t get a seat, in which case there is the floor. But then that filled up, so naturally there are some people standing. But that is tiring, so by the end of the trip we were finding passengers in interesting locations. One guy was sleeping in the luggage closet, on top of all of the luggage. One person was sleeping in the toilet (just a hole in the floor of the train) which was also being used as sugar cane storage.
This women pulled up a chair to find a breeze next to the window.
We were in 2nd class. Which means we were in gender segregated rooms with sleeping cots of 6 people. (See previous post for pictures). However more people always ended up in our rooms as 3rd class cars could be seen physically bulging with so many passengers and cargo.
I felt uncomfortable with privilage when I realized that by the 6th day of the new year I already had entry and exit stamps on my passport from four countries. Firstly, just to have a passport is a privilage (even though it is property of the federal government at all times and must be surrendered on demand). But to be able to use it so often within the first week of 2009 reminded me that traveling should not be in vein, but in order to seek out and accept moments of obligation. This is like when you witness something that sets off a series of thoughts which allow you to feel as if you can and should do something to help out.
To have such a series of thoughts comes more clearly if I’ve got some knowledge about the place I am traveling in. I so some of my best thinking when I am visiting new places and people, so it helps to have something to think about.
That is why I believe that most everyone privilaged enough to travel should read about where they are going, and who they might encounter. Maybe start with a map. I’ve got a buddy named Jack who taught me appreciate the knowledge that maps can tell us about a locations orientation and neighbors. I think so many trips are pre-planned and inclusive that many people no longer have to both with maps. I’ve had plenty of friends go to Cancun without needing to consult a map. Perhaps the travel company will give a map of the destination. This map is sure to be specific to the resort, tourist part of town ect. and probably won’t include the part of town where the hotel workers and day laborers live.
Besides, it is fun to know what else is around where I am visiting. If the original destination sucks then I’m not stuck there unknowing of other things to see and do. This helped out when Scarlett and I were in East Africa recently, because things are rarely described as they actually are. Here are a few pictures from that travel (you can see more by clicking on the pictures display in the right margin of the screen).
Kigali Mini-Bus Station on New Year's eve
Meat Cooked to Order in Kininya, Burundi
Scarlett's room on the train from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma Tanzania (she slept where the box is)
I needed to have read more about Tanzania, especially the different tribes there. Also I had no idea there were so many pre-European settlements along the East Africa coast. That is something else I would have liked to know before I got there. I also would have liked to know that the train ride from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma would last 45 hours.
This year I will read more more about where I am traveling to, should I have the privilage again, and encourage others to do the same.
The Pan-African Universities Debating Champtionship began yesterday (Monday the 8th). One of my tasks on Sunday was to take the care the debate organizing commitee is renting to the airport. I was to collect 8 people, 4 from Zimbabwe and 4 from Uganda. Luckily another guy drove his car so we could take them all in one trip. Double luckily the airlines lost all of their luggage so we could fit everyone in our very small vehicles
VW Chico circa 1991. You can still buy these new in Southern Africa.
As it ended up (and appropriatly enough following up on my last blog post from over a month ago) I ended up with the Zims in my car. We had the following conversation.
Me: “So where do you go to school?”
Lucy: “University of Zimbabwe”
Taylor: “It is the only university in Zim that isn’t closed”
Me: “Oh, I see”
Lucy: “But we don’t have any lecturers”
Me: “Because they havn’t been paid?”
Lucy: “For over a year.”
Me: “So do ya’ll stay on campus?”
Taylor: “Campus has not had water or electricity all year”
Lucy: “So it is not sanitary or safe to stay there”
Me: “Oh, so do you commute?”
Lucy: “Most students can’t afford to commute, so they don’t come”
Taylor: “Those that can aford to commute come once or twice a week”
Even though I gathered they probably had not been to class all semester they were still keen on finishing school and their declared majors. Taylor is studying journalism. We both laughed when he said his major. I asked if the atmosphere was still oppressive and he said that even the Intelligence Officers complain openly. The last person left pretended everything is salvageable will be Robert Mugabe. It will be a case of one person believeing a lie at the expense of a nation..