Journey to Dar es Salaam

After a long, long day I finally made it to Dar es Salaam!

On May 14th, I flew out of Dulles Airport at 11:00AM and arrived in Addis Ababa by 5AM EST. This trip is covering a lot of “firsts” for me. This was my first international flight and my first time travelling on my own.

The flight definitely was not as bad as I was expecting. I think I was more concerned about how I would pass the 13 hours. The first half was not that bad but it got pretty difficult after we passed the sun at this point. For some reason, losing the sun drastically affected my mood and enthusiasm, plus I was exhausted and only wanted to sleep. Right in the beginning I was drifting and then the plane dropped suddenly and everyone was screaming, then we were experiencing turbulence for the next 5-10 minutes. If it was not turbulence I was either awaken up by a baby crying or for a meal (I think we ate around 4 or 5 times during the flight – which was new for me). The last 3-4 hours were the hardest. All I wanted to do was rest and I couldn’t (even after Melatonin). So I resorted to the starting the series Dear White People. Kudos to Netflix for the downloadable content! Before I knew it, the sun was rising again and we were in Addis Ababa where I had an hour and a half layover.

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around 7:00AM (12:00AM EST). My experience in Addis Ababa wasn’t what I was expecting. Since I barely slept on the first flight I was hoping to sit in from of my gate and take a quick power nap before I boarded. My gate was housed in a small space (probably the size of half of basketball court) with 6 other gates, so imagine how crowded and hot it was! Mind you, I was wearing a UMD hoodie, long joggers, and hiking boots!!! Needless to say, I stood the whole time and probably almost fainted. We were supposed to start boarding at 8:30AM and take off at 9:05AM, but board was crazy! People were cutting and shoving to give their boarding passes and load the shuttle, which drove us to the plane. We didn’t end up leaving until about 9:40AM. This flight was a lot easier as it was able 2.5 hours. I ate again, took a melatonin and KO’d for a majority of the flight, which I definitely needed because the process to entering the country (show travel immunizations, fill out visa application, get fingerprinted, pay $100 USD, wait for visa to print, find luggage, and go through customs). I took me a little over an hour I think. I knew time was valued differently here than it is in the US. So I tried not to stress because I honestly wasn’t in a rush to get to the next step of obstacles.

After leaving customs, I exchanged some USD to Tanzanian shillings (1 USD = 2,200 Tanzanian Shillings), negotiated at Airtel for a local sim card and data plan. Data, by the way, it extremely inexpensive here! I believe I paid 25,000 shillings, which is roughly 12-13 USD, for 6 GB of data and 75 local minutes!!! Then I grabbed a taxi and was taken to my new home. I thought 695/95/495 can get bad but traffic here is something else! I think we sat at a standstill for at least 25-30 minutes; again I tried not to feel rush because I had nothing else to do and it was the tail end of a long journey (also, the driver simply put the car in “park” and watched basketball on YouTube while we waited). After that, we sailed pretty smoothly and I was united with my fellow CEESP program fellows, Stacey and Taylor from University of Michigan. Our fourth roommate, Richard will be joining up Wednesday afternoon.

Now for the food!! Like I said earlier, I had plenty to eat while I was up in the air but once I got to my apartment and unpack I was starving!! Pretty much all of their restaurants do not open until 6:30PM and it gets dark around 5ish, so it makes getting dinner more challenging because it’s dark by the time restaurants open and we’ve walked to most places. You may ask, why don’t you go grocery shop and cook at home instead? Well…. I haven’t seen a grocery store yet; we went to a market, which is maybe double the size of a corner store in Baltimore City, it sells more than a corner store but there are no fresh fruits and vegetables. And for some reason cereal costs up to 20 USD! It’s actually MUCH cheaper to eat out at restaurants than it is to grocery shop and cook. For example, I had mixed vegetable curry for dinner my first night for 10,000 shillings (10 USD).

We can’t discuss international travel without mentioning the dreaded jetlag. Did I have it? I guess so. I think it help that I was barely sleeping the week prior to leaving (because I had final papers to submit before I took off) and hardly slept while I was in the air. I went to sleep around 11:00PM pretty easily but I woke up to use the restroom around 3:00AM and I woke up confused, as if I forgot for a second that I had flown across the world and thought I was home. Then I couldn’t sleep because it was a bit warmer than I’m use to. Luckily, my friends and family at home were still awake so they kept me “company” until I eventually went back to sleep.

Nakutakia siku njema!