March 31st, 2016
Parting. I had not seen Charlie since just after his graduation last spring from Haverford College, so exploring Dar Es Salaam these past days was pure pleasure, but that does little to dampen the inevitable sadness a parent feels when a son or daughter heads off on their own again. I’ve spent most of the past eight months walking alone (and blogged about solitude), so it’s a familiar mode. Still, it was good to have someone along, to offload some of the cognitive load that travel entails, and of course to remember odd moments from the past 23 years. Tomorrow I head off to Kilimanjaro. The day before a transition is always full of little details– changing money, arranging transport, packing up, but today has an overlay, a tone, one of absence.
T. Hugh Crawford
March 31st, 2016
Morning Rain–unlike any rain I’ve seen. Huge drops close together, almost more water than air. Then sunshine. The day veered from authenticity to cheese and then back. The main excursion was to the woodcarvers market, a skill Charlie has been developing this past year, though what we saw was more than intimidating. The market is a row of stalls roofed with corrugated steel along a highway. Each sells paintings and carvings (mostly African animals in ebony). We got a tour though, so went to the back where the carvers were working–an entire community with their own kitchen and even a soccer pitch. There they worked the wood– primarily ebony–with bow-lathes and hand made chisels. Most were formed from a piece of sharpened rebar. The lathe turners sat on the ground next to the frame and bow, holding the gouge in place with their feet. There were trunks of ebony six or more feet long, a foot in diameter completely carved through with figures in the round, sanded and finished with oil–took years of labor. They rough-shaped with hand adzes, carved with chisels, and wet-sanded everything to a high gloss. No power tools, really nothing more complicated than a hand drill. I watched as someone was beginning a log project. He didn’t sketch figures onto the surface but instead used the whorls of the grain and the knots to determine the pattern. Fascinating. Before going to the market, we had coffee at a nice hotel which was having a traditional feast with music and dance that night. We put on our tourist hats, and headed over first for beer by the pool watching a European friendly soccer match (UK/NL), then up for traditional Tanzanian food, some not so traditional music, and dancers. Of course the hostess made me dance (or shuffle which is more descriptive). There were moments where the cheese factor was a little high, but we all did have a great time and the food was good and the dancers amazing. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner tourist.
T. Hugh Crawford
March 30th, 2016
Exploring Dar Es Salaam, walking of course. Out of city center on a quiet holiday morning. Easter extends to Monday here, though not sure what the dominant religion is– passed a cathedral and a large mosque, no gompas though. We walked out past the fish market, a large concrete structure on the water surrounded by open space. Both within and without there were low wooden tables where the fish were dumped out, either for display to be sold or to be cleaned by the many people sitting around them. The scales fly, making silvery showers as they scrap with incredible speed. A man was dismembering a large skate with a knife that looked like a machete. The ground all around was covered with fish offal which they pushed back into the water where large wooden fishing boats were moored, offloading their catch. We then walked out along Barack Obama Drive, pausing for a moment to try to get a picture of the sign only to be rushed away by a machinegun toting soldier guarding a military entrance: No Pictures! We walked a couple of hours out of the city, through neighborhoods with charcoal restaurants– grills and shiny scrubbed woks out front in the heat. We stopped first at a cove with fishing boats where there was an expat patio bar where we ate and watched the boats come in and out– some power boats but mostly low wooden ones with lanteen rigged sails. A man waded out in front of us tossing a fishing line and rapidly pulling it in. At first I thought he wasn’t catching anything until I saw he carried a bag on his shoulder and was catching small sardine-like fish with each cast. We then made our way over to Coco beach, a long strip of good sand completely full of holiday swimmers. Music played, people laughed and splashed, the perfect late afternoon spot. We caught a three wheeled taxi back to centre city for a grilled street food dinner, and then some sun-induced exhausted sleep.