East Africa, May 2001:
Leadership Takes Many Forms     (please complete them in blue or black ink)
Updated June 1, 2001

May 10: Gummi Ears Washington, DC, USA

There's no rule against luck in my business. A new computer that I need to take to Africa arrives less than 24 hours before my departure. My new business cards arrive with only minutes to spare: the UPS delivery truck is only just pulling away from my house as the airport shuttle pulls up. I stuff some of the cards in one of my suitcases and in my pocket, then take a seat in the shuttle and am on my way.

At the airport, I check in, get my preferred seat - exit row - for the leg to London (and an acceptable seat, albeit not in an exit row, for the second leg), then call up the Ramada hotel and ask them to send a van for me. When the driver arrives, he asks whether I am checking into the hotel or going to retrieve my car from their garage. "Neither - I'm going to lunch." Apparently I am the only person who does this: check in early, turn my luggage over to the airline, and then relax at a nice restaurant until it's time to board. I could relax at an airport restaurant, of course, but I try to stay near the top of the WILMO Travel Nutrition Guide rankings:

  1. Restaurant food
  2. Hotel restaurant food
  3. Airport restaurant food
  4. Vending machine food
  5. Food (unknown origin)
  6. Airline food

After a leisurely meal, I go back to the airport. I discover that I've forgotten my comb, so I stop at one of the airport shops to buy one. The price of a small plastic comb is $4. I decide that I'll wait until I can check the shops at Gatwick; if they ask similar prices, maybe I'll just forget about it. Who knows - I may look good in dreadlocks.

I still have some time on my hands, so I take a seat in the observation lounge. There's more activity than usual here today: an advertising agency is shooting some photos, and a section of the lounge is taken over by photographers, models, and makeup and wardrobe people. The product is a new cellular phone with a hands-free earpiece, and the models (young executive/professional types) are being fitted with a phone holster at the waist, the earpiece, and wires connecting it to the phone. One male model just can't keep from grinning as two wardrobe women repeatedly pat down the front of his pants to keep the pleats from obscuring the product, and the grin only gets wider in response to various remarks made by the rest of the crew. Eventually he's able to adopt a serious, businesslike expression, and the shooting begins.

The crew has one small problem: apparently, the product is a piece of junk. Specifically, the earpiece won't stay on his ear. The entire crew is slowly becoming exasperated by failed attempts to get a photo of the model "using" the phone. Periodically I hear shouts to the photographer of "quick, get it before it falls off again," or "I think I can keep it on this way for a few seconds." One of the crew finally provides a solution that is cheap, easy, ingenious, and ridiculous: she gets a bag of Gummi Bears candies and jams one of them onto the end of the earpiece. With no more slippage problems, the photo session proceeds smoothly. They're just about ready to wrap up when I leave to board the plane.

May 11: We Also Sleep Who Only Stand and Wait London, England

I'm tempted to skip this day of the trip and just note in my next report that nothing happened today, but "stuff happens." Just before my flight lands at Gatwick, another flight from Harare lands, so its passengers arrive at the customs line just before my plane's. It seems that nearly everyone on the Harare flight has some problem with his documents: I've never seen the customs officers make so many trips to the supervisors or tell so people to take a seat while they figured out a visa or passport situation. As usual, I'm ready to fall asleep in line, but I manage to stay alert for more than a half hour until I finally get my passport stamped. I'm staying at the Meridien this time because the Hilton is completely booked. It's a bit more expensive than the Hilton, but at least it's in the same terminal as the customs line, so after only a few minutes' walk I'm in my room and quickly asleep.

In the evening I meet with Margaret, part of my ever-widening circle of colleagues, clients, and friends that I'm acquiring in the course of my WILMA assignments. I deliver a ThinkPad to her, and we have dinner at one of the Meridien's restaurants. The food is excellent, but the iced tea is, well, not quite as good as the conversation. She and I share an avid interest in movies, so we compare notes until she begins to wonder if she's missed the last train back to London and I begin to wonder if I've missed my flight. Neither of us has missed anything, but I do have to proceed directly to the gate to avoid the embarrassment of being admonished sternly over the public address system, "present yourself immediately or your bags will be unloaded and the plane will depart without you," a threat that sounds so much more demeaning when said with a British accent (I always expect the announcer to add "poor dear" at the end). I pass Boots pharmacy and pick up a comb - better than the one I saw in Washington and reasonably priced for an airport convenience shop at about $1.75 - then board the plane as soon as I reach the gate.

May 12: Visas - They're Everywhere I Want to Be Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya has just changed its visa requirements - again. As we land, the captain announces the change to general rolling of eyes among the passengers. After disembarking we line up at the visa application counter and fill in the lengthy form that requests, among other unusual bits of information, my father's name and the names of any friends I'll be visiting during my stay. I figure they won't cause my father any trouble, so I answer that question, but I leave a few others blank. As usual, the agent who processes my form hardly glances at it; he simply collects the $50 and stamps my passport.

The Safari Club van is nowhere to be seen, but their agent at the airport pays for my cab, and I'm quickly whisked downtown and checked into my suite. As always, I've gotten no sleep at all on the plane, so I get a little work done on my computer, get a snack, and go to bed.

May 13: The Missing Link  

Today I have two important tasks: configure a new computer for a client in Dar es Salaam, and check my e-mail. I try the hotel's business center for the latter after breakfast, but their link is down, so I attend to the computer instead. Around midday I return to the business center. The link is still down, and I've nothing else to do in Nairobi, so I go back to my room and watch some television.

Every year in the USA, movies are made that never get releaed in theatres or on video. Now I know where they go: Kenyan Broadcasting Company! It's a great place to see major actors like Ben Kingsley and Alec Baldwin embarrassing themselves in truly wretched productions. But enough of that - back to work.

The link is still down in the business center, so I go to a nearby internet cafe. It's closed on Sundays, so I walk about as far as I'm willing to walk in Nairobi to another. It's closed on Sundays too. So is the business center at the Grand Regency hotel, but at least the restaurants are open, and it's dinnertime. After taking full advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet, I take a taxi back to the Safari Club. Getting online will have to wait until tomorrow.

May 14: But When I Do Have a Daughter, She'll Have Iced Tea Parties With Her Imaginary Friends  

The waitress gives me a cheery greeting as usual when I arrive for breakfast, then she inquires, "will your daughter be joining you this morning?" I advise her that this is an unlikely occurrence, and she immediately realizes that she's taken me for someone else. I know, I know, all we mzungus look alike. The really odd part of the story is that I'm practically the only guest in the hotel. I've seen a few others from time to time, but none that look remotely like me. The lack of competition for the waitress' attention gives her time to come to my table a couple of times to apologize for confusing me. I tell her it's OK; sooner or later, everybody does.

I head over to Andrew's office after breakfast. He's been called away, but the computers in the office, as usual, are begging for my attention. I won't recount all the details, but one machine did reveal more than 1,200 errors as diagnosed by Norton Systemworks, and it was the first machine I'd ever worked on that had deteriorated beyond the ability of my automated procedures to repair. I spent over an hour hand-editing the Windows registry alone (if you're a nerd, you know what that means; if you're not, you don't want to know).

In the afternoon I meet with Andrew and persuade him that he has to make major changes in the way his equipment is maintained. I'm also worried about the reliability of the internet service in Mombasa; one of our new colleagues relies on it to keep in contact with us, and my suspicion is that his e-mail is getting lost in its network. We try to phone him to confirm some plans for collaboration in Dar es Salaam during this trip, but to no avail. Andrew and I agree to meet again tomorrow for further discussions.

After an e-mail check I have dinner again at the Grand Regency. They've gotten accustomed to my unusual (for Nairobi) beverage preference there and inquire how I like the iced tea they've been making to order for me. I suggest a few refinements and get three big perfect glasses with the buffet at no extra charge. I may have to start staying here so I can get one any time I want.

May 15: So Much Tea, So Little Time  

There are a few guests at breakfast this morning, including a large bearded fellow who's a likely candidate to be mistaken for me, and he has a young lady with him that I presume is his daughter. I finish eating and head over to Andrew's office. There he and I discuss the future of our respective organizations and opportunities for collaboration at length. There's plenty of potential; what we need to do is come up with a plan. I'll be joining Paul in Dar es Salaam soon to work on that.

Andrew and I finish our discussions in the early afternoon. I spend some time running diagnostics on the computers I'm carrying to Dar and some watching television. Kenyan television is showing some truly awful movies: The Avengers, my personal nominee for the "Worst Movie Dialogue" prize, and Deep Blue Sea, which, as a low-budget horror film, doesn't inspire high expectations and therefore doesn't seem as disappointing. It's still a wretched mess. In the evening I once again have dinner at the Grand Regency, where my iced-tea-making instructions are becoming legendary. I have one more day in Nairobi, and I promise the waiter I'll come by for at least one more glass.

May 16: Thank You for Sharing  

The restaurant is crowded this morning. A group of American tourists is having breakfast before heading off on a safari. An elderly couple stops by a friend's table and describes in loud detail the desperate measures they've taken to maintain their various bodily functions. Their conversation is hardly suitable for mealtime and not the sort of thing I would quote on this page; suffice it to say that I wouldn't want to be riding up an escalator behind them.

Andrew and I have a few more items to cover. We talk in his office for a while, then I return to the hotel to pack and check out. Andrew invites me to lunch and lets me pick the restaurant, so I choose the Grand Regency. The waiter greets us and immediately asks if I want an iced tea. I've already mentioned the subject to Andrew, so he says he'll try this exotic American beverage. Either he really liked it or he's a really good bluffer: he drains two large glasses and seems to thoroughly enjoy them. Our conversation ranges over a variety of topics, and it turns out that Andrew and I have more than an appreciation of good iced tea in common: we're both avid investors. He's interested in some of my recent successes in the stock market, and he asks me for recommendations. After warning him about the wildly varying results from my past investments, I give him a couple of stock picks, but I maintain that, in view of his aversion to high risk, he'd be better off with a good mutual fund.

There's a conference at the Grand Regency, and Andrew knows many of the participants, so he introduces me to as many as he can. I deplete my "walking-around" supply of business cards just as we meet the last person. Afterward, Andrew returns to his office and I check my e-mail at the internet cafe, then return to the hotel to relax and wait for my evening flight. I have a long talk with one of the hotel's managers about WILMA; she knows of an environmental project in Kenya that may be a good addition to our network, so I give her our website and e-mail addresses so we can talk further. I even give her my personal website address, taking care to explain that the "evil" label on the homepage is only a joke, and encourage her to read my reports to find out how we really work.

By the time I leave for the airport, I'm really feeling ready for bed. Naturally, since I'm feeling rather fatigued, a few extra details crop up that require my attention. Air Tanzania is strictly enforcing the weight limit on luggage, so I have to pay for the excess 8kg in my suitcases (exactly the weight of the four ThinkPads and cases I'm carrying). I've only belatedly noticed that my passport was stamped with the wrong entry date when I arrived in Nairobi, so I'm a little concerned that I'll be questioned about it on the way out. However, as usual, the agent hardly glances at the passport and quickly sends me on my way.

I get a bulkhead seat on the plane (thanks, John at Uniglobe Travel), so the one-hour flight is reasonably comfortable. We depart on time, and the baggage is handled efficiently, so other than being menaced by some enigmatic "food" (see ratings above) in mid-flight, I enjoy a quick and easy trip to Dar es Salaam.

May 17: It's Not Easy Being Large* Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

*A song sung by "Bluto" in Robert Altman's film Popeye.

I exit customs shortly after midnight and stuff my considerable bulk (both body and baggage) into a compact taxi. At the Sheraton, the check-in form is waiting for me; I sign it, get my key, and go directly to my room in anticipation of getting to sleep within minutes. When I open the door, I find not the king-size bed that I'd reserved but two tiny single beds, hardly larger than my suitcases. I call the front desk, and while they concede that my reservation calls for a large bed, they have none free at present. They promise to give me the first large bed that becomes available, so I ask them to notify me as soon as they have one and prepare for a cramped night.

Sleeping in a narrow bed, literally no wider than myself, is a tricky feat for me. I take my usual precaution of moving the side table several feet from the bed and then turn in for the night. Sure enough, it's only a few minutes before I roll over onto the floor. I hit with enough force that the occupants of the room below me must have suspected there was an explosion, but nobody complains. I manage to stay in bed the rest of the night, although it's no more restful for me than for the average person sleeping on a balance beam.

At 9:00 I meet Paul, freshly arrived from a two-week trip across South Africa. He's had trouble finding reliable internet access, so while I've been sending him regular reports on my activities, he's only read the most recent message. Thus we have plenty to talk about over breakfast. He tells me about his trip in detail, including opportunities for WILMA to pursue initiatives there.

After breakfast I give him his computer, on which I've been doing a little maintenance. We spend hours on the internet at a local cafe; Paul has quite a backlog of incoming e-mail, but since I've already brought him up to date on my activities, he can simply delete a lot of the messages from me. In the afternoon we meet with our colleague Stan, to whom I deliver another computer; with a little luck, I'll soon reduce the weight of my suitcases to the point where I won't incur any surcharges on my next flight. As promised, the hotel moves me to a room with a king-size bed.

In the evening we have a long talk with our colleague Aidan. Several of our efforts in Tanzania seem to have slowed or stopped, but Aidan has been making steady progress. Afterwards Paul and I have dinner; the hotel's Serengeti restaurant is featuring its overpriced seafood buffet, so we eat in the steakhouse instead. I warn Paul that iced tea is simply not available here, but he orders it anyway; he wants something other than wine because he's he's had "too much wine" on his South African trip. As anyone who knows Paul will immediately recognize, that's a lot of wine. As I expected, there's no tea in his glass of "iced tea," but he drinks it, albeit with a grimace.

I sleep very well in my king-size bed!

May 18: Advise and Contempt  

There's not much to report. We're getting into the usual daily rhythm of breakfast-work-dinner, maximizing our use of the middle of the day by skipping lunch entirely. Well almost entirely: Paul gets the munchies, so I reveal my jumbo supply of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers that I've lugged all the way from Washington. Paul's impressed, and after a "glass of fish" (we have no bowls or plates), he feels he can last until dinner.

Lacking any real news, I'll just cite a couple of interesting tidbits I've read recently: the British Airways inflight magazine, High Life, is currently featuring an article that tells readers "How to Avoid Looking British." It's a fairly amusing piece advising British travellers on how to blend in while vacationing abroad. Still, it's not half as engrossing as the prescriptions in the free hotel magazine, Dar es Salaam Guide. In an article about avoiding illegal currency exchanges, it counsels:

In case a bogus moneychanger approaches you, you need not ask him any questions. All you need to do is to give him a big bash on his face, and after all if the Police force could turn into an arrestor, jury and judge, why not you?

In the evening Paul and I go to the Terrace restaurant at the popular Slipway complex only to find that it has been taken over by a private party. Curiously, most of the guests are speaking English, but none of them look British. There's plenty of room at the Japanese restaurant Azuma, so we have a tasty, if not entirely authentic, meal there. As we depart, our taxi suffers a flat tire just as we're about the leave the Slipway parking lot. Yes, it's a front tire, and I'm sitting in front. It's quickly replaced, and we're soon back at the Sheraton.

May 19: At Least It Doesn't Look British  

At breakfast, the waitress comes over to our table and tries to answer my question about the unusual tropical fruit on the buffet. I do not recall asking a question about the fruit on the buffet, so I begin another day confused but well fed.

An all-day work session follows, with Paul once again cheating on the no-lunch rule by grabbing some calamari rings in the cafe. Our colleague Aidan has given us quite an interesting puzzle to work on, and we spend much of the day in a lively brainstorming session that's alternately enhanced and stymied by our nearly mutually exclusive educational and professional backgrounds. We continue to work on it through dinner (excellent seafood at Langi-Langi) and afterwards until it's time for bed.

May 20: Thinking in the Rain  

All-day rain and the limited time before my departure to Zanzibar on the 23rd make today a good day to spend working in our rooms. The result of our pondering yesterday's puzzle is a rough diagram of developmental biases that prompts us to laugh out loud as we think of examples to place at key coordinates. We briefly consider and reject the likes of J. P. Morgan, Confucius, Jesus, Lenin, and other leaders before settling on a collection that will definitely raise a few eyebrows. By the end of the day I have my challenge: turn our crudely drawn diagram into a file that can be e-mailed to our colleagues beyond Dar es Salaam.

May 21: Send a Tanzanian to Albuquerque!  

We're still working on (and chuckling about) the content of our developmental diagram over breakfast. I have to wonder what the other guests think as they overhear us debating the relative merits of including Florence Nightingale and Ross Perot in our scheme. I spend much of the day turning our idea into a Microsoft Word document. During the process I discover a few Word bugs I hadn't encountered before, and I have to dig deep into the various control bars to find all the functions I need, but eventually I complete the first draft. Aidan comes by in the afternoon. He's here both to discuss our diagram (and Paul's rather dry explanation of the logic behind it, sent to him earlier in e-mail) and attend to some other matters. He's intrigued by our approach, but it doesn't impress him as a useful tool for the work he's planning; however, he'll keep it in his hip pocket just in case a situation arises in which it's needed.

The three of us discuss a couple of proposals that WILMA may want to pursue. One involves providing scholarships for young Tanzanians to attend an international school, one of whose campuses is in Albuquerque, NM. Since I generally design a website for each of our initiatives, I'm hoping that this one will materialize: I can't wait to register www.send-a-tanzanian-to-albuquerque.org!

May 22: Where's Solar Power When You Need It?  

In the morning we walk to a nearby building where Stan (of the Solar Village Institute and other worthy causes) has located office space that our growing group in Dar es Salaam may be able to utilize. I'm particularly interested in seeing whether the computer there will be adequate to the group's need or will have to be upgraded. I also carry all my maintenance gear with me just in case it needs some work. Alas, Dar has been experiencing power failures frequently, and there's no electricity again today in this building. The computer is a fairly new Pentium III machine, so I can at least hope that if the hardware is undamaged and the software isn't hopelessly misconfigured, this machine can put the group online.

Paul and I continue to discuss our diagram during every free moment, which means that we really have no free moments. We decide on a significant revision, and I spend much of the day reworking the Word document. By evening I am quite frustrated with the shortcomings of Word, but I have a rather attractive representation of our scheme that can be e-mailed (if only I can remove the last few glitches).

My work is thankfully interrupted by Neema, who comes to take us to dinner. We go a bit beyond our usual dining territory to the Namanga area. The street is lined with assorted bars and eateries, and most of them seem to be doing brisk business. We stop at La Trattoria Jan, where the front door is guarded by a tank of enormous lobsters. Paul orders the seafood plate which arrives heaped with more crustaceans and other tasty critters than anyone could possibly eat in one sitting. But that's no problem: I've ordered a white pizza - a rare find in my travelling experience and probably the only one I'll see before I get back to the US - and while it's quite good, it leaves me with room for some of Paul's extra lobster.

After dinner, I finish the new diagram and also write a technical note to accompany it. In order to get the file down to a size small enough to e-mail, I have to compress it in such a way that Word displays a warning message. Lest any recipients think that the file is corrupted, I suggest that Paul append my note to any e-mail he sends as a cover to the diagram.

Oh, you want to see what we've been working on? Sorry, not yet: it's still in the formative stage, and it may be a while before it's ready for public consumption. In general, I don't put the content of our work on my travel page, but if we decide to put this particular document on the WILMA site, I'll let you know where to find it.

May 23: Life on the Edge Zanzibar, Tanzania

It's a busy morning as Paul and I try to get some key tasks completed before I leave Dar es Salaam. The long arm of Murphy's Law reaches even here: when we arrive at our favorite internet cafe, several machines are malfunctioning, and then the internet connection fails. One of the staff suggests we wait, but this is not a good day for waiting.

We go to an internet cafe only a short walk away. It's usually reliable, but we rarely use it because it has twelve computers packed into a small space that perhaps could comfortably hold four. The machine are arranged in two rows along the wall of a narrow room, perhaps once a closet, so that the users sit back-to-back. They sit so close that the staff have removed the backs of half the chairs to make room for the users. There's no chance that Paul and I can sit together at one screen, so he waits outside while I work. I attend to my e-mail, but the computer has been configured to prevent FTP access, so I'll still need to go somewhere else to update some webpages. I invite Paul to take over at the keyboard and send a message of his own, then we head back to the hotel.

I quickly pack and take the bags I won't need in Zanzibar to Paul's room, then check out, barely meeting the noon deadline to avoid an extra day's charge (OK, OK, I've never known the Sheraton to charge for a minor overstay, but I don't like to test their limits). I still have to find an internet cafe that will let me use FTP, so I head out on foot to the center of town where there are several to choose from. As I leave, I tell Paul that my bags are full of useful items that he's free to use if the need arises.

The first internet cafe I try has working FTP access. I update my pages in just a few minutes, then spend the rest of the half-hour I've paid for on news and financial sites. I return to the hotel and, having no room of my own there, go to Paul's to relax for about an hour before I take a taxi to the airport. In my absence, a need has arisen for one of the items in my bags: my jumbo box of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. I tell Paul that he's welcome to all of them; I brought them along in case I needed a salty snack to deal with the heat, but I'm doing just fine with the hotel food.

I take a taxi to the airport, check in, and wait for my flight. A construction crew is working on the business class lounge with various glues and solvents. The fumes drive me to the smoking area, where thankfully nobody is smoking. When the gate opens, the other passengers and I walk to our small twin-engine propellor plane, and when the captain sees me he advises, "sit up front for balance." As I always do on a small plane, I sit up front. The flight is smooth and uneventful, although uncomfortably warm. We only climb to 3,500 feet, not high enough to benefit from lower upper-atmosphere temperatures.

Twenty minutes after takeoff from Dar we're on the ground in Zanzibar. Representatives from Zantel, the sponsor of the GSM conference I'm attending, are here to greet me and other invitees, and they wisk us to the VIP lounge where I go through the passport and customs processes in a manner that must be familiar to royalty: there's an attendant to collect my luggage and get my passport and landing card stamped while another brings me drinks. The soft leather couch and air conditioning are certainly an improvement over my experience arriving by boat on a previous trip!

I and three other invitees pile into a luxurious van and begin the trek to the Blue Bay Beach Resort. We all know that the resort is quite a distance from the airport (and even farther from the docks where some invitees will be picked up), but as the sun sets and we still seem to be miles from anywhere, we all begin to wonder just how far one can go and still be on Zanzibar. I didn't time the drive, but I believe that it lasted more than an hour.

Eventually we arrive at the resort. There aren't many lights on this side (northwest edge) of the island, so we emerge into the dim illumination coming from the main building. Also, our very comfortable van has excellent air conditioning, so my cold glasses fog over immediately when they contact the warm, humid air. As I blindly step out, I put my foot on something that's obviously not pavement, but it take me a few seconds to realize what it is: the foot of a Masai warrior. He works for the resort, and I trust he has explicit instructions not to kill guests - at least not before they've paid - so he graciously accepts my apology and sees that my luggage is brought inside.

The check-in process include a lecture about the grounds and the unusual electrical system here (you need to use your key to turn on your room's power), but it's brief, and I'm soon in my room and unpacked. I discover another oddity about the resort's power system: the sockets here are not the three-flat-prong type used in the United Kingdom but the two-round-prong type used in other parts of Europe. I've grown accustomed to seeing only the flat-prong sockets in east Africa, including the west side of Zanzibar, so I've only packed a flat-prong connector for my US equipment. This means that I'll have some trouble recharging my ThinkPad and camera, so I'll may not post any more reports until I return to Dar es Salaam on the 26th.

Upon returning to the main building I meet up with my fellow travellers from the van, and we make a foursome for dinner. Tonight's special is a seafood buffet - there's no other menu - and while the selection is smaller than at other buffets I've sampled on my travels, what they have is mostly quite good. My only complaint is that the jumbo crab claws have been prepared with an assortment of spices strong enough to completely obscure the taste of the crab. Dinner conversation reveals my companions to be a young couple from Florida combining a second honeymoon with a business trip (their first honeymoon was also in Zanzibar, which is where the husband was born), and the president of a west African mobile phone company. We have a good time swapping travel stories, one of the most astonishing of which is the route one must take to get from Dakar, Senegal, to Zanzibar (connections in Paris and Amsterdam!). We've all been asked to arrive promptly at the morning session tomorrow, where the president of Zanzibar will give the keynote address, so we all return to our rooms for an early night.

As I approach my room, a member of the hotel staff is just leaving. We give each other the usual brief greeting that guest and staff do at resorts, then I ascend the stairs, open the door, and step in. I think it's not too much of an exaggeration to say that at the next moment I'm not terribly far from having someone else write this entry with the conclusion, "step in, and die." The room has just been fumigated, and I walk into a black (remember, there's no power, and thus no light, until I put my key into the power switch), stinging fog. I manage to get the key inserted, but at this point my eyes are watering so badly and I'm coughing so severely that all I can do is half step, half fall backward out of the room and into the fresh air. The door closes, trapping the fog inside and me outside. After a few minutes of recovery time, I'm feeling well enough to walk to the main building and ask at reception, "did you just fumigate my room?"

"Oh, no, we didn't fumigate; we sprayed," is the reply. I'll call this guy if I ever have an emergency requiring a linguist. I explain what happened, and he says that the chemicals will disperse in a few minutes. The resort does not maintain a set of duplicate keys, so I spend those few minutes waiting for the staff to execute the procedure for getting the master key. One of them escorts me to my room and opens it. As promised, the fog has dispersed, and a faint unpleasant odor disappears shortly thereafter. However noxious the chemicals were to me, they did a dynamite job on my six-legged roommates: I give a goodly number of them an undignified burial-at-drain, then go to bed.

May 24: Clothes Bake the Man  

I get up early to shower, dress, and eat breakfast before the first conference session at 8:00. So does everyone else. We're almost all in business suits and already sweating in the tropical heat when we hear that the first session has been delayed until 9:00. I spend the extra time in the open-air restaurant; it's more comfortable than the open-air conference room.

The session finally begins just a bit after 9:00, with the Chief Minister substituting for the President. After a few other speeches, we have a break while the Chief Minister tours the exhibit area. The jackets begin to disappear, and while some who are well acclimated to the tropics stay in their power suits throughout the day, there's a steady migration toward more comfortable attire. It's not long at all before I'm back in my room for another shower and a change of clothes.

At lunch I begin my real mission in earnest. While the conference is dedicated to the concerns of African mobile phone operators and related organizations, I'm here to find people interested in WILMA. At lunch I find some eager listeners (or good actors), and in the afternoon I find some more in the exhibit hall. Naturally, since I'm skipping the afternoon conference session, they move into an air-conditioned room. By evening I've given away more than 20 business cards, which is an indicator or how many people I've found who actually showed some interest in WILMA's work.

At dinner a troupe of acrobats entertains us, and although the humidity remains high, the heat of the day abates enough for us to enjoy the outdoor restaurant. I give my table-mates a break and allow the conversation to move onto a subject other than WILMA. Those who swim commend the pool and the beach at high tide; at low tide, the water is a long way off. We're all interested in seeing more of Zanzibar, but the resort is far from any other tourist attractions, and beyond the gate there's no light for miles. The heat has fatigued me a bit, so I withdraw from the after-dinner mingling at the bar and, giving the staff ample time to fumigate my room again, turn in early.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

The Chief Minister of Zanzibar delivers the keynote address.

Guest lodgings, central buildings, and pool/bar area of the Blue Bay Beach Resort.

The beach is delightfully uncrowded, but where's the Blue Bay?

The shallow slope of the beach results in a wide variation between the waterlines at high and low tides. It's simply too far to walk for swimmers, but shell gatherers (black dots in the picture on the left) appreciate the broad stretches of sand.

A passing storm drenches the resort but is over in a few minutes.

All sorts of small animals live on the grounds. Both the snail and the lizard are about a foot (0.3 meter) long.

The most interesting ones come out at night. Hummingbirds feed at flowering trees; if you move quietly, you can walk within inches of them.

Bats congregate in a tree near my room at dusk. From there they make short flights around the grounds throughout the night, feeding on insects attracted by the lights. At dawn they disappear.

May 25: And Don't Forget to Use the Force  

I have breakfast with my usual table-mates. It's a sunny day with little wind that brings out the local insects in force. In particular, bees are industriously investigating every table, looking for sweets. We have to keep the sugar and preserves covered, and the staff diligently clear tables of used plates.

I attend the morning session in the air-conditioned room, taking a seat directly in front of the cooling vent. Ah, what comfort, but sitting and listening to technical and regulatory issues regarding mobile communications isn't getting my mission accomplished, so I leave at the break to spread the WILMA message. A German who's spent time doing charitable work in Tanzania takes particular interest in our strategy, and I spend considerable time describing our work in detail and getting some advice in return. He strongly cautions with Yoda-like sagacity, "don't just send money and materials without control. You must have control!" I assure him that we're not in the business of simply handing out resources, although we don't make a point of underlining the control element.

At lunch and throughout the afternoon I find other kindred spirits, people who in one way or another have been involved in developmental work in Africa or other parts of the world. It seems they have as little interest in mobile phone regulations as I, and they're all looking for someone to talk with as the official session continues. By dinnertime, the number of cards exchanged or given (not everyone keeps theirs always at the ready as I do) has risen to 41, and I'm looking forward to receiving word from many of my new contacts soon via e-mail. My voice is strained from a solid day of talking, so I dine alone and listen to the local band that's come to play by the pool, then turn in early.

May 26: TILT! or, My Sugar Bowl is Full of Bees Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

At breakfast I see that someone has left the cover off the sugar bowl on my table. A bee has obviously discovered it, returned to the hive, and done the bee dance to give his extended family the exact location of the bounty. I give the waiter a chuckle when I ever-so-politely ask for "a sugar bowl with fewer bees, please." He carefully encloses the small swarm inside the bowl with a saucer and then brings me a beeless bowl.

The official conference sessions are over. Zantel (Zanzibar Telecom Limited) is sponsoring a "spice tour" of the island, but I have to decline in order to make my early afternoon flight back to Dar es Salaam. One of the other attendees wants to take the same flight as I, but he's having trouble getting the hotel staff to book it. He even has to borrow my ticket to show as evidence that the flight actually exists. By the time the van is ready to leave for the airport and other destinations on the west side of the island, he's no closer to getting a reservation, so he and his wife (the second-honeymooners of whom I wrote earlier) pile in with me intending to take their chances at the airport.

It's as long a drive back as it was to the resort, but in daylight there's plenty to see. Much of the land near the resort is either unpopulated or sparsely dotted with small houses, and the trees and vegetation look like the backdrop for a Hollywood jungle adventure. Most of the dwellings have a few domesticated animals nearby, and as we drive along at a rapid but safe speed, several chickens just barely avoid our wheels as they dart across the road. Makes you wonder why... but I digress.

The west side of the island is noticeably cooler than the east. The second-honeymooners decide that it would be a shame to leave without seeing popular Stone Town, so they book a room at the Serena hotel and decide to fly to Dar another day. After dropping them at the door, the van stops in Stone Town for some supplies for the resort and then takes me to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Check-in at the airport is only a bit less hectic than maneuvering through the docks, but at least the waiting area has comfortable seats.

The flight to Dar es Salaam is on the same twin-propellor craft that I took three days ago. As before, the journey takes only about 20 minutes, but this time only 19.9 minutes of it are uneventful. As we touch down, a sudden crosswind lifts the right wing and nearly makes the left wing touch the runway. Naturally, I'm sitting directly behind the pilot (on the left), so I get a good view of his effort to right the plane. It all seems much more dangerous than it really is - the pilots know how to handle these things, and it's far from the worst crosswind and smallest plane combination that I've ever experienced - but the few seconds that we're rolling down the runway at an angle still get everyone's heart racing.

Once on the ground with all three wheels, we quickly disembark, and in a few minutes I'm in a taxi back to the Sheraton. I check in and then go see what Paul's up to. He's up to his ears in work (and nearly out of Goldfish crackers). I walk in on a discussion with one of our colleagues and immediately pick up where I left off last Wednesday. We catch up with each other's progress over the course of the afternoon, with Paul bringing me up to speed on his efforts and my reporting on all my new contacts.

In the evening we take what may be our last opportunity for entertainment. The Spanish Embassy and various companies are sponsoring a festival featuring flamenco dancing and a buffet of Spanish specialties. We meet some interesting dining companions there, including a Russian-speaking American named Dave (an unlikely find in Dar es Salaam, at least until recently). The food is good, although it takes a bit of skullduggery to actually get a good-sized piece of lobster in my seafood paella. We particularly enjoy the entertainment featuring one of Spain's most famous flamenco dancers, but the highlight of the evening is the encore in which the Spanish Ambassador to Tanzania joins in. Unfortunately, I don't have my camera with me!

"Last Week Syndrome" is about to set in: as we expected, appointments are beginning to pile up before our departure on May 30, but we're also expecting our colleague Ahmed to arrive from Mombasa tomorrow for several days of intense work on an important paper. The big push begins tomorrow, so there may not be time to post any more updates until I leave Africa.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Views of the northern edge of Zanzibar (I couldn't quite get Blue Bay Beach resort into the frame) and downtown Dar es Salaam from the air.

May 27: Quest for Fire  

After breakfast Paul and I return to the office building that we'd visited last week. Today they have electricity, so I'm able to check out the computers (now there are two). They pass all my tests, and Stan even has a video of me saying so made for local television. Afterward Paul goes off with Stan and some others, and I return to the hotel.

I find that Ahmed has just arrived from Mombasa and already checked in. When I go up to his room, there's no answer, so I leave a note and take advantage of some downtime, which should be in short supply this week. A little later Ahmed finds me, and we spend some time talking about technology and development, with me doing most of the talking about the former and him dominating the latter. Paul returns, and he and Ahmed get some work done before we all go to the New Africa for a Thai dinner.

Ahmed is a fan of fiery food, so he orders an extra hot sauce with his already spicy meal. His nod of approval and - from my perspective - grimace let us know that yes, it's hot enough even for him. Dinner lasts quite some time as we have lots to talk about, and we get back to the Sheraton sometime after 11:00pm.

May 28: The President Ate My Afternoon!  

Ahmed, Paul, and I meet for breakfast, then we set about dealing with the day's inconvenience: the Sheraton is fumigating our floor, so I want all of us and our ThinkPads out of range of the chemicals. Fumigation is the last thing Ahmed needs; he felt the effects of his superheated dinner last night, and right now a seat in the cool lobby with his ThinkPad sounds perfect. I agree to join him as soon as I clear up one matter with Paul, but when I get to Paul's room, he wants to stay and work there as long as possible. Reluctantly I unpack my ThinkPad, which only minutes before I had so carefully secured in its case, and begin the boot sequence. Sure enough, as soon as I have the proper program up and running but before I've had a chance to type a single character, there's a knock at the door. It's the fumigators, so we pack everything back up and head for the lobby.

We work in the lobby for about an hour, Ahmed in one corner and Paul and I in another, until we're pretty sure the fumigation is complete in our rooms. Peter arrives, and we leave Ahmed to continue working and meet in Paul's room. There are a number of issues to be covered, so Peter gets the double-barrelled treatment as Paul tackles content issues and I attend to the technical. We get the key matters settled, and Peter departs as Paul and I walk to the internet cafe.

Paul has another appointment, so he sends some e-mail and returns to the hotel as I upload my travel reports from Zanzibar. Back at the hotel, I catch up on a small backlog of computer work, then relax a bit as I wait for the next request from Ahmed and/or Paul. Shortly before our usual 8:00 dinnertime I go to Paul's room and show him what I've been working on. After a quick review, we call Ahmed to suggest going to dinner. There's no answer, so I take a tour of the lobby and other public areas looking for him, but he's nowhere to be found. Paul and I watch a little bit of a couple of wretched movies waiting for him to call us, but to no avail. Eventually I slide a not eunder his door, and Paul and I go to the hotel restaurant.

Dinner is a hearty, if overpriced, "Mediterranean" buffet, although I can't consider it truly Mediterranean without garlic bread (or garlic anything else). We eat well and are literally waiting for the check when Ahmed walks in, apologizing for his disappearance. It seems the president of Tanzania, attending a meeting at the Sheraton, spotted him in the lobby and insisted on whisking him away to the palace. They're old friends, and they've spent the bulk of the afternoon and evening together. Hey, Your Excellency, we saw him first! Considering that we only had three days together to begin with, this surprise side-trip may seriously reduce the amount of work we're likely to get done, but since Ahmed assures us that he talked up WILMA to the president, his time seems to have been well spent anyway from our perspective.

May 29: Time Marches On, and So Do We  

Despite our previous misadventures trying to keep to a tight timetable, we have meetings scheduled today at 10, 12, 2, and 4. Things start to go awry early: the driver to take us to the first meeting doesn't show up. At 10:15 Paul calls the people we're supposed to be seeing at DIT and finds that they are "in interviews." He gives the secretary a message to hand to them directly, and then we find ourselves with some time to discuss our plans for the rest of the day and tomorrow.

I discuss our diverging paths: Paul is going to Johannesburg, I'm going to London. It occurs to us that while I know my flight time, he's never bothered to check his. He finds his ticket and discovers that he is leaving tomorrow morning, not in the evening as I am. Last Week Syndrome suddenly becomes Last Day Syndrome. DIT returns our call, and since we now have no time to meet tomorrow, Paul schedules them for 4:30.

Our 12:00 appointment doesn't show. In a rare example of role-reversal, Paul lets me make the phone call while he works on the computer. After a few tries I reach Stan, who's not far away and should be here shortly. I also reach Peter, my 2:00 appointment, and in our sole flash of foresight for the day tell him that I'm not likely to see him at that time. He's also not far away, so he drives over to introduce one of his colleagues and reschedule our appointment (which doesn't require Paul) for tomorrow. Stan arrives, Peter leaves, we get some work done on some key documents, then get into Stan's car for the trip to the site of his new school where I will get some pictures of the construction.

We stop suddenly and unexpectedly in the parking lot of the YMCA, not very far at all from the Sheraton. Here Stan arranges for a minibus to take us and several of his interns to the school site. It takes him a while, perhaps a half hour, to do this, and by the time the minibus pulls up it's already 2:30. We're quite concerned about our ability to visit the site and get back downtown in time for our 4:00 meeting, but Stan assures us that there will be no problem, so we pile in and take off.

Over an hour later, after negotiating miles of rough road, we arrive at the site. Well, actually, we're not quite at the site. We arrive at the swamp. From the road we have to walk about a half mile to the construction site because the ground is too soft and wet for the minibus. It's also too soft and wet for heavy folks like me. I'm soon trailing behind the others as I gingerly seek places to step where I won't sink in too deeply, so I don't hear Paul amuse Stan by asking if there are lions in the vicinity. Stan gets a good laugh from this. When I catch up, I have a similar joke, but mine is about snakes. Stan doesn't laugh; he just says he thinks they're not poisonous.

I take some pictures that will appear on a new website for the school, then we all trek back to the road. Now even Stan is concerned that we won't make our 4:00 appointment - it's 4:00 already - so he proposes that we take his car, parked nearby, rather than the minibus, since it will travel much faster. Paul calls Neema, who's already arrived at the Sheraton for our meeting, advises her of our situation, and asks her to notify DIT, then we stuff ourselves into the car. It's a Japanese compact, and I can barely squeeze into the front seat as Paul gets in the back. Seeing my knees pressed against the dashboard, Paul suggests that I move the seat back (as if I hadn't thought of that myself). I pull on the seat adjustment level and find that it is back.

The little car is not really built to hold such a heavy load, so the driver has to take the rough roads rather slowly. The minibus passes us within minutes and disappears over the horizon. At least Stan leans out the minibus window as it whizzes by and raises his hands in a "who knew?" gesture; this makes Paul and me feel much better. The car begins to make better time once we reach smooth pavement, and we reach DIT around 5:30. Over the course of the next three hours we settle some issues and bring up some new ones, then Paul and I go back to the Sheraton for dinner. Ahmed has been invited to dinner by the mayor, so we don't expect the see him until very late. It's been a tiring day, and I don't think there's anything he needs to discuss with me that won't wait until morning, so I go to bed.

May 30: Bumps and Bonds  

Paul has to leave early this morning, so naturally we start breakfast late. He has some new ideas he wants to discuss with me, and I think he's a bit peeved that I periodically interrupt to remind him of the dwindling time before his flight to Johannesburg. When we finally do go down to the restaurant, Ahmed is already there, and he's helpfully selected a table that will place me squarely in the sun. I squint through the meal - to Paul's obvious amusement - until the sun rises to a point where its rays no longer fall directly in our vicinity. This close to the equator, the sun moves across the sky pretty quick, but it still seems like hours to me before I'm sitting in shade.

Checkout is complicated. I'm paying for Paul's room and Ahmed's, although Ahmed isn't checking out until tomorrow. I'm checking out later today, so the desk clerk has to ask for the proper procedure to charge my credit card in Tanzania while I'm in England. She gets the information with far less delay than I expected, and I soon have Paul on his way to the airport. Ahmed ensconces himself in his room with one of my ThinkPads to put the finishing touches on the paper that he and Paul have actually found some time to work on together. I pack up and check out, leaving myself a whole afternoon with only one appointment.

After a trip to the internet cafe and some browsing in a nearby gift shop, I settle down in the lobby to wait in air-conditioned comfort for Peter. He shows up promptly at 2 to take me to his office to check out his computer and printer. He has a rather small car with worn shock absorbers, so - and those who travel with me know this sound well - the wheel nearest me makes a crunching sound every time we hit a bump. Dar es Salaam is full of bumps.

We stop and talk with a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam who's advising Peter regarding the pursuit of a doctoral degree. The professor earned his first degree in Moscow, and although he hasn't used the language since 1966, we're able to exchange a few pleasantries in Russian. We have an lively discussion of all things related to the internet, in particular Peter's interest in e-commerce both for his various development projects and for his degree work. After about a half hour, Peter and I are off again in the little car on the way to his office.

There's no power at Peter's office. Power outages are commonplace in the city, and they're often brief, so I wait a few minutes to see if the power will return. With no power there's also no air conditioning, so I quickly lose my patience and boot the computer on battery power to perform my diagnosis. With no power there's also no battery recharging, and I find that there's only about 3 minutes of battery life remaining. I take my best guess at what's been causing Peter's printing problem, make the appropriate change, and shut down the computer just as it's beginning to execute its emergency power-down procedure. Executing both normal and emergency procedures at once means that neither will complete properly, so I quickly put the computer into "hibernation" mode and advise Peter not to turn it on again until he has it plugged into a live outlet. With fresh power, it should emerge from hibernation and complete the normal shutdown.

Peter unexpectedly takes me to his house for a short break. I have no idea where he's taking me along yet another bumpy road until we pull up to a house and he doesn't tell me whom we're visiting. Since he just walks in as if he owns the place, I make a leap of logic and assume it must be his. We spend some time drinking orange soda and watching a surprisingly amusing television show about chemical bonds. The information, as best I can recall, is exactly what I learned in high school chemistry class, but the presenter has the manner of a game show host and seems unduly - nay, preposterously - excited about electrons and ions.

Soon we're headed back to the Sheraton. Peter has volunteered to drive me to the airport, and I've accepted despite my misgivings about the car's ability to carry both me and my huge suitcases. We have about an hour to spare, not enough time for Peter to go anywhere else and do anything useful, so I invite him to join me in the bar for a pre-flight snack. We sit back and relax, and soon Ahmed joins us, reporting that the paper is "finished."

As departure time draws near, our waiter is nowhere to be found, so I have to go find him to pay the check. My bags are in Ahmed's room, and when we go up to retrieve them, Ahmed's magnetic key fails. The three of us troop down to the front desk, get a replacement, then go back up for the bags. Soon I and my bags are stuffed into the little car, and we're on our way to the airport. A traffic jam blocks our path as soon as we're out of the hotel parking lot, but Peter knows an alternate route, and after about a mile of the bumpiest road yet (with the car's suspension nearly ready to revolt), we're on the highway and making good time. Peter drops me off, and I'm quickly checked in and aboard the plane.

May 31: Wide Awake and Opinionated London, England

The flight is uneventful to the point of boredom. An hour-and-a-half stop in Nairobi to pick up more passengers and clean the plane gets us off to a slow start. I've seen both in-flight movies before (on other flights), and I didn't like them very much anyway. A flight attendant actually apologizes to me for presenting Dinosaur, an animated Disney tale with talking dinosaurs and lemurs. She calls the latter "monkeys," and when I correct her, she gets revenge by asking me to fill out a customer satisfaction survey. Actually, this request has nothing to do with my remark, but it may have something to do with the movie: I'm one of the few passengers not watching it, and therefore one of the few still awake two hours into the flight. I'm tempted to give them my frank opinion of the movie selections, but there's no room left on the survey form after I write my frank opinion of the cramped seating in economy class.

I arrive at Gatwick a little after 5:00am. There's no point in catching a shuttle to my hotel right away since they're unlikely to let me check in this early. I get a leisurely breakfast and then select the slowest (and therefore cheapest) transport into the city. It's a van that carries 12 passengers directly to their hotels, and on this trip there are hardly any two going to the same destination. We get a grand tour of the city as we stop at the widely scattered hotels, and I get the grandest tour of all because mine is last on the list. Although I've spent over a year of my life in London on various vacations and business trips, I see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace for the first time today thanks to slow rush-hour traffic. A little later I'm checked into my small but comfortable room in Bloomsbury.

The next couple of days are reserved for work, and I'm not expecting to do anything worth writing about, so today's entry will be the last for this trip. In a few days I'll be taking my first purely vacation trip since I began working for WILMA. I'll post a separate report about it on this site in a new section of non-WILMA travel.

The End