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Published: October 19th 2010
Today we made the journey to Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania. The flight was an hour and 15 minutes on Precision Airways. The seats were so narrow that I could barely fit my ass in them, and although I’ve gained a little weight recently, my ass certainly is not that big! I was stuck between 2 men. One was dressed in a mismatched suit and reading an English book on succeeding at job interviews. He kept asking me questions about what I was doing in Mwanza, where I was going within the region, etc. The guy on the other side of me didn’t say much, but he drank 3 Kilimanjaro Lagers during the short flight—which was at 10:15 am!
When we landed, they set up a staircase for us to disembark. Not unusual. But what was unusual was lugging our bags while walking along a dirt path to get to the terminal, which was a tiny, one room concrete building. They piled us all in to wait for our luggage, which the porters then shoved through holes in the wall because there was no conveyor belt. All of the while, the businessman who had been sitting next to me managed to find me whenever I moved to a different area and continued to ask me questions.
We were met by Edie, who is a Hopkins driver that took one of the office’s AWD vehicles the 11 hour drive from Dar es Salaam. We piled in and drove to our hotel. There is a main road through Mwanza, but from what I’ve seen the rest of it (besides the city center) is made up of dirt roads. We wobbled along a road, avoiding men on bikes, women carrying goods on their heads, and children playing and darting around. I thought to myself, please don’t tell me I’m staying on this road, as it looked less than desirable for comfortable accommodations. We pulled up to a place called Hotel Starmax, which is actually very nice. It’s a brand new hotel that I think is Indian-owned because the architecture is similar to cheaper hotels in India, and I get lots of Hindi TV stations. They put me in a full suite, which has a living room, breakfast nook, a TV and desk with computer, a large bed, and 1 and a half bathrooms. But don’t let that fool you into thinking I’m living the glamorous life. The furniture is cheap, lacquered plastic, I have to sleep under a mosquito net because the incidence of malaria is so high here, and the electricity keeps going out. Plus, because we are near Lake Victoria, the weather is extremely humid. Across the road are some cows and goats, and a woman is sweeping off the rocks next to her home. But the place is very clean, and it looks as though no one has ever stayed in my room.
The hotel also has a restaurant, which is neat and clean. I ordered chicken spaghetti for lunch, but what came out an hour later tasted so odd I felt like regurgitating every bite. It had some sort of cheese sauce on it, and the chicken had a weird consistency (while all of the chicken I’ve eaten in Dar has been delicious). I managed to get through only half of the dish. The server asked, “Why you not eat?” I told her I was full.
Dinner tonight was pizza margarita and a coke, which took 2 hours to be delivered. I think they forgot about it until I checked in a hour later and she said, “Moment! Moment!” I gave her 10,000 TZS for the 7000 TZS bill and never saw the change, so she got quite a tip. Luckily the food was edible, maybe even close to delicious because I was so hungry! I think I’ll end up losing a few pounds this week, which might make fitting into the plane seat a bit easier for the ride home.
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