Sunday, 16 October 2011

Elective 02. Arrival at Dar es Salaam

Today, I have one of my lifelong ambitions fulfilled, I am mistaken for a girl, become a millionaire and spend the evening at a beach party, all before I even get to the hospital!

Due to the late start of the flight, I arrived in Dar es Salaam a good few hours late. The arrivals section looked like something out of a 1950s film, with two gates to check passports and visas. I had planned to get a visa at the airport, but there was a large queue, meaning this took another hour and a half, meaning the poor person who had been sent to meet me had been waiting for hours by the time l arrived.

It turned our that this person and the documents they bought were not even necessary. I was called over to extra baggage check (the large boxes must have drawn attention to me) where the authorities asked what was in the boxes. l remembered to say medications (not drugs!), Showed a packing list and was waved through. I told them I had official documentation waiting outside the airport but they didn't seem too bothered about anything but making sure I had paid the $50 visa fee. Much simpler than I had expected!

Outside, the person from the hospital was waiting for me, with my name on a sheet of card. Fantastic! One of My life aims (seriously) has been to have this happen at one point. It always makes people look so important! All that is left is for me to get a PA to organise My chaotic life and I will have fulfilled all (2) of my life ambitions!

Half of my life ambitions are completed, when a doctor from the hospital waits for me at the airport with my name on a piece of cardboard.

It seemed that the person waiting for me, and the hospital, had been expecting a girl, but as it turns out, I am a boy. They must have guessed I was female somehow from my name, which while not extremely common (yet not all that rare), is most definitely masculine. I haven't been mistaken for a girl by name before (face to face, yes, but a different story), but I suppose Tanzanian names are somewhat different so I can't blame anyone. Anyway, this meant that this first meeting was started off with some good jokes and laughing, which got us off to a great start. At the airport I went to get cash and a Tanzanian SIM card, both necessary for my time at the hospital (has phone reception but no bank machines nearby). All inclusive of transport, expected donations to the hospital, and all, budget is 1,000,000 Ts, I now have a million in cash. Awesome.

A million in cash sounds much more exciting than it looks

On the way way, the Dr who had kindly given up his time to collect me (to be known as Dr Bike later on, for reasons which will become apparent) started holding my hand. hang on, what? I guess (and I hope I am right) that holding hands shows you are friends (like I have experienced in India). Its either that, or we are risking the 14 years of prison that homosexuality is punished by in Tanzania.

Something that was strange was that when I had lunch with the taxi driver and Dr, at the end I was expected to pay for it. Very different to the providing for your guests I was expecting. No complaints as it was only a few pounds worth overall, but I was thrown a little off guard. I hope they don't see me as a bottomless white well of money! Perhaps as they came all the way here to pick me up its seen as polite for me to get dinner? (Later on I found out that Dr Bike had been told to come and collect me, yet given no money by the hospital to do so. This is why I was expected to keep paying for everything).

Anyway, I am in Tanzania, its hot, sunny, dirty and very different to the UK. I have arrived during Ramadan, so many shops are closed in the partially Islamic Dar es Salaam. Towards the coast of Tanzania there is a strong Islamic influence, but as you move inland (where my hospital is), he population becomes more Christian.

I Spent the afternoon and evening at a beach with an awesome holiday atmosphere. Kids were playing in the sandy lapping waves, and we sat in the shade of some Coconut trees watching them (in a normal way). The kids run up to hold our hands for a while, or sit with us, then run back to the waves to play in inflated inner tubes. Dr Bike and I hang around there to have a meal during Sunset with a few Tanzanian beers. The beach had such an awesome, exotic, family friendly type atmosphere, likely to be because of the Ramadan family holidays. We were having such a great time we went to bed (in a cheap hotel, again I am expected to pay) a little later than we Should have, given the fact we need to be up around 4 to get the bus to the hospital. This was an  awesome, and somewhat holiday-esque start to my elective.

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