- Haruki Murakami, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Serengeti, and Ngororo Crater, that's what reason we have for leaving. In Tanzania, the town of Arusha is the gateway to these places, and that's where we're heading today. But first a few last orders of business in town. There's a final stroll by the water, which is quite winning today. There's a last netcafe stop, to quickly fire one off. I decide to get a second, much better, henna tattoo. And as should be needless to point out there's the obligatory farewell stop by Amore Mio, to eat five scoops of sorbet piled on numerous hunks of banana and mango while savoring the (always lovely) view.
Waiting for the express ferry back to Dar es Salaam, I debrief with Mark about our semi-quarrel (and mainly about my failure of equanimity). I've decided that the incident was actually another good thing about this trip for me, an opportunity for growth and learning (if I have). Strongly cementing this conception of it is the occurence of Mark sharing some good little strategies for mood management, in the (very germane) context of self-discipline. I'm pleased, and surprised, to hear these. And I thought Mark was just naturally an utterly nice guy! Turns out he's had to work at it just like most all of us have to do with most everything.
Striking land in Dar, we're rounded up by out interim, pro tem tour leader: Laura. (Half the group went back early, mainly to do banking; and we're the stragglers.) She leads us on a chaotic march from the big ferry terminal to a little one, where we take a commuter job from the dirty streets of Dar to some dirty, but less urban, streets across the water where our camp site lies. First we have to negotiate a ride (from the water to the camp) in a comically dilapidated mini-bus. In camp, Laura cuts out her hair thingies, briefly doing a great Raggedy Ann impression. In the morning, we do the drive to Arusha. The scenery is pretty. We arrange our excursions into Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater. We make camp. We wait.
Next: Serengeti the Crown Jewel of the Trip.
My best clue that I'm getting a little weary of dispatching is the fact that they've gotten so damned long (and meandering, and unfocused). Consider this a break for the reader. Here's some more stuff on Paul and Jo, which you can skip if you're not interested. (As if you couldn't skip the whole thing, if you're not interested . . .)
Paul (last name: Lentinello) is actually Sicilian he only came to South Africa at age 14. Another previously unmentioned fact about him is that he is an adrenaline junkie. In addition to skydiving, etc., he's big on motorcycles. A few years ago, he was on a dirt bike on (I believe) a moto-cross track, and failed to make quite a large jump onto some quite large object. The accident destroyed his back: he was in traction for six months and the doctors told him would barely walk again (much less surf, ride motorcycles, etc.) He got very depressed for several months, then woke up one morning and said, "The hell with it." He started rehab and physical therapy and today other than not infrequent back pain he's fully recovered. As for the pain, the solution seems to be frequent massages from Jo.
Paul met Jo (I found them endlessly fascinating photo subjects) only four months ago, through their work with Nomad. Jo is Afrikaner (they only speak Afrikans to each other, at least around us), has a fiery temper, and can be sulky, as well. But she also has a very sweet side, which she transmits through her bright smile usually to those who have earned her loyalty (which seems to be as fierce as her temper). Really, I think she has a keenly developed sense of justice and fairness and remembers well who has crossed which lines. Being on tour with Paul, but not Jo, has been instructive. Whereas it seemed at the time that Paul did the lion's share of the work all the driving (Jo has no truck license), most of the "guiding", serving as head chef it seems clearer now that Jo's contributions of organization, rigor, and focus were significant. It's also obvious that Paul misses her very much (and not just in regard to above); and can't wait to finish out with us, and race back to Cape Town hopefully in time for Christmas (which is in doubt, the way Nomad has orchestrated things).
Two quick stories about Paul, which made me think my regard for him was going to continue to grow without limit. The first was in Swakopmund. We had four Spaniards (actually, three Spaniards and a Basque) on the tour, none of whom spoke much English. We should have had an interpreter on the tour, but didn't. (Luckily, sometimes it seemed like everyone on the tour had at least a smidgen of Spanish.) However, Paul didn't do a great job with getting translations done, or with dealing with them in general. In honesty, in retrospect, he grew a little flip with them, tossing off instructions in pidgin Spanglish, and even having a bit of fun at their expense. (My sense is that he was making fun of the "outsiders" to show off a bit for the rest of the group, of which he was the leader. I think this is a lamentable and entirely understandable temptation to which to succumb.) An incident that actually had nothing to do with Paul finally set them off, and they confronted and had it out with him. (Mark and I got to witness this, due to sharing a bungalow with them.) They were sick of being singled out, sick of not being informed of what was going on, incensed that they had paid the same fee as everyone else, but were receiving sub-par treatment. They were right to feel that way and Paul immediatly knew it. He apologized very solemnly and humbly, and acknowledged that his behavior toward them had been crap. And as he did so, before our eyes, this tatooed hard-case ex-sailor teared up and a couple spilled over. I figure it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong and a bigger one to be overwhelmed with emotion about his failing (and the impact it's had on others).
The second incident was at the camp in Botswana, on the Angolan border. Most of the camp site bars want you to run a tab, so they don't have to produce lots of small change all night. I was merely having a drink or two with Mark and anyway, I don't like to a borrower or a lender be. So I asked the bar guy if I coiuld settle up before we retired, and did so. In the morning, as we were loading up, I happened to roll in there, where people were settling their tabs. The manager buttonholed me, and indicated I owed for four drinks. Apparently, whoever had accepted my money had not marked my tab as paid. I indicated once, twice, then again that I had already paid. Paul stepped in, and gave the manager his assurance that if I said I had paid, I had paid. "This man would not lie," he said (and I remember those words vividly). A little later, I thanked Paul for vouching for me and told him that it had been upsetting (as it always is to me) to have had my honesty impugned. I looked him in the eye and said, "My honor means a great deal to me and it means a great deal to me that you seem to know that." "In the end, it's all a man has," he answered. (If that sounds a little theatrical now, it came off sincere and matter-of-fact when he said it.) Getting on the truck, I shared with Mark my amazement at this episode: "Being honorable unwilling to lie, cheat, or steal is one of the most important things about me . . . but I've never discussed that with Paul." Mark's (flattering and also matter-of-fact) response: "Oh, he could just tell." (hide)