From Zanzibar to London

February 8, 2008 - London, United Kingdom

Our last day in Zanzibar we saw Dave and Namita off at the Cafe Amore Mio. Terry and I had 3 scoops of gelati. The Pistachio and the Lemone were our favorites so we had another scoop of each. We had to leave for our 1 pm appointment and we said our good-byes to our friends and returned to the hotel. The lady from the hotel was there and the 3 of us left. We walked for about 10 minutes and I realized we were at the market we visited the week prior. I thought she said the place we were going was close when we made the arrangements. "Now we take daladala", she said. "How far", I asked. Apparently 5 minutes. A daladala is like a Thai tuktuk. A mini van or truck converted into a mini transport. She told me to pay. It was 750 Tsh for the three of us. That is about $0.20/person. I paid. Five minutes later when we got off, I asked how to say "market" in Swahili. "Dalajani", she explained. Her English was minimal but better than my four, oh, now five words of Swahili. "Ok, so I could make it from here -- whereever here was -- back to the market and back to the hotel", I was thinking. We crossed the street and behind a few buildings. It was becoming more difficult for me to remember each turn but I had the general direction down I thought. Our guide stopped and knocked on a door. A man peeked through the crack and after a short exchange of words and gestures we walked down 2 more doors and she knocked again. I was told she needed 1000 Tsh and so I complied. The door opened a chink and a pair of eyes looked us over. She handed him the money with her request. The door closed. When it opened again, she received a small paper cone, no longer than 4 inches. She put this in her purse and we pressed on. Five minutes winding through run-down home after home, kids peeking around the corner at us, we reached the place we came for. We were invited in and to sit. A number of people were in and out of the room before the one we came to see finally came in. She was only 20 years old. We didn't bother with names. Even if I could pronounce them, I would likely forget them before we left anyway. The young girl started mixing a solution from a small bottle in a tiny bowl. The cone we bought lay on the arm of the chair where she was mixing. We sat quietly and didn't speak much but there would be more excitement to come. Little by little the room filled up a bit. Four women now and a man still coming and going. At some point there was a knock at the door and a message that our guide translated as "somebody died". Three of the women rushed out of the house. When they came back later we didn't learn anything else. Meanwhile the girl made a new cone of some clear plastic and poured the concoction she mixed into the cone. She carefully taped up the far end. It was time for the girl to start her craft and she asked us what we wanted. I went first. She used the cone like a pen on my arm to apply what they called "pica". Basically black hair dye. This would be the outline for our henna tattoos. She drew free hand. Mine was a simple design on my forearm. Terry's was a bit more intricate. Both hands and her left foot. The family started warming up to us. They asked if we like Zanzibar culture and made us try on some traditional clothing like the simple wraps that men and women were. Terry tried on a Muslim veil. It turned out our henna tattoo artist was our guide's sister. And another sister, seven in all,  was studying to be a mid-wife. Then we had the photo session where everyone had to have their photo taken with us and then we took a group photo as well. The brother -- with seven girls, I hope there was another brother for his sake -- took all the pictures and they insisted he be in a photo too. Before we left we stopped in to visit our guide's mom at her house. We were pretty tired and thirsty so we didn't stay long. Our guide she said she needed 3000 Ths to pay a commission to the hotel since she was gone for 2.5 hours. Of course if we wanted to give her something, she explained that was all right as well. Terry and I agreed it was nice of her to see us through this experience. It would have been very different going to a traditional henna tattoo parlor, assuming one even exists in Stone Town. After returning, Terry and I returned to Cafe Amore Mio for three more scoops of that awesome Lemone gelati.

We passed through airport security in Tanzania. The agent took my bag and said he needed to look inside. He asked where I was returning home to and I told him The States. He then leaned over my bag and whispered, "tip, tip, no problem". When I looked confused he repeated his bribe. I simply smiled and said, "go ahead, open my bag." He gave up and without searching my bag further, returned it to me. I had checked 1 piece of luggage which was unusual for me. These days I usually travel check-in luggage free. But the plane for the flight from Zanzibar to Dar was a small twin-prop, I was told my bag was too big for carry on. I tried to fight this to no avail on the way to Zanzibar. On the way back to Dar, I didn't bother fighting and just checked it. But the small black backpack I used for carry on was packed with all the fragile items and there was no room for our toiletries. We arrived back in Dar, but without my luggage. It never made it on the plane. It was like pulling teeth but I eventually got the Swissport luggage agent to call while I waited and verify the luggage would be sent on the next flight to Dar. But this arrived 30 minutes before we needed to leave for London and I would not have enough time to pick it up and check it in. I got Rita to agree to rush my bag to London so it would arrive when I did. She would send us an email with the details. Well as you probably guessed, no email and no luggage when we arrived. In addition, we rushed out of the Tanzania airport and forgot to exchange our $250 equivalent of Tanzania Shillings. We would find out later in London that the Tsh is a "restricted" currency and it can only be exchanged INSIDE the country!  So we spent our 3 nights in London without my luggage. Terry had all of her toiletries in my luggage as well. My jacket and warm clothes, well, all my clothes, underwear, etc was in my luggage. So we needed to go shopping since it was 32 deg F in London. So after spending 4 hours in the London airport chasing phantom luggage and arranging accommodations, we went shopping for some warm clothes. During our 3 days in London I continued to try to track down my luggage. I finally called Tanzania and was told the luggage was sent to London and should have arrived, Feb. 9, the morning we did 30 minutes before us! But with a different luggage tag number. Of course because I never received an email I was searching for the luggage with the old tag number. As it turns out this was a lie anyway. We found out later that the luggage was sent by Precision Air -- the only precise thing about this airline was their incompetence -- to Kilimanjaro, then Nairobi, Kenya on Feb. 9. Then on Feb. 11 it was sent by Emirates Air to Dubai and would arrive in London Feb. 12; get this, 30 minutes prior to our flight home! So there was no time to pick up the luggage from a different terminal and check it in ourselves. Northwest wanted $200 US per ticket to change to a later flight so we didn't bother; we just returned home. When I called London from AZ I was told the luggage was sent to JFK via Atlanta because, not having my Hawaii address at the time, I used my NY address on the lost luggage form in Dar. So someone at British airways decided to forward it to JFK. So British Airways told me they would send an email to JFK and ask them to forward the luggage to Kauai where I can finally pick it up. We shall see. Never thought my luggage would see more destinations than I would.

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