My adventure in Africa began when a college friend asked if I wanted to go with her for a semester abroad program at the University of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. My knowledge of Africa at that point was limited primarily to the nature programs I watched as a child, but I was fascinated by this limited perspective. So we went. The next 6 months were incredible. Four months in Dar es Salaam, East Africa’s largest city, is where I was abruptly thrust into the developing world. Hard working people, incredible landscapes, and a vast gap between the rich and poor. The students at the university, many Europeans and Americans among them, were incredibly friendly and everyone quickly settled into comfortable collegiate lifestyles, African style. Clothes were washed by hand with a bucket of water, showers were done the same, travel into the city was accomplished through a series of ‘daladala’ rides in highly modified minivans. I can still remember the penetrating African dust, the smell of rubish fires, the bustling sound of the city, and walking down to the football pitch at the end of a long day, to watch the students kick a ball around and to enjoy the African twilight.
At the end of the semester, my friend and I began an epic African journey. We began with a train ride from Dar es Salaam, down through Zambia to its border with Zimbabwe, where Victoria Falls is shared by the two countries. We then traveled back north to Lake Tanganyika, taking a three day boat trip up the lake and quickly going around Burundi (was not safe at the time) to Rwanda, an incredibly beautiful country. In Kigali, we met a South African who was planning on climbing Mt. Nyiragongo in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Why not? Goma was a fascinating city, still partially buried in lava and ash from the most recent eruption of the volcano. We climbed the mountain through the rain forest with an armed guard. The Lords Resistance Army was still active in the area, killing the endangered mountain gorillas as well as the local people. The view from the top, both into the caldera of the volcano, and out upon the vast Virunga National Park, was unforgettable. We then moved on the Uganda, through Kenya, and back to Dar es Salaam, where I met my family.
With my family, we took a unique safari through the Serengeti, camping in tents at night and trying to sleep through the sounds of hyenas and lions around us. We also traveled to South Africa, where the juxtaposition of black townships and the predominantly white downtown Cape Town was hard to ignore. My brother and I took a road trip east through the Garden Route to Jeffrey’s Bay, where we surfed the world class right point break and enjoyed the sleepy coastal town.
My trip to Africa reminded me how incredibly diverse our planet is. I fell in love with the continent and returned a year later, this time to Ghana, on the west coast.
Two pieces, written by me as part of the creative writing class I took at the University of Dar es Salaam, were published in this collection. The short story tells of my perspective on a typical ‘daladala’ bus ride through town, with imagery of the surrounding landscape and the interactions I would have with the local people. The play tells of our group of international students and how our relationships were tested by a strike that took place on the campus.