Tag Archives: Tanzania

Moral dilemma in Zanzibar

Have you already had your Ebola dream? I had mine about a month or two ago. I was wearing a mask and walking towards trucks that were carrying endless amounts of people. It was hot, humid and dusty. People seemed to be escaping something while I seemed to be walking toward that something. The scene looked like refugees escaping an invisible war zone, a mass exodus, but the dream didn’t transcend fear. Nobody died and I woke up without sweat.

The dream has stayed in my mind, and not only because of the ongoing global Ebola scare. It has brought my mind to something that happened in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in 2000 (the same project that inspired me to write Making friends over the Indian Ocean).

Working in Tanzania was such a pleasure! My first African project.

Working in Tanzania was such a pleasure! My first African project.

Dar Es Salaam was my base for months and it was a very pleasant African city to work in. There were great restaurants serving grilled jumbo prawn and the beach was never too far away. National parks were easily reachable. When I was not working or on safari, I hopped on a ferry to visit Zanzibar, this mystical island culturally so different form the mainland Tanzania. Sometimes I even had to go to Zanzibar for meetings, but most of the time it was out of pure pleasure.

Photos from the paradise -Zanzibar.

Photos from the paradise called Zanzibar.

During one of my last visits to Zanzibar I was diving with a local dive master somewhere off the eastern coast. We had finished turtle watching, I was back at my hotel and had just had a shower when I heard a knock on the door. The dive master excused himself but quickly continued that we are not too far away from his native village and there is a problem. The village needs my car. It appeared that a child had died and needed to be transported from his father’s village to the mother’s village, and the only person the dive master was comfortable with asking a favor for was me. Would I come with him and help him to transport a young dead boy to where he needed to be –with his mother?

A few minutes later we hit the road. Needless to say, it was pitch black. The road was tiny and we were certainly very far from any place a normal tourist goes to. I had no idea where we were. I now hope I had a bottle of water and a torch but I am not sure. We must have driven a hundred kilometers that night. Eventually we collected the tiny corpse, which meant that the father placed his son at the back of my car, taking a seat to it. In silence we continued driving. I followed the instructions and the road certainly didn’t get any wider. I guess I asked what the boy had died of and I think the answer was the usual malaria.

Our arrival at the mother’s village was quite something. There were dozens and dozens of women in a circle, welcoming us, and as soon as I opened the car door, they started The Cry. In fact I can still hear The Cry of these women but I still don’t know how to describe it. It was the most haunting cry I have ever heard, so loud that it must have been heard all the way in the mainland Tanzania. It was not a cry one hears at western funerals. It was something more planned and integral, something that culturally separated me from them. It would be too narrow-minded to say it was a scream from a horror film. For these women it was a way of welcoming this little boy with respect and doing what had to be done. For me, all I wanted was to put hands over my ears. The fact that there was no light brought additional disturbance.

I drove back to the hotel in silence with my dive master who by the way was just a child himself. Well, a young teenager. He thanked me and left. I remember thinking that he probably didn’t know either what to do or say –how to comfort a westerner who is so shocked by something so natural. I also remember that I did what most westerners do when they get confused and disturbed in Africa –I had a gin and tonic before heading to the bed.

Children in the Stone Town (they don't have any relevance to the story).

Children in the Stone Town (they don’t have any relevance to the story).

Now, let’s play a mind game. Fast forward this event to 2014. Remember that I am today fourteen years older than I was in 2000, and supposedly wiser (one must believe in progress, right?). Remember that today’s world is shaken: Ebola kills 70% of those infected. With Internet, news travel faster. There is no way that in 2014 I would be in the dark. In fact, I would know exactly that carrying a dead body of someone who just died of high fever would automatically put me in risk. But what would I do today should a similar opportunity arrive in front me? Would I still today be as “naive” as I was in 2000 and without any hesitation take the car keys and leave? But in the first place, is it justified to say that I had acted out of naivete? I could continue these questions forever.

If my dream was any indication of my possible behavior, I think I would do the same. Or is it only something that I would like to see myself doing? After all, what do we really know about ourselves before the opportunity or the test presents itself to us? Not much.

What are your thoughts?

PS Already following Pearlspotting on Facebook?



Top Ten of 2013

One year and one week ago I started my blog, encouraged by a friend. I will always be indebted to her as this has been such a wonderful experience and one hell of a ride if I may say. The blog has brought an entirely new dimension to my life; I could have never thought about making so many new friends and attracting so many followers. My sincerest thanks to everyone of you!!

To celebrate this one-year anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what the highlights of the year were. Enjoy, and pick the post that most interests you!

1. The most read postBus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Laos is a fantastic, rewarding country, but traveling inside is not always simple. I am happy that my post has helped so many thousands of travelers to enjoy Laos!

2. The second-most read postEat Drink Sleep Siem Reap (survival guide to Siem Reap). Nothing to add. Angkor temples, initially built by the Hindu kings, continue to fascinate the entire world. And Siem Reap is the base for exploring this UNESCO World Heritage site.Angkor temples

3. The third-most read postKoh Lipe: mixed feelings. Thailand. Well. I did not fall in love with Koh Lipe, a tiny island in the Andaman Sea near Langkawi, Malaysia. I hear Koh Lipe was quite a paradise ten years but to me it seems the word “sustainable” was forgotten along the way…

4. The most-read post about FinlandIce swimming in Finland. One of my favorite posts, too! Have a look if you haven’t already but do not believe everything I say.

5. The most educational postEating oysters in months without “r”. Oysters, this ancient delicacy! A lot of people wonder when it is safe to eat them. Read my post and tell me, “r” or not to “r”! oysters

6. The most read recipeCôte de Bœuf (ultimate French meat dish). A classic French dish; so simple but delicious! Now you know where to get your iron boost.

7. My first-ever post!Thursday night in Paris

8. The most family-oriented postFranco-Finnish Christmas meal. Christmas in Paris with my parents, husband and French delicacies.

9. The best design object portrayedAlvar Aalto bell lamps from 1937 find a new home in ParisAlvar Aalto lamp

10. The post about friendshipMaking friends over the Indian Ocean. A story about friendship that developed over the Indian Ocean and developed in Tanzania.

PS If you are on Facebook, why not to follow Pearlspotting there too?

Travel fever

Since returning to Paris on Monday my “travel-advisory-services company” has received a bunch of inquiries from different people about traveling.  Some examples:

  • my brother has already been to Zanzibar, but asked me about Lamu in Kenya
  • someone else wanted to know about driving to Oman from Dubai
  • a blogger friend from Sydney is coming to Paris and asked for bistro recommendations
  • my husband asked me to check out “what to do around Colmar” in Alsace (his work trip just got confirmed there and I may join him)
  • and then before I noticed, I got caught up in a discussion about means of travel to reach the Aral Sea! (I have actually been there! out of all the places, yes!)

All of these discussions brought up memories, so I went to see some old photos and found this photo I took in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. It is one of my favorite photos ever.


PS Have you checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page? It has a bit more updates on what is happening in Paris!

Making friends over the Indian Ocean

Posting a photo of a Japanese bowl cannot be anything too exciting, right?

Well, continue reading. I will tell you about a lovely meeting that took place during an Air Tanzania flight from Mauritius to Dar Es Salaam some years ago. Japanese bowlThe project I was working for in Dar Es Salaam was coming to end. Two colleagues had left the country, leaving me alone in this huge three-bedroom apartment near the Sheraton Hotel. I knew there was an abundance of things to wrap up professionally, but I also knew that I had a free return ticket to Mauritius to use –a corporate gift from someone working for Air Tanzania. So, what did I do? During the last weeks of the project I worked like crazy, allowing myself to catch a flight to Mauritius with a good conscience on August 3, 2000!mauritius stampsDuring my stay in Mauritius, a lush, volcanic island in the western part of the Indian Ocean, I mainly dived. I had just completed my SSI Open Water Diver course and Mauritius is famous for rich sea life. When I didn’t dive, I moved to a different part of the island, practicing my limited French with whoever was patient enough to listen to me.

But back to the Japanase bowl!

On my way back on August 8, I was seated next to a Japanese couple. We begun talking, exchanged personal and professional information, and I learned that the couple plans to stay for a week in Dar Es Salaam because they are in used cars’ trading business. I don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I suggested they stay with me –in the flat paid by the company, which has two empty bedrooms. To my surprise (and probably to theirs, too), the couple said yes!

During that week, I was busy writing and editing, and the couple was engaged in closing car deals. When I came home from occasional meetings in town and opened the door, the couple had cooked Japanese food for dinner. I already had a cook, but my Tanzanian cook was specialized in Swahili dishes, not in maki and miso, so it was a refreshing change to eat differently.

Eventually, the couple left. Soon after them, I left Dar Es Salaam, too. Our co-habitation had ended smoothly, and until now, we still sometimes talk by email. Last Sunday, when I was emptying our cellar in Paris, I came across this bowl, that traveled with me from Tanzania to Paris. Even within Paris, this bowl has moved from one arrondissement to another, and it is only now, thirteen years later that I actually refound it. This is the bowl the couple served my miso soup in.

Isn’t this such a lovely story?!  I have plenty of stories like this and I think they should be told to remind us of positive consequences of globalization. What do you think?

PS Attention those of you who follow me on WordPress Reader: there was an issue with the RSS feed, and nine of my last posts have not shown up.  You may want to check some of the last ones out. There is a review on the famous Le Train Bleu restaurant https://pearlspotting.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/le-train-bleu-exquisite-and-elegant/ and several articles on my trip to Crete (search by “Crete” tag). Enjoy!