Can someone back home in Canada kindly mail me a tube of Bengay?
If you can't find it, Valium might work.
Or horse tranquilizers.
I knew that heading off to Tanzania to work as a journalism trainer would be an intense experience. I just never expected it to be so...physical.
First off, there's the heat.
As a Canadian, I know it's sinful to complain about warm weather. But in Canada, when it comes, I put the dress pants away and do my job in shorts. Hell, back home I'm in shorts if the thermometer rises above 5 degrees.
Here, my full-dress uniform is non-negotiable, even in the 30+ degree heat.
I suppose I shouldn't feel so surprised and wounded that one of the world's least developed regions isn't particularly well air-conditioned.
But I do.
So I usually end my work days looking like I jumped into a pool with all of my clothes on, and I smell like the pool was filled with used gym socks. Even I don't want to sit next to me on the bus.
Of course looking, and smelling, like a a wrung-out dishrag is demoralizing enough to break most men.
But then there's the issue of getting around the city of Dar es Salaam.
It seems as though commuting has expanded outwards, like some perverse, cruel balloon until it now fills approximately 99.9 per cent of my working, and waking, hours.
Of course I could pay for cabs to get to and from interviews, or walk for miles through the baking, burning, soul-draining sun, but all of that is rather grueling. And expensive.
So I'm a public bus man. An overcrowded, smelly, sweaty, dusty public bus man.
Another Canadian luxury I took for granted all those years? Buses stopping for you to get on.
Picture me, loping along like the least-adventurous Indiana Jones ever to set foot on foreign soil, struggling to keep my camera from leaping out of my pocket and my laptop from clattering to, and shattering on, the pavement, leaping desperately onto the stairs of an in-motion bus.
I promise you, whatever is going through your head is at least 5 times less ridiculous than I actually look doing this.
Getting off the bus is equally tricky.
Bus terminals are notoriously crowed, and bus drivers seem to think of schedules less as rules, or even guidelines, and more like amusing fictions, so you inevitably pull up to find several busloads of people clawing towards the door, desperate to start their own several-hour-journey.
Suffice it to say that none of these people step aside to let you pass.
They do, however, provide a nice cushion for your clambering dive out a bus window (Seriously, that wasn't a joke).
And in case you haven't heard, Africa, and Tanzania have a strong oral tradition.
Incredibly strong. Hours and hours of mind-numbingly boring press conference material, which you're struggling to process through the haze of constant, low-level heat stroke, strong.
Worst of all, none of the journalists in Tanzania ever seem to complain, so not only is life a series of physical tortures, you kind of look like -- okay, are -- a whiny brat all the time.
When the public bus breaks down on the highway, forcing everyone to get out and push in the hot mid-day sun, my Tanzanian coworkers don't complain. When sources stand them up for appointments that took over an hour to get to, they don't complain. When they have to ask permission to use the company cell phone for each and every business-related phone call they make throughout the day, they don't complain. You get the picture -- no matter what pesky or insurmountable barrier is placed in their way, they don't seem complain.
So while I'm sure that my coworkers are as desperately in need of a tube of Bengay (that's code for Valium -- send the Valium) as I am, I doubt I'll be hearing about it much, let alone seeing it in print.
So be honest, do you think I should send them a link to this piece?