trip to Dar..and why I hate wazungus

The girls and I are back from Dar. Jason is hanging back to help our team leader and his family arrive (help is needed with tons of luggage not to mention 4 watoto in tow). Hopefully if all goes well he will catch the boat back sometime today. Back to our trip and why I hate Wazungus. ok, hate is a strong word but I had nightmare-ish experiences with white folks on BOTH trips. (and as a note I realize this is all way TMI but I just need to record all these happenings lest I even forget the adventure of raising kids and living here).

On the way there Jason went on the early ferry to pick up the car and so he would have time to stop in at the social services office to check on the progress of our adoption paperwork (and to drop off our international references). That meant the girls are I caught the later ferry by ourselves. This is not my favorite option at all. If any of us get sick (which is almost a guarantee) it is really craptastic. But the alternative is flying which is more then double the price. Alas, we suck it up, take some drugs, pray, and hope for the best. The trip over was definitely not the best. First the boat was about 45 minutes late in arriving meaning all of us were standing in the blazing sun waiting and waiting. Tourist season is upon us and I realized right away there were a lot of white folks. About 10 minutes into to waiting I smelled the funk and knew there was trouble. After a quick whiff and look I saw that Evy had pooped and it was now leaking out of her diaper down her leg and onto to my shirt. Now, of course I had just changed her but these cheap diapers here leak if you even think about a haja kubwa! No place to change her except a rocky, dirty ground and not wanting to get out of the crunch of people were were calling a line I just wrapped her in a kanga and tried to apologize to anyone who was around. Finally, we boarded and after struggling with the car seat, my bag, and both kids we made it up to the deck we were sitting on. No seats together. This is a first as usually there is plenty of room but with all the tourists there was no room for Anni and I to sit together. (strike 1 for the wazungus). Once Anni realized that she was not able to sit with me she started crying. I tried to comfort her and remind her I would be near her but she knows she sometimes gets sick and was scared to be rows away from my and Evy. You would think at that point someone who give up their seat; after all couldn't you listen to your Ipod and ignore your friend in another row? No one offered; fair enough they got there first. After some confidence building Anni was ok on her own and we were off. First hour was ok and the drugs Anni took to prevent sea sickness helped her fall asleep. Evy was wide awake and wanted none of the sitting in my lap thing. She was restless but not crying at all. Occasionally she would chuck her toy on the floor or bump the man sitting next to me and I would always say I was so sorry. I was starting to get really sick and knew this would not end well. I was not the first to succumb to the waves lurching but joined in the chorus of people puking about 1 1/2 hours in. Have you ever tried to throw up in a bag while nursing or holding an 8 month old? I do not recommend it. More helpful waznugus next to me then said "why don't you leave IT and go outside?" That is right, they called my daughter it. Now maybe it was just language (I will give them the benefit of the doubt there since they seemed to be Italian) but the man rolled his eyes and seemed irritated that I was sick. Like that was exactly what I wanted to be doing at that moment: puking, sick on a boat with my kids: good times! I was completely shielding him from my nasty puking and doing the best job I could to keep Evy happy. I also could not "leave it" if I wanted to since there are no seat belts. I tried to get up but the boat was moving so much that I was afraid I would drop Evy or fall on the disgusting floor. A local man about 3 seats back stood up and insisted he would hold her while I got a sick bag and checked on Anni. Yeah, kind soul! Anni was luckily still sleeping but she had dropped her carefully packed princess backpack which had her books, baby, blanket, and other dear treasures face down and now with every move of the boat was being saturated with at least 4 different people's vomit. I would deal with that later. I took Evy back and we made it back to our seat and survived the rest of the trip. After another 20 minutes the wife of the man who was sitting next to me starting throwing up as well but I resisted all urges to ask her to vacate :) We gathered our things and a local woman helped me tie Evy securely to my back and we made it off the ferry and to Jason who was waiting with the car and armed with napkins and water. So the trip there was not so much fun but we arrived safely and after recovering, getting some food, and cleaning up we were fine. We stayed with some relatives of Jason (not even sure exactly how they are related maybe 2nd cousins or that once removed jive?) but they just moved from India to Dar and graciously offered to have us stay even though they had just moved into their house 3 weeks earlier. Anni loved their 3 kids and the first day she got a "make-over" done by the oldest Lindsey.
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She was in heaven running around and playing with 3 America-ish kids :) and puppy! We also loved talking with them and hearing stories of India and what they had learned. It was great to be with other Americans and family!

The next morning we headed out our our day filled with errands which was made even more ridiculous because every time we stopped the car we had to disconnect the battery since there is something wrong with the back lights and if we do not disconnect everything they will stay on and kill the car (really I record these stories because one day I will laugh). First stop was to take Evy to the doctor where she got 3 shots-pole baby girl! She was a rockstar and barely cried at all! Jason dropped us at the doctor and headed to the U.S. Embassy to get my passport pages added. He had called to make sure they were open and he could come in and the person on the phone assured him the hours on Friday were 8am until 12. He arrived at 10:04am and was told he was too late since they closed at 10am. He explained our situation and that he had called and was told 12 and pleaded that we needed these pages for my new work permit and visa and that I could be in trouble when we returned to the island but just got a pole sana. How frustrating! So we would have to come back another day to get the pages added. Really, who has only 2 hours of work hours a day? I realize they are probably inundated with crisis but it was a major bummer they could not just help us since it would now mean lots of cost not to mention another puke boat ride to fix said problem.

We shock it off by heading to our fav restaurant and then getting some playground time in for Miss Annikah.
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Evy post shots :)

We also borrowed a stroller and walked around as a family which was a blast. Miss Evy dug it for sure and my back appreciated pushing her rather than carrying her. We also just loved being able to eat and drink as we wished and spend some time as a family.
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We hit typical Dar traffic but killed time by singing, talking, and watching the interesting things for sale out the window; ice cream (we partook), posters, books, apples, pillows, hangers, DVD's, giant blow up things and my favorite of which was birds!! Like parakeets in a little cage!
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I snapped this pic but the windows were too dirty to see properly.
Dar 028.jpgedit but just for the record you can buy birds as you drive by in Dar!

We arrived back at their place and hung out and helped make dinner. That night at about 2am we were awoken to Anni throwing up all over herself, her bed, and her clean clothes piled next to her bed. The throwing up and crying of course woke Evy who was running a fever because of her shots and not happy at all. Jason tried to handle the Anni situation while I nursed Evy but as soon as I was awake I knew I also was sick. My stomach was turning and about 20 minutes later I was throwing up. This continued until about 6am and poor Jason was the only one well but now sleep deprived and exhausted form cleaning up puke. I felt flu-sick and was of no use in helping with anything so the whole day I slept with intervals of Jason bringing Evy in to nurse and nap. Anni bounced back quicker but still had an upset tummy for most of the day. We cancelled our plans to go to these beach bandas and have fun swimming together (so sad!!) and decided to just try to recover. I was so bummed not only because it is awkward and weird to be sick in someone else's space (and one of their bathrooms was not working) but because the last time we went to the mainland I got sick and could not really enjoy all things Dar. By Sunday I decided to join the land of the living and at least pretend like I was better. The family we were staying with were so amazing as they helped us with the kids and dealt with our sicky selves. That was such a blessing!
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Anni and the kids at the house had a tea party outside complete with real tea which was the highlight of Anni's day (if not life:) and after hanging out and packing up we said goodbye. We met some friends for lunch and I was able to get my appetite back a bit. After another hour or so I started to feel terrible again and was still running a fever. I was still going to try to make it on the boat but this time I would have all our luggage and both kids by myself (since Jason was staying back to help our team leader). We then decided that even though we could not really afford it I would fly back since the boat was just not an option for me at that point.

We headed to the airport to try to get a flight and negotiate the price of the kids. I sat with the stuff while Jason ran around and tried to find a flight at a reasonable price. About 30 minutes later he returned and said we were on a flight at 4pm. Music to my ears! He stayed with us a bit until I could nurse an overtired Evy to sleep and then headed out to find the place he was staying. We we waiting for a while since we had arrived pretty early but Annikah was being great just reading her books and Evy slept for about 45 minutes so other than my arm going numb everything was fine. Evy awoke and I was getting everything ready (trying to stuff the broccoli I had brought into my purse so to make less bags) when Anni tripped over a strap and fell hard on the ground. On the way down she hit the back of her head on the metal seats and started screaming which in turn scared her sister who also started crying. I was trying to calm both of them down when a mzungu wearing cargo shorts and carrying a duffel came over to me. Now at this point the girls had been crying less than a minute and I was bouncing Evy and rubbing Anni's head assuring her she would be ok. He interrupted to say in an unmistakable North American accent, "Is this what I can look forward to on my flight to Arusha?"It took a few seconds to even register this unimaginably rude comment not to mention he said it over the cries of both the girls as I was trying my best to calm them down. All I could mutter was "no, we are headed to the island. We are just trying to get home as we have been sick. And that is incredibly rude." He walked away just relieved he would not have to "deal with us." Anni calmed down and I nursed Evy and both girls were fine again and as I sat there I felt like crying. I just was so shocked that someone would say that. I must admit my first (ok, and second and third) very un- Jesus follower thought was I hope this guy drinks some un-safi water and ends up missing a day of his safari having to run to less than desirable toilets! I think we should really all operate under what our Moms told us way back "if you don't have anything nice to say DO NOT say anything at all" (and I would add "or anything helpful to offer just hush"). But after sitting there for another 10 minutes I actually started to feel bad for him. I think you really must be hurting to see someone struggling and still say something so mean.

But I have a public service announcement to anyone like this: We (parents of small kids) DO NOT try to get our children to cry, fuss, or scream. We do not pinch, punch, deprive, and or be evil to them just to irritate you. In fact, we usually try everything in our arsenal: snacks, bribes, boobs (for the younger set), games, songs, etc to the point of exhaustion just to get them to behave and tolerate travel which is much harder when you are a wee one. Please act accordingly : with compassion, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand OR say nothing at all. Thank you."

Now, I realize there are exceptions to this. Like the people who just think it is adorable when lil Timmy continues to kick the back of your seat, or the person who laughs at the antics of lil Kate and Billy chucking gummy bears at everyone in site and running around destroying the joint. But these folks are few and far between. And I would argue so unconcerned with others that even a rude comment would do nothing to stop their pursuit of ruining your day. The rest of us are trying folks, we really are.


Another 10 minutes and they called us for our flight and as soon soon as a local man saw me carrying the car seat, bags, and the baby he grabbed everything from me to help. Then guess who hurried in front of us? Mr. Cargo-Short Wearing Safari! Turns out HE WAS on our flight since it went to the island first and then on to Arusha. Pole for him! It actually was not terrible since I tried to be very kind to him (repeating in my head a little mantra that I should practice what I preach) and after Anni respectfully greeted all the locals on the flight they were all talking about how wonderful my children are! See, I knew it :) Both girls we great on the 15 minute flight. Evy happily chewed on the evacuation guide and Anni was loving looking out the window and as soon as we touched down Anni yelled "asante sana Mungu!" (thank you God) which only further endeared us to everyone on board. But after all that we made it home salama kabisa (totally peacefully)! I think we shall stay put for a bit :) It is good to be home!

Comments

J said…
UGH! I wanted to slug those jerks for you! (very unjesusy of me for sure). I admit that before I had friends with kids, I was SURE that most parents thought that it was very charming for their wee ones to scream and throw things in nice restaraunts. Now I realize that it is more likely either that those parents are freakos, or that they are really just exhausted :) I'm sorry those Mzungus were so gross to you, especially after such a difficult trip and all the sickness. Your gracious response to them is a lot more than I bet I could have mustered. You Rock, my friend, and I'm very thankful for your TMI stories. They remind me to live more graciously to everybody around me :)
Liz Delzell said…
Pole sana, Engstroms!! :( I wanted to cry reading parts of this - especially the mzungu at the airport... what a piece of work that guy was! You should be so proud of yourself for the way you and the girls handled yourselves - and I will be watching for chances to be good to those around me who cannot muster kindness themselves.
Bibi Ronnie said…
Oh, honey, so sorry for all the problems. I had hope you would have a good time in Dar. What jerks. I think you need to find a new favorite restaurant. You have gotten very sick twice now after eating there. Hope Anni was okay after her fall. I bet she is really looking forward to the girls coming home in time for her birthday.
Gma Rho said…
Oh, what a nightmare! How many unfortunate experiences can one endure in a single weekend?? It's hard to believe how rude and mean people can be when you obviously need help; but so heartwarming how the locals are always so gracious toward you! Is something you're eating/drinking in Dar making you sick? How weird that this has happened twice! And we were here thinking of you and the "fun" you must be having on your weekend. I'm glad that you were able to hook up with the "cousins" - can't wait to hear more about that!
Gma Rho said…
I have to add - I think Evy needs more of those headbands! Darling!
Anonymous said…
I had the same thing, trying to quiet Brett and Matt, while on an airplane by myself, the attendant and the person next to me were trying to help, but the boys were on a roll. the man in the seat behind me started yelling at my kids, and the man next to him stood up and said to everyone on the plane" we have the first person that was never a child!" The whole plane clapped for this kind man's comment, and I felt redeemed! Love, Karen
Roxanne said…
Karen- I LOVE that story- and that guy who defended you- AWESOME!! we need more people like that in the world!!

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