Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First time in Africa

It has been a year and three months since I left Bangladesh.  I’m now living in DC working for the United Nations Foundation.  It’s satisfying work and I’m learning an enormous amount but its office work and sometimes I want to trade in my desk for my motorcycle and go back to the fields.  When my boss told me on Thursday I would be leaving for Tanzania on Monday, I audibly squealed.  This is my first big girl working trip.  I am going to Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, for 11 days.

Flying into Dubai is flying over a never ending desert, interspersed every so mile with a white house.  And then the city rises up like a sci fi novel.  The steel buildings reflect the gold sand and sun making them shine like Olympus.

The airport is hedonistically glorious.  The best perfume, clothing, accessories, and then there are women in Burkas looking at me from behind their veils, making me feel guilty for feeling guilty for feeling guilty.

I arrived at the Dar gate.  Although nothing could be as overwhelming as being 19, alone, in the Kolkata airport during the H1N1 scare, this was pretty close.  But I’m like the visa mafia and know how to work a passport like nobody’s business.

Rule 1: Never wait in a line if you’re not explicitly sure what it’s for and if it’s necessary.
Rule 2: Make friends with an official by using the few words you know in his language liberally.
Rule 3: Stick to your passport like it’s your lifeline.  Follow it with your eyes.  Follow it with your soul.

In no time, I got the visa, and was hired by a cab (how it always feels) and rode to the hotel.  When you’re a little girl, and you were playing pretend NGO worker, dressing up in your tevas and perfecting the sloppy expat bun, you dreamed of Africa.  Since then, you learned that there are many other countries in other continents that desperately need help.  But Africa was like your white wedding fantasy.

And I’m finally here.


  1. Eek!! I am so excited for you Chelsea! Along with your beautiful words, you take haunting pictures and I can't wait to see some, if you get the chance. Also, what work are you doing in Tanzania? Stay safe :)


  2. I'm so happy your writing again about a new adventure - this is my favorite book!