02 October 2009

On the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean looks a lot like the Pacific, except there are patches of bright teal and aquamarine cutting through the deep gray blue. It’s windy out, and there are white caps dotting the surface of the water, and way out, near the horizon, some tankers are passing by or parked…I can’t tell which.

I took a cab from Mbezi Beach in the north of Dar to the Seacliff Hotel way out at the tip of a peninsula where expats and tourists hang out. The ride over was an assault of sound and smell – traffic jams, horns honking, the smell of exhaust, of smoke from burning trash on the side of the road, and bodies, sweat. Inside the hotel, it’s quiet and cool and lazy. Some men on break from a conference smoke a cigarette and talk quietly. A gardener takes a break from trimming a hedge.

When people ask, I’ve been telling them that I work for the World Bank (which I do, on a short-term contract). Now in Bob Zoellick's dreams, the average response probably goes something like this: ah, yes, the World Bank! You work to alleviate poverty around the globe!

But in my one day's worth of experience, the response has been more like: Oh, nice, they have lots of money. One guy, Job, a young Dar native, said exactly that, and another fellow who works at the Seacliff, launched into a very detailed description of a safari scheme he's been dreaming up and asked if I could help him find financing. Maybe I should just tell people I’m a writer.

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