Friday, April 13, 2012

Ex-Pats in Arusha

One fortuitous summer, D, L and Joey worked together down the shore at a popular bar. Since then, Joey's life has dramatically changed, and he was the impetus for our trip to Tanzania. While in law school he interned in Tanzania for a UN court responsible for trying Rawandan war criminals. Upon graduation he accepted a job in the tribunal, and indefinitely moved to Arusha renting a five bedroom house. His roommate, originally from Minnesota, is a former intern and current colleague. During our stay their house was full with other ex-pats passing through for work. The window sill in the guest bathroom was littered with a variety of half used shampoo bottles forgotten by guests who camped out before us. The counter in the kitchen served as a make shift, well stocked bar. The house came fully furnished and staffed with around the clock security guards and a housekeeper whose primary job was doing laundry by hand. Before we left on Safari Joey encouraged us to leave any dirty clothes we wanted washed for she welcomed the extra cash. My fantasy about clean tee shirts and underwear came to a halt when we returned to the pile of soiled clothes exactly where we left them.
Our first evening in Arusha, Joey arranged a large group dinner at a local high end Indian restaurant. In a country where white faces are a minority I was struck that all of the other diners looked like me. His friends work for either the UN or NGOs and all chose this lifestyle as a way to make a difference. The war in Rawanda had a huge impact on them growing up, so for those working on these cases the placement was not accidental. The dinner conversation was lively and several potential heated arguments about the Masai and local Tanzanians were narrowly adverted. At 11pm we caravanned to a recently opened bar, The Mango Room. Everyone seemed to know each other, linked by their jobs and international lifestyle, and it was evident this was an insular and isolated group. Scanning the crowd, the faces were youthful and natural, a refreshing contrast from what I experience in LA. The attire, especially among the women, was eclectic and creative. There was no uniformity, conformity or obvious trend. One of Joey's friends shared that every year a new crop of girls get desperate, and start designing halter tops and wrap dresses from traditional Masai fabric, an occurrence that longer established ex-pats view with a roll of the eye.

In the morning I was motivated to have some clean clothes before embarking on the next leg of the trip. I couldn't find laundry detergent so resorted to squirting dish washing liquid into a red bucket, and adding cold water. The hot water had stopped flowing the night before. I scrubbed the clothes until the water turned brown, rinsed and rubbed some more. The afternoon sun dried them on the line.

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