It was the last night before I was going to leave for Addis Ababa and connect to Istanbal, where I’d then fly to Athens to meet up with my friend and co-worker Emily. My very last night in Tanzania.
We were planning this vacation since the winter months in Vancouver, a most exciting itinerary for two single women in their 20s. We had steady government jobs (although I was quitting mine), neither of us dating, and we were saving up to make this Europe trip worthwhile. Every day, promptly at 4pm, as soon as we logged out of our work computers, we’d stride out of our building and into the busy streets of downtown Vancouver, as we made our way into the café where we meticulously planned out our itinerary. We were going to explore the ancient Grecian city, and ferry our way to Santorini, then stuff ourselves with pizza as we visit the colosseum in Rome and end our trip in Prague, where beer was known to be cheaper than water. One of the best part of the trip planning for me was picking the hotels we get to stay at. I hadn’t worked in the hospitality industry, but I loved going through the different options, weighing one option against the other, keeping in mind my preferred style and reviewing their breakfast choices. My time in Tanzania was an entirely different affair. The teaching placement and volunteer house were not gruelling by any means, but it wasn’t a vacation. The safari was exciting beyond words can explain, but camping in a dome tent wasn’t my ideal way to relax either. This—this trip that had us staying at 4-5 stars hotels—was something I looked forward to.
So, when all the volunteers decided to go to Via Via, a local pub in the middle of the town at 11pm, when I had a flight to catch the next day at 2:30pm in the afternoon—I wasn’t exactly too keen on joining them. That same night, at the volunteer house, the staff organized a barbecue party, complete with a whole goat that was being grilled in the backyard. It was going to be a fun night, I could already feel it.
Before then, throughout my time in Tanzania, I made no effort to dress up, mainly because I didn’t think there would be any occasion for me to. I had been wearing large, oversized t-shirts with sweatpants, sporting my thick black frame glasses and wearing my hair in two braids. In all honesty, I probably looked seventeen (Asians don’t raisin) and I believe all of the volunteers probably thought I was the youngest, when I was older than most of them. So when I heard the word ‘party’, I thought to myself, okay, maybe I should change into something other than a pair of comfy sweatpants.
I still remember my outfit that night. I decided to leave my glasses behind for the night and put on my contacts, I applied some light make-up and a hint of lip gloss. I had brought along a sheer black jumpsuit for my Europe trip, and I picked it for the party over a dress since the mosquitos are known to be quite aggressive at night. And I even borrowed someone’s curling iron and let my braids take a backseat for the night. When I joined the party downstairs, I got a few compliments on my black jumpsuit, and I finally somehow looked my age.
Here’s Emily, myself and Greg enjoying our plate of “nyama choma” (local barbecue) at the volunteer house
Here’s proof of just how dorky and incredibly young I looked throughout my time in Tanzania, and on safari. This was “the picture” I wrote about in my previous post (Day 3)
There were a few people I was talking to that night, but I specifically remember Greg asking me to join them at the pub later. Already feeling tired and not really a fan of pubs or alcohol for that matter, I remember shrugging it off. Sarah, another volunteer, and one of the sweetest people I met on the trip, told me that she was staying behind and taking it easy. The idea of relaxing back at the volunteer house was more appealing to me and I almost said that I’d join her. But for some reason—I was reminded that Sam had mentioned that he might go. Or did he decline that invitation? In any case, I decided to go because 1) Why the heck not. This is my last night in Tanzania, and I should have some real fun before my long flight and two layovers prior arriving in Athens. 2) And maybe—just maybe, Sam might be there, and it’d be fun to meet up with him and get nerdy about safari again. So, as difficult as it was for me, a real homebody, to turn down the offer of staying back and relax, I did it and joined the rest of the already rowdy group, into the middle of town, at 11pm–East Africa Time.
When the van came to a halt at Via via, a local pub in the middle of the bustling city, we can already hear the loud rhythmic beats from the speaker, and the rowdy crowd that cheered for their respective team. It was close to midnight, but I can tell that the party was just getting started, as the game grew more intense by the minute. It was, after all, the World Cup. As I made my way to the large courtyard where several groups gathered, I caught a glimpse of Greg, and then, beside him, stood Sam. He looked different, I thought, and then I realized that it was the first time I’ve seen him without a cap on. So a safari guide no more, just plain ol’ Sam at a party. I casually walked up to my friend and my safari guide, with not the faintest idea that my farewell to Tanzania in the next 24 hours was going to take a major turn—for the better.
Stayed tuned for PART II!