Jamaica Lite

(Context, posted on 4/13/06: On March 13, 2000, on the first day of “spring break” with my b-school friends, I shattered one of my vertebrae cliff diving at Rick’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica.  I sent this email from TZ to my friends on that trip with me, whose support – emotional and financial – got me thru the nightmare of that day and the remaining week, as well as the official 18 month recovery that followed.)
No worries, nothing serious.  But felt reminsicent of Jamaica in the last day. 
So I’ve mentioned we were supposed to do a 4 day hike of this mountain Mt. Meru.  ~4500 meters, up in 2 1/2, down in 1 1/2.  Well, while I am on safari I have this stomach bug, but it’s just cramping and aches.  I am definitely worried about when it is going to “break”, given the impending hike.  Well, wouldn’t you know, my stomach gives way the morning of the hike, and though I valiantly hike for 2 1/2 hours, I have to stop to use the “bathroom” (mountain) ~6 times in that period.  So in addition to this discomfort, I am also tired and dehydrated.  So I throw in the towel, one of our guides has to walk me back down the mountain (total distance covered is only about 2-3 miles, but mostly uphill), and random friends of his arrive w/ a car to drive me the 1.5 hours back to Arusha, the town that is the base for such excursions.  So picture me driving along w/3 random Tanzanians, ill.  Along the way we stop at the guide’s house cuz we were storing some of our stuff there.  Turns out he lives mostly in a room (I think the kitchen area is shared w/neighbors – I couldn’t quite figure this out – and the “toilets” are outside in the yard) w/his wife and 3 of his 4 children. They serve me tea, the wife speaks no english and we watch what I think was Tanzanian news for a bit, which is first christian preachers and then Tanzanian Parliament.  I am shocked that our guide is old enough to have 4 kids, but turns out he is 43 and his wife is 32 (their eldest is in high school, you do the math).  This visit by the way comes after he and his friend inform me the guide is going to the UK in November to visit his white girlfriend.  I am not 100% sure if this is true but other than the foreign white factor the girlfriend/wife combo would not be unusual.  Charming.
Finally they get me back to my hotel and tell me I owe them $60 for the drive.  (To compare: the hour ride from the airport to Kristina’s apt in Dar is $6.)  I give them $40, promise to pay the rest today and bolt into the hotel, which is $10/night, $12 if you want breakfast included.  I have spent most of today reading and sleeping and munching on crackers, waiting for my antibiotics to take effect.  My friends are still on the mountain with 90% of my stuff.  I will see them in Dar in a few days.
Hey, as we all know, it could have been worse!
(The side plot to this adventure is that pre-hike at base the guide was caught trying to scam the national park and we had to advance him $60 for them to let us go up.  I have his cell phone as collateral and he has until tomorrow 8am to pay me before I get on the bus for Dar.  Cell phones here are highly valuable.  This is ridiculous!!)

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