Life of Bear

Final Days of Dar

Final Days
Outwit, outplay, outlast

Well, even though it seems like it, the whole experience to Dar es Salaam was not ALL bad.

I have started receiving emails from delegates who complimented me on the “serene” atmosphere of the conference (clearly having all the conference organisers sweating buckets and breathing red in the face is classified as serene in Dar..) and the general overall consensus is the conference was a success, despite our shipment being pilfered, the rats stealing delegate’s food off their plates  (ok, I made that one up….) and the general unavoidable mishaps. I think my mind may have blocked it all out and now I only remember the good things, kind of like PTSD…

Good times included the discovery that I actually like beer. I never have before. But when in Dar, there was not much else to drink… and man, did I need an alcoholic beverage! So I have sampled my fair share of Tusker and Kilimanjaro beer (available in 500ml; no ice). Pretty good. Nice to have a whole new range of beverages to sample..

I also got to spend time with my assistant Charlotte, who has been interning here in SA for 8 months. She leaves next week and I am really going to miss her. She had such a positive impact on our office and was lots of fun – in Dar, the night the conference ended, we raced into the hotel pool in the middle of the night and jumped in with all our clothes! Just because 😉

We also spent a long, lazy afternoon in the warm Indian Ocean looking for shells. The tide goes out so far that you can walk out for a kilometre and still not get deeper than your knees. But it was a great experience – sitting in the warm (like bathwater) blue, tropical water for over 2 hours, looking for shells on the seabed and allowing our minds to decompress the experience of the past stressful week. We all ended up finding sand-dollars and cowries, which should I have the energy one day, I will make into a bracelet.

Saturday night saw the whole conference team getting completely plastered on local beer at the hotel beach party, subsequently hijacking the DJ box with our own conference AV equipment and showing Charlotte how to lang-arm-sokkie-sokkie to classic SA hits like my-rooi-rok-bokkie! All the South African’s in the hotel came out of the hotel for a bit of a local jol! It was a pretty surreal experience to be rocking out to Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69” right on the beach, the sand between my toes and looking up unfamiliar stars (skyline is very different from here at night).

Sunday saw our departure from Dar, but not before a quick trip to the marine park by boat for a few hours of snorkelling. Again, warm, clear blue water, palm trees, hammocks – two dolphins even made an appear to round off the truly stereotypical  island paradise!  We spent the morning on a deserted , protected island and snorkelled amongst some of the most beautiful and colourful fish I have ever seen in my life. It was a lovely ending to a very stressful experience!

And most importantly, I also got to see a place that was different to my home and appreciate how lekker South Africa and our people really are! After being bombarded by rude African delegates, harassed at the Dar airport by officials that clearly just wanted to upset the blonde bird, offering my passport at SA border control was the best experience of my life. Guys, SA has its moments for sure, but wow I live in a great country – with people who are friendly (most of them); with a strong cultural heritage that is unmatched and who just emit such a positive feeling it’s hard to contain!

Pretty much my feelings for SA are summed up in this moment I experienced at the OR Thambo Vida E…

After 9 days of putting up with (what I felt) was solid, rude, aggressive and unfriendly African behaviour, I wearily trudged to Vida E while waiting for my flight to board. I was standing at the counter, about to place my order when the barista shot me the most amazing smile and asked me where I was coming/going. Lord, the first friendly stranger in days! He listened to my whole palaver with hysterics, got the whole Vida Team to sing a special African song to me and then made my latte with a little cinnamon heart in the foam and gave me an extra Lindt chocolate.  I was actually so emotional I burst into tears.

That is why I love South Africa. The people. Ya, some of the suck and spoil it for the rest of us, but I can safely say that after spending 9 days, away from home, with 738 people from different African countries – there is no place like my home 😉 and no, wearing a cowboy hat does NOT make you feel like Jeff Probst and it will NOT make the African survivor experience any better.

Glad to be back (and also to have hot water)

Love bear