Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disaster In Dar es Salaam

I enjoy travelling though I’m particular about the places I travel to. Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, are some of the countries on my-self imposed no flying-to-destinations. But I wasn’t going to any of those countries. I was going to Dar es Salaam on assignment.

The hotel was in downtown Dar and looking at its facade as we approached, it looked new. With check-in completed, it was up to the room and no sooner had I peered into it, it was obvious that something wrong. No, I didn’t catch the previous occupants still engaged in nocturnal activities and an unmade bed. It was the hum, that hum of a refrigerator that indicates the presence of a mini-bar that I couldn’t hear.

I looked under the imposing mahogany desk that was pushed up against the wall where the mini-bars are usually located and it wasn’t there. I scoured other places and still no mini-bar. Odd this is. So I lay on the bed and thought of plan B. Plan B? Call up the manager who would tell reception, who would then call housekeeping, who would then presumably pass the message onto maintenance asking them about the missing mini-bar in room..? I have to go and open the door and check my room number because I can’t remember it, and it’s not on the key card. It’s room 45.

So maintenance tells me that there are no mini-bars in any of the rooms nor is there a bar in the hotel - but he tells me there is a shop round the corner where I can buy a four pack of beer. I buy a 12 pack and back at the hotel, I run the bath with cold water and pop in the beers to cool while I go downstairs to linger for Hussein, my host, who is taking me out for dinner and then to my assignment.

Hussein takes me to a number of beach front eating joints and because he’s a vegetarian, I have to make do with whatever he’s ordering for me. I don’t worry for at the function, there should be some real food. There was except that I now have a stomach upset which, in my case, is usually the first indication of an impending running stomach. And I am not wrong. Rather than letting Stomach run riot at the function, I walk back to the hotel to let the rioting be played out in the safety of my room.

Am fifteen minutes away from the hotel when Stomach churns again and the churn is so violent, it’s obvious I won’t make it to the hotel before disaster strikes, so I pop into the nearest bar that I come across and pray that they have clean toilets which, they have. By the way, one of my rules of using the men’s washrooms reads: “Never use the first or the last cubicle. The first cubicle is the one that men always rush to when they want to throw up after having one beer too many or are dying for a pee, only to get there to find it occupied and locked so they barge at the door and end up breaking the lock. The last cubicle is for men, who engage in homosexual activities or have other men ‘blowing them’ or are ‘blowing other men’ – if you get my drift.

As per my rule, the lock on the first cubicle is broken but empty. The rest are all occupied as is the last. But I can’t wait because a Tsunami of the bowls is looming so make do with the first cubicle even though I may get puked on or peed on and the lock too is broken. But I have a plan. While sitting on the loo, I’ll stretch my arm out to hold the door shut and let out a cough when I hear somebody approaching.

But there’s a problem. The distance between the door and the loo is a mile long that my right arm can’t reach the door. I try my left arm even though it’s obvious it won’t reach either, but I still try. Who builds a toilet cubicle and puts the toilet a mile away from the door? Only in Tanzania!

I cough to alert the oncoming footsteps that First Cubicle is occupied, but the door flings open and a startled man gawps at me, retreats while shouting out: “Next time lock the door!” The next man to push open the door already has his ‘thingy’ out and is peeing on the floor as he walks towards the toilet when he sees me. He does a u-turn but doesn’t close the door behind him so I have to get up and with my trousers round my ankles, hobble to the door to close it.

I can’t linger in the cubicle for the door is being pushed open every few seconds and as you know, with a running stomach, you have to take your time for once you think the worst is over and you leave, five minutes later, Stomach will show you a move that will have you rushing back.

With a lull in Stomach churning, very gingerly I manage to make it back to the hotel followed by a mad dash to the loo in my room. There I relax. There will be no drunken men walking in unannounced to piss on or throw up over me. I can even afford the luxury of reaching into the bathtub for a can of beer from the 12 pack but they are gone and the tub drained. It must be housekeeping who thought I put them in the tub by mistake so they’ve put them on the mahogany desk and now they are warm and can’t drink them.

On the flight back as I wait for loo, a man emerges who I think I’ve seen before. It’s only when I see the susu on the floor that I figure it’s the man who peed on the floor of First Cubicle as I sat on the loo in Dar. At Entebbe Airport, I waste no time alerting the policewomen on duty. Hopefully they arrested him and deported him lest he pees on the floors of Sheraton or Serena Hotel.

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