Africa with Clinton: Tanzania / Zanzibar / Rwanda (Day 6)
Soccer, Ramadan, bad curry, broken airplane, and Ethiopia … What do these things have in common? They were the highlights of my day.
I no longer have any idea what day it is. Or what time it is, for that matter. I live by a schedule and I do what the staff tells me to do. And everything will be alright.
Left the hotel at a decent hour (930am) to head to the airport, bound for Zanzibar via a short, 30 minute flight. Zanzibar is an island just off the coast of Tanzania; beautiful country and lovely beaches. We head for a soccer match and malaria awareness event. Through the work of the Clinton Foundation, the incidence of Malaria in Zanzibar has decreased from 25% of the population being infected in 2005, to less than 1% being infected today. Those are amazing statistics. At this particular event, the Clinton Health Associates performed Malaria tests and also distributed mosquito netting.
It was very warm in Zanzibar, and especially down on that soccer field. (We watched the game from the sidelines). Because the predominantly Muslim population is celebrating Ramadan this month, we were asked to respect their observance by not eating or drinking in front of them. (During the month of the Ramadan fast, observant Muslims refrain from eating or drinking anything from sun-up to sun=down.) Given how warm it was today (85 degrees), I marveled at the soccer players who played a full game without taking a sip of water. The President of Zanzibar joined Clinton at the event, and both made remarks to the crowd. Folks were excited to see Clinton; his last visit was in 2005.
Next we visited ZAPHA, an organization supported by the Foundation, which support women and children who are HIV-infected and affected. Lovely visit.
Then we went to lunch at a restaurant in Stone Town, the only ancient African city still in operation today. The view of the city from the restaurant was breathtaking … or maybe I lost my breath because of those SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS that led to the roof. As I climbed the stairs I couldn’t help but wonder why we weren’t taking the elevator we kept passing by at each floor. Curry for lunch – the Indian influence is very prevalent here. And then, yep, shopping!
Dawn Staley struck out together to find good stuff. Had to get away from the more affluent delegation members who were likely not to want to/ or know how to haggle for good deals. A local brother latched onto us and took us through the labyrinth of shops. I gotta tell you, that Dawn is mercenary! She and my sister, Sharon, or my mother, could shop together anytime. I hate bargaining – the prices seem low already and I know they are poor people so I always feel bad cutting into their money … But like I said, Dawn Staley is a mercenary and she would not let me pay full price for anything. We didn’t have nearly enough time for shopping – just an hour, and I really hate being rushed … there are so many vendors and so much stuff … I wound up getting confused so I didn’t buy as much as I’d intended. I did make sure to buy some spices – Zanzibar was part of the ancient Spice Trade Route.
We finished up our shopping and headed back to meet the group. And guess who wasn’t finished shopping? Clinton. So we latched on to him as he walked through the marketplace, chatting with the local people and stopping here and there along the way. And that’s when we got the bad news.
After conferring in the middle of the marketplace with the President, the staff informed us that our airplane was having mechanical difficulties. We would need to remain in Zanzibar another 90 minutes. So they took us to a beachfront bar to wait it out. Well, 90 minutes turned into 3 hours. Time for another update. The plane would not be able to take up to Rwanda that night. Staff was researching other options. Oh boy. Anybody could see that Zanzibar was not going to have enough overnight accommodations to handle our entire entourage, now swelled with staff and media. This was gonna be a problem. We returned to the lunch restaurant for dinner which was the same menu as lunch – except the curry was thinned out and the pieces of meat were few and far between. Then exciting and hopeful news:
The staff had called around to neighboring countries asking their Presidents for airplanes to transport our group to Rwanda. I’m not sure of all the countries that sent planes, but I know that Tanzania lent two aircraft and I overheard that Rwanda also sent a plane – small gulfstreams that seat 12-16 passengers. To transport everyone, we needed five planes plus another for luggage. The planes were coming from all over East Africa so they arrived at the airport at different times. The staff created small groups and loaded folks onto the airport buses one plane at a time. I soon realized that I was going to be in the last group with three other people. Not happy – way too tired. And then, as I was about to get my full attitude on, President Clinton walks out and says “Are we ready?” My attitude disappeared completely.
And we headed for the airport. The President of Ethiopia sent his own plane for Clinton. My three colleagues and I boarded the plane with Clinton, his Secret Service detail, his doctor, and his chief of staff, and we headed to Rwanda. About 90 minutes later, we land in Kigali, Rwanda. We deplane right onto the tarmac, jump into the waiting cars (also on the tarmac), and speed off to the hotel, The Serena.
My luggage hasn’t arrived yet; no telling what time it’s coming. But I’m tired so I’m going to bed if I have any prayer of attending the tomorrow’s events.