Monday, 16 August 2010

Arushanal Exhuberance

I write this post from the lounge-bar of the beautiful Kibo Hotel in Arusha. I came down this morning to Arusha to meet with officials at the EAC Secretariat, which is headquartered here. This post would be perfect with a few photographs, but alas - Tanzanian internet speed makes it difficult to access gmail, let alone upload images. Sluggish connections sure bring back the memories of Dar.

This may sound strange, but I love visiting the EAC Secretariat building. It's located in a facility known as the AICC, a once-futuristic, now-amusing superstructure from the post-Independence period. There is a certain epoch in post-War, functionalist construction that I love, a time when buildings and structures were designed to look futuristic and space-age. The Washington Metro system was built in this period; it looks like how people thought the future would look in 1950. So too with the AICC. On the outside, slender, arched walkways connect three blocky-looking towers. Inside, custom-made elevators with absurdly small, diagonally offset buttons carry passengers up to the brightly carpeted reception area, which is lined with large fake plants. The walls are lined with the heads of state of the East African countries and the Secretary General of the EAC, as well as earlier batches of politicians from the seventies and eighties. The carpeting, nameplates and reception area remind me (for some weird reason) of how Brazil would have looked 25 years ago.

My favorite part of going, however, are the job titles posted on people's doors: Principal Legal Officer; Principal Planning and Strategy Officer; Health Care Specialist, Disease Control; Assistant Deputy Comptroller; Chief Agronomist; Assistant Meterologist.

Assistant Meteorologist!? They have a skeleton staff of 150 people and two meteorologists? Can't they just get the Weather Channel instead?

Another perk to visiting Arusha is the fine living. Arusha is blessed with plentiful international-grade infrastructure thanks to its close proximity to Kili, Mount Meru, Olduvai Gorge and Ngorongoro National Park. The hordes of tourists that descend here year-round drive up prices but also stimulate supply. I am currently staying at the Kibo Hotel, a fine specimen of such supply.

For the most part, anyway. I checked in this morning somewhat in a rush, distracted by a phone call I was on. I took the room card from the receptionist and walked up to my room on the second floor. Only after I hung up the phone did it occur to me that I had literally walked right in; there was no door to the room! I called a porter who came up and inspected the open door frame with concern: "would you like us to bring a door or get you a new room?" You've got to give them points for service at least.

My new room, by the way, comes with door, bed, shower, toilet and television. I checked.

A fancy hotel like this has a fancy tourist shop, of course. This one sells gold, silver and precious stones. One of the stones they sell is tanzanite, a precious gem found exclusively in Northern Tanzania. It is one of the most precious stones in existence. For points of comparison from the shop here at Kibo, cut and polished amethysts go for $15 per carat, rubies for $60, emeralds for $200 and tanzanite for $400. It's a ghostly blue-purple color and is very beautiful, but I would rather than a giant amethyst than a tiny tanzanite any day.

The only downside to staying in a tourist hotel is that it means that I am stuck working (ok: blogging) while happy bands of foreigners down bottles of Kilimanjaro and talk about climbing Kilimanjaro. But I really shouldn't begrudge my fleece-bedecked counterparts. I'm planning on climbing Mount Kenya in a couple of weeks which should be a great experience in itself.

1 comment:

  1. Al, It is great to read your posts. We miss you back in Boston, but it appears that you're up to more exciting things!