A smear of red ink leaks its way into her vision. The tile beneath her confused, throbbing head is cold and hard. She opens her eyes a little wider to the blurry words hung above them. “This is why men…” she reads. A picture of a red-bikinied butt on a tall, bent-over blonde enters the frame. “Keep the beer on the bottom shelf.”
Recognition slowly seeps in. She realizes she’s on the communal bathroom floor beneath her treehouse hostel room. The sudden, middle-of-the-night climb down the steep, winding treehouse stairs must have caused her to momentarily black out. After struggling her way back to bed she lays there anticipating the next dark hour before the 4:45a.m. alarm that still won’t beat the roosters screaming or calls to prayer from the nearby mosque.
I wake up flailing in an attempt to silence the torturous alarm sounds coming from somewhere in our tangle of mosquito net and sheets. We get up and dress ourselves in long skirts. They should be illegal in this stifling heat, but we’re culturally sensitive young ladies, so we deal. When in Zanzibar, melt as the Tanzanians do. Backpacks flung over our sunburnt shoulders, we hurriedly fall down the stairs (for Olivia’s encore of the early morning). The sand is filled with cashed joints, under the watching eyes of MLK and Bob Marley hanging crooked on the walls.
Our cab driver is late. But, ‘Pole Pole’, as they say. Slowly Slowly. Hakuna Matata. No worries. 15 minutes pass before headlights shatter the dark dirt road. Inside the cab a screen is playing poorly edited music videos of an all white boy band I’ve never seen before. Happy Thursday.
We weren’t even supposed to be leaving today, but the Tanzanian elections became questionably dangerous following accusations of corruption. So now we’re on the earlybird 7:15a.m. ferry to Dar Es Salaam with flights rescheduled for 21:45 this evening back to Zambia .
“At least it’s early and the waters will be smooth,” jinxes Olivia.
Halfway across the stretch of ocean from Stonetown, Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania our Ferry starts playing a Titanic-style game of Bucking Bronco with us. I’m grabbing on to the reins- or arms of my chair- screaming, “Oh God. Ohhhh No. No, No, No, No. This is how I die!”
I barely notice Liv lunging for the trashcan at my feet. I know I should be helping my friend, but the sight of her puke is pushing me to the edge and there is only one bucket. I barely manage to ask her- between my cursing and surrendering to death- if she needs a hair tie. In my effort to not puke on top of her, my brain begins reciting the words to a children’s book on hard repeat.
“Tugga Tugga Tug Boat. Bounce and Bob and Float Boat.”
“bounce and bob, bounce and bob…” A ferry employee breaks the record replaying in my mind by offering me a personal barf bag. Five minutes later, it’s completely full.
From there on out, the afternoon was pretty seamless. Worried about the protests going on, we even made it to the airport six hours early.
“This has been too easy,” Olivia jinxes again.
Little did we know how badly jinxed we actually were. Enter FastJet: Africa’s Low Cost Airline from Hell.
We get to our gate five hours later only to be told that what we’re holding in our hands aren’t boarding passes.
“How did you get through Passport Control?!” the gate agent bellows at us.
“Ma’am, I think that is an issue between you and airport security, don’t you?” I ask as nicely as I can muster.
Meanwhile, Liv is all but on the runway preventing the fully boarded plane from leaving us. Five minutes of attempting to rationalize with the FastJet employees later.. a moment happens. An intangible, but very real moment happens in which we both realize we’re not going to be allowed on this plane. And then, as they say, the situation ‘got real.’
In perfect harmony, Liv and I erupt like a nuclear-warhead-laced volcano. Just the usual stream of “this is absurd” and “you have to be freaking kidding me.” Until…
Olivia reaches a level of anger the likes of which I have never seen. Pure rage fills the room and knocks me in to a hard, metal chair where I cradle my head in my hands but clearly hear over my labored breaths, “This country is ridiculous!*” This exclamation is gracefully followed by her uncensored thoughts on the current political situation amidst various attempts to bust through the jetway door after the now-taxiing aircraft. Right as I surrender to a vision of us sitting in a Tanzanian prison cell, I’m snapped back to reality by screams of “SECURITY” reverberating through the terminal by the quickly assembled army of yellow-vested FastJet militiamen.
We’re swiftly escorted back through customs where they put a huge ‘CANCELLED’ stamp over my visa and dump us back outside.
*some profanities may or may not have been edited from this outburst.