It's amazing how much our lives depend on electricity. Yesterday, with over 100 degree heat in usually mild Oregon, we had a brown out. It eventually blew out the transformer across the street when it came back on and we were without electricity for 5.5 hours until 10:30 pm. So that severely affected my ability to do much (no computer, tv, microwave dinner or just light). Sometimes its hard to imagine I spent days and weeks living in Africa without any electricity or running water available. Anyways, back to my series of archive blogs from those days.
"As my semester abroad in Kenya was coming to an end, I longed to remain in East Africa to prolong my incredible life changing experiences. I ended up travelling in Kenya and Tanzania most of that summer before heading back to school for my senior year. During the latter part of the trip, I had travelled through Tanzania to Dar Es Salaam the largest city located on the Indian Ocean. When I had entered the country, the immigration officer has asked how long would be my stay, and I told him a month. He immediately stamped my passport and off we went.
In Dar, I stayed in a typical budget traveller lodge in the Indian district. All the shops were owned by Indians and the food was very affordable and tasty. A couple of the long term tenants at the lodge were Tanzanians from other parts of the country who had come to Dar to become DJ's. I befriended one and frequented his club most nights. I was enjoying the laid back lifestyle of Dar meeting people and having a good time. A couple weeks later, on a routine morning sweep, two immigration officials visited the traveller lodge. When you register you have to indicate your passport details. I happened to be in my room when they visited and they asked to see my papers. I showed them my passport without fear or hesitation figuring I still had another week or two on the visa.
No such luck. Unbeknownst to me, the entry official had given me just a week instead of the month saying nothing. I was now illegally in the country. I had heard that sometimes all these officials were seeking was a little kickback and they would be on their way, but I didn't pick up that vibe and they didn't pick up my hints to 'resolve' the issue. They told me I was in big trouble and escorted me to the station. I was put in detention for a while as they processed and threatened me with grave consequences. I pleaded that it was an innocent mistake, that I was American, and I would never intentionally do that. My charm worked no magic on them and there I sat. A couple hours later, the next level of official was sent to interrogate and threaten me. I pleaded with the same story. He said I was destined to be sent to their local prison in violation of their immigration laws. I didn't panic, but feared what even a single nights stay in that local prison would be like for a young american. I asked if I could have representation from the American embassy. This request pushed me up to the senior level official at the station. I met with him a couple hours later (everything moves slowly there) and was on my best behavior. He finally aquiesced and indicated I would pay a fine and have 48 hours to leave the country or go to prison.
As I stood up to show my appreciation for the favorable outcome I made a huge faux pas - inadvertent error. I was reaching for my things as he reached out with his right hand to shake. Because I was turned slightly and my right hand was occupied I reached out with my left hand to shake his hand. You should have seen his face change. He immediately looked extremely offended and he instructed his subordinate to take me immediately to my detention room instead of leaving. There I sat for another couple hours before being released with orders to immediately head to the train station to purchase my one way ticket out of the country. When I got to the traveller lodge to collect my things, I indicated the strange incident that had prolonged my stay at the station. My DJ friend indicated that in Africa, the right hand is reserved for eating and greetings and the left hand for wiping. It was a huge insult to extend my left hand to him and if it had occured earlier in the negotiations it might have been the tipping point to my going to prison.
As agreed, I got on the train late that evening and headed back to Kenya by Mt. Kilimanjaro and through the Maasai areas of the Serengeti plains. I escaped what could have been a very unpleasant situation and gained further insight on the cultural differences that exist in Africa."