Rough Start At Expat Central (aka, The Sea Cliff Hotel) - Hally's First Guest Blogger
It was over dinner that Alfred confided in me - something I never knew (although I've known him for 13+ years). He has the equivalent of a photographic memory, but for things he overhears. He claims that he can read the paper and hear all the details of a conversation at the same time and remember them both in full detail.
I'm impressed. I can't even remember the content of the e-mail I read 5 minutes ago.
Anyhoo, Alfred told me this in the context of relaying a story that elucidates the other side of the safari business and the other side of ex-pat life. So I asked him if he wouldn't mind guest-blogging for me today - and he told me he already wrote it up for his parents and would send it to me, too. And here it is. Enjoy. (Or rather, be horrified.)
A dreary, rainy morning in Dar es Salaam... looking forward to an afternoon and evening with my good friend Hally Mahler.
While waiting for the business center to open, I shared the lobby with a bunch of odd-looking Americans sitting in a different conversation area. Regardless of the distance, their loud, awful voices carried to where I was reading. I was floored: they were big game hunters back from the field -- one was bragging about having bagged a lion, leopard, and a cape buffalo -- a trifecta of sorts. Another mouthed off about having killed two cape buffalo in thirty seconds: claimed he shot them through their hearts, then pumped as many rounds as he could in them just to make sure they were dead.
Low and behold... and a dirty secret to me, Tanzania has parks set aside for hunters -- private reserves it turns out. I guess hunting brings in more foreign currency than observational safaris, and supposedly there is more game off of protected reserves in Tanzania than in all other countries in Africa combined.
(In fact, lions are increasingly eating people who live outside of protected areas: presumably because there isn't as much hoofed game as there used to be, and people easier to nab.)
Regardless, the fact that these big-bellied, loud-mouthed louts kind of represent my country here saddens me. They were so thrilled their "camps" had tents with floors, hot showers, and all the beer they could drink. What are their poor wives back in Fresno and Newport Beach going to do with bullet-ridden cape buffalo hides? I shudder at the thought of their ugly McMansions with stuffed heads greeting visitors in the two-story great rooms, with open kitchens, so convenient for grabbing snacks (nachos I suppose) while watching TV.
Grumpy sounding I know... must be the rain, so I'll continue. Breakfast was marred by Americans as well. An amazon woman was seated at the next table and soon joined by a mousey-looking couple. It turned out they were all visiting foreign service people who immediately began to whine at high volume about their posts, not getting promotions despite having served in Afghanistan (said it must take serving in Iraq and standing in front of bullets to get ahead), upping each other on how much they had bought (they had to go to town and purchase some extra suitcases to take home the loot -- complaining about the seven-dollar round trip taxi ride), and grousing about how little their post allowances covered -- how the educational allowances didn't completely pay for their daughters' tuitions in Switzerland. Between the hunters and the official representatives of our country, one wonders about the United States.
It seems the sun has now come out. Our Hally has no patience for my grumpiness, and writing out the two experiences has purged them from me. Off to new adventures in Tanzania.
Your Guest Blogger, Al Nimocks