this is a coconut shell, and i am it's frog

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tanzanian Diaries I
So I don't have internet at the place I'm staying. I've consigned myself to writing on my laptop, and cutting and pasting stuff here. The more palatable public stuff, that is.

*dramatic voice*
the following is a record of my first 2 days in Tanzania.

16 feb 08

Here we go now, on the road again. Woootz. Well. More like on the wings again. No I’m not drinking red bull (cause it gives you wiiiiiinggsss) but I’m sitting in JFK for the second time in 2 months waiting for another flight. I love traveling. Call me the globetrotter. The zenzational azian globetrotting trotter. I like pig trotters in vinegar. I also like pie.

Mmm pie.

Whoever first thought of sticking food in a pastry and sticking it in an oven was a friggin’ genius. Genius I tell you!

So the cradle of humanity awaits. Paradoxically the last great unexplored frontier on earth. Where humanity takes a step back in silent respect of the elements and elephants. Where civilization is rare and technology rarer.

This should be very interesting.


18 feb 08

Interesting indeed. It’s day 2 and I just got mugged. Yeah. Mugged.

It was after work and I had come home to rest before going out for food. On the way out, as so often happens, a random Tanzanian man came up to me and started talking. The usual questions – how are you? Where are you from? Where are you going?

So me, being friendly and all, told him I was good, from Malaysia, and looking for authentic Tanzanian food. “oh good Tanzanian food! I bring you.”

I warily agreed, telling myself that should we go somewhere dark or had no people that I would turn back.

While walking there, a good 20 mins - 30 mins walk, he told me he was a musician, had a bar where he was performing tonight and I should go. I was suspicious but we stayed in well lit places where there were a lot of people. We had food, which wasn’t great but it was ok. When he told me it was 7000 shillings, asking me to give him money so that he could pay the bill, I became even more suspicious because Tanzanian street food rarely exceeds 5000 shillings. He had ordered a pepsi and made no offer to pay for it. When I pointed that out he insisted that he would pay me back.

He had also asked for 1000 shillings to buy the “food voucher”. I said that he had to pay me back and again he insisted that he would.

After the meal he re-iterated the fact that he had a bar and that I should go see him play. I declined, cause I was getting a little afraid. Then he said, “ok never mind, I take you back to your hotel.” I said I’d rather take a taxi but then he said he’s also a taxi driver and that he’ll take me back, only 2000 shillings.

I was undecided and wary, but he had seemed harmless though my gut was saying that I should run. Big mistake. Big big mistake. The moment I got into his car, two other guys jumped in with me into the back seat.


They drove and I said “stop the car, I want to get out”
“no changing your mind”
“I can change my mind if I want too”
A pause
“let me tell you who we are. We are mafia mojoa. We are bad people”
I was cursing my stupidity. Stupid stupid stupid wei jin
“we need 3000 euros. If you don’t give it to us you are going to be in big trouble”
“I don’t have 3000 euros. I’ll give you all I have if you let me down here”
The one on the left proceeded to harass me, searching my pockets and my back pack.
“what is this? What is this? What is inside here?”
I pulled out my wallet that he was tapping with his right hand, and gave him all the notes I had in there – about 70,000 shillings (about 70usd). He found my phone (goodbye helomoto) and my camera (not even mine, borrowed from Ernie), and insisted on giving him more.

I showed him my books, my stethoscope.
“we don’t want that. We want money. Show me your money. I saw your cards. You have credit card?”
“no I don’t” honestly, I don’t.
If only he knew that the tie that was in my bag and first aid for usmle step 1 cost more than what he had already taken.
“we are poor people” said the one on my right
“I’m poor too!”
“do you think I am a musician?”
“not anymore”
“we are not good people. We are bad people. What was that card”
“this is a bank card with 10 usd on it left”
“you lie. We are going to take you to the bank and you are going to take out 800 euros”
“I’ve told you, it only has 10 usd left on it”
“you lie. How are you going to live here”
“my friend is coming at the end of the week with my money. The money you just took is supposed to last me until then”
“you lie.”
“no, it’s the truth. I’m being honest with you. I have no money left”
“if you give us more money you will be ok, if you don’t you will be in big big trouble”
I wasn’t as scared as I was cursing how stupid I was. But I was getting really afraid the farther we drove.
I showed him my wallet again, empty. Showed him the front compartment where I keep my daily usage cash and avoided showing him the back one which had more cash – usd, Canadian dollars, RM and the few pounds I keep for sentimental value. Not much, but some.

Thank goodness the car was dark and he didn’t see the extra cash.

“please let me out. I’ve given you all I have.”
Short pause.
“we put you here”
I had no idea where I was. It was dark, quiet, and hardly a soul around.
Then came the kicker. And this part I still have a hard time believe happened.
He said, “here I give you money to take taxi back to hotel”

Some robber. Thank God for little mercies, I suppose…
He gave me 3000 shillings, enough for a 15-minute taxi ride.
“if you make trouble for us we make big trouble for you”
I got out, turned my back and never looked back. They drove off. It only occurred to me later that I should have tried to remember the license plate. I was pissed scared at the time and all I could think off was to get as far away as possible. But from what I’ve heard of Tanzanian police, it would have been useless anyway.

I hurried off, keeping my head down and walking as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I came upon a bunch of taxi men who started calling out to me. I had no idea where I was. I had no choice. So I offered one of them the 3000 shillings to take me back to morogoro road.

I was thinking that my luck couldn’t be so bad to be robbed twice in one day. Again, thank God that this taxi guy was an honest one. He took me back to the hostel, and I paid him the 3000 shillings that the mugger oddly gave back to me.

As I was climbing the stairs back at the hostel, I bumped into Karolina, a Norwegian girl that I had met on my first day here.

“hi Karolina”
She was on the phone, so she waved. I needed to talk to someone.
“is Kjersti here?”. Pronounced “shash-ti”, she was another Norwegian girl that I had met with Karolina.
“in the room, go in and say hi”

I went in and said hi to Kjersti. Apparently they had both had a bad bout of traveler’s diarrhea and had spent the whole day in bed with oral rehydration salts.
“Bad day for all of us then eh”
I told her my story.


After talking to her, I went to the reception attempting to place a collect call home. No matter how old you are, sometimes you are still just ahboy and call home when bad things happen. The phone couldn’t place international calls, and the receptionist didn’t know what an “operator” was. So I went back to Karolina and Kjersti’s room, knocked, and asked if I could borrow their phone to send an sms home. I had forgotten that it was 3am back in Malaysia, and my dad wasn’t the kind to keep his phone on all night.

I ended up calling home. My dad picked up. I asked him to check his phone for an sms. He called back. I told him what happened.
“calm down” he said.
Funny, I wasn’t panicking at all. At least that made me laugh.

He gave me the classic father spool that I expected to hear, but at that time, very much needed to hear.


So my second day wasn’t a very fun one. Relieved of my friend’s camera, my phone (plus sim card) and about 70usd. There was nothing valuable on the phone and I highly doubt they would track down the people who’s numbers are on it. I hope Ernie had saved all his photos to his pc. Plus, at least they didn’t harm me, though I still think it’s really odd (but nice of them in a perverse sort of way) that they left me cash to get a taxi back.

Whoever heard of nice robbers?
posted by theycallmecruel @ 1:51 AM   5 comments
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Yeah I'm homeless. How? Long story short, I wasn't gonna be in Hali for a bunch of months this year so I gave up my lease and am currently crashing random friend's couches. And sometimes beds, when they're not home. Sometimes even when they're home.


How is everyone doing? I shall answer some comments posted on my chatterbox here cause I can.

tim, the headquarters wouldn't be where I get viagra (as if I need it pfft). The factory would be. I understand your need to insult people but at least try to get your facts right first. *flares nostrils in disdain*

cm, I know I know. sigh. But I was there once as a kid and if things work the way it should, I'll have 10 years to go see it whenever I want. As I crashed yours, so shall you be welcome to crash my couch/living room floor.

kim-z. where are you now? working boh? dr Lim it seems lol.

ahjie. Just cause you marry young doesn't mean I have too. crazy ah. I have to make money first ok. Pay for ma and pa's international cruises. You can view my facebook page anytime. You just gotta figure it out. Which means you won't see it anytime soon hohohoh

seryoung, haha how have you been. how did you even find this blog? victor wooten was amazing.

so that's all. I shall now procede to narcissitically expound on my current life developments.

Africa (tanzania to be precise) calls me in 8 hours. 3 weeks in Dar es Salaam at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, doing internal medicine and ER. Then 3 weeks in a rural community clinic in Ifakara. Where elephant stompings and crocodile bites are everyday facts of life. OK that was a bit off colour but whatever. I'm becoming too politically correct. curse you canada.

speaking of canada, I'll be leaving in May. May 23rd convocation - the big day! DR WONG IS COMING TO TOWN WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO
posted by theycallmecruel @ 6:44 AM   2 comments

    LIFE is like a glass of coke, it may seem full but it's actually just all froth.


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ribbit Chinaman in Canada, no more. i still can't come up with a better phrase.
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