On my last day in Tanzania, I had some shopping and mailing to do, as usual. What was not so usual is that the box was 19.5 kilograms. It would have been heavier too, if they’d allowed it. I gave away some books to the hotel since 20 kg is the postal limit. After that, you have to involve a private freight forwarder. Did you know ebony is heavy? Well, at least my crocodile is on his way home now. I haggled for souvenirs for about two hours, ran into young Aneth the jewelry seller again and bought some things from her and her mother, and generally stuck to my shopping list. Then it was time to mail it home.
If you want to mail something via Tanzania post, it must be wrapped in brown paper and you have to bring your own rolls of tape. It must be marked in a specific way and as is normal, customs personnel need to look at everything in it. That part, I expect, but the paper and tape business I did not. You have to wrap and tape it *after* the inspection but with the specific supplies they want you to have. You’re supposed to buy those from their special post office shop (seeing any conflict of interest here?). I did not have either the paper or as much tape as they wanted to use (someone else tapes it but you supply the tape – huh?). When the shop was out of tape, I lost nearly all patience. Very annoying bureaucracy at work here, and the worst I have seen at a post office anywhere in the world so far. Did you know in Morocco they wrap and pack everything for you and you just pay them a reasonable amount at the end? Tanzania post could learn something from them. In Thailand you can haggle about the cost, in Indonesia they wrap your parcel in old sacking for free, and in Europe it’s mostly like it is in the US. Anyway, it took an hour to send the box and I was thoroughly irritated by the end of it. I had originally gotten a very sturdy box from some guys who make boxes. The usual seven-man complement of workers was around, taking turns, cutting and sewing up heavy cardboard into boxes that you could specify. But my box was too heavy to seal with only packing tape. It required rope, which by the time I needed to seal it, I did not have, so I ended up scrapping my custom box and trading it for one from the post office that was lying around (after we shook the bugs out of it).
After the post office, I went back to the hotel for dinner and some rest, then headed to the airport. I was so sad to leave. To make matters worse, the airline had given away my reserved window seat and I had to take a red-eye flight from the exact center of the seat row on a big airbus. Fortunately, I met a couple of fellow Americans (one on either side) and had a nice time talking to pass the time. I even got about three hours of sleep, but my neck was killing me later. KLM did not want to take big red, either, even though she is now down to a more respectable 28 kilos (down from probably 40 kg). They allowed either two bags each of 23 kg, or one bag less than 23 kg. After some long begging, rationalizing about my next flight, and pleading with the manager, I was allowed to check the bag. That took about an hour to sort out. Eventually, I got to Amsterdam and then finally Sweden after meeting a nice English professor of Oceanography on the next plane. He was working for ESA (European Space Agency) and we had a good chat about spacecraft and operations.
I bought my 3-day metro pass from the airport and got a bus ticket to get to town. From there, I got a cab for $10 (ouch) to take me to the hotel which was only about 10 blocks away but with my luggage I could not walk it. Then I went to the camera shop and got a new filter and lens cap for my Zeiss lens – the one I dropped in Darjeeling. I had to get a Nikon cap because while they actually carried the uber-expensive Zeiss lenses, they didn’t have extra caps. They didn’t do cleaning there, but they directed me to a shop that does, and gave me directions for going there the next day (it was near closing time). They were really nice there and helpful. It’s called Rajala camera, if you ever need a camera shop in Stockholm. From there, I got on the metro and went to the cobbler to drop off my poor shoes. Next door to the shoe repair shop was an Italian restaurant. I spoke with the staff in my limited Italian, found they were definitely Italian people, and decided to stay. I am so glad I did. Proper Italian food, safe tap water with ice cubes, and a fresh salad accompanied by Sangiovese – oh, heavenly day. After that, I stopped at the department store and picked up some skincare cosmetics since my face hasn’t felt clean in a month. Money is practically flying out of my purse – the exchange rate is terrible and I have to be careful.
Today apparently was the first really warm day they’ve had in Stockholm, and everyone had their summer clothes on. One man had a plaid suit on, but the plaid on the pants was different from that of the jacket. I saw one older woman wearing something that should have been in an Ethel Murman film, and others who looked like they were wearing winter clothes pressed into lighter service (bright blue thick cotton socks with capri pants, for instance). Then, some of the young ladies’ skirts and shorts were so short it was actually indecent. I think the men here must like summer time. Speaking of summer, it’ll be the day of the Midsummer Festival on Friday, which should be something great to see. I am glad I will be here then! Okay, off to the only Laundromat in Stockholm now, and after that, camera repair and some sightseeing.