Tanzania Day 4

6 06 2011

Wood smoke drifting over bone white sand to the sea. Fishermen mending nets, blue, gray and red. Men, hip deep, pulling long silver fish, meter long, out of turquoise water.

The whitewash processing yard was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Piles of white rock gypsum atop a layer of smoldering logs. The smoke drifting across the beach as if some apocalyptical vision. Long, wooden fishing boats, laden with nets, decaying in the shallow water.

The quarry is down the coast, but they bring the stones to this beach for processing. Lean, young men covered in fine white dust separate the processed powder from the larger pieces with mesh bags. The fine particles fall through while the larger pieces are left in the bag, which go into another pile to be processed again.

Women draped in flowing cloths of purple, topaz, crimson, and gold walk to the water’s edge as the men return from their day’s work.

*

When first approaching the Mzizima fish market in Dar es Salaam, your first instinct is to run the other way. The aroma is so foul. Like one million dead things, which is probably pretty close to the truth. But once you are there, amidst the rows and rows of whole fish, squid, piles of pink prawns, deep red segments of octopus tentacles, you don’t even notice the smell anymore…all the rest of your senses have been hijacked.

Orange coals belch wood smoke that swirls around you as men dunk giant paddles into black, charred cristols and lift out steaming mounds of shrimp, octopus, and squid. The floors are slick with water from rinsing off the oil and entrails. You have to step carefully, worming your way through the throngs.

The haggling surrounds you like 5.1.

As I’m walking away to meet the car so we can get on the Kigamboni ferry that takes us across the bay, a young woman passes me wearing a t-shirt that reads: Greek Week 2009 – I’m on a boat!

*

The cloud formations above the cemetery set the stage for some dramatic panoramas. Adventures behind us for the time being, the rows of hand-made crosses and headstones reset my headspace and remind once again of what is at stake.

A family gathers around a fresh plot while a man trowels wet cement, smoothing the walls of the marker. They want money for us to shoot them. Of course, we pay. This happens frequently here. I don’t have much of a problem with it, but my producer is losing his hair. Hear that LA? You cannot escape location fees.

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