Dar es Salaam by night – into the streets

3 am.

Out of sheer despair, I shake my colleague awake. I needed someone to make decisions for me, and she was the yin to my yang. Me, confused, somewhat dazzled, and her, strong, in control. She finds our insurance card and directs me to the phone. First stroke of genius.

I, in some sort of logic, looked around, unsure of what The object of my search was.

I found a stool, and moved it by the phone. I sat down. I expected this call to take a long time, I suppose.

I was wrong. The person who answered the phone was definitely local, no doubt about that, and not from our insurance.



I need to make an outside call, international.

You can only call inside the hotel.

Well, I feel very very sick, I really need to talk to a doctor.

This phone only allows you to call inside the hotel.

Could you call for me?

What on my mobile?


No credit.

They hung up, end of conversation. In turn, I put the phone down. I stared at it blankly for a while, before turning around to look at my colleague, like a lost child. I was rather confused by the treatment I had been getting. I was not even sure if I’d spoken to someone from the hotel, or from the line provider.

3.05 am.

My colleague has a second stroke of genius, she decides to go find someone at reception.

I warn her I couldn’t find anyone. I sit on my stool.

3.07 am.

It dawns on me that it does me no good to just sit there, so I go after her, dragging my feet, holding my stomach, and bent in half as before. This time the pain is worse, making it a real chore to cross the hotel. I get to reception and find that she’s woken up two people, and when I explain what I have, we decide to proceed with calling a doctor. It seems this man has credit on his phone. I eye him suspiciously, wondering if he’s the one I just spoke to earlier.

Third stroke of genius, she realises that even if the phone won’t let us reach out, the internet connection is fantastic. She runs back up to the room while I steadily lower myself onto the ground, hoping I will die less quickly at that level.

Coming back armed with my passport, local currency, credit card, and her phone, she proceeds to top up her Skype credit, dials the number, cleverly gives them the patient’s details straight from my passport, before handing me the receiver.

In the mean time, our hotel had succeeded in calling a doctor who lives in Arusha, some 600 km away.

I explain to the insurance lady that no, I am not in Barcelona, I am in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania. Yes, Tanzania. Well, at least the hotel had the country right, if not the city.

3.15 am.

What little functions my brain has are being put to a serious test as both the hotel receptionist and the insurance lady ask me a myriad of questions at the same time. They both decide I should visit the hospital. I agree.

As the hotel receptionist offers to drive us there, I unceremoniously pass my colleague the phone back. These conversations exhausted me, I had no understanding of logic or manners anymore and it transpires I had not even hung up. She, in total control, continues the conversation asking what paperwork I will need from the hospital for my reimbursement claim. What genius!

3.30 am.

Still at the hotel. The car is not starting.

3.31 am.

It is wisely suggested that we call a taxi.

3.40 am.

I slowly heave my aching body onto the plush taxi backseat. It seems the hotel spared no expense for what little comfort they could provide me with.

Daringly, I start talking to my driver, “how long to the hospital?”


“10km?!!!! I’ll never make it! Isn’t there another hospital that’s closer?”

Yes ma’am but we don’t send muzungus there. [ndlr: white people]

I thought for a split second, two choices were open to me: risk death on route to the hospital, or risk death from lack of resources in hospital. I realised I wanted to go to the hospital for one reason and one reason only: survive the night.

“Ok. Muzungu hospital it is.”

I made it to tell the tale (and most certainly would have in the public hospital as well).

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