charity in the waiting room

i’m at the airport waiting for luke’s plane. the dar es salaam international waiting lounge is open air, and there’s a mixed bag of folk camped on benches, plastic lawn chairs, and sheetless foam mattresses (what a novel idea for a waiting lounge – would have come in handy at luton airport in london where i shared cold hard floor with a hundred or so other budget fliers). multiculturalism at its finest- blacks, whites, asians, arabs. i’m still relishing the muslim influence of the coast with its colorful headscarves and fezes. occasionally rich tourists float through followed by porters and lotsa luggage. it’s almost nine and my empty stomach’s starting to gnaw on me. a quick scan shows an odd lack of the usually ever-present street-sellers and their buckets full of cheap greasy goodies: samosas (fried meat pockets), mandazi (a sugarless donut), mayayi (boiled eggs with salt and tomato), sausages, corn on the cob, nyama choma (goat kabob), chapati (fried pita bread), peanuts, cashews, the list goes on and varies by region. the sellers walk the streets and often attack the buses to sell it all through the windows.

but none of that here. hmm. could walk back out to the road where i saw a couple stalls on my way in, but it’s dark and late and i don’t know how sketchy the neighborhood is. i catch two guys walking away from a van with plates heaped full of rice. there’s my ticket. joining the crowd at the back of the van, i can see two huge vats of rice. before i can figure out where the line is, a man in white tunic and beaded fez hands me a plate. ‘cool, thanks. asante sana.’ i wait for him to tell me the price. he gives me a what-re-ya-waiting-for look. ‘do you need another one?’ ‘no, just, how much is it?’ ‘it’s free.’ ‘really?’ (nothing is free in africa) ‘yes.’ ‘perfect. amazing. thanks. asante.’ (walk away before he changes his mind.) i find myself a seat and dig in with my hands. who needs a fork anyway.

a few minutes later another guy comes by with free juice and bottled water. then there’s free mandazi and cake. by the time the cake guy arrives, i can no longer hold my curiosity and i ask ‘why all the free stuff?’ ‘we’re muslim. there was a plane to saudi arabia tonight that was cancelled. so we’re feeding the passengers. it’s part of our vow of charity.’

in the u.s. when planes get delayed its like pulling teeth to get vouchers to buy expensive airport food (anyone remember getting stuck in st. thomas?). here they dish it out to whoever happens to look hungry. pretty cool.

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~ by aliciawolcott on December 13, 2007.

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