A brief break from my normal travel updates.
A picture says a thousand words but how many does it silence
I’ve taken thousands of pictures on this trip. The extraordinary and the mundane; my blurry thumb covering the lens, the misjudged selfie without a self; overexposed and underexposed, and the occasional pocket picture. I would look out of the bus and wonder whether I could get a Facebook-worthy shot of the scenery through the smudged window, should I Instagram this funny sign, and where I can find wifi to post this sunset on Twitter. I was interacting with my surroundings through a lens, thinking about how to frame the world into pixels.
Taking pictures is distracting. I took multiple pictures of the same statue to get the perfect shot (hint: it doesn’t exist). Later reviewing my photos I realized that each successive picture of the statue was less exciting than the one before, they all looked the same. I hadn’t really appreciated the statue, I was too focused on getting the angle and lighting just right.
“It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had.”
– Susan Sontag, On Photography
I’ve met some tourists and travelers who are very shutter-happy, toting massive DSLR’s and bragging about their lens size. Others don’t even bring a camera with them. Up until Tuesday my picture taking had decreased since I began traveling. It would hover between five shots of the same cow and no pictures for three days.
First of all, I am fine.
I was not harmed at all. But on Tuesday I was robbed. I was leaving Dar es Salaam when I got into a shared taxi with the wrong people. They took my camera, cash, phones, and used my ATM card to withdraw money. But they didn’t take my tablet, passport, or find my other bank cards. I spent a shakey afternoon at the US Embassy and then the police station. I holed up for 2 more days in Dar recovering, even though I wasn’t hurt or threatened it was terrifying. The shock wore off after a day but I still felt hollow and miserable.
There were a few consolations. I reported their license plate number to the police. The smartphone they stole will only work in the US (thanks Verizon for being a monopoly) and the camera batteries need a special charger which I still have, so both items are pretty useless. My travel insurance should cover most of the loss. Most importantly, I am safe and unharmed. It could have been much worse. They even let me keep my memory cards so I didn’t lose the Africa pictures which I haven’t uploaded.
I left Dar es Salaam two days ago for Tanga, a coastal town in northern Tanzania. It’s beautiful and I feel like I can relax again. Without my camera I decided to use this as an opportunity to get out from behind the lens for the next three weeks. I’ll take a few pictures with my tablet and maybe I’ll find a disposable camera in Nairobi. Until I return to the US in October you will have to shut your eyes and imagine what Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya look like.
And you’ll have to trust my word that I am having fun, the photographic proof will come later.