Letter #7

February 22, 2011 Zanzibar Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the . . .

Up Sunday morning about 6:30 after a night that was still steamy but bearable enough to sleep decently. The lights are still out. OK, even though I didn't want to pack and unpack twice, I'm ready to relocate. No way to do anything about that till Salum arrives at 9:30 because the phone is out of juice.

So I pack, clean up as well as I can, and just as I'm finishing, he arrives with his cell phone charged, and with news that it will be 2 days before the electricity comes back on. Fire in the transformer, + no backup.

So together we go through the list of Zanzibar hotels in Stone Town, pick one, and long story short, load and leave. We land at Al Johari, (the pearl), where I find myself in a blessedly air-conditioned dark box of a room. (I learn later that Lourenco, my host, never would take anyone's word for the quality of a room and would instead have gone from hotel to hotel until he found the right price and room. When I told him the others were booked, he said agents with their own agenda will say anything that will enable them to book you where they get the greatest commission. I guess fraud and lying are part of the territory here. How strange to have so little one can trust.

But Al Johari has an upstairs terrace with internet, cold drinks, and a place for me to work with Salum to help launch his editorial career. It's the least I can do. About four hours later, we quit to go find Cipro as my bug is still hanging on. What a kind and decent man. We part with bowings and appreciations on both sides. I go back for a shower and then a farewell dinner with Lourenco at-get this-Zanzibar's best Chinese restaurant. Maybe it's not so odd, but it feels to me like going half way round the world to have dinner at Joe's deli. The food is actually quite delicious, and Lourenco is good company, exceptionally bright, very quick wit, insightful, and tremendously alert. He never seems to miss a thing.

On returning home, I luxuriate in yet another shower and, as I'm toweling off, I notice some bites on my legs. Funny I don't remember bites. I look more closely and then find, to my dismay more than I thought, and then more on other parts of my anatomy. Damn! I've got bed bug bites, dozens of them-and I'm arising at 6 am to get ready to go to South Africa's Cape Town.

After doing a little bit of research on them, I send my next destination manager the following message.

Marilyn, thank you so very much. I'm looking forward.

On a less pleasant subject . . .

I need to alert you to something that I only discovered only late last night. Apparently, one of the last places I stayed before last night was infested with bed bugs, and it is possible, even likely, that my luggage became infested as well. There wasn't enough time to take remedial measures before I had to leave Zanzibar, but perhaps you have enough preparation time left before I land.

I have little red bites on my arms, legs, and backside. They're not currently troublesome to me as I don't seem to be allergic, but the insects can prove very very difficult to get rid of once they've taken hold.

My thought is that since you host folks who come in from the less fortunate areas in the world, you might have some expertise in dealing with bed bugs. I hope so.

Just in case you don't, I've gone online to see what should be done, and what they say is this: above all, is don't let the little buggers in. They only come out at night to feed (preferably on people), and once having had supper, they retire to the mattress or wherever they've tucked themselves. They can live up to a year without any food, although their lifespan is generally about 5 months. They inject anesthetic into their victims so that one doesn't know it's happening till the marks appear, and sometimes itching, later.

If I were home, I'd radiate with ultraviolet and/or either boil or dry clean everything before bringing it into the house. (Temperatures above 120 F (about 50 C, I believe) kills them. 120 is even safer.). In the interim, I'd insulate everything in large plastic bags.

There were signs, but I've never encountered anything like that in my 68 years, and I didn't recognize them. It is possible that much of my luggage escaped, but I think I need to do a major treatment just to be sure. I wouldn't want to leave them as a memento of my visit.

If you have laundry facilities on the premises, I could simply put everything through when I land. If you'd rather wait till tomorrow but can supplpy me with big plastic bags to contain my luggage, that would be OK. I don't need nightclothes. That would help make sure my luggage doesn't convey any critters onto you premises.

That's what we did. What a marathon it turned out to be the next day! So that was my first day in Cape Town: Nailing down the ultimate treatment to keep the little buggers from getting a foothold in The Guest House.

Before leaving Zanzibar behind, let me add a piece that I'd neglected to put in before. "Farouk," who owns and designs for a beautiful shop at the House of Wonder, said to me: Did you know that Zanzibar has a very long history with the United States? We were the first to recognize you when the American Revolution was over. We were the first to send an Ambassador! And we have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with a sister city: Salem Massachusetts!

Farouk spent a year in NYC and if he gets bored, will probably choose to go back there. He is tall, willowy, graceful, blue-eyed, and café-au-lait in hue, and wears impeccably tailored, draped slacks with the perfect hat-a walking chamber of commerce for Zanzibar.

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