Today, I went looking for a map store. I didn’t actually get lost, which would’ve been humorous, but there was a brief moment of “did I walk too far on that last left turn?” which plagues smartphone-less navigators in this modern age. I actually had my smartphone, but Google Maps in Dar es Salaam isn’t exactly well updated. It was hot, but it wasn’t a terrible walk—down from my neighborhood of Upanga, skirting the edge of Kisutu and out into Kivukoni, a small hook of land on the water that’s home to courthouses, ministry buildings and government haunts in various stages of disrepair and apparent abandon.

I eventually tracked down the ministry of maps escaped the baking sun in favor of the shady and somewhat underpopulated halls of a dusty old building. Luckily, I was noticed wandering around and was pointed out the back, across the courtyard, past some cars and to the small map shop in the back. The shop is more of a single room, a warm and sleepy affair with two older clerks and a dearth of maps. I mean, there were maps, but certainly none I wanted—specifically #273, Milo Ward, where I spent a couple rather nice years of my life.

I was pointed to room #17 to inquire about printing and soft copies. It was a crowded room jammed with large format printers and computers with satellite imagery posted all over the walls. The A/C was cranked to full blast and the people working inside were rather welcoming, but I had come without a flash drive, so a digital solution was right out. Naturally, the printer was out of ink. Check that, both printers. Much like the clerks in the map store, my newfound techie friends had no idea when there would be any sort of resupply.

I promised I’d be back, though I was rather frustrated at the prospect of paying Tsh 30k for a digital copy of a map that I’d have to print myself while the allegedly extant hard copies go for a mere 10k. And naturally, payments have to be made in another department in the building. And only before 1 o’clock. And only during the work week. So really, while I promised I’d be back, I’m not holding out too much hope for the future.

I’m still looking for a few good maps. I’m thinking of trying to get in touch with someone in the mining industry. I feel like they’d have good maps. We’ll see. My needs are simple: a map with my village in it. A map of my neighborhood in Dar. And a map of Tanzania reflecting the current set of regions, which is surprisingly hard to track down. Now that I’m looking so seriously at moving forward, at what’s next, at being back in America, I realize how quickly forgetting sneaks up on us, and I’d like a record of where I’ve been.

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