We arrive in Tanzania midmorning on the second-to-last day of President Clinton's Africa trip, and are welcomed by four different local music and dance troupes, a red carpet, and cold Diet Cokes.
Immigration lines? Unhelpful officials? Forms to fill out? Nope. None of the above. Enough cannot be said about traveling in this style.
Clinton has come to Tanzania to meet with President Jakaya Kikwete and to announce a new malaria initiative.
We go straight from the airport to an event where Clinton visits a drugstore and addresses the thousands who have gathered, telling them about the initiative.
And from there, we head to our hotel in the country's capital, Dar es Salaam. I remain here – until we set off for Arusha some 24 hours later – typing up notes, sending photos and audio recordings to editors in Boston, and making periodic visits to the hotel lobby to see what I am missing. I don't see a single thing in Dar.
If there is something not to recommend about trailing Clinton – or, for that matter, any other big politician or star – together with a dozen other journalists, a bevy of Secret Service agents, and an entire advance team, it is that you function in bubble, and often don't gain any feeling for the places you are whizzing through.
What with all the ease of travel, motorcades through the clogged cities, fancy hotels, and events in which the locals sometimes seem to be playing the roles of extras – you could even forget where you were completely.
Yet, I somehow manage to miss the motorcade to the airport. So, I jump into a "straggler" car and race like there is no tomorrow, with various Clinton aides yelling out instructions to me over the phone as I curse the oh-so-authentic traffic jams I had been missing out on. I arrive just as the plane is revving its engines.
I slink back to the aircraft's rear bedroom and have a fresh chocolate chip cookie.
We are off to Arusha next and our last stop of the tour.