Habari gani za Tanzania!
I feel very much like a sponge. Every day, new sights and sounds to absorb, more culture to sink in and try to understand. I’ve been here a week now, and definitely am starting to feel like I know the city of Dar es Salaam a bit more.
Our student guides Emmanuel and Hamida took us into Mwenge, a nearby town, where we saw a big marketplace and a really impressive, beautiful woodcarver’s market. We were very popular, as everyone here has the impression that because we are Wazungu (white people) we have a lot of money to spend. We also spent a day a very nice, expensive private beach, which I understand is nicer than any beach in Mexico. First time in the Indian Ocean! On Friday night they took us to see a live Afro-pop/Reggae band, which was the most phenomenal, energetic, talented band I’ve ever seen. We danced so hard, and exchanged dance moves with some Tanzanians. They love to dance, but their movements are smaller, more finer and calculated in the hips and feet.
To get to all these places, we take daladalas. Oh, the daladala. Not recommended for the paranoid backseat driver–seeing the corners they cut, the spaces they try to fit through, and the speed at which they move makes you certain you will not make it in one piece. Also not recommended for the claustrophobic. Never would have guessed 25 could fit in a van the size of an American 12-seater van. Also, the door fell off of the first daladala we rode.
The trees on campus–acacia, I think–have branches that produce vines that hang down to become roots when they meet the ground. They make for excellent swings and Tarzan-style vines. The trees themselves are great for climbing, and I’ve spent a good deal of time in their branches.
The associate dean of students at the University had a welcome dinner at her house. Here, we saw “other half”–a nice house, big, gated, whitewashed, structurally sound. They roasted us an entire goat. And I mean entire–the appetizer was intestine soup. Goat stomach, anyone? Mmm.
We finally started our Kiswahili class today, after a week of getting by on minimal greetings and the few nouns we’ve picked up. It feels really good to be learning a language again, especially because we need it here! It’s study time!
I am very happy to be here. Though I often feel uncertain, cautious, or shy here, I have felt that there is no other place I could be. And though I remember where I come from, I am eager to establish some roots here. Salama,