I love that Dar es Salaam, the city where I now live, translated means ‘city of peace’. I love the fact, that culturally it is important to greet people even in passing, and that my first couple of hours of swahili lessons were dedicated to greetings. Whole conversations can occur following the simple- How are you? with What’s your news? (Habari gani?) How are your family? (Habari za famille?) How is your work? (Habari za kazi?) How are your children? (Habari za watoto?) How have you been these days? (Habari za siku nyingi?) What is your condition? (U hali gani?) How did you sleep? (Umelalaje?) How did you wake up? (Umeamkaje?) (by the way these last two questions, are NOT deemed as over inquisitive at all). And perversely in some sort of linguistic conspiracy everyone and everything is always good (nzuri), very good (nzuri sana), cool (poa), clean (safi), or cool like the ocean breeze (Shwari). There is simply no way to respond ‘actually my day was terrible and quite frankly it’s none of your business how I slept or woke up’. In my mind this linguistic conspiracy explains the City of Peace!
Another home truth, you learn quickly about this city is things happen at its own pace (pole pole - slowly slowly). Everyone who is happily settled accepts this and lives accordingly. The less than happy, contrive to change the pace, plan and work to logistically sound schedules, until they are thwarted by the very forces of how this place works. Some of the more amusing tales are recounted here.
The Tale of the Internet
Since the moment we landed in the country we have been on a mission to get a decent, reasonably fast, internet connection. We realise our household of five uses several devices, iPads, Kindles, laptops. We love to watch things online, Skype… and truly never realised how dependent and used to a ‘constant connection’ we were. We have tried two different providers so far, each promising better service than the next, but ultimately failing to meet our needs. The third potential provider came and made a strong bid for why his company’s connection would be the best yet. We watched hopefully as fundies (technicians) came and went, bringing cables, taking measurements. Then for a few days working on the roof of the house. Impressed with the two days of scurrying activity at a pace we had not yet witnessed in the city, the fundies had welded together a 30 foot pole. Unsure what exactly was going on, but in anticipation of a technical miracle, we waited and privately speculated what the pole was for (my personal favourite - to get the receptor closer to the satellite, or once erected the pole would need lights on it to warn low flying aircrafts). On the third day the proper technician came and shook his head in disbelief, there was no way he was going to sanction his company’s equipment being foisted on top of a pole to face the elements. Needless to say our faith in the company faltered, we asked for our deposit back and resumed the search, working our way through the list of Internet providers in the city, but that pole lies abandoned on the roof – a testament to a valiant attempt at……something!
The Tale of the Pizza
A new app in town advertises reviewed restaurants and fast food places. Some American colleagues used the app to call a pizza place. After 40 minutes they followed up with a call asking where the delivery was- only to be told it was imminently arriving. After another half an hour the colleagues chose to pursue alternative dinner options and forgot about their undelivered pizza. The next evening the doorbell rings and the pizza arrives. It arrived 24 hours later- but it did arrive!
Whilst ultimately, in some homogenised, globalised sense of how things are meant to be done, these tales may appear frustrating - and they are. It is the stuff you recount to entertain friends and poke fun at, but somewhere deep in each of these tales is the hidden the truth of our shipping agents resilience to get our container of belongings released, of persistence to deliver the pizza even if ridiculously late, of a painters contentment to abandon his post and go fishing rather than finish the job at hand, and the forces of the city contriving to teach us patience about getting our internet connection. In the spirit of the most common Swahili saying “haraka haraka haina baraka” (speed has no blessing). For the Love of Tanzania!
About Natasha ...
“...the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but seeing with new eyes” (Marcel Proust.). Natasha Haque has taken this as her personal maxim. Born in the UK, she is a Secondary School Humanities teacher who has lived and worked in the UK, Bahrain, UAE and Tanzania. Natasha is mother to three lively boys and traveling and living abroad has brought adventure, constantly evolving her perspective on things, with each different experience as a nomadic teacher and parent.