After returning from South Africa Jillian and I have taken up residence in Dar es Salaam with our friend Mussa’s cousin Shomary and his family. Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania and is often considered the economic and social center of Tanzania. It is located on the coast and is often a place tourist only visit to transit between their home country and Zanzibar or Kilimanjaro Airports. As a result there are not as many wazungus (foreigners) in Dar as in our home base of Moshi. It is the place were most countries set up their embassies so there is a large ex-pat population but in our experience that population seems to keep to them selves and do not seem to mix to much with the common population. Jillian and I have been here for 2 ½ weeks studying Swahili at the Kiswahili Institute. We really want to learn the language and knew that the only way to do so was to take a class and bury ourselves in an area where we could focus solely on learning the language.
A street near our house. Even the streets and cars become clothing stalls.
Shomary and his family live in an area of Dar called Kariakoo. If Dar es Salaam is the brain of Tanzania then Kariakoo is the Medulla Oblongata. Kariakoo is an area of Dar that was originally the area that black Africans were forced to live during colonization times. It is also the area where the first president would meet with other leaders to plan the countries independence. As a result you will rarely see a wazungu (foreigner) in this area unless they are there taking pictures. It is a crazy area of town full of a huge market where everyone from the country comes to get cheap products to take back to their shops/towns to sell for a higher price. There are people everywhere, shops in every square inch, and streets filled with cars, motorbikes, carts, people, and tons of things to be sold. All public bus routes start and end in this area and people are everywhere. You can hear people selling things at all hours of the night and not a day goes by that it doesn’t feel like you have entered into a place where everything functions without an rules, organization or order.
The view outside of Shomary's house.
Honestly the first time I came here I was scared to death and the first day Jillian and I were here without Mussa and Adam we didn’t leave the house alone because of how crazy it is. We soon realized that if we didn’t figure it out and get over our crazy fear we would be prisoners in our home. So we took to the streets and started exploring and now have realized how much we love Dar and love Kariakoo. Living here has been pretty amazing for the following reasons:
Slipway: the place we studied everyday.
1) It has forced us to learn Swahili at a very quick pace. In Moshi so many people speak English due to the large tourist industry that we are not forced to use our Swahili. Here in Dar our class has been really good and we have spent every possible hour studying Kiswahili and working to learn as much as we can. Also in Kariakoo many people assume if you are there you speak Swahili and will not talk to you in English even if they know it. We have to ride the public bus every day for an hour to our class, walk through the major market and live with a family where most people only speak Swahili. These things have forced us to use and speak Swahili more and more everyday.
The Hilton we snuck into. What a lovely place to relax. (:
2) Being in a city has been amazing because there is so much to do and we have been able to have a lot of fun. We have been able to go to the movie theater and see the new Twilight movie. We spend every day next to the Indian Ocean and have spent days and nights hanging out at the beach studying and talking with new friends. We snuck into a beautiful Hilton hotel and pretended we were staying there so we could use the beautiful pool and go swimming. We have been able to visit different restaurants and try different Tanzanian foods. We were able to go to a huge city dance clubs with some new friends and we have met so many different people and new friends who push us to speak Swahili.
Mbalamwezi Club- The place we went to study. Not a bad place to learn. (:
The Urban Life in Africa
3) We have been able to have some crazy hilarious African experiences in a more urban setting. We sat in a traffic jam for 2 hours as a man tried to sell a coat rack to cars stuck in the 100 degree heat. We bargained hard with bajaji (tuktuk) drivers in swhaili slang about getting a ride across town for less than $3, when the bajaji driver said, you girls are not wazungus implying we were locals. We went to the new mall to get dinner and go to a movie and were told at one restaurant that the only food they had left was chips (fries). We then went into Subway and were told they had no bread. As a result we ended up eating chai (tea) and mandazi (bread) for dinner. Then we went to the movie and were told that despite the advertisements the movie we wanted to see was not playing. Another one, Walking through the streets of crazy Kariakoo listening to the Christmas song “Let it Snow” in 100 degree heat.
Us conversing with Mr. Who who told us he would be willing to relocate to Moshi
4) We have also loved spending time with Shomary’s family and becoming a small part of the family. We are living with Shomary and his daughter, Layla, his niece, his nephew, and a dada (housekeeper) who helps with the kids. The kids have brought a different spin to life for us and it has been a lot of fun. We spend time with his brother Amery translating the newspaper and learning Swahili slang every day at the family shop. We have a father figure in Mr. Who, a friend of Shomary who visits and tells us stories in Swahili. We have made friends with many of Shomary friends who think we are crazy wazungu’s and we have a group of people who take care of us and worry about us when we show up a bit later than we had planned. It has been really nice to have people here who we now know and have connections with in the mix of the craziness of Kariakoo.
5) Another plus is being in a place where there are thousands of people but no one bothers you or gives you a hard time. Imagine being a white person in your American clothes walking through a crazy African city market in 100 degree heat in the middle of a neighborhood with thousands of people none of which are white walk all around you, with market stalls everywhere, people selling fruit and shoes and clothes on a tarp on the street while buses drive by their feet, with carts, motorbikes, bicycles swerving around it all. You stand out like a florescent neon light but people rarely bother you. It is hard to believe but at home in Moshi, in a town of less than a million, people are constantly harassing you and asking you to buy something or be their girlfriends or talk to them. While in Dar a city of 5 million people we are barely bothered and people are too busy to pay us any attention. As we learn more Swahili we hear them making comments sometimes but generally we can get through the day unnoticed.
All in all, we have had a great time here and we have really loved being here. We head back to Moshi this Sunday and are sad to go. We are happy to being heading home to our house, our roommates and our friends but we have loved city life and will definitely miss it. We are already making plans to come back and the dada (housekeeper) at Showmary’s is telling us she won’t let us leave. Shomary is using our doubt about our complete understanding of swahili to convince us we need to stay for a few more weeks and the kids keep telling us they are going to hide our stuff so we cannot go. We also have developed a huge amount of knowledge about Swahili and although not at all fluent are much better than we were before. We are understanding much more, writing and reading Swahili, listening to the radio and watching Swahili television. We don’t understand everything and sometimes we make small and large mistakes but it was worth the trip. I just hope to impress all my friends in Moshi with my use of it.
If I can speak in Swahili as well as people can write signs in English I will be a very happy person. (:
To show you my skills here is paragraph in Swahili about my day today and it shows our typical day here…If you can read Swahili let me know if I did a good job (keep in mind I have only studied for two weeks). If you cannot read it- try google translator…..
Leo niliamka saa kumi na mbili unusu halafu nilioga na nilivaa na nilipiga mswaki. Chakula kilipigwa na dada na nilikula mayai, mkate, na chai. Bada ya chakula Jillian na mimi tuliondoka kuwenda schule. Kuwenda schule tulihitaji kupanda basi kwa sababu tukipanda taxi tungehitaji kulipa bei ni gali. Basi liliposimama tuliondoka na tulienda dereva na bajaji. Tulizungumza kwa dereva kuhusu bei kutuandesha schule. Tulisema, “Tunataka kuwenda slipway. Shin gapi? Tulilipa elfu moja kila siku. Tunalipa elfu moja tu.” Bada ya tulisema dereva na bajaji alisema, “ndiyo, twendeni.” Tulipofika Slipway, tuko schule. Tulisoma Kiwsahili kwa mwanafunzi mwingine anatoka Germany na mwalimu. Somo huanza saa mbili. Saa nne somo huacha kwa hiyo wanafunzi huenda duka na cahawa. Sisi hukunywa cahawa na chai masala halafu hurudi dasara. Husoma ziadi. Saa Sita mchana somo kwisha. Jillian na Mimi tulikula matunda na biscoti halafu tulisoma wenyewe. Tungetaka kuja baharini halafu tungekuja. Husoma mchana kila siku lakini tulisoma mahaili tofauti kila siku. Hurudi Kariakoo saa kumi na mbili jioni. Mara Mwingine tulienda DDC Social Club kunywa pomba na kuzumgumza kwa wajiini. Kabla ya kwamba tulitembelea dukani na Shomary na tulizugumza kwa rafikis wetu. Hurudi nyumbani saa moja unusu jioni. Chakula kilipigwa na dada tena. Familia ya Shomary walikaa mezini kula chakula. Hukaa kwa familia na kuongea kuhusu siku yetu. Hulienda kulala saa sita jioni. Halafu tulilala la fofo.
This week will be spent preparing for the holiday season. Many of our programs here are on hold because of the holidays and we have friends arriving to visit from Chicago so most of our time this week will be preparing for them to arrive and putting up Christmas decorations. For Christmas we plan to have a party on Christmas Eve with all our friends here and then have a nice breakfast on Christmas Day with our roommates. We plan to do a secret santa gift exchange and then spend the afternoon at the pool swimming and enjoying the sun. We are happy to be home but miss our new friends in Dar. I hope everyone at home is doing well. Keep me in your thoughts this holiday season as you are definitely always in mine.