A wonderful weekend exploring Dar es Salaam
Finally, I've had a chance to explore my new home in depth! This weekend was a wonderful break from my usual work-home-work-home-work-home routine. Ruth's birthday dinner, though smaller than I expected, consisted of delicious (italian?) food served in an extremely nice open air restaurant called "The Peninsula"- the ocean was approximately ten feet away. I could get used to this living on the coast thing...
The birthday party was loads of fun- our homemade twister was a hit and we had about 50 people in and out throughout the night. We had the typical dry tanzanian cake, michelle #1 made excellent humus, and we made punch with some interesting concentrate called chemi-cola (I know, frightening). As you can see on my new (complicated) picture site:
the highlight of the evening was having my picture taken with the revered Nyerere, who is now perched over our kitchen table. For those of you who do not know, Nyerere is considered the father of the country- he is quoted in nearly every Tanzanian published work and his photograph adorns nearly everything. The most interesting thing about this great man was his colossal economic failure. He was at the forefront of "socialist Tanzania"- a move that so drained the economy, Tanzania is STILL feeling the reverberations decades later. Anyway, we feel very honored to have him as a permanent house guest. He had a great time at the party.
Ruth and I also ventured into no-mzungu land on saturday morning. The city center boasts a number of extremely chaotic markets...Kariakoo dubbed the most infamous. I am so glad I went, and I am fairly positive I won't go back. It was a remarkable sight: crowded, hot, dusty, and pungent. Three foot high piles of "fresh" sardines, oranges, potatoes, avocados, lace tabelcloths, oil lanterns, tupperware, children's toys, medicinal herbs, chickens, shady imported electronics, handicrafts, coffee, aromatic spices and herbs....anything and everything, and then some! As Rough Guide so eloquently put it: "what is most striking though, is the care with which everything is displayed, whether it's pieces of cloth rolled into tight cones...or fresh flowers artistically inserted between mounds of coconuts..." it was a sight, for sure.
Of course, I've heard of at least two purse-slashings (michelle and michelle's intern) and many a pickpocketing that occurred in this place. The hawkers are relentless and there is scarcely elbow room for manuevering, the smells can be nauseating and the men extremely skeevy- one felt obliged to obnoxiously grab my arm a number of times. It seemed to be so incredibly African, so authentic and overwhelming- as a wide eyed mzungu, Kariakoo was a fantastic adventure.
The next day, I ventured to the "clothes tree"- or trees, really. Just picture hundreds of secondhand western shirts, pants, skirts and dresses all flapping happily in the wind. The hawkers hang their wares on multiple trees and pretty much anything relatively stationary...I bought about 6 shirts from gap, banana republic and old navy for about 1.60 each. This is why I hate American shopping malls!!!!
I soon found myself in a taxi headed to the city center. Veena, a Indian-Canadian co-worker and her elderly, wonderful mother have become my fast friends, and we had plans to meet in the botanical gardens for a picnic. First, let me say that the Botanical Gardens are in plain sight, in the middle of downtown, right next to the National Museum of Tanzania. Second, let me say that it seems no taxi driver seems to realize that either exist! So there I was with my wizened (no english) cabbie, hunkered down in the front seat and headed into oblivion....
After about half an hour of frustratingly aimless driving, "Botanical Gardens" logically became "Norwegian Embassy." No joke. We pulled in and Mr. driver looked over at me a little gleefully, very self-satisfied, and obviously proud to deliver me to my (new and completely wrong) destination. When the embassy guards noticed that I am no norwegian, we were on the road again...and dad, you'd be so proud!
I broke out the compass, I tore open the guidebooks, and I took the (figurative) wheel. Twende! (let's go!) I said, moja kwa moja! (straight ahead!) I said, simama! (stop!) I said....of course it was all a bit more complicated than that. And finally, we made it! I successfully navigated the chaotic streets of downtown Dar....and it was terrifying!
But, once inside the wildly overgrown, untamed inner-city wilderness of the gardens, the taxi cab disaster was suddenly worth it. I picnicked with my new friends under palm trees and in plain sight of an entire troupe of peacocks. Ah, there is some tranquility to be had in the Haven of Peace.