Saturday, August 29, 2009

Africa. East Africa. Tanzania. Dar es Salaam

Looking at the Indian Ocean from one of the many wide windows of my sandstone home I have to remind myself that just across that ocean is my old Bangladeshi home. This panorama strongly contrasts with the blaring music from the bar across the street behind me. Pondering my new home, I sit here on a Friday night after my first full week of teaching in Dar. From my shaded veranda I can glimpse dusty brown feet slip by under the wall surrounding my compound as they pad along the deeply-rutted road.

Dar is as unlike Dhaka in as many ways as it’s similar. Similarities? It has poverty. It has riches. Differences? The two are unseparated to the extreme. Gated mansions are juxtaposed by neighboring shacks. Limousines cruise down streets next to beat up clunkers. Yet how can this be a poor country? People are fat here! In Bangladesh I felt huge, a towering, well-padded giant around the malnourished Bengalis. Here next to beefy African mamas and muscular men I feel like a petite enfant.

While school consumes my life figuring out the apparent contradictions of Dar is secondary. Working from the crack of dawn until late into the day makes swinging in my neighbors’-a friendly family from Tennessee-hammock more appealing then gallivanting around a strange city by myself at night. Especially a city with as many car jackings, muggings, and theft as Dar.

But, the adventurous part of me is reasserting itself and I long to explore. Tomorrow morning-Saturday-I plan on venturing out to find a local bicycle shop an Irish teacher called Mcfarlane tipped me on. I just love living the expat life where random oddities like this happen. Take how yesterday I was informed a great resource on Swahili language and culture is from a co-worker who is Greek but married to a German. Random.*

This brings to a close my first blog from the African continent. Hopefully many more follow…unless one of the many possibilities (or should I say probabilities) of a car accident, tropical disease, or worse happens to me.

Kwa heri [good bye]!

*Another bit of random African trivia. Asante sana, squashed banana” is a direct quote from Rafiki in the “Lion King”. Asante sana means “thank you very much.” Squashed banana must have a deeper meaning, but I’m still searching for it.