Nine days of Dar es Salaam

Getting used to traffic, heat and a very different pace of life.

„How many days do you have?“, my boss Janet asks me at lunch one day.

„What do you mean? My age?“, I reply, confused.

After a lengthy discussion I figure out that she wants to know how long I’ve been in Dar es Salaam.  A bit more than a week, I tell her. She smiles her beautiful smile. „So now you’re seven days old.“

I take it as a joke, but later that day I realize she has a point. I’ve only been here less than two weeks – and I know about as much as a nine-day-old.

As Mzungu – a foreigner – I draw attention wherever I go. I get stared at a lot, but it has some great aspects, too, as people tend to be incredibly helpful. As soon as I get to the vicinity of a Daladala-Station – a bus station – there will be at least three people yelling „Sister! Where do you want to go?“ Typically I get about four different directions, but all of them will get me there – eventually.

There’s a saying I’ve read somewhere that proves to have a point: „Europeans have watches, Africans have time.“ Commuting in Dar es Salaam is intensive – although people keep promising me I’ll get used to it. According to the Tanzanian Traffic Authority, the citizens of Dar es Salaam on average spend about four hours a day commuting. I soon realize that I won’t be an exception. In theory, I live about half an hour from my workplace, but there are so many traffic jams it easily takes two – not counting the time I need to find the right Daladala, as there are no bus schedules nor maps for the different lines. I might have to find different accommodation, but I quite like my little studio and my landlady, who has taken it upon her to help out the constantly confused Swiss journalist under her roof.

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At The Citizen, the paper I will work for as long as I’m here, my nine-day knowledge soon lands me in the features section rather than the news. It turns out to be great place to begin tough, as I can be quite flexible with my time and it helps me familiarize with Tanzanian life. I start out by editing some of my colleagues articles, but my boss Janet tells me she’ll soon „send me into the field“. It’s a promising start.

Note to anyone reading this: For the time being I’ve decided to write this blog in English, I might switch to German every once in a while.

 

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