And I am feeling rather intimidated about it, and yet I am strangely uplifted by the nutjob sitting next to me outside the Internet café going on about how he’s going to kill a Tanzanian businessman sitting at a table nearby; from the look of his gestures it looks to be a gruesome pistol/machete job. I think he actually just mentioned the CIA, which should be commended for penetrating the paranoid ramblings of a man in Tanzania who has probably never left the country.
However, the more important thing is that TZ has been wonderful. The jaunt to Zanzibar was kind of a bust as far as my original plans, but I got in some good sleep and some good food and it was good to be with a family, although that rather complicated my having a good post-arrival breakdown. I didn’t get to take many pictures due to my aversion to Japanese Tourist Syndrome, including: a diagram of the alimentary canal (labeled as such) on the side of a school building and a field covered with fishing nets as fisherman repaired and sewed them together.
I came to Dar yesterday and have been hanging hard with Ally ever since, to the great amusement of the children who live in his building. He has been catching me up on all the hilarious and bizarre anecdotes that have occurred since I left (Lewis, y’all threw a KEG party? On the ROOF? And you sat facing the other way and called Hill Park, Park Hill, in order to be REVOLUTIONARY?) Yesterday we went to campus and it was just weird how much things have changed and stayed the same.
Different: They have PAVED the bus station at Mwenge, so that when it rains you are not wading ankle-deep through serious mud. And there are SIGNS that tell you which bus to get. This is monumental and will be documented with a photograph asap.
Same: The woman I used to talk to at the student canteen was still there and even remembered me. Different: The inside of Hill Park is now a formal dining room that is strictly forbidden as a shortcut to the choo.
Same: A Tusker and some peanuts (they were out of cashews) out behind Hill Park is still an ideal way to spend an afternoon hour.
And so on.
HUGELY different: They finished building a really Gucci mall/movie theatre combo that they had just started when I was here last. There are stores with trendy clothes like Gadzooks or Forever 21 and there are stores with men’s suits and a Samsung store with nothing but high-end electronics and on and on. There’s a store very similar to Walmart with everything from beach towels to beer to bicycles to refrigerators and a wall of flat-screen TVs; took some sweet pictures but OF COURSE I don’t have my camera cord with so add that to the list of things I forgot to bring with me this morning. There is also a grocery store that is probably the biggest and nicest I have seen in Dar with real butter (for $6 a pound) and RED BULL. Stepping inside this air-conditioned monster is kind of like leaving Tanzania.
And I has said yesterday in my very short post, I have fallen quite easily back into the rhythm of negotiating everyday life in Dar. Quite comfortable in my betwixt-and-between gender role as a white woman: in some ways I am treated like a man, in that it is acceptable for me to do things on my own, engage in intellectual debate, leave the house looking schlummy, and I am not really expected to assist with cooking, cleaning, childcare while at a friend’s house the way that a Tanzanian woman who is also a guest might be expected to. On the other hand, my male Tanzanian friends certainly extend a certain protective chivalry. It’s all very weird but somehow makes sense to me. Other things that seem normal: all the smells of a lot of people living in a small area without adequate sanitary systems (although they are very mild in most of Dar), bargaining in Swahili, conducting myself in Swahili in general. There are things that I am more comfortable with than I was when I left too, especially the whole mzungu thing; I just don’t give a crap anymore. Maybe I had to leave and subconsciously process it for a year or so in order to get over it.
Last night Ally and I went to Innocent’s for dinner. Joseph Jr. and I had a blast as usual. I brought him a Spiderman math workbook, an army hat, and a weird flying disk thing from the US; he was delighted and kept asking me if I had more presents for him (in a cute, not-too-bratty way). He was also in love with my camera and kept torturing everyone with his picture taking. He is also very adept at the arm stretching self-portrait shot. GOSH I wish I could post these pictures now. It was sooo good to see them.
Innocent told me all about this very exciting program he and some of his friends from business school have launched: training sessions for entrepreneurs. They ran a short commercial about it on TV and have already have offers to come to other towns with travel and everything paid for. They have also already had a few sessions at Mwenge; the carvers were some of the first students. The first session there were 15 students, then 25, then 30. They are applying for a government grant to cover printing and travel costs so that the sessions can be free; right now it is 5000/= ($4.50) for a month of weekly sessions. So far they have covered how to keep records, make a business plan, and the importance of being competitive and innovative rather than just copying other businesses. Beyond the group sessions, individual facilitators visit the men at work and make sure they are implementing the tools correctly. This program complements so perfectly the requirements of programs that make loans and grants to entrepreneurs—microcredit NGOs, government programs—that I can’t imagine they won’t get the government grant.
Ally also explained the hilarious hijinks that occurred when the Chinese exchange students tried to incorporate a Chinese lesson into the English classes at Mwenge. Apparently, they kind of just started showing up and teaching Chinese (they were really proficient in Swahili) and all of the English teachers got pissed but couldn’t do anything because the students were interested in learning it. Ally chaired a huge meeting to negotiate a scheduling compromise that gave the Chinese teachers about 3 hours per week (while extending class by about 40 minutes 3 times a week). Pretty soon, though, the students realized that the Chinese was mixing up with their English (no kidding!), so NO one wanted them to be there but no one had the nerve to ask them to stop. Essentially, manners and circumstance compelled the students to study Chinese against their will: what a dilemma, right?
Well I am late to meet Ajali at Mwenge. Today we are going to be around 30 tingatinga paintings to mail back to the US so I can sell them at home to raise money for the scholarship fund. Get ready to buy beautiful trippy African paintings done with bicycle paint for super cheap upon my return!