I arrived in Tanzania last Monday morning, surprisingly still awake and alert despite not getting much sleep on the plane. I was greeted outside the airport by a former Ugalla Primate Project field assistant, who kindly showed me around the city of Dar es Salaam and helped me to begin the process of finalizing my paperwork and permits. Unfortunately, even with his help, things did not always go smoothly. I spent my first four days here back at the airport, at the cargo terminal specifically, trying to get my additional luggage. First the arrival of my bags was delayed, then when they finally came the paperwork was missing, and then an additional day was needed to get all the required signatures and pay for import taxes and handling fees. The most difficult part of the whole process was trying to get used to the laidback, “no hurry” attitude most people have in this country. In the US, everything has deadlines and needs to be done within a certain timeframe; here, things get done when they get done. I’ve heard “come back tomorrow and it will be ready” many times, only to hear it again the very next day. But now, after spending just over a week in the capital city, I have all of my permits and am ready to travel to Kigoma, the next stop before getting to the field site.
While waiting for my luggage and paperwork, I have had a chance to explore the city. Most parts of Dar es Salaam are just like any city in the US—lots of people and buildings and traffic, other parts contain crowded marketplaces filled with many “dukas” or stalls, while other parts, particularly those right along the coast, are calmer and quieter. As a “mzungu” (white person) who does not speak Swahili, being in the city center was a bit overwhelming, but definitely an experience worth having. Learning how to navigate around Dar es Salaam using public transportation has also been an interesting experience! For short distances, many people use “bajajis,” little brightly colored cars that you can easily hop in and out of. For longer distances, there are “dala-dalas” (city buses), which are also brightly colored, but usually much more crowded!
While everyone has been extremely friendly and helpful, it is hard to avoid being stared at while walking through town or sitting on a bus; this is a bit discomforting, but is one of those experiences that I think everyone should have because it makes you more understanding of what it feels like to be an “outsider.” To better fit in, I have been trying to practice the little Swahili I know and to learn more. People here have been more than happy to help with this process and seem to find it quite entertaining when I try a new word or phrase! I have also been learning new words from the staff here at the hotel, Mapadri Waponisti (“Passionist Fathers”), which is located on the outskirts of town. It is a small, but very nice place where I am enjoying having hot showers and air conditioning for a few more days!
Tomorrow I will make my way back to the airport to get on a plane going to Kigoma. There I will stay for a few more days before making the 5- to 6-hour drive to Issa. I am excited to continue my journey and hope that I will be able to continue to share my adventures with you!
Kwaheri kwa sasa! (Goodbye for now!)