I don’t know if there are stages, but after my initial impressions our real re-orientation began, and learning about a new place too. It’s all mixed in together. Here are ten observations 5 weeks in.
- We are not as tired this time. During our first year in Tanzania, we were pretty much in bed by 8pm every single night and needing a nap in the middle of the day. Re-entry is tiring, but it’s not that tiring!
- Our Swahili might be rough but it’s enough to communicate, even quite complicated things like giving directions to our home, or instructing tradesmen. There are words I used to know that I can’t call to mind at the right time, but I have enough to explain what I want to say in a more round about way. Even though I feel my Swahili is much more limited right now, I get complimented because my grammar is established, so it sounds like I know what I’m doing!
- Dar is much more cosmopolitan than Dodoma, with a huge white expat community centred around the peninsula, and of course, the Wahindi in our part of town. Tanzanians here dress differently (they call it western dress though it doesn’t follow western fashion trends), and are more competent in English.
- Dar is stacks more expensive, even for things like groceries, but especially for labor or services, everything from taxi driving to cleaning to what’s expected for gifts.
- You shop in a different way in Dar. You can go into the big market like I did in Dodoma but it’s a bit of a hike, but there are also supermarkets (depending on where you live of course), and here in Upanga fruits and vegetable sellers come to our door every day.
- The suburb in which we’re living is like a little oasis in the middle of the city, and it operates like a village. People prefer not to leave Upanga, and try to do everything here.
- I have not yet been told to put socks on my baby because he is cold. Dar is apparently warm enough for babies, even by Tanzanian standards. Outside, that is. If a room’s air conditioned, people’s concern re-emerges. They tell me to put a jumper on Callum, or they immediately turn the air conditioning off for his benefit. I think I see less public breastfeeding around too, but nevertheless I’ve been instructed very forcefully to breastfeed Callum if he’s making a noise, whether I’m on the street or in a department store.
- Dar offers opportunities for respite that were unavailable to us in Dodoma. I feel like day to day was better in Dodoma, without the filth and busyness of big city life, but it was always the same. There was no western-style cafe, or bakery that sold real bread, or decent takeaway options. OK, so these things are all about food, but the point is, there are more perks in Dar. Something has to make up for the climate I guess!
- We’re enjoying Tanzania’s pluralist society. In contrast to some of the hysteria in Australia around Muslims coupled with fear about losing historic Christian privilege, it’s refreshing to be part of a society where there are public holidays for Eid, where churches advertise openly, and where you can talk about these things with people regardless of your religious affiliation or theirs.
- Our bodies need to function differently here. Not only do they need to acclimatise to the heat and humidity, we have all developed skin infections. Someone in Dodoma once said it’s because Tanzania is not an aseptic environment like Australia, and that’s true in the city as well, perhaps even more so because the filth is more concentrated. Even little paper cuts easily get infected at the moment, so we are using lots of salt water, and glad that we brought a little bottle of Betadine!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.