Umekula nini? (What have you eaten?)

From mandazi to chapati to naans, how many different types of bread can one consume in a day? Well I’ll tell you, all of them! With the variety of food culture in Dar one can’t help but indulge in all of the different food available to you. Being someone who loves good food and could eat for days, I couldn’t help but seize the opportunity of exploring the various cuisines of this multifaceted city.

The first type of food I fell in love was indian cuisines. Surprisingly, Dar has one of the best indian curries that I have ever tasted. For the longest time indian food preempted the start and end of my weekends. I was not satisfied if my stomach was not filled with some chicken tikka masala and garlic butter naan. Living nearby Kisutu, which being the area where most indian restaurants are situated,  meant that the aroma of the delicious food being cooked away always somehow made their way to my nose. Every night most of the restaurants bring their kitchens outside and make their food on their patios. Often it feels like an indian food festival with endless options. I became addicted and to this cannot walk by one without sneaking a plate of something home!

Beyond my new found addiction to curry, I have also come to love Swahili food. Chapatis and mandazis are breakfast while ugali, pilau and chipsi mishakaki are my daily lunches. I could admit that they have definitely contributed to the enhancement of certain body parts :). From coconut infused fish stews to amazingly seasoned nyama choma to full fried ndizi and lemony salads as sides, Swahili food has definitely comforted my taste buds for the last 6 months.

Typically in Canada, a good meal would cost me buckloads and I wouldn’t be able to live breakfast, lunch and dinner eating outside. However being in Dar,  thats the lifestyle I have taken on. Because food is fairly cheap compare to what I am use to, a good sit down meal inclusive of starters, main course, drinks, and desert does not cost me more than $6-$10 at an average restaurant ! This, being one of the awesome things about living in Tanzania, definitely complemented my lazy attitude towards cooking, I have spent the last four months only boiling water on my stove and I have no complains there!

Zanzibar, the paradise island

This December holiday, I fell in love with the Tanzanian island coast of Zanzibar. With its dreamy beaches , Arabian style architecture and unique Arab and Swahili culture, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was in something out of an Arabian Knights tales.

This definitely was a vacation of a lifetime. We had gotten a sweet deal to stay on a beach resort in Paje (a beach located on the eastern coast of the island). As a result, my days composed of waking up, eating and watching the radiant blue colours of the Indian ocean.  It felt so amazing that it became reality for seven days.

Good thing about doing nothing is that I attracted a lot of tourist doing the same thing. For a week I got a chance to meet various travelers from all over the world who came to see this beautiful wonder. With each traveler came a unique story of what brought them to the island. Whether it be by fluke or in search serenity, every seemed to have a story.

One sunny day, my body was not too well, this required for me to go to the nearby village to get some medication. This village being a five minute walk away from the resort exposed me to a whole new reality far from what I was living the past couple of days.  I couldn’t help but feel guilty as I was living this beautiful reality of soft sands but only few meters away these locals don’t reap such reality. My presumption was if most beach resorts could be as lovely as they are then the nearby society would reap the mere benefits of proper infrastructure. However this was not the case. The huge disconnect between the two areas made me wonder whether such sentiments are ever felt by other tourists.  The way I seen it , most tourist are shuttled in an out of these resorts with minimal contact to the local society. Though it is not their fault, but I  believe a conscientious effort would definitely go along.

All in all, I am glad that I had gotten the chance to do such explorations as I now feel more enlightened about this Island which can almost seem like paradise. I now see Zanzibar in a new light! I truly feel humbled for the cultural experience and knowledge bestowed upon me.  Thank you Zanzibar, I shall see you sooner than later!

the quiet streets of Stone Town + the monkeys of Jozani National Park

the nearby village where I got to explore 

Orange is the new black

In commemoration of 16 days of activism, my workplace hosted a march to spread awareness about women’s rights’ issues in Tanzania. Being that orange is the universal colour to end violence against women; fellow police officers , students, community members from all over the country wore their orange shirts with pride and marched their way  to spread the message. It was very exciting to see the involvement of the society and pride they felt of the message being delivered. I for one felt very honoured to see the solidarity! Here is a short piece from the celebration.

 

You don’t speak swahili?… What kind of Tanzanian are you?

20151105_132104Its always interesting to see the surprising look on fellow Tanzanians’ faces when they realized I don’t speak Swahili. This being the case one Wednesday morning on the mini bus: the bus driver greeted me and mastering the greetings I had no issue answering. Then, assuming that I can still understand, he went on saying a whole paragraph and being the curious person that I am, I listened and nodded at every word. When I realized that he was waiting for a response from me, I responded that I didn’t understand in Swahili. At this point he attempted to repeat himself again only to have me  interrupted him in English. He looked away, then turned back with a confused face saying “seriously?” I nodded yes and that was the end of that conversation.

This was not the first time and I am certain that it will not be the last. From the beginning, it took my coworkers three weeks to accept from where I am coming from and even now they think that I might be a “secret Tanzanian”who lost all my culture while studying abroad. Similarly, I have been unknowingly given the role of translator for my roommates. Often times, the locals would ask about me to them without even acknowledging my presence. We had once gone to a restaurant and one of my room mates had asked the waiter whether her dish had cheese in it and looking directly at me the waiter answered. Hysterically, we all just laughed knowing that we all have the same level of Swahili, so I would not be much of help there.

I am very flattered to be considered a local in such a short span of time living in-country. These situations give me an added advantage when bargaining for lower prices because everyone just assumes that I really know what the actual prices are. It also pushes me to work harder on my Swahili , so that next time I am asked what type of Tanzanian I am,  I would be able to answer with no problem!

Feeling at home again…

Ahh what crazy four weeks it has been, after having started somewhat of a normal life in Dar es Salaam. I am starting to feel like home. Though we live in the center of loud noise, a busy market, 24 hours entertainment, I have found a beauty in this chaos. I have been able to manage daily power outages, inadequate supply of internet and daily fights for a seat on the bus with no problem.

Currently, I work in a law office where the lawyers advocate for & provide legal aid service to women in the area and ensure that their rights are not being violated. My office has an open clinic where the women are welcomed to present their issues and get the appropriate free service. So far I have been able to experience a counselling session whereby a client came to present her issue and I was welcomed to listen to the case and the proper procedures which were going to be taken. It was truly reward to see how the clinic operates on first hand.

As you can see we are slowly learning our Swahili, we have made great friendship with our security guard Mama Mariam, who is just downstairs of our building to converse with us and teach us new words. So far what I can see is that  Dar es Salaam is the city of  vast development, it is nearing the elections & from what we hear from the citizens is that its a close race between the ruling party and the opposition. Turns out that historically, the ruling party has been in power since independence and the people are rooting for change, and so in less than one week the fate will be decided. The campaigning is very serious, there a rally(more like a party) at every corner of the city. No one know what will happen! But we are all hopeful.

Thirty-six hours, four airplanes & three continents later…

Hujambo from Dar es Salaam!

Wow what a crazy but yet eventful week it has been. Having been selected as an Intern into the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) for a BC-based NGO called VIDEA- I will have the privilege to live and work in one of Africa’s most vibrant city for the next six months.

But before I go in-depth about my role and what I will be doing in Tanzania for the six months, let me start at the very beginning. This journey begins at Victoria International Airport, where three females and I anxiously embarked on the journey of our life. Though we were immensely prepared during our two week briefing about what is to come of the next six months, but the nervousness still lived within. Through the ten minutes flight to Vancouver to the long but yet restful eight hours layover in Montreal, to the sweet Swiss chocolates of Zurich and the inconvenient delay in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam welcomed us with very soothing warm air.

From arrival we were introduced to the few important Swahili words of Mabo Poa ( How’s it going) , Ahsante Sana ( Thank you very much), Shillingapi ( How much?).  At this point we did not think of the severity of learning the language, but after having somewhat of a sleep, were hit with the reality of it. With our local coordinator, Evah, we spent the whole day going around the local markets getting little necessities for our apartment, which definitely would not have been possible without her bargaining skills in Swahili.

Residing in Kariakoo – the bustling commercial area, where in my defence, 99% of the population will speak to you in Swahili even if they know English.  As a result, that sparked our hunger to learn more of the language, we have since then purchased Swahili- English dictionaries, learned how to count using Tanzanian Shillings and even went as far as using this knowledge immediately in the market, where i was able to somewhat bargain my way into getting produce reduced by a wapping grand :)!

Like they always say,

“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English ,
it means they know another language”  – H.J. Brown

I have to say, the one thing I still have to get use is the fact the Tanzanians drive on the opposite of the road and you as a pedestrian basically have no right to the road. The constant honking of the road motors and the fearful road crossings have been become the bane of my life. Their system being British, I find myself, often looking the wrong direction when crossing, needless to say, I will have to quickly adapt myself.

Overall, Dar es Salaam, has been good to me. With my very limited exposure to the Tanzanian social dynamics, I can definitely sense a lot more to uncover and understand in the next six months