Dar is my third home now (my second is online!) I don’t get out much, but in the few places I haunt, I’ve been accepted, enough to be told ‘Naona umekuwa Mbongo.’ It’s sort of a compliment, generally given when I out-talk a smart-talking Tanzanian male. They still think I’m too loud though.
By the way, to all you Kenyans, here in bongo, uswahilini or uswazi means ghetto. So you might not want to tell someone “Acha uswahili” coz – uh – they just won’t get it at best – and at worst, they’ll thump you.
Another tourist lesson – Dar residents tend to take things very literally, so be careful with your Kenyanness. A certain Bruno was nearly lynched for telling a conda (they pronounce it with a short ‘a’) ”Wee una wazimu.”
I still get the Mkenya wewe from the construction workers and from random men. But that’s because most local girls respond to cat calls.
I’m quite comfortable here, but I will never cease to be tickled. For one thing, in Dar, you hail a cab [or sell mineral water] by making a loud kissing sound. [this you just have to see for yourself!] So it’s quite easy for a girl to attack a man for simply stopping a daladala…and quite easy for a guy to fake a failed cat-call for his friends! All he has to do is pretend to talk to the conda.
In Nairobi, stima inapotea. In Dar es salaam, umeme unakatika. In Nairobi I eat ndengu na mbosho/maharagwe. In Dar, I eat maharage, na choroko. In Nairobi, nanoki supuu moja odinari hivi. [hey, it’s an example, I don’t swing that way!] In Dar, nazimia sister du. In Nairobi, we have Yo-Yo’s. In Dar we have brazameni.
But the best one is this. In Nairobi, we steal stima. You unganisha some wires to a transformer somewhere in Umoja, and when the KPLC (em, that tells you what era I was born in…) people come, you lock the door, or zima the metre.
People steal in Dar too, but here, they steal water. And I don’t mean from the ocean, though piped water is salty too. And depending on the time of day, you can get hot water from a regular tap.
The water system here is very…interesting. Wires run through walls without conduits, and water pipes run under the sand in basic pvc pipes, the kind used to make flutes in practical assessment. So if you stand anywhere in Dar and dig the sand for about a foot or so, you’ll find a plastic pipe.
All you have to do is break the pipe, fill your bucket, reconnect the pipe, cover the hole, and walk away. No, you don’t run, you’re not doing anything strange. There are tell-tale puddles in the sand all over.
Most neighbourhoods in Dar don’t have class distinctions, and most houses in Dar don’t have compounds, or fences. The house is built using every inch of space on the plot. Which means you step out of your house right into your neighbours. And since there are no class distinctions, you can peep out of your window straight into your neighbour’s … which means you pay the water bills for all your puddle digging roomates.
The weirdest thing about Dar is nobody sees anything wrong with it. People wake up in the morning, take their trips to the water puddle and life goes on. It’s part of Dar culture, like asking for tips. Yes, I said asking for tips. “Hivi dada, kwa vile unatuaga, si utuachie kitu kidogo, kiinua mgongo“
And paying for weddings. I don’t mean the kawaida harambee. I mean you get a wedding invitation (and that includes a kitchen party, send-off party, and the actual wedding – each requiring mchango, each requiring gifts) with instructions of where to deliver your donations, and how much.
Yes, I dared to protest. Yes, I got a Mkenya wewe. Yes, I am going for the kitchen, and send off, and wedding. Yes, grrrr, I am taking presents.
Oh, and yes, I will cover my hair with a [for appearances only] lacy, beaded, nyilninyilni brown veil. No, I will not be checking out the bride’s brothers. Mimi nachill till I find my Pete Sampras and start to keep it strictly tennis. As for them, well, I can’t speak for them, but my dreads will be covered, and I doubt I’ll hear the cab-hailing, water-selling soundtrack above the taarab – so I think I’m safe. Viva daresalama!
Ps : the kitchen party was pure trauma. I am so not doing that again. And *M* dear, i shall translate in a quick minute. 😉