The people

Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
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Trip End Dec 13, 2002


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Flag of Tanzania  , Dar es Salaam,
Sunday, December 8, 2002

"You're welcome!"

For the most part, Tanzanians are very polite, friendly and helpful.  The main exception I think would be on the safari tour routes - they're a bit aggressive selling.

I walk around with a lost look and people will walk up asking in broken English what I'm looking for.  When I needed a bus two days ago, a bunch of teenage boys asked me where I was going.  It took a few go-rounds to find some commonality, but they made sure I got on the right bus and told me the fare.  After getting on the crowded bus, I was offered the first available seat, even though I was last on.  The attendant gave me correct change (not always a given) and pointed to the right stop for departure.  Unbelievable.  And nobody on the bus spoke any English.

Every time I approach a shop, someone will usually greet me with, "you're welcome," and a big smile.  I thought I was missing something.  After a week I figured out that's just how they invite you to conversation.  Their manners are unfailing.  They also dress very well here.  The men in slacks and dress shirts, the women in dresses or khangas.  They sure put Americans to shame.  One day in Mtwara, Sarah and I went to the bank.  The next day, we were requested to return due to a problem.  About an hour later, the banker shows up at my sisters flat with some new forms to sign.  After wards, he hands me 50,000 Tanzanian shillings because of a miscalculation.  How often would you see that back home?  In the midst of all the slowness here, there are incredibly bright beams of humanity.

One of my favorite parts of Dar was meeting Sarah's friends from the Peace Corps.  They get stationed in the more remote villages of the country.  But when they return for conferences they can commiserate with war stories.  They may seem incomprehensible to urban America.  But not after visiting here.  Here are two of my favorites.

Laura was stationed in a convent in Singida.  One day an elephant got stuck in the mud.  This had happened a couple years earlier.  That previous time, it took the elephant a week to get out.  When it finally did, the elephant was so mad it destroyed several homes and killed a few people.  So, this time the village leaders killed the elephant.  They barbecued the meat and sold it for 50 cents a kilo.  The proceeds went into the city's coffers.  It is legal for Tanzanians to kill predatory animals outside of game reserves.  The number one cause of homicide in Tanzania?  Hippo attacks.  They consider humans to be competitors.

Scott was stationed in Tanga.  The so-called local witch doctor had an on-going feud with his counterpart in a neighboring town.  One day a lion came into Scott's village and killed someone.  The witch doctor from Tanga convinced everybody that it was his rival from the other town who had changed himself into the lion.  So, all the villagers together avenged the attack by killing the neighboring witch doctor.  Mob justice may seem like a step back in time - like a few centuries.  In Dar es Salaam, the most progressive and Westernized city in Tanzania, the government is trying to educate its people that AIDS can be prevented because it has a medical basis.

Well, enough of Dar. Off to Zanzibar in search of Dorothy Lamour.

Eric
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