Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dar es Salaam

I have been in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, for a week.  Ashley, the head (and sole) WorldTeach staff person here met me at the airport and took me by taxi to the hostel we will be staying at.  I arrived two days ahead of everyone else, one problem with travelling independently.  Some people got delayed by weather and other things and arrived even later.  But finally we came together as a group of 15.  Most are in their early 20's, some just graduated from college.  Their is one Canadian,  three Californians, and others from  Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Tucson, Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Charleston.
Our cooks at the hostel

Our hostel is at Msimbuzi compound, a Catholic conference center.  The big thing here seems to be weddings, as they have had one almost every night we have been here.  People dress up in suits and fancy dresses and the music goes on till about 1 in the morning.   We also hear nice singing during the day, which I assume is from church services.  We have our own rooms and bathrooms, though water and electricity have gone off at times.  I don't think there is such a thing as a water heater here.  Right now, I am sitting in my bed with the mosquito net all around me, having been wakened early by the call to prayer at the local mosque and the wake up bells that go off here at 5:45 every morning.  I am making a try for the internet, since it is almost impossible to get on in the daytime due to congestion.

Breakfast at the hostel

We spent the first week with some classes, getting cell phones, internet modems, etc.  One day  student volunteers took us in groups of three on local transportation to learn how to get around, order food, etc.  They have nice beaches here, but you don't want to walk off alone due to muggers.  One morning we went to the U.S. embassy for talks on health, safety, etc.  The ambassador is a former WorldTeach volunteer, so very supportive of the program.  The embassy nurse demonstrated how to do a home malaria test, which is a finger prick test similar to a diabetes blood sugar test.  They cost about $3 each and I got some because I am not taking prophylactic medication.

Alicela, a local finance student, took us through the market
Dar is a big city with over 3 million people but hard to get around.  I have only seen a few street signs the whole time I have been here.  The buses (dalla-dallas) only give start and end points, like Tembe/Posta, which does not help when you have no idea where those places are.  Buses have a driver and a conductor, who solicits business and collects fares.  People do not line up here, but all try to get on the bus at once, and there does not seem to be a limit to how many people crowd on, so you often feel like a sardine pushed every which way.  Driving is mainly on the left, as in England, but there seem to be a lot of games of "chicken" going on with cars and buses pushing their way through traffic.  There are also three wheeled motorcycle carts, and when I went on one we used the sidewalk also to get around a traffic jam.  There are very few traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, or anything like that.

A sign in downtown Dar es Salaam
All in all, not my favorite place.  I will be happy to leave today for Lushoto, a resort in the hill country where we will have our next two weeks of training before going to our permanent sites.  I will be in Ngara, near the Rwanda border and Lake Victoria.

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