A love letter to Dar
I knew that you and I would get along as soon as I stepped off the plane that Thursday morning in September. A bright sun, a crowd of people, and a dizzying taxi ride past rows and rows of pink government buildings.
There are some parts of you that are easy to love. Deserted beaches, uninhabited tropical islands, white sand, blue ocean. The best Indian food I have ever tasted. Weekend trips to Stone Town. Coconut, pineapple, and mango for sale on the street corner.
But, Dar-city, you also have a hearbeat. I hear it in the first light of the morning when the call to prayer from the neighbourhood mosque rings through the neighbourhood. And again and again when my downstairs neighbour blasts Enrique Iglesias all day, when my favourite bajaj driver greets me on the way home from work, when the sound of frogs drowns out human conversation.
And a soul with a capacity to dream that is bigger than mine. An IT guy who visits every morning to fix my computer even though we both know it will break down again tomorrow and a street vendor that calls out to me every day even though I resolutely continue to ignore him. A billboard that advertises the site of the soon-to-be largest mall in Dar, complete with a coffee shop, grocery store, restaurant, and apartments. “Grand opening soon!”, the sign proclaims. Underneath the billboard, there is a still empty field.
Thank you, too, for letting me keep my laptop and camera. My colleagues in Kenya and South Africa have long since been robbed of their valuable possessions and, when those were gone, the muggers came back for soap, coconut milk, and a flashlight.
I wouldn’t be caught dead in a hockey arena in Canada, but I let you take me to a soccer game. Your two teams, Yanga vs. Simba. Yellow and green against red. Yyou warned me not to wear the wrong colours or sit on the wrong side of the arena. You were right – I had fun until the end when I was punched by an overenthusiastic fan.
It hasn’t always been easy. I love your street food, but I spent nearly all of October doubled over in pain. And I love the wind-through-my-hair-freedom of riding around in a bajaj, but not the accident that resulted when one of your drivers decided to take a short cut down the wrong side of the road.
Most of all, I’ll miss your people. People I would be friends with if we had met in Dar or China or Texas, but who I fear wouldn’t recognize me if I wasn’t sunburned and sweating. I’ll miss Sunday brunches, Crazy Kitenge shopping, and book club meetings at Saverios. I’ll miss the friend who wrote this lovely poem and all the other wonderful people I met in Dar.
I turned in the key to my apartment last Saturday and I’m leaving Tanzania tomorrow morning. Goodbye Dar, for now.