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.

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4 responses to “A love letter to Dar”

  1. heidisrambles says :

    I’m so sad to see your time in Dar end because I’ve loved living vicariously through your insightful and nuanced commentary. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with the world.

  2. Kieran Gracie says :

    I have just found your blog, Megan, and now it seems you are leaving! But I, too, have many lovely memories of Dar. Mostly it was the people, with a sense of humor stronger and funnier than anywhere else in Africa. Business meetings were always courteous and always included some banter that I found irresistible.

    Then there was the Kilimanjaro Hotel. In 1965 I was lucky enough to stay there when in the RAF. Tanzania had cut off relations with Britain because of the Rhodesian UDI crisis but we had to fly oil into Zambia until the Chinese built the railway. As a result of the diplomatic disconnection we were represented by the Canadians, and the local Canadian military attache felt it perfectly reasonable to house all 60+ of us in the then-best hotel in town – the new, 5 star Kilimanjaro! Our accountants back at the Ministry of Defence in London eventually found out and had a collective heart attack, but we had a whale of a time. There was even a casino and a night club….. What else cold we do but just join in the fun!

    Great days, great place, great memories. Thank you for bringing some of them back.

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