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.
Gate 56. I am sitting at the Edmonton airport waiting for my flight to London. I’ve sat on these stiff green seats so many times before. On my way to India that summer between undergrad and law school. Countless trips between Edmonton and Vancouver. That time my brother and I met my parents in Italy and Turkey.
On the way to the airport this evening, my mom remarked that my trip to Tanzania would be almost like time traveling. I leave Edmonton on Tuesday evening and wake up in London on Wednesday afternoon. I leave London on Wednesday evening and wake up in Nairobi on Thursday morning. Two days and a whole world from now I will be in Tanzania.
The past week has also been like traveling through time. Goodbyes are kind of like that. My last few days in Vancouver consisted of reminiscing with good friends over good food. Remember that time in law school when we stayed up way too late studying and ate too much sushi? And KC started reading out inspirational quotes to get us through the night? And remember that time during articles when we both had that horrible week and we went to Joe Fortes and ordered champagne and crab? Remember when we ran that half-marathon in Victoria? Remember our bike ride through Sierra Leone? I can’t believe we did that.
And then I was in Edmonton and it was time for more goodbyes. My first morning, I met an old friend for breakfast near the UofA campus. It had been a long time since I’d been on that campus and for a moment it was almost like it was ten years ago and I was just starting my undergrad. Crisp sun. Fall leaves. The excitement of new beginnings.
There were more shared memories with family and more friends over still more food. Remember when we all met in that women’s studies class? And that time we had that meeting with the dean of students and convinced him that we were right? Well maybe we didn’t really convince him but things still went our way. And remember making those banners in my garage that cold winter afternoon? And then we hung them in the SUB. Where are those pictures?
Good people and good times in both cities.
Goodbye Vancouver, goodbye Edmonton. Until we meet again.
Last week, several of my former colleagues threw me a goodbye party, complete with an outdoor moonlit dinner, personalized place settings, candles, an endless parade of appetizers–each more spectacular than the last, homemade grilled salmon, an amazing frozen desert, travel stories, a card with my favourite Tolkien quote, and some very thoughtful travel supplies.
The kind of goodbye party that almost makes you want to change your mind about leaving.