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Tony Dawson’s adventures in Tanzania continue

New posts on Tony’s Big Adventure from Tony Dawson of Cawston


This week, Tony made contact with the World Food Programme – his coordinator is Dominique – and he is probably in Arusha at this moment becoming familiar with the direction his life will take over the next eleven months or so.

He is doing fine. He seems to have met several wonderful Philippinos (yes, including Lennie!) that has made him determine that he would “go to the Philippines in a shot!”  In the meantime he has spent time touring the neighbourhood around his hotel in “Dar.”

He writes, “I braved a walk in the neighbourhood today. I got lost. I got found. I tried again and didn’t get lost. I took street photos and I sat down and just looked about me for a long while, actually enjoying the hustle and bustle from a quiet perch on the sidewalk offset from the road. I had a cup of chai and some samosas to celebrate finding my way. I survived the odd hustler by saying ‘Hapana sana’ – I doubt these two Kiswalili words really go together but people got the message. The taxi drivers always ask you if you’d like their service but when I said ‘hapana sana’ they smiled and understood my politese. One ‘meter reader’ harassed me for taking a photo of the skyline with not a single person in the photo. He was trying to get money from me but I defended myself with the line that Canadians would like to see these photos – that they needed to see them so as to have a better understanding of how fine a place Dar actually is...” Therefore, since Tony “found” himself, he took more walks: “I am learning to walk as though I have a purpose even when I’m totally baffled - appearance is everything. I don’t look directly at people as much in order to avoid hustlers. I begin to understand why some women will cover themselves to reduce the prying eyes and flirtations of the young men. People are slim and gracious and very tidily dressed. There is a real bustle to the streets that makes perfect sense to everyone bustling and contributes to my sense of the exotic.”

Tony also wrote, “I wended my way back to Peter’s cheap bar . . . [and asks] . . . the two men at the table next to mine how to pronounce the word ‘mwenyeji’ (a ‘native inhabitant’). [This provided] . . . an excuse for me to practice or just plain talk with others. It turned out they were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the west of Tanzania, and they spoke French! We had a nice cold beer (I know it was only 2 p.m. but it was hot on my walkabout and obviously on theirs, too.) and spoke French. Hubert said he would hire me if I were to volunteer in the Congo because he thought my French more than adequate. He gave me his card and said if I visited, he’d pick me up at the airport and find me a cheap hotel. Nice to have people like Peter (VSO Kenya) and Hubert to guide [me]. Hubert’s card reads ‘Official Representative JAC Motors in Katanga/DRC’ where he is the ‘Administrator Commercial Manager’. He’d just come back from Europe on business (where Hubert said it was) very cold and very hot here in Dar – hotter than the Congo.”

Arusha – No Pens – No hamburgers / Posted on March 10, 2012

Tony has arrived in Arusha.  He says he has a “positive” impression – sorta like when he kisses his sister (sorry Diana!)  He says, “ . . . it is a tourist destination . . . safari tours abound.”  Tony’s idea of tourism is hiking in the outback without a map on a “discovery” trip and safaris he will enjoy as he goes from farm to farm.  Regardless, Tony is enjoying summer in east central Afrika beneath Mt. Meru that he thinks was a volcano – maybe a miniature Mt. Kilimanjaro which he describes this way:  “Flying in I saw a great plain, that is, an immense plateau dotted with trees, dry looking.  Rising from this was Mount Kilimanjaro with a mass of snow on the top and all down the sides, followed by a ring of white clouds and ending on the plain. Imposing. Beautiful.”

Tony is replacing Toshi who hails from Japan.  “When Toshi looks at people in the streets he compares them to Japanese so they look bigger and heavier but when I look I see broad shouldered, slim wasted, and flat bellied.”  Toshi is Tony’s guide and mentor for the next couple of weeks as Tony becomes familiar with Arusha, the World Food Programme (WFP) and writing without a pen!  Yes, there were no pens in the WFP offices.  Tony is beginning to realize that the world is a technological place – including Tanzania!  Tony is quite comfortable doing his own business accounting on the backs of old envelopes (God help the poor sod the federal government sends to audit Tony’s “books”!) but he says now “I realize that most business is conducted on the cell phone and via email with information literally whizzing hell bent non-stop.”  Welcome to the 21st Century in Afrika, Tony!

Back to Toshi and Arusha:  “There are . . . street vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables. You can walk down leafy streets; you can walk down bare streets. There are clean areas and there are littered areas. People seem busy.  Toshi took me to his favourite Saturday morning haunts:  Breakfast spots and coffee spots and bookstores.”

Meanwhile Toshi and Tony are living in a pink motel/hotel owned and operated by a woman – “One sharp business woman. Nice too. But there’s a game to be played, the bargaining one.”  The bargaining game began when WFP staff took Tony to look for another place to hang his hat . . . . very quickly the owner was on the phone saying she will, after all, rent the unit for only 600,000 shillings per month ($300) since Tony is a volunteer and she is a nice woman!  So Tony stays 15 minutes from work and 15 minutes from downtown. Tony has a one room unit with a kitchen area and a bathroom.  “Home” is a little constricting but now Tony knows why Toshi goes “downtown” on the weekends and particularly since they “are not to be out at night . . . so it is important to get out during the day.”

Tony is looking forward to a quick visit from Scott and Nancy (who will be on safari) as they stop briefly in Arusha.  The neat thing that Tony discovered is a long line of “cafes and wee shops . . . directly across from the hotel [where Scott & Nancy are staying], where I braved lunch for 2,000 shillings or $1.20.  [Lunch was a] standard fare of rice, beans and spinach.  I felt proud to have negotiated this transaction. It is generally a place no tourist would go but I have been to a couple with Toshi and Abel the driver and felt capable. Hamburgers you do not get there. It is a matter of learning and adjusting and accepting and not being unnecessarily squeamish. Most Tanzanians would eat at these wee places. Perhaps it is like going to the Main in Montreal and eating steamées or Vancouver’s East side where I used to go to  ’The Only Seafood Restaurant’  (it is no longer, alas) that had really excellent oyster stew that could not be beat.”

The children are a delight.  Off they go to school in their uniforms.   Some try a shy ‘Hi’ and laugh at my ‘habari’.”