29 October 2010

Leaving Dar es Salaam

I spent my last afternoon in Dar hanging out with my good friend, Jean, eating Lays potato chips and talking about our respective plans and worries. Another friend, Steve, an engineer from Ireland, popped by—and we decided the thing to do was to have beers on the roof.

I went up just as the sun was setting, with Steve and Jean five minutes behind me. The sun was a gigantic orange and pink circle on a hazy horizon, blurry, like an object’s reflection in water. It dawned on me, as I watched is sink lower into the ground, how accustomed I’d become to the sun setting over land since I moved to Tanzania: the night before I’d been in Liberia, and sitting on the deck of my hotel I’d become suddenly disoriented when I noticed the sun was setting over the ocean.

I rested my arms against the wall and listened to the noises of Dar es Salaam at dusk. Horns honking on Kamana road down below. People taking the bus home. Boys playing football on the sprawling dirt field outside Biafra secondary school—yells, cheers. Down below in Morocco (which is what the neighborhood is called), a man filled a bucket with water from a tap in his backyard and a woman walked home with her baby asleep on her shoulder. Further east, high rises and cranes where new construction is bubbling up towered over the downtown skyline, and beyond, the sea: that beautiful turquoise Indian ocean, and the tanker ships that forever dot its horizon.

Then the call to prayer rang out from the mosque opposite the apartment building, and it so was beautiful and low and hypnotic it almost broke my heart.

Steve came up, handed me a beer, and we talk quietly. He asked what was my biggest regret about my time in Tanzania. I laughed: nice question, Steve.

But then I thought: isn’t it obvious? To not appreciate what I had when I had it. To not have been filled with a sense of wonder each day for being in this place.

I’m not sure it’s possible to force yourself to feel excited everyday about living in a foreign capital when it’s all you can do to keep your head above water, battling so many small fires, so many frustrations. But this is wondrous, I told him. It’s something like heaven being here….


After a rambling, meandering, wine-soaked dinner with friends, I dropped heavily to sleep that night. Woke up at 5:30 a.m., disoriented. For a few seconds I forgot where I was and where I was going.

Not too different from how it feels at transitional points, when you're in between jobs, in between countries, in between relationships. Just like looking out across the ocean in Dar on a stormy day: there's no line on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. Nice story Lindsay. I think exactly that. There are so many amazing things about being here that I cannot describe. Many things are the same that can frustrate the life out of us, like traffic. But when we leave Dar I'll miss the dancing police officers trying to work out traffic while sometimes creating more jams. Coco beach is another example- among the dirt and grime it is a beautiful place which probably wouldn't be so capturing if it was cleaned from the poverty that stares us in our faces.
    We'll try to enjoy and be appreciative of this place for the time that it is home, I promise you this...