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If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Asking For Directions

A few weeks ago, K2 and I had dinner at the Blue Heron restaurant with Tera and Martin, a Canadian woman and Tanzanian man who had gotten married a few days before. Halfway through dinner, K2 started one of his Swahili comedy routines with the waiter. Martin and the waiter both were rendered practically helpless with laughter. Martin turned to me and said, "He's giving the waiter directions. He's making fun of our Tanzanian way of giving directions. Something like, 'turn left where you see the big tree, then keep walking, then turn right where you see two chickens having sex on the corner." Tera worked here with a Canadian volunteer program for a year, and she said that she frequently was told to look for NGO offices "near the big tree."

While shopping for appliances for my rented house, we wanted to find a certain hardware store owned by Mazo, the proprietor of Kundayo Apartments, and check out his used refrigerators. K2 didn't know where this particular store is, and a big part of Arusha's business district is a crazy quilt of small stores, some with names, some without. We drove into this district, K2  watching for landmarks and making turns. After we'd circled through one set of streets three times, he started muttering, "There are Maasai everywhere. Look at all these Maasai." Sure enough, there were a couple of hundred Maasai concentrated in an area of a few blocks, standing on every corner, chatting, dressed in their red robes. Turns out, the last step in the directions to Gam Electronics was, "Look for the Maasai selling tanzanite on the corner." We came back the next day with different directions and found the store. Sure enough, there was a small group of Maasai on the corner right outside the store. There was a raised concrete block set into the curb, and they were sorting through small tanzanites and displaying them on the block. And I got a good deal on a used fridge!

Last week at Swahili lessons, I asked Mr. Solomon how to ask for and understand directions. We discussed north, south, east and west and left, right, and straight ahead.The last piece of advice he gave me was that big trees are often used as landmarks and "Karibu na mti mkubwa" means "near the big tree."

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