New Blog!

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.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What a Shitty Day....

I had a bad day yesterday. This post will provide some balance for my usual "Little Miss Mary Sunshine" perspective and all my stories of how much fun it is to learn to live in a totally foreign place.

The morning started out rainy and cold. K2 and his car were not around, so I intended to ride the dala dala to town for the 8:00 English class at Jordan Institute. But I just didn't want to face walking through the mud and rain to the dala dala, so, being a volunteer and not an employee, I just stayed home until 11:00. The dala dala ride was actually kind of fun, because two people that I know boarded and I got to say hello and chat a bit and feel like I'm really getting to know Arusha because I keep running into friends.

I had a nice lunch downtown in a restaurant I've visited twice. The waitress there remembered me and likes me because I'm trying to learn Swahili. She made a point of chatting with me in Swahili and speaking very slowly and clearly, so lunch was nice. Then my Swahili lesson was good, too.

After my lesson, I went downtown to the tourist zone to hang around in a coffeehouse and read my Kindle. My plan was to meet K2 when he finished work and he'd pick me up in his car and we'd run a couple of errands and have dinner. I went to Hot Bread Restaurant and Internet Cafe. Going in, I ran into Joyce, the daughter of my Swahili instructor and a very fun friend who we've visited with a few times. So that was good, too. Then I sat inside the restaurant, near the door, drinking tea and reading my Kindle. I was carrying a backpack with my Swahili books, a bunch of cash, my ATM card, and assorted other items in it. I set it on the floor, leaning it against my chair, between my chair and a counter, kind of back in a corner where I thought it would be safe. After awhile, a respectable-looking 40-something African woman, nicely dressed, wedged herself into that corner and was looking at a display of snacks on top and asking the cashier questions. She was standing against my backpack, so I thought it was in her way and moved it, saying, "Excuse me." She said, "Oh, excuse me," and walked away. I put the backpack back and continued reading. About ten minutes later several people started shouting right next to me, between me and the front door. The restaurant owner held up my backpack and said, "Is this your bag?" The respectable-looking woman was shouting in Swahili and rushed out the door, past a group of 4 or 5 other customers who were blocking her and shouting. She was stealing my bag! She'd somehow worked it past the back of my chair toward the door, and was about to pick it up and get away with it--and I was so caught up in reading a Patricia Cornwell mystery on my Kindle that I didn't notice a damned thing! The restaurant owner explained to me what had happened, and gave me numerous well-deserved warnings about being more careful and not relying on people's appearance to judge their honesty. The waitress kept saying, "Pole sana, pole sana." (So sorry, so sorry.) I couldn't believe how stupid I was!

Oops...I just got interrupted by the delivery of my new dining table, and it's really beautiful, so it's going to be hard to maintain enough of a bad mood to finish up this post....

I left the Hot Bread Restaurant, still in possession of my backpack, with about an hour to kill until I could expect to meet K2. And then the flycatchers moved in. These are men who haunt the downtown area and try to sell souvenirs to tourists or to guide tourists to certain shops, hotels, or safari companies. They are really persistent and incredibly annoying. Some days they leave me alone, and I feel hopeful that they recognize me and know I'm living here and will stop. But then a few days later, they'll follow me around again. So, of course, yesterday, they were out in full force. As I walked out of the restaurant scowling, one started walking with me and said, "Jambo, my friend. Why are you so angry?" I told him, "Too many flycatchers," and walked away as fast as I could. I walked around with the flycatchers for awhile, which didn't improve my mood.

As 6:00 approached, I tried to call K2 to arrange a meeting place. But both of his phones (many Tanzanians carry 2 or 3 cell phones so they can take advantage of different companies' special promotions) were turned off, which meant the battery was dead. I am careful not to be out alone after dark here, and I was at the time of evening when I had to catch the dala-dala and head to Njiro if I was to be home before dark. I couldn't reach K2 and he didn't know where I was, so I caught the dala-dala. When I got to the bus stop nearest my house, I called him and reached him. Sure enough, the phone battery was dead, but now (too late) recharged. I had a five minute walk home. Right at the start of it, I walked past a mentally ill man who was sitting with two women at a fruit stand. I heard him say something really enthusiastic about the mzungu and then he came running up behind me. He started walking along with me and going on in loud Swahili, which I didn't understand. I stopped walking, and he kept going and talking. Another man saw that I was scared, and he ran to join my companion and keep him walking away from me. He turned back to me and made the gesture of the finger spiraling over the head to let me know the man was crazy, but harmless. Then a woman who'd seen what happened came over to reassure me that he was crazy, but harmless, and don't be scared. (I think that's what she said--it was all Swahili and I understood only part of it.) I reached home on foot just a few minutes before dark and locked myself inside.

It was a day that reminded me I am indeed a stranger here and still have a lot to learn. But even when a couple of bad things happened to me, people were gathering around to protect me, even though I am a stranger.

And now, my new dining table is sitting here looking beautiful! More later on buying furniture in Tanzania...and pictures of my tiger-striped sofa...


  1. Wow. That was quite a day you had. I've been traveling for 3 weeks in Alaska with my family and friends. In spite of some of the usual complications related to travel, we didn't have the more threatening kind that occur in a foreign country. Stay safe!

  2. I'm so sorry it was such a bad day - and so glad you are OK and have strangers watching-out for you. It must be an amazing culture, and incredible experience for you. Hugs to you, Take Care, Betsy