What other white girls got cars? My Scottish friend Anna and my Dutch friend Martina both bought cars within a few days of my purchase.
Also, I joined an outing of the newly established Twende (Let's Go) Hiking Club. A Dutch expatriate living here advertised by email for hikers, hired guides, and organized everything. It was fun to be out hiking again. Sixteen people showed up, some of whom knew each other, and some who did not. All were foreigners. Only the two guides were Tanzanian.
I went outside today to find a flat on the Suzuki. K2 left for a Kilimanjaro trek late yesterday, so I was on my own. I was lounging on the couch, pondering a solution. Maybe I could pay the Maasai gate attendant to change it? My Swahili wouldn't be sufficient, but sign language and the tire itself would probably communicate the problem well enough. But he doesn't have a car, and I wondered if he'd know how to change a tire? Maybe I should change the tire myself? Theoretically, I know how to do it, but I haven't actually done it in years. It's one of those things that I think I should be able to do, but really I can't.
Then, my cell phone rang and it was K2 from the base of the mountain, just checking in. I told him about the tire, not expecting he could help from a distance. But he came up with the same solution he often uses when he's in Arusha and the Corolla strands him. He called his cousin, Amua. Amua is about ten years younger than K2, so he's very respectful of K2 as an older relative. He's a good mechanic. He used to work as a conductor on a daladala, so he knows all the drivers, and has in the past showed up with a daladala to tow the Corolla. He's done many, many favors for us since I've been in Arusha! He doesn't speak English at all. An hour later, Amua arrived at my house. In the process of taking the flat tire off the car, his finger was pinched between the hub in the center of the wheel and the rim. He calmly, but with a funny tone in his voice, called me over. I tried my best to lift the front of the car just a bit, but I wasn't strong enough. Amua was becoming less calm, and told me, all in Swahili, to go get the Maasai to come and help. I only understood a third of the words, but the context made it clear. So I ran out the gate to find our guard sitting with his friend in a plastic chair in the cornfield across the road. I was jumping around, calling out in horrible Swahili, something kind of like, "Come and help my brother-in-law! Fast fast!" Not clearly stated, but again, the context got him to follow me back to my house. He tried, too, then told me, all in Swahili, to go bring his friend back. I repeated my performance and got his friend out of the cornfield, and picked up an extra guy who was passing by on the road. Both of them really had no idea what I wanted, but they could see it was something kind of bad. By the time we got back to the house, the Maasai had freed Amua, and they were both smiling and acting like nothing was really wrong, and telling the two other guys everything's OK now. Amua's finger was not too badly hurt. The nail was bruised, but nothing was broken or smashed. He brushed aside all my concern and apologies, smiled, and finished changing the tire. Then we drove to the nearest petrol station to repair the tire. It had a big puncture in it. Maybe something to do with the load of broken tile somebody dumped into the rainy season ruts in the road near my house and then covered with chunks of pumice? Amua dealt with the repair, quickly paid, and hustled me away before I could open my purse. I recognized this as the same tactic K2 uses in markets to make sure of getting the local price and not the mzungu price.
Amua wanted to take the daladala to his place, because he was uncertain if I could drive around town. I told him in Swahili that I could drive him to Kijenge (his neighborhood), hamnashida (no problem). My Swahili was bad, but he could understand me. So I drove him home and we had a fun conversation in Swahili, and he laughed at my jokes instead of my mistakes. What a nice guy!
This kind of favor is part of the web of favors and reciprocity and familial obligation that binds everybody up together here in Tanzania. I would guess that K2 helps Amua out sometimes with a bit of money or other favors. K2 has another younger cousin, David, who frequently does the same types of favors for him, and will come running at a moment's notice. K2 helps him with school fees and by letting him stay at his place for weeks at a time. When students or other acquaintances have asked me to give them money and I've asked K2's advice, he tells me that if I can help, I should. My immediate reaction is to be annoyed, because in the U.S., we expect everybody to be independent and it's overstepping a boundary to ask for money or favors. But when it's someone here who I like, I'm beginning to understand that it means I've been welcomed into the web. And, being American, when K2 starts cobbling together solutions to problems that involve calling an acquaintance to come and help me, my initial reaction is to refuse because I feel like it's an imposition. K2 is puzzled by that reaction, and has commented on it a few times. I'm learning to accept the help, mostly because I need it! But also, because it's nice to be caught up in the same web with the Tanzanians. And today, it really worked to my advantage! Thank you, Amua!
One more picture, unrelated to anything I've written about in this post...but look how cute he is!