To my husband, my calm, my anchor…

Dear B’kho Thothe,

I hope this finds you well. I am well, thank you. Although, I can’t sleep tonight and I catch myself thinking about how much of an amazing husband you are – and even interestingly, how different we are.

You’re organised and calm, I am disorganised and loud, almost too spontaneous. You calculate and are cautious, a realist; while my my optimism is sometimes ill informed.

You like a quiet home, with just your wife and kids, I live for hosting and entertaining.

I see time as abundant, you view it as scarce, not enough. Hence you leave for work, quite early, while I stagger behind. As such our children prefer you over me for morning school runs.

I am a night crawler, you retire early. You are an early bird, I want to wake up at 11am.

What else?

Our children prefer to ask for favours from you, they believe I always say ‘no’. But I have read Shonda’s, ‘Year of Yes’. Ha ha ha!

I never feel safe when you’re away, when I am home alone with the kids. And to help ease the tension, I leave all the lights, in all the rooms, on. I am sorry for this waste. But otherwise I just can’t sleep even with all the security gadgets flicking all around the house.

You’re my stability.

We are home safe when you’re home. And home is worth coming back to, after a day’s work, when you’re there.

You don’t know what it means to me, when I arrive and your car is already parked.

He is home and I relax already.

Thank you husband and love. Thank you that you are in the house with me and not up in the roof.

Thanks for allowing me to follow my heart, to start all that I started, some remaining at ‘start’ and never really going anywhere. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to explore my talents and hobbies.

I love you

I miss you

You see where this spontaneous behaviour has gotten me? I had Tanzanian coffee too late, now I am here looking at the clock ticking away, zero sleep.

Wena ruri,

Mosadi wa gago,

Oesi.

 

My thrilling trip to Dar es Salaam

I like the way Tanzanians pronounce Dar es Salaam.  It is organic and respectful, almost sacred, probably like how I would say my grandfather’s first name, when he is in an adjacent room, reverent whisper in awe of his greatness. They say it like their tongues were first immersed in oil, slithering out unperturbed.

It maybe be the tenderness of the Swahili language that makes a speaker sound like a poet reciting intimate narratives, while also conscious of the delicate text.

Swahili must be a language cooked in love. If languages were tangible commercial commodities, displayed in designer shops, Swahili would be wrapped in white silk, sealed in dark purple ribbons. It would be packaged in chocolate brown wood, scented in Egyptian oils. Swahili has the authenticity, only real wood can symbolise. It is validity wrapped in delicacy.

The people I met in Dar es Salaam are just as tender, soft spoken with the tendency to speak in a near whisper. I can’t recall the number of times I asked them to ‘please speak louder’, in those two weeks. One of our drivers attributes their calmness to the frustrating traffic. He says the time they spend in the cars is a boot camp. They have thus given up on being angry and anxious, he says.

Tanzania is a big country of about 57 million people, and about 4 million of them live in Dar es Salaam. It is a busy city, with people everywhere, selling, lifting and balancing heavy loads on their heads, vending hot coffees on street corners. They have abundant food, you encounter informal eating places on every street, grilling fish on open fire. Their fish will most likely be served with Ugali, a type of maize porridge from East and Central Africa that is similar but not as refined as Southern Africa maize meal, and this would be washed down with Coconut water.

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The people fill up all the public spaces, they are there, living their lives, making a living.  They are tough, kind people, walking to their commercial stalls somewhere along the road, or calling out to a passers-by, from their makeshift shop. They citizens are busy, doing one thing or the other, they don’t seem to worry about what the next person would say or think. There is life to make, families to feed and clothe, children to educate and aging parents to nurse.

You arrive here and it suddenly feels like the end of our world is nearer than you had thought. It is an urgent place. The people are focused, busy negotiating businesses, convincing passers-by to buy from them, against other competitors, with similar products. Every other person seems alert to either the imminent end of the world, or the reality of their mortality. They seem too mindful of their responsibility to leave an inheritance for their children. The city centre is a big market place, people are calling out to each, whistling, cars and boda-bodas blowing horns. In fact, I have not been anywhere, where people use a horn like they do in Dar es Salaam. And this makes it one of the noisiest places I have ever been to.

Dar es Salaam does not to sleep. It is probably the African version of a ‘city that never sleeps’. Vendors seem to work on shifts, when some retire to bed, others take up the stall for the overnight shift.

Dar es Salaam surprised and thrilled me.

The people who visited her before me, and had tried to create a picture of the place, missed it. But I understand, it is a city that needs to be experienced, it cannot be visualised in absentia. Even as I write, I feel inadequate to capture Dar es Salaam. In retrospect, I understand their struggle in helping visualise the place. It is hard, even now, to find words, in my vocabulary, succinct enough to do justice to the place.

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And since my return home, my answer to ‘how is Tanzania’, has been short; ‘it is different, amazingly different’.

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