Conversational journeys over cups of chai, at home and abroad.

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People Watching – Tanzania style

Tia, how different our people watching can be.  As you are surrounded by the hip and trendy sipping on lattes, I’m normally around a mix of street hawkers, bus conductors calling out for passengers, and the constant bustle of those coming and going to work, home, church or mosque.  Since most here don’t have cars, or housing that affords all the creature comforts of the US, much living is done outdoors and for the whole world to see.  One of my favorite sites while being out and about is seeing the Maasai guys.

Maasai embody the classic image of East Africa.  If you’ve ever seen anything on tv with a bunch of tall, skinny, African men, jumping up and down, with elongated earlobes, most likely they are Maasai.  The Maasai are a nomadic group of cattle herdsmen, known for drinking cow’s blood, and famous amongst other things for their right of passage into manhood, which involves killing a lion with a spear.  Basically they are the bad asses of the East African nomadic groups.   And because of their reputation, and because they are a tourist attraction, they often are employed to keep guard or more commonly to just hang out around the tourist resorts.   Basically these guys can get paid for just being them, looking all African exotic and fierce.

I have to admit that this fact alone makes me slightly bitter.  I mean after all, will someone out there please pay me to sit around and be a token American?  I’m sure I’ll do a great job of drinking beers, eating pizza, and becoming a couch potato.  If you know of any takers let me know.

And just to make you smile, check out this article on a new plan in Southern Sudan to design animal shaped cities,  I like that for the giraffe shaped city the planned sewage treatment plant will be no place other than…you guessed it, underneath the giraffe’s tail.  Right at it’s butt.  Gotta love it.  – Alyssa


Habari yako?

Habari yako? – What’s your news?

My morning…

Dropped one of the international volunteers off at the big bus stand in Dar at 6am in the morning.  The bus stand was teeming with people – ticket touts, taxi drivers, and some hustlers to boot.  After getting the volunteer situated on the bus, I flagged down a taxi driver to head back home.  Negotiated the taxi fare at his window before getting in.  He wanted to charge me the “mzungu” price.  Mzungu is the Swahili word for white person / foreigner.  I got him down to the real price, jumped in the taxi and had the following conversation in broken English:

“You, you be my teacher of English” – him

“No, you, you be my teacher of Swahili” – me

High fives and laughs ensued.

“You, you have husband?” – him

“Yes.  You, you have wife.” – me

“Yes.” – him

“You, you like to have kids?” – him

“No, I don’t have kids yet.  And you?” – me

“Yes.  You, you like to have my kids 3.” – him


Then I realized he hadn’t yet mastered English personal pronouns.  He was telling me that he had three kids.  The conversation went on with him constantly referring to himself as you and me continuing to be confused.

Taxi ride complete, back home before heading into downtown to visit one of the government offices.  Was there the day before as some officials played a game of having me wait for hours to see if I would offer a bribe to get them to do their jobs.  No bribe offered but needed to return this morning to follow up.

Made it to town, time at the government ministry only took about an hour (that was fast), and celebrated by heading to my favorite little Indian chai shop.  Thought of you and missed the normalcy of life in the US. – Alyssa