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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 9 June 2008

In Tanzania

Today, I decided to retrace my footsteps with several more ramshackle bus rides, crowded alleyway exploring, and then back again in the sorching sun towards the harbour and waterfront, the fishmarket and especially, retracing a coastline riding on an unexpected high tide while splattered with its party of fishing boats, made from everything starting with the rough barks of trees. I took the same ferry rides in Kigamboni back to the Bandari sunbreeze shanty shacks, bars and makeshift restaurants. I watched another group of little boys swimming, observed them inspecting boats anchored by strangers and watched once more the dhows sailing on to Mozambique. My little adventure has now become intent and focussed as I gather material for a story. Lemington, my guide told me more tales - the sort not recorded in literature - and later I went to an old bookshop in town, reminiscent of smaller ones, commonly found in quiet towns like Klang in Malaysia in the sixties. There were a mix of children's books, lots of grammar and fiction published in places like Nairobi and Mumbai. I bought a few more books to educate myself on the Swahili.
Tomorrow, I must go back and do the same things again so that I can capture the sights, smells, sounds and sensations of a culture that are authentic and real. You always know when a writer is on the outside looking in. Whereas I simply put my shoes in that of the lower-income Tanzanian without ado. I removed my watch, displayed no phone - although mobile phones are common enough - and wore just a simple pants, blouse and a Body Shop bag. I would have been the only foreigner on board the crowded ferrry had it sunk. But of course, I dismissed that morbid thought. Even the policemen waved and smiled, I supposed, amused at my diligence when I so clearly appeared the odd one out. But my face is flushed and my hair is properly windblown and I don't know when I have laughed this much in a long time. There are the funniest quarrels that take place amongst disgruntled friends and family on the road in full public view.