January 27, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
I haven't had time to write anything yet. It's my third day in Africa and as usual I'm recovering from a brand-new jet lag!
I have also been walking a fair bit, downtown. In reality, I don't need to do this at all. Tanzania offers a generous number of taxi-drivers who will eagerly transport the foreigner.
The wonderful difference is that it's nothing like Kuala Lumpur where many taxi drivers have used taxi ranks to haul up only tourists for exorbitant fares. This is illegal as they don't use the meter.
For example, the taxi rank in front of the Central Market seems controlled by a specific group of taxi drivers and I really don't know who they wait to pick up. By right, a taxi should just come into the rank, pick the waiting passenger up without ado and leave immediately. But this group hangs around, chats profusely and park their taxis here and there, as they linger for a catch or two. I come back after 14 months from Europe and there's no change. So too, at the top of Petaling Street (Kuala Lumpur's main chinatown) where sly taxi drivers suggest no inclination to use the meter but instead charge exorbitant prices.
Singapore is always ethical and honest. You go to a rank. Everyone queues politely. The taxi comes, you hop in and the driver not only takes you where you want to go but will also greet you politely and exchange a few pleasantries. If the driver for some reason cannot take you - say, nearing the end of a shift - he'll actually apologize for the inconvenience caused. I've never had a bad taxi experience in Singapore and when on that little island, I take taxis all the time.
So here in Dar es Salaam, I'm always getting politely asked if "I want a taxi ride?" or I may get called out with a wave or honk. And my God! there's so much honking going on about the place, one straightaway senses an old-world charm. Picture the early chaotic train scene in Murder on the Orient Express or a harbour/waterfront conversation going on somewhere in an Agatha Christie cinematic mystery and you would immediately get the picture.
Tanzanians love their city. They don't spit or litter and their roads, besides muddy puddles from the rains, are always clean.
In Africa, I'm seen as either Hindustani who's from somewhere in the West like Canada or white & foreign because of my complexion.
I have been told this especially when trying to buy something off the street. Prices for me unless I am accompanied by a Tanzanian who must argue that I am not white-and-foreign are automatically hiked up about US$3 to US$4 extra.
Once I learn Swahili in the by-and-by, it will be easier.
At the moment, I'm just soaking in the moods, flavour and atmosphere to this quaint if not crowded seaside city. I've also been doing lots of witing writing on my notebook in my hotel room, as I have ongoing wireless facilities. As a result of my own creative pursuit, I find my blog at the moment, secondary in relation to priorities.
My view of the harbour/seafront is spectacular with the changing colours of the skyline that denotes the hour and the season.