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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Tuesday 10 June 2008

In Tanzania

Today, Lemington took me right into the slums where walls are nothing but thin partitions and zinc slates make up the roofs. Sometimes the windows are nothing more than holes. The poorer Tanzanians and Masai live in terrible conditions although they are clean and neat. A small room represents a family's complete home, a sink, pail and bucket an entire bathroom, a tiny kerosene stove the whole kitchen and a flask makes up for a fridge. A toilet is shared amongst 30 people. In little villages outside the city centre of Dar, hair salons are conducted under the sun with 3 to 4 girls washing and cutting ladies' hair in the open air. Electricity is rationed by the landlords who own these partitions and shanty shacks. Use up your share of units that had been measured for a specific number of hours beforehand, and for the rest of the day, your little room will have none. With the exception of radios, no one can afford a television. Coffee or tea is drunk black. Milk is considered a luxury and the poor cannot afford it. The beverage most consumed is tap water. Yet, there is contentment; a peaceful unity that persists and stubbornly strengthens the power of surivival.
Yesterday, I went to my favourite bookstore at The Slipway where open air cafes serve delicious fish and chips and with picture postcard scenes of a seaside sunset basking in the horizon. Private boats and yachts sail past. I bought 2 novels on East Africa, written by an Indian and an American respectively and both published in England. I'm too tired to talk about them at the moment although the Indian novelist stays popular in the British media.
I haven't yet planned a safari expedition or a Zanzibar outing as I still haven't recovered from the exhausting plane rides and all the long walks in the scorching sun. Besides, I've been out and about everyday from morning to night. But I did this deliberately wanting to get into the heart of Dar-es-Salam and the people are so friendly, respectful and beautiful that in the end, I believe I almost did.