Salaam

 Coming into the last 3 ½ weeks of my trip into my final destination before I head back, I thought the title was fitting, at least

So, when I last left off, we checked into a hotel. Well, the next day we went to our host families’ houses. This month, I am blessed to be paired with one of my absolute favorite people on this trip [our host baba teases us about how much we talk with each other]. Our host baba, by the way, is named Tinno (as he told us, T-I-Double N-O) and we have a 22-year old host sister, a mama who’s a fashion designer (you can’t make this stuff up, people), and “dada Dinah” who’s the sweetest woman ever who washes our clothes and cooks our food in this tiny 2-bedroom apartment. It’s the good life, for sure. Oh, and the giant poster of Bill Clinton hanging in the main room that’s at least 4X bigger than any family pictures is just comical frosting.

The itinerary for our 3 ½ weeks in Dar es Salaam includes field trips essentially every day, except for 2 3-day weekends.  I think the plan is to overwhelm us with homework and activities so we stay present where we are (during this month, I have 9 3-page field note entries due, in addition to a 10-page paper, 3 5-page papers, and a 30-minute final presentation about everything we’ve learned with 5-minutes in Swahili without notes. Oh yeah, and a two-day test at the very end. I’m really looking forward to that).

Homework aside, this last week we got to visit the U.S. Embassy and the Peace Corps’ Tanzania office (lessons of the day: foreign service might be for me, but I don’t think the Peace Corps is in my future). We visited an “informal settlement”, which is a nice term for a slum for squatters who have no place else to live. For the first time in my life, I’ve found myself praying every day that it not rain, because everytime it does everyone’s homes are flooded all over again. We also visited the national museum of Tanzania and the Asian district with lunch at a delicious Lebanese restaurant. Actually, I kind of live in the Asian district, but we got a tour of a different part of it.

Dar es Salaam is so different than both Arusha and Zanzibar. It’s way more westernized, which makes kind of a good beginning of a transition for when I go back to “normal life” (I saw a picture of someone in Safeway from back home today and I about went into shock right then and there- transition is good).  Our dress code is a little more free here and I am not hit on nearly as much, and when I am its more subtle and easier to pretend it never happened (this sounds obnoxious and arrogant, but it’s truly just the fact that I’m a white female- I could be ugly as sin and still get “baby-ed” all the time in Arusha).

 The literal translation of “Dar es Salaam” from the Arabic is “Haven of Peace”. And despite the crazy schedule, scarce and expensive wi-fi, and having to be extra careful to not get pickpocketed, I would say that’s not far from accurate for me. Between my host family, being able to dress a tiny bit more like me, not being treated like an escaped zoo animal with no right to be there/a piece of meat, seeing friends every day, and slowly getting used to more westernized bits and pieces of culture, it does feel like a bit of a haven. This next chapter is and will be super busy and crazy, but really really good. So until next time, Salaam.

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