If I didn’t see the sunrise and the sunset every day, I would have a very hard time to tell how long time has passed since I arrived. No day is the other day alike. One day here almost feels like a week somewhere else. There are so many new impressions, so many new surprises. I have been in Dar es Salaam for a bit more than two weeks now, and one thing that hits me every day is the vast contrasts this city offers.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been able to travel between different parts of society. From meetings with highly respected professors from Western well-known universities; to having dinner and drinks with people from the World Bank; to discuss development- issues with international and local NGOs; to meet local students; to talk to people who are trying to make a living from different small business; to see how the lower middle class is living; to go to the beach, and for a day feeling like a tourist… My life these weeks has been shifting. I have experienced the more simple life of the middle class in Dar. Travelling as they do, getting stuck in traffic jams, and standing in the dala dala (the local small bus) for hours without being able to move much, sweating a great deal, as well as walking through the flooded roads, and eating local food (rice and beans) at traditional places. From this, to the life of the expats: having fancy dinners in the top-roof restaurants in the city-center, and relaxing time in the tourist areas. I must say that the contrasts are striking.
These experiences can be seen as an expression of being privileged. I am a white young woman from a Western country, which might be the factor that enables me to travel between these different worlds, and be able to return to my safe hostel in the end of the day.
However, I am grateful that I didn’t do this trip at an even earlier age, because it is challenging. When I listen to Tanzanian students who have devoted their whole soul to somehow be able to pay the tuition-fees a little bit longer, and make their dream of education come true, I cannot help to compare it with my own situation. I was luckily born in a country where we have a system with free education, a monthly student-grant, and even can be awarded scholarships to write our theses in another country of our choice… Again: the contrasts.
So, to be white in some senses means to be advantaged. We may still have the opportunity to do things that others are not able to, and for this I believe that we should be very grateful. (And I also believe it is wrong, and it’s a quite post-colonial-mindset.)
Nevertheless, being a white woman here also includes many challenges. You can never walk un-noticed in the streets, never take the bus without getting many other offers of transportation, never be sure if the people you meet are helpful and friendly of good intentions (as I believe most people here are) or if you have met some of the few that just want to use you or hurt you. It is hard to tell when you should be suspicious and when you just should be thankful…
Thus, every day here is a challenge, and at the same time: a new adventure.