Monday, June 21, 2010

First Real Dar Experience

Written Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today was quite momentous as Peace Corps let us out on Dar es Salaam for the first time! For safety and health pre-cautions, we stay within the convent during our week in Dar. So we were all really excited to see the city and test our new language skills.

Our homestay groups of 4-5 PCTs led by our Language and Culture Facilitators walked all morning. It was so interesting that I did not even realize how far we had walked. The town's population is beyond packed. People are walking and driving everywhere. The cars are pretty much packed to capacity and drove by people constantly honking and swerving. It was so crazy. I hear automobile accidents are the highest percentage of deaths…..though I almost wish I had a car so I could get on the road and drive like crazy with them….no comment from anyone who has ever rode with me J

Our first stop was a flea market type set-up with all kinds of vendors. First on our list was to check out the kangas and tangas, which are the long pieces of material that women wear wrapped around them as dresses, skirts, tops and even head pieces. I got a pretty tanga and a beautiful batik print that I can give the local seamstress during my homestay to make into a skirt or dress.

We then walked on into town where it was more store fronts but usually opened to the street. Then walked through an open food market with all types of veggies, fruits and more. None of us bought anything there, but we did end up at a grocery store where we got a few essentials for our own rooms. Toilet paper was the key item as it is not frequently found here and what is found is not an ideal quality….to put it nicely.

The currency is about 1300 Tanzanian Shillings for $1. It is so hard for me to remember not to think something is too expensive when it has such a large number as the price!

After the grocery store experience, we took a dala dala back to the hostel. These are the public transportation buses which are a hotbed for petty thefts because they are so crowded. I was so paranoid about being scammed that I did not realize when a worker was needing my fare! He was shaking a hand-full of change just as many of the street vendors were. So I thought he was trying to sell me something. I politely shook my head and thought I had safely avoided trouble. Then one of the others later mentioned she had paid for all of us and then we all realized what had happened. Well…better safe than sorry!

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