12 Months. 12 Obeservations.

Our Year in Dar in Review

#1: Don’t forget to greet people. Never. EVER.

Tanzanians, like in many other African countries, place a high value on properly greeting one another. Any time we even go into a grocery store I feel bad unless I’ve properly greeted everyone including the security guard! “Habari za asabuhi?” (How are you this morning?) “Nzuri” (Fine). “Habari za Nyumbani?” (How is your home?) “Nzuri” (Fine). “Habari za Familia?” “Nzuri”. “Mambo” (Slang for ‘how are things?’) “Poa” (its cool). Just to name a few!

#2) Extended hand holding during a handshake.

Maybe this was a little more awkward for Jeremy at first and our very ‘personal space’ culture but here along with the greetings it is not odd at all for a man to hold another man’s hand for a while and just carry on talking this way. Same goes for the ladies but lets be honest it’s really no biggie for us. I thought it interesting though seeing grown ladies walking hand in hand together to work. It is a sign of friendship.

#3) Bad roads. Bad…BAD….BAAAAADDDD ROADS!!

Wow. Don’t bother trying to drink your hot coffee beverage on your way to work unless you have an amazing travel mug. I cannot tell you how many times Jeremy and I have been in the car just trying to get out our road and just totally grumbled. I will say the passenger seat is worse. Now I know why cars have those handles inside above the windows.

#4) What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours.

Our family lives in a small compound with two other families. Our neighbors are Tanzanian and Kenyan. Many times we will be looking for our broom or hose to water the garden and after a few times of getting a little annoyed that our neighbors were ‘taking’ our things without asking we have come to understand that this worldview really goes deep. Our neighbors would also never mind if we walk into their yard and help ourselves to what we need. This is where Tanzanians understand living in community so much better than us. If you don’t want to share it….put it in the house!

#5) ‘Fuleni’ is Swahili for ‘traffic’. We say ‘fooey’ to Dar traffic!

I (Angie) have never lived in a big Canadian city, like TO or Vancouver and now we live in Dar es Salaam…a city of 4-5 million and with infrastructure stuck in the past. The biggest highway here in Dar (that we know of) is 2 lanes each way! Can you imagine? No wonder everyone’s road-raging all up in here! A 20 minute trip some days could take 1.5 hours. Tanzanians are pretty patient.

#6) “Man I miss McDonald’s” “Man I miss Starbucks”

Recently we did a 10 hour road trip up to Arusha and we realized how much we missed our convenient fast food/fast coffee pit stops.  Very quickly we come to remember that ‘we aren’t in Kansas anymore”.  Fast convenient food is rare to non existent.  Although Dar does have some lovely restaurants where you can even enjoy a half decent burger from time to time.

#7). Rice and Beans is cheaper than Peanut Butter.

Not to harp on food…but let’s harp on food.  While there are more and more western grocery stores popping up in Dar you do typically ‘pay’ for these items.  A small jar of peanut butter may range anywhere from $6-$10.  250g of butter $3dollars.  I have seen 500g of butter sell for up to $10.  Our kids enjoy typical sugar cereals for breakfast but out here those usual brands we know can easily be 3 times the price of back in Canada.  So, best to stick to rice and beans if the budget gets tight.  Although the occasional splurge on some good cheese is much welcomed.  Mmmmm. Cheese!

#8).  Student understand the value of their Education.

In general we find that Tanzanian students work very hard in school and understand that a good education is not a given.  Parents make many sacrifices and also work hard to get better education opportunities for their children.  Something we often have taken for granted back home in a country where good education is offered to every child for free! (Well, except for taxes).  They push themselves and many are going on to great Universities and opportunities post-graduation.

#9).  “You say tomatoes, I say tomatoes”

One of the lovely things of living in such an international community is constantly being surrounded by various phrases, words and accents….and all in the English language!  We love seeing God’s diversity in this way and can even poke a little fun at one another about these things.  We are so grateful for the many new friends we have made and value them all even if they say things like “its all gone pear-shaped”!

#10).  Spiritual Warfare is very real.

In a country that is considered #1 in eastern Africa for practicing witchcraft and also with a large Muslim and Hindu population Dar es Salaam is a very ‘spiritual’ place.  We also know that often traditional witchcraft is still practiced after conversion.  I guess they hang onto their idols at times just as we Christians in the West do.  We realize more and more the high value and great importance of prayer in all things.

#11). Be flexible and roll with the punches. 

A little easier said than done but living in Dar just teaches us, sometimes daily, how very little control we really have over things. Life can be tough at times and daily inconveniences can aggravate but in the end we know God alone is Sovereign and He is in control.  There is comfort in knowing that.

#12).  Stepping out on the water….

in our last couple of years really, leading up to us moving over here and now being here we realize that stepping out in faith is usually a little scarey, feels hard, you wonder if you’ve done something totally dumb but God always comes through in ways we cannot quite imagine.  We see how he leads us if we are willing to take the first step of faith and that this is a continual journey.  Growing in grace is a good thing!