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Tanzania The Middle: Our New Normal

Tanzania the middle: our new normal

Okay folks, true confession. Ms. Procrastination is playing catch-up with the blog. There is so much I want to tell you about our time in Tanzania. Then time marches along and whoops, in real time we’re already in Cambodia. So please bear with me as I catch you up…THEN we’ll meet you in Cambodia.

Is there a word in Kiswahili for normal? Kama kawaida is probably the closest: “as usual, as expected.” Normal conversation now involves weird, random things you would never be discussing if you lived anywhere but Africa. Some recent topics of cocktail hour conversation:

  • how our neighbour scared off a very large python coming through the cat flap, using just a stick and a can of bugger off*
  • ways to safeguard your electrical transformer from being stolen a third time – by none other than the electrical company who put it there in the first place
  • what kind of blunt instrument you should hide under the bed as a last resort, for personal security insurance (and I don’t mean against a snake). A nine-iron or a panga? But only use the dull edge people, not the sharp edge. In other words, just break a bone, not cut off an arm. (Note to freaked-out relatives: in all our time in Tanzania we have NEVER felt threatened in any way, and were NEVER in need of this.)
  • the origin of loud bangs that sounded suspiciously like gunshots. Did that come from next door or down the beach or in the village? Studious beer sipping continued as this was contemplated further. It could have been an aerosol can that exploded in the takataka pit (probably bugger off spray again), or maybe it was the army at target practice, shooting out to sea too close. Again.
    Fortunately at least one person was concerned and sober enough to start the phone calls to the village to see what the hell was happening and why she wasn’t informed it was going down. Hello?… it might just alarm the guests a tad, DO YOU THINK?
    The next day we found out that there was (another) raid on the village by the military, routing out smugglers, guns going off for effect. General scariness and mayhem over sugar and miscellaneous household appliances. We saw a boat being towed away to be torched.
    And…surprise, a few weeks later we watched a steady stream of pikipikis (motorbikes) screaming by, racing from the village to who knows where, each with a large sack of sugar tied to the back seat. Ha! Those crafty smugglers at it again.

Do I like this new normal? Well, it’s never dull anyway. So many stories, so many coping mechanisms. You have to laugh or at least deal, because you can’t ignore it. Who needs evening television when you can watch the beautiful nighttime sky, framed by the swaying palms, and get your dose of drama just by recounting the events of a normal day? Kama kawaida, indeed.

*I credit this use of “bugger off” to Alexandra Fuller, who wrote several wonderful books on her life in Zimbabwe. If you haven’t read them, go now. They are touching, heartbreaking, hilarious, and startlingly familiar.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Love love love! Daily dose of drama and sipping cocktails watching the sun go down…sounds like the perfect balance of crazy and calm. Sooooo I may be a naive midwesterner, but is this ‘sugar smuggling’ actually sugar?

    Keep the posts coming. I get so excited when I see your emails in my inbox!/o

    1. Hahaha, thanks Chelsea. And yes, it’s actually sugar. It’s a big commodity there. Our travels are starting to overtake my few-and-far-between posts, sorry for the radio silence!

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