Sunday, 14 June 2009

Down with the Boost

Update about my weekend in Dar. I hadn't actually spent a full weekend in the city since I got here, so it was long overdue.

On Saturday, a small group of us went into the city center. The point of the trip was to see Kariakoo market, the largest market in Tanzania. Kariakoo isn't a touristy shopping mall or souvenir area. It's just a giant, outdoor maket where the locals shop. I wanted to see the business in action, but I also secretly hoped to retrieve my beloved digital camera (a blue Canon that had recently been purloined by a certain QBar employee -- that's a whole other story). Quite a few people (including guidebooks) warned me that the market would be tricky to navigate and quite possibly dangerous, so all I took was my phone and 25,000 /= (~$19).

Kariakoo was a pleasant surprise. Sure, it was hectic, but not dangerous. We started at the center of the market, large and fairly well-organized building that sells light industrial stuff like farming equipment, sewing machines and mechanical parts. We walked around there for a little while and went to the outside market. You could really buy anything under the sun: people selling knock-off quasi-athletic clothing (e.g., soccer jerseys that said "Fly Emirates"). Second-hand jean shorts from the US sold in a huge pile. Machetes, mini-machetes, and jumbo machetes (I kinda wish I'd bought one now). Guys sharpening knives on a modified bicycle frame hooked up to a spinning whetstone. Young men pushing wheelbarrows piled high with foam matresses. A sales team doing a public demonstration of a man-powered irrigation system. The market was loosely organized around different products categories, so the used/stolen car parts were separate from the fabric sellers. It makes sense in a way.

In the end, I didn't actually buy much: just a mango and a dafu (a young coconut with juice -- not milk -- inside). Each costs about a quarter. Oh, and I ended up buying another 'complete' copy of Lost Season 4, which also turned out to be incomplete. Before I bought it, I made the salesman put in the disc and show me the number of episodes so I wouldn't get screwed again. It showed that there were indeed 12 shows, so I took it. When I got home, I discovered that the disc was designed to make it look like there were all 12 episodes on the episode-selection screen, but the last 5 actually launched episode 7 instead of 8-12. I am starting to suspect a dire conspiracy underfoot to prevent me from watching that show.

But I digress. Overall, Kariakoo was a pleasant surprise. Sure, the market was hectic, but it wasn't dangerous. No one actually hassled me, I didn't really see any beggars, and no one in our group was pickpocketed. Even the vendors seemed quite honest; when Katie and Ineke were trying to buy Tanzanian-printed fabric from a couple of the stalls, the sellers actually admitted that they didn't have any, even though they could easily have passed off their entire inventory as local. Maybe my standards have dropped a lot from traveling, but that type of honesty really impressed me. You wouldn't get that a lot of places.

We were hungry by late afternoon and had our sights set on Indian food. We waited around downtown for a couple of hours until the Badminton Institute opened up. The Institute is a giant Indian social club with food and atheltic facilities: basically, the rival of the Patel Brotherhood mentioned in a previous post --

Food-wise, the Institute was pretty similar to the Brotherhood. We ordered a bunch of main dishes, breads, some rice, beers and a an appetizer and the total cost for three people was around $18 -- crazy, huh? The naan and main dishes were very good, but the dosa was one of the best things I've ever eaten. A dosa is basically a giant crispy crepe rolled into a tube, with spicy potato stuff in the inside. I'd only tried it one other time, but it was at that place in Harvard Square next to IHOP and was pretty subpar. This one, however, was delicious.

Sunday was supposed to be a relaxed day at the beach.

Five of us crossed over to Kigamboni District, a beachy peninsula south of the main part of Dar. We went to Kipopeo (butterfly) beach. It was pretty great. Actually, Kipopeo isn't actually the name of the beach; it's a hotel/restaurant/bar where you can sit under a banda and hang out for the day. The place is beautiful:

It also retains a certain Tanzanian something:

I drank a few beers, swam in the gorgeous water and played beach volleyball. The volleyball was my favorite part. The court was tiny and the net was low and sagging, but that didn't stop oh, fifteen people from squeezing on the court and getting in each other's way. I joined the fray and played for about an hour -- just good, unathletic fun with a bunch of random people.

The trip home is where things got interesting. Although Kigamboni is connected by land to Dar proper, it's almost impossible to get there by road, so all the locals and tourists take a (very short) ferry from across the harbor. It's a good and cheap system, but it makes it a hellish return trip when hundreds of cars are trying to beat each other onto the ferries. Predictably, no one respected the queue or basic driving courtesy, so all the cars were jammed on top of each other and crept along very slowly.

Just when it seemed like we would get back to the boat soon, the car died... right in the middle of a busy intersection. Seriously. We pushed the car to the side of the road and tried to figure out what was up. I was sure it was a radiator problem so we got some water and waited for the radiator to cool down so I could fill it up again. Before I could make any big mistakes, a mechanic who spoke perfect English appeared out of nowhere and asked if we needed help. He figured out that the car had both radiator and battery problems, and that we needed to give it a boost. Since we didn't have cables and the other card weren't going to help us, he suggested that we try to get a battery from the opposite shore and get the car started before the last ferry left. I followed the mechanic (who turned out to be an engineer), we picked up a car battery from the other side, then came back across. I think some of the locals found it amusing to see a white guy sprinting down the road with a car battery on his shoulder. But hey, TIA.

The boost worked and we got the onto to ferry a little later. Three hours later than expected, but it all worked out fine in the end. I think we were all happy to be heading home. Here I am (with grease stain from the battery... hope that comes out):

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