After a long preparation phase, many expert interviews and great excitement, five people of our Squad have finally made it to Dar es Salaam after 24 hours in airplanes and airports, little sleep and an excursion to the Dutch Health services in Schiphol. Our taxi driver Beka picked us up from the Julius Nyerere Airport to take us to our location for the next week, Mikadi Beach. This place is absolutely beautiful, it feels a little like being in paradise. Yet, right outside the lodge area, the reality of Tanzania starts and we soon realized that our new home is quite an isolated and touristy location within the heart of Tanzania’s economic capital.
On Sunday, we started an adventure and had a bike tour to explore the city with a local guide. After leaving Mikadi, we dove into the vibrant, colorful atmosphere of Dar es Salaam and its slums.
I (Anabel) have never felt so much like a tourist in my entire life, totally sweaty in the heat of the day, red in the face and exhausted riding through the slums was an experience, beautiful and awkward at the same time. When focusing on the road while being distracted from all the new impressions, I thought of the Queen. Waving constantly when the little kids were greeting us as “Mzungus” (a person who wanders around aimlessly or in other words, white people), I was amazed by the welcoming smiles. At the same time it was like we were voyeurs intruding a foreign and completely different area, marked as the white, sweaty people on the bikes.
Like Anabel, I (Tuuli) felt also definitely like a tourist. I was also quite culture shocked and the word slum got a new meaning in my head. In Dar es Salaam more than 70% of the population are living in informal settlements. Therefore, here in Dar the slums are not just some small parts of the city, but most of the city is informal settlements. Especially one village that was basically built on a landfill was shocking. There were no clear transition from slums to middle class areas, but still you could recognize some differences between the areas, for example the number of children in the areas, the dirt and trash on the roads and the condition of houses.
When we came back to Mikadi exhausted, tired and full of new insights, the sixth member of our team, Erik, was waiting for us. So finally the Tanzanitation squad was completed. After this day we are excited to move from being a tourist in Dar es Salaam to starting our first project working day with the communities.
Tuuli and Anabel from the Tanzanitation Squad