I feel like I have to bring some shade to my previous post (Couleurs locales).
Indeed, Africa is all colourful. But if I want to be honest, every color has a darker shade. There cannot be bright sunny days without deep dark nights.
Everything here has a smell indeed. That also means the smell of old used frying oil thrown in the street first thing in the morning right under your feet. That also means the smell of garbage been burnt, because there is no public collecting system. That also means body odour, not because people are dirty, but simply because shower can be a luxury. I have been thinking myself several times of using some hotel’s facilities to have a proper clean… I will definitely run to a hammam as soon as I get to Tunisia!
Women here wear skirts. This is not some effet de mode at all: the skirt has to be below the knee, preferably ankle length. That also means that (outside the city) women should not wear pants. Genders are well separated here, everyone has a defined role that they should stick to, especially in the villages. Working on women’s rights currently, I see it everyday. Yesterday a man admitted something to us:
“in the villages, women are treated like kids”
Here, you cannot walk alone at night, as a mzungu, as a woman. Here during the day you still have to be careful. A few days ago, I found myself in a bit of an uncomfortable situation. I wanted to take a dala dala (local mini bus) to get home. One going to the direction I was aiming to passes next to me, while others are parked on my left, empty. I walk towards the passing dala, about to get in, when a group of about six men gather around me, one blocking my way to the dala, the other closing the door, another telling me to come to his mini van and a fourth sneeking his hand in my pocket to get my phone. I start shouting, at the thief, at the others, and manage to get my way out of there, walk fast, until caught up by the dala I first intended to take, jump in, and finally breath. Nothing happened to me then, thankfully. I’ve heard so many stories since I got here, of people getting mugged in the street, both during the night and the day, and threatned with a machete. Some even got wounded.
Here, people can be extremely nice, helpful, genuinely, and I have already had amazing human experiences since I got here. But this does not mean that you have to be naive. Here, you still have to be on guard, at all times. Here, you don’t wear ostensive jewelery. Here you do not use your fancy smartphone in the street. Here you do not walk around with your camera, shooting every life moment like you were in a safari (hence the few pictures on the blog so far). Here you do not take any taxi, especially at night. My new Tunisian friend, Jed, learnt it the hard way, on his first day in Tanzania – got in a taxi recommended by some ‘friendly’ man he met upon arrival, the driver takes him somewhere, four other men get in the taxi, armed and all, and tell him to give them everything he has.
I am not saying that this happens all the time. But it does happen.
Tanzania, compared to other African States and regions (I am thinking of my friend currently in Nigeria for example, or the terrorist attack just tow days ago in Nairobi), is rather safe. There are no armed groups, no terrorist groups, no armed conflict, no civil war, it has peaceful relations with it’s neighbors. All in all, not a dangerous place to be. Upon coming here, my main concern was about mosquitoes: malaria carrying bastards. However, there is still a substantial crime rate. I mean, I could get mugged any time in Paris, and I already got my phone ‘almost’ stolen several times in the City of Lights, however, I did not risk being hit with a machete for claiming it back, or showing some resistance. Maybe get punched though.
In the end, here it is not so bad. Not as bad as what a worrying mother could picture (after thought: maybe). But not as bad as the images from Africa that reach the western world. No blood bath, no violence at every corner.
But sometimes, one could be blinded by the beautiful kindness and hospitality of the people here, and forget that, like in any other place in the world, there is also a dark side to the moon.
African lesson n°4: Do not get blinded by the brightness and warmth of the sun.