Home Africa Ridin’ along in my 3-wheeled bajaj

Ridin’ along in my 3-wheeled bajaj

February 13, 2013

The bajaj is a thing of beauty. I will get a picture before I leave this town, but for now, you should just Google it. It’s a very popular form of transport in Dar es Salaam. The traffic here is a bit heavy at all times of the day. The bajaj can weave it’s way in and out of traffic, create it’s own lanes, and smoothly roll over bumps in the road. I would never ride on a piki piki (motor bike), but feel fairly safe in the bajaj. You never feel totally safe on a road in Africa! Amani, my driver, has been very kind and likes to practice his English. He’s even walked with me around the ShopRite (grocery) and “mall,” helping me find the items needed. On our first trip to the grocery he said, “So we’ll go together?” I assumed that meant that he needed to pick up a few things as well, so once I had my items I asked if he needed to get anything. He took that to mean that I was offering to pay, so I bought the boy some casava chips! Today, he wouldn’t let me buy bananas because he said they’d be cheaper on the street. Probably true, but I really don’t mind paying a little extra (like 30 cents) to have them right then, with my peanut butter purchase (which is insanely expensive at $8/jar). Amani is only 25 and laughed when he found out I was older than him. He also mocked me for eating Subway — as in the sandwich shop! I think Subway is fairly new to Dar and Tanzanians haven’t yet accepted this new offering. Oh, but they will. I mean, who could resist “pressed beef?” 🙂

It’s nice to make friends. Even our limited ability to communicate has been good. In three days here, I’m a bit lonely. The group I’m with this week is great, but there’s little interaction outside of their work. Today, I spent about 3 hours with them before being taken back to the hotel. The woman, Aziza, has invited me to dinner at her house sometime this week. It’s very common for guests to be invited over for dinner. I hope we do find an evening to do so as it would be great to talk with her more. She is looking at going to grad school in the States next year, mostly likely in either Connecticut or Michigan — what a weather adjustment that will be!

Speaking of the group, Investours is a very unique non-profit focused on entrepreneurship. They’re ranked as the #2 thing to do in Dar on TripAdvisor which is pretty impressive — even if Dar doesn’t offer much to do! Today we spent some time with wood-carvers. It was super cool to see “behind the scenes.” A lot of the items I’ve seen in shops and at the market were being made by a group of men who sat on small stumps and worked tirelessly to hand carve a rhino or elephant. It really is amazing and they honestly don’t make close to enough money on those items compared to the amount of time it takes. Still, this girl will be bargaining with the shop owners because it is also amazing how quickly the price tag increases when a white person is the patron!

I had Amani take me to the Wonder Workshop this afternoon. It was a bit farther than we had traveled thus far and he laughed when he noticed I was hanging on tight! He said, “Driving here is reckless. You could not drive here!” I wanted to be offended, but he’s probably telling the truth! Actually, a place where reckless driving is the norm might be perfect for me! 🙂

Anyway, the Wonder Workshop is by far the coolest place I’ve been. They have goods made by disabled folks. Really cool pieces that have been created from scrap metal — mostly safari animals. They also make jewelry and paper goods. Oh, and some wood pieces, including a large rocking horse that Amani tried to ride! I got a good chuckle out of him sitting on what was clearly made for a child!

Two things that make this place awesome: 1) they make the pieces on site so you can watch. It was so incredibly empowering to watch those with clear disabilities work away on their art. It is so, so common to have disabled people come up to your car and beg, so this view of them was very refreshing. 2) It was founded by a photographer! I did a little Google searching and discovered that this guy has founded 5 non-profits in Uganda and Tanzania. He’s lived here for 20+ years. He’s my new hero. Seriously, he’s taking pictures for a living and making a huge difference in the world around him. My new giraffe friends and happy hippo will serve as a great reminder of what can be done with some creative dreaming and a big heart.

I head to Zanzibar in 3 days! So very excited about that, except that it means this trip is nearing completion. I’m starting to worry about re-adjusting to “normal” life again. My focus has been all out of whack the last few days which is why there are no pictures in this post. I saw a coffee shop nearby that looked fairly cool so I may try and work there tomorrow afternoon or Friday. This hotel room is tiny and plain and not really the place for inspiration!

Now I’m just rambling…

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