Tag Archives: heat

Beautiful game


Barefoot works best for this goalie

In the middle of Kazo there’s a bare expanse of land, next to the market and just before the bus stand, known as the playground. Every day a different assortment of bright-coloured school uniforms populates the grounds for P.E. class. Yesterday, it hosted the semifinal of the first ever UYWEFA cup.

UYWEFA set up the education centre I’m based at, and the football tournament is its latest venture. A condition of joining a team is to be working, so that there are teams of butchers, market-sellers, taxi drivers, teachers, and different groups of boda-boda (motorbike) drivers. Yesterday’s match saw the Butchers edge ahead with a 1-0 victory over the Tomato-sellers. Continue reading

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Inevitable: not giving a s**t

Public transport - only for locals and idealists?

The other day I asked an expat who’s been in Africa 20 years or more what made newcomers like me stand out. “People who’ve just arrived will refuse to let Africans carry their bags for them”, he said. “Once you’ve been here a while, you hand them over immediately.” Clearly I’ve been hanging out in the wrong places – no one ever offers to help me with my bags, though surprisingly a fellow passenger paid my bus fare yesterday (I accepted gracefully).

Actually, taking public transport or walking seems also to brand you as being new to the continent. Experienced mzungus tend to abandon any ambitions of mixing with the locals in favour of the more practical, cooler, and safer option of driving. Walking home from the office, stubbornly sweating in the afternoon heat, I half-envy, half-disdain their monster 4x4s swishing past and coating me in another layer of city dust. But apparently I give myself away above all in what I say. Most recently: I’ve been trying to find a photographer at work and had hoped to hire a local. A Kenyan-English resident I met here was highly sceptical I’d find anyone professional enough. She quoted her Dad: “When you come to Africa, you go through three phases: first phase, Africans can do no wrong; second, Africans can do no right; third, you don’t give a s**t either way”. Continue reading

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“Watch out for the seven-month dip”, warned my Canadian colleague, a seasoned expat who’s lived in French Guiana and Malawi before coming to Tanzania a few years ago. It’s just enough time, he says, to have got over the shock of the new, but not long enough to have made real friends (though I disagree with that) or to have achieved enough at work to make you see the value of sticking around.

We’d been told something similar during training back in Europe: things go great for the first few weeks or months, until the novelty wears off – expect it to go something like this, they said: Continue reading

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The best seats on the bus

Coated in sweat-congealed dust and grime, engine grease, and splattered roadside puddles – and that’s after sitting inside the bus.

The Lushoto-Dar journey is meant to take about 6 hours, but with stops all along the route, traffic jams, and crawling trucks before us that refuse to pull over, 8 hours seems to be the norm. Not that you’d want to overtake more on those winding roads: we see several overturned vehicles by the side of the road, on both the outward and return journeys. Each time, as the driver slows to pass, my fellow passengers rise out of their seats to stare out the window with a kind of fascinated, fatalistic horror. Continue reading

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More than anything, one is struck by the light. Light everywhere. Brightness everywhere. Everywhere, the sun. … Air travel tears us violently out of snow and cold and hurls us that very same day into the blaze of the tropics. Suddenly, still rubbing our eyes, we find ourselves in a humid inferno. We immediately start to sweat. If we’ve come from Europe in the wintertime, we discard overcoats, peel off our sweaters. It’s the first gesture of initiation we, the people of the North, perform upon arrival in Africa.

The opening passages of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s account of his travels around Africa keep stirring around my mind as I’m getting ready to leave behind the cold North. People keep saying I’m brave to be heading off on my own, far from family and friends. But my main concerns are a bit more physical than that: how is my winter-proof, pale body going to deal with the heat? How will my poor skin and respiratory system deal with all the mosquito repellent I’ll be spraying around in desperation? How much is my whiteness going to stand out? How am I ever going to adjust my usual speed-walking pace – that even European friends can’t keep up with – to a contented African amble?

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