Friday, August 16, 2013

July 20, Afternoon Part 1. Dar Es Salaam (Haven of Peace)

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

Hotel Slipway market area. It's not at all like the aggressive hawkers and vendors at Jamaica market at all. (There the shouting prevented me from even thinking of what to buy - so I didn't.) Lots of quiet remarks of "Karibu" and "Come in" but not so pushy. Clothes, prints, beautiful mobiles to hang over a baby's crib, necklaces - but no earrings for shortie hair me! CDs, DVDs. We walk down the little wharf and see a perfect still image: a man hauling in and securing his handmade dugout canoe - while talking on a cell phone.

Meggie and I discussed this morning a feeling of responsibility to document this trip well, and thoroughly. And I would add that we have a responsibility to enjoy it fully - and not be scared to see and try things. As part of our fundraising and the support that comes with that, we owe great and honest documentation and experimentation in gratitude for the deep financial gifts so many people extended to us.

And so - to the fish market.

Fish is brought in twice a day, freshly caught and first sold to those who gut and clean. There are sardine guys, mackerel guys, squid (above) guys.

I wish this was scratch-n-sniff blogging because it looks pretty cool - but not when you're trying to keep your breakfast down, not when you're trying to play it cool in the swirling aroma of body odor, fish, sewage, wood smoke and stagnant water. 

This set of guys sell the seafood again, this time to those who smoke or cook it.

And then the cooking folks sell it again, to those driving cars or bajaj or riding bikes - and they stream out of the market and into the city to sell it once again, by bite or by bucket. The cooking is over huge open fires, in cauldrons, where nearby rows of plastic and glass bottles, labels peeled off, are filled with searing-looking hot sauces.

Veggies and fruit are for sale, some on the ground, drying in the sun. Tapestries hold drying cassava, hot peppers. Streams of water and fish blood flow past, and our driver, on occasion, will set his hand on my shoulder, out of nowhere - as if to make a point but it would be non-sensical in the verbal context. Then I realize! Oh! He is showing others that I'm protected, under his authority, and I would start to sense these men veer away, not wanting to have to go through him to sell to us, chat us up, give us a piece of their minds. It's now, hours later when I write this, that it occurs to my feminist self to have a reaction. But in the moment, I'm just grateful. I say to him, it must be difficult to catch octopus, as we walk past the long-tentacled begins, swinging from a hook or hand, being auctioned off to the highest bidder and he nods at me, admiring the octopi. "Very clever."

Meggie and I take these pictures as subtly as possible - which is not subtle at all. I feel very exposed in Bermuda-length shorts and resolve to wear skirts and dresses from here on out; women do not wear pants or shorts, much as we were promised it was OK for Western women to do so in Dar. It is incredibly hot but I keep the little shrug I'm wearing on - it would be almost pornographic, it feels, to have my arms fully exposed in a tank top.

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