Beach Boys reign!
During my teenage years, the Beach Boys carried over radio waves. They sang, “I Get Around”. I sang it with them. I became a Beach Boy on the other end of the radio. At least in my mind.
They portrayed coolness by getting a driver’s license, getting hold of a car, and getting lost in the coolness of hip. “My buddies and me are getting real well known. Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone. I get around!”
The corollary experience lay in cruising downtown. Played cool, just by snarling traffic and breathing exhaust fumes. Postured, looked cool, and generally lived out the dream of a brainless teen.
Not as cool, any more. Mobility controls one’s destiny! The lack of it puts destiny on hold. Destiny’s taken hold.
I’ve taken the dala dala a few times, lately. Never heard of a dala dala before coming to TZ. (Frank might have mentioned it, though. Just before my coming.) The dala dala bus system dominates personal transport, followed closely by the Toyo connection. I’ve taken the dala dala multiple times, now. Rode it again yesterday, when Lota decided we needed our car back. Took the dala dala to brother Abarani’s car lot to pick up the car.
Riding in a dala dala means you’re riding in a mobile campaign advertising vehicle. Not quite as cool as cruising. Rather hot, sticky, and personal. They’re all over the place, at least on the paved roads. They make up a system of transportation that’s fairly cheap. Everybody uses them.
Every street corner that intersects a paved road with a dirt track hosts a dala dala bus stop. Dala dala ownership and operation hail as one of Tanzania’s most successful examples of free enterprise. Except that the rates are set by the government. Or, by negotiation with the conductor when traffic subsides a bit.
Private individuals own dala dala’s. Each sanctions a driver and a conductor to conduct business the free enterprise way. The conductor serves much like a hawker in front of a night club. He aggressively hails everybody in sight. Hollers to “Get in!” Packs as many people into a single mini-van as possible, then pounds on the roof to tell the driver to take off. Generally, it holds a dozen or more riders, plus the crew. The hawker generally stands on the side, hangs his head out, if his body doesn’t already flap in the wind, and looks for the next bystander to stuff into the can of human flesh.
Yes, it stinks a bit. You hope the person next to you, with his head hanging down, is not preparing to puke. Human sardines. Packed in water. No, salt water. No, body salt water. No, bad smelling body fluids. You want to shower as soon as you can.
Dala dalas constitute an integral part of an ongoing campaign. The two most popular candidates include Jesus (or, God) and Allah. Jesus gets the most billboard press. The ads tend to scream at you. The dala dalas carry all sorts of brazenly overt messages broadcasting the virtues of Christian or Muslim doctrine. Other candidates receive a good amount of sanctioned paint on the sides, front and back of dala dalas, also. They generally represent legends in sport. Michael Jordan remains a candidate, Steph Curry, a more recent entrant. A soccer star sometimes makes it onto the moving billboards, also.
Cheap. 405 TSH to get from Kwa-iddi to downtown. That’s about $.20, USD.
Went to visit Nehemiah the other day. At his home. To see his mom, and all. Took the dala dala the other way, ‘cuz Ngaramtoni lies further from town than Kwa-iddi. Got off at the dala dala stop. Each of us got on the back of a Toyo (motor cycle), while the Toyo entrepreneur bounced us to the hidden inlands where most of the homes lie. Cost 1,000 Tsh each. About $.45. Exchange rate is about 2200 TSH to $1.
Toyos populate dala dala intersections more than even the dala dalas. Guys hang over their handle bars waiting for riders. Like the dala dala industry, the Toyo industry stands for entrepreneurship. The second half of the motorized transportation system. Women in their finest attire ride them, often side saddle. The norm.
Walking works also. Especially in lieu of hopping a Toyo. But you need to walk on the high part of the road ruts. Per Lota, you don’t want to force a Toyo to the high ground, just to slide down the dirt sideways. Natural incentive for the walker to take the high road.
Some drivers, probably passengers too, wear bandanas over their faces. Smart. The dust kicks up with a vengeance. Probably not as bad as coal dust for a person’s lungs. Would hate to test it too much, though. Getting good at holding my breath.
Taking a car represents luxury. Been living the life of luxury here, quite a bit of the time. Don’t know where Lota gets his cars, exactly. “Friends.” Else, they’re rather expensive. They also take quite a beating from the side roads.
Traveling through town mimics worming one’s way through a bait can. Full of night crawlers. Only half the animal story, though. The other half involves talking like a goose. Loudly. Often. Intersections represent the epitome of negotiation. As a driver, you worm your way into the middle of it. Honk like a goose. Negotiate a right hand turn with the cool of a Beach Boy. (Since you drive on the left side of the road, a right hand turn negotiates like a left hand turn in the US.)
Every encounter on the road represents a close call. Inches between negotiators. Bravery counts. Aggressors maintain the right of way. Everyone becomes aggressive. May need lessons, if you want to learn traffic negotiation. An auto body shop . . . . a great business!
I’ve pretty much finished traveling to town to put on workshops and seminars. At this point, interested entrepreneurs come to my compound for interviews and business planning. Still squeezing them in, even though my homework in helping develop business plans requires more quiet time than interview time.
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On Thursday, I attended the graduation ceremony at the school where Lota teaches. We walked. Don’t know how he’s negotiated taking as much time away from school as he has. But it’s obvious, Lota’s a legend. Their IT guy. Their “go to” guy. I met the head of school. Became friends. Lota’s friend, too.
A white lady pulled up a chair and sat next to me in the food preparation classroom. The classroom held a fundraiser. Students sold edibles, there. Ji-Young Rhee introduced herself as an American from California. Silicon Valley. Her business card reads, “e3empower”, and “Founder and CEO”. She’s actually South Korean. Encouraging entrepreneurship in Tanzania, especially in the areas of IT technology and STEM. Lota’s areas. Said she wants to hire Lota.
I took a zillion still pictures. Lota kept the video camera going. We both kept busy just about all day. Not a typical US graduation. Lots of showing off of talent, like a fashion show, like an acrobatic demonstration, like a fund raising event to pay for a concrete floor in one of the classrooms. Everybody accepted our assumption of privilege. We walked around with cameras like we owned the place, taking pictures as if we were commissioned. With a camera around your neck, you get away with that sort of thing. An MC walked up to me early on. Asked my name. Then started talking up the international media attention, as if the students didn’t already observe the camera men.
MC’s blaired communications all day, interspersed with loud music. Calvin, Lota’s friend and fellow teacher, orchestrated “entertainment”. Dressed in something resembling a white tux with black collars and trim, he took the mike from time to time, also.
We ended up with over 540 pictures, all processed through “Lightroom”, a software program I purchased from Adobe. Transforms ordinary pictures into magazine-ready stuff. Spent a lot of time afterward, processing them. Turned out amazingly well. A lot of video footage, also. We became sort of Beach Boy popular.
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Loon, Matilda’s son, took me to see a waterfall, yesterday. Snuggled up close to, maybe walked a part of, Meru Mountain. Took his roommate and another friend. All about 30ish. Loon and Emmanuel ran 13 miles on Thursday. Thought for a minute that I’d be hiking with conditioned athletes. But Loon confessed that he felt sore. I exhaled. Became brave. Talked smack. Asked if they thought they could keep up. They smiled.
Stopped at Matilda’s home to see her green house. Impressive. She amazes me. Met her husband and daughter. Female daughter nearing the completion of her medical school education.
Stopped by Cesilia’s home, also. Observed how she lived, her storage enclosure with bananas tucked away in a large pail type container, sheltered from the sun, cozied up to the ground to keep as cool as possible. She needs a refrigerator. Humbling existence. Humbling experience for this mzungu (white guy) from America.
Got to the mountain, parked. Hiked up the mountain, then down. Found the base of the waterfall. Looked up. Barely saw the top of it. Might have seen heaven in the background. Pretty spiritual, anyway. Inspiring. Wanted to sing, “How Great Thou Art!” More apropos than, “I Get Around!”
Hiked back. They couldn’t keep up. I waited. Hoped my panting subsided before they caught up. Mostly did. Emmanuel commented that he’d never seen a 67 year old climb back up the hill as easily as I climbed it. Said it was miraculous. Felt rather proud. Peacock feathers unfurled. Maybe just rooster feathers. Might have crowed a bit, also. Told ‘em, “I get around!”
The alternative to getting around involves quiet time, at home. Been doing that, lately, when I can. Not as cool to get around, anymore. Need down time. Quiet time. Getting around, politicking and reading politicking is nice. Sort of. But to get anything done, to finish it, that is . . . it takes actually working at a computer and desk. The hard part.
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Went to church this morning. Afterword, went to Quararumbo. Goat roast alley. Up and down the street, a goat roasting festival carries on. All pretty much doing the same thing. Coal fires pushing global warming, goat parts roasting on bed springs, dog-sniffing smoke filling the air. Roasters all hawking passers-by to buy their cuisine.
Didn’t know about goat roast alley until Calvin suggested it. He treated. Really glad for the experience. If Christian Enablers takes off, this has got to be included with cultural experience activities. You’re in the Arusha cultural zone, when cruising between two walls of goat roasting entrepreneurs, hawkers of sinewy meat, and grocery stands.
Worked with Eric on projecting numbers after that. Quit just a few minutes ago. Need to do more crunching, but needed to break.
More squeezed-in interviews tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ll see. Getting around now means getting folks to stop bye.
* * * * *
Teenage years don’t seem that long ago.
Suppose you could say that I still get around. Remembering a few of the words to an old song feels more hip than a traffic snarl. Traveling to TZ should count for something.
Cruising doesn’t seem that faddish any more. More nuisance than cool. Traffic here makes me thankful for stop signs, traffic lights, street lights in the evening, and rules for moving through intersections. Traffic snarls reveal my impatience.
Worms belong in the ground. Or, on a fish hook. Campaigns should remain with government politics. Or student body elections. Christianity should show through people’s lives. “Blessed are the . . . .” doesn’t seem right plastered over the walls of a dala dala. Bumper sticker and street car advertising seem to defy the concept of pious humility. Just my perspective.
Maybe I’m just posturing for “cool” by walking to a waterfall. Cruising, not so cool any more. May need new lyrics for “I get around!”
Living out the dream of a foolish elder may just mean inhaling exhaust fumes from one whose onion, garlic and cabbage intake exceeded the legal limit.
One crazy Beach Elder reigns!
(In his own mind.)