First week has gone by in such a rush, strange to think I only got here a week ago and so much has already happened. The work week was short for me though, only three days thanks to Eid Il-Fitr celebrations which made Friday a public holiday. The funny thing is though that at 10pm on Thursday evening I still didn’t know if I had to go to work the next day or not. No one did, everyone was simply waiting for the moon to show so that someone on TV could announce the end of the holy month of Ramadan. I was quite tired from the 5am wake-ups so I was looking forward to a day off and a Finnish saying got a whole new meaning in this context, as I was waiting for Eid Il-Fitr “kuin kuuta nousevaa” (“like the rising moon”). My flatmates’ colleague Halima is Muslim so we were invited for Eid lunch at her house consisting of biriani (cow meat and rice stew) and salads, very tasty. Afterwards we sat in the backyard on woven mats with the rest of the family discussing Tanzanian life and culture until early evening. On Saturday evening we went back to Rose Garden to watch the Arsenal-Bolton football game, though we were more focused on drinking Kilimanjaro beer and Konyagi (local strong liquor) with tonic water, which just made it to my top 3 list of favourite drinks = )
There’s a lot to get used to about the way of life and how things work here, but on Sunday we had a perfectly relaxing day on the beach in Kipepeo in Kigamboni, south of Dar es Salaam. Mirage came to pick us up in the morning and drove to the ferry station. The queue was incredibly long so he called up his friend at the port and we managed to cut the whole queue and get on the next 5-minute ferry over from central Dar es Salaam to Kigamboni (driving around the bay would have taken a few hours). The beach had the finest white sand I’ve ever seen and water was a clear turquoise colour. The kind of paradise you see in movies and magazine articles and can only dream of going to during the darkest months in Finland. A lot of ‘mzungus’ (nickname for white people) crowded the beach since it was one of the finest around, but there was a fair share of locals playing football on the beach, maasais standing in their colourful dresses, cows passing by.
I didn’t get to swim long in the Indian Ocean before a 14 year old boy came to me and asked me in a mix of Swahili and English to teach him how to swim. Soon I was surrounded by about 10 young boys all wanting to go to my ‘swimming school’ and it was fun to see that they actually progressed really well. Later when I got back in the water I got surrounded not only by the boys but about 10 young girls who also wanted to learn to swim so I ended up staying in the water for quite a long time in the frying sun (but managed not to get burnt). Everything went well until the very end when we were leaving with Mirage – some boys came back to me and said “give me money” like it would be a completely normal thing to ask. I was reminded at once of the background of these happy young kids. They didn’t come from wealthy families who could pay for swimming school, they didn’t even have swimwear: the boys were swimming in their shorts and the girls had their prettiest Sunday dresses on in the water.