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On red soil

What’s the story, morning glory?

It’s not even 9pm and I’m feeling ready to go to bed.

When I first heard that work will start at 7:15 here, I was mildly shocked. I am definitely no morning person and love to sleep until at least 11am if I get the chance. To my surprise though, I got used to the early wake-up already during the first week of being here. At that time it’s still dark outside, but many people are already up, especially the imams at the two mosques nearby who make sure I can’t sleep after 5am due to the loud prayer calls that echo through my open windows. A fact which helps is that both of my flatmates leave for work the same time, so instead of being awake alone in the house so early, I have company all the way to work.

By 6am, when we step out from our apartment, it’s already getting light outside, and people have begun to determinedly move towards their destination – nuns to the nearby catholic church, businesspeople to their offices, gardeners to the plots of grass along the road, little kids to school. It’s still quite calm though, the morning sun sheds a perfect light on the palm trees and the temperature is not too hot.

Now there are two ways to get to work. The usual way is to take a bajaj from our house to the bus stop further away, saves us a lot of time and costs close to nothing. A couple of times we have even ordered a bajaj driver to pick us up in the morning, so usually he’s sitting there ready to take us but sometimes he may still be sleeping, you never know. From the bus stop we get on the same Mwenge-Posta daladala I talked about. If we’re lucky we get seats, otherwise we stand the 20 minute ride but that’s okay since there’s still room to breathe in the daladalas at this time in the morning.  Leaving even half an hour later increases the risk of having to stand in the daladala for 2 hours (which happened to my flatmate her first day at work).

Another way to get to work (and back), is to find someone to give you a ride. One morning we left home at the same time as our neighbour Margaret, who was also going to work from the same bus stop, so we decided to share the bajaj ride there. We only got 3 meters forward when she spotted an old friend (who we later found out she hadn’t met in over a year) stepping into a car. Turned out he was going to the centre too with his dad behind the wheel, both bankers. So while Margaret was going in another direction with the daladala and continued the ride with the bajaj, her friend who we had never met before and who only spoke for a few minutes with Margaret offered us a ride into town. That trip went incredibly smoothly in the backseat of a car chatting about life in Tanzania in general. Lately a work colleague has also been kind enough to take me and my flatmates in her car, which makes for even more pleasurable morning trips to work.

I had written in an earlier post of my ideal morning, walking along a palm-dotted beach with a fresh sea breeze in my face. Minus the walking I do get to experience that every morning, as the daladala/car ride passes the beach and you can see the sun rising above the massive container ships on the ocean.

We’re usually in town already before 7am, which means I can’t enter work yet. Sometimes there’s time for breakfast, sometimes there’s time for a road-side cardamom coffee prepared over a portable charcoalfire and served in porcelain cups while sitting on wooden benches next to elders and young men going to work, who are arguing about politics before the sun is even fully up in the sky. Sometimes there might even be time to sit on a bench with the shoeshiner, learning new Swahili words. He’s there every morning so now that we walk past him he always shouts out “rafiki!” (“friend!”) with a smile. However we end up coming to work and what we do before it, I definitely enjoy being awake so early to enjoy the city at its best.



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