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On red soil

Six degrees of separation

You’ve heard the theory of the ’human web’ right, that any person on the planet can be connected to anyone else within six steps? For a city of around 3 million people, I dare to argue that in Dar, everyone is within two or three degrees of separation, max. It never fails to amaze me how everyone seems to know everyone around here, and after two months, I’m already a part of this ‘everyone’. Here’s an example.

Two weekends ago, I went out clubbing with some friends. There, I talked for some time with Vita, a Tanzanian ILO consultant who has set up an NGO helping young entrepreneurs to start lucrative businesses. Last Tuesday, we then went to Alliance Française to check out an art exhibition and to say hello to his friend and this friend’s friend. Now, moving to this past Saturday, I met up with Vita again for a beer at Rose Garden, when my neighbour called and told me there’s a good house party going on in Msasani, organised by a Canadian guy. So we go to the party, and turns out Vita knows the Canadian guy and some others at the small Halloween shindig too. I also recognised some of the people from other parties, and from one in particular I had to ask if he had been at the same club as me a weekend ago. His response? “No, but we met at Alliance Francaise on Tuesday”. Indeed, he was Vita’s friend’s friend. We talked a while longer and I found out that this Ali lives with his girlfriend two streets away from us in Mikocheni, and works at a safari company in the building next to the supermarket where I, every morning, get my breakfast. Small world, eh? But the story doesn’t stop here.

Yesterday I didn’t have any lunch company so I asked if Ali wants to join at my usual lunch place. We met at 12 and walked to the local street kitchen where I go for lunch with my flatmates or colleagues, and he told me he goes there everyday too, usually just a lot later than us. When we’ve finished eating, the place starts filling up and a man sits down at our table and says hello to Ali. I turn to look up and recognise him as Charles, an older man from the Civil Aviation Authority who me and my flatmate once already had lunch with a few weeks back due to the same lack of free tables, so we also greet and go through the normal “mambo?” and “habari za kazi?” phrases. While walking back to work, Ali stops on the road to talk to a guy who was passing us on the other side of the street. When the guy waves bye to Ali he notices me, waves happily and says “hello again!” This is the same guy who explained to me the technique of painting with a spatula for half an hour on the street and who I ended up buying a Maasai–inspired painting from about two weeks ago on my way to Swahili class.

Dar es Salaam is so freaking small!



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