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On red soil

Power cuts and Indian bingo

It’s been a while. Work has been very busy lately, got back from the trip in Korogwe and Tanga last week’s Tuesday night, went to work on Wednesday to catch up on some issues before putting the out-of-office assistant on yet again, this time for a five day conference/circus called the Annual National Policy Dialogue that ended this week’s Wednesday. Yesterday was Tanzanian Independence Day (49 years, happy birthday Tanzania!) so finally some rest.

Apart from this we’ve had the usual power cuts, which have been driving me crazy. One hour power cut? No problem. One evening power cut? Ok I’ll go early to sleep. One day power cut? Barely bearable. But the latest power cut? Started on Sunday night and finished Wednesday night. Bye bye any food in the fridge, bye bye computer battery and bye bye phone battery. Also, bye bye any smart-looking make-up or clothing put on in the light of an AAA-battery powered mini flashlight at 5.30am. On Tuesday evening I realised the ridiculousness of all this as I got home from the conference and was completely isolated in darkness. No chance to charge my phone in the huge conference or at home, no computer or phone battery to contact any friend, pitch black in the whole neighbourhood meaning I’m not gonna start wandering outside alone trying to find a power source.. In the end I found some neighbours in the darkness of their homes and dragged them to Rose Garden for some dinner, beer and phone-charging – good times. But man do I love electricity!

Of course I haven’t been hanging out at home all the time either. Had a few friends here who I took to markets, beaches, bars, rooftop house parties, the usual = ) We also went to one of the most peculiar events Dar has to offer. Indian bingo.

There’s a big Indian population in Dar es Salaam, owing to the long history of traders and merchants from the Southern Asian peninsula. With the population comes the food, and there are tons of places to get tasty Indian meals in Dar. But with superlong menus of aloos, bhajias, tikka masalas, paneers etc. and Tanzanian waiters who aren’t familiar with all of them, it’s always a bit of a guessing game what to pick. Luckily on the hit and miss scale that follows, each food is almost certainly always a hit.

In Dar I’ve also learnt that Indians like playing squash and badminton. Special member’s only clubs cater for the ball-friendly people who can relax after some racketeering over a nice meal, a Bollywood movie or some Indian bingo. On Fridays Upanga Club hosts bingo night, and this is a serious affair where people (like me) unfamiliar to the fast pace of the number caller really have to stay attentive and focused. And with the presenter’s incredibly Indian accent and signature comments for each number, this is not an easy feat, trust me. Same friends who I took to the bingo night a few weeks back have started an online magazine dealing with Eastern Africa, and they’ve written a short story about Upanga Club too, so I’ll let you (literally) hear the rest from here.

So, tonight is Friday and still no plans for the evening… If all else fails there’s always Upanga Club ; )

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