Getting Settled in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Friday June 17, 2011

I arrived in Dar Es Salaam at 5:35 am in the morning.  6 hour flight from Cairo.  Managed to get a fair bit of sleep on the plane, or at least I think I did!   It was still dark when we got off the plane, but it was pretty warm, and I knew right away it would be a nice change from the June weather in Newfoundland that we have been having!  The airport is quite small and a bit of chaos at first as everyone was  filling out the forms for the VISA application.  I was going to get this done beforehand, but you would have had to send your Passport to Ottawa, and they would have charged $125 to get it done.  This way it was only $50…you just had to wait in line.  Didn’t take too long, about 30 minutes from the time I started filling out the forms.  Once you fill out the forms, you hand them with your passport and $50 to the Security guard.   When your name is called, they then get your fingerprints, and then you get your Passport with the VISA inside.  The Travel VISA is good for 3 months, if you need a new one, its recommend to leave the country, then come back in.

Once I got the VISA, I was able to go through security, and my bags were already unloaded.  I thought I would get some questions, as I had an extra large bag with me to carry the 80 T-Shirts we were using for the camp.  But didn’t have any issues, and just walked right on through. 

As I came out, the driver that Daryl had sent for me was waiting, with my name on a piece of paper.  Daryl Rustad works with the International School of Tanganyika (IST) and was my main contact for organizing the trip.  I’ll be staying with him for the next couple of weeks.  So Elias was waiting for me, he was Tanzanian and spoke some broken English.  He led me to the car and we hopped aboard a Toyota Corrolla, that had the steering wheel on the opposite side.  As in Britain, in Tanzania they drive on the opposite side of the road. 

Luckily it was still pretty early, about 6:15am at this point, and we were beating the morning traffic.  However, we did have to pass through downtown to get to Daryl’s, who lives in the Masaki Area.  Was a fair bit of traffic even for that hour, and a lot of people out walking or setting up shop on the sides of roads. 

I’m learning that that is a major means of income for a lot of people in Tanzania, running Duka’s or little roadside shops that basically sell anything and everything.   Some streets are literally lined with these shops.  Apparently they are a major problem for the government, as they are not taxed and 80% of small business is done through purchases at these Duka’s.

The very first thing you notice though, is the uncleanliness of the city.  There is garbage everywhere.  Even stacks of it on the sidewalks, or pushed up into a wall.  As I discovered, these stacks of garbage are then burned at night, and that’s how they get rid of the garbage.  There is also holes dug on the side of the road that they throw garbage into, and presumably, it gets burned at night as well.  Seems to be a major problem, and I guess a major reason why you are warned against drinking the water.  Only bottle water, even brushing your teeth.

Daryl lives in the Masaki area, which seems to be a more upscale part of town. A number of the embassy’s are here, however, it is near the Coco Beach area which I’m told is not the best place to be hanging around by yourself.   The homes in this area are similar to gated communities, with a security guard to let people in and out.  Daryl actually just moved their recently, as it is very close to the IST and to the TANSao (Tansania Student Achievement Organization – www.tansao.info) office where he works as well.  At  TANSAO they work at placing local students into Univeristy’s around the world, particularly North America.  That’s how Memorial got into the picture, as members from Student Recruitment had come to Tanzania and had been put in touch with the TanSAO office.

After I arrived and unloaded my bags, I was ready for some sleep, but thought some breakfast may be a good Idea as well.   Daryl suggested a nice little breakfast place where I was able to get a good cappachino and some bacon and eggs!  The breakfast hit the spot, and livened me up a little.  We then decided to drop down to the IST (the international school) to meet Bahati, who is the coach that is helping organize all the kids coming to the camp.

Bahati  Mgunda seems to be very well respected here.  He is only 40 years old, but I would only say he is 30.  It seems to be a Tanzanian trait that they look incredibly young.  Even talking to the kids, I think they are 16, 17, turns out they are 21, 22.   Bahati has connections with the Tanzanian National Team, having been an assistant coach with them in the past, and has spent some time in Germany and Hungary pursuing coaching licences.  He seems very dedicated to basketball and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with him.

After catching up with Bahati, it was decided that we would have a look at a basketball tournament that was taking place in Kibaha, a community about 45 min outside of Dar Es Salaam.    On the way, we picked up a friend of Bahati, Alex who is in Tanzanai doing some research.  He is from Connecticut and goes to Yale university.  He is writing a report on the affect Hasheen Thabeet’s success has had on basketball and kids in Tanzania.  The University is funding his project, and he has been in Tanzania for a couple of weeks now.

It was an interesting drive out as I was able to experience the Traffic here…and the hustle and bustle that goes on at the sides of the streets.  The traffic is crazy, and doesn’t seem like people obey the rules of the road much.  A lot of motorcycles here as well, which oddly enough all seem to be brand new and in good shape.  They weave in and out of traffic a fair bit.  That combined with people walking back and forth on the streets all the time, makes for interesting drives!  Oh, and there are tons of DalaDala’s, mini buses that are used for public transportation.  Apparently a very cultural way of getting around the city.

At this point though, I was pretty tired, and was in and out of sleep during the drive to Kibaha.  When I came to full senses, we had stopped at a little convenience store in Kibaha to pick up some water.  We then drove another couple of minutes to where the games were taken place.

As we approached, I realized the games were being played in an outdoor park.  And it looked like it was all sports being played.  There was a soccer game going one, a handball game, a basketball game, a netball game and a volleyball game as well.  The park was huge and each section was devoted to a particular sport, and tournaments were underway in each.  It was a big sports bonanza for the community of Kibaha.

We made our way over the courts, and it struck me that these people were playing outside in the 35 degrees of heat!   And it didn’t seem to me there was much water around.  When we got to the courts, a guys game had just finished, and there was a girls team warming up.  The curious thing was that each team only had one basketball to warm up with.  I asked Bahati why they didn’t have more, and he said that basketballs were expensive and most kids couldn’t afford to buy them.

It may explain why the skill of the kids wasn’t that great, even though they were 17, 18 years old.  Bahati said that there isn’t a huge amount of Youth development in Tanzania, and that kids usually pick up the game late.  You could tell that there was some athletes there, just lacking in skill development. 

We spent an hour or so there, Bahati introducing me to a lot of players and coaches, and explaining why I was in Tanzania and encouraging the kids to come to the camps.  Everyone seemed very gratefull that I had come and very much welcoming me to Tanzania (Karibu means welcome in Swahili).  You could tell that they appreciated that someone had made the effort to do something like this here.

While waiting for the boys game to start, we decided to get a bite to eat, and I had my first real taste of Tanzanian cuisine.  We ordered a dish that had French fries in the centre of an omelette.  I was somewhat sceptical at first, but when I tasted it, it tasted really good.  I guess when you think of it, not much different than eggs and hashbrowns, just mixed all together.  Anyways…it’s a new recipe I’ll keep for the future!

After we ate we stayed and watched the boys games.  There were a few athletes there that I asked Bahati to make sure they came to the camp next week.  Again, you can see some lack of skill development, but they had some athleticism and with a bit of teaching, could probably be pretty good basketball players.

At about 4:30 we decided to head back to Dar, it had been a long day by then, and I still really hadn’t slept.  I took the back seat in the car, and although I really wanted to see things as we drove, I couldn’t help but fall asleep on the way back.  I had of course been travelling for two days, with sporadic naps at best.

But then of course we got stuck in a traffic jam just as we entered Dar (Short for Dar Es Salaam). Apparently this is not just a daily occurrence, but an hourly occurrence, and given the number of cars and people on the road, I don’t doubt it.

When we got back in the city, Bahati wanted to take me to a couple of basketball clubs, particularly the one he trained his his teams out of – Vijana.  When we got there, there where kids playing, and of course, it was an outdoor court as well, with concrete playing surface.  Bahati introduced me to all the kids there, and again they seemed grateful I was there, and a number indicated they would be coming to the camp.  One of the national team prospects was there, a Tanzanian named Tony.  He was pretty legit and would instantly help our team back home.  But Bahati doesn’t think he has the marks and doubtful he will be able to do anything about it.  Too bad, as Tony is about 6’4, athletic and built strong.  He’s coming to the camp so I look forward to seeing him more.

All the kids know Bahati.  He is well respected and has put in a tremendous amount of time coaching kids in the area.  He is also a former national team player, and had once hit 15 threes in a game.  He says he hasn’t played now for a couple of years, has 2 kids and not enough time.  I’m going to try to get him out this week when we scrimmage in the evenings with the younger guys.

After that, we dropped off Alex, as he lived close by, then we went to visit another club, Don Bosco.  This is another well respected club and Bahati has helped some players there as well.  However, when we got there it looked like the gym was rented out for a wedding, so there was not much on the go basketball wise.  By now it was about 7:30…and we head back to meet up with Daryl at the IST.  We decided to go grab something quick to eat, and ended up going to Subway of all places!!  Didn’t matter to me as I was pretty hungry at this point, and more than that, wanted to get to bed.

After a quick meal, Daryl and I drove back to his house…and by 9 pm I was in bed.  I was hoping for a long nights sleep.

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About peterbenoite

I am the men's basketball coach at Memorial University.
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