Life in Dar es Salaam

A while ago I had an interesting experience. One of my students at Azikiwe Aikido Club invited me to join the Karate class he is attending. Almost everybody at Azikiwe practises some other martial art in addition to Aikido. I was not quite sure whether it would be actual joining of the class (I’ve never done Karate) or just watching it but jovially promised to be there.

When we got to the dojo the ongoing class was stopped, everybody turned to me and bowed like to a big Sensei. Gradually it dawned to me that I was there to teach these karatekas (many of them black belts) ‘some Aikido weapon skills’. And mind you, the weapons are not particularly my cup of tea… But, what to do, I was there, the students were there, expecting something grand and exotic from me, so I mentally rolled up my sleeves and grasped the task. Just breathing out, relaxing and going with the flow…

I quickly went through in my mind what weapon techniques I could remember and ended up with the easiest solution: Tantodori. The obvious one of course is Chudan-tsuki Ikkyo so that is what we did as well as Yokomen-uchi Shiho-nage. I’m sure the world is full of aikidokas who could have done much better work than me showing and teaching these techniques to the karatekas but as I was the one who was there and as the saying goes Seize the moment I did it. All kinds of situations you can get yourself into on this crazy continent…

Another challenge I quite suddenly faced happened in a small beach town called Bagamoyo some 50 kilmometres from Dar which I was vsiting during the weekend with my friend Tula. In the hotel we were staying in we met a French guy who had just opened a diving school there. Since Tula wanted to do a little sailing trip and I love snorkeling we decided to combine these two activities and set out for a day trip on Christian’s boat. Along with us were two other divers one of which Christian was training to become a diving instructor. So it happened that here too I seized the moment and decided to get baptized in scuba diving which I have always dreamed of but never had the courage to try because of my very severe case of claustrophobia. I got very thorough introduction and felt very safe with three experienced divers taking care of me. In the beginning I had to surface every couple of minutes just to make sure I could, but in the end was able to do a 20 minutes dive without interruption. And was it worth it ever! From snorkeling I was already familiar with the corals and the life underneath which are breathtakingly beautiful but the feeling of overcoming my fear was intoxicating! I felt delirious for days…

At the hotel we also met a merry party of Belgians living in Congo. To me, familiar with the cruelty of Belgian colonialistic rule in Congo, it was surprising to hear they could still live in that country. And I grew even more surprised hearing that many older Congolese people who still can remember the colonial times show respect towards Belgians because they think their standard of living was better under their rule… True or not, I don’t know, but the Belgians we met were wonderful company; great games of petanque and in the afterparty they proved to me that it is not the priviledge of only Finnish people to be able to consume vast amounts of alcohol and still stay funny and witty…

And the exitement didn’t end there… One night driving home with Anoek the battery of her car died suddenly in the middle of one of the busiest and not so safe streets of the city. To top it all, the battery was so low that we couldn’t even shut the electrically operated windows which of course were wide open in the tropical night air. So it was not possible to leave the car there. First we got help pushing the car to the pavement – here one always gets help immediately from everybody around; you’re never left alone with your troubles. After trying to wake up the battery with the help of another car – which worked, but the battery died immediately again in the next corner because the traffic here is so impossible and the cars always end up in standstill long periods of time – we ended up being towed by a taxi to our house. The exitement came about from the fact that we were two mzungu women alone in the night in a bad neighbourhood plus I was carrying my only really valuable property here; i.e. my Mac in my rucksack and in my underwear my rent money for a month…

I also managed to visit a publishing house here in Dar. Anoek, who’s an architect, had a project with some publishers who among other books publish also school materials, and she told them about me. So I was welcomed to visit them in their store and had an interesting chat. Even here in Tanzania, where the circumstances in schools in the rural areas are totally rudimentary, they are contemplating, as we do everywhere in the western world, about how and when to transfer the educational materials into digital form. But this particular publishing house is very progressive, another one I visited was more traditional, and there I saw books which totally explained why the children often don’t learn anything in the school here; the English language for primary school students was so difficult even I had hard time making out what they were trying to say, often the cases were just stated and logics behind not explained, the printing was so bad one couldn’t make out anything from the pictures and so on… Many of these books looked like somebody had copypasted loose facts from internet without having done any editing to the material.

All in all, life in Dar es Salaam proved to be much more pleasant and much more manageable than I ever thought and I know I will miss this crazy city terribly after I’m gone…

Tantodori Chudan-tsuki Ikkyo

Tantodori Chudan-tsuki Ikkyo

Gathering the gear...

Gathering the gear…

...and then ready to go under!

…and then ready to go under!

Anoek's boyfriend Pasco came to rescue the ladies in distress.

Anoek’s boyfriend Pasco came to rescue the ladies in distress.

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