Are you familiar with these kind of situations when something really embarrassing happens to you in public and you just wish to find a way to magically disappear? Boy, I can tell you, that happens to me quite frequently. But I have learned to live with it and now I am even ready to share one of these moments with you all on my blog. (Okay, it’s basically for those two friends of mine who are struggling at the moment. I am so sorry I can’t be there to cheer you up. But I know you are reading my blog and I want to give you something to smile or even laugh about.)
Let’s start with the educational part of the story: I think one way to get to know a country is through its literature. I like to explore bookstores and find out what people are reading, what topics authors choose to write about. (In the case of Tanzania, I am obviously limited to the English part of the literature since my Swahili is not worth talking about.) So I went to a bookstore in Oysterbay and asked the lady at the counter if she could name a few Tanzanian authors so I could look out for their books. She looked back at me as if I had asked her to show me the way to moon and could not answer my question. As I found out afterwards there are not too many Tanzanian authors as the biggest part of the Tanzanian “literature” is still oral. I nevertheless ended up buying four different books:
- Lala Salama. A Tanzanian Lullaby. A very nicely illustrated children’s book about a family life along the banks of Lake Tanganyika.
- Kid Moses. A very unsentimental, honest and brutal story about Moses, a street child who scrounges a living on the harsh streets of Dar es Salaam. Reading it while seeing these kids every day gave me the creeps.
- Rumble in the Jungle. Leadership from an African Perspective. Written by Norman Moyo (CEO of Helios Tanzania). There are some very interesting sections in the book, above all his call to replace the political elites by people who know how to run a business. But my feminist heart suffered a stroke a couple of times.
- The fourth book was a book with poems written by a young Dar es Salaam lady. I was not overwhelmed at all.
Are you still there? Good. Because now it starts to get funny. There I was in this little bookstore and I thought: “Why not sitting down for a little and read?”. Fortunately, there was a little chair-type-thing right where I was standing. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a super soft pillow and I landed very very inelegantly on the floor. I spare you the details. “Don’t get nervous, girl! Nothing happened. Nobody knows you here anyway. Get back on your feet, pack your stuff and leave.” My inner voice was still talking to me when I heard someone calling my name: “Fabienne, Fabienne”. Wonderful! In a 4.5 million city I need to be lying on the floor of exact that one bookstore where one of the 20 people I know here decides to have his Saturday morning coffee. That somebody was FINCA Tanzania’s CEO. He did not laugh. But he looked as if he struggled not to do so.
3 weeks later, I had invited some friends to do dinner at a place where they serve “Züri Gschnätzlets”. At 7.05 pm I arrive at the restaurant, feeling guilty for being late. But of course, I am the first one. I order some wine and wait and observe the people – and wait. It’s 7.45 pm and I am still alone. Then a guy in a suit is leaving the restaurant, looks back at me, turns and comes straight towards me. He has a pretty smile. I smile back. He introduces himself and so do I. And then he says: “I know you. I have seen you a couple of times around here.” – “Around here? What do you mean?” – “At the Oysterbay bookstore, for example.” His smile gets bigger and I wish there was a way to magically disappear…
Zebra scratching its belly in Ngorongoro Crater