October 10, 2012
Ruminations from Tanzania or “Where in the World is Willy Little”
Okay so think about this for a moment… if someone came to the USA for the first time and we showed them around McKeesport, Elizabeth and Forward Townships… would we say that they have seen the United States? No, of course not! So, I have seen the suburbs of Dar el Salaam and have taken a bus an hour or so north of this area to a town called Bagamoyo… so, I have not “seen” Tanzania… just a small part. There is no way I can tell you about what I have seen and experienced so far without you thinking I am exaggerating. But I will give it a try.
First, there are people and little shops EVERYWHERE! One can’t ride down a road without passing numerous people on the sides. Why… because so few folks own their own source of transportation. And for the most part they walk on the roads. There are no sidewalks to speak of and the roads are lined on either side by opened sewer drains. The drains are 3-4 feet across the top and 3-4 feet deep and they are lined with cement slabs 2’ x 2’. The point being you don’t want to fall into them. When folks are not walking they are taking one of the sources of public transportation. There are several to choose from. When I arrived here I saw literally thousands of small 125 c.c. Chinese made motorcycles. I thought they were owned by people as a cheap source of transportation… no, they are part of the public transportation system. When you get off of a bus 6 or 8 motorcycles pull up to see if you want a ride to another place. I have seen women riding side saddle on the back of these bikes! Second they have 3 wheeled covered “golf cart/motorcycle” vehicles. Again, they are everywhere. One just waits on the street and they will find you very quickly. Last, there are busses. Not busses like we might think of in the U.S. These are smaller, much older and ragged looking, and they are stuffed full of humanity. Today we got on a bus with several very large bags of rice and a television dish someone was transporting. Yesterday we were on a bus that ran out of gas on a hill. The driver got it restarted and pulled into a gas station only to get about 2 ½ gallons of gas?!?! Go figure.
There is trash everywhere. Plastic bottles, bags, and anything else you can think of that does not decompose. Michael was telling me that there just isn’t a concern for those sorts of things. Even if I wanted to throw something away I saw no garbage cans… and if there were I don’t know who would empty them. Years ago everything was bio degradable so throwing things away any place you happened to be was not a huge problem.
I can’t do justice to all of these little stores and shacks that seem to line every street and even back into the “residential” neighborhoods. They sell everything and anything. And for the most part they are very small. Many of them no larger than 8’ x 8’. The short of it is everyone is doing what they can to make a buck to live.
I remind myself that this is about differences in cultures. It isn’t about right and wrong, or better or worse, just different.
The town I mentioned before “Bagamoyo” has the dubious distinction of being the main port on the East coast of Africa for the gathering and sending off of slaves. They would leave this port and be taken to a large island off of the coast that you may have heard of… Zanzibar. Then they were loaded onto ocean going ships and sent to countries around the world. We spent some time on the beach there looking at the fishing boats and watching fishermen empty their nets of their catch. Seriously… this can’t be much more advanced than the first century fishermen from the Bible. We also watched as people gathered around and bid on fish. Bagamoyo is also the port where the famous missionary Dr. Livingston entered Africa before disappearing into the jungle.
Well enough for today. Let me leave you with a little challenge. Sometimes we wonder about folks from foreign cultures. They can be so different from us. We might even be inclined to think they we are somehow “better” then they are. Here is the challenge… think of this… they are no more or less valuable to God then you are. They are part of his creation and He desires a relationship with them as He does with you.
p.s. for those of you obsessed with grammar… I’m too tired today to worry about it.
p.p.s. tomorrow… off to India